Why I Find the Riveter So Riveting

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Serious question: Is there any icon cooler than Rosie the Riveter? Perhaps it’s the combining of jaunty, red head covering with serious pipes. It could be the knowing, confident look on her lovely face. Maybe it’s the reassuring can-do message that splashes across the bright yellow behind her. With just a flex of her bicep and a gleam in her eye, she tells all who look upon her “Don’t mess with me. I know how do use industrial equipment.” It’s really not difficult to see why she’s spoken to generations of women, called upon them tap into their inner power. I get it, and I like all this about her too.

But my admiration for Rosie goes deeper than this. Actually, admiration might be the wrong word.  Recognition might be more accurate. When I look at the amazing woman on the poster, I don’t just see everything I aspire to be. I see the family of “Rosies” with which I grew up. I won’t embarrass anyone in particular by naming names, but in my lifetime, I’ve seen an octogenarian family member break her arm while tossing around cement blocks. I’ve listened as someone explained how they spontaneously sledgehammered a wall because they wanted a bigger work space. There are tales of hardwood flooring being hammered into place by someone with a baby strapped to her back. The females of my clan squish their own spiders, throw their backs out shoving furniture from one room to another, and are quite happy in plaid flannel. I’m probably the biggest wimp in our corner of the gene pool, and I still swing a frickin’ hammer like Thor. If ever there was a bunch of females who exemplified the “human doing over human being” philosophy, it would be us.

Rosie the Riveter walks the walk. She isn’t interested in sitting around, making abstract plans or playing wait and see. The poster doesn’t say “We can talk about it.” or “We can dream, can’t we?” She’s all about action, decisiveness, and forward momentum. I’m biased because I was spawned by others of her ilk, but I think this sort of drive is declining in 21st century females. We talk about being independent, self-reliant, and capable, but there’s still a pretty substantial pay gap for us. We occupy a sad minority of positions of power. We’re always apologizing for taking charge and speaking our minds. We still steer our little girls away from anything that isn’t pink and frilly (steam escapes from my ears as I write this). There isn’t space in a blog post like this to go through the chicken-and-egg scenarios behind it all.

Decades ago, Rosie told us we could do it, and I don’t think she meant women exclusively either. I think it’s pretty clear that we haven’t done it. In fact, I think we un-did it.

I’m lucky that I had Rosies to look up to as I fumbled my way into womanhood. I could say that Rosiness is genetic, that the trailblazers in my family and the generations that will follow me have been and will be fueled by an inborn desire to accomplish things, that we’re just lucky that way. I’m not, however, willing to pull genetic determinism out as a cover. Whatever little Rosie spark makes the women in my family feel they need to chop wood, haul dirt around, and just generally git-r-done, I’m sure it’s in every human female. Rosie’s overalls are one-size-fits-all, the red in her polka-dotted kerchief a beautiful compliment to any face. The brilliant, vibrant, strong woman on the poster is right. We can do it- all of us can. What I want to know is, when will we?

 

 

Do All of Humankind a Favour and Read!

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Many moons ago, I took a class on existential philosophy. Like most philosophers, our professor was a great watcher (notice I didn’t say admirer) of human behaviour. It’s kind of what we do. Being an existentialist, he was also a great lover of fiction. Philosophers of this persuasion tend to at least dabble in it, for better or for worse. It was the opinion of this instructor that it was pretty darn hard to be a sociopath and a fiction lover at the same time. To read stories, he explained, was to get a glimpse into other minds and other lives, to gain some understanding of what it was like to be another being. That’s not to say that sociopaths are illiterate, or that a trip to the library is a guaranteed cure for this kind of disconnect. However, if a person had any inclination at all towards being empathetic, a good book would at least give him or her the opportunity to try.

The idea stuck with me and I find myself talking about it often. I admit, being a writer and a literary geek, I’m a little biased. Yes, I want people to read as much as possible, both because I think it’s cool and because I’d like people to support my industry. However, personal interests aside, I still think there’s merit to the notion that reading and cultivating a love of stories makes us better people in some way.

Before you call me a snob or an elitist, I need to tell you that I get that reading is a luxury of time that others can’t always afford. A lot of my adventures into novels happen in five to ten minute bursts, often scrounged together before I fall asleep. I drop books on my face all the time as I doze off. I also get that reading is difficult and frustrating for some. To this, I say that reading anything counts, whether it be a comic book, a graphic novel, a tabloid at the supermarket, or quick few pages in a magazine. Fiction happens in a lot of different forms, especially now that we’re nostril-deep in the digital age. If you hate Shakespeare, don’t read Shakespeare (but please don’t dis him with me in earshot or you’ll break my heart a little).

