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The Hub for Important Ideas
The Hub for Important Ideas

Episode 17 · 2 years ago

Narcissism Episode 17 Featuring Sheldon Solomon

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

Where is there hope in this age of Narcissism? This episode discusses narcissism, the unexpected dangers it poses for our society, and possible antidotes that we believe have far reaching potential.

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Where is their hope in this age of Narcissism? Welcome to the hub for important ideas. I'm Steve James and I'm Ken Swain. In this episode we talk about Narcissism, the unexpected dangers it poses for our society and possible antidotes that we believe have far reaching potential. We're going to play for you a conversation we had with Sheldon Solomon two weeks ago. We pulled the segment from what started as a sound check and turned into a long, casual conversation about several topics that we had on our minds. The more formal recording will have for you in the next podcast or two, but we like what was said here, so we thought we would share it. So to introduce sheldon. Sheldon Solomon, Ph d, is a social psychologist at skidmore college. He is best known for Co developing terror management theory with Jeff Greenberg and Tom Pasinski, which is concerned with how humans deal with their own sense of mortality. He is the author or CO author of over a hundred articles and several books and has been featured in several films, television documentaries and radio interviews. He Co authored the book, the Worm at the corps, on the role of death in life, with Greenberg and Pasinski. He most recently appeared in the documentary planet of the humans. Here's the conversation with Dr Solomon. I think it's important that we talk about narcissism on a continuum and point out that it has a good side, a middle and a bad side, because everybody has a tendency to think narcissism bad. I don't disagree with that. I just think it'll reframe the subject for people and they might think about it differently. We've been hearing about an epidemic of narcissism for a long time, so I mean two thousand and nine at least. Yeah, and would end by that. By Me Acer was Tam being Trumpian Narsi. Well, trump, trump raised it to a new level. He did right. So, so all of a sudden it became this hot buzz word, you know, right, and yeah, you're right. There's healthy narcissism and there's the narcissism of little children. And everybody has to take care of themselves to certain degree. Right, that's fine, but narcissism is full blown narcissism is is a mental illness. Yeah, so it gets confusing when you talk about it on a continuum. Maybe we should give it a qualifier to help us out show I mean radical narcissism or really bad narcissism. What? What's the right term? No, I think we're going to have to chew on this. But, like go Ken, I've got a little bit of a narcissistic personality disorder and I learned from spending a quarter of a million dollars of my own money on therapy that it has to do with temperament, which is one of the reasons I want to talk about temperament. Be Sure, my temperament is like your temperament, which is not like my mom's temperament was at all, and I realized that at a very young age because I would meet someone else like myself and they immediately got things about me that my own Mother didn't get. To me that it's really been preoccupied with it since we talked on the phone right and I think it's too huge. We have to sort it out. I don't have it yet, because what we're, I think, converging on is that we need to figure out a way to convey what we mean by narcissism. That acknowledges that it's natural, that it varies temperamentally, right, that it is not, of necessity, on abomination, right, but can readily become one. Yes, and is more likely to do so in certain historical moments, in particular cultural contexts. But could we use a different could we use a term like self centered, this self absorbed? There are other ways of talking about, you know, arrogance. They're all these other ways of talking about narcissism without necessarily using that clinical term. Yeah, except that it's the one that's getting bandied about right, right, so we don't want to interface with it. And and here I'm going to have to do my homework, because the Christopher Lash Dude. You ever heard that name? We're going to...

