A Pastor and a Philosopher Walk into a Bar

Philosophy in the Wild: Aaron Simmons

January 26, 2024 Randy Knie & Kyle Whitaker Season 4 Episode 12
A Pastor and a Philosopher Walk into a Bar
Philosophy in the Wild: Aaron Simmons
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Philosopher Aaron Simmons joins us to discuss his new book Camping with Kierkegaard. It's all about living life in a way that is "worthy of your finitude," avoiding becoming an "asshole capitalist," and learning how to value the things in your life with the help of folks like Kierkegaard and Simone de Beauvoir. We discuss living faithfully, being present, living on purpose toward something you've chosen, and a lot more. There's a LOT to unpack in this one, and a couple interesting tangents that didn't make it into the final cut, so Patreon supporters, look out for those.

The whiskey we tasted in this episode is the Fercullen Irish Whiskey Blend from Bardstown Bourbon Company.

Content note: this episode contains some mild profanity. But it's philosophy, so it's fine.

To skip the alcohol tasting, go to 6:46. You can find the transcript for this episode here.


Want to support us?

The best way is to subscribe to our Patreon. Annual memberships are available for a 10% discount.

If you'd rather make a one-time donation, you can contribute through our PayPal.

Other important info:

  • Rate & review us on Apple & Spotify
  • Follow us on social media at @PPWBPodcast
  • Watch & comment on YouTube
  • Email us at pastorandphilosopher@gmail.com


NOTE: This transcript was auto-generated by an artificial intelligence and has not been reviewed by a human. Please forgive and disregard any inaccuracies, misattributions, or misspellings.

Randy  00:06

I'm Randy, the pastor half of the podcast, and my friend Kyle is a philosopher. This podcast hosts conversations at the intersection of philosophy, theology, and spirituality.

Kyle  00:15

We also invite experts to join us, making public space that we've often enjoyed off-air around the proverbial table with a good drink in the back corner of a dark pub.

Randy  00:24

Thanks for joining us, and welcome to A Pastor and a Philosopher Walk into a Bar. Friends, I'm excited about this episode, we have a philosopher in the house and when we have a philosopher in the house for one, Kyle feels very validated in all the warm fuzzy things. But also, we have a philosopher who is similar to Kyle and that he's thoughtful. He's kind He's humble. And he's a really smart guys wrote a really interesting book called camping with Kierkegaard. Kyle, can you tell us about Aaron? Yeah, so

Kyle  00:57

his name is Aaron Semmens J. Aaron Simmons, if you're looking for his books, I met Aaron, almost 10 years ago at a conference, it was a really formative experience for me, and identified with his work a lot because he's been a caster. And I'm Pentecostal and just aren't very many of us in philosophy. But so he mostly writes really academic stuff. He's from the sort of existentialist continental tradition. But this book in particular, is really just diving into his experience camping, fishing, and mountain biking, what that has to do with Kierkegaard and how you can live kind of intentional, fulfilled meaningful philosophical life, on purpose, kind of an embodied applied existentialism, rather than the heavy stuff that you might associate with somebody like your guard. It's really interesting stuff.

Randy  01:42

Yeah. And I will say, I don't think it's about camping, or mountain biking, or hiking or anything. It's that as a backdrop and a metaphor for how to live faithfully, how to be present, and how to live in a, in a way that you enjoy who you're becoming. Yep, that stuff is really important to me. And I'm excited about sharing that perspective and those thoughts with you, listeners,

Kyle  02:05

and he's somebody that I really enjoyed the conversation and it ended way too soon, like we had way more we wanted to talk about, so maybe you'll be seeing him again, I think so. So one of the things we do around here is taste alcoholic beverages, because it's part of the theme of the show, and it sets a nice mood and we have a good friend who runs a YouTube channel dedicated to Bourbon named Tim, and he's been sending us stuff to try. And so we've got another one of those. We don't know anything about this other than Tim has good taste. And so

Randy  02:43

yeah, so here's here's where you remember that whiskey is alcohol to me, as soon as I put this up to my nose, I smell urine but then that becomes like sweet in hay. And it's like an old garage newspaper. Like that's

Tim  03:05

not gonna lie. Never got that. No, but now that you say it, I can't unspell

Randy  03:11

sorry, too.

Tim  03:14

I also get apples

Kyle  03:17

a lot of apples.

Randy  03:20

Boy Yeah, no, I get cardboard and oak in. Yeah, it's a big nose.

Elliot  03:30

Not super dark, but it's it looks like it's fully full bodied.

Randy  03:34

This is different.

Kyle  03:40

I want to say this is one of these has to be right. It's got to be this interesting.

Tim  03:43


Randy  03:44

doesn't have that spicy right component that I always get with rise. But it's got that unfortunately, I said urine thing but like rise have that kind of a stringent direction to them in the flavor profile to where yeah, this is this seems different. We've been doing tasting this is a different kind of flavor.

Elliot  04:04

Yeah, I love I didn't get this on the nose. But now it's like the tobacco flavors. It's like, it tastes like a cigar. Oh, yeah. Leave like that. Yes. And it's a little dusty on the tongue too, which I'm really enjoying. It just lingers. Great. mouthfeel

Randy  04:20

if this isn't a ride the grain bill, the mash bill is very different.

Kyle  04:23

Yeah. I don't know how you get such a ride forward. Flavor. If it's not that. I'd be pretty surprised but okay, we'll see if we're completely wrong. Drumroll

Randy  04:31

please, Tim. Whatever. This

Tim  04:33

is. Bardstown collaboration with for colon or for Kulin, which is an Irish whiskey. Ah,

Randy  04:42

there's the difference. Okay,

Kyle  04:44

yes, through us. See,

Tim  04:46

so that Yeah, so the good thing about Bardstown stuff is they have all the information on the side. And so, they combine this with a 20 year old 21 year old The Iris single malt that's old that was finished in Marsala casks. So there's a little bit of that in there, and it's combined with the Bardstown bourbon. So it's honestly one of my favorite bottles.

Randy  05:13

Yeah, it's unlike any whiskey or bourbon have. I've had. Yeah, I mean, it's,

Kyle  05:17

it's totally unique. It's a little bit cheating. It's like a curveball.

Randy  05:21

There's no blind tasting. It's very cheating. Yeah, but it's super fun. It's a fun bottle. Yeah, I didn't I didn't get that like rye pop that that pepper Enos. But you knew something was different about this. That's a fun little that's, I

Kyle  05:36

guess barley in this case?

Tim  05:37

Yes. Yeah, I was gonna say you get a little bit of the single malt stuff if you know what you're looking for. But I didn't want to like say that and kind of start influencing you guys's decision on what it was what barrels was finished in? For kulen Irish whiskey. But you said then Marsala cat Marsala.

Randy  05:57

See, I get a little bit more solid. Now that I know it. It's one of those things that I wouldn't have placed if I didn't know it, but it's got that like, sweet cooking one. Kind of flavor to it.

Elliot  06:11

I like this one a lot. Might be

Randy  06:15

I just really it's just so unique. Yes, brilliant. Yeah. All right. One time. One more time. Tim. What are we drinking?

Tim  06:21

We are drinking the Bardstown bourbon company in collaboration with for Kulin Irish whiskey.

Randy  06:26

Oh, God bless you, Tim. Cheers. Cheers. Well, Dr. Aaron Simmons, thank you so much for joining us on the pastor philosopher. Welcome to bar sir.