The wise words of my prof come to mind a lot these days, as there’s constant chatter about this public figure or that celebrity being disconnected from the rest of humanity. We hear things like “How could they possibly think that was okay?” Maybe we’re feeling generally adrift from one another, and a little scared at what that might encourage. Perhaps we’re no longer afraid to call it as we see it, to tell someone they’re a little bit of a psycho when they act like one. I’m not going to name names here, but there are times (a lot of times) when I want to leave a bag of paperbacks on someone’s doorstep and test the theory.  I need to know if big meanies didn’t get enough bedtime stories as children. I want to see if getting into the right novel can actually be life-changing. I’d like to hear if other people finish a book and then suddenly see the characters mirrored in people they see on the street. What gaping personal and cultural caverns can we bridge by reading each other’s stories?

If we could demonstrate that all of these things actually happen, that there is some sort of documented cause and effect relationship between reading fiction and reading fellow human beings, what would we do with this information? Would we stop seeing stories as a luxury and start seeing them as a necessity? Would we see storytelling in all its form as a career, instead of a hobby? Would we take advantage of the new media and new technology available to us to start telling stories in new and amazing ways, so that we could reach as many readers as possible? Could metaphor be officially recognized as medicine, the way it was thousands of years ago?

Food for thought.

 

Yet Another Post About New Year’s Resolutions

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In true, smart-alecky philosopher fashion, I’d like to start this post by pointing out that chopping up time into units is just something humans do so we can practice better self-management. The whole idea of there being a beginning and an end to something on a specific date is artificial, even contrived. Circle the globe and you’ll find at least a handful of other dates for the new year to begin. Hell, according to some ancient calendars, the universe should have caved in on itself by now. From a cosmic perspective, the notion that we’ll wake up on January 1st and find things different, just because it happens to be January 1st, is a more than a little silly. There, cynicism dispensed.

Now’s the part where I admit that, despite good reason, I still make resolutions for New Year’s. Part of me still believes that my trajectory in life is a little like doodles on an Etch-a-Sketch, and I get to give it a good, hearty shake when the clock strikes midnight. Some of my resolutions are frivolous and typical:

  • I want to have abs like a Spice Girl circa 1993.
  • I plan to meditate myself into oblivion.
  • I shall sew my own clothes.
  • I will eat less refined sugar.

Others are more serious, and heart-felt. I really do want to do something useful, something helpful, something different. Something that doesn’t revolve around swearing off shopping for Doc Martens and swearing at inanimate objects. These are the promises that I’m much more likely to keep, although they usually take more than a year (or two, or three) to accomplish.

Ever wonder where the whole notion of making New Year’s resolutions came from? Ever look up the word and search for its origins? Just me? I’ve always thought it was funny that “resolution” and “resolute” have the same etymology, seeing as people are usually not very resolute in keeping resolutions. The word “resolution” itself used to mean something about breaking things into more manageable chunks, or simplifying them. Maybe the big problem with resolutions isn’t that we make them, but rather that we tend to make them in such a way that complicates our lives, adding layers of obligation and complication to what’s already pretty hectic. “Resolution” in the traditional sense does what philosophy does on a regular basis- it peels away the excess so we can really see what’s underneath. It’s a call to think deeper, not bigger, to focus on quality over quantity. It’s a tall order when we’re hung over and staring down the barrel of a grey winter, but the good news is that it doesn’t have to get done in one day, or in one year. You can shake the Etch-a-Sketch anytime you want to. It’s a practice that’s calorie free, less expensive than a gym membership, and generally speaking, it fulfills the whole “make the world a better place” requirement.

Happy New Year, everyone, whether it’s today, tomorrow, or sometime over the next 365 days of human-constructed time. May your resolutions bring you peace, happiness and enlightenment- and a much-needed dose of simplicity.

Go Ahead, Overthink Things.

Amythinking

We live in a time and place in which information is more plentiful than clean water, and it’s not surprising that many find it overwhelming. It’s also not surprising to see so many invitations to “switch off”, “detox” and generally quiet the noise for a little while. I get this. I crave it too. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if there was space in every single day for the “there, but not there” kind of feeling that comes with meditation?

