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Soccer and Thinking

My professor had a brilliant idea today. He suggested a philosophical workout. We were sitting in his office; outside the sun was shining, people were skating by, and I could watch students chat and joke on the sidewalk.

For whatever reason, my professor always leaves his backdoor open. I don't know, maybe it makes him feel like there is a way out of academia even if most people will never escape from it. Sometimes during our meetings, his colleagues walk across the room, nod goodbye and fade into the light outside. It's bizarre. But my professor never loses his train of thought; he just continues explaining a Nietzschean idea or a scene from some 1930s movie, which in most cases I have never heard of.

This afternoon we were discussing my favorite French theorist. His writings are very confusing, so my professor usually finds some helpful example to illuminate our beloved philosopher's abstract way of thinking. We were caught up in figuring out what was meant by "the state of things" so I could correctly apply it later in my discussion of films such as Debbie Does Dallas and Art House Sluts. We had just decided that the "state of things" referred to something that was "very fixed" when my professor suddenly had a neat thought.

"Take us, for example", he said. "We are in a very determined situation at the moment." I know that right now everybody thinks he or she knows where this is going. But no. My professor is very unimpressed by the pornographic discourse. Film scholars watch weird stuff, you know. They have seen it all.

He said, "We are meeting in this room because that's the situation we're used to. It is a fixed state of things". Our conversation, he continued, was framed (big film term!) by this room just like porn was framed by a certain story or by the viewer's expectation. The idea of our philosopher was to disrupt the state of things so something new could emerge from it. "Maybe," my professor said, "maybe next time we should play table tennis [yes, he's from England] while we're thinking."

I find his idea intriguing. When you think about it, ping pong and philosophy have a lot in common. The subject is wicked and mostly out of control. Moving too fast to see. I am not a very good ping pong player, as you can tell. I prefer soccer. That, I would really like. Imagine a whole class kicking the ball around and shouting ontological concepts! Group discussions would be so much more effective; even big talkers would eventually become breathless. But the best part, I think, is that the random name dropping and free association, which can be so annoying in a philosophical discussion, would be goal-oriented at last.

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