Monday, February 18, 2008

The Journey - Day 3

(President's Day)

It is only the third day and I am already skipping breakfast to sleep in a bit longer – spending a day analyzing philosophic texts can be exhausting.

Today’s topic is property and productivity. The texts – Plato, Hobbes, Locke – focus on how property appeared as the result of man’s first actions of self-preservation; and how this lead to the creation of the state. In fact, they seem more interested in the idea of individual and collective liberty. The medieval Arab writer, Ibn Khaldun, seems the most modern and practical: the ruler should stay out of the market, because he will discourage private enterprise and reduce his tax income in the end. Milton Friedman would have been proud.

It’s only the third day and I am starting to feel some “session fatigue” already. Since it’s such a glorious day and we get out early, three of us decide to skip lunch and head for the slopes: Joanne, a fund investor in non and for profit companies trying to improve the educational system; Americo, the COO of a chain of universities and vocational schools in Brazil; and myself. I am the only one without any ski clothes: I borrow gloves from another classmate, put on long underwear under my jeans and off we go to Buttermilk, which we are told is the best ski slope for the less experienced. Incredibly, within an hour we are fully geared and sitting on the chair lift on our way to the top. It is really a perfect ski day – blue sky, powdery snow. On the rides up we talk about surprisingly intimate things. I am nervous –it’s been two years since I last skied, and I never was that strong a skier—but from the first few slides I feel very comfortable and even end up on the blue slopes, with just one fall in two hours. Feeling very proud of ourselves we head back to the hotel, to start working on our Antigone sketches.

That evening we go out as a group to a dinner theater show. Are they trying to inspire us? It’s actually pretty good, the skits covering male menopause to Hillary Clinton to Botox (none of these are necessarily related).

Back to the hotel and a nightcap. One of the moderators says how excited he is by the potential of Barack Obama, and the group gets into a spirited political discussion over more wine. The Aspen Institute’s motto is “Mind. Body. Spirit.” We conclude “Mind. Body. Spirits.” would be more accurate.

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