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Your Stories Don’t Define You, How You Tell Them Will

Dec 25, 2018

It turns out that philosophy is not only not boring, when appropriately applied, philosophy can help you understand yourself and the world around you. Philosophy is not about memorizing what Socrates or Plato said; philosophy is about curiosity and questions.

That’s how Marisa Diaz-Waian sees it, and she’s on a mission to help others apply philosophical questions and discussions to some of our most pressing current issues and moral and ethical dilemmas. From a series of symposia discussing the role of AI in our future, and its impact on humanity, to philosophy walks in nature to ask questions and observe the world around us, Marisa sees philosophy as a way to build collaboration, consultation, and community. That’s what it says on her website, but I like to add curiosity, because that’s where I see a huge need she can fill in our global community through these activities.

It was her father’s way of asking questions and making her think about what she was seeing in the world around her that brought her to her interest and passion for philosophy, but she didn’t necessarily see it as a way of life right away. Her first philosophy class in college was her eye-opener, but the dream of bringing this art and science to the world didn’t come until much later. Throughout her bachelor’s degree, she combined philosophy with other areas of interest, not knowing that doing exactly that would set her up to see how philosophy could be applied to so many other subjects and fields.

She had just completed her bachelor’s degree and was working 1,000 miles away from where he was living when her father was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease. Marisa dropped everything and moved back home to care for him.

It was during that time that she decided to go back to school to get an advanced degree in philosophy. Her dad was thrilled with this decision, partly because he believed that the 7+ years she had already spent with him was putting her life on hold. But she saw it differently; he was gifting her curiosity, compassion, and a commitment and love for learning.

Moving in to care for him was an easy decision for her to make, and spending those 12 years with him as an adult, with his same extraordinary way of asking questions and making her think differently about the world around her lit exactly the fire she needed.

They lived in a few different places across the country in those years, until they finally landed back in Santa Monica, California. One favorite spot in their travels was property and a cabin her dad owned just outside of Helena, Montana. They spent summers here when she was a child and teenager, and they built strong, lasting friendships. A few months after he died, she came back to Montana and stayed, finding her place, her community, and her mission in this small Montana town.

That's where Merlin CCC was born, a non-profit to help bring philosophical questions and thinking to the current, critical issues humanity is facing.

Our conversation took us full circle, starting with describing Merlin and its mission, discussion about why she took that path, and the stories that drove her, and ending with how her development of this non-profit has contributed to our community.

It was a couple of days after recording this podcast that she came to me with the realization that she knew her “why”, she was figuring out her “how”, and that the stories we uncovered during our conversation are the link between those. When we dig back into our memories for specific incidents and conversations that shaped us, we develop that link between our actions and thoughts, and can more intentionally align our dreams with our internal messages of strength, perseverance, and love.