Saturday, June 19, 2010

Socratic Struggle

I pride myself in the fact that I avoided most of the common pitfalls of college. Oh, sure, I had my fair share of less-then-collegiate moments at not-Yale, most of which involved a bottle of Cuervo and a sudden obsession with a capella , and, on one occasion, the loss of a friend on a midnight falafel run (hi, Ned!), but by and large I missed the classics, the hospital visit for alcohol poisoning, the waking up in a frat house, Econ, Psych, dread-locks, starting a band, writing poetry, sleeping with a professor, and, of course, this being not-Yale, the joining of the GOP. But I did make one fatal mistake by cliche standards, and that was my enrollment in a little thing they call philosophy.

If you want certainty in your life, if you want absolutes and rules for how to live, do yourself a favor and don't take philosophy. If, on the other hand, you want doubt, you want uncertainty, you want, in fact, to question the very fabric of the universe to the point when your brain feels on the point of explosion, filled to the brim with Wittgenstein, Kierkegaard, Kant and Aristotle (that's a dinner party worth attending...) to the point when you snap and, obviously, reach for the Cuervo, then sure, by all means, go nuts. Take a philosophy class. Be my guest.

No, that's not entirely fair. The truth is that I had amazing philosophy professors and learned a great deal in their classes. But most of what I learned concerned how impossible the act of learning really is. I think. I'm not sure. Hang on, I have to go check that with Nietzsche.

If I had to guess, I would say that what concerned me the most about my philosophy classes was how subjective morality became for me. And why am I even thinking about this now, at least 4 years since I last put down a copy of the Republic and decided it was all Greek to me? Well, as part of maintaining my real estate licence (which I got before I was legally able to drink....true story), I recently found myself sitting in an office building on Delaware Avenue with a gorgeous view of Camden on a Wednesday morning well before 9am being instructed on ethics. Specifically ethics pertaining to Real Estate. Which, frankly, is a subject I didn't know warranted an hour, let alone seven! Ah, ZING, I'll be here all night! Tip ya bartender!

The sad thing is, most people just assume that real estate agents are unethical sharks who are trying to steal your money and deceive you into buying houses made of cardboard. The even sadder thing is that a lot of real estate agents really ARE unethical sharks who are trying to steal your money and deceive you into buying homes made of cardboard. And apparently, all of them were teaching me on Wednesday morning. Seriously, that had to be the group of least ethical, slimiest, sketchiest purveyors of houses I have ever met, and I have been doing this for a solid four years. Forging your client's names, deception, cash only deals, blockbusting, undisclosed dual agency, private interest, you name it, it was represented. Here's a hint, dude, if you want to teach a room full of people how to be ethical it's not a great idea to ply them with stories about how you committed, and got away with!, fraud. It's bound to be more of an inspiration then a castigation, if you know what I mean.

I can't really decide which I found more troubling, my year of philosophy classes or my seminar on Real Estate ethics. I left my philosophy class confused and concerned about the state of the universe. I left my Real Estate ethics class needing a silkwood shower. So I guess Real Estate class wins on the scale of more mind blowing life experiences, and not really in a good way.  Worst thing of all? They served us terrible pizza. There has to be something morally wrong with that.