Aaron  06:51

Hey, great to be with you guys. And I am neither a pastor nor a philosopher right now. I am a husband and father sitting at his house. And so I'm gonna put my philosophy cap back on.

Kyle  07:05

Wait a minute, a major theme of this book is that philosophy pervades your life. I have several questions, but they're not catch that we take on and off.

Aaron  07:14

It's funny. I once had this student I was at a football game on the sidelines, had my face painted. I may have had a wig on, in fact, and was losing my mind on the sidelines of football game. And my student comes up and he like wants to talk philosophy. I was like, dude, like, now's not the time. Like I will go out with you all did not run once the game. Yeah, I mean, okay, just we're just real quick. But Moodle ontology. It's like, man, no way. So So yeah, I'm flipping from construction worker to drummer to father and now philosopher. So I'll put my philosophy cap back on, and we'll make it happen, guys. Cool.

Kyle  07:54

Well, the book is called camping with Kierkegaard faithfulness as a way of life. And it's really good. And it kind of falls in line with some other books that we've been discussing recently. We've had a couple other authors on that wrote kind of similar type things. Like for example, Jamie Smith's book. I don't have time, it reminded me a lot of that. We just talked to Brian's on and we we basically rift about music for like an hour, which I feel like we could do with you if we wanted to, because there's like so much music. And Jamie

Randy  08:21

Smith also wrote You are what you love, which is based on Gustin. And that's a lot in Aaron's book as well. So you have a lot of similarities. Yeah,

Kyle  08:28

yeah. So really good. And if you're turned off listener by philosophy, don't worry, because this is very approachable, if you're turned off by camping like I am. Also, don't worry, because it's not really the point. There's a lot about camping and we'll get to that. But that's not really the focus. So I resonated a ton with this book. I'm so good. As someone who like actively dislikes being outside, I still really found a lot to resonate with. In some ways. I don't like books like this because they shatter my illusion that I'm unique and interesting. Like everything, like all your pop culture references. I'm like, Man, I could have written I'm really jiving with that you don't need to be the same age I that's pretty much it. But I in my brain, I'm interesting in my tastes, or you know, whatever. But it's not a religious a member of a certain generation. So but no really good book highly recommended, where did it come from?

Aaron  09:21

So it came from maybe three influences. One, as I described in the book, it came from literal experience, have a fundamental shift in my priorities during COVID, which had been building for years. And so as I described in the book, the basic idea is we should move from a success culture of external accomplishments to a faithfulness orientation where we're driven by joy and investments and making the most of our finitude and so that progression, that experiential thing was, oh shoot, you know, 1015 years kind of bubble laying in moments that would show up and I gave a TEDx talk years ago that kind of highlighted these ideas, but I didn't flush them out. So I'd say the content of the book came from personal experience getting burnt out in lots of ways. And then trying to restore my love for the outdoors. And at the same time, my love for philosophy, but the the practical where did it came from, it came from spending time on top of mountains in the Carolinas and East Tennessee. And I wrote, all but half of one chapter sitting on top of mountains, and went back and like I put placeholders for quotes was like, I need to cite start there, or here's something I can figure it says something like this. And so I would write the book and just put little placeholders and then go back. And then you know, dig into the library and kind of give a little bit of actual, you know, readings from them. But the third thing it came from was Tripp Fuller, who, you know, a friend of most folks in these sorts of spaces, who he and I did a Kierkegaard reader, right, kind of at the beginning of COVID. And we had over 3000 people sign up for this thing, if I remember right, and they were just clamoring to hear about Kirkegaard, which stunned me, I was like, trip, there's no way people are gonna want to do this. He's like, Nah, man, trust me, trust me, they're gonna love it. And so we did six weeks, live streaming, reading Kierkegaard and talking about him. And Tripp said at one point, dude, you've got to write a book called camping with Kierkegaard. And so I had a title and search for a book. Yeah, I had experiences in search of an output. And I had these moments on top of mountains where I tried to put it all together. Yeah,

Kyle  11:40

yeah, cool. I also thought maybe it was inspired a little bit by that Aaron James book about surfing. Well,

Aaron  11:45

so Aaron's a friend of mine, his book is surfing with stars highly recommend it. He wrote a endorsement for camping with Kierkegaard. I think the, the reason that I stuck with this title, so my agent, God bless him, tried his best to get me to drop Kierkegaard from the title, man is going to turn people off. It's a hard book to sell. And I keep saying that, but Aaron Brooks terrific MassArt. And there's another guy, John Kay, who wrote hiking with Nietzche, Belden Lane wrote a book called backpacking with the saints. So there's a kind of a little closet industry of taking philosophy, theology, or favorite folks into some sort of favorite activity and trying to connect these and so I look at it as a kind of, you know, liturgical enactment of philosophical ideas. So I stayed with the camp with Kierkegaard to try to echo some of those books that these people have been doing that I think are amazing. It could have been titled philosophy in the wild, which, which also would have been, I think, a pretty good title, and would have described also what it's kind of trying to get to.

Randy  12:54

Yes, so I'm going to be the guy who's the non philosopher, who's going to be continually asking you guys to define words because you swim around in some linguistic waters that the most of us regular people don't. So you said something about finitude? And that's all over your book. Yeah, defined finitude like because your definition will be different than when somebody's googling it as they're listening to this episode. define what you mean by finitude and what that has to do with your book. Because it's all over. Yeah,

Aaron  13:25

yeah. So the, when I say that, like this book came out of 1015 years of stuff, the question that kept coming back to me in all those years, and it started showing up in my teaching, it started showing up in some of my writing and more academic spaces, was what is worthy of your finitude? And what I mean by finitude when I asked that question is finitude names the human condition in particular ways. So, it is possible, though not likely, that beings very similar to us could live forever. Well, if we were those sorts of beings like us, but lived forever, that would fundamentally change how we make sense of who we are and what we're doing and why it matters. And so finitude names, our condition as, like, if we're lucky, if we're blessed, we're gonna get about nine decades or so, like at the best. What are you going to do with that time, and, unfortunately, so much of our time we spend just trying to climb in various job ladders trying to achieve certain accomplishments that then once we get we realized didn't mean nearly as much as we had hoped that they would mean trying to check boxes to, you know, yield, the kind of success that we've been told really makes a difference in life. And it occurred to me and it's again, none of this is groundbreaking. It's kind of putting together Some really old wisdom and like common place platitudes, like, people basically always say, Well, when you're getting ready to die, no one says, wish I'd spent more time at the office, right? And yet, how many of us then say, Well, hell, let's figure out different ways to then do work? What if this invites us to rethink society? Why is it we think that we owe our employers not just our time, we have a very, we have our concept of work hours, right is basically saying who and then I have free time, as if the work hours are the default. Instead of saying, Well, wait, I don't owe my employer literally my limited time on Earth. That's weird. And so what I tried to do in this question, what's worthy of your finitude is to invite all the readers whatever our joys and our passions and our desires and whatever our circumstances, whether we are working three jobs and doing the best we can to afford health care and put food on the table? Or if we are, you know, very blessed, and you know, embodied historical privilege attends our identity. All of us are defined by, we don't have an unlimited amount of time. So what are you going to do with the time you have? And that question is what this book is trying to invite people to think about for themselves. Good.

Randy  16:22

Thank you. So especially in the first half of your book, as you're laying out your premise, or argument or thesis, or whatever you want to say. You kind of there's this juxtaposition between living in a success, orient living a success oriented life, and living a life oriented around faithfulness. Yeah, I like that. I like it a lot. Can you? What does it mean to live faithfully in especially over and against living successfully?

