which which way these people are55:55thinking and why they think yeah welland bad as that is and rife withconflict as that is the alternative isto separate as you pointed out into twocamps that don’t talk yes and the thingis the the consequence of not talking isthat you fight that that’s the end gamebecause the only way you can stop fromfighting with other people is bynegotiating with them and you know oneof the things that’s also interestingand this is partly why Silicon Valleyleans to the left is that a fair bit ofyour political preference is determinedby your biological temperament it’s astrongly influenced so if you’re acreative type who’s kind of disorderlythen you’re likely to be on the liberalleft end of the distribution and ifyou’re a non creative type who’s orderlyand and especially if your orderly thenyou tend to be on the right-wing end ofthings and so and well why is that whydo those variations exist well theyexist because some of the time your beststrategy is to do what other people havedone and shut the hell upand just do it run the algorithm writethe pathways already laid clear it worksstay in the damn rut and move forwardokay so that’s the conservative approachand when things are going right it’s theright approach the problem is is thatsometimes it’s not the right approachbecause something is shifted and sosomething new has to emerge and so thenthere’s a bunch of people who areadapted to the new and those are theentrepreneurial and creative types andof course they dominate Silicon Valleybecause it’s a very entrepreneurial it’sa very entrepreneurial what would youcall it geography and so they’re gonnalean to the left but they have tounderstand people have to understandthat the left and the right need eachother the Liberals and the Conservativesneed each other liberals start companiesconservatives run them and the problemwith the Conservatives is well they canonly run a company in one directionbecause they’re conservative they don’tthink outside the box but so if thecompany is working in the product lineis good and everystable like hire some conservativesbecause they’ll maximize efficiency andthen move down that track but if thetrack is no longer going in a gooddirection because something’s change theenvironments change well then you gottabring in the creative people and so weneed each other and the only way that wecan survive the fact that we’redifferent and the fact that we need eachother is by continually talking theyhave talked constantly it’s like wellhow much of what we’re doing should wepreserve versus how much of what we’redoing should we transform and the answeris we don’t know because the environmentkeeps changing so what do we do about58:26of so there’s this theory it’s a lovelytheory that’s laid out right at thebeginning of the Bible that says thatif you tell the truth you transform thepotential of being into a habitableactuality that’s how it works so we saywell how do you want it how do you makethe world better tell the truth becausethe world you bring into being as aconsequence of telling the truth will bea good world and I believe that’s true Ithink it’s true metaphorically I thinkit’s true theologically and I think it’strue like at the practical andscientific level as well I think it’strue and all those levels simultaneouslyso that’s been ridiculously exciting tojust sort through I think this notionand one of the things you said that Ithink really resonates is that there’snot a voice out there that is advocatingfor responsibility and that is talkingabout how important this is and I thinkthis is an inherent principle that mostpeople are kind of aware of and it feelsgood to them to hearI get resonates so you feel it you youwhen you when you’re saying this cleanyour room you know put your house inorder like yeah yeah how come I’m nothearing this right I’m not hearing thiswell it’s so funny because one of thethings psychologists have done for thelast 20 years especially the socialpsychologist has pushed this idea ofself-esteem you should feel good aboutyourself and I think why would you tellsomeone 20 that it’s like you shouldfeel good about who you are it’s like noyou shouldn’t why should you feel goodabout who you are it’s like you shouldfeel good about who you could be that’sway better cuz you got sixty years toturn into who you could wait a minuteare you what your accomplishments are orare you dis individual going throughthis journey I mean I don’t think81:43there’s anything wrong with feeling good81:43about who you are as long as it’s81:46tempered by an understanding of81:47potential and what you have accomplished81:50versus what you can accomplish well I81:51think having confidence is a big part of81:54it it is it is and I’m not saying that81:55people shouldn’t have confidence but81:57like often you take young people say81:59there are sixteen to twenty two and82:00they’re not really feeling that good82:02about who they are right because their82:03life is chaotic and and disorder and82:05they don’t know where they’re going and82:06they don’t know which way is up a call82:08so there could be bad parenting going on82:12and I think that’s one of the reasons82:14why presen eights with people this idea82:15of be happy for you about who you are82:18right feel good about who you write but82:20but the thing is it has82:21to be stated with precision it’s like82:23yes it’s like Lucia you should treat82:26yourself as if you’re valuable82:28especially in the Ho’s Angela but you82:31should concentrate on who you should82:32become