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...
private hate, public love, and everything in between – with Jeffrey Israel
Picking up the thread of a conversation they started two decades ago in Jerusalem, with some help from Lenny Bruce, philosopher Martha Nussbaum, and other influences along the way, host Jason Gots and Williams College professor Jeffrey Israel go deep on private grievances, public life, and where the two overlap.
A Rabbi, a Priest, and an Imam walk into a bar. No, wait. Imams don't drink. Most rabbis don't drink much either, come to think of it. Priests drink—at least in the movies—but mostly not in bars . . .
So maybe nobody walks into a bar? How, when, and where are we all supposed to figure out how to get along?
My guest today, who also happens to be an old, good friend of mine, has an answer, or several. He's Jeffrey Israel—a professor of Religion at Williams College and the author of a new book Living with Hate in American Politics and Religion. He argues that pluralistic societies like the United States need two uneasy siblings: a strong political will to recognize and protect our common humanity and also "play spaces" where we can give rein to the difficult feelings- anger, resentment, even hate- that can't be erased by politics, a Beatles song, or just by wishing them away.
In his generous and provocative book, Jeff mines Jewish-American humor from Lenny Bruce, Philip Roth, and the sitcom All in the Family for models of rough and reflective play. Spike Lee's film Do The Right Thing gets a well-deserved star turn, too.
And for a civics that can protect human dignity while making space for all the nastiness and alienation we have no choice but to live with, He looks to philosopher Martha Nussbaum, among others.
It's a difficult conversation for an imperfect and imperfectable world, and the stakes couldn't be higher. So Jeff makes a bold case and invites us all to the table —rabbi, priest, Imam, and the rest us who don't fit into easy categories—to hash it out.
Surprise conversation starters in this episode:
Why campuses are becoming polarized — and what we can do about it.
- The narrowing of academic freedom is a major problem for institutions of higher education.
- Social media, external pressures, and increasingly diverse student bodies — while providing some positives — create more opportunity for misunderstanding and miscommunication.
- Reaffirming the value of and commitment to open debate ensures a more vibrant academic culture.
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Following the Booker shortlisting of her novel 10 Minutes, 38 Seconds in This Strange World, British-Turkish author and activist Elif Shafak returns to Think Again to talk about forgotten lives, the nature of evil, and what we mean by progress.
"I think when you come to grips with what happened, it gives you a chance of doing something different. What's really dark is when you're going through something and you have no perspective." By revisiting—through poetry—his 9 years in prison for a teenage carjacking, Reginald Dwayne Betts finds freedoms most of us have never known.
Some experiences change you so completely that you're left with a choice: either spend your life running from them or spend your life turning them over in memory, trying to find new ways in, through, and out the other side. The power of the impulse to explain or somehow articulate these experiences is inversely proportionate to other people's ability to understand them. They're everything all at once. It seems to me that my guest today has made that second choice, the hard choice not to run away. Or maybe it's a choice you have to keep making over and over again. His name is Reginald Dwayne Betts. He's 39 years old—an accomplished poet and essayist and a graduate of Yale Law School. But he spent most of his teenage years and young adulthood in prison and over a year in solitary confinement, experiences neither society, nor memory, nor his fellow feeling for the more than 2 million people behind bars in the United States, the vast majority of them black men and boys, has let him forget. Dwayne's beautiful and necessary new book of poems is called FELON, and I'm honored to have him with me here today to talk about it.
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