Transcript of conversation with my son Philip
Hey everybody, Charles Eisenstein here, with my honored guest, Philip Eisenstein, who, as you might suspect, is related to me. He's my third of four sons and 18 years old. And we thought we'd have a little conversation kind of on an intergenerational theme, and see what comes out of it. So, what's on your mind?
Well, now that I’ve started entering the wider world after graduating high school, I've come to feel a certain anxiety about my future. Both my personal future relating to what I want to pursue and the kind of life I want to live, but also the material future of the world around me, of the country, climate, political conflict, inequality. I’m curious if you had similar anxieties and worries when you were younger, and if you could say something to your past self, what would you say now, knowing what you know?
Yeah, I definitely had those anxieties. You know, I grew up after the Cold War was pretty much over, but it was still kind of lingering, and I was worried about nuclear armageddon to the point that if there was a thunderstorm, and lightning flashed, I would wonder if it was the flash of a nuclear bomb. Climate change wasn't really known as the issue that it is today, but I started to become aware of it when I was a teenager. But from the influence of my father, there was this general kind of dystopian tint on everything that was happening. I did not believe that the world was getting better and better. I was aware of horrible things happening on Earth, and I became more aware of them as I got to about your age and started reading radical literature.
It hadn't really coalesced though, the way it has for your generation. Because, up until my generation, each generation was materially better off than the previous one. Life expectancy was higher than it had been in the previous generation, and there was less infant mortality. By a lot of objective standards, things were getting better and better, and we expected that to continue. The future was going to be this amazing place. And I don't think that that basic assumption is still present.
I sensed that something was wrong, a foreboding feeling that things were not going to be okay. And it was a little harder to put persuasive words to that feeling at the time, because we were still very much in the mindset of “Technology and Science is going to fix it and the future is going to be great.” But now that mindset has diminished, the problems are so much more obvious, and to ignore them requires a greater and greater effort of willful blindness. So anyway, that's a long way of saying, yeah. I felt it. But it wasn't so obvious what I was all upset about. And I think it's more obvious now. Do you think, Philip, that this is a generalized feeling?
Yeah, for example, my friends are very aware of the monetary and industrial aspect of a lot of science and medicine nowadays, and it’s easy for us to take for granted that sometimes pharmaceutical corporations or what have you will do something illegal or unethical that makes them billions of dollars, while the legal consequences they face only cost them a fraction of their profits. All of this stuff, to a certain extent, we’re aware of, and we just accept it as a fact of the world. We can't change any of it, after all, It's something that's happening regardless of what we want.
I've also had some conversations with my friends about the dissolution of religion and the hole that was left in the human psyche that people tried to fill with various ideologies and philosophies. And eventually, that vacuum was filled in the west by Capital and Science. But even they're not fully held anymore. A lot of people my age are embracing a more nihilistic worldview. No metaphysics or philosophy is collectively held for us, and so what are we supposed to see as real or meaningful anymore?
Yeah, You know, nihilism has always been most popular among teenagers, going back to the beginnings of it. And I think part of that is a transition process where the childhood meanings break down, and all of the meanings and order you've inherited from your parents begin to feel unsatisfying. There's even, I think, a process of brain development where the rational mind is fully developed by age 13, 14. You think you've got it all figured out, and you extend those cognitive forms of reason and logic to their limits. And what do you end up with? You cannot break through their confines on their own terms, when you're immersed in a scientific worldview that says that reality is nothing but atoms and void bouncing around according to mathematical forces, you cannot find meaning. In the end, if that's what your metaphysics fundamentally is, which is what we've inherited from science, then it sure seems like any meaning or purpose is a projection onto nothing. And that's nihilism, right? I mean, I used to be a nihilist too, but then I thought there wasn't any point in it, so I stopped. That’s a joke. (Laughter) But it’s also the despair phase of reaching the limits of the search for meaning and not finding it.
And that despair is not just intellectual. Someone told me that the Vikings even had this. In ancient Norse times, young people would go through a Time of the Ashes, where they would just basically cover themselves in ashes in the longhouse and not even get out of bed, grappling with this existential despair. But there's something on the other side of it. That's what I wanted to say. It is not irrational, but it cannot be found through reason.
