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We Asked Deep Philosophical Questions to People at Stone Circle

Quizzing Glastonbury's late-night intellectuals on the meaning of life, the universe, and everything.
June 26, 2015, 1:40pm

Whether they’re following ley lines or k lines, everyone at Glastonbury eventually ends up at the Stone Circle. Since it was erected in 1992, the stoned henge has been a late-night forum for radical ideas, spiritual enlightenment, and psychonautical revelations. But until now, no one has ever tried to probe these potted metaphysicians, to see the true breadth of their newfound wisdom. At 5 AM at the Stone Circle you see the world like you’ve never quite seen it before, and these fresh perspectives from a diverse mix of late-night intellectuals could be useful to us all. So we headed there in the dying hours of Thursday night with a series of ethical, epistemological, and metaphysical quandaries to the beautiful minds of Stone Circle 2015.

Daniel, 30, digital marketer; Tom, 26, piano

Noisey: Hi. What’s your job?
Tom: Piano.

Anything specifically with a piano? Are you a teacher or a musician?
Tom: No just piano.

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Why is the world such an unfair place?
Tom: Because of sand.

Why?
Tom: Because you can draw too many things in it.

Do you want to elaborate on that?
Tom: No.

I, for one, am a figment of your imagination. How does that make you feel?
Tom: The figments of my imagination are way weirder looking than you, so I reckon you’re real and the ones that are my figments… They like to put shit into your mouth.

Like what?
Tom: Liquid Knowledge.

Do you have free will?
Tom: I 100 percent do.

OK, go on then. Do something of your own volition.
Tom: [Slowly licks his right nipple] I just licked my nipple.

Was that really out of your own volition if you did it because I told you to?
Tom: I like licking my own nipple.

What is the meaning of life? Answer in three words.
Tom: All the time.
Daniel: Not three words. Don’t be shit in death. Go out in style.

Let’s say history hasn’t happened yet and you have the opportunity to design the perfectly ethical society. You’ve got one minute—go!
Tom: Everything’s the same but everyone’s allowed to take trips.
Daniel: Everybody does everything, shags everyone, does everyone, takes everything, does everything, does everyone.

Amy, 21, works in car insurance claims

Imagine you are standing on a bridge. Underneath you is a shopping trolley, fast approaching a wall. The brakes aren’t working. There are five children in the trolley, and they face certain death. There’s a fat man next to you. You could push him off, thus killing him, but also stopping the trolley and saving the five children. What would you do?
Amy: Just fucking kick him out.

So do you think that human beings have a moral obligation to sacrifice a life if it saves the lives of others?
Actually, I think they should all go at the same time.

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So you’d let the kids die, then you’d push the fat man off the edge?
Wait, what’s going on here?

It doesn’t matter. Is there a God?
No.

Go on, why not have a God?
Basically, we’re here, and we’re skeletal metal covered in universe glitter. There is no God controlling us; we’re controling ourselves.

If a man born blind, and able to distinguish by touch between a cube and a globe, were made to see, could he now tell by sight which was the cube and which the globe, before he touched them?
Of course he could. Because he knows what it looks and feels like.

But if he’s only ever felt it but not looked at it, how can he know what it looks like?
Because if you feel a circle, you’re feeling it like that [gestures a circle], and that’s what it looks like.

But how would he know that?
He would just know. He would. Because if you put a tennis ball in my hand, I’d be like “Yep, that’s a tennis ball.” If you put a book in my hand, I’d say “Book,” isn’t it?

Are you more of a Marxist, a Leninist, or a capitalist?
I don’t know what you’re on about now.

Is the universe made up of things, or is it a thing?
Ooh, the universe is made up of things.

Great.

Continues below.

Rhys, "twenty-bastard-five", musician

Noisey: What is the meaning of life? Answer in three words.
Rhys: Have extreme fun.

Have you ever thought, like, what if my blue was your yellow, and your yellow was my blue?
I’d understand that and I’d accept that. I’d be your friend anyway, because I can see your smile, man. You’re a happy man. If that’s you, I’d accept that.

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Thank you.
I mean that as well, man. Most people would go, “Ooh, what do you know? It’s fucking blue, innit?” That’s what most people would do, I imagine. But your yellow is your yellow, man. My blue is my blue.

What are numbers?
They’re something we don’t really understand as people. We’ve always decided in life that one is one, and one plus one is two. Well, we are always all one.

If you were to design a machine that had all the same cognitive and perceptive abilities as the human mind, would it be alive?
That’s extremely intriguing, because you think about the mental mind where our own brain zaps between nerve endings. That’s how our mind works, innit. Most people ascribe the universe to zaps between points. But if it got to a point of knowing that level…personally… that’s crazy. But the thing is, if technology surpasses us, how are we not to blame for that? Fuck’s sake! Just stop it!

