Over the past couple years, my wife and I have participated in several of Merlin’s activities, including Philosophy Walks, Drive-in evenings, Think and Drink evenings, the Reeder’s Alley Block Party, and philosophy symposiums. I find three things about these activities to be particularly impactful to me and keep drawing me back to Merlin.
First, I often hear things that make me question my own thinking. Through the presentation of ideas that are new to me and the discourse with others who aren’t necessarily like-minded, I get the opportunity to examine why I believe what I believe. In some cases, this solidifies my opinions and attitudes. In other cases, it truly has caused me to shift my perspective. As the consummate introvert, I find the desire to really understand the what and why of my own thinking to be a driving force.
Second, Merlin provides a safe forum for discussion and serves as the conduit for bringing together groups of people with distinctly unique backgrounds. Discussions within the various forums are clearly not driven by group think. Rather, diversity of thought would be a better way of describing the audiences. The one commonality I’ve found with the programs I’ve attended is that even though the participants come from a wide variety of fields from across the region, most participants are sincerely interested in hearing and understanding the perspectives of others. Merlin creates an encouraging and safe environment for social discourse, free of animosity and attack. That is something that is increasingly disappearing from our society.
Third, Merlin activities are fun. Being fairly new to the Helena area, Merlin activities have opened the door to meeting new people and making friends with folks that I would not otherwise have met. These relationships have helped my wife and I build a sense of community that transcends our jobs and immediate family, helping us feel part of the Helena region.