Other cultures had initiation experiences that would put you in touch with the transcendent dimension of life, which also corresponds to, according to an author I used to read years and years ago, Joseph Chilton Pierce, a phase of brain development that is not well recognized — at least it wasn't in the 80s — that corresponds to the graduation into transcendent thinking, which is trans-personal as well. It understands being as more than separation, more than an individual. And therefore it corresponds to the discovery and embodiment of your purpose.
Because part of the nihilistic feeling of meaninglessness is, What am I doing here? What's my purpose? Why am I here? What is a human being for? What am I for? And if there's no answer to that, and if the culture's only answer is to pretend that it's meaningful and to maximize your self-interest, that doesn't do it. That doesn't satisfy the quest, the question, the quest for the knowledge that you need to embody.
Charles Eisenstein (12:41.778)
If I could answer your first question — if I could speak to myself at 18 — I would affirm by saying, “Your secret suspicion that you are here for something magnificent is true.” That you are here to contribute to the unfolding of the magnificence of creation, to contribute to more life and more beauty in the world. And when I say magnificent, it doesn't necessarily mean famous or successful in the outward sense, but something magnificent to you, something that makes you say, Yeah, this is what I'm here to do.
And so I had that suspicion. I think most young people have this spark of knowledge that something tremendous is supposed to happen in my life. And there's something that's supposed to happen beyond, Oh, I'm a fully capable adult now! There's another stage that's supposed to happen besides mastery of your material and social skills and “now I can make a living.” No, you're not here to make a living. You're here to live, not to make a living. You're not here to survive until your death.
Charles Eisenstein (14:22.262)
You're here to change the world. That's why you were born. And it doesn't need to be a huge, big thing. But you're here to make an imprint. And the world is different than if you had not been here, and different in a good way. And that's what I would communicate to myself, because it took me a long time, fighting a lot of doubt, to come to that realization. And maybe religions used to have that, but the religions of our time have been gutted and replaced with kind of an anti-religion, as you were saying, of Capital and Science.
Philip Eisenstein (15:10.17)
Yeah, that yearning, that knowledge that there is meaning and the recognition that that meaning isn't found in a lot of what's been presented to us. Something I can see peeking through in a lot of places. I'm reminded of when I was at the Green School for a few months, I remember all of the students were asking, Why do our grades matter? Why should we care about this so much? We're spending so many hours a day here doing what? And the teachers were basically like, “Well, your grades matter because it'll go into your transcript, which will go into your college application. And then that'll determine whether or not you can get a good job in the future. So you should really care about this.” But they didn't really care. Almost nobody in my class — a small class, 40 or 50 people — almost nobody cared, really. It was a performance and they knew that. And they were looking for something to care about — something to really devote themselves to. But what we had there, it didn't fit.
Charles Eisenstein (16:29.674)
Yeah. And that's kind of my cynical view of what school is for. It's to practice you in caring about things for external rewards.
But this refusal to care is a healthy sign of your classmates in that school, that they maybe didn't even bother to enact the performance. We believed it a lot more when I was in high school. And maybe that was because I was in the gifted programs and stuff, but people really cared about their grades and they really believed that it was gonna be their ticket to success. And this whole story of your transcript, a good school, you know, like that whole story of a life — it just seems really bleak, doesn't it? And it violates this sense that we have that we are here for something else.
Charles Eisenstein (19:04.27)
It drives you crazy to have a valid intuition that is not affirmed or reinforced by the environment that you're in. Especially school. These are supposed to be your mentors and your guides, wise adults who you put yourself in their hands for hours a day and they are supposed to be teaching you how to be human. And if they deny this absolutely core part of the human being, then it's really confusing.
And to be offered success of the individual as a substitute for what we really want also launches in some people an addictive pattern where you think that this thing that you're searching for — which is meaning, to contribute meaningfully — can be satisfied by outward measures of success. And it doesn't satisfy it. So then you need more of it and more of it and more of it.
And this is what happens to a lot of highly “successful” people. They've made a billion dollars and they've done it. They've made it. Well, why aren't they happy now? Why aren't they fulfilled? Maybe another billion would do it. But often at some point they realize that no more billions are going to do it. And then they actually do start looking for what they really want, some kind of authentic occupation.
