Friendships, reality, perceptions and a guy named Bill.

Are online friendships “real”? Is anything really real? It all comes down to perception. Don’t we invent our own reality? Does absolute reality exist? Isn’t matter completely invisible? Isn’t our reality defined by our sense perception? If reality is invisible, and we give it form; is it real? What does it all mean? I haven’t got a clue. I’m paging the great Dr. Mark Kingwell, philosopher on call.

Let’s take the word “real” out of the equation and focus on what friendship means. (Perception)

What constitutes a friend? It boils down to an individual’s needs. For myself, I am not a people person. I don’t need a constant physical presence to feel fulfilled. To me, a friend is someone who gives emotional support, who is there to listen and, with whom I can be myself. I choose quality over quantity. I have many associates but few friends. I’m very selective with whom I open up to. Some of my friends I have yet to meet in “real life”. However, I have spent countless hours on the phone with them. I’m always there to lend an ear. I support their projects. If they needed me, I would be there. We share our secrets, our woes, our highs and lows ((there second nature to me now) Friends are a source of growth and enrichment. Other friendships have started online and ended up offline. I’ve been really blessed. I’ve met some truly amazing people. There’s a closeness there that supersedes the physical.

In our contemporary society, making friends online is the new norm. Social media has changed the landscape of friendship. The ease now in which we can keep in touch is incredible. What I do online and offline are completely interwoven. Intimacy now develops in both the physical and online realms, often crossing freely between the two. The beauty of online friendships lies in their mutability in my purse, on my screen, in the comfort of my home. As time goes on, I think the distinction between on- and offline friendships will dissipate. That doesn’t mean that we are doom to a life, of tweets and emails. It simply means that the person we meet in the virtual realm is no longer a stranger, but someone we know and trust.

Advertisements

Miss. Nothing

download (3)

1. Real beauty- the kind you find in museums and great literature- is eternal. True beauty comes from the soul and touches the spirit. Note  to all the jerks out there- it’s not about cup size or the shape of the thighs. It’s about the condition of the heart and the state of the mind.

2.Pet peeve- Fickle people who are only interested in the next best thing. Human beings are not expendable. Sincerity and genuine affection carry much more weight than false flattery.  I don’t understand having an ADD-like mindset when it comes to friendship. End rant. Cue silliness.

3. Do people who use the expression “cray cray” know how “stew stew” they sound? (ugh)

4. What’s up with the smiles, Pepperidge Farm’s Goldfish? We are so going to eat you! Cue philosophical thought

5. Don’t wait on people to love you. Lead the way. Be a compass of kindness and compassion.

7. The authentic you is beautiful. If you want to impress, be yourself. Trust me, “realness” is a precious commodity. I strive to always be genuine (at times, to my detriment)

8. Speak your truth. Love without conditions. Live without limitations. Count your blessings. Life is fleeting.

9. If you can’t be polite, kindly keep you mouth shut. Manners matter.

10. On Monday, I get to speak to one of my favorite intellectuals- Author and Philosopher -Professor, Mark Kingwell The nerd in me can’t wait.. He doesn’t have a pretentious bone in his body. Mark a true delight to listen to. It’s going to be a fun and illuminating hour. (stoked)

Tune in here:

http://www.blogtalkradio.com/laliteraticarpelibrum/2015/04/27/the-return-of-philosopher-and-author-mark-kingwell

Miss. Nothing.

Final Thoughts:

The mark of a true rebel (to me) is a person who fights against apathy, who embraces their humanity and looks beyond the surface. It easy to be mean spirited, selfish, materialistic, and shallow. It takes heart and tenacity to embrace traits like honesty, integrity, compassion, kindness, and loyalty.

It’s not about taking the moral high ground. No one is better than anyone else. We don’t all have to believe a certain way or be a certain way. But it sure would be nice if everyone could embrace love, forget about hate, and learn to live in harmony. Hey, a girl can dream. By the way, my rebel wears a suit, smells like Dior, and is handy with a wrench, a pen, and frying pan.

Anyway, gather round, children. Let’s all hold hands and sing a rousing rendition of Kumbayah.

