Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

The Philosopher: Canadian Edition

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The Philosopher: Canadian Edition

Every so often, it's tempting to conclude that the TV reality show boom is bust. Once the Survivor: Sanitary Sewer Worker; TTC: the Amazing Slow Race, and Hell's Ticket: Iron Parking Cop shows folded, what could be left to titillate addicts of this scripted-but-pretending-not-to-be genre?
We are pleased to announce the launch of a dramatic and highly original reality concept show: The Philosopher (Canadian edition). Calling on the rich Canuck tradition of one-person think-tankers like George Grant, Ursula Franklin, Harold Innes, Red Green, and John Insertmiddlenamehere Saul, The Philosopher has a fool-proof format: 12 potential acolytes, all both metaphysically skilled and incredibly glamorous, compete to become the next Disciple and Tradition Heir of renowned Post-NeoPlatonist thinker Gregor Zeitgeist. Here's a preview, only for OpenBook Toronto readers, from the opening show.

TITLE/CREDITS SEQUENCE; quick shots of Canadian landscapes, Niagara Falls, Olympic hockey teams in action, ending on the Maple Leaf flag waving proudly with a rainbow behind it. Slow dissolve to GZ sitting on a rock by a lake, thinking. He continues to think for a minute or so while the logos of various corporate sponsors surface on the lake, dance in the air, and then submerge again.
V/O: And now, the show that makes reality meaningful again – The Philosopher, Canadian Edition!
CUE Theme music: The First Thought Is the Deepest.
CU: Ben's smiling, toothpaste-ad face. He puts down a copy of The Republic, which he was holding upside down.

V/O: Our host, Ben Mulroney, will introduce you to the contestants, all of them totally amped to be the next Disciple!
BM: (Yes, an unfortunate set of initials) I know you're just as excited as I am to go through the next few suspenseful weeks with us, and to find out which of these lovely contestants has the right metacognitive stuff to win.
First, Mandy St. Clair!

LONG SHOT: Mandy walking along a winding trail dappled with autumn leaves, thinking. Occasionally she stops to touch up her make-up and blonde ringlets.
BM: Mandy is 23, a master’s student in Pre-PostModern Thought. She enjoys winning debates, holidays in the Panopticon, and candlelight dinners with anyone who'll listen to her.
MEDIUM SHOT: Mandy in a bikini, leaping into a pool and screaming girlishly.
BM: But she doesn't neglect her physical reality either. Mandy was a top-ten finalist in the Miss Forest Hill Private School Beauty Pageant a few years ago. Mandy, what do you have to say for yourself?
CU MANDY: I sooo will win this. I know I'm the One. When Gregor gazes into my eyes after a few intimate hours of recontextualizing Hegel, I know he'll know that I know it too!
BM: Thank you Mandy. Good luck, and hang onto that thought! And now, we'll meet Boris!

CU BORIS, CAMERA SLOWLY PULLS BACK TO MEDIUM SHOT, REVEALING HIM THINKING AS HIS NAILS ARE BEING DONE IN A TRENDY YORKVILLE SPA.
BM: hey, nice manicure, Boris. I just can't get by without mine. Tell us about yourself.
BORIS: (languidly) Oh, I'm doing Postdoc research after completing my dissertation at the Sorbonne on the nature of structuralist intelligence-- “Deconstructing Barthes' Smarts” -- and I'm working as a barista while I wait for my certain elevation to under-assistant lecturer at the University of Mississauga.
BM: Boris likes hot tubs, watching others perform parkour, and nude body-surfing in Lake Ontario off Hanlan's Point. Boris, what do you think of your chances in this show?
BORIS: It's my destiny to win. I have thought this through, and there is no possibility of error. Once those silly girls are cast aside, I shall be the Second Banana to the Tree of Knowledge. I am sure Gregor also realizes this in his heart.
BM: Thank you, Boris, and best of luck. Now, let’s meet the Great Gregor.

GZ (long shot): Strolling along Philosopher’s walk on the U of T campus, he is gesturing emphatically and speaking to the wind.
BM: George has eleven lotus flowers, each one representing true Inner Illumination. He will give those to the contestants who survive today’s test, where they have to make a living for a day without quoting anyone or, contesting another’s assumptions. This, George tells them, will teach them the humility necessary to approach a great mind like his…
(…)
Later that day...

GZ: addressing group of anxious participants): I love you all, and thank you for joining me on this journey. We have come so far. But, sadly, some of us must now step off the express train of higher thought (hands out Lotus flowers to ten winners).
Now we are left with just Mandy and Boris; which one will get my final lotus?
CUE THEME MUSIC: "Mind Games"
GZ: Step forward, you two. My heart broke as I had to choose between the two….. but seriously, Mandy, after our tete-a-tetes, I realized you are to philosophy what super-glue is to engine lubrication. (shouting) NO LOTUS FOR YOU!

Mandy bursts into tears, is hugged by other contestants, gathers up her Great Thinker’s Portable Library collection, and exits show...
BM: Don’t even THINK of missing next week’s exciting episode, when contestants have to pursue a coherent critique of the doctrine of transubstantiation while careening down Ontario’s biggest water slide in January!

PS Thanks to Steve Mcabe and other Facebook friends for encouraging the original germ of this insanity.

The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book: Toronto.

John Oughton

John Oughton is the author of several books, including Time Slip: New and Selected Poems, published by Guernica Editions.

Go to John Oughton’s Author Page