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Think Again – a Big Think Podcast

Updated 6 days ago

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We surprise some of the world's brightest minds with ideas they're not at all prepared to discuss. With host Jason Gots and special guests Neil Gaiman, Alan Alda, Salman Rushdie, Mary-Louise Parker, Richard Dawkins, Margaret Atwood, Sam Harris, Daniel Dennett, Saul Williams, Henry Rollins, Bill Nye, George Takei, Maria Popova, and many more . . .You've got 10 minutes with Einstein. What do you talk about? Black holes? Time travel?Why not gambling? The Art of War? Contemporary parenting?Some of the best conversations happen when we're pushed outside of our comfort zones. So each week on Think Again, we surprise smart people you've probably heard of with hand-picked gems from Big Think's interview archives on every imaginable subject. The conversation could go anywhere. SINCE 2008, BIG THINK has captured on video the best ideas of the world’s leading thinkers and doers in every field, renowned experts including neurologist Oliver Sacks, physicist Stephen Hawking, behavioral psychologist Daniel Kahneman, authors Margaret Atwood and Marylinne Robinson, entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson, painter Chuck Close, and philosopher Daniel Dennett.

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We surprise some of the world's brightest minds with ideas they're not at all prepared to discuss. With host Jason Gots and special guests Neil Gaiman, Alan Alda, Salman Rushdie, Mary-Louise Parker, Richard Dawkins, Margaret Atwood, Sam Harris, Daniel Dennett, Saul Williams, Henry Rollins, Bill Nye, George Takei, Maria Popova, and many more . . .You've got 10 minutes with Einstein. What do you talk about? Black holes? Time travel?Why not gambling? The Art of War? Contemporary parenting?Some of the best conversations happen when we're pushed outside of our comfort zones. So each week on Think Again, we surprise smart people you've probably heard of with hand-picked gems from Big Think's interview archives on every imaginable subject. The conversation could go anywhere. SINCE 2008, BIG THINK has captured on video the best ideas of the world’s leading thinkers and doers in every field, renowned experts including neurologist Oliver Sacks, physicist Stephen Hawking, behavioral psychologist Daniel Kahneman, authors Margaret Atwood and Marylinne Robinson, entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson, painter Chuck Close, and philosopher Daniel Dennett.

iTunes Ratings

543 Ratings
Average Ratings
369
133
16
11
14

Profoundly beautiful show.

By peter dodo - Nov 13 2019
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A treat every time, deep interviews with some incredible guests Thank you !!

Fantastic

By clint wolf - Jun 10 2019
Read more
A terrific podcast. Very interesting guests and topics. Thanks.

iTunes Ratings

543 Ratings
Average Ratings
369
133
16
11
14

Profoundly beautiful show.

By peter dodo - Nov 13 2019
Read more
A treat every time, deep interviews with some incredible guests Thank you !!

Fantastic

By clint wolf - Jun 10 2019
Read more
A terrific podcast. Very interesting guests and topics. Thanks.
Cover image of Think Again – a Big Think Podcast

Think Again – a Big Think Podcast

Latest release on Feb 22, 2020

All 232 episodes from oldest to newest

231. Marlon James (Jason Plays Favorites #3) – don't get too comfortable

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At this point, it’s very rare to read something and find myself thinking: This is something new. This is unlike anything I’ve ever read before. It doesn’t have to be written in hieroglyphs or be some kind of three-dimensional interactive reading experience with pull-out tabs and half the pages upside down. That kind of formal experimentation, in my experience as a reader, more often ends up being gimmicky and annoying than exhilarating. In fact, paradoxically, the “wow this is something new” experience often comes along with a sense that this new thing has somehow always existed, in your dreams if nowhere else. 