Aaron  16:54

Yeah, so that, let me start by saying what it doesn't mean, because it can be misunderstood. In fact, one of my good friends Tom Morris, who wrote the preface, or the foreword to the book, he has a bunch of books about like the philosophy of success, and he's like, Dude, stop beating up on success. So what it doesn't mean is, hey, mail it in, at your job, don't care about getting promotions, don't do what it takes to be able to move up in a particular field. That's not what I'm saying. My claim is, success, too often names the value theory by which we make sense of what matters in life. And that concerns me, right, because if what matters in life is getting that promotion, if what matters in life is getting that car, that iPhone, that house, that spouse, right, whatever it is, I mean, academic, it's get the job, get tenure get promoted, like there's all of us in whatever field, you know, there's some ladder where we say, now I have arrived at success. And we tend to narrate our life as that's the goal. I have no problem with people achieving goals in their career and their life, and even obtaining certain things that you know, you desire because they facilitate certain types of experiences. Right, I have a Toyota Tacoma that's built for off roading. And I did this because I love being in the mountains and want a truck that can get me there and get me back home like, so that's a thing I want. And so I work and I buy that thing. Like, I'm not opposed to people doing that. My worry is we start narrating success as the ground of meaning. And we start then minimizing what we interpret as those who are unsuccessful. So you start getting really dangerous attitudes towards poor and immigrants and those who are the essential workers rather than the CEOs, those who are, you know, the third string linebacker instead of the first string quarterback, right? Like, we narrate our society in ways that then say, some people are really worth dignity. And some people kind of don't matter. And I'm wanting to say that's really screwed up. So what would it look like if we started listening to almost everybody who gets really successful and says, it wasn't what I thought it was. It didn't bring me happiness. It leaves me empty. I have CEOs reach out to me reading the book, and they'll say, man, I've got everything I financially ever wanted. It came at costs I now realize I shouldn't have been willing to pay. And so what I tried to do is not suggest, hey, college kids drop out of college, who cares about success? I'm saying no, be invested in the material. Stop worrying about the grade as the thing that matters. And it turns out if you're really invested, you're probably going to end up with a better grade anyway. So my thought is if we stop prioritizing success, we are likely to end up more successful. But the hope is, we are now not defined by success and wrecked by failure. So what would it look like not to be defined by success and wrecked by failure? I call that faithfulness. And I define it here again, a idiosyncratic definition, its risk with direction. And what I mean by this is, we are finite, we are vulnerable. But we are also relational, which means we always are making choices not only about what we think matters, but also about with whom we want to walk toward what matters. And that relational context where life happens, is for me, something we should then throw ourselves into, and then look at success as a bunch of logistics, right? You really want to be an attorney, well, gonna have to go to college and and go to law school. But don't now walk around like you're a badass because you've got a law degree, right? The whole idea is go do those things, their logistics, make it happen. Do what is cool for you. You know, if Kyle really does not like being in the outdoors, well, that amazing, awesome coffee shop down the street? Well, you don't gotta have money to go buy a cup of coffee. So it's not a matter of saying screw the material conditions of our existence. It's a matter of saying, What if we rethought those? And then in faithfulness recognized, hey, how do we create a world that invites everybody to be able to actualize that agency about what matters? Because it's kind of screwed up that I as a full professor, white, heterosexual Christian guy can run off to the mountains three days a week, but most people can't. Yeah, right. And that's an embodied injustice that I'm suggesting if we prioritize faithfulness, that will help us envision what could be the case, rather than thinking success looks a particular way. And that's obvious. And now just run as hard as you can. And as I say, in the book, when you do that, you're very likely to become an asshole. Because assholes are those people who say, it's all about me, it's all about success. It's all about the externals, and I'm suggesting that's a really, really bad way to live.

Randy  22:29

So living in a success oriented life, that's what I think we all understand that we've been built to understand that and to live in it. Can you can you just dig in a little bit more Aaron about what what does it mean to you to live faithfully faithfully to what?

Aaron  22:45

Well? So this is important? I don't actually answer to what because I think part of what faithfulness involves, and here I'm drawing on existential philosophy, it's are you living on purpose toward what you think is meaningful enough to give your finite time to it? Right. And I recognize that it's a frustrating answer. And for what it's worth, I don't know how many dozens of talks I've given now, since the book came out. Every single one, somebody says, really enjoy this. But how do I then do it? What's the goal? What's the right direction, and every time I say, notice, that's trying to push it back into a success logic of do these three things. And you will now be faithful, right? And I'm suggesting faith is a what I call about becoming. So think of it this way. I'm 46. I don't know how old you guys are. But when I was 20, if you had said, Hey, who do you want to be at 46? What I think most of us would do is answer that question. In terms of what position do I want to hold? Right? What possessions do I want to be able to say I have what power do I want to occupy in the world? And I'm suggesting No, no. Like, those are things you can get and have, but who is it that you are becoming? And that's where we start thinking about, you know what virtues matter to you. And so Kyle, you don't want to be in the outdoors. Cool. My wife hates the mountains. She thinks that they are only good if we can drive to the top and take the Instagram photo that looks like we hiked up there. I am the like, let's go see how gnarly this can get and how deep we can go. It'll be fun. So it's not about a death. Why I'm using this as a metaphor. It's not about a literal, go to the mountains. It's where are you going? Why does it matter? Is that reflective and intentional? And if it is, then you now have named your direction, right, which might look different than mine. But what Whatever your direction, there's risk that attends it, because you don't have an infinite amount of time to do all the other directions. So every choice you make, you're choosing not to do other things you could have done. And I think that empowered reality is something that far too many of us. We live our lives feeling like everything is handed to us as controlled and finished and the priorities are already in place. And I'm suggesting Well, it turns out there is no real world. There's a world that we actively participate daily in letting be real. Are we okay with it? Well, like I'm not okay with the situation is going on around the world where lots of people are suffering and dealing with trauma. And I'm not okay with churches that tend to maximize success logics, as in fact, what it looks like to have Christian faith. And so working just at NAMM, like, we could do this otherwise. Is it a reminder that faithfulness is always going to be this? Are you living on purpose? Are you doing this? Because you recognize there are other things you could do?

Kyle  26:11

So there are ethical boundaries on this though, right? Yeah. Like your book is strongly against one way of conceiving that which we're calling success orientation, like, I'm not free from your perspective to just say, well, I want to be the kind of person who rides you know, around on a yacht paid for by the underpaid labor of other people like they're their ethical constraints. So how do you derive pleasure? Yeah,

