Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Of dorm-room philosophizing

There's this scene in my new novel where some characters--adults well over 40--are discussing whether the color blue that you see is the same as the one I see. And then I come across this very same question (same color even) on some blog or other, and it's being mocked as a "dorm-room" conversation.*

So, wait...did that question get answered, and I missed it? Was I out getting coffee or something? Is it the same color? Or is this just too dumb of a question to bother with, now that we're out of the dorm? I get the impression that there are those who believe that asking these kinds of (so far) unanswerable questions is a sign of immaturity. College is the place where they are explored, and contained; they have no place in the real world.

Why not? Is it because after college, one is (and is supposed to be) preoccupied solely with practical concerns? Is ordinary life so fast and furious that contemplating unanswerable questions is really a waste of one's limited time? Maybe so. And maybe the "blue" question is not particularly interesting, although I kind of think it is. What concerns me is this brusque dismissal of an act of wondering. This notion that certain questions aren't appropriate for adults--and not because we have the answers now. It's just time to stop wondering and get on with it, whatever "it" is.

Personally I'd rather be in a dorm room than a cube.

*I can't find that blog, but here's this, about the "dorm-room" conversations in Jonathan Lethem's Chronic City. In his book they may be meant as satire, and in my book, they aren't. Or at least I don't think so.

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