Behind the Quest for Eternal Life

In “The Price of Immortality,” journalist Peter Ward explores the frontiers of longevity science and pseudoscience. BY JENNY MORBER AT FIRST GLANCE, one might assume that Peter Ward’s “The Price of Immortality: The Race to Live Forever” is yet another book promising secrets to regain youth, restore health, and outlive those who lack the knowledge or willpower to cheat time. But this is no self-help book. Instead, it evaluates with a journalist’s eye our best attempts at life extension, the drama and personalities of the people who surround them, and whether immortality is something humankind should be striving for at all. In his … Continue reading Behind the Quest for Eternal Life

Nina Simone’s Gum and the Shimmering Strangeness of How Art Casts Its Transcendent Spell on Us

The metaphysical made physical in a symphonic celebration of imagination, collaboration, and the human heart. BY MARIA POPOVA “Time is a dictator, as we know it,” Nina Simone (February 21, 1933–April 21, 2003) observed in her soulful 1969 meditation on time. “Where does it go? What does it do? Most of all, is it alive?” If time is the substance we are made of, as Borges so memorably wrote the year the teenage Eunice Waymon began studying to become “the world’s first great black classical pianist” before she made herself into Nina Simone, then there is something singularly haunting and mysterious about the fragments … Continue reading Nina Simone’s Gum and the Shimmering Strangeness of How Art Casts Its Transcendent Spell on Us

The Atom and the Doctrine of Identity: Quantum Pioneer Erwin Schrödinger on Bridging Eastern Philosophy and Western Science to Illuminate Consciousness

“The over-all number of minds is just one.” BY MARIA POPOVA “Our minds are all threaded together,” the twenty-one-year-old Virginia Woolf wrote in her diary in the first years of the twentieth century, “& all the world is mind.” Those were the dawning days of quantum mechanics, just beginning to illuminate a whole new order of golden threads holding the world together, just beginning to reverse-engineer the loom with nothing more than the human mind. A decade after Woolf’s death, the Nobel-winning quantum pioneer Erwin Schrödinger In October 1956, Schrödinger delivered a set of lectures at Trinity College under the title Mind and Matter, … Continue reading The Atom and the Doctrine of Identity: Quantum Pioneer Erwin Schrödinger on Bridging Eastern Philosophy and Western Science to Illuminate Consciousness

Don’t Fear the Reaper

Life is uncertain. Love is not. By Susan Moon Iwasn’t at the hospital for the surgery, but Melody and her husband, Mischa, sat in the lobby beside the operating room for the whole three hours while Dr. P. threaded a tube from Friedel’s groin up through the artery, all the way to her neck, and put in a stent. When it was done, Melody called me to say that it had gone well, that Friedel came out of it smiling, and that Dr. P., also smiling, declared, “I’m proud of her!” Melody said, “Friedel’s powerful life force triumphed!” Death receded. When … Continue reading Don’t Fear the Reaper

“God is dead”: What Nietzsche really meant

The death of God didn’t strike Nietzsche as an entirely good thing. Without a God, the basic belief system of Western Europe was in jeopardy. “God is dead” remains one of the most famous quotes from the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche.  The quote is often misunderstood or taken out of context.   Nietzsche was referring to how the Enlightenment had contributed to the erosion of religious beliefs, which had long served as a foundational belief system for much of the world.  by Scotty Hendricks It has been more than 130 years since the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche declared: “God is Dead” (or Gott ist tot, in … Continue reading “God is dead”: What Nietzsche really meant

Existential Comfort Without God

Can natural explanations to life’s big questions be as consoling as religious ones? BY TANIA LOMBROZOS Last month, Harvard University named a new Chief Chaplain: Greg Epstein, an atheist. As reported in The New York Times,1 Epstein, the campus humanist chaplain, was unanimously elected to “coordinate the activities of more than 40 university chaplains, who lead the Christian, Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist, and other religious communities on campus.” Perusing the hundreds of reader comments generated by the Times article revealed broad support. While some questioned whether an atheist could be a “real” chaplain, others suggested that appointing a humanist was a clever move—a way to … Continue reading Existential Comfort Without God

What Happens When We Die

“How can a creature who will certainly die have an understanding of things that will exist forever?” BY MARIA POPOVA When my atheist engineer grandfather died, my atheist engineer grandmother leaned over the body in the hospice bed that had contained half a century of shared life and love, cradled the cranium in which his stubborn and sensitive mind had dwelt, and whispered into the halogen-lit ether: “Where did you go, my darling?” Whatever our beliefs, these sensemaking playthings of the mind, when the moment of material undoing comes, we — creatures of moment and matter — simply cannot fathom … Continue reading What Happens When We Die

A NEUROSCIENTIST PREPARES FOR DEATH

Lessons my terminal cancer has taught me about the mind By David J. Linden About the author: David J. Linden is a neuroscience professor at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and the Kavli Neuroscience Discovery Institute. His most recent book is Unique: The New Science of Human Individuality. When a routine echocardiogram revealed a large mass next to my heart, the radiologist thought it might be a hiatal hernia—a portion of my stomach poking up through my diaphragm to press against the sac containing my heart. “Chug this can of Diet Dr. Pepper and then hop up on the table for another echocardiogram … Continue reading A NEUROSCIENTIST PREPARES FOR DEATH

How to pray to a dead God

The modern world is disenchanted. God remains dead. But our need for transcendence lives on. How should we fulfil it? Ed Simon is a contributing editor for the History News Network and a staff writer at the literary site The Millions. His books include the anthology The God Beat: What Journalism Says about Faith and Why It Matters (2021), co-edited with Costica Bradatan; An Alternative History of Pittsburgh (2021); and Pandemonium: A Visual History of Demonology (forthcoming, 2022). He lives in Washington, DC. On an evening in 1851, a mutton-chopped 28-year-old English poet and critic looked out at the English Channel with his new bride. Walking … Continue reading How to pray to a dead God

One Hundred Karmas

For the first time available in English, a collection of Tibetan teaching stories helps us see how modest acts can have major consequences. By Mindy Newman and Kaia Fischer “When the time arrives—even ifA hundred eons pass—Fruit is born of every actThat sentient beings amass.”—Karmashataka Why is karma, one of the most central Buddhist concepts, so hard to wrap our minds around? It’s nearly impossible for most of us to avoid mistaking karma for a system of reward and retribution, in which we are punished for our “bad” behavior and compensated for the “good.” As Buddhists, even as we work toward kindness and compassion … Continue reading One Hundred Karmas