especially if you’re young and so82:34let’s say you’re miserable and82:35nihilistic and chaotic and depressed and82:37all of that now and you have your82:38reasons you know terrible parenting82:40abuse all of those things it’s like well82:42you should feel good about yourself it’s82:45like no no it’s it’s not it’s not the82:46right message is that it’s more like you82:50should understand how much potential82:52there is within you to set that straight82:54and then you should do everything you82:56can to manifest that in the world and it82:58will set it straight and that’s better83:00than self esteem it’s like you’re you’re83:02in a crooked horrible position okay fine83:04there’s a lot of suffering and pain83:05associated with that yeah you can’t just83:08feel good about that because it’s not83:09good but you can do something about it83:11you can genuinely do something about it83:13and I think all the evidence suggests83:15that that’s the case yes so I’m telling83:17telling young people look there’s no83:19matter how bad your situation is I’m not83:21gonna pretend it’s okay it’s not okay83:23it’s tragic83:24tainted with malevolence and some people83:27really get hurt by malevolent people83:28like you know terribly hurt sometimes83:30they never recover it’s really awful but83:33there’s more to you than you think and83:35if you stand up and face it with with83:37the positive with a with a noble vision83:40with discipline and intent you can go83:43far farther to overcoming it than you83:46can imagine83:47and that’s the principle upon which you83:49should predicate your behavior and I83:51think that one of the things that’s83:53really nice about being the clinical83:54psychologist is that this isn’t just83:56guesswork like one of the things we know83:58two things in clinical psychology one is84:01truthful conversations redeemed people84:03because if you come to a clinical84:05psychologist who’s worth is salt you’ll84:09have a truthful conversation the84:11conversation is well here’s what’s wrong84:13with my life and here’s what caused it84:16you know maybe it takes a year to have84:17that conversation and both of the84:19participants are doing everything they84:21can to lay it out properly here’s how it84:24might be fixed here’s what a beneficial84:26future might look like and so it’s a84:28completely honest conversation if it’s84:29working well and all that’s happening in84:32the conversation is that the two people84:33involved84:34are trying to make things better that’s84:36the goal let’s see if we can have a84:38conversation that will make things84:39better okay so we know that works it84:41does make things better and then another84:43thing we know is that well let’s say84:45there’s a bunch of things that you’re84:46afraid of that are in your way so you84:49have some vision about who you want to84:50be maybe you have to you know you want84:52to be successful in your career so you84:54have to learn to talk in front of a84:55group it’s like okay well you’re afraid84:57of that no wonder you don’t want to be84:59humiliated so okay so what do we do85:0193:51because sometimes you know you’re just93:53hopeful I would like a good thing to93:55happen it’s like yeah but you know I’d93:56like to drink half a bottle of whiskey93:58tonight – it’s like so which is it gonna94:00be well just being hopeful about the94:03future might not be enough but then you94:05think oh I see like there’s that little94:07hell thing that I outlined it’s waiting94:09for me and maybe I’m afraid of taking94:11the nips next step forward because it’s94:12demanding and challenging it’s like yeah94:14I’m afraid of that but I’m way more94:16afraid of where I might end up if Idon’t get my act together and peopleshould be that’s why their conceptionsof hell in so many religions it’s likehell is a real place whether it’seternal that’s a whole differentquestion whether it’s waiting for you inthe afterlife that’s a whole differentquestion but if you’ve never met anyonein Hell you haven’t lived very long youhaven’t had your eyes open yeah it’sundeniable that feeling of totalcomplete misery and deniable yeahespecially when it’s compounded by thefact that you know you did it toyourselfthat’s the real fun that’s the real funpart it’s like I’m having a bitch of atime and I richly deserve it97:11that’s that I have a chapter in there on97:13raising kids it says don’t like your97:15kids don’t let your kids do anything it97:17makes you just like them it’s like wellthat’s first predicated on theobservation that you’re quite a monsterand it would be better for your kids ifthey didn’t get on your bad side andlike again because I’m a clinicalpsychologist a monster why why do youuse that term because I’ve watchedfamilies like I’ve seen families whereit’s as if every single person in thefamily has their hands around the neckof the family member that’s close to97:39them and they’re squeezing but only97:41tight enough to strangle them in 2097:43years but you’re not always using it as97:45a pejorative you you you’ve also used it97:47you should become a monster you should97:48be a monster yeah but that’s that’s you97:52shouldn’t be it it shouldn’t be97:54accidental that’s the thing what97:57so what do you mean by monster then in a97:58positive sense like you feel a monster98:00oh that’s easy among a positive monster98:02is somebody who says no and means it98:04because when you say no what you mean is98:07there isn’t anything you can do to me98:08that will make me agree to do this why98:10is that a monster because you