The Inquisition of Mark Kingwell (Plus, Zombies, Bond villains, Timothy Olyphant, and Daddy Warbucks)

My favorite Canadian philosopher, Mark Kingwell, graciously agreed to submit himself to more of my questioning. Much to his chagrin, his answers have solidified my undying, innocent, nerdy devotion for life- or at least the duration of this post. I’m fickle that way. Marriage is off the table.  However, I am hoping I can convince Mark to adopt me. 🙂 (need I add, tongue firmly placed in cheek, it tends to stay there) My thanks to the Professor Kingwell for his candid, thought provoking, and witty answers. He’s been nothing but kind when it comes to dealing with my awkward and goofy sense of humor.

1. What makes you, you?
The philosophical answer is: not terribly much. Some replicable genetic coding, some badly recalled memories, a more or less consistent physical presence over time, and a few traces of extended mind in the form of books and articles and other people’s (badly recalled) memories of me. The first-person perspective demands, though, that we treasure some sense of uniqueness. And it’s true that we are all unique: no one human is ever entirely identical to another, even with twins or clones. But what of it? Snowflakes are unique and we don’t value them for it. Or do we?

2. Would you rather be James Bond or a Bond villain?
Villain, of course! But I want to be the villain that James Bond becomes when he breaks bad and goes totally, not just temporarily or charmingly, rogue. The anti-Bond, the bizarro Bond. Has to be the Sean Connery Bond, too (much as I love the Daniel Craig Bond). Same gorgeous suits, same sociopathic pleasure in killing and empty sex with random beautiful women; but new attitude, new program, new sardonic wit. I could tell you what the new Bond’s plan is but then, naturally, I’d have to kill you.

3. When does consciousness begin?
Come on, this is too easy. When? Right here, right now. What else? We find ourselves thrown into it. Nobody asked us if we wanted to be, but here we are. The human condition, at once utterly mysterious and utterly trivial. No wonder we tie ourselves in knots trying to figure out what it all means.

4. Could you survive a zombie apocalypse? How would you avoid being zombie meat?
First, never joke about the zomb-pocalypse! If it ever comes it will make every other pandemic in human history look like a teddy-bear picnic. I doubt anyone will survive. In fact, the more I think about it the more I think the very idea of ‘surviving’ it is one of those delusions that will allow the zombies to win. Every zombie movie or TV series ever made is actually all part of the zombie plan, to lure us into a false sense of our own superiority.

5. How can people believe in truths without evidence?
Beats hell out of me; seems like the very definition of insanity. But there are lots of kinds of evidence, and not all them answer to the demands of the senses. I believe a fair number of things that are so abstract they could not be described in language, let alone vouchsafed by some generally shared notion of proof.

6. If they made a movie about your life, who would play you (Psssst Timothy Olyphant). What would the film be titled?
I don’t think I look much like Timothy Olyphant anymore, but yeah, he could maybe play an idealized, super-handsome version. Then maybe Kiefer Sutherland? The Canadian tennis player Milos Raonic, if he were an actor? (I get these two now and then.) Title will have to be, with a nod to a previous list of questions, “Everyone Hates a Sad Professor.”
(Blogger’s note, Timothy Olyphant is D. R. E. A. M. Y. Yeah, that’s right, he’s so hot, all his letters deserve to be capitalized. My crush is so justified, my material… not as much. We now return you to the real star of this blog post)

7. Do we have free will?
I freely choose to think so. Kind of have to, no? How else are we going to go on holding people responsible for the things they do, judging them, talking to them, getting annoyed with them? If free will is an illusion, and it might be, then it is an essential illusion, like personal identity (question 1).

8. When you were single, did you ever use a cheesy pick up line? If so, what was it?
I was never much of a pick-up artist, but I did have some success just going up to people and asking if they wanted to go on a date. How about that, huh?
(Blogger’s note- I was hoping for some embarrassing lines, like “If you were a vegetable you’d be a cute-cumber.” or “Did you read Dr. Seuss as a kid? Because green eggs and… damn”

9. Would your life be better or worse if you knew the day, time, and place that you were going to die?
Neither better nor worse, I think; just sadder. It seems awful to know that we will all die, even more awful to know for sure when. But both things are functionally the same, and should force the same conclusion: be here now (as the man said); and live all you can, it’s a mistake not to (as the man said).