Aaron  26:31

I mean, so. So it's an interesting philosophical question from the philosopher. Because, of course, when you say, Well, how do we derive? What we could be saying is, so what grounds my moral commitments that then do give what I would describe as like guardrails on the trail, right? So we talk about this a lot. When you're in the mountains, you don't cut the trail, which means, hey, if the trail has, you know, a bunch of switchbacks, you don't just cut them and go straight down. Because you're really messing up the environment. You're changing stuff in ways that's not sustainable. And so what I want to do is say, Well, so what would it look like to have some guardrails that aren't saying, here's the only path. There's lots of trails out here. But some of them can get really gnarly and really dangerous in ways that you probably don't want. And that's where I then turn to three moral claims are moral virtues, humility, hospitality and gratitude, as the three virtues that help us avoid becoming assholes. Right? It's like I tell my students, I can't tell you what to do with your life, I can tell you that if it involves heroin, it's probably a bad option. Right? So that's kind of what I'm trying to do with humility, hospitality and gratitude. Like, if you're humble, you realize there's a whole bunch of things I could do, I'm not God's gift to the earth, I'm going to do the best I can, where I am with what I got. And then I've got to be hospitable, maybe even to the people that I find holding dangerous views in order to invite them to walk with me a little bit. And then maybe we can start changing our views because that relationship develops. And gratitude is a sense of wonder, that reminds us, at the end of the day, there might be more to this story than just a reduced model of, hey, my car is faster than yours, I win, right? If we can cultivate those three things, then we're probably going to avoid the success asshole mindset. Even if you pick a direction that I think is not one that I'm interested in following. I don't think it's immoral or vicious or dangerous to human flourishing. Yeah,

Randy  28:48

this idea of living faithfully is so central to this book that I want to tease out just a little bit more. Is it possible, you say two things, and I'm going to combine them because I don't want to beat this. Turn it into a dead horse that we're beating. But you say, and I think these are interesting in need. Some conversation, you say faithful living is essentially a matter of openness. You said at one point in the book, you also say that what we love determines who we are becoming who we will be. And I wonder if it's that simple. So bring us into this. living faithfully is essentially a matter of openness. And then let's talk about how what we love is going to determine what we become.

Aaron  29:27

Yeah. So when I talked about openness, what I'm trying to do here, I mean, a which doesn't really come out in the book a lot, but I'm trying to avoid getting my book pigeonholed in like, you know, Christian inspiration, right? So this book is intentionally written to anyone regardless of their own religious identity or lack thereof, regardless of how they might bristle or embrace the idea of faith. So I'm drawing on existential philosophy rather than drawing on Christian theology for all So all of the content that I provide that said, personally, and I talked about this in one of the chapters about God and trout fishing, I identify as an open theist. And so part of when I say faithfulness is about being open, I actually mean this in two senses, one, and we'll start technical and then get accessible. The technical sense is, faithfulness is about openness in this very specific open theism sense, which means the future is really open to our input, which also means God is genuinely open to us, right. And this is really cool. And so you can then get a model of God, which is what I try to offer in the trout fishing chapter, a model of God who is also maximally modeling humility, hospitality and gratitude. And this is really different than what I would describe as the asshole God that one finds far too often in contemporary churches, where God is defined by radical isolation, radical closure and thinks that power is ultimately the thing that is most definitive about the divine. So at one level, when I say faithfulness is about openness, I'm trying hard to invite us to rethink a whole lot of our assumptions about ourselves, the world and God, but at a more practical level. Faithfulness is about openness, because we have to realize that our best laid plans may go really, really screwy. Right? And this is why on my YouTube channel philosophy for where we find ourselves, I always end every episode by saying, I'll see you next time unless a piano falls on our heads, which is a weirdly misremembered story from Kierkegaard. It turns out that the actual story is about a roof tile falling on a head. I, for some reason, I thought it was a piano and started saying this, and then one of my Kierkegaard scholar, friends said, Dude, it's not a piano. But when I talked about a piano falling our heads, the idea is, Are you open to the fact that even your best intentions, your best plans, your best direction, may need to be revised? Can you adapt? Can you adjust? Are you what Aaron James would call a tuned and then adaptive because you are so aware and invested in your circumstances? So faithfulness is openness in that sense, because the idea is, if I'm risking myself in a direction of what I think is worthy of my finitude, worthy of my time worthy of my life, yes, then I've got to recognize that's going to look different at different times, it's going to need to flex and move and get me out of in some senses, the driver's seat, even though I'm the person always deciding to put the blinker on to extend the metaphor. So yes, go this way. See what happens right now how that relates to who we're becoming? Is, Kierkegaard has this line where he says, and by the way, for anybody who doesn't know Kierkegaard, 19th century Danish Lutheran philosopher, often called the father of existentialism, he has this great line where he says, we only ever understand backward, but we live forward. And the idea is actually an ancient Hebrew UK idea. So the ancient Hebrews had this idea. So if I asked, like, where's the future point to it? I think of every graduation speech, right? The future is ahead of you. You're moving into the future, blah, blah, blah. The ancient Hebrew said, No, the future is behind you. Because you walk backwards into the future because you can't see where it's where you're going. Right? Like all you ever see is what has already occurred. There's a kind of risk that attends every step we take, we move backwards into the future or as Kierkegaard says, We live forward but understand backward. So who are you becoming? is a way of trying to pithily get to that idea. Hey, at 60 Are you done? Are you now becoming the person at 60? You'll be okay being Are you putting into place now the practices the habits that are likely to invite you to be at 75 Someone who can look back and said that's a life I'm glad that I lived, even though things went weird, and I had to adapt along the way. And this is why the desire and the love start showing up, because Agustin says that the object of our desire, the object of our love, defines our identity. And in my case, and I loved my wife, I loved my son. It turned out though that in my attempt to love them, what I did was spent at 90 100 hours a week at the office and never saw my son. And he reminded me of this when he was seven. And walking with me says, Dad, I don't want to be a philosopher. And I think why not? They're awesome. He said, because they don't spend time with their kids. Like that awareness is one that required me to say, shoot, I thought I was loving my family by spending all this time trying to get ahead in my career. But in fact, what started happening is my identity was being shaped in ways that I did not like the person I was becoming. So I had to change who I was.

Kyle  35:35

Yeah, that's good that that particular chapter really stood out to me. And that hit me like a ton of bricks for sure. I'm gonna have a question about it later. But first, I want to ask you to follow up on something you've mentioned several times, and that is assholes. So I'm familiar with the book that you're referencing there. Believe it or not, audience asshole is a technical philosophical term. But they might just be wondering, why is he cussing so much? So can you describe what an asshole we don't

Randy  35:58

have to put an eBay? Right? Yeah, just

Kyle  36:01

philosophy books. So describe what that is. You talk about asshole capitalism. What is that? And what is its connection to humility?

Aaron  36:08

Yeah, so well. And here if we didn't have an E, we're going to have one now. Not only is assholes a technical term, so is bullshit. Which is, so I actually gave a talk a couple months, maybe a year ago, called Why are there so many assholes a top bullshit mountain. And both ideas were super technical, like this was an academic. So, assholes. It's a term taken up and defined very technically, by Aaron James, the guy who wrote surfing with stars. He has another book called assholes a theory. And what he does in that book, and I appropriated it kind of as the villain in my own text, is he says the asshole is a person who defines themselves and anchors their identity in systematic entitlement that prevents critique from being receivable. Now, why does this matter? Well, think about it. This is the the person who thinks that what they do in the world is so important that there's nothing you could say, except thank you. This is the you need me on that wall. You can't handle the truth, right? You just need to go about your day and say thank you like, it's the Jack Nicholson monologue in a few good men. That's the like, perfect example of what the SL is. Now I want to watch this. What does that look like in life? Well, think about it. It looks like all of the people who then think that their conception of the good is so ubiquitous and unchallengeable. What's your all pervasive? There is no exception. Thank you, right. So think, for example, like, again, COVID, marks the book very deeply, marks all of our lives very deeply. Pandemic was rough. And, you know, I really struggled with the people during the pandemic, who, you know, if you don't want to wear a mask, okay, but then stay home, right? Or, but the idea of saying, No, I'm not gonna do this, and you can't make me and now we're going to like force the world to bend to this particular will. That, for me was kind of an asshole move. And the reason it was is because it basically said, I don't care about those who are immunocompromised, I don't care about what your argument or data suggests. This is where I stand out of my way,