have to be98:11because no one will take you seriously98:13otherwise no one will take you seriously98:15like no means if you keep pushing this98:19something that you do not like will98:21happen to you that’s what no means you98:23don’t have any strength of character98:24unless you can put up a fight you know98:27and to be able to say no to something is98:29to be able to put up a fight so and you98:31can’t do that if you’re if you can be98:33pushed around you’ll just get argued98:34into submission or you’ll feel guilty98:36because you’re causing conflict or98:38something like that but isn’t there98:39confusion using those terms as a98:41positivism and a negative maybe there’s98:42another word instead of monster well98:44there is there is the potential there is98:47the potential for confusion you say well98:48is that something that can be I think98:51monster is a horrible thing I don’t98:52think of it as being like a wall like98:55someone who is just rock-solid in their98:58belief system and rock-solid and their99:01understanding when you fight someone99:03who’s formidable say what do you think99:05of the person that you’re fighting like99:07how would you characterize them they may99:09have a monstrous side because they can99:11think they can they can bring physical99:15substantial physical force to bear on99:18the situation and and be willing to do99:21it so they’re not naive and and harmless99:24by any stretch of the imagination right99:26they have a well-developed capacity formayhem they think well is that monstrousit’s like well I would say yes I wouldsay fierce fierce fine let’s go withthat yeah because someone who’s fierceand formidable it’s not necessarily amonster you know just I think of amonster as being just an awful person99:47who’s done awful things and just you99:49know okay well so fair enough well so99:52back to the back to this situation with99:54your kids while you definitely don’t99:56want to have your kids act in a way that99:57awakens your inner monster right let’s100:00put it that way and so you need to you100:02need to organize your family with a100:05certain amount of discipline and a100:06certain amount of structure so that you100:08get to do what you want which is back to100:10that100:10to the point that you made earlier so100:12that you’re happy to have your kids100:14around so that you won’t take revenge on100:15them and so you want to lay your life100:18out so that well so that it’s providing100:23you what you need to not be bitter and100:26to work for your best interests and for100:28the interests of everyone else that100:30would be lovely and I think it’s100:31attainable you know because the book is100:34very dark and and I’m a very dark guy in100:36some ways because I’ve looked at the100:38terrible things that people do to one100:39another that’s the fascinating way of100:41looking at you think you yourself as100:42dark as I don’t think of you as dark oh100:45that’s good100:45the more relevant thing is that I’vebeen studying these old stories thesearchetypal stories for a very longperiod of time and they have power theyreally have power and they manifestthemselves everywhere they manifestthemselves in movies and in books and Imean Harry Potter’s a mythological storyand it made Roland richer than the Queenof England you know these stories havepower and I was fortunate enough tostudy a large number of people largenumber of scholars who knew what thatpower was Carl Jung in particular and Icould make it more accessible to peopleand so that’s a big part of it but whatoverall significance of that is well Ijust it just leaves me speechless I meanthere’s Kathy Newman things a goodexample and I mean so many things havehappened I’ve got involved I’ve been ina scandal of some sort a serious scandalof some sort probably every three weeksfor a year and a half you know and thereare things that are just well the didJames tomorrow thing is a good exampleof that like that’s a big deal you knowthat that explosion that that thatemerged around him in the court casethat’s coming out of it it’s a big dealand this thing with Lindsay Shepard thatwas the worst scandal thathit a Canadian University and then therewas all the protests and and then therewas what happened with with channel 4the UK and it’s like I don’t know whatto make of itI don’t what what I’m trying to do ishave a good conversation when I come andtalk to somebody like you where we canhave a good conversation try not to say118:18anything stupid that’s really what I’m118:20trying to do is to not say anything118:22stupid that’s hard or too stupid yeah118:27yeah well didn’t it’s being high stakes118:28poker yeah you know for it’s not quite118:31so bad now because especially after what118:35happened with channel 4 and some118:36journalists like people have been trying118:38to take me out for quite a long time and118:39it’s not it isn’t working so far118:43actually you actually believe what118:45you’re saying and it actually makes118:46sense well you know that’s that’s it’s118:50not a bad start but it’s rare in this118:51world this is a especially in these118:53ideologically charged times yeah this118:56toxic tribalism that we keep bringing up118:58it’s well and I also decided like a long119:01time ago and and I I think this runs119:03through 12 rules for life is well I119:05believe that people’s decisions tilt the119:07world towards heaven or hell I think119:10there’s no more accurate way of119:11describing the consequences of each of119:14your decisions than that you face119:16potential