What are you watching?
So...with the pandemic I have had a lot more time to watch T.V. Not so much more that I'm sitting on my butt and binge watching, but I can at least take in some shows. Before the pandemic my life was so taken up by commuting, work, and other obligations that I was lucky if I got 30 minutes to an hour after my kids went to sleep to enjoy some time to myself.
In my house Netflix's purpose has for some time been to just cycle "The Office" or
"Parks and Rec" on loop..you know, like most reasonable Americans. I love these shows, and there's something about their character that suits them to being on in the background, almost like commentary on your own life. They're close to home in a way....more on that for later blogs. This is about why I enjoy GOOD T.V., not just something to have on in the background, but something that creates a world you can immerse yourself in for a few hours. T.V. that isn't an escape (as I think the aforementioned shows are) but are an invitation to an experience.
The reason I love good T.V. is the same reason I love good books. They get my mind going. I connect with characters, their motivations, their emotions, their moral ambiguities...I...and here's the critical part...I imagine with them. And that is exactly what I like about T.V., it is theater. It gives my mind a place to play. This is important for us. We all are to some extent our child selves. Trust me, to grow up is both overrated and impossible. We'll always carry our inner child with us, and that inner child is the most centrally human thing about us. We have an innate need to play, to imagine, to have leisure. (For my fellow Catholic scholars it's here that I will plug some writing by Josef Piper "Leisure, the basis of Culture" https://www.ignatius.com/Leisure-P1445.aspx.) For everyone else, trust me, imagination is important, more important than we give it credit for. C.S. Lewis believed that the imagination was the key to the heart, and I can't say that he is wrong.
So what have I been watching? Star Trek, mostly. A bit of Picard (My bald officer inspiration). The Mandalorian, I can't say enough of this show. Disney did a phenomenal job here creating a class space western. The show goes well beyond Baby Yoda, but let's be honest, he is the star. Weeds I'm re-watching this series. Just as an advisement it is not for younger audiences, or those who have a discomfort with morally ambiguous literature, but it is good satire and social commentary that addresses issues of class, race, gender, criminality, and in some cases dives deeply into some existential absurd-ism. Weeds can be funny, inappropriate, disturbing, and wickedly intellectual.
That's about it right now, What are you watching? Why do you like it?
[Having] been reduced to the perplexity of realizing that he did not know… he will go on and discover something. (Meno 84a-d, Lamb translation)
Have you ever been in a situation where you realized that you didn't know what you didn't know? It's kind of hard to articulate. Another way to say it is that you realize that you don't know enough to even know what you don't know. How about that for a sentence? The thought is just as awkward as the turn of phrase.
In Greek, the term is "Aporia" literally "perplexity" or "reaching an impasse". It means coming to a point where you become aware of your own ignorance. You know that you don't know. For Socrates, this was a great place to be. This is where you cross a border from the cave of ignorance into the real world - the place of discovery. The shock of coming to realize that you are ignorant, that you don't know everything (even some things that you think you know) is to come to a place of intellectual humility.
Have you ever done something thinking you were right, then argued about it. You know that you are right, no way you could be wrong. Then come to find out, you were wrong. (Shazaam is a movie from the '90s with Sinbad!) That's the feeling, right there.
Aporia is healthy. It's a place where we can truly humble ourselves and allow ourselves to grow. We aren't the masters of our own lives, and the more we realize this, the better we become. G.K. Chesterton wrote that the lunatic wants to take the entire universe into his head, and in doing so, the universe crushes his mind. The rational person doesn't try to fit all things into his mind, but seeks an ocean to let his mind expand into.
This is how we learn, this is how we grow. How beautiful is this idea that by beginning by acknowledging our own emptiness, we begin the path to true discovery. No one is fixed. We are always in a state of becoming; there is always another thing you can do to grow.
Do you feel like this at times? At school? At work? In relationships?
If you find yourself in a state of Aporia - rejoice, for now you can go and truly discover.
"Hope is the thing with feathers -