Why Your Job Won’t Help You Find Meaning

Since the 16th-century Protestant Reformation, and the work ethic that it spawned, employment has provided an outsized source of meaning for those living in the Western world. “Work was where you became your truest self,” writes the historian James Livingston. “We’ve believed that even if it sucks, the job gives meaning, purpose, and structure to our everyday … Continued

Why We Need More Intellectual Humility

I can remember, almost a decade ago, when I was convinced out of my “Young-Earth” Creationism. It was almost a process of de-radicalization. During high school I was a generic Christian, but then some friends suggested I watch a video of a pastor online and, well, you can guess the rest. The message encouraged spreading skepticism … Continued

How Jack London’s Life Influenced His Fiction

Having myself been homeless for most of 2012, I was struck by the recognition that life for the poorest among us, the unhoused, is today very much what it was a hundred years ago when Jack London wrote about his own experience of poverty. Like me, London knew the general torpor into which poverty drives … Continued

How Chess Changed the Lives of Schoolkids

Chess has been around for 1,500 years but until a couple of summers ago the ancient game was still mostly a mystery to the folks of rural Franklin County, Mississippi. Few had ever played chess before, many confused it with checkers. A chess board was as out of place in the county as a skyscraper, … Continued

Why Silicon Valley Billionaires Think They Should Live Forever

On a velvety March evening in Mandeville Canyon, high above the rest of Los Angeles, Norman Lear’s living room was jammed with powerful people eager to learn the secrets of longevity. When the symposium’s first speaker asked how many people there wanted to live to two hundred, if they could remain healthy, almost every hand went … Continued

Do You Have a Romantic “Type”?

Have you ever noticed that all of your exes look alike? Or, if they somehow vary in appearance, they at least have a ton in common — from similar education and religious backgrounds to the same uncanny ability to text you at the worst times in your life? While it may seem that you simply … Continued

How Victor Hugo Landed the First Blockbuster Book Deal

Earlier this month, Penguin Random House bid more than sixty-five million dollars for the global rights to books by Barack and Michelle Obama, breaking the record for U.S. presidential memoirs. Despite the stratospheric price tag and the international headlines, the transaction lacked a certain excitement—it was a fantastic deal, but without frisson. After all, a behemoth publisher … Continued

Why It’s So Difficult to Remember Your Childhood

I’m the youngest by far of five children. My mother was 35 when she conceived me in 1951, so chagrined by this chronological indiscretion that she tried to hide the pregnancy from her sister. My mortified oldest brother didn’t want to tell his high-school friends that a new baby was on the way, but it … Continued

Are You a Cubicle Jockey or a Tough Mudder?

Most office workers sit for 10 hours a day, but if they sign up for the Tough Mudder, a military-style obstacle course, they’ll certainly be on their feet—running through live electrical wires. They’ll also be on their hands, swinging from treacherous-looking monkey bars, and on their stomachs, crawling through the mud. And yet, millions of people have paid … Continued

Tyrant vs. Servant: Which One Are You?

At the 2012 Democratic National Convention, Michelle Obama told the crowd, “Being president doesn’t change who you are. It reveals who you are.” Growing up, Michelle said, she and Barack learned important lessons from their families about “dignity and decency” and “gratitude and humility.” “At the end of the day,” she said, “when it comes … Continued