Paperwork: I have an idea for a side job, but I need your help

“I write, therefore I am.”

There it is. Done. My résumé in hand, I can begin my search for THE job.

I am sooo ready to be a philosopher.

That quote sums up my philosophy. For today anyway. It worked for 17th-century French philosopher René Descartes who cleverly noticed and then said, “I think, therefore I am.”

I put my own twist on it. But that’s all it takes. You ponder a lot, deep thoughts, then give a speech or write your thoughts down. Then someone quotes you and calls you a philosopher. Done. Put it on the résumé.

Lonny Cain

What else is needed? Well, yeah, it helps to have an audience beyond your family and friends and waitresses at the local diner. A big audience attracts big media.

Get that audience, then all you need are good quotes that get passed around. Also it helps if someone writes a book about you. So people remember you and maybe put your teachings in the curriculum.

Colleges get into philosophy. (Some students actually choose it as a major. Soon they notice what I am seeing. There are no help wanted ads for philosophers.)

My fantasy about being a philosopher accelerated when I attended my first philosophy class. I was excited about discussing great minds, great thoughts and all those great quotes. The prof went on and on about his philosophy of famous philosophers. All I remember is he looked like a philosophy professor. I have a vague memory that he didn’t wear shoes, but I can’t swear that’s true.

I quickly realized the career path led to teaching philosophy. I chose another path. But I still find myself wondering what it takes to become a great philosopher. Or are they all dead?

The Greek philosopher Socrates is called the founder of Western philosophy. He gave us the Socratic Method for teaching. (It’s mostly dialogue between teacher and students with the teacher asking most of the questions.)

He’s also the guy who reminded us how stupid smart we are:

“I am the wisest man alive, for I know one thing, and that is that I know nothing,” he said.

Socrates also discovered philosophy can be a hazardous occupation. Not everyone agreed with the ideas he was putting into young minds. So they made him drink some hemlock poison.

Ahhh, but he lives on because someone wrote down all those great quotes. (See what I mean about writing a book or getting on a well-known TV talk show?)

A quick search online finds there are many modern philosophers being quoted. Many are not household names, but then is Socrates discussed at your dinner table?

The formula seems clear: Be outspoken. Build an audience with a book or media outlet. And better come up with some greats thoughts. At least a good quote.

Perhaps it’s not too late for me. With your help, could my words unlock the golden gates?

My chest is swelling as I proclaim: “I write, therefore I am.”

Now, feel free to quote me. And please ... hold the hemlock.

Lonny Cain, retired managing editor of The Times in Ottawa, also was a reporter for The Herald-News in Joliet in the 1970s. His PaperWork email is Or mail The Times, 110 W. Jefferson St., Ottawa, IL 61350.