Going back to your earlier point about the state of the world, there are a lot of despair narratives right now about the inevitability of catastrophic climate change, for example, or economic collapse or totalitarian takeover — all of these. No matter what political identity you have, there is a despair narrative that will present itself to you. And these are poisonous. They are telling you that your desire to contribute to life and beauty on Earth won't work. It'll be washed away in the flood of catastrophe that is inevitably facing us. Those narratives attempt to rob you of life, and their invitation is, well, if it's hopeless and nothing you do is going to mean anything, then you might as well conform. You might as well live hedonically, conforming to the program of individual fulfillment. And this is so bleak, because they deny the possibility of what you’re seeking. And I often talk about the false assumptions that underlie those despair narratives which basically require that we are helpless, separate individuals, and the changes you make don't matter. They say our only power to change lies in our ability to exercise a force on the world, which is a kind of scientific thinking, Newtonian thinking. Something moves when you exert a force. So the more force you can exert, the more you can move things, but you're just one person. And what can you do in the face of these enormous forces that we face today? Not much. So you're helpless, you're powerless. You might as well just go home. You know, that whole line of thinking is very deeply ingrained in scientific metaphysics, in the metaphysics that underlies science.
And again, it contradicts an intuitive knowing that the choices you make, especially those that are coming from love and from care for the people around you, are significant. They feel significant. They feel important. They feel like the world will be better for those decisions or worse if you don't care for those who need your care around you, right? It feels important in that moment. But you’re asked to override that feeling in the logic of What difference is it going to make in the big picture? You're just one person and sea levels are going to rise 50 feet and destroy everything anyway, right? What does it matter? So despair narratives contradict that valid, authentic recognition of what's important and how to live. The source of meaning is always service to something beyond yourself. Always.
That's not the only thing you should do in life. Because you have to receive in equal measure to what you give. But receiving does not fill the need for meaning. It fills other needs, and it's important to absorb beauty, to absorb pleasure, to enjoy life, to avail yourself of the wonders of creation. It's super important, but it won't fill the need for meaning. For that, you have to give.
Sorry, I went on a really long time there.
Philip Eisenstein (25:56.109)
Yeah, it's very true. You said people, when faced with these despair narratives, some of them might feel, “Well, in the face of this huge coming calamity, we might as well just go home and conform.” I think a lot of people in my generation, maybe a bit older than me, are kind of resigning themselves to the world. They explore a lot of radical ideologies, but then they enter the real world and they're like, “Well that was fun, but now I have to worry about my taxes.” And maybe they do eventually pursue the American dream and dream of someday having a house in the family but they do that having seen what that brings. They do that maybe having been in a broken home, a family with an aggressive, angry father with an emotionally repressed mother. If they do continue performing that, they do it knowing that there's something better, and they don't fully immerse themselves into it.
Charles Eisenstein (27:40.234)
Yeah, like they don't fully believe in the dream. They don't believe in the promise. But there's not much of an alternative presented to them. I'm just kind of putting what you're saying in slightly different words — they resign themselves to it, but without hope. But another thing is, people are trying different experiments, different ways of making family, of relationship, of living together, which is hard in this country, even for such practical reasons as zoning regulations and the physical infrastructure. But there are people who are at least creating temporary experiences and sometimes long-term experiences of a different way. Like you guys went to that conference at Twin Oaks, that would be an example. And you know, we can't idealize those places. I mean, they tend to import all of the maladies of the surrounding society and express them in maybe some different form. But sometimes you can have an experience that affirms your belief not only that the way that most Americans are living is a recipe for misery, for addiction, for broken families, for chronic disease, for poverty, for all that stuff, but also, that there is another possibility. That a more beautiful world is possible. We don't know how to get there, but it exists.
For many years, I kind of hung back from fully participating in society because I thought, ”This is wrong. This isn't the kind of society I want to live in. I want to live in an ecovillage where it's normal for people to make long eye contact with each other and who are communicating in a masterful way and where we are beautifying and enlivening the land that we live on and right relationship and all of these things — ecological, social…That's what I want.” Normal society is nothing like that, so I'm not gonna step in. I found myself hanging back from life for a long time, though unable really to do so. I didn't have the skills or the means or the fortune to even try to start an eco-village at age 25 or whatever. And even those end up being disappointing often if you really want perfection. So eventually what I learned is that I do have to step in maybe 90% in order to maybe pull the world 10% in the direction I want it to go. And that's like the point of that little movie I made, you know, The Fall, that two-minute film where they're standing on the brink of the Pit of Hell and seeing the suffering down there and they're like, “Okay, we're going to take the plunge. We're going to go down there to help.” But when you do that, you become a person of that realm, subject to all of its limitations and immersed in its belief systems. And all you carry with you as you take that plunge is this cellular memory of a possibility of a better world and a deeply coded instruction set on how you can help move this world toward that more beautiful future. But it's a very deep, unconscious code. Here you are thrust into this world of wrongness where everything from birth to death is wrong in our society. You know, literally from birth, the hospital birth setting and the medicalization of birth and the whole thing to the way that old people are put into nursing homes and cut off from community. I mean, the whole thing.
