Welcome back, queerly beloveds, to my little social experiment. My book-in-progress of LGBTQIA+ centric philosophy perspectives will appear here chapter by chapter, and you're invited to debate, discuss, question, contribute, and your inputs will become my edits, until the finished book speaks for us all. This time, we're starting our journey to where every philosophy learner is more or less duty bound to go... Ancient Greece. Welcome, gentles and lady-men, to Venus Valley, Queer Philosophers' Forum.
For a quick list of what to read, or what to watch, to catch up on where I'm coming from, click HERE;
To find out why the place I'm coming from is called VENUS VALLEY, click HERE.
To catch you up with the story so far... the heart of my philosophy study is an Hegelian Dialectic - the teaching technique of the 18th century German writer Hegel, where our internal monologue becomes a dialogue until two contradictory halves become a complete whole - between Old Christian Me and New Queer Me; which ends for me in Deconstruction - the unweaving of the threads woven into me by my churchgoing upbringing, until I can truly look at the world I was raised inside, from a complete outsider's perspective. So I still hold a place in my heart for the bible passage where the Christian Jew - St. Paul - debates with the Pagan Greeks - specifically the two schools of thought we call the Epicureans and the Stoics. Would you care to meet them?
Before we do, a quick clarifying of terms: "Ancient Greece" is pretty nebulous, since what time we call "Ancient", and what territories and colonies form back then count as "Greece" are up for debate; it's maybe better to call that time and place Classical or Hellenic; but everyone more or less knows where and when we're talking about when we say "Ancient Greece", so let's run with it for now and get on with a much more interesting discussion, about what these two schools of thought look like for LGBTQIA+ thinkers like yourself.
(Side note: what exactly is a "school of thought"? We'll tackle that one next time!)
Do you believe in happiness as the ultimate goal of human life, and that it can be found by pursuing of pleasure and avoiding pain?
Do you value simplicity, tranquility, and freedom from disturbance or anxiety, and believe that they can be achieved by moderation and self-control?
Do you reject the idea of an afterlife or divine intervention in human affairs, and believe we should focus on living well in the present moment?
Do you believe we should cultivate close friendships and relationships with others, and that those connections are essential for wellbeing and happiness?
Then you might be a follower of the philosopher Epicurus (whose name sounds like a second tier Shakespeare character) who believed the gods exist but aren't concerned with human affairs; that death isn't something to be feared, because it's the end of consciousness; believed in the pursuit of pleasure and advocated for a simple and moderate life.
Your LGBTQIA+ life experience could be one of seeking pleasure by embracing and expressing your true self; finding joy in like-minded company; pursuing fulfilling relationships; rejecting limiting social norms and oppressive expectations; embracing self-determination and authenticity. A queer Epicurean might choose to loudly and proudly come out to family and friends, openly and colurfully express gender identity or sexual orientation, and seek out relationships that bring joy and fulfillment.
Maybe you're a bit of a MICHEL FOUCAULT - French philosopher, social theorist, queer rights advocate, who explored the relationship between power, knowledge and sexuality, seeking pleasure and avoiding pain, emphasising the importance of individual freedom and autonomy.
Or a bit of a QUENTIN CRISP - English writer, performer, queer rights activist, who championed individualism, personal liberty, living in the moment, savouring life's simple pleasures, rejecting social norms and expectations.
Perhaps another OSCAR WILDE - Irish writer, poet, playwright, whose work explored the nature of beauty, love, a life of pleasure and enjoyment, while recognising the importance of moral responsibility and individual freedom.
Or another HARVEY MILK - American politician, queer rights activist, the first openly gay person to be elected to public office in California, empowering individuals to live their lives to the fullest, while fighting for justice and equality for all.
On the other hand...
Do you believe in the importance of living a virtuous life, and that this involves cultivating wisdom, courage, justice and self-discipline?
Do you value reason and logic, and believe we should use them to guide our actions and decisions?
Do you believe we should accept the things we can't control and focus on what we can control, namely our thoughts, attitudes and actions?
Do you believe we should be indifferent to outside circumstances like wealth, status or fame, and focus instead on our inner state of mind and character?
Then you might be a follower of the philosopher Zeno (whose name sounds like a second-rate Bond villain) who believed that the universe is ordered and rational; that the gods are an integral part of it; believed in the pursuit of virtue; emphasised self-control and living in harmony with the universe.
Your LGBTQIA+ life experience could be one of finding strength and purpose in accepting circumstances; striving to live for a reason; finding meaning in facing challenges and difficulties; developing emotional resilience and self-control in the face of discrimination and prejudice; cultivating a sense of purpose and belonging in the larger community. A queer Stoic might accept not changing the attitudes of others, but focus instead on living a life of integrity and virtue, and finding ways to contribute to the broader LGBTQIA+ community through advocacy, activism and support.
Maybe you're a bit of an ALAN TURING - British mathematician, computer scientist, queer icon, who played a crucial role in cracking Nazi codes during the Second World War; self-control, resilience in the face of adversity, the importance of reason and logic in guiding ethical decision-making.
Or a bit of an AUDRE LORDE - American writer, poet, civil rights activist who fought against racism, sexism and homophobia in society; embodied moral courage, the importance of living in accordance with one's values, even in the face of persecution and oppression.
Perhaps another BAYARD RUSTIN - American civil rights activist and strategist who played a key role in organising the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom; embodied self-discipline, perseverance on the face of adversity, as well as the importance of living a life of purpose and meaning. (Rustin worked with Martin Luther King to realise his famous dream, and advocated for the rights movement to branch out to enable homosexuals to be helped, not hated - there's the intersectionality again that we already met the idea of, a chapter or two ago).
Or another SAPPHO - Ancient Greek (there's that phrase again!) poet whose work explored themes of live, desire and beauty; living in accordance with values and principles; recognising the importance of cultivating meaningful relationships and connections with others. (Sappho of Lesbos is the name and place that gave us the words Sapphic and Lesbian, thanks to her love poetry for the Moon Goddess).
Which brings us neatly to...
COMING UP NEXT TIME, IN VENUS VALLEY:
Ancient (or Classical) Greek (or Hellenic) culture - which gave us the phrase School of Thought, and even the word Philosophy itself - was queer as heck. And there, where you might least expect it, we'll have our first meeting with the bane of conservative American evangelicals everywhere... Critical Race Theory.
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