that’s what you face that’s119:19what you face in the world is potential119:20it’s not Material reality it’s potential119:23and every decision you make you’re119:26deciding whether you want to make the119:27world better or worse and if you like119:30the ultimate better is heaven and the119:32ultimate worse is hell we know how to119:33make the world into hell we’ve done that119:36multiple times much of the 20th century119:38was that it’s like I looked it all out119:40and I thought okay I would rather that119:42the world didn’t degenerate into hell119:44and I understand why people wanted to119:46degenerate into hell they’re angry119:48they’re angry because they suffer they119:51suffer unfairly and they suffer because119:53people hurt them and so they think this119:56is a bad game I’m not going to help make119:58it better I’m angry I’m gonna make it120:01worse even that’s what the call of mine120:02kids did you know that’s what all the120:05mass shooters do they say to hell with120:06this I hate it120:08they’re so far behind the game they just120:09want to flip the table yeah yeah worse120:11than that they they want it120:12obliterate the game yes and they want to120:15do it with as much malice as possible120:17just to obtain revenge and I understand120:19that but I decided a long time ago that120:21I would rather not play that game I120:23think it I think that it’s possible that120:26we could make the world better I really120:28believe they leave that too so I think120:29well the so I’m I’m trying to tell120:32people look there’s more to you than you120:34think there’s more potential there’s120:36more than enough potential to go around120:38there’s definite suffering and120:40malevolence in the world we could fix it120:41you haven’t got anything better to do120:43that’s a very big point that there’s120:44more potential to go around talking120:46about more than people understand we’re120:47not gonna run now to put that no we’re120:49not and with this idea of the famine120:51thinking is one of the reasons why120:53people get upset at other people’s120:55success they think somehow another this120:57other person’s success takes something120:59away from them yep yeah well there’s and121:01it’s see the other thing too is that121:03I’ve realized that people actually act121:05like what they confront in the world is121:07potential it’s so funny because whatever121:09potential is it’s it’s not materially121:12measurable but if you tell someone121:13you’re not living up to your potential121:15they go it’s like well what is that121:18potential that you’re not living up to121:19and then when you say well there’s121:21potential in front of you you know that121:23you can walk out on the street and you121:25go right or left or straight ahead like121:27you’re facing this thing that isn’t121:29fully formed and you get to decide how121:32it’s going to form and you can make it121:36better and so my question is like the121:38world’s a rough place there’s no doubt121:39about it it’s a harsh place but myquestion is what would happen if westart making it worse how good could itbe if we stop making it worse and Idon’t know if there’s an upper limit tothat like it might be maybe we couldmake it really really really good whynot and we don’t have any better to dothan thatit’s like aim at heaven start at homeaim at heaven tell the truth let’s seewhat the hell happens you know like itis the case clearly on the facts of thematter in 20 years there wouldn’t haveto be a single person in the world thatwas hungry in 20 years we could get ridof the 5 biggest diseases that currentlyplague the planet we could straightenthings up and god only knows what thingscould be like that or we could let thewhole thing DJright into hell so in each of us ismaking that decision with each decisionthat’s the other thing that I’veunderstood so take your choice you wanthell are you want heaven if you pickhell just remember you knew what youwere doing when you picked it but nobodypicks hell yeah just sort of let itslide yeah but they do it because theyblind themselves you know you know whenyou do it you say oh yeah well you knowI let that slide then you and then youdon’t think about it it’s like you couldthink about it you could think about it123:02you could know but you don’t let123:04yourself know is any of this all the123:09pressure and the scandal every three123:10weeks is this this is it way on you is123:14it is it difficult how are you feeling123:18like when we’re not feeling strange123:20thing123:21yeah it’s like it’s like simultaneously123:23the worst possible thing and the best123:25possible thing that could happen well123:27financially it’s been a boom right yes123:30it’s which I mean the thing that I’ve I123:35shouldn’t say this but I’m going to123:37because it’s just so goddamn funny I123:38can’t help but say that I figured out123:40how to monetize social justice warriors123:42[Laughter]
The shape of creation must somehow mirror and reveal the shape of the Creator. We must have a God at least as big as the universe, or else our view of God becomes irrelevant, constricted, and more harmful than helpful. The Christian image of a torturous hell and God as a petty tyrant has not helped us to know, trust, or love God. God ends up being less loving than most people we know. Those attracted to the common idea of hell operate out of a scarcity model, where there is not enough Divine Love to transform, awaken, and save. The dualistic mind is literally incapable of thinking any notion of infinite grace.