10. Favorite current song?
“Baby Blue” by Badfinger. Totally rocked the last minutes of “Breaking Bad” and I can’t get it out of my head since binge-watching the whole thing on old-school DVD not long ago.

11. If you could only look at one cityscape for the rest of your life, which would it be?
I have to say Manhattan because my favourite building in the whole world, the Empire State, anchors that particular scene. (Wrote a book about that!) But I am also partial to Shanghai and Toronto as evolving new-century skylines. After that, it all goes downhill pretty fast as far as I’m concerned.

12. Would you rather lose all of your old memories, or never be able to make new ones?
Two different kinds of hell or just the same hell by different names? I just decided which one I preferred but then I forgot what my decision was. Hey, did I already tell you that? Wait…

13. Why are you answering these questions?
Who can resist talking about themselves? But I also find questions as a linguistic/social form totally fascinating. I’m one of those people who get through cocktail parties, faculty gatherings, and airport layovers by asking people lots of questions. I am amazed how few they usually ask in return. No bounce-back at all. Sometimes this is routine mansplaining egotism, but it is sometimes also a kind of confession. There are people who just never get asked anything! Next time you are at a bar in O’Hare or Charlotte, or stuck at an art opening or departmental meet-and-greet, just start asking. If nothing else, it passes the time.


14. Do you dance in front of the mirror?

No, but I do sort of dance in my office sometimes. I crank the music (Big Star, Teenage Fanclub, Slowdive) and weave my way around the desk. It’s more like modified pacing than actual dancing. Potentially embarrassing, too, because the college’s mail guy has a key to my office for when he wants to drop stuff off. I figure if he ever comes upon me this way I will just pretend I am drunk: that seems more like the norm on my floor. (Kidding!)

15. If you could be the opposite sex for one day, what would you do?
Ha — the Tiresias thought experiment! I suppose his/her answer would have been “Have lots of sex, so you can see that women really do experience more physical joy than men.” Maybe, maybe not. But I think a lot of physical things would be in order. What does it mean to ‘throw like a girl’? (a good phenomenological question that inspired a great essay by the philosopher Iris Young). Personally I’d like to fly fish as a woman. Would I be more patient, more thoughtful, more sure-handed with the cast? Then I think I would be inclined to slap a few male friends of mine, just to see what they would do.

16. 3 items you always have on you.
A USB drive with essential files, my Nat Sherman Zippo lighter, and a Ka-Bar folding knife. Plus, you know, keys and cash and whatever else. But I always check these three pieces of hardware in my pockets before I leave the house.

17. If you made a documentary, what would it be about?
This may be the only question for which I have no easy answer! I guess my mind doesn’t work in documentary ways, though I have done interviews for lots of other people’s documentaries. How about a documentary about the literary and cultural significance of the cocktail? (I wrote a book about this, too, so it wouldn’t be too much of a stretch.)

18. Moonlight as another profession, what would it be?
Well, jet fighter pilot used to be my response to that question. These days, I wonder if maybe being a major league baseball manager would be more fun.

19. Any regrets? (aside from agreeing to answer these questions)
Non, je ne regrette rien! Actually, of course, not true. Like most people with more than a half-century of life behind them I have lots of regrets. I feel fortunate that they are mostly minor and mostly merely personal. Nobody died, nobody went to jail, nothing burned down or exploded. Some broken bones, some broken promises, some broken hearts. The usual, I guess. But regret as such, as a place for the mind to dwell, accomplishes nothing.

20. Favorite country to visit?
I really love Australia, China, and France, but I never get tired of the vast weird awesomeness of the U.S.A. After countless visits, and shared family and various residencies, I still feel like it is my undiscovered country. I should also mention countries I have not yet visited, quite alarmingly as time creeps on: Russia, Spain, Italy, and Greece. How is it possible I have never been to these places? I ask myself this all the time.

Bonus Question
Are you up for more questions? 😉

Always, always! But: must … visit … Italy … first!

