Saturday, February 16, 2013

Us Weirdos

Have you ever thought about the fact that you are reading this makes you a weirdo? Well, at least the fact that I am writing makes me one!

I mean, most people I know--even intelligent people in highly-skilled, knowledge-worker jobs--don't spend much time thinking about life, the universe, and everything. And guess what, they're not terribly open minded or reticent, either, from what I can tell.

Go to any mall and sit in the food court or even a coffee shop. Listen to conversations around you (it's okay, if you do it for science! ;) ). Look at what's popular on TV; listen to popular music. Even check out the top sellers lists at a bookstore. Talk to your friends about what their plans are for any given evening or weekend. Go to a club. Go to a theater. Watch Twitter's main feed, or even just "local" tweets. Poke around on Facebook. Even universities, which are supposed to be all about higher learning and critical thinking, are chock full of ebullient young folks who act as if they couldn't care less.

People by and large seem pretty disinterested in the deeper things in life.

On the other hand, I am told that people deep down really long for deeper meaning in life. The thing is, you'd never know it by looking at all this evidence. Are they all just waiting, hoping to have deep conversations? I don't think so, judging by the way such things get so quickly dismissed when brought up, and judging by how people fill their free time.

All I can figure is that those of us who actually like to engage in these things are weird. And since I am weird, I don't really relate to not wanting/caring.  I can't imagine what it would be like to not be actively, regularly engaged in philosophy and theology. Believe me, there are times when I want to not care, but I can't not (at least not for long). It's just not in me.

And it's not like these things are just a "special interest group" kind of thing. I mean, we're talking about philosophy and, for a theist, theology. These are things that apply to everyone. They're not hobbies or simple diversions. They are the fundamental things in life. People are quick to have an opinion on them, but not very interested in dialoguing about them. People certainly live according to a philosophy, and many nominally practice a religion, but they seem to do so without giving much thought to them. (Except occasionally, like in moments of life crisis.)

And while I know this situation is not new in human history, I think there is maybe less justification for it today. By that I mean that we middle class Westerners are, as a rule, more affluent than the rich in earlier times. It is actually practical for most middle class folks to engage in philosophy nowadays, something that in the past was relegated to only the wealthy, educated elite. And we are also massively more educated than the average folk of earlier times.

And yet, here we are. The most educated and wealthy masses in history, and what do most do with all that leisure and education? Sports. Video games. Partying. Shopping. Reality TV?

Don't get me wrong. I have no axe to grind against all these, taken in moderation. Certainly I regularly enjoy many popular things. I am no cultural elitist--I am not anti-TV or anti-internet or anti-social media.. But I can't go very long without coming back to these deeper things.

Not because I am better or smarter or more disciplined (God knows I am not that). It's almost more like a compulsion. I can't ignore the deeper things, even if I try. And more than that, I positively enjoy thinking about them. I enjoy having respectful dialogue about them.

It seems to me that saying "you're just an intellectual" is insufficient, given the aforesaid universal bearing these matters have on us human beings. But alas, I am most certainly biased. It's as much a part of me as being male. So all I can do is accept the evidence and what other people tell me--that I am just not normal in this way. I am a weirdo. Are you?