What concerns me are rampant messages about “not overthinking” things.  When things get hectic, stressful or confusing, we’re encouraged to turn off the little nag in our heads, to go with our gut, or just not go at all. To be honest, I don’t think we overthink things at all. In fact, I think we are a culture of chronic underthinkers. We praise people who’ve managed to “get out of their heads.” When things get complicated or difficult, we cut corners in our thinking, committing just about every fallacy there is, floundering to find easy answers. It feels awful and chaotic because we know, somewhere in the back of our heads, that we haven’t followed our ideas to their logical conclusions, that we’ve left them hanging there, half-formed.

Here’s an analogy: Imagine you have a gym membership, and you’d like to get into really great shape. While at the gym, you pile more and more weight onto the machines, you do obscene numbers of reps, and you run on the treadmill until you feel like your lungs will burst. At the end of it all, you feel completely trashed, like you want to do anything but exercise. You worked hard, but you didn’t work smart, as the old adage goes.

We often do the same thing with our minds. Rather than being rational, objective and circumspect in the ideas we accept, we suck up as much information as we can, we spin it around in our minds at full speed, and eventually, we get exhausted.  We mistake being pedantic and picky for being logical. Pick your favourite social media platform and do a search for a major issue. You’ll see what I mean.

In thinking, as in workouts, quantity is never an adequate substitute for quality, and the ironic thing is that there’s as much (maybe more) peace of mind to be found in thinking well as there is in thinking less. Thinking properly, as opposed to thinking too much, helps us avoid being taken of advantage of and lied to. Thinking properly leads us to awareness of the fact that there are always other options and choices, sometimes even good ones. Thinking properly helps us to know ourselves better, and to know the world around us better, as opposed to being overwhelmed by it all.

So it’s okay to overthink things. Stretch first, use the correct weight, and if it feels like you’re about to pull something, make sure you’re not doing it the wrong way. In life, as in a workout, think smart, not hard.

Beware of Dog

Dog and cart

The ancient stoics have this story about a dog who is tied to a cart. The dog can struggle and get dragged through the dirt and gravel, or the dog can trot merrily along. Either way, the cart will move forward. It’s been a while, but if memory serves, the story is a commentary on how foolish it is to struggle against things we can’t change, as opposed to accepting them and moving on.

This dog has not yet learned to trot along merrily. I am the worst, THE WORST at accepting things I can’t change. With a few exceptions, like the laws of physics, I can’t even accept that there are things that can’t be changed. I guess this makes me a very good existentialist, and an epic failure as a stoic. If there’s an opportunity to stay up all night worrying about something, I’m there. If it involves obsessively making lists of possible scenarios, I’m in.  The idea of leaving something important to chance makes me want to kick holes in the wall, and no amount of herbal tea, hot baths, or meditation seems to take the edge off.

So I’m a control freak (well, duh). The “freak” part of this label intrigues me. In most dictionaries, “freak” is defined as something or someone that is abnormal, unusual, or unexpected. Tell me, am I abnormal in the amount of control I want over my life? Am I just cranked up to 11 when it comes to having things go a certain way? Or is it freakish of me to expect that there is control to be had in the first place? Is the universe and everything in it inherently out of control, and I’m a lost cause for not seeing this? If I’m the exception, then what (or who) is the rule? Are there really happy wanderers out there who can be content to just let things happen to them, without complaining?

So, what of the dog who resists the pull of the cart? What happens to her? Well, she spends a bit of time picking twigs and bugs out of her hair, and she has to go to the chiropractor for neck strain. She burns a lot of calories in playing tug of war with a moving, wheeled thing. Resistance is pretty tiring. Eventually the cart stops rolling, either temporarily or permanently. During those moments, however fleeting they may be, she gets the satisfaction of knowing that she probably gained a few inches here or there, made things go a little faster or slower than they would have if she’d just given in. These small victories are hers to claim and celebrate. Most importantly, she gets to go to sleep at the end of the journey thinking “I tried.”

Doom And Gloom, And All That Good Stuff

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I consider myself a reasonably upbeat, happy person. That’s not to say that I don’t have my moments of pessimism and skepticism (being a philosopher will do that to you), but on the whole, I think life is good. However, I’ve become addicted to a certain genre of storytelling on television, one which seems to go against everything I practice in real life. I love the grumpy stuff, the stuff that features stories of the end of the world and the downfall of humanity. If it’s post-apocalyptic, vampire-ridden, chock full of psychos, or besought by zombies, it’s for me. If it has a healthy dose of satire thrown in (because you really should be making light of things when reality is about to implode), even better.

