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Duration:04:00
Uploaded:2019-02-19
Last sync:2019-02-19 16:10
In which John discusses the meaning of life, how to battle apathy, whether a liberal arts education is useful, eating his cereal with water, and other big questions of human existence.

MinutePhysics: https://www.youtube.com/user/minutephysics
The Anthropocene Reviewed: https://www.wnycstudios.org/shows/anthropocene-reviewed

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Listen to The Anthropocene Reviewed at http://www.theanthropocenereviewed.org
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Good morning Hank, it’s Tuesday. It’s Question Tuesday, the day I answer real questions from real nerdfighters. People had a lot of tough questions today, so we’re goin’ deep.


“I feel really alone and isolated and I don’t know what to do. How do I break this cycle and go outside?”


I know what you mean about it being a cycle like whenever I feel lonely, I often do things that distract me, but ultimately make my loneliness worse.


And then I’m deeper into it, which makes it harder to crawl out of and that can start to feel infinite, but it is not.


It does get better, it will get better. And I don’t think this is happening because you lack courage, but I do encourage you to talk to someone today that you trust in real life. A parent, a teacher, a friend, someone. And tell them that you are struggling and need support.


“What is the meaning of life?”


Ah geez! I think it’s different for different people, and even different at different times. But for me right now, it’s to try to use the gift of human consciousness to pay attention.


“What are some things you’re enjoying now that you’re off social media?”


So, the first time I fell in love, like, nothing felt real unless I either experienced it with the person I loved or told them about it later.


And I think that's kind of how I treated Instagram and Twitter for the last couple years. Like, an experiences realness was partly contingent upon its sharedness.


And I’m really enjoying looking at things outside the frame of shareability.


“Do you collect anything that other people might not understand, but brings you joy?”


Yes, football scarves. Admittedly, they have very limited function, but what a beautiful form.


“How can you make yourself like physics?”


Watch Minute Physics. But more generally I think that sometimes it feels like the point of school is to take tests and get grades and feel a constant gnawing stomach flipping worry. But, in fact, the point of school is to understand the universe better and physics can help you do that.


“What’s your favorite movie right now?”


My favorite movie forever is Harvey. In fact, it’s one of the subjects of the next Anthropocene Reviewed.


“Can we get more frequent episodes of the Anthropocene Reviewed?”


Alas, it takes an entire month for me to write one.


“What do you think of people who still write ‘first’ in the comments section of videos in 2019?”


I think it’s great actually. I like any tradition that isn’t offensive and can survive for 12 years online. In fact, check out the first comment of this video.


“Is getting a liberal arts degree useless?”


I mean I suppose it depends on what you think the point of life is. But from my perspective, no.


I mean I studied English and religious studies, and look at me! Sittin’ here in a basement, talkin’ to a camera.


If you wanna maximize your lifetime income, then you probably shouldn’t get a liberal arts degree. But I don’t think that’s the only metric by which the quality of a human life should be judged.

"Can you talk about the turtles all the way down movie?"

Yes, I wrote a book called Turtles All the Way Down and now it is being made into a movie, hopefully, and Hannah Marks has been hired as the director. And she is so wonderful and I am not just saying that because she often watches these videos.

"Do you still eat cereal with water?"

Yes and it is still delicious and I refuse to be shamed for my watery cereal. I thin it is weird that all of you people drink your cereal with cow juice.

"What advice would you give yourself 12 years ago when you started vlogbrothers?"

Edit the jumps cuts a little bit tighter. Also, ridiculing someone else's world view does not make anything better. That is still advice I should give myself actually.

"What advice would you give your high school self?"

Ahh, I would tell him that I know it's hard and he's doing ok. And he is more loved than he knows and also worthy of love. And also I would tell him to smoke fewer cigarettes.

"I have so little faith in humanity. I have seen so much pain. How do I keep myself from going apathetic?"

You are right that there is a lot of pain in the world and I am sorry you have seen so much of it. And I can't know or identify with your pain in particular. But I have felt despair in response to pain. And I have been pulled down deep by that despair. And I have found plenty of justification for it. But in the end, I believe that despair is simple and humanity is complex.

There is cause for despair but there is also cause for other feelings. I think we have to see and listen to the pain. But we also have to see and listen to joy and the hope and the progress both in individual lives and in our life as a species. And for me at least, that is how I escape the apathy trap.

Hank, I'll see you on Friday.