The Secret to Happiness? Thinking About Death.

In an excerpt from his new book The Comfort Crisis, journalist Michael Easter travels to Bhutan to learn about how confronting death head-on can lead to a more fulfilled life by Michael Easter In his new book, The Comfort Crisis, Michael Easter investigates the connection between modern comforts and conveniences and some of our most pressing problems, like heart disease, diabetes, depression, and a sense of purposelessness. Turns out, engaging with a handful of evolutionary discomforts can dramatically improve our mental, physical, and spiritual wellbeing. One of those fruitful discomforts? Thinking about dying. Death has always been the most uncomfortable … Continue reading The Secret to Happiness? Thinking About Death.

An Anthropologist’s Case for Working Less and Relaxing More

by Editors Our work consumes us. But does it have to? Anthropologist James Suzman has spent decades living in the Kalahari Desert with one of the world’s last hunter-gatherer societies, and he’s concluded that our modern attitudes about work don’t mesh with the views held by our ancestors. For 95 percent of human history, we spent the bulk of our time doing… nothing. So what changed? Today on the Next Big Idea podcast, James sits down with Next Big Idea Club curator Adam Grant to advocate for spending less time toiling away at labor we loathe, and more time working at things we love. Listen to … Continue reading An Anthropologist’s Case for Working Less and Relaxing More

You Can’t Dissect a Virtual Cadaver

What is lost when we lose in-person learning. BY MICHAEL DENHAM Last year, my first in medical school at Columbia University, I used a bone saw to slice through the top half of a cadaver’s skull, revealing a gray brain lined with purple blood vessels. This was Clinical Gross Anatomy, the first-year course that has fascinated or devastated (or both) every medical student. You never forget the day you open the skull. Cutting into the brain, unlike the muscles of a forearm or the arteries running down a thigh, feels personal. As a cloud of aerosolized bone dust particles darkened … Continue reading You Can’t Dissect a Virtual Cadaver

Authenticity is a sham

From monks to existentialists and hipsters, the search for a true self has been a centuries-long project. Should we give it up? by Alexander Stern is a writer whose work has appeared in The New York Times, The Chronicle of Higher Education and the LA Review of Books, among others.  Edited by Sam Dresser ‘Be yourself. Everyone else is already taken.’ This popular quip, often misattributed to Oscar Wilde, appears without any apparent irony in self-help books and blog posts celebrating authenticity. Understandably, they take the dictum to ‘be oneself’ as a worthy, nearly unassailable goal. Our culture is saturated with authenticity: we’re forever ‘finding ourselves’, … Continue reading Authenticity is a sham

When the Line Between Life and Death Is ‘a Little Bit Fuzzy’

Every state recognizes brain death. But rules vary, and the true line separating life from death is ambiguous as ever. BY LOLA BUTCHER UNTIL SEPT. 17, 2020, Sharon Frederick was an ostensibly healthy 63-year-old woman who spent her days caring for her disabled sister and going to church. That evening, she was praying the rosary over the telephone with a friend when she began slurring her words. By the time an ambulance delivered her to St. Elizabeth Medical Center in Utica, New York, Frederick was comatose after suffering a massive stroke. Four days later, a physician declared her to be brain dead, … Continue reading When the Line Between Life and Death Is ‘a Little Bit Fuzzy’

Mind and God: The new science of neurotheology

Studies show that religion and spirituality are positively linked to good mental health. Our research aims to figure out how and why. by Andrew Newberg  Neurotheology is a field that unites brain science and psychology with religious belief and practices. There are several indirect and direct mechanisms that link spirituality with improved mental health. Compassion and love are positive emotions that will make your brain healthier. The field of neurotheology continues to expand from its early origins several decades ago to the present day. In its simplest definition, neurotheology refers to the field of scholarship that seeks to understand the relationship between … Continue reading Mind and God: The new science of neurotheology

The myths that hint at past disaster

10th May 2021Myths and fables passed down over thousands of years are full of fantastic creatures and warring gods. But they also might contain evidence of environmental disasters of the past. By Mark Piesing For those affected, it could seem like the end of the world. Residents of Stinson Beach, a popular tourist destination near San Francisco, are coming to terms with studies that show large parts of their neighbourhood will be under a foot of water in less than 20 years. The affluent are able to build homes on raised foundations and afford expensive sea defences that will hold the … Continue reading The myths that hint at past disaster

Why Am I Still Embarrassed About Things That Happened 10 Years Ago?

by Daniel Kolitz It’s a nice day, you’re strolling along, music’s queued up, prospects looking good, your sweater’s matching your pants, the person you’re seeing just sent you a cute text, no one you know is actively sick or angry at you, your dreams are, if not on the brink of actualization, not impossibly far from it, and yet here you are, suddenly bowled over by the memory of some dumb thing you said a decade ago. That’s the power of embarrassment. Doesn’t matter how long it’s been. Doesn’t matter how thoroughly you’ve attempted to remake yourself. Embarrassment doesn’t care … Continue reading Why Am I Still Embarrassed About Things That Happened 10 Years Ago?

Between Science and Magic: How Hummingbirds Hover at the Edge of the Possible

How a tiny creature faster than the Space Shuttle balances the impossible equation of extreme fragility and superhuman strength. BY MARIA POPOVA Frida Kahlo painted a hummingbird into her fiercest self-portrait. Technology historian Steven Johnson drew on hummingbirds as the perfect metaphor for revolutionary innovation. Walt Whitman found great joy and solace in watching a hummingbird “coming and going, daintily balancing and shimmering about,” as he was learning anew how to balance a body coming and going in the world after his paralytic stroke. For poet and gardener Ross Gay, “the hummingbird hovering there with its green-gold breast shimmering, slipping its needle nose … Continue reading Between Science and Magic: How Hummingbirds Hover at the Edge of the Possible

Changed by art

Gazing at a painting feels like an almost magical encounter with another mind but what real effects does art have on us? Ellen Winner is professor of psychology at Boston College and senior research associate at Project Zero at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Her most recent book is How Art Works: A Psychological Exploration (2018).  Edited by Nigel Warburton Scenario 1: suppose you’ve been gazing intensely at Rembrandt’s Self-Portrait (1659), which hangs in the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC, and later you’re told that this was actually a painting made by a deep-learning machine that had internalised Rembrandt’s style through exposure to his … Continue reading Changed by art