In the political campaign I'm involved in, people are coming sharing their knowledge about Haiti and the horrible things that have been done in the name of philanthropy in Haiti and the US government's complicity in it and just the suffering of the people there. It's just so dark, the whole thing. And, at the same time, so much beauty springs up everywhere, even in the worst places. So much joy is still available.
This is another piece of that intuitive knowledge. We stepped into what I jokingly call the sixth or seventh circle of hell with a mission, with a code to participate in its evolution.
Philip Eisenstein (34:45.262)
Hmm. Yeah. Yeah, what you said about stepping in 90% and maybe you can pull it 10%. What I said earlier about people who resigned themselves to conforming, I think maybe while a lot of them do resign themselves to the material aspect of it, the material situation of nuclear home or capitalism or whatever, because they don't necessarily resign themselves mentally. There are different ways of acting and thinking that are available from within those conditions. Maybe they live in a box with their family, but maybe they don't send their kid to public school. Maybe they become a manager and the shop never got unionized, but maybe they don't believe in crushing a union with the same fierceness that their predecessors did.
Charles Eisenstein (35:57.122)
Or maybe they plant a garden and share the food with their neighbors. Or maybe they do like one little piece that is of a more beautiful world and spread that idea and normalize that and sow that seed in the collective.
Philip Eisenstein (35:58.874)
Mm-hmm. Yeah, and I'm just thinking about when that kind of... My generation is, I think, full of that, full of that yearning to make beauty, even when it's in the midst of all this ugliness, and even when, maybe materially, it doesn't look like they can do a lot.
And I don't know, I guess I'm excited to see us enter the world with, you know, with that yearning and see us enter politics with that yearning and maybe see the details start to shift slowly.
Charles Eisenstein (37:13.002)
Yeah. Young people have always had that yearning. And they try to accomplish what their ideals ask of them, and they inevitably fail or seem to fail or accomplish just one half of one percent of it. But we've had hundreds of generations now, and they've built a platform of consciousness that you're standing on now, and you'll add your piece too. There is a paradox here. I would like to say as a partial truth, in a way, everything is getting better and better. That ideology of science and technology, there is a kind of a truth in it, of progress. Because of dedicated idealistic efforts of invisible heroes, generation after generation, embodying life to try to live and to try to make more life. We have actually evolved our consciousness and none of that work has been in vain. I think of my parents' generation, your grandma, who from my perspective seemed like a beautiful, beautiful person, but not at the... Her ideas were not really revolutionary. They were pretty run of the mill. But actually when she was 18, and the guidance counselor said, well, you're very smart. You could become an executive secretary. She was like, no, I'm going to be an attorney! She went to Yale Law School where she was one of the first women ever to go. It was incredibly audacious. What was a breakthrough in consciousness at the time seems to us now, well, you know, half the people in law school or more now, or medical school, are women. So what's the big deal? But back then, that was radical.
The breakthrough that she made is normalized now. There are probably things about me that seem pretty unexceptional. Yeah, dad, we get it, dad. But in my time they were really audacious. And so in that sense, I think we are evolving at the same time as we are devolving.
Philip Eisenstein (39:56.242)
Yeah, yeah, we get it, Dad.
Charles Eisenstein (40:12.09)
We are losing a lot of our capacities, our cognitive capacities and our strength of character Losing it to technology into a really dysfunctional sick system Where basic skills of being human are eroding. So it's a paradox: devolution at the same time. And I feel like it could go either way. We could be at the moment of a turnaround, or we could… it’s not guaranteed, this evolution. It depends on choices that we make.The future does depend on your choices. You are powerful. Neither catastrophe and dystopia, nor transcendence and utopia are inevitable.
There's an element of choice that presents itself to each generation. And if you believe and trust that that is true, then you'll take the choice seriously.
I can ask you a question, Philip.
Philip Eisenstein (42:19.914)
Charles Eisenstein (42:22.07)
You asked me, what would I say to the 18-year-old version of myself? But I could turn the question around. Because the 18-year-old version of myself may have known things that I've forgotten. You've seen plenty of adults, and how they live, and how they think. What would you tell the 56-year-old version of yourself, if you could speak into the future?
