At last night’s meeting of Socrates Café, the group discussed the question, “Do we have a responsibility to contribute to society?” If you’re not familiar with Socrates Café, participants suggests topics for discussion, the group votes, and the question that receives the most votes is the one discussed for the next 90 minutes.
Last night’s question was posed by Matthew, a high school sophomore. As is common at Socrates Café, we had a variety of age groups represented last night: two high school students, a twenty-something writer, a couple of thirty- and forty-somethings, and some older folks as well. When Matthew proposed his question, he raised the idea of how someone who chooses to live as a hermit informs the idea of contributing to society. The hermit of Manana Island became a repeated subject of the discussion. Was he shunning society, shunned by society, not contributing at all, contributing in his own way? What does it mean to contribute to society? What is society anyway? Does pursuing one’s own true happiness in turn cause us to positively contribute to society? Should we reframe the discussion to focus on reality rather than society?
Throughout the course of the evening, many participants called to mind books they had read at one point or another that helped inform their own opinions about the question of society and responsibility. I was struck by how disparate the titles mentioned were.
Below are the books discussed, as well as the film about that late hermit who unknowingly contributed much to our discussion. (Click on a cover image to go to our catalog to reserve a title. Not sure how to do that? Click here for help.)