Me?
No, no, no. Everybody. Trying to use technology over our own selves. Are we trying to eradicate every job that we own?

In the same vein, do you think your smartphone is slightly alive?
Of course. It tracks you wherever you go. I used to enjoy the fact that I didn’t have a phone. I could go where I wanted. Nobody called me. I mean, I’m well into it now. Don’t get me wrong. I will Snapchat a Glastonbury story. It’s all part of the fun. But when I’m doing it I’m also thinking: who else is watching this? Who else is realizing that I’m posting this to the world?

Karma, 23, “runs mega-smashin’ passion wagon and is here to get you pissed”

Define beauty.
Karma: In the eye of the beholder. Plain and simple. If you think something is beautiful then it doesn’t matter what people think.

If beauty is subjective, why is Mila Kunis universally considered to be hot?
That’s a matter of opinion. I don’t know who she is.

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Natalie Portman?
I’m not so good with famous people.

How do you not know Natalie Portman?
You can get an ugly person with a beautiful soul and it will shine through their face, but if you get a beautiful person with an ugly soul, their face will often pull un-pretty expressions and make it into an ugly shape.

Liam, 26, financial manager; Tommo, 31, unemployed; Nathaniel, 32, unemployed

Why is there stuff? Couldn’t there just as easily not be stuff?
Tommo: I once heard about a place called happiness, and that’s nothing, unless you’re happy.
Nathaniel: Because nothing would be boring and something is fun.
Liam: I’m twisted, soz. Something is better than nothing.

How do you know we’re not all just figments of your imagination?
Liam: We don’t! Of course we don’t know that, but that’s the whole point.
Tommo: Because you’ve got to keep it real. It’s all about keeping one foot in reality, and one foot out in front. And if you lose touch with reality, you’re not having fun.

At the moment, how many feet do you have planted in reality and how many feet do you have planted in having fun?
Tommo: Ten feet deep, mate. Six feet under.
Nathaniel: Well you probably are figments of our imagination. I’m a figment of your imagination; you’re a figment of my imagination.

Imagine there’s a hot air balloon with 12 children in it. This hot air balloon is veering out of control towards a helicopter with two adults in it. You’re standing on the ground; you’ve got a rocket launcher. You could save the children’s lives by blowing up the helicopter. What do you do?
Tommo: I’d have to get stoned and think about it.
Liam: Obviously I’d kill two people in a helicopter to save 12 kids! Is there any debate about that?

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Is a bale of hay still a bale of hay if you remove one straw?
Nathaniel: Yeah, if it’s baled up and it’s hay then it’s a bale of hay.

But if you keep removing straws, eventually you’ll deplete the bale of hay. So at what point is it no longer a bale of hay?
Nathaniel: When it’s no longer packed together like a bale.

What does this tell us about how we define objects?
Nathaniel: Is it that they’re the same until they’re different?

Yes. What is the meaning of life, in three words?
Tommo: Positive over negative.
Nathaniel: Me, me and me.
Liam: Hebdon-fucking-bridge.

Matt, 27, currently juggling many things

Pretend you haven’t seen anything in the universe ever. You’ve experienced nothing.
Matt: Is that possible? Do you really think that’s possible? You’re asking me to de-evolve and degrade my conscious awareness and being and revert it to some sort of…

OK, lets take a step down then. Imagine that you have never seen or lived in any kind of organised human society. Design your perfect ethical civilization. You have 30 seconds.
Knowledge. Power Structures. People. Relationships. Parents. The world. The universe. Your environment. How all of those things interrelate. Patterns. Understanding that you’re a process of your experience and that you’re constantly becoming and you should be aware of your awareness, not just aware but aware that you are conscious and constantly striving to expand your consciousness. And we’ll change education and we’ll have critical approach—everything else follows from that.

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How does this civilization protect itself?
From what?

Other people’s ethical civilizations.
There is currently only one civilization on the planet and lots of small micro-cultures that exist outside of that. Yes, there are many places that are untouched by the global system, but I think we’re one civilization. I follow Edward Said: I don’t think we’re separate and different. I think we’ve all got interlinked history, and we’re all mongrels. And this kind of labeling and nationalism… We’d always had culture, but this kind of definitive labeling is quite a new, modern thing in our reality, and any real society shouldn’t have labels. We need to get rid of labels full stop.

If you have a bale of hay and you remove one straw, is it still a bale of hay?
Absolutely.

If you remove second straw, is it still a bale of hay?
Yeah.

But if you keep on going like this, you will have eventually depleted the bale of hay, correct?
Yes.

So at what point does it cease to be a bale of hay?
Once you go past a half, I think you’d be like "well, it’s not quite the bale of hay it once was." At what point, I’m not sure. If you take off a dog’s leg is it still a dog? At what point does it become a dead dog?

