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Thinking and talking about what really matters

Updated: Jun 4, 2023

Socrates said that the unexamined life is not worth living and there are many possible ways to explore and enquire into what we experience in life. Philosophy for Communities brings people together to do just that - to develop and discuss a question that the group think is worth giving attention to. In the past month I've facilitated six philosophical enquiries in one pub, two galleries, one workplace and two zoom rooms, all of them rich enquiries into important questions.

During May, in Sheffield, Compassionate Sheffield organised a whole month of events encouraging people to think and talk about dying, death and grief. I facilitated three philosophical enquiries on this theme - one online, one in the pub and one in Sheffield's Graves Gallery (see picture).

It is such a privilege to join with people's deep thinking, reaching in to the big questions of life and death.

Curating a collated community created poem

Compassionate Sheffield curated an amazing varied programme of events including an open mic beautifully hosted by @sharenaleesatti at which I read a poem I collated and wrote from questions people created during the philosophical enquiry groups. You can read it here.

I'm involved in a growing love affair with questions. They contain so much thinking in so few words and hold an important liminal space for enquiry. Questions can give such a clear sense of the thinking that went before as well as the opening to freedom in future enquiry. I'm working on ways to share them more widely.

Is a workplace also a community?

Working together in an organisation is a complex business, especially now that there are many colleagues working remotely. It was exciting to be invited to offer a workplace community day for Quakers in Britain to explore what this means in practice.

Philosophy for Communities provides a stimulus to give a shared starting point for the enquiry and for this we took a theme of trees - individual trees creating a whole forest. Taking this approach enables participants to bring what interests them into focus and creates an open but structured way in to the discussion that emerges.

I facilitated philosophical enquiry sessions with two groups of colleagues - one online and one in the room - and also offered the chance for a creative activity (see picture). We had the same stimulus for both groups and the conversations had common themes but were interestingly different. I've long thought that you could use the same stimulus multiple times and have very different conversations so was glad to get the opportunity to take a first step in testing this out.

"Working on the questions really helped us explore what a shared vision of stronger community would look like, what actions might be needed and how it would be nurtured so it could flourish."

New gallery, new enquiry, new enthusiasm

I'm very excited to have been invited to Doncaster to facilitate a couple of philosophical enquiry groups at the Danum Art Gallery. It's such an amazing building and the group of people who gathered were great companions in thoughtfulness as well as enthusiastic givers of feedback (see picture!)

We had the exhibition of drawings of miners by Henry Moore as the stimulus and they led to the creation of a diverse set of questions (see below) and the one chosen for discussion was 'Why does history matter?'

Questions developed:

- Why does history matter?

- Does that closeness still exist? (relating to the closeness in community)

- Is suffering necessary?

- Is strength a weakness?

- Is personal responsibility the best protection?

- What is light?

It's always an adventure to go to a new venue and meet with a new community of enquiry. Invitations welcome - please do get in touch if you would like to find out more about what I can offer to your group, team or organisation.

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