I taught my first philosophy session at the school at Seattle Children’s Hospital this morning, which I will be doing every Tuesday. We started with Plato’s Ring of Gyges, which led us into a conversation about whether possessing something like Gyges’ ring could end up taking over your life. Frequently when I discuss this allegory with students, there are students who say that they would refuse to use the ring and/or would get rid of it as quickly as possible, out of fear that a ring like this could change them and their relationships in ways they couldn’t foresee and that the ring might end up in a sense controlling them.
In the conversation this morning, we talked about the risk of the ring controlling you, and then explored the idea in general of something “taking over your life.” One student noted that video games could “take over your life,” and we talked about other things that are similar: cell phones, material goods, etc. The student then commented that in many ways illness could take over your life, by making it impossible for you to do the things that you were used to doing before you became sick. Then one of the students talked about the ways in which dialysis had “taken over his life,” and he pointed out that there was both good and bad to this. Although he had missed much of high school because of his treatment, and it had been a difficult experience, it had also led him to appreciate health and ordinary life in ways he hadn’t before. We then talked about other experiences that can “take over your life” in positive ways: falling in love, having a child, caring for someone who needs your help, writing a book. We noted that although all of these experiences involve relinquishing other things that matter to you – other relationships, activities, etc. – there also can be something positive about, at least for a time, investing all of your energy in one passion.
This was a really interesting take on the concept of something taking over your life that I hadn’t really considered before. We wondered, then, how you decide whether what might take over your life is worth it. Well, “health is everything,” one student noted. Are there other needs/experiences that fall into this category?