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Podcasts Offer Thoughtful Discussion

Podcasts Offer Erudite Entertainment In Closed-Down World

If current events have you squirreled away at home, looking for something to do, you may find it an auspicious time to check out some more spiritually-oriented podcasts.

Spirited Discussions

Robert Wright’s Meaning of Life (MOL) podcast website (https://meaningoflife.tv/) offers a rich lode of intellectual discussion of cultural and spiritual issues. MOL is something of a spin-off from Bloggingheads (https://bloggingheads.tv/), which the former Atlantic editor co-founded with Mickey Kaus back in 2005 while podcasting was still in its infancy. It was one of the early adopters of the long-form format interviews/discussions (45 minute plus) that was subsequently embraced by enormously popular podcasts like the Joe Rogan Experience.

Though there’s some overlap between the two sites, Bloggingheads focuses more on politics, while MOL is centered more on philosophical and spiritual matters. You can watch both MOL and Bloggingheads discussions online or download audio-only versions for more listening flexibility.

Robert Wright is not the only interviewer on MOL. There are a half dozen ‘channels’ on MOL featuring different interviewers and formats (though not all are still active). But I like Robert’s droll interview style, which manages to be both sharp and gentle at the same time. He’s not afraid to challenge his guests, but discussions rarely get heated, and he always maintains a good rapport with his subjects. He’s also one of the few non-religious intellectual pundits who understands the importance of the issue of ‘consciousness’/subjective experience/‘the mind body problem,’ a fundamental mystery which science has yet to make a dent in.

I thought one archived MOL discussion from 2015 was particularly intriguing since many of the issues discussed seemed similar to those facing UU congregations. Robert interviews Judith Shulevitz (https://meaningoflife.tv/videos/31713) on her views of God and religion. Coming as she does from a liberal Jewish perspective, her observations on the challenges facing religions which are based more on action than belief, and which lacked the anchor of belief on which to ground the creation of community, resonated with some of the struggles I see taking place at Channing.

An In-Depth Import

Another podcast worth looking into is Ideas from the CBC (https://www.cbc.ca/radio/ideas). I’ve only listened to a few of its shows so far, but host Nahlah Ayed has impressed me with her deep approach to her topics, which cover the full gamut of social and cultural subjects. Some recent shows focused on Darwin’s legacy, evangalism’s impact on America, the fight for democracy, and psychology’s current uncertainty about mental illness.

One recent episode I particularly enjoyed was from March 16: “The Saxophone and the Spirit: The Sax’s Forgotten Spiritual Roots” (https://www.cbc.ca/radio/ideas/the-saxophone-and-the-spirit-the-sax-s-forgotten-spiritual-roots-1.5483769). I learned a lot about the history of the sax, as well being exposed to some intriguing musicians I’d never heard of. When I saw the title, I immediately thought of one of my favorite musicians, the Scandinavian Jan Garbarek, and I was amused to find he makes a brief appearance in the podcast.

If you appreciate smart talk, you’ll likely enjoy podcasts from Meaning of Life and Ideas.

—Bert