...have to google him. He wrote a book called the culture of Narcissism. I have heard of that book. And this is in the you know, late S, early S, and what you Steve, this is in your fucking book, Reagan. You know, we have to track this historically. You have to weigh in on this one in the sense that that's a lot of what your book is about. Yeah, no, I know you're but you're the only one who read it. Well, no, Dan Lichty. Read it, okay, but that that's too I read large parts of it. Yeah, no matter, the argument remains intact. And know if does, it does. The human mind makes connections and relationships even when they don't exist. Right. But two things might be coincidental, but they happen around the same time, so you link them. Right. So I don't know if I'm making linkages that makes sense and I need you to tell me. Is this insane or is this intelligent? Yeah, so I'm linking narcissism. Yo. The article I was looking at was talking about modesty, the difference between modesty and humility, how humility can generate gratitude and gratitude can generate humility and create an upward spiral. Am going, Holy Shit, that's the most hopeful thing I've heard in decades. Yeah, a hopeful spiral. So now a hopeful spiral biral. Did you is that from something? Yeah, it's an article that I've got sitting in my bed. Somebody else said hopeful spiral, I they said upward spiral. I said hopeful spiralize. Nice, but up and all these couplet it is, isn't it? Yeah, I was just going to suggest we write that down and see, like what what we've been wrestling will spiral what we've been wrestling with for I'm going to say forty three years ago I read the denial of death and immediately then after read escape from evil, which is my favorite book. Meet to and no, really, I thought your favorite book was was birth and death of meaning. Well, all right, I want to have it both ways. Okay, that's the good book on the psychology side of it. But yes, that's true. So that's the why I want to have it both when I was so drawn to chapters like with the title what is normal? What is normal? That like what you're asking, and one of the questions I want to ask in the future is who gets to decide WHO's crazy? Well, that's the whole gun gun controlled. Well, now you know. It's like who gets to decide WHO's Lang? Lang made the point that insanity is the same response to an insane world. But let me let me finish. My thought was like the you get to the end of escape from evil and you're like, is this a is this a viable species? Yeah, and okay, you've just gone through this incredible trip with Becker where you're filled with misanthropy. Right, I had absolutely no use for the human race at that point. On looking at the patent of the history of mankind, of going all this a freaking nightmare. And then you looking at the present, you're going, well, this is a nightmare, and then you're looking at the future and you're saying there's no hope. That's even worse. Yeah, there's no hope because we're not going to change what people are about. And and not only that, but our culture doesn't have the redeeming cosmic religion. Just part that helped. I held it together, that together two years. So and so instead, as Becker pointed out, we don't have a defense against, an adequate defense against death anxiety, we don't have adequate opportunities for heroism. We're all fucked up. And so you get to that and then you go, well, now what do I do with the rest of my life? And I'm in my s at this point and I'm going, I don't like this. Yeah, I got to find out how to live knowing this. Yeah, right. So that's what we've all been wrestling with ever since we read these books. It's yeah, how do you live thinking that we're not a viable species. Five years ago, when we're in the we're shooting in the hallway outside your office, Sheldon, and you turn to the wall, that that graphic on the wall, and you started talking about this early experiment on humility and gratitude as a as a defense against death anxiety. Said, you know when early stage is where can't really say much yet because hasn't really been verified...

...or whatever, but you know there's something to this and I think I heard you talk about it in a presentation you made in Israel. Is that right? Yeah, it could be. Could have been, I don't know, but you didn't. I haven't heard much about that. But it's been five years, so I'm assuming that a lot has happened in those five years. No, not at all. It's so, but not, Steven. There was a promising piece of research, right, I'm I'm in my early Mr Magoo face. Yeah, it was. When you said, Oh, when you were there five years ago, it's like five years. Yeah, man, how could that be? Yeah, so, but true enough. That's when I started getting interested in the gratitude, yes, humility thing, and it was in part at the interest of a young student, skimmore student. She was interested in positive psychology and existential psychology. Positive psychology being stellingman and the yeah, and you know, I saw Seligman's yeah, and I think those guys are generally, you know, fairly. They're decent people, but it's superficial at best. And he also attacked terror management theory on the back I wrote to him. Yeah, we agree to disagree about that, but anyway. So I was like, you know, what do you want to do? And she had been in the guy who teaches positive psychology at skidmore, guy named Mark Rye, is a great guy and he studies gratitude. Okay, so I'm like, well, whatever you know, let's try it. So we did. You know, our experiments couldn't be more simple. We did a gratitude salience induction. We just asked people to, you know, reflect on a time that you were grateful right for something and to think about what that was specifically, you know, right down, and then that's followed by the usual death manipulation. So you're you're either prime to think about something that you're grateful for not, and then you're either reminded of death or not. And then we do that little word stem completion task that measures no conscious death thoughts. Right, coffee as opposed to yeah, exactly, still skill as opposed all. Yeah, and so I was quite surprised when we found, with a very small sample, that just reflecting on something, that you were grateful for, the participants who were grateful head lower death thought accessibility, and you had another group that was getting mortality salientized, that didn't have gratitude. Right. But actually that's a that's a great point. Actually, the thing about it is is this study was an anomaly of sorts, because technically we predicted that the death reminder would matter, but it turns out that it didn't. We got what's called a main effect, and that is that the people who thought about being grateful they had lower death thought accessibility in both the death condition as well as the other one. Wow, and what that suggest? You don't you can't make anything of a single study, right, but to just do what you can't, and that's to suppose that that means something. Right, that could mean the gratitude is pretty potent, Shit, that it actually no come renders you more sublime than in a baseline condition. Right, all right. That finding, though, desperately needs to be studied extensive again. All right, though, the more compelling work is the humility end of things, right, and this want of Tom Students. And again I'll stare at it when it comes time for us to be talking about this, because it's good to be precise. It's described in that hand out. Okay, I think that I sent you guys, maybe not, but you know, basically they just found that Tom. I want to his students. You know, they did this again, a humility induction, you know, where they were careful to explain what humility is as opposed to self deprecation for modesty. Yeah, modesty, but it's right of their different and so, anyway, they do this humility induction, then they do the death thing and...

