Big Ideas by Little Philosophers Program
Halloween Hayride-Philosophy Walk for Kids
Merlin CCC offers philosophy experiences in Helena, Montana for community members of all ages. This organization believes that philosophy can enrich all lives. Learn more about them by reading the interview below and by check out their website: https://merlinccc.org/
PLATO: Can you describe how Merlin’s Philosophy in the Community project was started?
Merlin CCC: Our ‘Philosophy in the Community’ project was inspired by experiences had over the years with both my late father and various of my philosophy professors – all of whom approached the discipline of philosophy as an activity intricately connected to and embedded in community. The first activities that we ever offered under this umbrella were our philosophy walks. These hold a special place in my heart and are, to date, still my favorite activities. Part of this affection is nostalgia-driven; being outdoors and wandering into the great wide open is where I first discovered philosophy. The other component has to do with what happens in nature; nature inspires, sparks curiosity, demands humility, and has a relentless and magical way of inviting deep thoughts. Nature and philosophy go hand in hand. And even if the adventure is a solo one, in so far as there is a communing of sorts, there is always a community element…always an opportunity for reflection, contemplation, and connection. From there, and continuing to build on the community aspect, we started offering philosophy think & drinks (always a fav!) and philosophy symposiums, both of which have a very different structure and feel, but are equally “thinky,” diverse, and community-driven. Over time, more activities have been added to the kettle, including: philosophy workshops and outings, philosophy drive-in’s and read-in’s, philosophy fellowship programs, and various philosophy community endeavors and collaborative ventures.
PLATO: What helped you grow the idea into a successful program?
Merlin CCC: As Pollyannaish as it may sound, the project (and our organization in general) became a reality due simply to believing deeply enough in the idea and then just digging in and doing it. It was very “Field of Dream”-ish. And, it started out as a surreal, in fashion as the movie – one person standing out in a field kicking up dust…until that one became two, then three, and soon a community. I think the fact that our project and organization has grown the way it has is, I think, a testament to the power of philosophy more than anything. That philosophy can transform and enrich our lives and foster community in the ways that it does is so beautiful.
PLATO: What was one of your favorite Philosophy in the Community moments?
Merlin CCC: One of my favorite memories from our ‘Philosophy in the Community’ project happened at a philosophy walk. I recall the moment distinctly. It was our first philosophy walk and my mom (in an act of solidarity) flew down from Alaska to partake in the hike. I had requested in my advertising of the walk that people show up roughly 10 minutes prior to start time (to stretch out, get geared up, etc.). The walk was supposed to start at 10am and it was 9:55am and the only people there were me and my mom. I looked at her and began to say, “Well, it looks like it’s just you and me.” But then a man appeared out of what seemed like nowhere, with hands on hips, emphatically shouting (and, I kid you not!): “Man in need of philosophy!” My entire being smiled – partly in joy and relief, and partly because it reaffirmed something I had felt to be true for so long: that we all need philosophy.
PLATO: What do your Philosophy in the Community programs look like?
Merlin CCC: It is hard to describe entirely what our programs are like — in part because they are still evolving. That said, you can get a sense of some of our programs by watching these two videos — the first of which provides an overview of our philosophy walks and second of which talks about our approach to philosophy, in general.
- Philosophy Walk: https://merlinccc.org/media-library/philosophy-walk-hctv-exploring-big-ideas-big-sky/
- Interview about Philosophy in the Community Programming: https://merlinccc.org/merlin-press/philosophy-in-the-community-hctv-may-2018/
PLATO: What are the goals of your Philosophy in the Community programs?
Merlin CCC: Our activities and services are designed for people of all backgrounds and ages (from children to elders) and are geared to:
- spark and encourage the exchange of ideas & the fun of doing
- promote critical, creative thought & reflection
- cultivate the faculty & virtue of “philosophical sensitivity”
- nurture and contribute to a sense of imagination and wonder
- reconnect people with nature by way of doing philosophy in
- facilitate the application of philosophy to matters of everyday
- inspire leadership & meaningful action, and
- build, foster & strengthen the community and environment
While our project primarily serves the community in which we are based (Helena, MT), beneficiaries often extend into surrounding cities and counties. We also have an on-line resource center that houses recordings and photos from our activities and, as of February of this year, we also started regularly offering philosophy think & drinks in Missoula, MT and have established some great relationships with individuals interested in bringing some of our project activities into their communities.
PLATO: Why do you think philosophical engagements like the ones Merlin CCC offers are important?
Merlin CCC: The “why?” of our project has to do with our belief in the value and relevance of philosophy and its ability to improve our everyday lives. It also has to do with access. We believe that philosophy is (and should be) a resource for everyone – regardless of background or age – and that it is not meant to be closed away in some book, but to be lived. Maybe this is connected to what I mentioned earlier…that each of us, in our own ways, needs philosophy. That, a field of dreams can bear fruit. I know this sounds strange…but I truly believe it. Philosophy is very compelling. Its questions are the questions of life. And, at our core, we are all philosophical beings. Sometimes we just need an invitation to remind ourselves of that and a set of tools to till the soil.
Merlin CCC has many resources available on their website. Check these out to inspire your own philosophy programs!
PLATO would like to thank Marisa Diaz-Waian (Founder & Executive Director of Merlin CCC) for taking the time to contribute to this blog post.
Merlin CCC programs are supported in part with grant funding from the PLATO organization.