I know I’m not alone in this simply because of the sheer number of shows being produced in this genre. It seems a lot (maybe most) of us like watching the proverbial brown stuff hit the fan. I’ve read theories from sociologists positing that such stuff becomes popular again when the economy takes a nosedive, or when there is social strife. In such cases, we like to project our collective angst onto characters who represent the bad in us- bloodsuckers, brain-eaters and other parasites. It allows us, even in the very worst of times, to think “Well, I’m out of work, I’m living on canned spaghetti, but at least I’m not being attacked by the undead.” Maybe it’s just good old-fashioned schadenfreude. It’s always more amusing when someone else finds radioactive waste in their back yard and grows an extra spleen.

Interesting theories, but I tend to think our love of such programs stems from something a little more profound. I propose that we’re fascinated by this brand of nastiness because it raises really, really good questions. Allow me to give some examples:

  • If human beings blew up life as we know it, and we had to start over again, what would our new priorities be?
  • Given how humans sometimes behave (even without being bitten by zombies or vampires), how can we distinguish between humans and monsters?
  • What would we be willing to do in order to survive?
  • Could we still find beauty, truth, and love in the midst of so much turmoil?
  • In the face of Armageddon, could we finally get over our collective hang-ups about race, gender, age, etc.?
  • What might the world be like without humans?

This list is just a drop in the bucket. There’s really nothing like getting the crap scared out of you, even if it’s just for an hour at a time, and even if it’s just pretend, to kick-start the philosophical part of one’s brain.

But what about the fact that I’m generally a happy person? How do I reconcile this with my love of TV shows that show the very worst of people and of life in general? Margaret Laurence once said that writing was itself an act of hope, and I tend to see philosophy in the same light. When I’ve stopped questioning things and decided it isn’t worth my while to dig for big ideas, well…you’ll need to check my pulse, in addition to my sense of optimism. Watching post-apocalyptic fare and finding philosophical nuggets may be my declaration that it’s never so bad that you can’t find room to ponder a bit. Hey, if someone’s going to eat my brain, they might as well find it filling.

Here’s to the end of the world as we know it, and to all the deep thoughts it may uncover.

To My Younger Self. Sorry, but not sorry.

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I’ve seen a lot of this going around lately. People are posting letters to the child/youth/adolescent they once were. They outline the wisdom they’ve acquired, apologize for self-doubt, ache over lost love, laugh at at their foolishness and take stock of all the things they thought wanted to accomplished by the time they were an adult. It’s an interesting exercise, and I’m all about the examined life, so I thought I’d give it a try.

Dear 18-year-old Amy,

It’s been a while now, and I’m an adult (at least on paper). I thought I’d check in and let you know how things turned out. A lot has happened in the past couple of decades, some of it on purpose, some of it unexpected. There’s been good stuff, and not-so-good stuff. I haven’t wasted any of it. I’ve paid attention and made the most of every opportunity. I’ve reflected on each experience and tried to pull what I could from it. You’re a smart kid and you deserve to share in what I’ve learned, so I’ll get right to the point. 

I know nothing, or pretty darn close to nothing. 

I thought that by now I’d have some kind of handle on how relationships work, how the world works, and how I work. As it turns out, relationships are infinitely complicated, and maybe not understanding them is what makes them appealing in the first place. The world, which I guess is made up of relationships, is also infinitely complicated, beautifully so. Sometimes I think I’m starting to figure myself out, but it seems I’m pretty good at churning out mysteries too. 

If it’s possible, I think I know less than I did at your age. I have memories of certainty from my teens. Things got a little fuzzy in my twenties. Things got downright blurry in my thirties. I’m pretty much anticipating flying blind in the decades that are ahead of me. 

Here’s the thing: as things have become less certain with each decade, and I’ve realized that I know less and less, I’ve become happier. The more I’ve admitted that I don’t know, the more new perspectives have opened up to me. As I’ve fessed up to my ignorance, opportunities to travel, to learn, to meet amazing people, have opened up. In not knowing, I’ve become more things to more people, taken on roles I never thought I’d be comfortable with. Admitting to all these new people in my life that I don’t know hasn’t been all that hard either.  I think it’s made it easier for them to trust me, and easier for me to see what’s interesting about them. 

