You've got 10 minutes with Einstein. What do you talk about? Black holes? Time travel?
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...
Ha Jin on the wild and tragic life of China's greatest poet, Li Bai
The 8th century AD was a tough time to be a genius from a poor family in China. Poet and novelist Ha Jin on the tortured life of the legendary drunken poet Li Bai. Also: panpsychism, the value of idleness, and humanities education in America today.
- "I knew in the case of Li Bai, I should follow the poems. Every masterpiece by him would be kind of a small crisis…a center for drama in his life."
- "There are people who want a different kind of fulfillment. Society should be open to that. In the long run, you don't know—maybe those idlers can produce more for the society."
Let's start with a very old poem :
On the bank of Caishi River is Li Bai's grave
Surrounded by wild grass that stretches to clouds.
How sad that the bones buried deep in here
Used to have writings that startled heaven and moved earth.
Of course poets are born unlucky souls
But no one has been as desolate as you.
When you think of an an ancient poet, what do you picture? Wandering? Drinking? A lot of ups and downs? That certainly describes the life of Li Bai, one of the most brilliant and beloved poets in Chinese history—a man of whom it is said that he drowned jumping into a river, drunkenly chasing the reflection of the moon.
In his beautiful new biography THE BANISHED IMMORTAL: a Life of Li Bai, the poet and author Ha Jin paints a vivid picture of this extra-vivid man—who suffered the double misfortune of living in interesting times and being interesting himself. Ha Jin is interesting too—a young soldier in China's Cultural Revolution, he came to America as a grad student. Watching the Tiananmen Square Massacre on TV, he decided to stay in America for good.
Surprise conversation-starters in this episode
As religious diversity increases in the United States, we must learn to channel religious identity into interfaith cooperation.
- Religious diversity is the norm in American life, and that diversity is only increasing, says Eboo Patel.
- Using the most painful moment of his life as a lesson, Eboo Patel explains why it's crucial to be positive and proactive about engaging religious identity towards interfaith cooperation.
- The opinions expressed in this video do not necessarily reflect the views of the Charles Koch Foundation, which encourages the expression of diverse viewpoints within a culture of civil discourse and mutual respect.
When a subculture like drag goes global, it's easy to forget the courage it took, and still takes, for so many people to live on the outside what they know they are on the inside. The maker of WIG and GAGA FIVE FOOT TWO on bravery, authenticity, and the eternal power of youth.
- "For a lot of those kids drag was more punk than punk. Ok, you could shave your head and put on a spike collar… or you could throw on a wig and heels and traipse around Times Square. That was brave. That was radical."
- Lady Gaga writes a hook and the whole world suddenly takes notice…I always thought of it as casting a spell. It's the closest thing to actual magic. Because imagine an incantation that you can just repeat for 3 minutes and it can grab the attention of the entire world."
The wonder and the ethics of deep time. The "wood-wide-web". The claustrophobia of the Anthropocene. In our 200th episode, UNDERLAND author Robert MacFarlane takes us on a journey deep into the Earth and ourselves.
- "We think of ourselves as this surface species. Of builders. But we are a species of burrowers and borers. And we are leaving warrens behind us that dwarf any ant's nest…"
- "That handprint on the cave wall is testimony to that urge to move into darkness in search of meaning—in search of different orders of time."
An ordained Lama in a Tibetan Buddhist lineage, Lama Rod grew up a queer, black male within the black Christian church in the American south. Navigating all of these intersecting, evolving identities has led him to a life's work based on compassion for self and others.
- "What I'm interested in is deep, systematic change. What I understand now is that real change doesn't happen until change on the inside begins to happen."
- "Masculinity is not inherently toxic. Patriarchy is toxic. We have to let that energy go so we can stop forcing other people to do emotional labor for us."
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