I was having coffee at the Oasis, a Cuban coffee shop in upscale Key Biscayne where all the classes mingle. The wealthy who live here. The not wealthy who live here. The cyclists who travel in packs up the Rickenbacker Causeway and need a pit stop before pedaling back. And the workers who come to this island beach community to build and maintain and garden -- Key Biscayne is beautifully landscaped.
Just having a cafecito, when this man who looked like one of the workers because of his clothes and his Indian features -- Key Biscayne is mostly Latino but almost exclusively white, something not understood by those who don't know Latin America and think those are mutually exclusive categories -- this man approached me directly.
"How does one get philosophy?", he asked me.
I was startled. He had singled me out. OK, I used to be a college professor, it probably shows even if that was a lifetime ago. Horn rimmed glasses fit the stereotype, as well as a general nerdy air. And he had asked the most basic question, the one none of my students ever did, the one I can imagine a youth asking one of the peripatetic sages of Ancient Greece.
Truth is I didn't have an answer. I hemmed and hawed, which is something professors do. I said that was a very complex question with no easy answer, also something very professorial to say. I may have steered him toward a popular history of philosophy.
And he left me pondering. How indeed does one get philosophy? It's only now, several years later, that I've come up with an answer. You've come to the right place, I should have said. First you must drink coffee.