So far, I’ve participated in two of the Philosophy Walks…a lovely September birthday treat to myself with a follow-up engaging evening at Montana Wild. The Philosophy Walk itself was beyond inspirational. Billed as 3-4 hours, our walk was closer to 6 hours, simply because our group of 12 or so became so deeply engaged with the guest speakers/co-philosophers-on-trail, with each other, and immersed in our lovely Montana landscape. Thank you Marisa & Merlin for sharing this very special landscape! As someone who has only been a Montana resident for 7 years and struggling to understand Montana’s many dichotomies, this very special experience was something I could not have programmed for myself.
A Unique & Impactful Experience
My wife and I were able to join in on Merlin’s Philosophy Walk series and a couple other activities this past year. We enjoyed the Wildlife Management & Policy series immensely. Merlin Nature Preserve is a place of beauty that offers unique perspectives to the eyes, the ears, the mind and the heart. Coupled with engaging discussion and the opportunity to meet people from all walks of life with whom we otherwise might not have connected, the Philosophy Walk series created a unique and impactful experience. Marisa and the Merlin volunteers help make everyone feel at home, embracing you as a member of the Merlin community. I’m looking forward to the opportunity to lend a hand myself.
Thoughtful Dialogue & Interesting Philosophical Issues
I have really enjoyed the Think and Drinks. They are great ways to meet new thoughtful people and enjoy each of their unique approaches to interesting philosophical issues.
Makes Philosophy Accessible, Relatable & Fun for Everyone
I’ve been attending and volunteering at Merlin events for over a year now, and I am amazed how dedicated this organization is to reaching all members of the community, and how effectively it does so. Anyone with a serious interest in philosophy is probably familiar with the experience of seeing someone’s eyes glaze over at the mere mention of philosophy or philosophical concepts. What makes Merlin (and especially Marisa) so special is that it manages to make philosophy accessible, relatable, and fun for everyone.
I think one of the keys to Merlin’s success is that it manages to keep things fresh with a wide range of activities. For those who do their best thinking outdoors, immersed in nature, the guided Philosophy Walks capitalize on the unique beauty of Helena and Merlin Nature Preserve. For those who prefer a more traditional academic environment, the Symposiums provide an opportunity to see some the sharpest minds in Montana at work on complex philosophical issues. And for those who just want to nerd out in spirited philosophical debate, there are, of course, the Think & Drinks.
I have seen attendance explode at all of Merlin’s events over the course of the past year, which is itself a testament to the value this organization brings to the community. People from all walks of life, many of whom may never have thought of themselves as philosophers, are drawn to the opportunity to engage in thoughtful, civil discourse with their neighbors. I have had many friends, coworkers, and acquaintances approach me to continue conversations that began at Merlin events.
As a newcomer to Helena, I feel incredibly lucky to be one of Merlin’s beneficiaries. I was eager to make new friends in the community when I arrived just over a year ago. Joining local organizations and activities can be a good way to meet people, but it can be slow-going, often because meaningful engagement with others is a byproduct of some other, overarching goal. With Merlin, engagement is the goal. Through engagement, we develop respect for one another, build friendships, and strengthen the bonds of the community. I can confidently say that I, and Helena community, have benefited immensely from Merlin’s efforts.
My Worldview Has Been Expanded
I have always left the Think and Drink events with new insights, ideas and questions and ponder these still. The value of a thoughtful exchange of ideas with people who I might not have had the opportunity to meet or encounter in my normal social circle has expanded my knowledge and often made me aware of a prejudice I had not recognized in myself. The way the sessions are structured allows for presentation of alternative ideas and views in a safe environment. Many times I’ve read a book or sought additional research on a topic after the event. I’ve met and gained new friends due to these sessions. My worldview has been expanded and this keeps me coming back.
Merlin Creates a Community of People…
Merlin creates a community of people who are interested in applying thoughtful reflection to issues facing society, whether they be local (walkable cities), regional (habitat preservation), or global (artificial intelligence). I always learn something from the activities and events I attend. In addition, I often find contacts in areas of discussion that help expand a network of individuals who are concerned about the topic of that event.
Opportunities that Pull Diverse Folks Together
One of the primary ways Merlin brings value to the Helena community is by offering unique opportunities that pull diverse folks together to talk about stuff that otherwise wouldn’t be talked about. As an urban-design geek, a rare species hereabouts, I really appreciated the chance to lead a philosophy walk for Merlin last year. I found the experience to be positive in almost every way and I want to see more such events, regardless of the topics discussed.