...then they measure whether you piss on somebody who's different. And the people who were humble did not respond to the death reminder by denigrating someone who's different. Right now. She did like four other things that are variants of that notion. Okay, all interesting and all different, that basically converge on the idea that humility in the empirical science appears to buffer existential anxieties as well as affirming your cultural world view or bolstering self esteem. The article that I'm referencing and I'm sorry I didn't send it to you, but I didn't have access to the electronic version. I don't even if I have the electronic version. I think it just scraped it off the Internet, but I'll get it to you both. Because this team of psychologist things, like three people. They studied humility and gratitude and they saw that humility and gratitude was an antidote to insomnia and stress. Yeah, they're looking at these maladies that it counteracts you up and it makes perfect sense to me because, like I said when we were talking on the phone, it's at the heart of Catholicism. I don't know if it's at the heart of Judaism or you know, of course it is. Yeah, it's at the heart of it every, every dayly every religion as that. I can't speak for every kind of the golden rule. Yeah, it is, but I know that was what the whole experience was for us as kids growing up, with the nuns and the priests and all that's like. Be Humble in the eyes of God and be humble in this world that you found yourself in. Be grateful for your life, for being in this world, understand that you're going to die. You're told you're going to die, like every day, and you're going to go to heaven and you're going to be blissfully happy. Part you turning to party with your dead relative and so and, but you're but you're not at the top of the food chain. Your number two or three behind God, the angels and humans. Right. So there's no reason for you to commit the cardinal sin of pride. Pride was defined as putting yourself above God or ahead of God. You, so that was like you're destined for Hell if you commit this cardinal sin. Here we are, here we find ourselves in this narcissistic society where narcissism is rewarded, revered every time you turn on the TV, or either watching a reality TV show where they just people, just talking about themselves constantly. GOALIE LOVES TO WATCH DANCING WITH THE STARS. Hey, I like the dancing part, but, yeah, cringe, can't stand when they start talking. Yeah, you and and it's somebody has to cry once an episode. Yep, something's got to talk about how their parents are. I mean the skill is great. I do like that. I can't send some or an awards show where they they walk up on the stage and they get handed the award whatever. It's an award show every three weeks, right, some kind of an award, Academy Awards, Emmy Awards, Oscars, you know, Golden Globe, and it's always the same thing. They get up on the stage and they go II, me, me, I'm I, and you just cringe, cringe hearing that. You Go AH, I can't, I can't process it. But yet at the same time, studies are being done showing that the more narcissistic your facebook post, the more likes you get. So we're in this culture where we're being told it's good to be arrogant, it's good to be self centered, it's good to think of your your achievement, and you're the wealth you're amassing because of these incredible talents that you have, and then the common good is goes on the back burner. It's very anti nietzschee. What is gratitude and compassion? He thought they were weak, just weakness, and he thought that the people who march in and take what they want, those are the ones who he thought were were the best. Well, I'm not saying need to, I don't, don't love Nietzschee. I mean I I respect that. A lot of people think he was the greatest philosopher after Plato. Yeah, but he makes it hard to have a good day sometimes. I'm looking for links, looking for connections. All of these...

