Jeremy Anderberg is a managing editor and podcast producer at Art of Manliness.
Most everyone has experienced restlessness from time to time. A feeling of wanting more, but being unsure of how to find it; of struggling with distraction, but being unsure of what to focus on; of striking out in various directions, but not feeling any more fulfilled. While we tend to think of restlessness as a very modern phenomenon, a French diplomat and philosopher, Alexis de Tocqueville, observed the very same problems in America two centuries ago. And the roots of our restlessness go back even further still. My guests today will trace some of these genealogical branches for us. Their names are Benjamin and Jenna Storey, they're a married couple, professors of political philosophy, and the authors of the book Why We Are Restless: On the Modern Quest for Contentment. We begin our conversation with how the Storeys' inquiry into restlessness began from observing existential meltdowns in their students and a constant but unfulfilling busyness in their friends. The Storeys then explain how Tocqueville observed a similar phenomenon at the start of the 19th century, before digging into two of the philosophers Tocqueville's observations were shaped by: Michel de Montaigne and Blaise Pascal. They first unpack Montaigne's ideal of living a life of cool, nonchalant, existential indifference, which sought contentment in the here and now, and then discuss Pascal's critique of that philosophy, in which he argued that seeking diversion and distraction for its own sake only makes us miserable, and that humans must engage in an anguished search for something beyond ourselves. We then explore what happened in the West when Montaigne's approach to life was adopted by the masses, and how it's led to feelings of existential failure, an impossible search for constant happiness, envy, loneliness, and acrimonious political debates. At the end of our conversation, the Storeys argue that while restlessness can never be entirely extinguished, it can be tamed, and suggest a few ways on how. Get the show notes at aom.is/restlessness. See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
Quick, think of a famous magician. Dimes to donuts, you just thought of Harry Houdini. Though it's been almost a century since his death, Houdini still occupies a prime place in the cultural imagination, and my guest explains why in his book, The Life and Afterlife of Harry Houdini, and for us today on the show. His name is Joe Posnanski, and we begin our conversation with Houdini's childhood -- how he mythologized it and carved a path out for himself from his desire to not be like his father. We then discuss Houdini's early days as a magician, the trick he honed that helped make his name, and the outsized importance of that name in his fame and legacy. We then explore how escape artistry became Houdini's calling card and why it resonated so much with the public. We get into the way Houdini brought an athlete's physicality and mindset to his performances, and how the difference between magic and escape artistry can be described as the difference between the impossible and the amazing. From there we turn to the fact that Houdini was, and wasn't, interested in money, his insatiable ambition and drive for fame, and how even the turn he took later in life towards debunking spiritualism kept him in the public eye. We end our conversation with why some modern magicians downplay Houdini's talents, while he yet remains an enduring cultural icon amongst the public. Get the show notes at aom.is/houdini. See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
Before Gary Collins left a bureaucratic government job to pursue a more independent existence off the grid, he had to work on downsizing and decluttering his life. The lessons he learned in ultimately achieving that aim apply to everyone — even those with no plans to leave civilization — who would like to lead a simpler life. Gary shares those lessons in his book The Simple Life Guide to Decluttering Your Life, and with us today on the show. We begin with why it's so easy to get caught up in the consumerism-driven "cult of clutter," how the clutter it generates extends far past a person's tangible stuff, and the cost it exacts from our lives in both financial and psychological terms. Gary then explains how to simplify and declutter every aspect of your life — the material, of course, but also the technological, informational, and even social. Along the way, this self-described "redneck hippie" offers no-nonsense advice that refreshingly departs from the kind of soft glow, artfully arranged, white background pictures of minimalism you might find on Instagram. Because Gary's not on Instagram. That would be clutter. Get the show notes at aom.is/simplelife. See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
Despite the fact that public speaking remains an important and relevant skill in our modern age -- you never know when you'll need to give a toast at a wedding, pitch an idea at work, or champion a proposal at a city council meeting -- most of us get very little instruction these days in how to do it effectively. Fortunately, my guest says, we can look to the great orators of the past to get the public speaking education we never received. His name is John Hale, and he's professor of archeology as well the lecturer of The Great Courses course Art of Public Speaking: Lessons from the Greatest Speeches in History. Today on the show, John shares what we can learn about the physicality of public speaking from Demontheses of Athens, the importance of empathetic body language from Patrick Henry, the effective use of humor from Will Rogers, the power of three from the apostle Paul, and the potency of brevity and well-executed organization from Abraham Lincoln.  Get the show notes at aom.is/publicspeak. See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
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Creator Details

Episode Count
884
Podcast Count
1
Total Airtime
3 weeks, 11 hours
PCID
Podchaser Creator ID logo 751998