Chris Nikoloff, head of school, has delivered the fifth and final lecture of his 2011-12 Cum Laude Society series based on author Alan Watts’ “The Book: On the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are.”
Held in the Nichols Hall auditorium, Nikoloff’s recent address further explored topics revolving around the theme of fully knowing oneself, and opening up the mind to allow for the possibility of being much more than you think.
He told an audience of about 20 Harker students and several faculty members that he got the idea to speak on the philosophical topic of knowing oneself after spending a plane ride engrossed in reading Watts’ book, which is aimed at teenagers and young adults.
Nikoloff began his lecture with the disclaimer, “You don’t have to buy any of this, I’m just presenting his (Watts’) ideas.” He then carried on with a brief review of previous talks, before discussing such intriguing topics as being an “ego in a bag of skin”—a metaphor he said Watts likely uses not to “gross you out” but to jar us into questioning our purpose in being part of the universe.
He also examined the age-old argument between body and soul, or spirituality versus physicality. “We need the earth, the earth grounds us, but we are obviously more than just a body,” said Nikoloff.
Pondering whether existence itself can be for its own sake, he acknowledged how hard it is to “make sense out of a nonsensical world.” He closed his talk by reading a moving passage from Watts’ book that says it is we who evoke light out of the universe, because “without eyes to see there would be no sun.”
The Cum Laude Society hosts engaging talks and lecture series related to the lives of Harker students. Leading the discussions has clearly been a labor of love for Nikoloff, who took time out after his talk for an informal chat with his audience.
Joking around, he said he “likes to get together and talk about weird things” with the Harker Cum Laude Society. He then added on a more serious note that “these hours have been among the best of my year.”