The common view of hell and a quid pro quo God is based not on Scripture but on Dante’s Divine Comedy—great poetry, but not good theology. The word “hell” is not mentioned in the first five books of the Bible. Paul and John never once use the word. Most of the Eastern fathers never believed in a literal hell, nor did many Western mystics.
Eastern fathers such as Origen, Clement of Alexandria, Gregory of Nyssa, Jerome, Peter Chrysologus, Maximus the Confessor, and Gregory of Nazianzus taught some form of apocatastasis instead, translated as “universal restoration” (Acts 3:21). Origen writes:
Gregory of Nyssa’s two arguments for universal salvation as:
a fundamental belief in the impermanence of evil in the face of God’s love and a conviction that God’s plan for humanity is intended to be fulfilled in every single human being. These beliefs are identified with 1 Corinthians 15:28 [“so that God may be all in all”] and Genesis 1:26 [we are made in God’s “image and likeness”] in particular, but are derived from what Gregory sees as the direction of Scripture as a whole. 
If we understand God as Trinity—the fountain fullness of outflowing love, relationship itself—there is no theological possibility of any hatred or vengeance in God. Divinity, which is revealed as Love Itself, will always eventually win. God does not lose (see John 6:37-39). We are all saved by mercy. Any notion of an actual “geographic” hell or purgatory is unnecessary and, in my opinion, destructive of the very restorative notion of the whole Gospel.
.. Love and mercy are given undeservedly now, so why would they not be given later too?
Terry Pratchett has a character define sin thusly: “Sin, young man, is when you treat people like things.”  . . .
.. I don’t believe hell or heaven to be post-life destinations. I believe they are states of consciousness largely visible here and now. A world of objects is a kind of hell. A world of subjects—divine beings honoring the divinity in the other—is surely heaven.
our first openly Hefnerian president gets impeached
.. If Trump were impeached and removed from the White House, the presidency would devolve to precisely the kind of man whom much of pre-Trump religious conservatism insisted that it wanted in the Oval Office: an evangelical Christian family man with a bluenose’s temperament and a boring Reaganite checklist of beliefs.
.. evangelical leaders currently fretting about Trump’s political position would face a case where doing the consistent thing — namely, returning to their Bill Clinton-era position that character counts in presidents and using illegal means to conceal gross infidelities are impeachable offenses — would actually deliver something closer to what they claimed to want, not so very long ago: not a liberal in the White House, but President Mike Pence.
.. We do not have a parliamentary system where party leaders fight internal battles and get replaced by their internal rivals on the regular; instead, we elect a quasi-monarch, whose removal seems as traumatic as a regicide. And thus party loyalists tend to identify with their leaders the way royalists identify with their kings, and regard the prospect of impeachment not as an opportunity for a change of leadership but a revolutionary threat... Sure, making use of Donald Trump to keep Hillary Clinton from being president is a fascinating flourish by history’s Author, but the idea that the Almighty might use a porn star to make Mike Pence president represents, if anything, an even more amazing miracle... So anyone interested in looking for the hand of God in history should probably welcome that miracle’s arrival.. That God is using Trump not as an agent of his good work but as a kind of ongoing test of everyone else’s moral character seems like a not-unreasonable inference to draw.
.. And for those same religious conservatives to pass up the chance, preferring a scorched-earth battle in defense of priapism, would be a sad confirmation of the point that a beloved Christian author made many years ago: The doors of hell are locked on the inside.
In Bonaventure’s writings, you will find little or none of the medieval language of fire and brimstone, worthy and unworthy, sin and guilt, merit and demerit, justification and atonement, even the dualistic notions of heaven or hell, which later took over.
Bonaventure summed up his entire life’s theology in three central and sacred ideas:
- Emanation: We come forth from God bearing the divine image, and thus our inherent identity is grounded in the life of God from the beginning (Genesis 1:26-27).
- Exemplarism: Everything in creation is an example, manifestation, and illustration of God in space and time (Romans 1:20). No exceptions.
