As an impressionable undergraduate at Ohio University, there were dozens if not hundreds of potential areas of study for me to sample. Here is where I add something like, “They ranged from architecture to zoology” or even better, “from A to Z.” Let me also add a little personal data by noting I dipped into all that intellectual plenty and pulled the philosopher card. Doctor, lawyer, merchant, chief and with virtually no hesitation, I picked philosopher. A very natural and logical choice, don’t you think?
There I was, eighteen–years–old and speculating about how many angels can fit on the head of a pin. Ok, that’s much more not true than true. I was an eighteen–year–old college student. What do you think I was doing? Do you have a notion, a picture in your mind’s eye? I was mostly doing that but I did do philosophy some too.
I recall telling old people (everyone too old to be an eighteen–year–old college student) I was majoring in philosophy. I got reactions from “That’s nice,” to “Why?” The “Why?” reactions eventually got me to thinking but that is a story for another post. No, I was not thinking much one way or the other right then. I was practicing being a philosopher. Thinking could wait.
With my friends (mostly other eighteen–year–old college students) I tried not to mention anything about majors or philosophy. If I slipped, they usually didn’t say anything. They mostly snickered and nodded their heads. Eye rolling was not big at O.U. back then. They did tend to perk up some when I mentioned being into logic, e.g., All men are mortal; Plato was a man; therefore…. “Would you have time to help me with…?” It was like suddenly being labeled as a geek of sorts, all be it a potentially useful geek. It tended to interfere with my plans for the rest of the time when I was not practicing being a philosopher.
On those rare occasions when I did attempt conversation incorporating a few of the more esoteric philosophical concepts and notions, “bore” seemed to characterize how I and my contributions to the discussion were perceived. I think that precipitated a life–long fear of being boring and generally uninteresting. It’s like that one youthful experience eventuating in unacknowledged trauma and periodic immobility. Ok, it wasn’t actually that bad but it certainly was the pits. Being boring was to be avoided whenever possible.
Now fast forward. I recently came across this from John Updike, “One out of three hundred and twelve Americans is a bore… and a healthy male adult bore consumes each year one and a half times his own weight in other people’s patience.” What do you think the chances are of an eighteen–year–old college student who is rarely but still occasionally boring progressing for a few decades without becoming one of Updike’s healthy male adult bores? Does slim to none ring any bells? It gets worse. Someone who was probably so boring no one remembers his name pointed out, “The worst thing about a bore is not that he won’t stop talking, but that he won’t let you stop listening.”
We have come full circle. An eighteen–year–old college student naively pulls the philosopher card and inadvertently sets himself on a path to becoming a healthy male adult bore people duck away from to escape the storm of esoteric gibberish. Fortunately, this post has been mostly speculative, at least I hope it has, especially the part about people ducking away. Even so, there may be a lesson in there about social reciprocity and the ever–present risk of exposing the bore in all of us. Let me leave the analysis of that possibility to those who also pulled the philosopher card in their youth. For now, let this suffice.
You have some very wise advice.
Your analysis is compelling.
First think once and then think twice.
Your point may not survive the telling.