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...
theologian Karen Armstrong on the lost art of getting outside of yourself
Confucianism, Islam, Christianity, Hinduism—the world's scriptural belief systems take many different forms but all tend toward 'kenosis'—self-transcendence for the benefit of others. And all have been used and abused for less spiritual ends. Former nun and renowned theologian Karen Armstrong on the lost art of scripture.
I've spent more of my life than most people I know immersed by choice in what my guest today would call "scripture". I was never much of a Roman Catholic, in spite of being dragged weekly to church until I was about 13 and could no longer be dragged, and, in my boredom, sometimes believing I saw the statue of Jesus moving on the cross. But in late adulthood, the need for spiritual meaning gripped me tight and wouldn't let go. It led first into Judaism and Jerusalem, and then, for the past couple decades, mostly to Buddhist study and practice.
But I'm as troubled as all the Enlightenment thinkers I know by scripture-thumping orthodoxy and intolerance of any kind. Troubled watching my wife Demet's country, Turkey, split between retrograde, homophobic and misogynistic Islamism on the one hand and intractable secular nationalism on the other. Moses and I don't have much in common, but like him, I get tongue-tied talking about these things. Religious, or spiritual, or scriptural ideas and practices can be so essential and become so problematic at the same time.
My guest today is Karen Armstrong. On these subjects, she doesn't get tongue-tied. She's one of the clearest and most nuanced thinkers I know of on god, religion, and scripture. Author of THE SPIRAL STAIRCASE and THE CASE FOR GOD, recipient of the TED Prize, and a co-creator of the interfaith Charter for Compassion. Her new book is called THE LOST ART OF SCRIPTURE and I'm so happy it brings her to Think Again.
Having helped transform how creative work is financed, Yancey Strickler has moved on from Kickstarter, the company he co-founded toward a kind of values reset that moves us away from a narrow, unsustainable, inhumane obsession with profit at all costs.
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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