Saturday, 11 February 2012

Vacationing with Philosophers

Many of you northern-hemisphere residents are living in places right now where there are actually brisk weather conditions. I’m trying hard not to be jealous (from the armpit of North America, otherwise known as Texas). So, instead of complaining I’m going to stomach my jealousy and broach the subject that many of you chilled northerners are thinking about right now: vacations—particularly vacations with your philosopher.

As wonderful a philosophers are to converse with, things can get pretty painful on a long vacation. Philosophers—being habitual creatures—get antsy and anxious when they’re away from the places where they feel safe (amongst other philosophers, in reading chairs, in the library, at usual tables in coffee shops, etc).

Vacations are different from things like philosophy conferences, because vacations are not generally filled with other philosophers, new and exciting philosophy papers, and job interviews. Philosophers know how to handle these sorts of things, but they often have a hard time when removed from their comfortable philosophy-world for a while.

So how can you minimize the bad effects that come with vacationing philosophers? Here are some suggestions that work for my philosopher:

1. Let them bring “work” along.

You know, even if there is no time to work or if your philosopher ends up not feeling like doing work, the best thing you can do is to let them (even encourage them) to bring philosophy work along. This work will sit in the background, reminding a philosopher that if things get too new, they still have the familiar lap of philosophy to fall into.

And if your philosopher wants to just work the whole vacation, try to finagle a deal out of them that they will try and do a few non-philosophy things with you a day, then spend the rest of the time doing the things that you want to do. Generally, though, philosophers will discover that there are fun non-philosophy activities on vacations and will not mind giving up work after a while.

2. Pick out a non-philosophy book on cd/tape/mp3 to listen to.

Some of you are groaning inwardly when you imagine a 20-hour card ride with a book on tape/cd/mp3. Even though I was a literature student, even I don’t like listening to books while I travel (it makes me carsick—we have to turn it up loud to hear it, and I hate loud noise). This is one of those sacrifices, though, that is really worth it in the end. If you philosopher feels like they can spend part of a trip engaging their mind, they will be less likely to get anxious about leaving the comfort of their philosophy world [Note: My philosopher hates leaving home, but since we’ve started listening to books on cd, he has reached the point where he actually talks about planning future car trips and doesn’t seem to mind them nearly as much]. Plus, if you travel by airplane, train, or bus, you can set your philosopher up with a book on an mp3/cd/tape player and then you don’t have to participate in the book at all.

Although it’s important to let your philosopher engage their mind while they travel, it is very important that you do not let them pick out a philosophical book to listen to—especially if you are driving somewhere. Remember DUIP? This is very dangerous.

3. Agree beforehand to discuss at least one philosophical topic during the trip.

Sometimes the anticipation of getting to talk about philosophy with you will help your philosopher overcome the dread they feel about leaving comfortable places. It’s best to restrict these sorts of discussions to times when you are driving or when you’re at a rest area (no DUIP for your philosopher).

These are only a few suggestions, but they have really improved my philosopher’s emotional state when we go on vacations. You may complain, “But, Katie, I wanted to get away from philosophy myself! Why do I have to bring it along on vacation?”

Whether you like it or not, your philosopher is married to philosophy. Asking them to leave it at home is like covering a canary’s cage all the time to get it to stop singing: you can make them stop, but they are going to quickly lose their life-spark because you are squelching the thing they are primed to do. It is perfectly fair to set up some boundaries on vacations, but don’t outlaw philosophy entirely.

~The Philosiologist

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  1. Why all the dislike for Texas?

    Unless you're living in College Station--then I feel your pain.

  2. Several reasons: (1) I like being outdoors. Texas is packed with poisonous creatures and vegetation. (2) It is hot and humid for 9 months out of the year. (3) Close-mindedness (anywhere except Austin). (4) Open and blatant racial segregation. (5) Unnatural pride in happening to be born in a state that something like 80% of all residents never leave.

    These are a few of my reasons.

  3. I've read around 7 or so of these posts of yours so far over the last few months, and every time nearly every thing you say describes something about me exactly .

    I was just reading this one aloud to my partner and when we got to the part about never wanting to leave the house - let alone for an entire vacation (craziness!) - I got really excited and exclaimed to my partner "See!! It's not just me!! Maybe it's because I'm a philosopher!".

    You're also right that I (I use "I" because your posts are such great descriptions of me, I take them to be about me! ;) ) don't want to talk to or really be around most people who are not philosophers (or certain physicists or mathematicians) because:
    (1) doing so frequently leads to difficulties (by, e.g., answering truthfully when I'm asked a question), so I always have to bite my tongue or - when I have to say anything - try to say neutral things about everything (as my opinions are frequently unpopular amongst normal people) while still (for my own sake) trying to not say anything which I think is actually false.
    (2) almost anything I like talking about is found boring by almost everyone else (who is not a philosopher, and sometimes physicist or mathematician), and
    (3) I find most things other people like talking about boring too. (Though I don't, of course, blame anyone fpr having different interests than I! It just makes it difficult to be around other people when there's so little of mutual interest. It also makes me feel lonely (especially since I haven't interacted with my friends - all of whom are, not coincidentally, philosophers! - in nearly a year now).

  4. I never thought I would actually be defending Texas, but here I am. I am a philosopher who is now living in Texas, and although I spend most of my time in the university bubble around other academics who are mostly not from Texas either, my spouse works at a non-academic job, and most of his co-workers are not close-minded or especially politically conservative (and most are pretty well traveled)...very unlike the stereotype we were prepared to endure (I hear, though, that small towns in Texas and even the suburbs of major cities can be hotbeds for that sort of thing). So, I'm not sure #3 or #5 is true of all of Texas, and it isn't true of most of the people I know here. There are, however, what seem to be a disproportionate amount of really unfortunate places in Texas (for example: Lubbock), and if you live in one of those, I can see why Texas would seem so awful (we live in a major city and a very good portion of the population is not from Texas originally). #2, however, is the main thing my spouse dislikes about Texas (although I think it's really pleasant from October to April, and only really terrible from June to August...I dislike snow and cold weather, though). With that out-of-character defense of Texas out of the way, I will say that I really enjoy your blog (and not just because I think my spouse has picked up some hints from it). So, thanks!