At the end of the day, admitting I don’t know has been a great comfort. It sure beats thinking I know, and then getting slapped in the face later when it’s clear I’m just as much in the dark as anyone else. Not knowing means that I’m still learning, a tiny little speck in a universe full of things waiting to be discovered. In some ways, it’s made me feel younger than I did when I was your age. I hope that forty or fifty years from now (knock on wood), I’ll discover that there are even more things I don’t know, and that it will make me feel young even when I’m wrinkly and frail.

Hope I didn’t disappoint you too much. Your ignorant friend,

Older Me.

That Makes No Sense: A Kid’s View of Gender

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Virginia Woolf said “For most of history, Anonymous was a woman.” Despite the fact that I grew up in a time and place where this sort of forced anonymity had lessened, I still see it rearing its ugly head on a regular basis. I don’t think feminism has outlived its usefulness, and I don’t think it should be seen as a dirty word. We, and I mean all of us, still have work to do to get over the gender-based hang-ups that make a mess of things.

What puzzles me sometimes is how we go about continuing this work. Being female is different than it was two thousand years ago, hopefully better for most, and I think it’s important to acknowledge the progress that’s been made. At the same time, I’m not ready to sit on my feminist laurels and assume that it’s all fixed. Things have to be Pepto Bismol pink in order to be declared fit for use by females. There are still career fields that are seen as more suitable for one sex than for the other. There are still classes that teach women how to do something as simple as walk through a parking lot without getting attacked. Nope, we’re not done yet. Not by a long shot.

About a year ago, I was reading a book to a little girl.  It was about one of the first young women in China to attend university, and I thought it was lovely. The small person listening, however, was puzzled. It wasn’t that she didn’t enjoy the narrative or the pictures, and it wasn’t that I hadn’t read it with enough enthusiasm. She was confused because she just didn’t grasp the crisis of the story.  It had never occurred to her that girls wouldn’t be allowed to go to school, and the notion that there had to be a first, and that it was a big deal, seemed almost ridiculous to her. When I explained it to her, she furrowed her brow and said “That makes no sense.”

This is where I think feminism has to live, in that moment where the gender gap makes no sense, where the built-up layers of history are seen as something that can be easily peeled away. This isn’t innocence or naivete, it’s an untainted sort of logic. I want to somehow freeze that mindset, preserve that matter-of-factness. Someone tell me how we get big people back to their default settings, so they can furrow their collective brows and agree that in a lot of cases, “That makes no sense.”

Your Attention Please: Philosophy Isn’t a Four-Letter Word.

Urania, Muse of Philosophy and Astronomy

Urania, Muse of Philosophy and Astronomy

I’ll cut right to the chase with this one. I want to know exactly what it is about the word “philosophy” that makes people make weird faces and clear their throats. I want to know what sort of insecurities, fears, and misunderstandings lurk behind all the jokes about it being the quickest way into poverty, behind the cliched images of old bearded men in togas. It’s about time we started being honest about it.

Is it just because philosophy is so old? It’s true that philosophy has been in practice for thousands of years (probably longer, if you count the stuff that went on before humans learned to write). Any decent thinker will tell you that holding onto tradition for the sake of tradition is an example of terrible logic.  However, philosophy is one of those things that not only stands the test of time, but constantly evolves.  Philosophy from 2000 years ago is very different from philosophy 50 years ago.  In 2015, people do philosophy online, through social media.  Yes, there are even apps for that.  There are volumes of work being turned out that connect philosophy to popular culture. Besides that, there’s good stuff in the works of even the most ancient of thinkers.  Seriously, open up Pinterest and search for “Aristotle quotes.”  There will be a lot of pin-worthy tidbits that will have you going “Ahhh.”

Is it because philosophy forces us to do things like listen, be reasonable, and admit that we’re sometimes wrong? Yup, it demands that we do all of these things, at least it does when it’s done right. It hurts to be told that we’re not automatically entitled to our opinions, that we’re not allowed to fling ideas around without backing them up and explaining them. Taking responsibility for what we think and say is tough.  On the upside, though, philosophy demands that we be open to new ideas, new points of view, and it helps us avoid being taken advantage of by voices that might otherwise talk circles around us. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with expecting grown ups to think like grown ups.  Hell, even little kids are capable of thinking this way. The “dangerous” ideas philosophy brings to the forefront…well, they probably need to be addressed. No time like the present, right?