...things now I like in a jumble. I'm saying narcissism linked to self esteem. On the outside they look the same, on the inside they're completely different. You can be narcissist with low self esteem. In Narcissus they do have low, low self plus its implicit, implicit example. Yeah, so you know, there were you know, one way of thinking about it that is, I think, comprehensible and also empirically defensible is that the narcissist is a legend in his own mind right scores unbelievably high on self esteem measures and unbelievably low on measures of implicit or unconscious self esteem. So on the one hand you you get my self esteem scale. They're like I'm the best, fuck the rest. But these implicit things. It has to do with reaction times, how rapidly you associate like first person pronounce with negative adjectives. It shows that the Karen Horn eyes of the world are right when they insist that narcissistic self inflation is a manifestation extraordinary lack of self regard it has. That's so counterintuitive it. Yes, so it's grandiosity, which is another characteristic of narcissist our tense. Yeah, tend to so, arrogance, vindictiveness and grand even. Yeah, and lack of empathy. Yeah, vindictiveness. Yeah. So you're in this becker world. You're looking at the culture that you're in, your surrounding, the society that you're in. You've basically lost faith in humanity. You're dealing with this awful negative view of the world and life. And yet you're saying to yourself, but this is vitally important. If everyone understood this, we'd have a better world, and I've always believed that. From from the very beginning, I said everybody should know these things, things we would have a better life. But yet deep inside you're going, how do I, how do I even begin to get people interested or aware of these these ideas? Yeah, when negative doesn't even describe what they do to people. But for the first time in all this time, when you brought up this humility and gratitude and am started to see link and say, okay, as it was antimatter to narcissism. This is the most hopeful message I've heard in decades. Ken and I are like, we're like Giddy at this point, because we're saying, if self esteem and heroism are the primary defenses against death anxiety, and you have a society that's that's stingy about your self esteem and your heroism, your opportunities for heroism, and the only people with really strong self esteem are the billionaire class and the politicians with power and the models who are beautiful, you say, well, where does that leave the most the rest of us? Where does that leave the mass of humanity? And then the final chapter of the guy's great book says we I don't know if humanity as a viable form of Yah, yeah, good luck, good luck completing this sale. Yeah, I mean people are like, you know, you had me for a minute there, but right, is this what you've got exactly? You're going to go Jeff Greenberg on my ass. Oh it's all about death, and you go, well, it's not all about death exactly. It's all about death denial. You've already lost them, don't even bother. Already lost him. But what if you say let's let's think about a society that's built around humility and generosity, or gratitude, gratitude. Think about what that would look like. That would be like like the nuns that taught me in school, like the priests who took a vowel of poverty. They took vows of chastity and obedience, okay, but they took vowels of poverty, meaning they renounced what we, as a society, most value. Revere Goldie and I were over friends house the other night and he was saying ill, I made it, I'm a millionaire now, and he brought out his his fidelity statement, and he's shown us. You're kidding, no,...

...and I'm not kidding, and he's made a million dollars in the stock market and he's saying, you know, so, you know, let's whore I'm at and I'm like, this is a amazing to I also got rid of that hemorrhoid. You want me to show you? I know, I know, and I'm thinking, well, this, I'm happy for him and I'm you know, I'm saying, well, you know, congratulations. What a crass it's not. No, it's just extremely grow. It's the suspect it's the culture that we're in. Well, that's what he's supposed to think, even if you think it it's kind of I know, I know. And then to pull out your bank statement as if look at my bank statement. No, well, he was trying to explain to us that we should be doing what he did. Forget mutual funds and put your money into stocks. I mean it was an interest. I mean he was he was trying to be helpful, but I'm just saying that this is the society we're in, where Jeff bezos is this hero because he's got the most money. And and we talked about Warren Buffett. You know, yes, your s going to be ninety this month. I think. Still goes to work every day. Still goes to work every day, but it's yeah, but I'm fond of him. I know. Yeah, me too, because I think here's where it gets interesting, when we could have we need to have discussions, because he's, on the one hand, committed to generating wealth while being militantly devoted at the same time to only wealth that's produced by people who do stuff, and I give him some credit for that. He's given away most of his money. I give him credit for that and he didn't give his kids much and away money. They got more than we have. Anyway. He's as these people go, yeah, as those people go, as those he's a good one. And Bill Gates is giving away most of his money. But he was a dick on the way up. Exactly still begs the question of, and I think it's a legitimate one, in this historical moment, in what kind of psychotic universe is it ever legit or even commendable for single organisms to command that much of earth? It's like, like we said in our podcast. Yeah, if you spend a thousand dollars an hour, twenty four hours a day, it will take you one hundred fourteen years to spend a billion dollars. Yes, one billion, and Bezos has a hundred and forty three billion. But well, now that's the honestly, that's it's quite psychotic. It looks great, it's I said it was perverse. I don't know, I see. Yeah, but I think that we're looking at what we were talking before the microphone is turned on, was linking narcissism with a for the for Che you know, Contemporary Heroism, initiative for the people. Don't know what she is the four main issues mental health, economic inequality, environment and war. Right, and we're always looking at mental health as the adverse consequences of not having enough self esteem or opportunities for heroism in the culture. So Depression, stress, addiction, all of those maladies we looked at as consequence. But now we're talking about narcissism, which is a mental health issue which may be the result of the culture in some ways, or it may be the result of being mistreated as a child, being raised by a sociopath. Away trump was. But you're looking at narcissism also as a reason for these issues, as you just pointed out, with like social media. Yes, yeah, your it feeds into itself. Yeah, there are multipliers. So just right. So, just like the hopeful spiral, right, you are alluding to earlier's this is the malignant downward spiral. Yeah, so, and and that's a nice metaphor because they're each spiraling, yes, at accelerating rates and opposite directions. And we've got an epide Damach of narcissisms, particularly among millennials, that's being tracked with these studies and they're saying narcissism is on the rise in the younger generations. How can it not be when you're told...