(Blogger’s note. Please send me a postcard. In the meantime, I’ll be hanging out with Billy. drinking wine, and thinking up more questions.

About Mark Kingwell

images (1)

Mark Kingwell is a Professor of Philosophy at the University of Toronto and a contributing editor of Harper’s Magazine in New York. He is the author or co-author of seventeen books of political, cultural and aesthetic theory, including the bestsellers Better Living (1998), The World We Want (2000), Concrete Reveries (2008), and Glenn Gould (2009). His articles on politics, architecture and art have appeared in many academic journals, including the Journal of Philosophy and the Harvard Design Magazine, and in more than 40 mainstream publications, among them Harper’s, the New York Times, the New York Times Magazine, the New York Post, the Wall Street Journal, the Guardian, Utne Reader, BookForum, the Toronto Star, and Queen’s Quarterly; he is also a former columnist for Adbusters, the National Post, and the Globe and Mail.

Mr. Kingwell has lectured extensively in Canada, the United States, Europe, the Middle East, and Australia on philosophical subjects and had held visiting posts at Cambridge University, the University of California at Berkeley, and at the City University of New York, where he was the Weissman Distinguished Visiting Professor of Humanities in 2002. Mr. Kingwell is the recipient of the Spitz Prize in political theory, National Magazine Awards for both essays and columns, the Outstanding Teaching Award and President’s Teaching Award at the University of Toronto, a research fellowship at the Jackman Humanities Institute, and in 2000 was awarded an honorary DFA from the Nova Scotia College of Art & Design for contributions to theory and criticism. His most recent book is a collection of political essays, Unruly Voices (2012); he has also recently published two illustrated pamphlets, Frank’s Motel (2013) and Democracy’s Gift (2014).

Mark Kingwell, Silliness, the Podcast to Be and A Top Twenty List.

On Jan 12th La Literati welcomes Canadian philosopher Mark Kingwell to the show. My co-host and I have the utmost respect for Mark and are giddy about the booking. OK, giddy might be too strong of a word, but we are happy. Niles and I have a running gag going about being stood up for the podcast. We’re really wondering why he said yes. What can I tell you, underneath the guise of adulthood lurks two insecure sixteen year old girls begging to come out. Niles says “speak for yourself.” At any rate, I thought it would be funny to come up with a list of excuses Mark might give for being a no show. I’m also trying to promote the podcast in a semi clever way. (clever is in the eye of the reader, I suppose)

I give you 20 potential Kingwell excuses.

And Mark says…”so Niles and what’s your face, I really hate to bail on you guys but…”

1.  “My sister-in-law’s friend’s cousin’s father’s uncle tragically lost his pet turtle. The details are just too sordid to share.”
2. “My re-gifting recipient list demands to be written. Christmas will be here again before you know it.”
3. “I’ve fallen. I could get up, but I refuse”
4.  “I never go on a podcast on days that end with day.”
5. “I thought I was going to be on LA Literati. What the fu^* is La Literati? What language is this?”
6.  “I have to attend Charles Manson’s wedding.”
7. “I’ve been meaning to get a Rob Ford tattoo on my shoulder and it can’t wait.”
8. “I’m just way too busy chewing gum.”
9. “I have an important call from a telemarketer, and I HAVE to take it”
10. “I’ve been putting off making my Justin Bieber scrapbook.” (Bieber fever won’t wait)
11. “It just wouldn’t be fair to all the other brilliant people.”
12. “Summer will be here before you know it. I need to work out. Those Speedos won’t wear themselves”
13. “I’ve been putting off reading Fifty Shades of Grey. E.L. James is calling to me.”
14. “Signing up for an AOL account. It’s way overdue.”
15. “I’ve being dying to take a beets bath”
16. “My diet has been sorely lacking in kale lately. I must eat some NOW”
17. “I need to spend some serious time thinking up more excuses for why I can’t do the show.”
18. “I’m writing a new book on sardines and I have a deadline to meet”
19. “Kesha is in town for one day only. I can’t miss this concert”
20. “I need to get two restraining orders. How do you spell your names again?”

and bonus

21. “I just read your asinine list on WordPress.”

