We crave belonging. As crazy-distracting and decisive as the world is, it’s easy to forget this simple fact. Deep down we want to be accepted and feel part of a tribe. I had an amazing opportunity to dig into what it takes to connect to very different groups by talking to someone who has done the extreme version of this. Bruce Parry had travelled to some of the most remote places on planet Earth and inserted himself into wildly foreign communities. For some of these tribes, meeting him was “first contact” of any outsider not part of their tribe. Imagine making connection with groups of people where you don’t speak their language, look very different, don’t eat their food or wear their clothes. How would you do it? What could you learn about yourself by making those connections?
It’s amazing when you stop and think about how much we’re told about what shouldn’t be lovable. So much is vilified. It could be our own feelings, other groups of people, different faiths, or distant countries. There’s so much that falls into this unlovable category— so many stories where, “those people are the bad ones.”
Now imagine you’re someone who decides to unravel those narrative containers. To build bridges to them and shine lights on the kinds of families, emotions, places in the world that keep us apart and keep us from understanding them. That’s exactly what this week’s guest, author Andrew Solomon, has done with his life. He’s a writer and lecturer on politics, culture, and psychology as well as a very important activist and philanthropist and behalf of LGBT rights, mental health, education and the arts. He’s won The National Book Award, he’s a Pulitzer Prize Finalist, and he was included in The New York Times list of 100 best books of the decade.
Imagine having truly a complete picture of humanity, having spent a lifetime experiencing hundreds of world cultures first hand, face-to-face and welcomed by each one of them. The result would be an extraordinary vocabulary of the human spirit like no other. A celebration of our differences brought to life through an enormous voice, studded with the poetry of each unique cultural experience. Wouldn’t that voice be more important to listen to than anything else you can imagine? As giant Capitalistic cultures continue to assimilate and stamp out human diversity faster than all endangered species combined, and as these giants collide and become increasingly more homogenous— never has it been more important to step back and seek to understand and respect different people. To nearsightedly continue means irreversibly harming the treasure of human diversity.
It’s hard to imagine someone who better understands the power of visual storytelling than Cartoonist Scott McCloud. He has been called the "Aristotle of Comics” and his non-fiction work, which details the history, vocabulary, and methods of the medium of comics— is the a Bible for visual storytellers. "Understanding Comics" has been translated into 16 languages and was named a New York Times Notable Book. He recently returned to fiction with the graphic novel, “The Sculptor” and it has been met with wide critical acclaim. Scott has lectured at Pixar, Google, and the Smithsonian Institution and I learned in our conversation that he’s also an amazingly sincere, accessible and friendly guy with an enormous attention to detail and a great story to tell.
There’s certain people you just can’t put a finger on. And those are perhaps my FAVORITE people. They’re uncategorizable astral projections, they’re so unique it feels like they almost have no derivative. Amazing Race winner, Tyler MacNiven is one of those people. Besides being a complete blast, he’s overflowing with life— he's so happy, so positive-- all the time— that it you wonder if he’s really like that. (He is.) He’s just a programmed happy person.