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The Sun Interview

Table For Six Billion, Please

Judy Wicks On Her Plan To Change The World, One Restaurant At A Time

You hear more lately about the concept of “food miles” — how far food travels to get to your plate. To most people fewer food miles just means that it’s fresher, but others are starting to make the connection to carbon emissions, though I don’t think that’s the primary reason people buy local. I think the local-food movement is more concerned with nutrition and community connection: people want to meet the farmers who grow their food, and they know that local food tastes better and is healthier and more nutritious.

The Sun Interview

Weapons In The War For Human Kindness

Why David Budbill Sits On A Mountaintop And Writes Poems

Leading up to the war, I doubted the value of anything but antiwar poetry. I thought all my nature poems were . . . well, stupid. But the moment the antiwar movement failed and the bombing began, I knew how important poems about birds and trees and loneliness and sex and food and joy were. I knew those little poems were weapons in the war for human kindness.

The Sun Interview

Risky Business

Peter Sandman On Corporate Misbehavior And Public Outrage

I tend to be more passionate about the process of communication than about the outcome. I’m interested in people listening better and talking more and wanting to understand each other’s point of view. I try to eliminate the things that get in the way of that. And it’s a Sisyphean task, because industry people and activists aren’t really talking to each other; they’re doing theater with each other. Whichever side I am working for, I try to find a way for both sides to listen better.

The Sun Interview

Hope Dies Last

Studs Terkel’s Enduring Conversation With America

I’m known as an oral historian, but I still consider myself a disc jockey. I’d play all these records: Andrés Segovia, followed by Ravi Shankar, then Dizzy Gillespie. And I’d interview musicians. Andrés Segovia told me this story: There was an audience of five thousand in Ann Arbor to hear him, one old man — I call him “old”; I’m ninety-three, and he was eighty at the time — with a guitar, a classical guitar, delicate, and they leaned over listening as he played a Bach transcription. After the performance, one of his admirers came up to him and said, “It was wonderful, but you play so softly. I had to lean forward and listen so hard.” “You know what I did next time?” Segovia said to me. “I played even more softly, so that he listened even more.”

Essays, Memoirs, and True Stories

Cleaned Out

One of the steps AA asks of recovering alcoholics is to make “a searching and fearless moral inventory” of themselves, and now, alone in my motel room, I find myself fairly obsessed with my stuff: how much of it there is and how long it will last. I have my laptop and a suitcase containing T-shirts, jeans, and khakis, three long-sleeved shirts, one pair of shorts, vitamins, and an assortment of toiletries. I have a tote bag stuffed with books, which will, along with the hiking boots I have brought for weekends, turn out to be the most useless items in my inventory.

The Sun Interview

The Temple Of Reason

Sam Harris On How Religion Puts The World At Risk

If I could wave a magic wand and get rid of either rape or religion, I would not hesitate to get rid of religion. I think more people are dying as a result of our religious myths than as a result of any other ideology. I would not say that all human conflict is born of religion or religious differences, but for the human community to be fractured on the basis of religious doctrines that are fundamentally incompatible, in an age when nuclear weapons are proliferating, is a terrifying scenario. I think we do the world a disservice when we suggest that religions are generally benign and not fundamentally divisive.

Fiction

Victory

In their letter to the weekly newspaper, the Klan hadn’t said what time they planned to arrive, just that on the anniversary of Martin Luther King’s assassination they would be in Churchill passing out literature and demonstrating. When I called around town to find out what people were planning to do about it, the consensus in the white community was that we should ignore them.

The Sun Interview

Quiet, Please

Gordon Hempton On The Search For Silence In A Noisy World

Certainly people have their preferences regarding music and other sounds they like to listen to, but I do believe there is an “ideal” soundscape, and I’ve given it a name: “sonesia.” It includes the sounds of wildlife, such as songbirds. It includes the gentle sound of insects and the sound of distant water. (Up close, rushing water can mask the other sonic elements of the environment.) All of these sounds are indicative of grassland, a savannah. That’s where humans evolved, along with songbirds, which are the best indicator of an environment’s suitability for human prosperity: where songbirds live, there is also sufficient food for humans.