 http://www.blogtalkradio.com/laliteraticarpelibrum/2015/01/12/la-literati-welcomes-professor-and-author-mark-kingwell

Political Discourse. (Come on, baby. We can work it out)

Recently, I’ve been reading up on political discourse for an upcoming show with Canadian philosopher Mark Kingwell. If you haven’t read his work, you’re missing out on greatness. Brillant guy. Note, I’m on his payroll. Kidding. I’m just an admirer. Don’t make it weird. I have an innocent fixation with his mind. My friend and co-host of La Literati, Niles, is all about his body. (Just kidding.) Given the recent mid-term elections, I thought I would post my thoughts on civility in politics, or lack thereof. This was actaully something I posted back in 2012, but it still rings true, despite the promises by the Republicans and Demorcrats to turn over a new leaf and learn the art of compromise. I’m sorry, but cut the bull sh#$. Now, who’s being uncivil? There’s already a fight brewing over immigration laws. Could another government shutdown be in the works?

In 2012 I wrote:
I have a general observation to make about the vilification that goes on in the political arena, not to mention the hate-filled, public discourse between Americans. It is sickening. It’s demoralizing and demeaning. What happened to showing decency to others? Just because someone has a different point of view than you doesn’t mean they are morally bankrupt, a terrorist, or ignorant. It simply means they have an opposing view.

6a00e553df64898834011571a64031970b
Isn’t America all about diversity? Must that diversity lead to dissension and discord, to the embattled and embittered democracy? Forget sexy, we have to bring back civility and decency, respect and consideration, for each other, for the candidates, for ourselves, for our country. If we want ethics back in politics, then we must put them back into our lives as well.

index
And while I am on my soap box. What happened to integrity in journalism? You know conscientious journalists who vowed to serve the public with thoroughness and honesty? I just don’t see it much anymore — at least not on news shows that are more about ratings than accuracy in reporting. The talking heads are the worst. All they are, are corporate marketing interests, delivering entertainment substance, governed by polls, projected ratings and sponsor demands. What we see is well-crafted hype for dramatic value by an eccentric cast of cartoonish characters¬, sound journalism be darned. (Editor’s note: The public would do well to rely more on newspapers and their associated websites, and public broadcast media – organizations where the journalistic values of fairness, thoroughness and accuracy are still held in high esteem.)

images
As an aside, I’m thinking Iceland is the place to be — clean living, stellar education system, virtually no crime, wonderful food, quality healthcare, political indifference, literacy rate of 99 percent, not too small, not too big. They gave us Of Monsters and Men.  I love America. God bless us, but we could learn a few things from this small peace-loving country.

index

 

 

Twenty Random Questions with Philosopher Extraordinaire Mark Kingwell.

Mark Kingwell was kind enough to agree to answer twenty random questions, posed by yours truly. If you aren’t familiar with the Professor, please check out his bio at the end of this post. I have an innocent and platonic fascination with his mind. He’s my Glenn Gould. Mark will get that, and so will those of you familiar with his books. If you haven’t read Kingwell’s work, I promise once you do you’ll be just as intrigued. As an aside, Mark will on my podcast La Literati on Jan. 12th. You can find the details at: http://www.blogtalkradio.com/laliteraticarpelibrum We’re excited to speak with him. In the meantime, check out his insightful and humorous answers to total randomness.

1. If you were Alice, would you rather stay in Wonderland on the other side of the mirror, or come back to the real world to share your story?

Well, it’s a psychedelic trip, isn’t it? So I would come back, but I wouldn’t tell anybody about it. And I’d figure out a way to get back there at some point.

2. If you were going to write an article about yourself, what would the headline be?

“Everyone hates a sad professor.” (Yes, I stole that.)

3. If you were a drink, what would you be? Why?

That’s easy, because I once published a book about cocktails and I like to mix them for friends. So I’d say I am a dry gin martini, served straight up, with one of those big olives stuffed with a piece of blue cheese. Cold and clear, then some salt and pungency waiting for the right moment to show itself.

4. What childhood fear do you still have as an adult?

Failure. And since you ask, I’m still not too crazy about wasps. Also frozen hockey pucks to the face.