- Consummation: All returns to the Source from which it came (John 14:3). The Omega is the same as the Alpha; this is God’s supreme and final victory.
.. The Christ Mystery—the crucified and resurrected Christ—becomes the visible template for the pattern of all creation. Christ reveals the necessary cycle of loss and renewal that keeps all things moving toward ever further life. The death and birth of every star and atom is this same pattern of loss and renewal, yet this pattern is invariably hidden, denied, or avoided, and therefore must be revealed by Jesus—through his passion, death, and resurrection.
.. Bonaventure’s theology is never about trying to placate a distant or angry God, earn forgiveness, or find some abstract theory of justification. He is all cosmic optimism and hope! Once we lost this kind of mysticism, Christianity became preoccupied with fear, unworthiness, and guilt much more than being included in—and delighting in—God’s positive, all-pervasive plan.
.. The problem is solved from the beginning in Franciscan theology: “Before the world was made, God chose us in Christ” (Ephesians 1:4). If more of the Church believed St. Francis and Bonaventure, they could have helped us move beyond the inherently negative notion of history being a “fall from grace.”
.. Bonaventure invited us into a positive notion of history as a slow but real emergence/evolution into ever-greater consciousness of a larger and always renewed life (“resurrection”).
You’ve been interviewing people for more than 40 years. What do you think that’s taught you about yourself?
That’s hard. I’m not exactly sure I can enumerate what I’ve learned. It’s like you’re slowly being changed every day by doing this job. I have learned, though, that everybody is insecure and everybody is troubled. Even incredibly talented people have deep insecurities. Maybe this is perverse, but I find that idea comforting. It helps me cope with my own stuff.
.. I’m probably just revealing my own neuroses here, but it sure seems that when people are presented with two pieces of information — one negative and one positive — the negative one almost always gets a lot more attention.
That’s exactly my problem.
So if somebody said to you, “Fresh Air is my favorite thing to listen to,” and then said, “Well, yesterday’s show wasn’t the best.”
Stop right there. I would totally dismiss the “favorite thing to listen to” part. I’d think that was just their way of cushioning the blow that yesterday’s show was terrible. They’d just come up with a false opening to be nice about how bad yesterday’s show was.
.. Do you have to be weird to be the kind of interviewer you are?
You don’t have to be weird. I think what you have to do is really believe, as I do, that the interview serves a function.
.. What’s the function?
.. John Updike on this. In his memoir, Self-Consciousness, which I really love, he said he wanted to use his life as “a specimen life, representative in its odd uniqueness of all the oddly unique lives in this world.” That’s kind of how I see interviews. When you’re talking to an artist, you can get insight into the sensibility that created his or her art and into the life that shaped that sensibility. I love making those connections. I think we all feel very alone. I don’t mean that we don’t have friends or lovers but that deep at our core we all have loneliness.
.. And want connection.
Yeah, we want connection and sometimes when you’re talking to an interviewer who you trust, you can speak in a way that’s different than the way you talk to friends. You can reveal more. Not always, but sometimes.
.. But if I am aware of allegations, I can’t not ask about them. And in that circumstance, the guest is unlikely to tell me the truth and we’re all likely to be very uncomfortable and feel as if something is going unsaid. So rather than create that situation, I’d prefer to just not do the interview.
.. Along those lines, did you have any qualms about interviewing Woody Allen?
That interview was before the allegations that he’d abused his daughter. But I did ask him about Soon-Yi. .. I didn’t want to just say, “So, you married your daughter?” I kind of asked around it. I knew that he doesn’t talk about it or at least he didn’t at the time, so I just did this question about if he thinks it’s fair to judge somebody’s work based on their life. Needless to say, he didn’t think it was.
.. People think when you interview that you talk a lot. Actually, I listen a lot. I talk very little. Listening sounds like it should be easy, but it’s not, because while I’m listening, I’m also thinking ahead. I’m thinking, Is this an interesting answer? If I was editing this answer what would I be editing out and what would I be keeping in? Because if I’m going to ask a follow-up question, I need to know if the listeners have heard what I’m following up on. So I’m thinking all that, and I’m also thinking, Is this interesting enough to follow up? If so, what is the follow-up? Or is this something I should just say, “Time to move onto another subject.” I’m also thinking, What’s that word on the tip of my tongue? And then I’m thinking, Oh, my producer laughed. That’s good. Or, My producer looks bored, that’s not good.