...every day that you're supposed to be a narcissist to succeed in this world? Yeah, that's the messages you're being told. So I'm looking at this from the Chi perspective going well, wait a minute, you multiplier is a good a good term, but I'm thinking causation of the narcissism in the individual, the collective narcissism generating economic inequality. Am I wrong there? And does that make sense? Like I'm making these connections in my head with no data to support it. No, it's called intuition. Maybe you're intuiting it. I mean iintj or something like that. When. Yes, yeah, yeah, you know, given my egghead background, we would take a look. I mean it's yeah, honestly, it's a legit and credible hypothesis. Right, yes, it's. And and you actually framed it, you know, the way you would, Egghead, Okad lead, and that that's to your credit. You okay, you're positive, a counterintuitive right causal yes, connection, basically saying a case could be made that malignant narcissism underlies, animates, amplifies and therefore is ultimately responsible. In a very central way for all of our yes, original eggsisterias of inquiry. Yes, right, yes, because what we're saying is, in my mind, narcissism's annoying. Do you see these articles? Well, you don't want to date a narcissist. Yeah, because these things are going to happen if you date a narcissist and they're very charming. NARCISSISTS are very they're very charming and they're very attractive and Blah, Blah Blah. But then when you'd really get into a relationship with them, they you know, they cause all these problems. Okay, fine, but economic inequality is a danger to your health. Yeah, it's a danger to our form of government. It's a danger to the middle class way of life. Bar Zom is saying we're going to have a society of Oligarchs and peasants and I won't be a middle class to speak of. Forget democracy. And I heard a great new word, Kleptocrat. KLEPTOCRAT, both, both of them, both of the parties, are Kleptocratic. Yes, yes, it's not great. That's wonderful, because it's because it's accurate. Is Yeah, so you're saying, okay, Narcissism. It's annoying. But then you say, wait a minute, if narcissism is at the heart of economic inequality, it's dangerous, it's destructive. Then you say, well, what about the environment? Will how the environments linked directly to economic inequality and the environment is linked to narcissism, because the narcissist says, I care about quarterly profits and if you got to burn down a rain forest to get me my quarterly numbers, so be it. So be it. And the next generation has to handle it. So be it. There's no empathy there. I don't think they even think about the next you know that that statement would never yet happen. So again, just no empathy. You really don't care about the consequences of your actions. So you say, okay, so there's this narcissistic society that's spinning the world out of control, from economic inequality and the environment, and then you look at war, and that's where this collective narcissism hit me. I had never heard the term before, for you sent sent us that article, Sheldon. But when you think about collective narcissism and war, Holy Shit, it's all about collective narcissism. We are superior. Our in group is superior. Oh, our in group feels put upon by those towel heads over there. So yeah, Smite them, take their oil while we're at it, because we deserve it. And you say, well, it's a direct outgrowth of the society, that the secular society we've created. But it's the same time, you say. But would a humble society attack the Middle East this way? Would a grateful society attack these other people? I suspect not. Probably not. Now Hope you don't get so humble that if people come...

