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/ Institute of Philosophy, Citizenship and Youth

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PhiloQuests: the day of worry

5. Philosophical Picnic

Worrying: worth keeping or taking away?


Objective To feed your philosophical reflections on worry with your family's help during lunch!

Duration : 30 to 75 minutes

Material : 

  • Sheets of paper and pen

  • Coloured pencils and markers

  • Your family

Instructions : 

It's time to eat! Gather your family around the table for a comforting dialogue about worry.  Explore the following questions, finding inspiration in the thinking prompts as necessary. Together, think of reasons to explain your positions and try to build an answer by combining your ideas! But don't worry if the urge to keep talking doesn't subside... philosophical picnics are an insatiable quest!


  •   Question 1 Can worrying be good?

    • Thinking prompts : Worrying doesn’t exactly have the best reputation. If given the choice, most of us would probably prefer not to live a day full of frazzles, panic and uneasiness… then lose sleep over it at night! But is there another side to worry? Could worrying actually be… positive? With your family, think of situations that you have lived together or apart when it was in fact really useful—even beneficial—to worry somewhere along the way. How did worrying help? What bad consequences might have occurred if you hadn’t worried? But wait—does that mean there might be good types of worry? If so, can you identify them and give them each a name as well as an example or two? Hmm... maybe you have to update your definition of worry… go back and read what you wrote in your  Idea Stretching and compare it to what your family is considering now!

  • Question 2 Should we try to control our worry?

    • Thinking prompts: Did you know there is a philosophy called Stoicism that claims we should not worry about the things we can’t control? And yet… so many of us seem to freak out over stuff that we have no power to change! Why is that? Should we try to gain control over our worrying… or just avoid it altogether? With your family, try to imagine someone who discovers how to become the master of their worries… what might some of their strategies be? Imagine this person is giving a special course called “Worry Mastery”—what could be their top-three tips to share with their students? Now picture a critic standing up in the middle of the presentation to blurt out: “Yeah right! There’s no way to control worrying!” What might you say to convince them that it is indeed possible? Hmm... maybe we’re assuming that a world without worry is attainable…

  •   Question 3 Is it possible to be worry-free?

    • Thinking prompts: Ever heard that easy-breezy song, “Don’t worry, be happy?” Is this advice that we can even follow? Can we realistically have no worries at all? Try to imagine a person who never worries. What might their life be like: better than the average fretting human… or a bit peculiar? Now let’s try another angle—what it might be like to worry but  still  be happy. How could that be? Together, think of examples of situations where worrying would not get in the way of feeling joy and satisfaction in life. Do these situations have anything in common? Hmm... maybe worrying is not as big a deal as we might have initially thought. The question remains: Do we need it? Try to finish the sentence: If worry didn't exist, then _________. 


Bonus : Some cultures have special rituals to get rid of worry! For instance, according to a Mayan legend from Guatemala, the sun god gifted a princess with the power to solve her problems through special little figurines called “worry dolls.” Every night before bed, she just had to whisper a worry to each doll then tuck them under her pillow. While she slept, the dolls would worry on her behalf so she could wake up with total peace of mind! Now it’s your family’s turn to envision and create your own worry figurines. What should they look like? How could they work? If you had to try them out tonight before bed, what worries would you want them to take away while you’re deep in sleep? Following your experience of team creation, ask yourselves these questions: Among the worries you selected, which ones affect all of you and which ones affect just some of you? And do you feel the effects in the same way? Now imagine you wake up tomorrow with all of them gone—what would that be like and why?

podcast Les Jeunes sages: can freedom of expression be worrying?

Tricks for tots : Just because we worry doesn’t mean we always know exactly what our worries are! To help sort them out as a family, draw a big circle on a blank piece of paper, leaving some room around the edges, then draw a smaller circle within the big one. Outside the edges of the big circle, write some examples of worrying things that might happen in the world. Then, within the big circle, write some specific examples of worrying things that might happen but could also affect you. Finally, in the smaller inner circle, write some examples of worrying things that you can affect—that is, that you can have control over and even change! When you’re done, look at what you created: you now have a diagram that shows different levels of worry, and what might actually be worth worrying about… just that tiny circle! Then ask yourselves: Do you sometimes worry about what’s in the big circle or even in the outside edges, even if you can’t control them at all? If so, why and how might you stop?
Tips for teens : Parlez-vous français ? As you prepare your meal or digest your feast of delicacies and tasty ideas, listen to the  Les jeunes sages  podcast on freedom of expression. Drawing inspiration from the reflections of the young philosophers, try to answer the question: Do we have the right to say whatever we want? Do you agree or disagree with the answers given by the participants? Try to think of lines of thinking that have not been addressed. Perhaps wonder about the link between worry and freedom of expression... Are we free to express all our worries? Can freedom of expression be worrying? If you can't understand French, don't worry! You can still wonder about these questions! You can even imagine that you are recording a podcast with your family... Family Wisdom!

Share your creative reflections by sending them via email.
Include photos of your projects and notes of your thoughts, as well as your first name and your age!

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