Saturday, November 12, 2011

Tim O'Brian and Bus Ride Philosophy

Sorry for such a late entry for this week, folks. I just kind of forgot.

Anyway, last week I went to Wichita with a bus of friends and strangers. Why?

It was THE BIG READ (say it with feeling, people) and we were off to listen to a speaker. One Tim O'Brian, in fact. He writes war stories. The only work of his that I knew anything about was "The Things They Carried." I read a little excerpt and it seemed really interesting. Plus, this would be the first author I had ever seen in person. I was thrilled.

I was even more excited when I realized that two friends who I don't get to see as often as I like were coming too. I will call them "Grace" and "Rapunzel."

I didn't sit with them on our journey to our destination. I sat with another friend, whom I shall call "Glasses" until she tells me what she would prefer her alias to be. We talked about Philosophy class and writing and even a little bit about religion. I hope I didn't bore her too badly.

Once we arrived we sat in a nice auditorium that I recognized from one of my cousins' graduations. It's not often you see such a rich green carpet.

Anyway, we were given pamphlets and some cards to write our burning questions on. Unfortunately, I had no burning questions. I had no smoldering or even soggy questions. But the speaker wasn't able to get through even half the questions asked, so it worked out.

He was pretty good, but he was nothing like I imagined. He wore a baseball cap, for one thing. He talked a little about how truth can be subjective and that absolutism is a trap to avoid. There were other things he spoke about, but that sticks out in my memory.

My friends and I got some things signed and even got a picture with him! It was a new experience.
Notice how he uncomfortably looks away from my disturbing visage.
Also; left to right is Rapunzel, Grace, Tim O' Brian, and Myself.
Afterwards, we were all quickly herded away into the bus. We went to get food, but the yogurt place one of the teachers had her heart set on was closed, so we went to Freddy's Frozen Custard. I thought it turned out nicely for me. However, as the bus driver had been navigating his way to the yogurt-serving shop, Grace and I had started an intense philosophical discussion on the nature of truth. It was inspired by Mr. O'Brian's statements earlier.

I had commented that it seemed like he thought some truths were subjective, but there was an ultimate truth if one looked deeply enough. And Grace, having taken Philosophy, jumped on that. She plays a fantastic Devil's Advocate, by the way.

As you probably guessed, dear reader, I felt like an utter fool for most of the conversation. I kept restating myself and struggled to explain my position. I knew what I meant, but getting it to where my listener could understand it was another thing altogether. I ended up confusing myself several times but Grace was very patient. It didn't help that the entire bus started listening to our conversation. Grace assures me I did well, but she's such a sweet soul, I think she would say that even if I sounded like a babbling moron. Anyway, we managed to wrap up our brain-bending conversation in over our frozen custard.

Ultimately, I ended up taking the stance that while there are subjective truths, there are also ultimate Truths out there. Whether anyone can find these ultimate Truths and if it's possible for everyone to arrive at these Truths, is something else entirely. However, the fact that I believe there are ultimate truths is a result of my subjective truths. So, yeah.

Then Grace started teaching me some Chinese and we talked about how Japanese and Chinese people use (mostly?) the same kanji, but different words. For example, the same kanji mean "one", "two", "three", etcetera in both languages, but the words spoken are different.

And then my Creative Writing teacher insisted that I take Journal Writing/Storytelling next semester. She is convinced I'd be great at it. We'll see, I guess.

All in all, it was a very enjoyable and educational trip.

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