Each week, Ezra Klein brings you far-reaching conversations about hard problems, big ideas, illuminating theories, and cutting-edge research. Want to know how Mark Zuckerberg intends to govern Facebook? What Barack Obama regrets in Obamacare? The dangers Yuval Harari sees in our future? What Michael Pollan learned on psychedelics? The lessons Bryan Stevenson learned freeing the wrongly convicted on death row? The way N.K. Jemisin imagines new worlds? This is the podcast for you.
I wanted to take a post-Thanksgiving break from politics and current events this week to talk to Robert Wright. He's written some of the best books on religion and evolutionary psychology, including Non-Zero and The Evolution of God.
His latest book is Why Buddhism is True, and it’s fantastic. I’m interested in mindfulness, and so have read a lot of books on the subject. This isn’t like those. It’s a not a how-to guide, or an argument for meditation’s health benefits. It’s a deep dive into theories of the mind, informed both by Wright’s scientific background and his study and practice of Buddhism. It’s about how our minds evolved to keep us alive, not to keep us happy or satisfied — and what can be done about it.
There is practical advice in this podcast, too. Wright beautifully describes what happens when he reaches what he calls "meditative depths,” what it’s like to go on a 10-day silent meditation retreat, and why a mindful outlook doesn’t lead to complacency or neutrality. But whether you’re interested in meditation or not, you should be interested in how your mind works, and on that, Wright has a lot to say that’s worth hearing.
What is Life? / Mind and Matter by Erwin Schrödinger
Mindfulness in Plain English by Bhante Gunaratan
What the Buddha Taught by Walpola Rahula