.. I started doing interviews because I had initially wanted to be a writer and by the time I was in college, I gave up on that. Then there was this kind of creative void that I had no idea how to fill.
.. But as somebody who’s shy, radio gave me an opportunity to engage with people in a forthright way without it being about me. Once I had a microphone, “Why would you talk to me?” became “Now I have a reason to talk to you and you have a reason to talk to me. So let’s talk.”
.. maybe people who knew me could trust me to keep a confidence. And I do think people thought of me as somebody who played fair. The other thing that prepared me to be an interviewer was being an English major. When you’re reading fiction, you’re becoming the narrator of the story.
.. It’s an act of empathy.
Yeah, you’re imagining living that person’s life and that’s part of what you do when you interview somebody. Part of the preparation is thinking, What’s it like to be this person? And then when you’re talking to the person it’s like, Wow, that person lived through that? Let me make some calculations about what that could be like, and ask them questions based off of how I’d feel if that happened to me.
.. I think what changed their minds about my job — and made them realize it was an actual thing — was when I was still in Buffalo at WBFOIn the early ’70s, after a mercifully short stint as a public school teacher in Buffalo, Gross was able to land a job at the city’s WBFO station, where she produced programs on public and women’s affairs, as well as the arts. Chief among them was a three-hour daily magazine program, This Is Radio, and the feminist-focused Womanpower.. [NPR’s] All Things Considered .. was a new show back then, and it went on the road to develop stories that had a local angle — I did one of those stories when it came to Buffalo. Having a story that aired on a national show and that my parents could hear — that made them think, Oh, her work exists!
.. Once they realized I hosted a show and earned a genuine salary, they were thrilled but in terms of answering your question — I committed, you know? I wanted it so badly that I just devoted myself to it.
.. And you were determined to hold on to it.
You could criticize me, you could insult me, you could mock me — it was all right, just let me keep doing the job. Because I was an English major, I loved to read and dissect what was being said and why it was being said and think about the language being used. Interviewing fit so many of my needs.
.. when you interviewed Quentin Tarantino around the time of Django Unchained.
I really wanted to know his position on cinematic violence! When that movie came out, the Sandy Hook shooting had just happened, and Django Unchained was this incredibly violent movie — Quentin Tarantino’s stylized kind of violence .. It’s kind of glorying in the violence. And I wanted to know if that violence read differently after all those children were killed by a gun. [Tarantino] interpreted that, I think, as meaning, “It’s your fault, Quentin Tarantino.” Which I didn’t mean at all. It disappointed me that he got testy about it and took it as moral judgment of his movie, as opposed to an opportunity to reflect on an issue that was staring us in the face.
.. People are always projecting things. They’re hearing things that weren’t said or projecting meaning that was not intended and, perhaps, not even implied. I’ve gotten both insults and compliments for interviews I’ve never done. What can you do? There’s no way of controlling what people think. I do have a bullshit detector and it’s something I’ll use, but I do think I try and be empathetic to everyone I interview regardless of their politics.
.. Can empathy be learned?
I’m not so sure. I think you can learn to be a better listener and to focus better, but some people are just naturally not attuned to others. Even if they’re listening, they’re not picking up on the emotional meanings. I don’t know that you can teach emotional understanding.
.. I wish I could’ve asked my parents more about how they felt about dying. It’s the kind of question I ask guests, but my parents would wave me away if I tried to talk about that subject with them. I think they were trying to spare me, but also that maybe they didn’t have the language to talk about death. I don’t know. They were children of Eastern European immigrants who grew up without the language of psychology and philosophy. My father, I’m not sure he ever read a novel. There’s a certain kind of introspective language he might not have had access to.
.. How do you feel about dying?
I’m not afraid of it. What I’m afraid of is pain. I’m really afraid of suffering. I’m afraid of being trapped in a hospital incapacitated.
.. But the prospect of not existing isn’t scary to you.
No, it’s not. I also don’t believe in a literal heaven and hell. I don’t think that there’s going be an accounting and I’m going to be sent to a place where I’m burning in flames.
.. Unless it hurts.
Then I’d be very afraid.
.. one of the things I’ve learned how to do on the air is make people stop talking. Some people can go on for seven minutes without a breath. At some point, you have to interrupt them and explain, “This is radio. We need to take breaks. We have to have, say, two-minute answers, or else we’re only going to be able to ask about three questions.”
.. Are there any similar ways in which your job bleeds into your daily interactions?