...riding into you, thing like you need to be able to kick some ass. If you need to kick some ass. Yeah, you got to be careful here. I'm saying that there's a difference between hegemony and survival, to use no M Chomsky's terms. Okay, okay, and survival, yes, obviously you've got US defend yourself if you're concerned about this hostile world that you find yourself in. But hegemony's a whole different trip. That's about controlling the world, control control the uncontrollable. That's Best Becker one hundred and one right there. You want to control the uncontrollable. So our defense budget like eighty percent goes to hegemony and twenty percent goes to survival. You've got this collective narcissism that's driving our decision to try to dominate one point five billion Muslims. It can't be done. It's insane, but that's what we're attempting. And it's not just us, because it's Europe and certainly the western world, but the Muslims are thinking the exact same thing. They're going, well, yeah, you've got nukes, but we've got God, we've got all on our side and yours a secular infidels, and we've got the truth, we've got the Quran, and you go come on, folks, this is the twenty one century im I thought we would have put this behind us by now, but we obviously haven't. But if if I think about humility and gratitude as an antidote, well then I would think the Muslims would embrace that, the Christians would embrace that, these born again Christians, the humanists, would embrace it. You got to be pretty much of it, Dick to not embrace humility and gratitude. I think. I think Cheney would laugh you out of the room, Jane. He's a Dick. I rest my case. Now, come on the in the entire trump administration there's no humility, there's no gratitude. Rest my case. Yeah, but you're talking about sixty million people voted for this, this this phony game show host here, who purported to be a brilliant businessman and all that. I don't want to get into trump, but I'm just saying that he's like the poster child for Narcissism. Here's the thing that continues to bug me. I was while I was cleaning today, I was listening to the story of electricity, its invention. Couple of years back I watched an HBO series called the men who made America, right, because it sounded like it would be uplifting. These guys didn't have any intention of making America. No, they're making themselves. They were they were trying to get over, they were trying to be the big swinging Dick in the fight and they would do the most horrible things. America got made sort of as a byproduct, unintentionally. Same thing with electricity. Edison was pushing for this DC current. Yeah, and he had to build like a power station every half mile, you know, in order to be able to make it work, but he wouldn't let go of that. Even after Westinghouse is in there going yeah, it's got to be alternating current. We custla Tesla's those test was the one who finally cracks through. But they were going head to head. There was no and Thatison was ready to take your legs off. Oh he did the most horrible thing. He wanted to show how their power is so dangerous, so they got this elephant. It's the most horrifying it's the most horrifying public relations on in the history of history, because they've trying to electrocute this poor elephant with this giant voltage and it takes them like over an hour to do it, Oh my God. And they're doing it on camera. You're watching them torture this thing, and this is so this guy can prove his point that this is dangerous. It didn't even turn out to seem that dangerous. If it takes an hour to kill an elephant, I think you'd you'd probably be okay after a quick spark. But the point being that what has driven US forward a lot in this society is pretty miserable shit being done by not such admirable people. It's not always, and this was something cousin Dave, he understood completely. They've lived in the dark side. Dave was very comfortable with the dark side. Look at look at the art on the walls in the room you're going to sleep in tonight, Sheldon. It's all Samurai warriors getting ready to dispense with someone with their Samurai Sword, wow, in a ritualistic fashion. Or there's also some nudes sex. What Dan Lick the rote in a one of the list served. We had...

...those emails, you know. Yeah, and who really talked about balancing self, self and the common good? Yeah, yeah, and and boy, that just hit me really hard and I wrote about that. Saying every society, every one of us, has to balance. Well, that's right. Selfish need and the common good. And our societies out of balance. Yeah, it's tilted in one direction. The North Koreans are tilted all away over in the other direction. Now that's I think that's a great general statement that has the virtue of being true. Dan Put it beautifully and I think that that our society is out of balance. We're tilted all the way over into now what we're calling narcissism or selfishness. Or Self centeredness or self obsession, whatever it is, and less to the common good. Now, when you say, well, warren warn Buffett gives all this money to charity, sure, absolutely. There's all kinds of opportunities for doing important things for the common good, but if you do them without money, you're a loser. It's okay if you've got lots of money and then, like Rockefeller, you know, you build a museum and you and you build the cloisters museum and then you buy the palisades across the river so you've got a view, so you have a good view, of good view from the from the that's the way those as just they ink, but that's thinking big. But they did think in terms of the common good. The robber barons were all about building libraries and, you know, testaments to themselves, legacies and this kind of thing. These, I don't know, these billionaires, you don't see a lot of that, that kind of philanthropy. Yeah, you know they're doing it for tax purposes, but it's not the same kind of thing that. Well, I don't mean the past is the past, but the common good. It plays a role. But unless you're Mother Teresa and you're famous and your focus is the common good. But you're not making money. You're a loser. You took a vow of poverty as a priest. Well, you know, good for you. You know. It's like idiot. Yeah, in New York it's well, why I haven't I heard of you? If you're so wonderful, why aren't you famous? It's this this whole attitude that you're supposed to be something, you're supposed to be this like Jeff bezos. You you're supposed to aspire to that, and that just fuels this this narcissism. That is I think that's killing us. If you come back and say, but what about humility and gratitude? Gratitude and said, well, I can buy that if you can fake sincerity, the rest is rest is easy. You, you. I don't like that one. But this is the first time I have felt genuinely hopeful. I might be getting way, way ahead of ourselves here. Now I've got the same experience when we were talking to him. It's because this is something I really feel like I could get behind and make something happen with. I don't know what I would make happen, but I well, then, what are we doing here? No, I know. I mean I want to talk about an explore it, and then it's an idea that I can see people getting interested in and not getting as turned off as they did by Becker and T mt, because it's got an it's got a potential upside. Yes, if it's really true what we're saying here, and it sounds like it is, from the experiments that Sheldon just described about gratitude being an antidote for subsequently induced mortality salience and then testing it on the far side, proving that the gratitude had an impact. Theoretically, as he says, we got to test it more, but that seems worth while. And if it's true, now people can do something that's that's something that, like you said, it's built into the religions. People already have a sense of how to do that. I'm a days that they're not saying look, don't take the sleeping pill, embrace humility and gratitude to cure your insomnia and even known about. Why do you? Why go through, why go through years of analysis, when you can reduce your depression or your stress...

