Author combines philosophy and philanthropy to promote literacy
By: Missy Finnegan – Staff Writer
What happens when gods and philosophers work together? Author Dylan Callens uses a combination of philosophy, history and religion in his humorous novel to answer this question and contribute to society in the process.
“Operation Cosmic Teapot” is Callens’ attempt to solve a set of personal philosophical questions that especially came to light throughout his years as a college student, questions he feels are universal. Questioning God and the reason for living is what drew Callens to philosophy. He eventually came to his own realization that there was no God
“I began to think more in line with existentialism. I wanted to know what my role was in the world, if there was no God,” Callens said. “The book is a reflection of these questions and my struggle with them.”
The deep philosophical themes and questions are hidden in a plot of dark comedy. He portrays heaven as a corporation in which philosophers, such as Nietzsche, flee to go on a quest for their rainbow bridge.
The plot originated with the idea that God was an employee of Heaven Inc., but he was too busy to perform miracles. This continued to build as Callens was teaching Nietzsche’s madman parable and had the imaginative thought that Nietzsche could be God’s boss, and the plot developed from there.
The main characters’ personalities are similar to how he thought they would have been in their lives, although each character was molded to serve a specific purpose.
“Nietzsche had a terrible life and seemed to hold God accountable for it,” he said. “So, I began to play with that idea as a basis of the novel.”
According to Callens, the novel took a long time to develop and although it had its low points, it was an overall enjoyable process: “I was constantly tweaking the plot and would write in small spurts.”
Callens is from Ontario, Canada, where he developed, wrote and published his novel, which took a total of six years. After the book was released, Callens came up with the idea to take some of the profit and donate it to World Literacy Canada (WLC).
Callens’ philanthropic drive connects with the University of Dayton’s Determined to Develop, a service organization devoted to bringing awareness and financial assistance to issues in Malawi, Africa. One of Determined to Develop’s major emphases is on education and literacy.
“Literacy contributes to the development of the entire nation. Literacy, along with an education, prepares people in developing nations to face any obstacles that come their way,” junior RosaLia Stadler said. Stadler is a member of Determined to Develop and this past summer, took part in the practicum in Malawi, where she spent nine weeks researching how parents influence their children’s education.
“I found a lot of parents are supportive of their children, but don’t necessarily positively influence their children’s education at home,” Stadler said. “This is because a lot of the parents are illiterate and are unable to help their children with their school work.”
UD’s Determined to Develop raises awareness about the work the nongovernmental organization Determined to Develop does in Malawi promoting education for youth, especially for young women. It came to UD after alum Matt Maroon graduated and saw the need for development in Malawi.
“As a club, we raise money which is used to pay for the education for the children that Determined to Develop sponsors,” Stadler said. “You don’t have to spend time in a developing nation to help literacy. There are so many events on campus that raise money or collect books to help boost literacy both abroad and here in the U.S.”
This is the basis of Callens’ drive to donate his book profits to WLC.
“They do work around the globe to help promote literacy, and I wanted to choose an organization who didn’t focus just on Canada,” Callens said. “Our literacy rate is high and reaching students that have difficulty reading, [which] is good but it’s a problem more so in developing nations.”
Ten percent of the profit from “Operation Cosmic Teapot” will be donated to WLC to help illiteracy in countries such as India and Nepal.
“World Literacy Canada has 60 years of experience delivering literacy education,” Callens said. “They believe that illiteracy is both a cause and a consequence of poverty and see literacy as an essential element in the struggle for equality.”