Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Socrates Cafe

On the last Monday of every month a diverse group of people gather to share ideas and opinions about a certain topic. This event has been going on for many years and earlier this spring I went to my first one. Last night was the third time I had attended and as always, the discussions became a little animated with lots of smiles in between. London’s well known Bill Paul is the host of these events. He is a very active community player.

Bill also hosts a talk show on the Fanshawe College radio station:
Bill runs a comedy/entertainment business:

And Bill is the only town crier that I have ever known. That was how I first saw him, many years ago, with his big bell clanging in one hand as he was announcing the beginning of a community event. He had the special town crier hat, with gold coloured trim, the shirt, vest, pants, shoes – everything!!! I thought it was great.

It has always been an interesting group – ages from 18 to over 60 - from many ethnic backgrounds and diverse cultures. There seems to be a small core group that has been attending these talks for many years. There is also a sizeable group that has been in fairly regular attendance over the last six months and there is always a fair number of people that are attending for the first time.

Each month a new topic is discussed. Last evening’s discussion asked: Can humanity overcome the divisive elements of religion, race and politics and think globally instead?

To be fair and proper each person is given an initial opportunity to tell the gathering their name and their thoughts on the subject at hand. It’s always so interesting to watch a group of people listening with attention to a person who has a different opinion. Sometimes you see someone suddenly sit up straight and move as to begin to talk before realizing that it would be rude to interrupt, so they sit tense on their seats waiting for the perfect moment to interject. Lots of eyebrows move up and down over the course of the night.

What I like most about these events is that they help me to keep in focus the fact that there are soooooo many different ways of understanding this world. Some ideas that I hear are very informative and educational, so I feel that I always learn something new. Some ideas are very opposite to what I have grown to understand, and these ideas are like tools for me to re-examine my own understanding. Sometimes my beliefs are adjusted slightly and other times my beliefs are strengthened. Sometimes I’m completely baffled by a different perspective.

The perspective that I brought to the discussion expressed that “… once the people of Earth realize that we all belong to one race – the human race – then the dividing issues that have been molded into our politics and religion will be overcome. We all breathe the same air and all our hearts beat in rhythm with the Earth. Our blood flows through our veins and connects us with the oceans and the sky. The fact that we all have different skin colours is a gift from the sun to be celebrated…”

Next month we will be discussing topics about reality: Is it shaped for us or do we actively shape our own realities? Should be interesting.


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