Randy  38:56

or care more about freedom than I care about your immunocompromised reality. Well,

Aaron  39:02

and this is how, I mean, rarely the does the asshole take themselves up as asshole. So they will always narrate themselves as just doing what's obviously right for everybody. Yes. So, yeah, they'll narrate it as freedom. Rather than recognizing well shoot is my narrative of freedom actually causing suffering to people? Well, this is a really crappy view of freedom, right? That nope, not a question. And that immunizing ourselves to critique is where then notice when we claim special privileges, we're now denying humility. We're saying arrogance and aggressiveness and Power Play is the good and we're rejecting critique, which means we've absolutely denied hospitality as a virtue. Right. So think about it I mean, there are so many excellent, excellent examples that that I won't mention, because again, it splits audiences, which is really frustrating to me. But what what if we thought about, for example, somebody that everybody hates, right? The the person who driving the enormous gas guzzling SUV in the fast lane going really slow. It doesn't matter where you land politically, you're still going to get frustrated behind that guy, right. And notice, there might be all kinds of reasons. And this is coming from David Foster Wallace, who develops this, that that person is doing what they're doing, but our read of them is screw them get out of my way. And when we start doing that, what's so cool is it flips and we realize, Ah, shoot, I think I'm the asshole now. Right? Like, ah, crack. So when we're able to take up the awareness, I'm kind of acting like an asshole. I'm claiming systematic, special privileges in a way that immunizes me from critique that actually then allows me to realize my recognition of it is the hope for transformation. And so I'm using this term because A, it's technical and philosophical be because I think and I think both of you will see what I'm doing here. I do because I think it's a weird world where people will get more upset about using a term like asshole, then they will about the systemic injustice that assholes perpetuates in the name of things like success, and capitalism. And that's where the asshole capitalists starts to emerge, is, wait a minute, like you said, driving the yacht, paid for by the labor, you know, of the underclass, like, maybe this is not okay. Why is it the case that the flexibility and agency I'm celebrating is really kind of not available to the vast majority of the globe's population? Why is it the case that we tend to understand nationalism as patriotism, rather than seeing nationalism as a radical asshole idolatry, that says, if you're not someone like me, you don't count? So capitalism, and this is also developed by Aaron James. I'm not opposed to capitalism, for what it's worth. I'm opposed to asshole capitalism. There's lots of ways we could rethink market economies to say, wait a minute, what if we actively said profits? Not the goal? Flourishing is think about how different things would look, what if we said, how can I maximize the people who work for my company? How can I maximize their excitement about coming to work? Rather than how can I minimize my costs in order for my shareholders to be happy, right, think about how different we could do this. If we were humble, hospitable, and then gracious to those that we walk the trails of life with, right? So that's that I can go more technical, but I hope that gives a little little bit of a shape to kind of what this is totally deaf.

Randy  43:24

No, I mean, I want to say like if you want to understand what an asshole is defined by, you know, philosophy, whiteness is kind of just the root of all acid maliciousness in our world. They do

Aaron  43:36

go hand well, and Aaron James even makes clear in his book, he always refers to assholes as he, and he says, Look, it's not because you can't be a woman. So he said, it's just that you're way more likely to be one if you're a dude.

Kyle  43:50

Most of them are dudes. Yeah, male privilege,

Aaron  43:52

white privilege, hetero normativity. Like, all of these things are deeply deeply embedded in the way that we take for granted the world we navigate. What if and this is why again, the mountain metaphor, what if we were willing to get lost? Right, man, like, there might be a waterfall we never even knew existed. If we just let ourselves recognize there are trails we haven't yet gone down. Instead of thinking this is the only way forward.

Randy  44:26

We found it. Yep. Yeah. Yeah,

Kyle  44:28

that's good. There's so many things I want to ask you, man, but I'm going to change the subject entirely. So I'm going to phrase it this way. And hopefully it'll make sense is philosophy for everyone. Now, what you're doing in this book, and to a large degree, is describing how one can live philosophy rather than just like be an academic philosopher, and I'm 100% on board with that. When I graduated undergrad, my sort of mentor, philosophy professor We became friends, she gifted me two books, one of them was suspicion and faith America was fall. And the other was that Pierre had a book about living philosophy as a way of philosophy, philosophy as a way of life. So I'm 100% on board with that, but also in her class actually fell in love with Nietzsche. And Nietzsche has a very different take on who can and can't be a philosopher. And I think, yeah, damn it, there's maybe something right about it. So we talk a lot on this podcast, about Christianity, particularly Kierkegaardian Christianity as being hard. And as Jesus, not ever trying to make it easier, and in fact, upping the ante when you might expect him to make it easier. And I experienced philosophy kind of the same way. Like there's that old joke about, you know, the kid in the math class or whatever class who says, When am I ever going to use this? And the teacher says, you probably won't, but the smart kids will. There there is, there's a temptation that I feel deeply and it's a Nietzschean temptation, which is that philosophy is what it is. It's necessary, dammit. And you either get it or you don't. And if you don't find we're not trying to convince you to do this. But it's an important thing. And I feel very similarly about Christianity. And it explains to me why like many of the great philosophers, including Nietzsche, anchor are live miserable lives. And they were terrible at maintaining relationships, right. And I kind of experienced philosophy as almost like a doom. Like in the old sense, like, you're fated to do this, or you're not. And so, but I also agree with you that there is a very, you know, lived sense of it. So I want you to help me square those things. Yeah. So

Aaron  46:32

I got an email this week from a reader who I do not know personally. Which has been, by the way, it's like I've written, written or edited 1213 books or something. All unreadable academic tomes for people like you. And I, Kyle, right. I mean, they're not, I mean, I write them and they go off to the press. And like, that's the last I think about it. This book, I'm getting responses from people and readers reaching out. And it's been amazing to realize, wow, philosophy, when done in a mode that invites people to do it with you, rather than doing it in a mode that is trying to show the people who do it, why they're wrong. It's, it's a really amazing thing. And this lady reaches out and she asked this question that you just asked, she said, Look, love the book, I'm with you on it. But Kierkegaard makes clear that Christianity is a really hard thing that living on purpose and being faithful is something most people will never attain. Kierkegaard himself even makes clear that he can't write as a Christian, he can only write as someone trying to become a Christian, right? And so the way I respond to her her and to you, I think I'd want to think of it in two senses. So we philosophers would do things like, you know, capital P philosophy versus lowercase p philosophy, or philosophy, one versus philosophy two, or we're going to do we'll do something to differentiate these two types of practices. And what I want to say is the practice of professional philosophy, that is hard, because it's something that takes not just months, but decades of work, to be able to, to say that you've got something to contribute, like it. I mean, I still struggle with this. I've written a lot and I still struggle every time thinking like, man, what can I What can I say, to a conversation marked by people like Immanuel Kant and Plato? Right. I mean, Hannah Arendt and Simone Vai. Like what what can I what good admits these says Walt Whitman Omeo life, right. And yet, we work really hard and really long in order to say these debates matter. And they matter because this is where we're doing the philosophical version of like immunology, and radiology and all those things that we easily acknowledge in our social context. The sciences, well, that's a specialist discourse, most of us can't understand it. When it comes to philosophy. What's really weird is there is no plane ride, there is no Uber driver, there is no random person at a coffee shop, who when you say you're a philosopher, doesn't do one of two things that you're like up and walk off, or think that they now really have something that you need to hear. Right? And the reason is, because, well, doesn't everybody have a philosophy? Isn't that just your view on the world? And the professional in me says no, like, what philosophy is as a pro is and you sit in the room with people who not only speak a very different technical language, but do so with such rigor and precision, that they remain friends while destroying each other in that interaction, right? It's a rough and tumble space, and many would say it's too masculinist. I agree with that. But I actually think that idea of saying, I claim that P, and then you coming and saying, look, here's why P faces Q, R and S challenges. I'm in love it. When Nietzsche says philosophy is hard, he's not talking about it as a professional expert discourse. What he's saying is, it's precisely because philosophy is for everybody, that it will be something that most people turn away from. And that's the weird rub. So when I say, philosophy is for everybody, I'm not saying we should all go get PhDs in philosophy, I'm saying we should all live lives of reflective purpose, hearing about evidence and reasons for the views we hold and the actions we take and admitting the ambiguity that will attend any moral decision and any existential choice. risk remains, right. But notice, that's true and possible for everybody. The problem is, as Nietzsche says, philosophers are dynamite. They blow up stuff. And he's right. I've been asked to leave five churches. And the reason I've been asked to leave these churches is not because I'm saying down with Dave Ramsey, though I'm happy to say that, it's because I'm asking questions like, Oh, so you've got this conference coming up this big event on gender and Christianity? Do you think it's a problem that no women are on the schedule to speak? Which was a true story.