Philip Eisenstein (42:43.386)
Charles Eisenstein (42:59.946)
What kind of things do you feel that adults forget? Not that they become wiser and transcend, but that they forget, that they should keep in mind.
Philip Eisenstein (43:05.878)
Not that they become wiser and transcend, but they forget.
I would... yeah, I would tell the 56 year old version of me not to forget what it's like to know nothing about the world, about myself, or not to know nothing, but not to forget how rich and full of meaning and wonder everything is, and not to forget that it's all available to me to constantly drink in and feel and experience.
Charles Eisenstein (44:56.524)
Yeah. I often notice that about babies, they're just drinking it in.
Philip Eisenstein (45:03.832)
Charles Eisenstein (45:05.054)
Preconceived ideas about the world do not get in the way.
Philip Eisenstein (45:11.735)
Yeah. I'm writing now, just earlier today, an essay for my college application. There are kind of two ideas I'm working on. I think I'm gonna write two and then decide which one I want to include. But one of them is on just the idea of deserving, you know, the idea that people embody some kind of moral value that determines how you should treat them. And kind of how that's used as a rationalization or justification for things in the world. And how does that come to exist? Because that's totally a human construction. You can't look at somebody's molecules or atoms or whatever and figure out whether or not they deserve to starve, or if they have eaten while others have starved, or if they have been generous, you know. It's just such an interesting and pervasive assumption.
Charles Eisenstein (46:22.154)
Yes, it's one of the habits of authoritarianism, you know, where what you get depends on, and not just authoritarianism, but also it's partly of humans as a social animal, you know, like where your needs are not just met by your own efforts, but by the society around you or the authorities who you have to please, you have to at least conform to social expectations. A lot of ideas of morality are actually rituals of inclusion. Here's what you have to do to be accepted and included and then you deserve. And then we spiritualize that and imagine a god up there who metes out awards and punishments. But in nature you don't see that. Seagulls, for example — one will just take food from another one. It'll just do it. It doesn't care about deserving. In nature… there are coyotes out here, you know? They take what they can get. None of them say, “That would be really mean. I'm not gonna do that because I know that God will provide for me, even if I don't go and take that other coyote's food.” This is probably a bad example. Coyotes are pack animals, they probably share a lot, but you know what I mean. There's no extra-material, non-material arbiter of your behavior that says, you deserve and you do not deserve.
Philip Eisenstein (47:53.626)
Charles Eisenstein (48:17.758)
This is woven into religion, and It can be, I think, really helpful to shed that idea. But there's another way to look at the whole question of deserving, which is through the lens of gift and generosity and gratitude.
Those who, in a healthy society, are generous and give to others will receive from others, because they'll be grateful to you. You could translate that into the language of deserving, but that's not really what's going on.
Philip Eisenstein (49:35.454)
Yeah. Yeah, I was gonna say that deserving has some use when it's good and positive, and it is in alignment with what your soul wants. But that's only an aspect of deserving, right? As long as you have the idea of people who are deserving of whatever, then you also leave the door open for people to be undeserving. And then I think you start getting away from the kind of situations in which deserving can really speak to your soul.
Charles Eisenstein (50:21.57)
For me, it gets really pathological sometimes where I'm like, okay… one of my greatest pleasures right now is I do a cold plunge in my cold plunge tub. I get really cold. And then I get in a hot bath and I just bliss out. I'll put headphones on, you know, and listen to music and I'll just bliss out. But if I have not been productive that day, I'll be like, well, I don't really deserve to do that.
And how much do I have to do to actually deserve it? There's almost no limit. Because how can I relax in the bathtub right now when there are Palestinian children whimpering in a basement and I might be able to do something? How could I meet their gaze and say, well, while you were whimpering in a basement, hiding from bombs as your family got blown up, I was having a bath.
Those are not the actual words in my head. I’m just using words to convey the feeling I have that I’ve never done enough.
Philip Eisenstein (51:36.694)
Charles Eisenstein (51:57.726)
And I think that maybe comes from an abuse of deservingness by my upbringing, by society. I'm not blaming my parents here. They just channeled social attitudes and resisted them to some extent, but this was everywhere in school, even the idea of a dessert. But it kind of got into me, and made me believe I've never done enough to deserve the good things.
