At my summer camp, there were a bunch of optional activities that the RAs (Resident Assistants) organised. One activity was called Flash Philosophy, and I attended every single session of it. I enjoyed Flash Philosophy so much that I am compelled to share it with you today. So this is how it went:
The RA in charge prepared ahead of time 5 short passages (10-20 lines) written by various philosophers, and numbered them from 1 to 5. At the beginning of the session, he asked a camper to choose a number from a hat. “Three,” the camper would read out, or whatever number was on the slip of paper. The RA passed a copy of Passage Number 3 to everyone in the room.
We’d get time to read the passage. Or, this one time I suggested that we went around the room and have everyone read one sentence each. That was fun. Anyway, we read the passage without knowing who wrote it or in what context it was written. All we had were the words.
Once everyone was done reading, the RA would ask a question regarding the text. We pondered the question. The discussion began with someone either challenging the question, or attempting to answer it.
And the discussion would go on. Sometimes we fell into silence, but that was okay because most of us were comfortable with silences. Silences would provide us with time to think, and soon enough someone would get the talk going again. The discussion went in all sorts of directions, because this was not school. At school there’s a curriculum and learning objectives and outcomes and whatnot, but not in Flash Philosophy. The text was our guide and our starting point, and from there we asked all sorts of questions. We explored all sorts of topics. We entertained all sorts of possibilities. We were philosophers.
There were rules, and they were good. We all addressed each other as Mr. or Mrs. (insert last name). I was Ms. Jang. This was the tradition at the camp, and it put distance between the speaker and what the speaker was saying. No one took things too personally. Also, we were discouraged from bringing in outside sources. Or, revealing the text’s author if we knew who that was. We all genuinely wanted to understand the text. We weren’t there to show off the great extent our philosophical knowledge or whatever.
Flash Philosophy lasted an hour each time. The RA would somehow find a way to wrap the discussion up. He was good at that, but the discussion was never truly over. We’d talk about Nietzche’s ideas or Pascal’s assertions in many other settings. The dinner table, for instance.
At the very end, the RA would give all of us a chance to guess the author of the passage. Whoever got it got chocolate. I guessed correctly once, on a passage about friendship from Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics. I started reading the book recently, and it’s a very interesting read. Maybe I’ll write a blog post about it once I’ve finished it and gathered some thoughts together.
Flash Philosophy was something that made my time at camp meaningful. I was missing it already on the plane back to Shanghai. So, something I’ve been thinking about recently: What if I start a Flash Philosophy club at my high school?
I don’t know if anyone would join because I don’t know if any of my friends would like doing stuff like that, but hey, who knows? It’s not like I go up to people and talk about my love for philosophy, “I’m (insert name here) and I like to philosophise in my free time” isn’t a common way to introduce oneself.
A Flash Philosophy Club at Madeira. I’m going to try and make that happen. I’ll first have to read the procedures on forming a club, though. Honestly, it’d be so cool. I can’t wait to start living deep and sucking the marrow out of life again (Thoreau reference :p). Because life cannot be lived to the fullest without thinking, deliberating, and philosophising! 😉
To my fabulous readers: Feel free to make Flash Philosophy happen at your high school (or another community)! The idea isn’t mine and I’m pretty sure those RAs didn’t get a copyright for it or anything… :p
Have a great week, everyone!