Randy  51:50

You know, and you don't have to be a philosopher to ask that. But

Aaron  51:54

notice, this is my point. Like, I want to suggest anybody can ask that. I want to invite everybody to realize we are all capable of living reflective lives that Find Questions worthwhile.

Randy  52:08

Yes. Right.

Aaron  52:09

But when we do that, notice what happens. If you're going to start asking questions, if you're going to start laying, not all critique, sometimes it's real constructive, and let's work together. But you're going to say there's other ways we could do it. Are you sure this is the best way? And as soon as you start doing that work, Nietzsche calls that transvaluation of all values, you will recognize now you're going to have to bite some bullets that most people are going to be unwilling to bite and that's the hard that's the rub. That's the complication, which is when you think something's obviously good. It's probably not obvious. It might still be good. But But are you okay with what Simone de Beauvoir will call the ambiguity of ethics. Because that's not the world we want to live in. We want to be righteously indignant. And if you disagree with me, you're irrational or immoral. And I'm going to block you on social media because you're a pariah on the earth. Or you might just be wrong. But you like me are flawed, fragile, finite. And there's got to be a way for me to still somehow show hospitality in that moment, even if hospitality sometimes looks like we can't keep talking about this in this space, because this is now causing harm to people I love. Right? So the hard part about philosophy, I think, is not let's go get PhDs. The hard part is, man, it's just so much easier to live a life getting paid by in that yacht, and then lording over everybody else and saying, Don't you want to be like me? No, fu then Right? Something's wrong with you. And that's the model that the success asshole laden space cultivates. philosophers are always going to be like Socrates, invited to drink some hemlock. Because if we can get rid of the disruptive, we can do what we do without problems without obstacles. And so I've been asked to leave churches because my questions were received as challenges that they didn't want to take hold in the community. Yeah. And so in some ways, Nietzsche is right, we are dynamite, we will blow stuff up. So be careful don't invite philosophers to sit down at the table, if you're not okay, with the table going directions that you didn't expect, right? And I think everybody can do that. That's why Nietzsche said You know, this, Nietzsche title is one of his books, a book for non animal. Yeah, it's gotta be for everybody. And yet recognize most people will turn away into their comfort into their privilege and then narrate the objection as the problem which I think for what it's worth, get myself in trouble. This is not yours view. I think mom's for live birdie is a great example of a group doing this in real time narrating their own position. And the challenge to it, then those people have got to be gotten rid of my thought is well, not like they they've got some concerns that we should actually be able to listen to and think through, you know what you shouldn't do banned books that are helping kids struggling, right? stopped doing that, let's find better ways to deal with what it is that you see as a problem. Their view is what we're asking the question, you're the issue, right? And that's what I want to want to challenge.

Kyle  55:31

Yeah, totally. I want to ask about one more thing, kind of related to this. I'm talking about blowing stuff up. And that being kind of in the DNA of philosophy and being a gadfly, as Socrates described it, right, annoying people so much that they kill you. And a lot of those philosophers, including all the ones I think we've mentioned, and me if I'm honest, experienced that as kind of like a Doom, like I said earlier as, as a necessity as something that's in our nature that to stop doing it would be to stop being us. You might describe it as a calling Socrates speaks in that way, sometimes do.

Aaron  56:03

But you describe a chapter about calling, right? Do I I'm fine talking about it that way. Yeah.

Kyle  56:07

So you describe in your book, though, and you've mentioned some of this story going from somebody who worked too much. Recognize that fact, but you know, was really professionally successful and then converted mostly because of the pandemic, to a lifestyle more, you know, devoted to your family devoted to nature devoted to a different kind of thing that more people might readily recognize as happiness. Yep. So here's where I am. In relation to this. I feel both of these things. And I'm, I'm really kind of ambivalent about it. So it reminds me that Kierkegaard purity of artists will one thing thing, so like when I just

Aaron  56:45

wrote an essay called the virtues and vices of the singular will came out last week,

Kyle  56:50

should we do that question, I should read this. So. So when those guys, you know, Kierkegaard famously rejected a romantic relationship. Nietzsche was miserable, right? And when you look at a life like that, when I look at a life like that, and then I read your take, like when you're writing that, I'm like, That totally makes sense. And not only does it make sense, I've done that. So I'm kind of the opposite of you in the sense that I have prioritize my family and my own personal happiness over my professional obligations. And it shows because my professional life is not nearly what yours is, right? But I feel conflicted about it. And part of the reason is, you know, I look at somebody miserable like Kierkegaard, but I don't wish him happy, because then we wouldn't have his body of work, not in the sense that you're describing. And I think his body of work is really, it's more important than his happiness was, frankly. And there's part of me that feels that doom of the philosopher of like, I'm not, I have never written a thing that I think is up to my full potential. And that really bothers me, but I have a great family life. And I'm going to keep choosing to do this. Like I know that about myself. So any advice? I guess, I don't know. I

