Polo Mints: Gateway to Existential Enlightenment – Philosophy of ordinary things


Thirty-eight million Polo Mints are consumed every day, apparently without a second thought. However, could this humble little minty fella actually be the gateway to true knowledge about life, the Universe and everything? We have drawn on the inspiration of Sartre, the Dalai Lama, Tao Ti Ching, Heidegger and Mahayana Buddhism to find five reasons why the Polo Mint’s inner nothingness, with its sweet minty after taste, can lead to contemplations of the ultimate truth.

Think , Volume 19 , Issue 55 , Summer 2020 , pp. 135 – 138


1. Polo Mint: The Noble Shape and Taste of Nothingness

It is said of our current age that it is overly materialistic: we look to acquire stuff and to achieve things. For science, the greatest achievement of them all, of course, is the Nobel Prize. And how might we seek to achieve this honour? Apparently, much to the surprise of science, the research suggests by eating chocolate. Some scientists have proved that chocolate can make you smarter, others that it is the combination of both cocoa and milk, while a third group insist that the magic to great achievement is in the consumption of Barbajada, a mixture of coffee, milk and chocolate.1 However, our recent Ig Nobel confectionary meta-analysis has shown that contemplation through the consumption of Polo Mints could lead to an even bigger prize. Forget chocolate! Enter the world of the Polo Mint – ‘The mint with the hole’. This humble little minty fella may well be the gateway to true knowledge about life, the Universe and everything. At the central core of its ‘mintality’ resides great wisdom: there you will find freedom, enlightenment, an understanding of the true nature of things and, importantly, good physical shape to boot (a Polo has only 6 calories).

2. Experience Nothingness through a Thrownness into the Melting Dasein

To partake of the Polo is to commence the journey to existential contemplation, for as the suck commences, one traverses the stage to enlightenment with ever-increasing anticipation of the approaching centre of nothingness with all its promise of minty fulfilment. In Sartre’s words, ‘The For-itself, in fact, is nothing but the pure nihilation of the In-itself, it is like a hole in being at the heart of Being.’2

But at that very moment – the very moment of completeness with the nothing at its centre – the fragility of existence, represented in that wafer thin hoop, snaps. And then … what next? ‘We are condemned to freedom … (we are) thrown into freedom’.3 Awakened to this fact, we are draw inexorably to boldly reach for the polo packet and start anew.

3. Polo Mint and Śūnyatā (Emptiness): Mahayana Buddhism

Inevitably, one is drawn into reflecting that Polo mints are a reminder of Koantian teachings, namely, that all things are empty of intrinsic existence and nature.4 Polo mints grant us the honest realization that there is no hope of finding the essence of being and the Universe. This is in stark contrast to the naughty candies with filling that give the illusion and false hope of purpose and that evince an eagerness to consume an inner essence. Polo mints, at their heart, are more sensible; they teach you without verbose pretension or hollow promises, through lived experience, about the straightforward reality concerning the nothingness at the centre of the voidness of existence. They are mint to relax and cool you, chilling out your mintality, through the ‘soft’ practice of non-attachment.

4. Ontological Grounding of Polo Mints: The Toroidal Universe with ‘Nothing’ at the Centre

In the past, lacking in refined taste, scientists have believed that the Universe is doughnut-shaped.5 Our advanced, self-contradictory Polo Mint contemplations propose a more crisp model of the lived Universe without sugarcoating or fillings. As we contemplate the shape of the Polo, as it rests on the tongue, its uniform toroidal nature strikes us for it revolves unaltered about its plane enticing a recurrent reverie. There is a certain infinitesimality to its form that leaves us pondering whether there are indeed boundaries to what it is and what it has to say. We might recognize that our conscious experience is the phenomenal object and yet we remain cognizant of the infinite scope of the noumenal object, that is, of the conceived simultaneity of every possibility and of every non-possibility.

5. Tao and Dialectics of the Polo Mint: Sweet Aftertaste of Emptiness

The Polo is dialectic by nature: it is a thing that represents (or stands for) emptiness and leads to nothingness. It is both a thesis and antithesis of being that nihilates itself with a sweet yet diminishing aftertaste – the Tao returning to its nameless existence.

The Tao that can be told is not the eternal Tao; the name that can be named is not the eternal name. The Nameless is the origin of Heaven and Earth; the Named is the mother of all things. (Tao Te Ching, ch. 1)

What this suggests is that the journey to the centre of nothingness holds unparalleled promise. What is that flavour and taste of nothingness? We are reminded of the story about the Dalai Lama who walks into a pizza shop and says ‘Can you make me one with everything?’ In our contemplations, we are still questioning whether a pizzeria is the best venue to be ‘one with everything’. A pizza, without subtlety, stuffs you full of dough; with everything you will in fact find nothing. We suggest looking instead to be one with nothing; the change must come from within the centre of the Polo. With the tasty embracing of nothing … everything comes to you!


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