Living in our modern dystopia is exhausting — which is why Brooklyn is throwing an all-night spiritual reboot.
A Night of Philosophy and Ideas is a free 12-hour marathon of chances to see the world in new ways and find not just our own personal strength, but discover what we’re capable of together.
A co-production of the French Embassy and the Brooklyn Public Library, the overnight event kicking off at 7 p.m. on Jan. 27 turns the entire central library in Grand Army Plaza into a forum for ideas, performances, screenings, music and more.
“It was overwhelming in the most positive, amazing sense,” says László Jakab Orsós, VP of arts and culture at the Brooklyn Library about hosting 7,000 people last year for the event.
“It is a party, but it’s actually pretty serious. We are focusing on current issues that we know people without any age limit can relate to.”
Pulling an all-nighter
From sunset to sunrise, more than 60 events will take place in every part of the library — between the shelves, in the hallways and within its appropriately named Grand Lobby, “meandering around the physical space” as Orsos puts it.
“I hadn’t seen Woodstock, but it felt like a tame version of Woodstock,” he recalls. “It was really amazing to see people drifting along, talking about ideas, getting to know one another.”
Though not officially part of the city-wide ‘60s festival going on now, A Night of Philosophy and Ideas also nods to how our modern era faces the same problems as we did in the 1960s. Philosophers will speak to issues of revolution and feminism, religion and compassion.
Each philosopher will give a 20-minute presentation, after which the audience will have the opportunity to ask questions.
“Cultural institutions should encourage people to think critically,” Orsos says. “It is very important to let people exercise their right of questioning and not buy into today’s status quo.”
Learning to stand up
To commemorate the 50th anniversary of the student-led protests against capitalism and traditional values in France, a modern revolutionary will give the keynote address: George Yancy of Dear White America fame.
“We thought it would be important to reiterate the sentiment of speaking up, having the courage and the bravery to say what needs to be said,” says Orsos. “We thought he would be the best person to reiterate and re-envision the sentiment of ‘68s.”
Jan. 27 is also the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz in 1945, the acclaimed nine-hour documentary Shoah chronicling the Holocaust through interviews with both survivors and perpetrators will screen all night.
Yes, there’s food
Don’t worry, you’re not expected to absorb 12 hours of philosophy without fortifications.
There are 12 free coffee stations all over the library as well as a cash bar with beer and wine, a lounge area for naps, and free snacks throughout the night as well as breakfast in the morning of 1,500 croissants among other baked goods.
If your mind needs a break, there’s plenty of performances to check out, too. French acrobatic troupe Compagnie XY will be performing their unique brand of circus arts, magicians will show you an illusion — then explain the psychology of believing in tricks — or you can take a step totally out of our world with the virtual reality experience Planet Infinity.
Among the many musical acts are the Women’s March Resistance Revival Chorus, harpist Brandee Younger and Grammy-nominated singer Theo Bleckmann performing Vietnam War-era songs.
Then at dawn, philosophers and traditional Greek musicians will hold a Symposium on Love, followed by a yoga session.
“Everything is about taking a step back, slowing down and asking questions,” Orsos says. “It’s a totally different feel than any other party; it’s just more humane.”
A Night of Philosophy and Ideas takes place Jan. 27-28 from 7 p.m.-7 a.m. at the Central Library in Grand Army Plaza. Admission is free.