Santa Rosa Beach resident Rob Wood wants to get people talking.
He wants people to express without yelling what they believe about certain issue in 90 seconds or less. Wood is so passionate about this that he has founded the Aristotle Hobnob Society to show people that it can be done -- and to broaden horizons.
"We used to do something like this in Atlanta called the Drink and Think, then we got down here and found it so difficult to talk politics, even with my closest friends, and I didn't like it," said Wood. "It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it. But there seems to be lines drawn in the sand over whether you're Republican or Democrat, Christian or atheist. We should be able to talk about it then go have a beer together."
On Oct. 18, Wood and his wife hosted their first Aristotle's Hobnob event with eight people attending.
Wood has designed the event as an evening where six to 10 people with a diversity of opinions come together to share their thoughts without fear of judgment. He serves as moderator.
The moderator will touch on a series of topics such as religion, politics, public policy, sex, ethics, government, morals, culture, spirituality, taboos, etc., with one question: What do you believe about this and why? The person he calls on to answer has 90 seconds to state their belief or feeling about that one question.
"We are absolutely not interested in converting anyone to any belief, nor are we interested in being converted to any particular point of view," said Wood. "This is not a cult, double secret society, or organization with a fancy mission statement. We just want to bring civil conversations back into the mainstream."
Wood fears that Americans are losing their ability to have a deep discussion without getting freaked out and taking it personally. He desires to see the art of a fun discussion back in American culture.
"If you believe something totally different from me but I can walk in your shoes for 90 seconds I can understand. In a safe environment I can say this is why I believe this," he explained.
So far, Wood has moderated two Hobnob events with both attended by eight people.
"Everyone seemed to enjoy it," he said. "I can see someone who believes totally opposite of me, but if I understand it we can go forward and break bread together. My wife and I believe differently. I want to know what I believe and why."
There are three more Hobnobs scheduled.
A hobnob is a congenial social interaction, and Wood obviously gave a nod to the great philosopher and studier Aristotle in the naming of these events.
"Maybe it will make a difference," said Wood. "I don't know how long I'll do this, but I'll do it as long as people are interested and as long as I can get host families."
The event lasts 90 minutes beginning with a 30-minute meet and greet. Wood then goes over the rules and asks questions. Each person has 90 seconds to respond. Wood then asks if anyone has experienced something different, and if so, that person gets 90 seconds.
"If anyone tries to preach or convert I will stop them," he said.
Questions might be do you believe that spanking a child is still a teaching method we should use today? Or, do you believe the Affordable Care Act is good for Americans? Or, are transgenders good for the military?
"Religion and politics are the ones with the most emotion because people are invested in those. You can see the energy in the room rise with those," said Wood.
And if a person is asked a question they don't want to answer, he or she can pass. Before the evening is over, each person usually answers two questions.
"It makes you think about what you believe and why. Researching what you believe is how we grow," said Wood. "This is not designed around changing someone's views, just educating about how someone who looks like you believes differently."
Wood reached out to families and asked them to host, but accepts requests. The ones he reached out to were told they could choose two people to attend the Hobnob they host and then Wood chooses the rest for diversity. Everyone is told to eat before they come and bring whatever you want to drink.
"I get a good feel for how people think when I meet them, and I research their Facebook page to make sure I've got diversity," he said.
Like the Aristotle's Hobnob Facebook page for more information.