One of the things that I have told my staff over the years is that communication is truly one of the cornerstones of any successful organization. To be fully informed in a timely manner is crucial for proper decision making and ultimately (or so I hope) to be more proactive than reactive to various issues. The same holds true for Joe and Jane Citizen when it comes to topics affecting them locally as well as globally. So where do you go and what do you do to get “informed”? There are the obvious outlets such as newspapers, TV and going online, however there are other options. They may not seem as important but they can be just as satisfying, fulfilling and thought-provoking.
At your Palm Harbor Library, we currently offer two venues where good discussions are held monthly on current and past topics. Places where you can speak your mind and listen to those of others. Neutral sites where one can engage in thorny concerns and where opportunities to express your feelings, and perhaps better understand those of others exist. Today I’ll talk about “Socrates Café”. Tomorrow I’ll speak of PHiL’s Book Club.
Socrates Café is a program in which ordinary people gather to ask questions--and questions about questions. At the beginning of each session the group votes on one topic to be discussed for the duration of the meeting. The questions come from the participants at the end of the previous café. There are few rules and they pertain only to manners. Everyone who wishes to speak gets the opportunity, interruptions are not allowed. It is operated on the premise of civil discourse.
Socrates Cafe enables and inspires each participant, within a group setting, to become a more autonomous and conscientious thinker and doer, a more expert questioner and listener. A paramount aim is to inspire people who are curious, perplexed and filled with an insatiable sense of wonder, so they can dialogue for discovery. Also it strives to enable those who share our deep concern about the state and straits of civility and civic-mindedness to dialogue for democracy.
The first Socrates Café took place in April of 2006. The popularity of the group was so profound that in April of 2007 a second group was added. It meets the first Wednesday of each month at 6 PM and the third Thursday of each month at 1 PM. Some past topics included:
-Can science and religion co-exist?
-What is courage?
-Is the concept of God fundamentally irrational?
-Is being “politically correct” being moral? Is democracy bad?
-The separation of church and state; do you agree or disagree with our founding fathers?
-Is freedom more important than religion?
-What is the difference between an atheist and a person who believes in God, both individuals living morally decent lives?
-Is the understanding of “good” universal?
The library is currently working on other discussion opportunities for 2010 that will engage the community in local matters as well as issues beyond the county line. To be better informed, at least to my way of thinking, is to be more successful.