Aaron  57:54

mean, it's such a good question, I actually will send you the essay just wrote, because what I do in that essay, is talk about when I was 22. And for what it's worth, I find this funny, but the essay got turned down the first time and I had to do serious revisions, because they said it was made too personal. And I was like, come on now. Like if we're doing philosophy and doing it personally, and that makes it now not philosophical enough. We've done philosophy wrong, screw that. But what I do in that essay, which is a way of answering your question I talked about when I was the first time I read Kierkegaard I was 22 years old, worked with a guy named David Kangas. And I was dating this woman named Vanessa, who eventually became my wife. I almost decided well, I gotta break up Vanessa can't get married because like, I man on this Kierkegaardian stuff, and I am giving my passion to philosophy like this is it for me? And you know, there's gonna be some costs and gotta make some sacrifice and man, like Kierkegaard said no to his fiancee, Regina, and I guess that's it for me too. And thankfully, before I broke up with Vanessa, I went to David Kangas, my professor and I said, Man, but you're married like how? How can you do both of these things like the the stuff you're teaching us and Kierkegaard seems to be not consistent with the life you are living as a father as a husband. As a he turns out, he was also a rock climber and a mountaineer. And his response was perfect. He said, Kierkegaard was an idiot, he should have gotten married. And I at 22, I was like, What do you say like that can't be the answer. But what it was that he was trying to invite me to realize is, there is not an algorithm for what this looks like. It's not look at Kierkegaard and then do the thing. Kierkegaard Get up. All right, no relationship for me on the philosophy. The point is, are you living with the full intensity of the life that you get to live in a direction that you think is worthwhile. And Kierkegaard decided that was going to be a very lonely path. And he does have a line in one of his books where he says the Knight of faith always walked the path alone. I think that's right, to the extent of that Doom you're describing is, I would probably use a different term, something like the risk that I embrace, when I take a step is always something I've got to be okay with embracing. So if I'm hiking with you, and say, Hey, let's take a left here. Unless I've like, you know, got you duct taped to my backpack, you're choosing to go with me. And so there is a lonely road of faith, because you also turn left with me. But what I think Kierkegaard was wrong about is the idea that that path is literally one where nobody else walks, I think, no, any path you choose, there's going to be a lot of people walking that path. And so how do we link up with each other? How do we find ways to encourage each other how so a lot of the emails I send to people now are like, Hey, thanks for reaching out about the book, let me know if I can support or encourage you. And what I'm trying to say in those moments is, I realize part of why the person is reaching out is because they resonated with something that spoke to a struggle that they're navigating, I don't have an answer for like how to get rid of the struggle. But I can say, You know what, like, I've been in that space. I gotcha, here's some music that I really liked, maybe it'll make today suck a little less. Right. And I realized that that doesn't solve injustice that doesn't overcome trauma. I'm not a therapist. But I do think that when we take seriously the weight of decision, we don't have to be bogged down by it, we can be liberated by that. And this is where then the less I wrote, what I tried to do was argue Kierkegaard moment, will one thing as the fundamental orientation of your existence, and then everything else is made meaningful in relation. So for you, if you say, like my family is that well, then yeah, there's going to be some cost to a particular kind of career, but it doesn't have to come at absolute cost. Right? As I say, in the book somewhere, you know, it's important for me to realize if I decide to only care about my family, as an exclusive proposition, I'm gonna lose my job, which means now my family is losing their house, like I'm not caring for my family if I don't go to work. But it also comes to the case where if my students think they will always automatically get my attention above my commitment to my family, I'm actively being a bad teacher, because I'm letting them think that that's okay as a way of living adult Lee, right, like the we, as adults, are modeling these sorts of decisions. And we say, you know, what different times call for different sorts of things. But Kierkegaard says, What is the eternal? What I do is talk about what is worthy of worship? Right, I'm drawing again on David Foster Wallace. So what what do you think is worthy of worship? And so in your case, you're saying, well, at some level, I don't mean this in a idolatrous sense, like worship your family? Yeah, because it matters. But it also is the case that there will be lots of times where your kids are at school, do something else your kids are in bed, make a podcast write, finding ways to start saying, hey, maybe what I'm doing on purpose can actually feed the other thing. And that's what started happening with this book. And it's, it's been fantastic. I'm still writing academic stuff just sent off the proofs of a book called Kierkegaardian. phenomenology. No one wants to read that book, except the 17 of us in the world. It's an awesome book. But, you know, like, it's doing a different thing, right. But today, I painted a guy's cabin. Not because I wanted to, because I need to cover some bills. And so I'm taking care of that. And then I went to play some drums and then now I'm doing this with you guys and haven't seen my son today. But tomorrow, I am actively making sure that that's not something I do two days in a row, like finding ways to say hey, I can give and take a little bit is something that I used to think all in was the only way to actually love. And now I think nah, Kierkegaard was an idiot. I'm glad he wrote a lot I'm glad we've got his authorship. I'd be okay if he had written half of it. Yeah,

Kyle  1:05:05

we didn't need the whole concluding unscientific postscript. Like five legends would have been,

Aaron  1:05:10

had been 70 and happy and had some kids like, I mean, or, again, don't don't hear this as a heteronormative claim, or stayed single, but enjoyed friendships. He was not a guy who had a lot of friends, right? I mean, so finding a way to realize you are more than what goes on your business card is something that I think Kierkegaard, his philosophy says that from top to bottom, and yet his life denies that from top to bottom. And that's where I think my former professor was right. Yeah,

Randy  1:05:45

and I mean, we come from a we all, all three of us, or four of us share this faith called Christianity where a very authoritative person within that tradition is named the apostle Paul, who said, Hey, I think it's best for you guys to not get married, because this is really important. Yeah. He also thought that Jesus was coming back in his lifetime, and he was probably a fanatic who was give had given himself to pure, you know, in a purifying way, killing all Christians who've followed Jesus because they were purified. You know, Paul was a different kind of guys, when I'm trying to say like, Kierkegaard sounds like a different kind of guy in nature sounds like a different kind of guy. And I would never give that advice to people to say, Well, if you want to take Jesus seriously, you're gonna have to not have a family and you're gonna have to give yourself to that. But I appreciate your nuanced response to that. In fact, you know, ironically, you're kind of coming across Aaron is kind of like a philosophical Dave Ramsey. If at all.

Aaron  1:06:38

I would. Not today, Satan.

Kyle  1:06:43

That's fantastic. Can I ask a Patreon question? Yeah, do it. Okay. Sometimes we have questions that are just for our Patreon supporters. So if you're a Patreon supporter, you can hear this if you're not go subscribe, and it's about Pentecostalism. So you and I are Pentecostal philosophers. This was the thing that stuck in my brain the most when I met you at that conference almost 10 years ago, because I hadn't met any others. I'd met one other in fact, and to this day, I know probably less than 10 self subscribed, you know, Pentecostal philosophers? So there's not too many people. That sounds like an oxymoron. Can you describe briefly? Why you are a Pentecostal? What do you think it means? And how does it mesh with your philosophical bent

Randy  1:07:18

in Kyle, if you're going to continue calling yourself a Pentecostal philosopher, you're gonna have to start going to church a little bit more.

Kyle  1:07:24

I've never claimed to be a good one. I'm just I'm committed to that. So I mentioned earlier that I really resonated with most of your pop culture references. The primary example of that is Fraser. I feel like enough people don't understand the glory and quality that is that that sitcom? So you have a whole chapter that's basically about cheers, which you like way more than me. But you acknowledge in that chapter that Frasier is better. And I want you to explain a little bit about why you focus on that at all. Yeah.

Aaron  1:08:01

So for people who hopefully will run and buy a copy of the book and read that chapter, the whole point of the chapter is, how is it that we are known by others? And again, I see the human condition is defined by vulnerability and relationality. That's what finitude names. And so I was trying to think through the relational part. I had talked about the vulnerable part about the isolation part. But I hadn't talked about the relational and I was trying to think that through. And so I looked at the cheers theme song, which, you know, effectively says, you know, sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name, that's

Randy  1:08:41

the best.

