I'm just back from a great national meeting in Orlando for ValMark Securities, where I had the chance yesterday to philosophize with hundreds of wonderful people, thanks to the sponsorship and support of Lincoln Financial. We were in a beautiful ballroom in one of the few top Orlando hotels I had never spoken in before. The Loews Portofino Bay was an elegant and perfect venue for relexing and exploring the wisdom of the ages.
And in the midst of that great environment, a question arose in conversation. Where was the most unusual place I'd ever spoken to an audience as a philosopher? I had to think. And I ended up with an interesting list. I've philosophized in such places as:
A private home in Texas, on the family's third floor, full-size basketball court, to 150 people
The middle of the Baltic Sea, in the ballroom of what seemed to me a titanic cruise ship, that later sank
The Detroit Lions Football Stadium, on the fifty yard line
Outside in a big field in Alabama, in 100 degrees, under a tent, after another big field talk out in the country near Roanoke Rapids, NC
On a large, private Gulfstream Jet, pictured above, where I used a white board while speaking to 11 company presidents
In the Mecca in Milwaukee, where the Bucks used to play basketball, to 5,000 people
In an old Elk's Club in rural Illinios, where I was given the Key to the City by the Mayor but was told that no one ever locked anything anyway
In Camp Snoopy, inside The Mall of America
In an otherwise regular looking, fairly nondescript room whose most notable feature was that it was big enough that it could accommodate the 10,000 people philosophizing with me that day
In the Monteverde Cloud Forest in Costa Rica, at a rural mountain lodge
In the middle of the East Carolina University Basketball Arena, to thousands of teachers
At a well known New York City Disco, on the dance floor, under the disco lights, and surrounded by an audience of hundreds of people around a balcony and on the floor holding drinks
There have also been many schools, churches, retreat centers, old buildings, glass buildings, high rise, low rise, and no rise locations amid all the ballrooms and convention centers along the way.
The lesson I take from this when I relfect back over it all is that you can philosophize to good effect almost anywhere, and under nearly any circumstances. For over a hundred years, our culture has too often limited serious philosophy to college and university classrooms, where the discussions can sometimes rise so high in abstraction that they seem to lose all breathable air. But Cicero once praised Socrates in these words, or actually their Latin equivalent:
He was the first to call philosophy down from the sky and establish her in towns, and bring her into homes, and force her to investigate the life of men and women, ethical conduct, good and evil.
It's been my unexpected joy to be able to do something of the same in our own time, on my own level, and in my own way, redoing the job begun by the famous progenitor of public philosophy, a job that needs to be done anew in every century, in every generation. I feel a deep gratitude to all who have invited me to come and do it, in whatever circumstances. And I look forward to the locations yet to come! I hope you get to join me in one of them for some philosophical reflection on our lives.