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.