Well, it’s made talking to people easier. I used to be really shy and now I feel like I can talk to anybody. I know I can ask questions that will help me find common ground. I can navigate to the place where me and another person can have a real conversation.
.. Sometimes I feel like people want the experience of being interviewed. But off the air, I like to be not the interviewer. I want to engage with the person I’m talking to on an equal level.
.. What I like is to have a genuine back-and-forth: Here’s how you feel, here’s how I feel. Here’s my reaction to you, here’s your reaction to me. That’s as opposed to just “tell me more about you.” In an interview, I like to hang back. It’s not about me. If I made the interviews about me, we’d be talking about the book I read that day, because that’s how I spend all my time — preparing for the show.
.. So I had to buy a car — this was the ’70s and or maybe the early ’80s — and I wanted to hear the car’s radio and make sure the speakers were good. So I was trying out a car and I tuned into WHYY, where Fresh Air was then a local show that I hosted, and the guy who’s selling me the car says, “Oh, I know that station. You know that lady in the afternoon? That really annoying lady?” And I said, “Oh, uh, that’s me.” And he smacked his head and went, “I’m never gonna be able to sell you the car now.”
.. I used to think of myself as nondescript. Outside of being short, I’m not the kind of person who is visually memorable. I don’t mean to disparage myself, but some people are striking because they’re so beautiful or they’re so tall and I’m short — it’s easy to not notice me. To be noticed when you don’t think of yourself as being noticeable is a little spooky.
.. You’ve said before, in various places, that all the prep time your job requires means you’re not the best at cultivating friendships. But I wonder if talking with people every day for Fresh Air satisfies some of the needs you might otherwise have for emotional connection.
.. Have you learned any reliable tricks over the years for how to salvage an interview that’s tanking?
Sometimes if somebody’s like a little too low-key, I find myself maybe talking faster to compensate, Like, Match me up here! Match me louder and faster!
.. Does that actually work?
[Laughs] No, I don’t think so. What I’m really trying to do is find the person’s comfort zone. Some people are great on craft — the process of writing, the process of making the film. Some people are great on anecdote. Some people are great on biography, their personal story. So I’ll just keep looking for that spot.
.. I can’t argue that every interview I do is interesting. Sometimes we don’t run interviews because they’re boring or confusing. You don’t want to hurt the interviewee’s feelings but your first responsibility is to offer something interesting to your audience.
.. my job has had a bad effect on me physically. I’m either reading, screening something, listening to something, or talking to someone. It’s a sedentary life. I’m proof that you can hurt yourself by sitting and reading. I have back issues. Sitting’s also probably not good for your heart. I don’t have heart problems but when people talk about, like, aerobic exercise, I just stare at them blankly: “I’m sorry, what?”
.. I don’t have children. I can’t say that was a sacrifice. I didn’t feel called to have children. I know I’ve missed out on something special but I couldn’t possibly have done my job and be a parent. The show is premised on me preparing at night for the next day’s interview. Doing that with children would’ve made me a terrible mother. When I was growing up it was unheard of to not have children and if you didn’t have children, it meant that there was something physically wrong with you. The women in my neighborhood were full-time mothers and that’s not the life I wanted. So I went completely in the opposite direction and I’m not sorry. I made a choice about what I wanted and I’m glad I did.
Even in heaven the wounds of suffering will not be removed but will be transformed by divine love into new and eternal life. Heaven is not a place of eternal rest or a long sleep-in, but a life of creativity and newness in love; one with God in the transformation of all things.
.. One might think, on face value, that the self-creation of heaven and hell conflicts with the scriptures, but in fact, the gospel message is based on invitation and choice, symbolized by the parable of the wedding feast: “‘Tell those who have been invited that I have prepared my dinner . . . and everything is ready. Come to the wedding banquet.’ But they paid no attention and went off—one to his field, another to his business” (Matthew 22:1-14). The question of heaven is not one of worthiness before God but accepting God’s invitation for life: “I have set before you life and death, choose life” (Deuteronomy 30:19).
.. Where our minds focus, there our treasure lies. As Rabbi Shapiro writes, “I made the choice for heaven and, having done so, I went in search of tools for living it.”
.. If you choose kindness, love, generosity, and joy, then you will discover in that choice the Kingdom of God
.. If you choose cruelty, fear, scarcity, and bitterness, then you will discover in that choice the hellish states of which so many religions speak.
.. Heaven and hell are both inside of you. It is your choice that determines just where you will reside.