this (philo­soph­i­cal) life

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Lifelines - Lilli Lipa

HOW could 50-odd peo­ple make so much noise! It al­most sounded like a school re­union, as I dis­tin­guished some girl­ish shrieks and much laugh­ter among the deeper tim­bre of the men’s voices. There was a lot of milling about, many cheer­ful greet­ings ex­changed and pal­pa­ble plea­sure and en­thu­si­asm in the air be­fore we all fi­nally set­tled down to the year’s first ses­sion of the long-run­ning Univer­sity of the Third Age’s phi­los­o­phy class.

A few years ago, when I re­tired, I was asked what I would do with all that time on my hands. This of course is one of the as­sump­tions, or should I say cliches, about re­tire­ment, when time, in re­al­ity, turns out to be more fleet­ing than abun­dant, and ‘‘all’’ be­comes ‘‘not much’’. When my an­swer in­cluded a ref­er­ence to join­ing the Univer­sity of the Third Age, the re­sponse was ‘‘Why do you want to hang around with old peo­ple? They’ll be com­plain­ing about their health all the time and, worse, you’ll make friends and then they’ll no longer be there.’’ Ac­tu­ally, the words used were a lit­tle more di­rect, but I still don’t know whether I should have been flat­tered that I was seem­ingly not con­sid­ered to be old, a moaner or at risk of dis­ap­pear­ing in the near fu­ture.

Three years later, I’m still a mem­ber of the U3A phi­los­o­phy class I joined at the end of 2009, and was one of the many noisy peo­ple at its first ses­sion in Fe­bru­ary this year. There are many as­pects of the class that ap­peal to me. To be­gin with, the topic is both vast and on a minutely hu­man scale as there is noth­ing in life that can­not be viewed through a philo­soph­i­cal prism, from the ethics of fi­nan­cial mar­kets to science as the new phi­los­o­phy. Ad­di­tion­ally, the en­counter with the clash of ideas of philoso­phers through the ages, each era re­pu­di­at­ing or build­ing on the pre­ced­ing gen­er­a­tion’s thinkers, is il­lu­mi­nat­ing. There are no de­fin­i­tive an­swers. In phi­los­o­phy, all we can ex­pect is a dif­fer­ent per­spec­tive on the es­sen­tial ques­tions — ques­tions whose core does not al­ter much, though their outer ap­pear­ance may dif­fer sig­nif­i­cantly through time.

To un­der­stand why the tu­tor, with his en­thu­si­asm for phi­los­o­phy from its be­gin­ning to its con­tem­po­rary in­car­na­tions (and his re­spect for dif­fer­ent opin­ions) is greatly ap­pre­ci­ated, you need to re­mem­ber that the mem­bers, and mostly also the tu­tors of the many U3As across Aus­tralia are vol­un­teers and not young in years. Some ar­rive with their sticks, some don’t hear too well, and some at­tend only spo­rad­i­cally. But oth­ers go on ex­cur­sions and long bike rides, dance and are fierce bridge play­ers, or, whizzes with tech­nol­ogy, share their knowl­edge and help the less tech­no­log­i­cally lit­er­ate mem­bers.

The vast pro­grams, year-long or short, wholly or­gan­ised by them, can range from Spain’s Golden Age to brain re­search, from lan­guages to pho­tog­ra­phy, and much more.

The mem­bers of my phi­los­o­phy class are well-in­formed and live in the present. They are ir­re­press­ible, opin­ion­ated, lively and pos­si­bly more en­gaged than they ever were in their youth, and many have par­tic­i­pated in the class for sev­eral years. When new faces ap­pear it’s fun to watch them take mea­sure of the class, and to see how quickly they feel com­fort­able enough to join in the de­bates. Un­ob­tru­sive con­cern for oth­ers, gen­eros­ity in shar­ing the wis­dom and knowl­edge gained in the past and an open­ness to the new, en­rich each of us and make this class a de­light. Long may it con­tinue.

Re­view wel­comes sub­mis­sions to This Life. To be con­sid­ered for pub­li­ca­tion, the work must be orig­i­nal and be­tween 600 and 650 words in length. Sub­mis­sions may be edited for clar­ity. Send emails to thislife@ theaus­tralian.com.au

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.