5. If you could choose just one thing to change about the world, what would it be?

No religious zealotry, thank you.

6. What’s your favorite poem?

John Donne, “The Ecstasy.”

7. Does darkness soothe you or frighten you?

Very soothing stuff, darkness. Except when it isn’t. You know, that noise that doesn’t immediately make sense…

8. If you ruled your own country, who would you get to write your national anthem?

Cole Porter. Or maybe Hal David.

9. What makes you nostalgic?

This will sound weird if you aren’t, like me, an air force brat: seeing any military airplane. They make me think of the bases where I grew up, the funny houses with the same floorplan no matter where you were in the country, the kids you knew for a few months before their fathers got posted somewhere else. Games of Post Office in somebody’s garage. Sandlot baseball. Soundtrack by Creedence Clearwater Revival, Grand Funk Railroad, and Alice Cooper.

10. Clowns., creepy or cool?

You’re not seriously asking that, are you? Creepy of course. Creepy creepy creepy. Also, see Question 7. Bart Simpson had it right: “Can’t sleep. Clowns will eat me.”

11. Do you remember your dreams?

About once a week. They are usually extremely violent, David Cronenberg or Quentin Tarantino violent. I have no idea why.

12. What’s your favorite song?

That’s easy: “Smoke Gets In Your Eyes,” any version, but maybe especially the Platters (1958) and Keith Jarrett (2009). I’m going to cheat and add that my favourite album of all time is Glenn Gould’s “A Consort of Musick Bye William Byrde And Orlando Gibbons” (1984); this just edges out Keith Jarrett’s sublime “Köln Concert” (1975) and “Armed Forces” by Elvis Costello and the Attractions (1979).

13. What’s your favorite season?

Autumn. Especially here in Ontario, where everything looks better when the leaves begin to change colour. Also: playoff baseball.

14. Does pressure motivate you?

Absolutely. The self-applied kind is the best, though.

15. To what extent do you shape your own destiny, and how much is down to fate?

I will quote Sarah Connor from the Terminator franchise: “There is no fate but what we make.”

16. What published book do you secretly wish you had written?

A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again. Also, The Republic.

17. Are you the paranoid type or calm, cool and collected?

I’m not paranoid, but I usually disguise my intense misanthropy under a facade of easygoing amiability. Does that answer the question? Maybe not… Might make sense of Question 11, though.

18. What would qualify as the afternoon of your dreams?

Well, there has to be sex with my sweetie in there somewhere, plus music, and art, and then cocktails at some point before dinner. Also a baseball game or a walk in the woods or some fly fishing. Hmm – I guess it matters whether I’m alone or not. Am I alone? Oh no…

19. Are you more like fire or the earth?

Can’t I be both? And also wind? I always wanted to play in the horn section on “Got To Get You Into My Life.”

20. Do you hear voices?

Just my own, incessant and various, about deadlines and ideas, quotations and turns of phrase, things to say and things I wish I’d said. Wouldn’t want it otherwise.

Bonus question:
What are you currently working on?

A new collection of essays about democracy and culture, to be published next year

About Mark kingwell:

Mark Kingwell is a Professor of Philosophy at the University of Toronto and a contributing editor of Harper’s Magazine in New York. He is the author or co-author of seventeen books of political, cultural and aesthetic theory, including the bestsellers Better Living (1998), The World We Want (2000), Concrete Reveries (2008), and Glenn Gould (2009). His articles on politics, architecture and art have appeared in many academic journals, including the Journal of Philosophy and the Harvard Design Magazine, and in more than 40 mainstream publications, among them Harper’s, the New York Times, the New York Times Magazine, the New York Post, the Wall Street Journal, the Guardian, Utne Reader, BookForum, the Toronto Star, and Queen’s Quarterly; he is also a former columnist for Adbusters, the National Post, and the Globe and Mail.

