Library Link of the Day: The Philosophy of Awesome

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“We’ve always wondered about the ontological underpinnings of such lofty concepts as “radical” and “totally tubular”, but we’d never heard of a former professional roller-blader turned philosophy professor who could tell us all about it. Until now. Dr. Nick Riggle is here to tell us what makes cool things cool and what makes sucky things suck in his new treatise “On Being Awesome: A Unified Theory of How Not to Suck”.

When Riggle thinks up the moments that best exemplify awesomeness, a few key events come to mind. There’s the invention of the high-five, when MLB player Glenn Burke made the inspired choice to hold his hand up for Dusty Baker to slap. There’s Bon Jovi superfan Jeremy Frye, who took over a Celtics game with an unforgettable lip-sync performance. And he doesn’t mention it, but there’s also Riggle’s own contribution to the world of awesomeness: his invention of the art of mushroomblading, a hybrid of dance, improv, and daredevil rollerblading. Oh, did you think we were joking about him being a former pro?

Here’s how a person becomes awesome, in Riggle’s analysis: they create what he calls “social openings”. These are opportunities to engage with other people in a way that breaks outside of normal social interaction. Glenn Burke gave Dusty the chance to slap a hand, and Jeremy Frye gave everyone in the stadium the chance to rock out along with him.

And then there are the people who suck. What if Dusty hadn’t figured out that a hand-slap was in order? Then we wouldn’t have the high five, and that would suck. And what about the man at 1:44 who pushes away Jeremy Frye instead “Livin’ on a Prayer”-ing with him? That guy is sucking personified. So if awesomeness is the ability to create unexpected social openings, then suckiness is squandering them, or worse, disdaining them.

Here’s the secret of being awesome: when you’re awesome, you give other people the chance to be awesome, too. Because Riggle’s definition is all about putting it all out there so that other people can put it all out there, too. And if everyone’s breaking out of their daily routine together, then what could be more awesome than that?

The thing is, it doesn’t take something as big as an “Uptown Funk” flash mob to make your day a little more awesome. Maybe you make a little joke with the barista, breaking outside of your pre-assigned role as “just another customer” by giving them a chance to joke back. And the best part of setting yourself apart in this kind of inclusive way is that everyone who participates or even just sits back and appreciates it becomes a little more awesome, too.”

Stay Curious!

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