The Philosophers "Table"
In the course of a creators life there is the subject of philosophy that takes its stand from one point to another. Philosophy is a point where one receives a great deal intrinsicly from study, otherwise yielding the proverbial "penny for ones thoughts" regarding the subject.
Everyone is a philosopher as the saying goes. This is true from the form of one given point to another. Philosophy is a prohibited subject in some cultures. In ours it is often degraded to the level of coffee house chatter, the meetings of individuals and groups spilling coffee on one another in metaphor to conclude with a gifted result. Other points in philosophy are educated results of observations and conclusions by a gifted sense of debate all too rarely brought to a public forum as this in itself would yield a sense of impurity to the otherwise kindred sense of discussion of the subject.
During the late 1990's there was a Round-Table at the University amidst all the less serious students. Mostly people with advanced degrees would sit at the "table" and bring serious issues, and yes, philosophy to the table in discussion.
Scientists-Physics, Chemistry, Medicine, and those who were reaching their finality of dissertation would collide with History, Politcs, Social Sciences, Psychiatry and Sociology. Once in a while those involved in the ROTC programs -or once a retired General-would show up forming debates and contrasts from many different cultures. (As I think there was the humor that if there were 10 students around one table at least half of them were from different countries) Around that "table" there were the students meandering the web of academia in an effort to get their degrees. All too few times would younger students join what was known as the "table", around which would appear Phd students form all areas of their experise to discuss daily events with sometimes heated discussions. "The Table" was filled with the white haired students who had returned to receive their advanced degrees a well as some rather brilliant young input discussions that would be launched. Politic to Religion, Economics, Science and Math as well as Art were discussed. I remember these "Tables" at other universities. At the University of Arizona there was one. A table of discussion where there would be intelligent debates and the obvious chatter sometimes moving forward about the days events and world affairs. It was far different during my undergraduate degree at the University of Arizona 1978-82. People would be more fired up for debate as well as discussion. Part of my collegiate life was dotted with a reprieve for intellectual discussion at the "Table" wherever it may have been.
One would hear stories, experiences and philosophies all in a great collision of vitality. In the late 1970's through the early 1990's these "tables' did exist somewhat as an addition to ones own study...for input, comparison, contrast and socialization of ideas beyond the class level.
One of the tables I remember well was at Columbia University. Here during lunch or after classes the students from various areas would bring together and commune as friends and adversaries on a host of subjects. There would be several different tables at Columbia and often one might cross sides. Sometimes the friends one would meet were deep seated intellectuals (I remember one of NASA's best scientists several writers of specific expertise appearing at the tables in New York for discussion. I also remember a violinist and physicist of fame -name witheld for more details and discussions- crowded over one of these tables in New York City discussing the finess of the instrument (violin and Physics) On the weekends they would meet at The West End or down the block. or in the Villiage at several places to discuss art, music, philosophy and aesthetics with a sense of prowress and intelligence. There was a special place where artists collected during the weekends in Soho. (I remember the chair throwing over the discussion of certain artists...they were all there...and once in a while, just once in a while, Andy Warhol would show up or several of his friends, then people like Mark Kostabi and many so-called stars -more here-and New York critics galore had their input..all in a sense of rather challenging competition, that sometimes came to chair-throwing. I met several well known older art critics of those days as well as other noted people at the evening sessions. Unfortunately when moving to Arizona there was rather little of this kind of intensity. When I lived in Prague Czech Republic there were the places for artists to go...among the names there was the tables "pre selected" and often fixec.