...by embracing humility and gratitude? Well, you know that's what the positive psyche people would write. Yes. So in that sense they have a point taken right and at its best. That's where the mindfulness people the what the the mindfulness? Mindfulness right, you know, Mike? Yeah, there these are interrelated constructs and, I would argue, phenomenological experiences. Yeah, because I think if you're grateful and humble, it draws your attention to different things and that lends itself more to a state of mind that's will ideally foster a completely different set of values and behaviors right possibly a better society. I don't see grateful, humble people invading Iraq on the pretext of, yeah, weapons of mass destruction. I don't see them burning down rainforests so they can make their quarterly numbers. I don't see them doing anything that Dick Cheney did for a living or that trump is doing now. And I just feel like there's something to this that makes a lot of sense to me and I wish I understood more of it. I wish there was more data. Let's try getting that going. There's something we could help out with. When we did the conversations with Solomon, interviews with with Jeff and Tom and I brought up emotional intelligence, and Jeff was like, anybody know what this shit is? Jeff, Jeff, hit you over the head with a hammer. Yeah, and and Sheldon was saying, yeah, yeah, it's such and such without attribution, and I'm going you, okay, I from that. From your standpoint, I can understand how you might not be crazy about Daniel Goleman, but I thought emotional intelligence was a very important of course it is. Yeah, you know, I think Jeff was pissing on it, and maybe I was also, just because it's been floating around the idea has been there for some time and it was and it was coopted by HR departments exact and it was not, you know, you know, like all good ideas, it's yeah, and it's not hard science, it's soft science. Yes, that I mean. There's no, there's good evidence. I've raised my kids to be emotionally intelligent. I read that book and I said this is what I want my kids to be. I wanted to grow up to be emotionally intelligent. They will be happy, yeah, be healthy, they will. They'll make livings, they'll know how to make a living. Yeah, it's precisely what's not measured on the scholastic aptitude test. That's yeah, that's not a single question on there about how to get along with another person. That's good point. Yeah, this idea that you're proud of your children, I'm not proud. I basically got out of the way and let them grow up. Pride that they're not my report card. Yeah, no, I am proud of my kids, but it doesn't reflect on me at all. Oh, that's different. That I had good kids in spite of me is yeah, you know what makes me beam as when people come up and they're like, your kids are decent. Oh Yeah, beaming, yeah, yeah, yeah, we rang the bell. I'm there's a before this. Is that sad? In my parents and their parents in particular generation, they would have said that children are in the world to be useful to their parents. Know, that's really what they believe. That's the agriculture. Yeah, they're definitely great and right culture. YEA, and in that Scott Peck Book I'm always ramp ranting about, he says that complete opposite is true. Parents are in the world to be useful to their children. Yes, I mean if you only have to think about it with half a brain cell to realize that that's right. If you're going to have children and you're going to try to make them into the best human beings. You're there to be useful to them. That's right, not the reverse, but it's it's not what a lot of people want to hear. The other hopeful notion, theory, whatever, was flow, and you turn me onto yeah. Well, Yah, huge, it's huge and I experience it all the time. I do too at certain times recording. Yeah, I doubt the flow guy. I don't know if he's upright, but you know flow. Yeah, mccallie, he called chicken many medium behind its key, but I know his people. You know, that's the same school that Gene Lippman, blooman's that. So you definitely want to yeah, yeah, a flow, that's pause. Yes, that's positive psychology to yeah, that's another topic to make a note of. Yeah, yeah, to me that's that. That's the most vibrant part, right of positive psychology.