Is it because it doesn’t give us one clear, undeniable answer to our questions? I personally like this about philosophy (I dwell in grey areas), but even if I were big on certainty, I’d still have to admit that there are some questions for which there aren’t clear, undeniable answers.  Who the heck knows why we fall in love or why we feel compelled to make art. I’m not exactly sure what the difference is between right and wrong.  At least with a philosophical toolbox that includes reason and logic, I can figure out which answers are better or worse.

Is it because philosophy isn’t job training, or because it’s too “academic”? I’m not sure anyone ever got paid to sit around and navel gaze. Historically, philosophers have made their living teaching, writing, being political leaders, and weaving their thoughts into a variety of career paths. Studying philosophy has never been a direct path to a specific profession. It’s a path to every profession.  Seriously. Name me any job and I’ll tell you how being philosophical will make you better at it.

Here’s the bottom line, folks: philosophy is a life skill, dare I say even a survival skill.  We live in strange times.  Maybe we always have.  Existing in the world means we have difficult things thrown at us.  We’re the (un)lucky recipients of mass quantities of information, a good chunk of it being utter crap. We’re faced with difficult decisions.  We have others existing in the world along with us, many of whom have their own interests at heart.  We grow older, we change, we get confused. We can learn to think, or we can get run over by all of this. Philosophy, if nothing else, is about learning to think. There’s no magic bullet when it comes to solving the world’s problems, but I’m pretty confident (and I’m not alone) that if people were more philosophical, at least some things would get better.

What’s more, thinking big thoughts is actually fun. When was the last time you gave yourself permission to play with ideas? Wouldn’t you like to revisit your five-year-old self and be allowed to ask a whole lot of “Why?” Do you really think philosophers would still be doing what they do, after all this time, if there weren’t a little bit of beauty and magic in the discovery of a new idea? Honestly, this stuff is cool.  I’ve never taught philosophy to anyone who didn’t have an “aha” moment once in a while.

I’m not asking anyone to go and get a degree in philosophy, nor am I insisting that everyone be issued a copy of Plato’s Republic and be tested on it.  I’m just a firm believer that philosophy belongs to everyone, and that if people agree to work it into their everyday mindset, there are ways to do it.  We can start teaching it to kids while their brains are still squishy and absorbent.  We can seek it out in books, movies, music and other media.  We can start using the great, beautiful behemoth called social media to foster meaningful conversations. If it makes people feel better, we can even stop calling it philosophy.  Re-brand it any way you like.  Call it “Cool Thinky Stuff” or “Mega Deep Thoughts.” If it means people might actually do it more, I’d be happy to call it Skippy or Lulu. Whatever.

Just no more dumb jokes about philosophers, okay?

Thinky Ha Ha: Comedians as the New Philosophers

Comedian

Stańczyk during a Ball at the Court of Queen Bona after the Loss of Smolensk, Jan Matejko

Yup, I’m a philosophy grad- twice over, actually. I’ve studied it, I’ve taught it, and I’ve written about it.  The years I spent immersed in the academic side of philosophy were among the happiest and most fulfilling of my life.  I don’t, however, consider myself an academic philosopher anymore.  Maybe I never really did.  That’s not to say that I’ve hung up my toga.  I’m not sure it’s possible to crawl back into the cave once you’ve been out in the sun (high five to Plato).  I’ve just become accustomed to looking for big questions and arguments in other places.  When you’re a hammer, everything starts looking like a nail (last metaphor , I promise).

These days, I get my philosophy from movies, from television, from music, and even from advertisements, and I’m not alone.  There are a slew of writers and thinkers devoted to digging for it in popular culture.  My favourite source is, and has been for a long time, in the wonderfully wise-assed rantings of stand up comedians. Tackling difficult issues through laughter isn’t anything new.  Satirists have been doing it for thousands of years, and it works.  Comedic philosophy is especially potent in stand up, when the audience is addressed directly, the comedian is speaking with his or her own voice, and the raw energy of a live performance is there to amplify their ideas.

I’d like to pay tribute to the brave thinkers who spend hours writing material, schlepping from club to club, and enduring hecklers, all in the name of being able to say “What about this? Have your ever thought about it this way?”  Here are some of my favourites:

The list goes on and on, and I think I could probably fill an entire blog with examples (hmmm…maybe someday).  What really gets me fired up about philosophy through comedy is its accessibility.  Most people won’t take a course on Plato, but they will turn up the volume to hear what a comedian has to say about human nature and the state of the world.  Philosophy is more than an elective at university.  It’s a survival skill in the 21st century, and I’m a fan of anything that injects it into the common consciousness. Three cheers for those who treat big questions like they’re jokes!