I must note that after the 1990's in Tempe most of the intellectual crowd disbanded...there were rather low level and general discussions. People began to be more aloof and seperated. I suppose I had lived in an intense time when there was serious discussion and debate. For this I was fortunate to be part of a sense of the day, perhaps days that past forever in the level of serious discussions that once were a point of stimulating conversation. A Conversation instead of TV? A good chat instead of a book? The "table" offered some options of thought during the late 80's and 90's at Arizona State University- Of course the table of "discourse" always offered a reprieve away from the common, commercial and lecture platform. Memories are situated here- Through "The Table" I met many people, mostly older graduates fulfilling the end chapter of their degrees. It was funny that I met some of the original members of this group later on in different places of the world--sometimes quite by accident! There was Harold (Name Witheld from Denmark) I met him at Schripol Airport in Amsterdam. Helga (Name Witheld from Germany) I met her in Frankfurt waiting for a train to Dresden. Mark (Name witheld from Nairobi) -met him in Italy (Milan- waiting for his wife to arrive on a train platform from Rome). Janet, a graduate student, (Name witheld- I met her at the American Express Office in Prague-First Glance, "I know you!...." (a dinner commensed, and the remember when scenario from "The Table".
Of course in the late 1980's one could sense a definate change in the time and in the culture. We often remarked at this change in the mid-early 80's in New York. I believe this was at the West End, but memory is short, due in part to the rush of the city. The greatest changes, I felt, came in about 1988-90. A certain disconnection began to surface between people and their environments as well as social connection. There was a feeling that the best was starting to have a grand climax in our culture and most certainly this seemed to be a part of the 80's. Things were good in the 1980's. Most of all things were readily accessable during this time. Work was to be found at a good wage. There seemed to be more reasonable honesty and integrity. Although there were many things that were not quite so good about the 1980's (the excess may be one of these not so good element-greed another) there was a different air to the weight of things, a certain feeling of moving forward and an energy that is almost indescribable regarding this. But one also sensed that that certain air of change was coming--The 1990's saw little or nothing of that anticipatory feeling (at least I certainly felt stagnancy holding a tighter grip) In Arizona, a very conservative state, it seemed like energy was buckling at a warp speed that seemed almost nonsensical-- Real Estate went through the roof! Money was the talk of all tables, and any lack of it seemed a foil to a general sense that everyone is going to be a multi-millionair or (something may be wrong) Investments too seemed to be at full sail toward the moon. Any skepticism was welcome outside and generally disregarded. Individualism seemed to be the sense of the day-- That old table at the University had cob-webs on it. Years later I revisited the University to see all the fresh faces and recollect with great fondness the "Philosophers Table" which was not there anymore. A bunch of chain stores had been included in the Memorial Union and walls were punched out, repainted to give a kindergarten appeal to what use to be a fairly thought provoking area. Mass appeal had taken over Gone was that fight that we all shared and had in common amongst the hardships of our studies. A Phd seemed not as heafty as it once seemed and I do remember seeing the tears on students faces (even in the 1990's when the rigorum was softened a bit) Looking back is a bit difficult, especially from 2010, an age that we all dreamed about as an age of miracles. Time passes and time changes. Social norms and people collecting for intelligent conversation may be an issue of the past. With our culture of shopping, internet, television and heavy draft at making ends meet in the large whirlpools of today, we speculated, then at the "Table" that this would happen within our culture. It was a world without laptops (literally unheard of in 1989-or a bizarre sight!-Bulky and cumbersome-We had dealings at the Computer Commons for the Apple 1 and lost almost inevitablely lost information on large floppy disks-Never mind the portable!
Later when I was in Prague there were similar forums, before the age of rapid transfer of information, people for an hour or two each day would sit an talk (one to one) about the keen dealings of the world in that day, vent their frustrations and introject their ideas of the age of tomorrow (1997) Of course that too was on its way out to the cellular culture of texting, mobiles, crudely wired laptops and various "new age" phenomenon. An age when people would have conversations about tangible issues, share information and ideas may be an age long ago. Today we are wired to capacity. Each person sits strapped like a puppet to a monitor phasing in and out of virtual worlds in disconnection to the world around them and in phase with themselves, their identities and that of an intangible virtual world that spins around them. Hopefully there will be an age of understanding when people will get off their laptops and back into discourse with others-- an age when people will write long hand again, draw freehand and share their ideas and have them accepted by others as icons of human understanding and, not withstanding a next step in a generation of computers that are put in us, implanted or otherwise attached there may be reborn a sense of "ideas" shared by others in a not so virtual world that we can call our own.