Marlon James—the Jamaican writer who won the Man Booker Prize for A Brief History of Seven Killings— has done something in his new fantasy novel Black Leopard, Red Wolf that’s unlike anything I’ve ever read before. The first book of a trilogy, it’s been described as an “African Game of Thrones” and likened in scope to Tolkien’s Lord of The Rings. But the stories within stories it tells and the shifts in voice and perspective thrust you into a seething, hallucinatory, morally ambiguous world that’s part Ayahuasca dream and part blacklight nightmare, anchored in a rich African mythology that’s worlds away from all those elves, wizards, dragons, and goblins—all those well-worn tales of light versus darkness. 

Surprise conversation-starters in this episode: 

Jeffrey Sachs on whether Jeff Bezos should distribute his Amazon wealth

Damian Echols on tattoos as a lifeline 

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Feb 22 2020

56mins

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230. Eve Ensler (Jason Plays Favorites #2) – no way out but through

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[From February through March 22, 2020 (his last day hosting Think Again) Jason will be revisiting favorite past episodes. Jason's new show, starting May 12th, is Clever Creature with Jason Gots.]

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Note: I feel I should let listeners know that this episode of Think Again is about surviving and thriving in the face of unspeakable trauma and sexual violence. And in order to get to the thriving, we have talk about the trauma, which may be painful for some listeners and inappropriate for kids. But I don’t want to scare anybody off—I think it’s one of the most valuable conversations we’ve ever had on the show. 

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For a human child growing up, trust is the foundation of everything. We learn how to regulate our emotions, how to see the world as relatively stable and safe through the connection with the people who care for us. Severely neglected children can suffer all kinds of harm to their ability to think, connect with others, and learn. But what happens when the caring bond is not only missing, but is horribly abused? Distorted through incest and sexual violence? How do you build a self and life after that? And let’s say you somehow manage to survive to adulthood…to thrive, even. How do you fill the place in your heart where the love and the trust is supposed to be?

My guest today has had to answer all these questions for herself. She is the playwright, author, and activist Eve Ensler. You may know her as the creator of the Vagina Monlogues. What you might not know is that all the horrors I’m talking about happened to her as a kid. Let me take that out of the passive voice: her father did that to her, and more. And he died without saying anything remotely close to “I’m sorry”. So Eve wrote his apology for him—her book THE APOLOGY is a letter to her—to Eve—in the imagined voice of her dead father, retelling what happened, why it happened, and trying to figure out in these twisted circumstances what an apology would even mean…

Surprise conversation starters in this episode:

Jared Diamond on immigrants and innovation 

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Thoughts on relistening

This episode with Eve Ensler means a lot to me. I came late to the feminist conversation about patriarchy and masculinity. About the ways men are taught to be ashamed of vulnerability, and how all that fear and shame can lead to violence. Listening back I’m struck again by this one thing she says: “Language changes everything. It’s like the word 'vagina'. If you can’t say it, you can’t see it. If you can’t see it, a lot of things can happen to it in the dark without your permission.” There is so much hope and power in the work Eve does to break the silence and encourage others to do the same. As a man, I hear it especially loud and clear when she says it’s time for men to “...make a choice. Whether they’re going to maintain allegiance to the male code or step into the next paradigm. Stopping the domination so they get to be free in this lifetime.” I hear it and I personally, enthusiastically accept that call. 

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Feb 15 2020

1hr 2mins

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229. David Sedaris (Jason Plays Favorites #1) – Sir David of the Spotless Roadways

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[From February through March 22, 2020 (his last day hosting Think Again) Jason will be revisiting favorite past episodes. Jason's new show, starting May 12th, is Clever Creature with Jason Gots.]


Life is full of horrible things. I dare you to deny it. Things like death, sickness, and alcoholism. And did I mention death, which lies in wait for us all? But if you talk about these things at dinner parties, or at work, or to someone you have just met in line at the grocery store, you risk being branded a negative person. In some circles, such as the state of California, negativity is like leprosy. It can really mess up your social life.

