Park philosopher sees discussions with passers-by as way of giving back
By Katriina Pajari
Next to him there are low camping stools and a wooden stick one metre long.
“That’s for the multiple substance abusers”, says philosopher Ilmari Helin.
Passers-by first look at the sign, and then at Helin, and then at his hat. The philosopher is sitting in Hesperia Park, paying back his debt to society.
Some might think that he is being ridiculous, but Helin is quite serious.
Helin has studied theoretical philosophy at the University of Helsinki for ten years. He expects to get his master’s degree in the autumn.
“My education was paid out of the pockets of the taxpayers. Now it is my turn to offer them something”, he explains.
The sign, written in coloured crayon, states that there is “conversation and babbling” on offer. Helin bought the stand from the owner of a nearby boat kiosk on Wednesday.
“To put it seriously, I aim at dialogue. The subcultures of philosophy have not developed to the extent that they would be accessible to ordinary people.
The park philosopher started his vigil last Tuesday. He plans to continue to sit on weekday evenings at the base of a rocky hill near Finlandia Hall through Friday the following week.
Why did the philosopher go to the park? Because he needed to move from words to deeds.
“I had been threatening to do this in a state of excitement for a few years. It’s a good thing it didn’t happen until now. Earlier I might have presented something different.”
Five people came to talk with the philosopher during the two hours that he was available on Tuesday. On Wednesday at least as many came.
“We can talk about anything, but I’m no philosopher or oracle”, Helin says.
Marko Salminen, Lauri Paavola, Jouni Kokko, and Kristian Lindgren came to consult the philosopher on Wednesday.
Two of the men had been in serious accidents, which had left them with a strong sense of the fragility of life. “When death comes close, one’s ability to accept weakness changes”, ponders Lauri Paavola.
The men’s conversation branches off from fragility to fornication, just as Helin wants it to.
In this way, the discussion among the city residents can live on its own, and the philosopher can step into the background.
Philosopher Ilmari Helin is available at Hesperia Park on weekdays from 5:00 - 7:00 PM until August 14th.
Helsingin Sanomat / First published in print 6.8.2009
KATRIINA PAJARI / Helsingin Sanomat