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...

Ruth Whippman—a mindful, productive, super-positive nation of nervous wrecks

With the help of positive psychology and the happiness industry, many of us seem to be running in the exact opposite direction of happiness.

Think Again Podcasts
  • "It's almost like the only way we can understand leisure is as a productivity hack."
  • "If we think of happiness as an individual responsibility, that stands in the way of building a society in which the conditions are there for everybody to thrive."


In the years before the election of the impossible president rent forever the very fabric of being, the band Radiohead was busy channeling something many of us were feeling but nobody was really talking about. A kind of ambient, multivalent state of anxiety that seemed to characterize life in the mid-to-late '90s. Listening to Radiohead was therapeutic. Your own awkward, unpresentable panic somehow dissolved into their sonic ocean, where it was transformed into sexy, transcendent beauty. It felt, uh…empowering?

In a New York Times Op-Ed last week, Ruth Whippman wrote: "After a couple of decades of constant advice to 'follow our passions' and 'live our dreams,' for a certain type of relatively privileged modern freelancer, nothing less than total self-actualization at work now seems enough. But this leaves us with an angsty mismatch between personal expectation and economic reality. Almost everyone I know now has some kind of hustle, whether job, hobby, or side or vanity project. Share my blog post, buy my book, click on my link, follow me on Instagram, visit my Etsy shop, donate to my Kickstarter, crowdfund my heart surgery. It's as though we are all working in Walmart on an endless Black Friday of the soul."

Modern anxiety cuts across national borders and social classes, but in America right now its artisanal flavor is a blend of soaring, media-driven dreams and dwindling probabilities of making a living while pursuing them. And nobody's more eloquent or wickedly funny about this reality than Ruth Whippman, the author of AMERICA THE ANXIOUS. I'm genuinely, sustainably happy that she's here with me today.

Surprise conversation starter clips in this episode:

Jonathan Haidt on overparenting

Lucy Cooke on anthropomorphizing animals

Related Articles

Will Hunt (explorer) – into the Earth: the mysteries and meanings of underground spaces

The catacombs of Paris. Secret graffiti beneath NYC. The hidden cities of Cappadocia. Writer and explorer Will Hunt is your philosophical tour guide to what lies beneath.

Think Again Podcasts
  • "The surface of the earth is where we're rational . . . Part of us dreads the chaos, and part of us is always attracted to it."
  • "There were these things hanging from the ceiling…long strands of bacteria called "snotsicles"… But at our feet was a natural stream that had been running through Brooklyn forever."
  • "It's…about death. Undergoing a death. We're going into the other world and then retreating to the surface… changed in some way."
Keep reading Show less

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.

Think Again Podcasts
  • "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."
Keep reading Show less

Don’t get too comfortable: Marlon James on his “African 'Game of Thrones'”

Man-Booker prizewinning author Marlon James in a freewheeling game of verbal ping-pong on African mythology, '80's hip hop, heavy metal, tattoos, and billionaire philanthropy.

Think Again Podcasts
  • "Black Leopard, Red Wolf" has been compared to "Lord of the Rings" and "Game of Thrones", but it's something entirely different.
  • Growing up gay in a deeply religious Jamaica and writing his way out of there.
  • Trickster narrators, truths you have to sort out for yourself.

Keep reading Show less

Connect with us

How to listen

You can listen to Think Again right here on site, or select your podcast app:

Apple Podcast Spotify Stitcher RSS feed