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Why not gambling? The Art of War? Contemporary parenting?
Each week, host Jason Gots surprises some of the world's brightest minds with ideas they're not at all prepared to discuss. Join us and special guests Neil Gaiman, Alan Alda, Salman Rushdie, Margaret Atwood, Richard Dawkins, Maria Popova, Mary-Louise Parker, Neil deGrasse Tyson and many more...
Eve Ensler (author, activist) - No way out but through
For all the women in the world who never got the apology they needed, and all the men who haven't found the words, and above all for herself, Eve Ensler (THE VAGINA MONOLOGUES) wrote THE APOLOGY. In this searing, unflinching, often surprisingly funny conversation we talk about trauma, compassion, and what it means to apologize for real.
- "I think in the case of men, the more they are separated from their tenderness, their vulnerability, their hearts, their tears... their questions, the more violent they become."
- "Language changes everything. It's like saying the word 'vagina'. If you can't say it, you can't see it. If you can't see it, you can't talk about it. If you can't talk about it a lot can happen it to it in the dark without your permission."
NOTE: I feel I should let listeners know that this episode of Think Again is about surviving and thriving in the face of unspeakable trauma and sexual violence. And in order to get to the thriving, we have talk about the trauma, which may be painful for some listeners and inappropriate for kids. But I don't want to scare anybody off—I think it's one of the most valuable conversations we've ever had on the show.
For a human child growing up, trust is the foundation of everything. We learn how to regulate our emotions, how to see the world as relatively stable and safe through the connection with the people who care for us. Severely neglected children can suffer all kinds of harm to their ability to think, connect with others, and learn. But what happens when the caring bond is not only missing, but is horribly abused? Distorted through incest and sexual violence? How do you build a self and life after that? And let's say you somehow manage to survive to adulthood…to thrive, even. How do you fill the place in your heart where the love and the trust is supposed to be?
My guest today has had to answer all these questions for herself. She is the playwright, author, and activist Eve Ensler. You may know her as the creator of the Vagina Monlogues. What you might not know is that all the horrors I'm talking about happened to her as a kid. Let me take that out of the passive voice: her father did that to her, and more. And he died without saying anything remotely close to "I'm sorry". So Eve wrote his apology for him—her book THE APOLOGY is a letter to her—to Eve—in the imagined voice of her dead father, retelling what happened, why it happened, and trying to figure out in these twisted circumstances what an apology would even mean…
Surprise conversation starters in this episode:
How do you do justice to the truth in a headline-driven world?
- The internet is parasitic on traditional media sources, says Keith Whittington. Traditional news outlets do the hard reporting to generate the facts and notable opinions that other outlets respond to.
- The greatest challenge to truth in journalism is that social media presents news stories out of context; we no longer see news among other news articles, and we may only ever see the headline without the detail and nuance required.
- Media institutions are working to tackle these challenges, but until then it is our responsibility as citizens and consumers to get smarter about how we navigate news feeds and the hyper-partisan press.
Should all speech be free? How much intolerance should society tolerate?
- For society to stay open and free, you don't need to eliminate prejudice. You need the opposite: All kinds of prejudice pitted against each other.
- Intellectual diversity helps society as a whole learn the truth. And as long as society has rules that force ideas to be openly tested, the intolerant will not gain the upper hand.
- "In America it's legal to be intolerant. It may not be right. It may not get you accepted or respected. But absolutely it's legal and it should be legal," says Jonathan Rauch.
Picking up where we left off a year ago, a conversation about the homeostatic imperative as it plays out in everything from bacteria to pharmaceutical companies—and how the marvelous apparatus of the human mind also gets us into all kinds of trouble.
- "Prior to nervous systems: no mind, no consciousness, no intention in the full sense of the term. After nervous systems, gradually we ascend to this possibility of having to this possibility of having minds, having consciousness, and having reasoning that allows us to arrive at some of these very interesting decisions."
- "We are fragile culturally and socially…but life is fragile to begin with. All that it takes is a little bit of bad luck in the management of those supports, and you're cooked…you can actually be cooked—with global warming!"
How do you write away the personal hole in your heart when that hole was left by a man half the world idolizes? Steve Jobs' daughter, the writer Lisa Brennan-Jobs, on the process and effects of writing her beautiful memoir SMALL FRY.
- "If I hadn't gone back with a fine-toothed-comb, a lot of these assumptions I had would have just been the air I breathed into my future."
- "There is something like theft in a memoir. If you want to write about yourself you have to write about other people who are unwitting and don't want to be written about…"
Artist, "bird noticer", and concerned citizen of the digital state of the world Jenny Odell looks at many different ways of resisting the attention economy, sinking into the reality of our lives, and finding solidarity and agency with others.
- "Someone is defining the terms already by asking the question. And if you're not attentive, you will accept those terms."
- "It's really hard to draw a hard line around an entity in any ecological system. And I think this is a great description of the self, too."
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