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In which John discusses whether human life has real meaning (and if constructed meaning is less real than derived meaning), thinks about thinking, offers to attend pretty much any wedding with an open bar, reveals his favorite two-digit number, and answers real questions from real nerdfighters.

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Good morning Hank, it's Tuesday!

It's Question Tuesday, the day that I answer real questions from real Nerdfighters. Let's get right to it!

"Do rich people have better Wi-Fi, or does Beyonce have to unplug the router sometimes?"

Interesting fact: money can buy you almost anything, but it cannot buy you freedom from Comcast. I'm pretty sure Beyonce has to reset her router just like the rest of us.

"How do I cope with the fact that there's no real meaning in life?"

Oh man, I wish we could just go back to Beyonce questions. So, listen, maybe meaning in life is constructed by us rather than derived from some objective truth, but that doesn't make meaning not real.

Okay, so, you should always be suspicious of people who use metaphor to approach questions of meaning, however, imagine you're walking through a forest one night, and you come to a clearing and you find an eternal fire. It's the perfectly sized fire and it doesn't need anything from you. You don't have to put wood in it, it just burns and burns. And you can spend your whole life seeing by its light, and being warmed by it, and so on.

I think that's an awesome fire and if you find one you should be grateful, but imagine that you don't. Imagine on your travels you never come across an eternal fire. In that case, you have to build a fire and then find fuel to keep it going and sometimes it'll go out and you've got to start a new fire.

Now, in some ways that's worse, but in some ways it's better because unlike the eternal fire, you understand how and why it works. Point being, I would argue the light and heat from both fires are equally real. Alright, that's all I got, no more questions about the meaning of life.

"Will you come to my wedding in September? My partner is obsessed with you and your wife."

So, when Sarah and I got married we invited a somewhat famous person, who shall remain nameless, to our wedding. He wasn't like a close friend, but he was someone who'd had an important role in getting us together. And we thought it would be nice to invite him.

So anyway, a couple weeks after the invitations come out, I get an email and it begins, "Of course I cannot come to your wedding" What do you mean "of course?!" Is there a less necessary "of course" in the history of the English language? Would not "I cannot come to your wedding" have sufficed?

Anyway, he did buy us some wine glasses off our registry, which we still have, so thank you. Right, but to your question, of course we cannot come to your wedding. I'm kidding! If it's in Indianapolis and there's an open bar, we'll be there.

"Favorite fictional depiction of time travel?"

I like your implication that there are non fictional depictions of time-travel. Probably, for me, Back to the Future, which has had kind of an outsized influence on my life.

"Is there going to be another season of Crash Course: Literature?"

Yeah, probably. What should we read? "I want to know everything about your new book."

But sadly, I don't know everything about it, because it's not finished, yet.

"Are you tired of people asking about your new book?"

No, it's nice that people care, I just wish I had something more to tell them.

"What's your favorite river?"

Definitely the White River, here in Indianapolis. Even though Indianapolis is a city of a million people, the river is really beautiful and mostly deserted. Like, you can kayak for hours without seeing anyone. And the reason it's so beautiful is that it's basically a heavily polluted open sewer, and by basically I mean it is those things. So it seems natural and pristine precisely because it is so unnatural and polluted. It's just a very metaphorically resonant river.

"Favorite online server to store and organize information?"

Nice try, hackers, but not this time.

"Do you like the number 53?"

Mm.. It's probably in my top half of 2-digit numbers. 43 is the best, though.

"Do you ever go by any nicknames?"

Well, some of my friends from high school still call me Kuffs, because I once said that Christian Slater never made a bad movie.

"Do thoughts mean consciousness?"

So, like, I spend probably the majority of my free time thinking about whether I am actually comprised of my thoughts, and to what extent the thoughts that are called mine actually belong to me, but I haven't come to any meaningful conclusions.

"Why've people become so obsessed with being right, rather than developing richer ways of thinking?"

I don't know. I'm trying to practice saying "I don't know" more, because, it seems to me, a really underutilized phrase.

Hey, what's in the boxes behind you?"

I don't know.

"When's your new book going to come out?"

I don't know.

"If your greatest hope and your greatest fear challenged each other to a duel, who would win?"

So, who would win a duel between absolute oblivion and a cure for malaria? I don't know!

Hank, this "I don't know" stuff is amazing. The life-changing magic of "I don't know"!

Hank, I will see you on Friday. Actually, I don't know for sure that I'm going to see you on Friday, but I hope I do.