Dick Tracy: Maybe the world needs more philosophers
I’ve often wondered: How do philosophers make a living?
You know … put food on table and pay for new togas?
Do they inveigle people to listen to them and say: “OK, that’s two haikus and a mysterious statement about eternity …t hat comes to $167.50!”
In 1961 at the University of Nevada, I once attended an anthropology course taught by an unusual woman who named her little dog (and constant companion) Zinganthropus. She called him “Zanj” for short.
Next door was a philosophy class, where students walked just a little slower than normal, as if they’d just seen something unusual in the sky.
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And one day my instructor — for reasons known only to herself — decided to go lay down with Zang across the hallway just outside the philosophy classroom door just before the dismissal bell rang.
The students emerged from the classroom and discovered the reclining woman, whose last name was Devlin.
“Are you OK?” one coed asked, dropping to her knees. “Should we call someone?” (The university may have had someone on staff to deal with such things, right?)
“No,” I’ m just fine, Devlin said. And stayed put.
Now there was a bottleneck at the door. The philosophers’ main avenue of exit was blocked. Would it be impolite to simply step over her, or should they turn in the other direction to a stairway they seldom used?
Slowly they walked to the far staircase, muttering among themselves. I suspect some of the students — awkward with this perhaps becoming a regular “thing” — dropped out of school and applied for admission to UC Berkeley. They might have opened little fast-philosophy stores in San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury District when it was still fun.
My first questions about the livelihoods of philosophers arose early in high school when I stumbled upon mention of what I recall as, “The Seven Idlers of the Bamboo Stream” and I daydreamed about their lives. It sounded like a cooI existence to me. I’d transformed daydreaming into an art by then. Among my late mother’s collectibles is my second grade report card on which the teacher wrote: “He daydreams.” I don’t think she meant it as a compliment.
Just for fun (and hopeful I know something Google doesn’t know) I entered “Seven Idlers of the Bamboo Stream” in the computer and came up blank! But just as I was in a celebratory mood I saw mention of, “Six Idlers of the Bamboo Brook.” Maybe a less-successful philosopher died of hunger and they reorganized under a new name?
Oh well, be that as it may … I’ve given you an educational scandal, a bit of history and a confession. That’ll be $145.70. I’ve learned, interestingly, that philosophers are a hot item on the corporate job market. Way more recruited than journalists like me. They ask great “off the wall” questions.
So, is the toga store open during the coronavirus pandemic?
Dick Tracy, who lives in Grass Valley, is a member of The Union Editorial Board. His views are his own and do not represent the views of The Union or its editorial board members. Contact him at EditBoard@TheUnion.com.
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