This does not seem to trouble my guest today, who has spent much of his life turning horrible, true stories into festive comedy. like many people, I first heard David Sedaris’ unmistakable voice on public radio in the late 90s. My sister and I took a couple of his audio books on a road trip across America in her red Saturn with a bumper sticker on the back that read “Humanity is Trying”. Having Sedaris along as company somehow made the endless miles of Stuckeys’ and strip malls, and the weeping people at Elvis‘s grave side in Graceland a little less alien and terrifying. In his latest book, Calypso, David is doing his thing better than ever. It’s about what’s on his mind these days, from decluttering the English countryside, to feeding a surgically removed lump of fat to a snapping turtle, to a sister’s suicide.

Surprise conversation-starter clips in this episode:

Martin Amis on the “etiquette” of good writing

Lucy Cooke on the extraordinary genitalia of female spotted hyenas

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Feb 08 2020

1hr 4mins

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228. Sharon Salzberg (meditation and mindfulness teacher) – on balance

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Since 1976, Sharon Salzberg has been sharing ancient meditation and mindfulness practices in a voice the contemporary West can understand. Her warm, funny, down-to-earth books, dharma talks, and guided meditations have helped struggling meditators worldwide establish a strong practice and reduce the suffering in their lives. In this episode master teacher Sharon Salzberg considers whether it's ok to teach mindfulness to the armed forces, how practitioners of meditation and mindfulness should balance openness with discipline, and so much more. Sharon’s latest book is Real Happiness: a 28 day program for realizing the power of meditation, now thoroughly updated and revised for its 10th anniversary. 

Note: This will be the last original episode of Think Again with show creator and host Jason Gots. Throughout February and March he’ll be running a retrospective of favorite episodes with new commentary. On May 12, 2020, he’ll launch a new, independent show: Clever Creature

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Feb 01 2020

51mins

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227. Roz Chast and Patricia Marx (cartoons, words, ukuleles) – The Beatles stole everything from us

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Thelma and Louise, Ponch and John, Pancho and Lefty, Quixote and Sancho Panza, Marx and Engels, Marx and Chast…history and literature are full of magical buddy stories. Every now and then, for reasons no one can explain, Two people come together and produce something greater, or at least very different, from the sum of their parts.

I’m here today with one such team: the writer-cartoonist duo of Patricia Marx and Roz Chast. They’re both longtime contributors to the New Yorker and fearsome humorists in their own rights. But together they form a third fearsome thing, a thing which has created books such as Why Don’t You Write My Eulogy Now So I Can Correct it: A Mother’s Suggestions, And their latest: You Can Only Yell At Me For One Thing At A Time: Rules for Couples. They’re also the enigmatic figures behind yet a fourth thing, the legendary ukulele band Ukelear Meltdown. 

Jason Gots

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Jan 25 2020

45mins

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226. Joseph Goldstein (dharma teacher) – doubt comes masquerading as wisdom

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Freedom. Everyone wants it, but knowing where to look for it is another matter. And to make matters worse, the world is full of things that feel like freedom but might just get us more tangled up in everything we’re trying to escape. How much freedom can money buy? How much money? How free are you on a tropical vacation? Would uploading your consciousness into the cloud and downloading it into a robot avatar on Alpha Centauri make you more free? How about falling in love again? How about three margaritas with friends? Or six? How about falling in love again? A better government? Less government? No government at all? 

I’m here today with Joseph Goldstein, a beloved teacher of Buddhist ideas and practice in the West and a personal inspiration to me, to talk about freedom of the mind and spirit—and the kinds of effort and insight that can lead there. Joseph is the co-founder of Insight Meditation Society in Barre, Massachusetts and the author, most recently, of Mindfulness: a Practical Guide to Awakening

- Jason Gots

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Jan 18 2020

57mins

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225. Jad Abumrad (Radiolab, Dolly Parton's America) – American Multiverse

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If you’d told me a couple months ago that a podcast about Dolly Parton could move me deeply and raise all kinds of questions that go straight to the wounded heart of America today, I guess I would have been skeptical to say the least.

But that skepticism might be exactly the point. America is an image factory. Country music. Rock and Roll. New York City. Nashville. We paint with big, broad brushes. And if we’re not careful, we miss a lot of the details. 

