On Being with Maria Popova

Finally listened to the On Being episode with Maria Popova . Brilliant stuff. I especially like her discussion of the relationship between cynicism and hope and the role critical thinking has in bridging the gap. And of course anyone who is a proponent of reading Seneca is OK in my book. If you’re going to read a classical philosopher, pass by Plato and head straight for Seneca. Many more modern application for his thoughts and ideas.
One thing that bothers me about her though is her intentional neglect of western Christian thinkers in her intellectual travels. She speaks a lot about the common human record, but then ignores a vital part of it. For instance, she talks about struggling for years to understand why flashes of insight occurred to her while showering or exercising, but a reading of St John of the Cross would have made that clear. Then she goes on about how important Thoreau is to her thinking, but doesn’t seem to realize that Thoreau is indebted to St. Augustine for many of his ideas.
Part of me wonders too if her neglect of this branch of thought has created a certain self-centeredness. I am specifically thinking of when she describes what it means to be human. While speaking eloquently about how our identity as human changes with time, she can not seem to come up with an answer that does not revolve entirely around herself. Even when she starts to talk about a relational definition of mankind, she turns it into a relationship with her past identities. I suspect she is partly right, but I also think a definition of what it means to be human that ignores community cannot be complete.
Regardless, Popova’s site is a favorite and it was cool to get a peek behind the scenes.