Most of the time, plain language efforts focus on the concrete, everyday world?on getting rid of the gibberish and making everything from cell phone contracts to medical forms clear and easy to read. But what about the big ideas, the worlds of philosophy or astronomy? To inspire the next generation of deep thinkers, It’s not the complex ideas that should be simplified, but the way we express them.
It’s a view that might be hard to embrace in the face of a general dumbing down of society?until we remember that it was Albert Einstein himself who said, ?Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not one bit simpler.?
Not that we should take an intellectual step backward and stop wondering and thinking and imagining. But if you’ve ever tried to push through the dense wall of a philosophy text, You’re probably among the thousands of curious souls who have wondered the same thing: Why can’t those grand, inspiring ideas be written in language that speaks to readers of today?
In the Action Philosophers! comic, Fred Van Lente and Ryan Dunlavey prove that it can be done. The comic’s creators steer clear of reducing the byzantine theories of thinkers like Heraclitus and René Descartes to sound bites. Instead, they blend casual modern language (?you’d think his mad mental skills would have won Thales some props from his peeps?) with the traditional language of philosophical writings?and illustrate the whole thing in classic comic book style.
The result is accessible enough to engage a broad general audience, yet difficult enough to make them think.
It’s an art to take complex ideas and make them clear-cut, to distill them to their core, and It’s an approach That’s rare when writers tackle big subjects. In fact, It’s a lot easier to clutter those ideas with dense language that makes the topic seem more arcane than it already is.
But all that does is block the readers’s view. It’s a bit like creating a literary slab of granite instead of a sculpture. We know that Michaelangelo’s David is in there (or perhaps a theory of Jung?s), yet the writer has obscured that beauty instead of chipping away all the unnecessary academic-ese.
If we’re worried about where our next big ideas will come from, about how a world that revels in pop culture can produce another Plato, perhaps we need a few more philosophers in tights.
S.D. Livingston is the author of several books, including the new suspense novel Kings of Providence. Visit her website for information on her writing (and for more musings on the literary world!).