Yeah, because I looked at flow as an antidote to death anxiety. Well, it is, yeah, very effective. And again I'm looking for hopeful possibilities, humility and gratitude. You were taught, as a Catholic, to believe how humble you're supposed to be. I have. I have one idea. It's a Joseph Campbell ISM that I want to say, because this isn't completely new what you're saying. Yeah, there are. We're cultures where the men would go out on the hunt and when they came back, Victoria is the leader had the privilege moving away giving away, yes, the best parts, yes, of the kill, often eating a terrible peace seeing himself. That's the same message. Yeah, isn't it? The best part of bringing it home is sharing it with the the other citizens which like that inconceivable. Inconceivable Nowad yes, but there are a lot of Nice, quiet people who've been living this way right along. You know, they're still billions, they're still in the society, tens of million, and they don't they're just not affected by this outside stuff that much. They just keep their head down, they keep going on. They know what's right. They would say. I know what's right, I know how to live my life right. I've got cards from people that were sent to cousin Dave. I've been going to that church for fifteen years and I'm not even sure who they are, but they sent hand drawn, beautiful drawings and by it send can that the cards just flooded in here when he passed. Can we're so sweet, you know. Thank you for bringing Dave to the church. That's guy that brought he what he brings? Soup that day? Yeah, Larry from the choir. Yeah, there's some soup. Yeah, we Miss Dave and thanks for introducing him to us. And you know, that's just a that's it. Yeah, it may sound Corny, though it is corny. That's what it's just of hope. But it's good. But it's good I like. I like that feeling, so feeling of community. Yeah, so I'm stuck on that. You know, did we talk about this? You know, yes, the original. Yes, you know, religion means to bind. Yes, and is that true? Yeah, the rewardal derivation that comes from a Latin word over a God. They are something and it means to bind. And the the dead. Durkheim, French sociologist. His point is is that religion originated long before God's and likely long before we were consciously aware of death, and it's original function was a socially binding one. And he calls it effervescence, that it collective effervescence, that we needed some way to express our just utter joy and stoop deification at the prospect of being alive and that it could only be done in a communal setting. That's gratitude. That's the the other definition of gratitude that is missing, because when you say gratitude, they go, well, who will you grateful to? What gift? You know, what Christmas gift? Are you gratitude? Grateful? You're saying, no, it's not. That's not what we're talking yeah, gratitude, grateful for being alive, of food. Right, we're and so everything else is subsequent to that literal I'm bride at all awesome joy, right, and and taking God out of the equation, right, because it wasn't there to begin with. Yeah, it was all about people in the early days. It's not an essential element, although the you know, the religious people, will say it is. Yeah, and that's fine, but it's not necessary to be humble and grateful. No, have God in the in the picture. I agree. You're on to something. You've been listening to a conversation with Dr Sheldon Solomon. You know, we've known sheldon since two thousand and two. Yes, I was just a young lad at the time. Yeah, right, thanks. And you know, the three of us have been friends and associates ever since. We used to refer to him as our rabbi if we needed help with our various projects. Oh yeah, and he has been very generous with his time and thoughts, and this meeting was no exception. And if you're wondering what sheldon is like when he's not being interviewed in a movie or on TV, he's exactly the same. He is a great guy. He's complex and deep right, and a truly genuine human being. You know, when...

...you talk to him it suddenly occurs how far ahead of you he is. So every once in a while he'll let something slip that you just find yourself staring into the into the deep, but he never makes you feel that way. He's truly a great teacher in that respect. I always feel embarrassed when he says and have you read Soandso? I'm like I should just say to him, look, Sheldon, I haven't read anything that you've read, so let's don't even go there. Right. It's like he can go through a list of books about any subject. There's almost nothing he hasn't read. He's so well read it's but anyway, he's an academic so his job? Well, well, okay, sure, but he probably reads like tenzero words a second the way he I mean the number of books that he's let's problem. Probably. So, if I could boil down what we were getting at in our conversation, it's that narcissism, this epidemic of narcissism that we find ourselves in, especially collective narcissism, which is a new term we've just learned. Narcissism poses a danger to our society. We find it at the heart of several existential threats like economic inequality, climate chaos and war, just a name three. We have said in the past that our cultures failure to provide adequate defense against death anxiety causes numerous problems for all of us. Narcissism is both an inadequate defense and a multiplier of many social ills. So, and looking for hope in what we consider a very challenging time, we discovered something that had been right under our noses for five years. Humility and gratitude as possible antidotes to narcissism and alternatives to our cultures poor defenses against death anxiety. We say possible because much more research needs to be done, but the early studies are very promising. Humility and gratitude, notions found in all the great religions, are philosophical concepts with great potential for what ails our society. They are narcissism, antimatter will. I like that, you like you like that race. That's get. It's good. It's good, I like it, and we certainly need that. So we're going to explore these themes in future podcasts. All are important ideas. Amen. Join US next time. Like us on facebook. Please recommend us to your friends. You can find us at www hub for important ideascom and support us on Patreon at wwwacom front slash, the hub important ideas. We are one hundred percent listeners supported. Thank you for listening to the hub for important ideas. I'm Steve James and I'm Ken Swain. STAY SAFE, everybody. Stay well.

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