Aaron  1:08:41

And that song like it's amazing. And by the way, if anyone's listening to this, as soon as the podcast is over, go to YouTube and look up fully Vance. Fly Vance. Foy Vance. Comma, cheers. Well, not breathtakingly good. It's a acoustic guitar. Oh, my God, like it'll it'll put tears in your eyes listening, this guy saying that theme song, and what lies behind it? It's gonna be a real brief story. But I think it actually speaks to a lot of what's hidden in the book. That chapter is a result of an actual experience I had in a class one time. So I was walking into class and I had a student come up to me, tears in his eyes. And he said, Dr. Simmons, I need to tell you, class is gonna be hard, I'm going through a lot right now is like, hey, you know, let's step out in the halls and what's going on? You know, you okay? And he said that his ex boyfriend had committed suicide the night before. And that he had basically just found out and I was like, man, you know, you need to not be in my class. Go, go, you know, talk to your family. Can I put you in touch with our counseling center? Can I put you in touch with the chap like, what can I do to get you some This is not where you should be, don't come to class, go take care of yourself, and how can I help you get there? And he looked at me, he said, No, he said, to be honest, I actually think that philosophy today is maybe the best thing for me. And I said, Well, of course, you're always, you know, come on, you know, that's going and so that day for what it's worth, I was teaching the the problem of evil. If I remember, right, it was probably, and I got, I don't know, a sentence into it or something. And I was like, man, like, I can't, nope. And so without telling anybody anything in the class, I turned around, and I played that for advanced version of the cheers theme song. Making your way in the world today takes everything you've got, right? Taking a break from all your worries, sure, would help a lot. And I play this, and invited the class to simply think about, do we actually know each other? Are we concerned about each other? Are we invested in each other? Do we know when each other are hurting, and how we can be a help to those people, and never mentioned that kid never said a thing about what was going on, but tried to create a space where the entire class was for him. And what happened was, afterwards, he came up to me and said, you know, thanks so much, you're more meaningful than you understand, blah, blah. And that encounter, though, I started getting, you know, other students coming to me saying things about how could you have known what I was going through and things broken? Didn't you know, and so what I started realizing is, we all almost all the time, though, there are some moments of glory, we all almost all the time are like, one just flip from breaking down in tears about how difficult so much stuff is. And that chapter and focusing on that theme song, which in the book, I don't tell the story of that kid. I don't talk about that class. But that chapter was my attempt to say, this is what knowing people looks like, what if we actually started asking ourselves these questions and so part of why I like Fraser better cheers for what it's worth, is because Fraser has multi layered and dynamic and textually interesting characters. Cheers doesn't, and people might disagree with me on this. But here's shears has an amazing cast of characters, but all the characters are really one layered. But when you put them together, it's a tapestry that's freaking brilliant. Fraser, Niles and Daphne and Roz and Fraser and Martin, each one of them are able to unfold in their own tapestry, and that's why I like Fraser more. But I think people not only should go listen to events and watch Frasier, but probably should be okay. Just saying to people, they meet a You doing alright? And be willing to then sit down and buy him a cup of coffee if they say Not really. And that's what that chapter is trying to do.

Randy  1:13:17

Yeah. The problem with Fraser for me, is Fraser. It's Kelsey Grammer. I just can't stop. I can't stomach I'm kid.

Aaron  1:13:25

My dad says the same thing. He's like, Oh, what a nerd. So yeah, my dad who is a professor. He's like that that is the worst person ever. So yeah, I get it.

Randy  1:13:35

Nice. Aaron, here's your opportunity to give us a really nice send off about you know, the direction in the Why would people want to buy this book? What is what? Tell us again, what it's fundamentally about? Yeah,

Aaron  1:13:48

no, I appreciate you asking that. So this book came in with Kierkegaard faithfulness as a way of life is an invitation to everyone from 16 to 86. To think a little bit more deeply, but still, hopefully really accessibly about who they are, where they're going and why it matters. And so I have been absolutely humbled to be contacted by like, Boy Scout groups, and youth groups reading the book is like a book study. And so, you know, 16 1718 year olds reading this, and they're reaching out saying, this is helping me realize that the reason I go to college or the reason I go into my career, the reason I'm doing it, it's not what I've been told, it's what do I really want to do with my life because I'm interested in who I want to become. And I've been contacted by leadership coaches, working with Fortune 500 companies saying, Hey, this is one of the best books we've ever read on leadership. I think I don't think I mentioned the word leadership in it. Right, right. But what you describe is leaders who are able to invite Eight people to flourish where they are. And that's what we want to cultivate. And so I've been honored by that kind of response kind of guy recently was 46 reached out to me from San Diego if I remember, right. And he said, Hey, I'm 46, I've got three kids. I'm divorced, I just wanted to let you know, I read your book, I'm taking all of my son's camping this weekend. Thanks. And then I also got a text recently, or an email from a guy who said he was 7172. And he said, When I retired, I've basically had to struggle daily with the awareness of my own irrelevance. And he said, I read your book. And now I get out of bed with a little bit more pep in my step, because I realized faithfulness is a task for a lifetime. It's not something that was intended when I turned in my keys to the office. Yeah, thanks. Yeah. So that's why I want people to buy the book is because I genuinely want to encourage people to realize despair does not have to have the last word, Joy is possible, even though there are still going to be difficult days. And the last chapter is all about aging and death and grief and navigating those things. But then I have a postscript where I try to bring us back from that moment of despair. And so yeah, but let's think about how we live in light of that and the Real Glory that it makes possible. Yeah, so I hope people read it, because it's not that I want them to hear my ideas. But hopefully, they will hear why existential philosophy has always been something that is really, really practical. It's not some highfalutin stuff that they've got to go get a PhD in order to put in practice in their lives. Yeah.

Randy  1:16:39

Well, this non philosophy PhD thoroughly enjoyed it. And I wanted to ask you some stuff about contemplative spirituality and the contemplative tradition, because so much, to me, describes what it means to live in a contemplative way or to embody contemplative spirituality. But I think we'll be talking to you again, Eric

Kyle  1:16:57

will have like five questions that I didn't get to yes, we will have to I

Aaron  1:17:01

would love to get back together. And I will say for anybody who wants to think about contemplative go pick up when the Farley's book beguiled by beauty. It is about contemplation, cultivating compassion, and she also wrote an endorsement for the book. I wrote an endorsement for her book, but beguiled by beauty. She is an amazing, queer, feminist Christian theologian. Best thing I have read on contemplative practice is a daily, daily daily walk, coming

Randy  1:17:30

soon to a pastor, and she's amazing. Yes, thank you, Erin, thank you for spending time with us. Thanks for spending your day with us. We thoroughly appreciate it. And well,

Aaron  1:17:40

it has been so worthy of my finitude and I genuinely hope that we are able to get together and watch some Fraser reruns Oh, my God, and then go get on the trails. Yes,

Randy  1:17:50

I'll do the second part. I will do. Thanks, man. Thank you guys. Cheers. Cheers. Thanks for listening to A Pastor and a Philosopher Walk into a Bar. We hope you're enjoying these conversations. Help us continue to create compelling content and reach a wider audience by supporting us at patreon.com/apastorandaphilosopher, where you can get bonus content, extra perks, and a general feeling of being a good person.

Kyle  1:18:20

Also, please rate and review the show in Apple, Spotify or wherever you listen. These help new people discover the show and we may even read your review in a future episode.

Randy  1:18:28

If anything we said pissed you off or if you just have a question you'd like us to answer, send us an email at pastorandphilosopher@gmail.com.

Kyle  1:18:36

Find us on social media at @PPWBPodcast, and find transcripts and links to all of our episodes at pastorandphilosopher.buzzsprout.com.

Randy  1:18:44

See you next time.

Kyle  1:18:45


Beverage Tasting