Mr. Kingwell has lectured extensively in Canada, the United States, Europe, the Middle East, and Australia on philosophical subjects and had held visiting posts at Cambridge University, the University of California at Berkeley, and at the City University of New York, where he was the Weissman Distinguished Visiting Professor of Humanities in 2002. Mr. Kingwell is the recipient of the Spitz Prize in political theory, National Magazine Awards for both essays and columns, the Outstanding Teaching Award and President’s Teaching Award at the University of Toronto, a research fellowship at the Jackman Humanities Institute, and in 2000 was awarded an honorary DFA from the Nova Scotia College of Art & Design for contributions to theory and criticism. His most recent book is a collection of political essays, Unruly Voices (2012); he has also recently published two illustrated pamphlets, Frank’s Motel (2013) and Democracy’s Gift (2014).

unnamed

Mark Kingwell-The People’s Philosopher

One of my favorite contemporary philosophers is the University of Toronto professor, author, essayist, and critic Mark Kingwell. He apparently has quite the following in Canada, but we Americans haven’t caught on yet. I discovered his work by accident last year while doing research for an interview with New York Times bestselling author Sylvain Reynard. Reynard who writes under a pen name, is an anonymous Canadian author who is shrouded in mystery. If you’re curious about him, click here.http://http://www.sylvainreynard.com/ He’s a brilliant guy, kind to a flaw, and his proses are effortless. No one aside from Jesus does redemption better.

But I digress. Kingwell’s name came up an article on Reynard. There was speculation that perhaps Kingwell and Reynard were one in the same. Having read both their works, I don’t see it. Their literary voices are vastly different. Reynard seemingly is a strong man of faith. Hope and redemption are prominent themes in his books. Kingwell, from all accounts, is a  atheist. He refers to himself as a rehabilitated Catholic. There are other glaring differences, but we’ll save those for another time.

Kingwell has written twelve books. You can see a list of his work here.http://http://www.philosophy.utoronto.ca/directory/mark-kingwell/ Today I want to focus on two of my favorites. A Civil Tongue (1995) and In Pursuit of Happiness: Better Living from Plato to Prozac (2000).  In A Civil Tongue, he takes on political discourse and culture. He believes social justice can be achieved through an open and honest dialogue. He refers to this as “the talking cure.” He is a proponent of tolerance, reason and civility — how very Canadian of him. In a time when political discord is out of control, his ideas are refreshing. Imagine a world where we actually discuss our political views in a rational, sane way, where we offered up ways to make a difference, where the blame games were nonexistent, and we listen to the other side. Imagine if we not only listened but showed respect for others’ point of view. If we could change political discourse, we could change the world.

In Pursuit of Happiness: Better Living from Plato to Prozac (2000) explores the nature of happiness and human nature in an engaging and entertaining way. Pop culture references are found throughout — everything from The Simpsons to Pepperidge Farm goldfishes. Naturally the works of some of the greats in philosophy play a prominent role. Spoiler alert: Aristotle plays a leading role in the book. Kingwell is a fan. He also takes us into the New Age movement with a hilarious anecdote of his time at a happiness camp. He tried Prozac just to see what all the fuss was about.

Kingwell asserts that happiness isn’t a feeling. Happiness is not about “feeling” good all the time. “Sometimes good enough is enough.” Reflection and introspection about one’s life are crucial to peace of mind.
It is not enough to just be in the world; one must also feel connected to humanity and the collective good. This can be an arduous task in our modern society in which we are inundated with information. This constant stream of noise that can leave us feeling out of the loop Kingwell refers to as “upgrade anxiety” –the feeling that we have to catch up. This feeling can zap us of our energy and overwhelm us.

Paradoxically, no man is an island. Much emphasis is placed on intimate relationships as being fundamental to happiness, yet solitude has sparked some of the most creative minds in history. Kingwell also states the seemingly obvious, that material goods can’t buy happiness. Happiness is not about getting everything we want. In fact, having all of our heart’s desires can lead to unhappiness. It is in the striving that we find meaning.

A Civil Tongue (1995) and In Pursuit of Happiness: Better Living from Plato to Prozac (2000), are books everyone should read. Kingwell’s writing is flawless without being pretentious or preachy. His wit is a thing of wonder. He’s truly the “every man and woman’s philosopher.” He’s hip, snarky and smart. Who needs happiness camp or Prozac when you have a Kingwell book?

index