We never really worked. Work was for bums, not philosophers. Bertrand Russell’s In Praise of Idleness was our Bible. We got by, well admittedly we got by largely as we were all retired having worked bloody hard all our lives, but be that as it may, the world of work was not for us, although some of us did work, including myself. But that’s beside the point. We liked to meet on a Monday morning, to drink coffee and explore truth while the non-philosophers settled down to another week of work. As ever, Paulie Silviano, our boss, was there first. He fixed his eyes on me as I sat down. He took a sip of black coffee. I kind of knew what he was going to say. He felt that there were exciting things for us on the horizon. Things were really changing. He could feel it. I interjected:
‘But, Paulie, you’ve been saying this for months now. The reality is that we talk about all these plans, but we never get beyond the talking stage. How are we going to make an impact on the city? We just skulk around in coffee shops, generally not buying enough to keep the owners happy. We talk the talk – getting philosophy into the schools, getting big name speakers up, you know the usual stuff. But that’s the extent of it. What is it exactly that’s changing?’
It is worth mentioning at this stage that Paulie is something of a fanatic. It seems that he spent his life pursuing career goals and fucking people over while generally neglecting friendships, family, and so on. His kids have various mental health diagnoses. In the twilight of his years, he has decided to make amends. So he can’t talk about anything other than relationships. Literally. You could talk to him about anything – the taste of a milkshake, Einstein’s theory of relativity, whatever, and you can guarantee that Paulie will answer with something like ‘What I hear you/Einstein say is that there is a need for greater focus on what is going on between people’ and so on. It can get pretty fucking tedious at times. But he’s the boss – what can I do about it?
He looked at me and smiled. ‘I can’t believe you don’t feel it, all the changes that are going on between people. It’s crazy. There’s just so much energy at the moment. People are really opening up. Things are really changing’.
I mentioned that two people had apparently stormed out of the Saturday meeting after a violent disagreement over the nature and goal of wisdom. Also, that one of the group leaders had threatened to resign after a member had got bored with the philosophical nature of the discussion and started haranguing him over his status as a lonely, divorced man, the implication being that he was only interested in philosophy as he was bored, lonely and old. He had not taken kindly to this suggestion. Finally, I mentioned that one of the groups had folded as the group leader, Mickey Ballerini, had for the second time in a row found himself alone in a room, with no one to seduce with his new-age blend of pop philosophy, spirituality, and quantum physics. I must admit I was relieved as I think the guy’s a bit of a charlatan. He refers to himself as a ‘conscious evolution coach’ in his emails and has managed to get money out of the society for various things that most people would probably have done for free. That said, I kept my own personal views out of it this morning as I lumped one seeming misfortune onto another in an attempt to get Paulie to acknowledge the realities of a philosophy society that was slowly imploding, a victim of its vaulting ambition to raise philosophy into the realm of the gods, a victim, in short, of the vision of Joey ‘The Bunny’ Castellano. If Paulie was the brains of the society (well, kind of), Joey was very much the heart. A retired psychiatrist, he rejected any distinction between philosophy and psychology, a position that through his charismatic presence had filtered into the depths of the society, albeit not without considerable dissent, of which more will be said. Joey was generally at the heart of all controversies, and revelled in it. He walked in at this point.