Patrick Byrne: What do you believe?
Patrick M. Byrne is the CEO of the Internet retailer Overstock.com. Byrne received his B.A. from Dartmouth, studied at Cambridge University as a Marshall Scholar, and earned a PhD in Philosophy from Stanford University. He co-founded Overstock.com in 1997 and became CEO in 1999. In 2005, Byrne initiated a controversial campaign against "naked short selling" in which he accused a "Sith Lord" and various financial firms of sabotaging Overstock's share price. Byrne also serves as head of First Class Education, an education lobbying group that seeks to require that 65% of all educational spending be spent "in the classroom." A strong proponent of school vouchers, Byrne spent almost four million dollars in advertising for a bill that would have given Utah residents who enroll their children in private schools taxpayer-supported subsidies. The bill lost, 62-38%.
Patrick Byrne: It’s hard to outgrow a heavy Catholic upbringing. I certainly had that. I was an altar boy and left when I was about 13 or 14 and became interested in Asian philosophy. My sense of how the world works is very Daoist, which is to say Daoism . . . Daoism became ..., which in Japan is pronounced “...”. So it’s my, I guess, a Zen sense of how the world works. My sense of my obligations in the world probably come from that . . . that Catholic upbringing. So I’d say if I had a personal philosophy, it would be those . . . those two. I have no disrespect for organized religion, but to me it’s a handrail. And it’s a handrail to help you get somewhere. I mean the idea is . . . The goal is getting . . . Well it’s not even a goal; but there’s that place and those handrails, and it’s easy to confuse the two. I’d say only in the sense of . . . I’m not sure that anything has any meaning. I’m not sure that 50 million years from now, anything we’ve done means anything more than what some ants are crawling around on a rock mean anything more than they have. But if there is meaning, that meaning is to be found in service. It’s in the way you live your life and the . . . and the real service you provided other people. But I’m not even sure that . . . I’m not sure that makes the grade. We may all just end up ...some ants crawling around on a rock in space.
Recorded on: 10/29/07
A shift from Catholicism to Asian philosophy.
Is it acceptable to write a story from the perspective of someone who is completely unlike you?
- Man Booker Prize-winning writer Yann Martel, a Canadian man, has written from the perspectives of a man with AIDS, a body-switching woman, an Indian boy, and 20th-century Portuguese widowers.
- Is it acceptable to write from the perspective of someone who is completely unlike you? Martel believes these transgressions put empathetic imagination into practice, allowing your mind to go where your body cannot.
- In Martel's case, it's the recipe for great art—books that have been loved and read by millions. "[W]e are who we are in relation to others," says Martel. "But the key thing is the empathetic imagination, and the empathetic imagination is the great traveler. And travelers necessarily cross borders. And not only do they have to but it's a thrill to do so. It's a thrill encountering the other."
A review of the global "wall" that divides rich from poor.
- Trump's border wall is only one puzzle piece of a global picture.
- Similar anxieties are raising similar border defenses elsewhere.
- This map shows how, as a result, "the West" is in fact one large gated community.
The inventor Nikola Tesla's esoteric beliefs included unusual theories about the Egyptian pyramids.