I mean, at some point that bale of hay becomes a pile of hay. What does this tell us about how we define objects?
It means there’s no definitive experience. Everything is perceived differently by everyone, and language and labels are a big part of that. I don’t think many people really understand the power of language, and the relationship between power and language. The language that we use really does have a massive effect on how we perceive our own reality. There are cultures that don’t see a difference between blue and green, yet they have descriptions for every shade in between. In Western cultures, we’ve kind of decreed that the sky is blue, and the trees are green. Other cultures don’t agree with that. Their experience is kind of the same as that of eskimos, who have many different words for precipitation because they need to describe the weather in a lot better detail than us, since it directly affects their survival. Basically, language is important.

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So would you say that a bale of hay ceases to be a bale of hay when its being of a bail of hay ceases to be relevant to us?
Yes.

OK great. That’s the end. You have arrived at Heidegger.

Connie, 27, marketing manager

You are God. You get to design the universe, what are you going to put in it?
Connie: Fill it full of happiness.

But what’s happiness?
Just everyone feeling good about themselves.

But who are everyone? You don’t know yet because you haven’t experienced anything.
But you would still arrive into life wanting everything to be good, so just make everything good.

So is God reducible to a “force of goodness?”
It should be. It isn’t. It’s a form of fear and for people who are too afraid of life.

A flower is considered beautiful and so is a canyon, but they have nothing in common as objects. How is this possible?
Beauty is something that touches you within your soul that you define aesthetically pleasing. What you love becomes beauty.

If beauty is subjective, why is Ryan Gosling universally agreed to be hot?
Because we all are so obsessed with fitting in to the norm. We’re social creatures, and we want to be liked by each other, so if someone says “that’s really beautiful,” we say, “yes, it is.”

Do you think Ryan Gosling is hot?
No.

Have you seen Drive?
I have, and I’ve seen Blue Velvet and all of his early movies. I think he’s talented but he’s gotten by on that slightly-looking-out-of-a-half-closed-eye thing that people find hot. But he’s putting it on. He is conforming to the norm of beauty.

Mike, 35, vehicle re-finisher

Do you believe that animals’ lives should be valued as much as humans’ lives?
Mike: I do and I don’t, because I eat meat. I’m a dog lover. I would never eat any animal that feels pain, you know? Obviously I can’t just block it out and not eat them, but I don’t agree with it.

If there were no market for bacon, pigs would not exist. Thus pigs have a vested interest in being sold as bacon. Right?
I dunno. That’s a bit of a trick question, but if I was a pig I wouldn’t want you to eat me, man, I’d want life. So just looking at it from that devil’s advocate kind of angle…

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But there would be no pigs if we didn’t eat bacon.
That’s right. They’re made for us to eat. Like I said earlier, if I was a pig then I wouldn’t want you to eat me. So that’s the vibe.

Why is there stuff? Couldn’t there just as easily not be stuff?
Yeah, there could. But then what would we be?

Nice.
I like that one. I think I answered that one well.

By 2016, over 50 percent of the world’s wealth will be owned by the richest 1 percent. Currently, the least well-off 80 percent own less than 5.5 percent. How does that make you feel?
Sickened, man. It’s only gonna keep going until the rich look more and more appetizing. And as for the poor, they’re hungry. So the rich people are so appetizing like a fresh kebab or a fresh piece of KFC. And we gonna eat that. That’s what’s gonna happen, dog. That’s when your boy Mike Freedom comes out.

Suppose there was a machine that you could plug yourself into that would give you any experience you desired. You could experience recording a best-selling album, falling in love with Mila Kunis, having children. If you had the option to pre-program the perfect life, then spend the rest of your days attached to this machine, would you do it?
I don’t know, man. I really don’t know, I just want freedom, I just want equality. I want us to realize that we all need each other, regardless of black white, red yellow. We need each other. That’s what I understand. So if you offered me that I’m not sure if I would go! You got one more.

Is the universe made of things, or is the universe a thing?
Shit, yo. I like to believe that the universe is full of other stuff. But it’s too deep, you know? I meditate daily and when I meditate I think of some deep shit. We can’t just be here alone, man. If I was an alien from Mars, I’d be like to my homies, “Yo man, let’s go to Earth.” We’d be traveling planets. We can’t be here alone. There’s got to be more to this shit, you know what I’m saying?

We feel the energy but we still gotta conform: we gotta pay bills—Sky bill, phone bill—all kinds of bills. But you come to the field and you just forget all of that shit. I come here and I care about nothing except my people, me, and having a good time. That’s all I think about. Out there is The Matrix and in here is the real world. I came here and I was like “Wow, check out what these lot do?”

Follow Matt Shea on Twitter.