My guest today is audio storytelling wizard Jad Abumrad. He’s the creator and a host of Radiolab, More Perfect, and now, of Dolly Parton’s America – a nine part podcast series that achieves all those aforementioned implausible things. Jad’s trips into the Dollyverse with his co-producer Shima Oliaee reveal the country singer as something between a bodhisattva and one of those fairytale mirrors that tell you the truth about yourself. 

Jason Gots

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Dec 21 2019

47mins

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224. Norman Fischer (zen priest, poet) – the only way out of the catastrophe we’re in

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The other day on social media a friend asked what the heck is up with this Mr. Rogers revival. Why does everyone suddenly love this guy so much? Moments before, I had been listening to a new podcast about Dolly Parton, and her weird, almost saintlike ability to bring people together across cultural divides. In a moment of deep mistrust and cynicism, there’s this hunger for people and things worth believing in. 

I’ve also got Bodhisattvas on the brain lately. In Mahayana Buddhism, Bodhisattvas are the embodiment of compassion. Absolute compassion for all living things, even those that really piss us off. 

THE WORLD COULD BE OTHERWISE: the Imagination and the Bodhisattva Path is a wonderful new book by my guest today, poet, Zen priest, and translator Norman Fischer. It’s a collection of thoughts and practices for becoming Bodhisattvas ourselves, warts and all.

A Bodhisattva commits to the impossible for the benefit of everyone. “beings are numberless: I vow to save them all.” According to Norman and a couple thousand years of Buddhist tradition, we can do this too. 

Boddhisattvas or saints, Dolly and Fred Rogers possibly included, are needed at all times and places. But right now, when trust and kindness are in short supply, we maybe need them—and need to embody them—more than ever. 

Jason Gots

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Dec 14 2019

1hr 1min

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223. Karen Armstrong (theologian) – the art of getting outside of yourself

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I’ve spent more of my life than most people I know immersed by choice in what my guest today would call “scripture”. I was never much of a Roman Catholic, in spite of being dragged weekly to church until I was about 13 and could no longer be dragged, and, in my boredom, sometimes believing I saw the statue of Jesus moving on the cross. But in late adulthood, the need for spiritual meaning gripped me tight and wouldn’t let go. It led first into Judaism and Jerusalem, and then, for the past couple decades, mostly to Buddhist study and practice.

But I’m as troubled as all the Enlightenment thinkers I know by scripture-thumping orthodoxy and intolerance of any kind. Troubled watching my wife Demet’s country, Turkey, split between retrograde, homophobic and misogynistic Islamism on the one hand and intractable secular nationalism on the other. Moses and I don’t have much in common, but like him, I get tongue-tied talking about these things. Religious, or spiritual, or scriptural ideas and practices can be so essential and become so problematic at the same time. 

My guest today is Karen Armstrong. On these subjects, she doesn’t get tongue-tied. She’s one of the clearest and most nuanced thinkers I know of on god, religion, and scripture. Author of THE SPIRAL STAIRCASE and THE CASE FOR GOD, recipient of the TED Prize, and a co-creator of the interfaith Charter for Compassion. Her new book is called THE LOST ART OF SCRIPTURE and I’m so happy it brings her to Think Again. 

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Dec 07 2019

51mins

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222. Deborah Levy (writer) – it's those thoughts that are slightly awkward that need an airing

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While reading Deborah Levy’s novel THE MAN WHO SAW EVERYTHING and her recent “working autobiography” THE COST OF LIVING I often found myself pausing and kind of sinking into a passage I’d just read. Going back and rereading it not because my attention had wandered nor exactly to unpack an idea but because I felt the need to experience it over again. To have it happen to me. 

Levy started her career writing plays that have been staged by the Royal Shakespeare Company and broadcast by the BBC. She is the author of multiple novels, several of which have been Man Booker Prize finalists, the short story collection Black Vodka, and two of the aforementioned “working autobiographies”. 

The two books of hers I’ve read are packed with ideas, but like great theater, they treat ideas as verbs. They’re thought in action. In a sense they defy you to talk about them. But let's try to, anyway.

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Nov 30 2019

44mins

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