Philip Eisenstein (52:49.618)
Yeah... Yeah, that's it. I feel like everybody deserves everything and nothing. You know, everybody has eaten while another starved, but also everybody has been denied the treasure of kings, right? You can say that anybody deserves the highest praise or reward and also the worst punishment. And so if your only reason for doing something or feeling some way is that you deserve that or somebody deserves that, I think that's an indication that you should maybe examine it from a couple more perspectives.
Charles Eisenstein (53:37.726)
Yeah. And this gets into New Age ideology too, where when good things happen, that's because I've been thinking positive thoughts, or creating good karma. I have generated good karma,, and I deserve my good fortune. No. You know, some of the world's worst psychopaths and assholes are at the pinnacle of society. They have a yacht, and a second hom on the beach in Hawaii and so forth. There's a saying in the Bible, the rain falls on the just and the unjust alike.
And then on the other side, bad things happen to you. You have misfortune, and you’re like, OK, what's wrong with me? What am I being punished for? And you might have done something that generates the misfortune. It could be that you got lung cancer because you were smoking two packs a day of cigarettes. But that doesn't mean you are being punished for a moral transgression by getting cancer.
Charles Eisenstein (55:03.618)
We don't understand why things happen. And we try to make meaning out of it, try to make sense of it. And those meanings can carry us for a while, but at some point, everyone will hit a life initiation moment where you just cannot make sense of what is happening. And maybe that puts you back into that place you just talked about, Philip, of not knowing. It's like this return to the youthful place that you were asking us to remember.
Philip Eisenstein (55:29.454)
Charles Eisenstein (56:02.286)
Do you think you've inherited any of my hang up around, you know, not allowing myself good things because I don't deserve it? I tried not to pass it on to you, but you know, these things come out unconsciously.
Philip Eisenstein (56:40.038)
Yeah, I think I did when I was younger. Sometimes I would want to have candy, but then I was like, oh, I shouldn't have candy, I should do something first so that I can have the candy, like I should put away some dishes or whatever. And I'd always feel like I have to ask if it's okay for me to have a sweet. I’d have to make sure that it's okay and that I'm not being bad for it. And I think I kept that attitude a little bit. But then I began to shed it. And then I read the Ursula K. Le Guin book, The Dispossessed. And that really turned my idea of deserving and participating in society and ethics and morality on his head. And then I began to question things a lot more.
Charles Eisenstein (57:45.642)
I do my best not to manipulate children with rewards because it tends to replace intrinsic motivation with extrinsic motivation and cuts them off from a sense of what they actually want. But it's even in our language, like again, the word desserts — it's the thing that you deserve to have because you had a good dinner. There were definitely times where I said no, we're not having ice cream. You didn't even eat your dinner!
Philip Eisenstein (58:22.598)
Uh huh. Yeah, I'm reminded now of school again. When I was in first and second grade, I had a teacher, I think her name was Marilyn. And I didn't know this really at the time, but she would grade my homework. Maybe not too accurately, I'd get some questions wrong, but she'd give me an A anyway. And boy, I had so much fun learning in her class, and I had such a great attitude towards learning. But then I went into third grade, and I had a different teacher. I started really caring and stressing about my homework, because of my grade. I was looking for the approval of my teacher, who would only give it to me in the form of a grade.
Charles Eisenstein (59:24.907)
Philip Eisenstein (59:28.938)
…if I had gotten certain questions right. You know, whereas before I got approval just because I was such a wonderful, happy little boy. Hence, even though my grades did not reflect my work, I was so much more motivated to learn.
Charles Eisenstein (59:32.821)
Right. And this returns us to the topic of What is school for? It’s a perfect example of replacing intrinsic with extrinsic motivation and making kids hate learning,.? Because the underlying assumption is you don't really want to be doing this. You're only doing this because of a grade, because if you don't get a good grade, your life is gonna suck. And you're not going to get my approval, the approval of these adult authority figures. So you lose yourself then.
What a ringing indictment of our society that kids hate school, that they don't want to go to school. They hate learning. And the only thing they like about school is recess, you know? I mean, they still want to go because that's where the other kids are. But to hate learning? I mean, that's what kids are supposed to do is learn.
Philip Eisenstein (01:01:00.351)
Charles Eisenstein (01:01:02.85)
So what's going on there? I think part of it is that this conditioning to do things you don't really care about because you're bribed or threatened by approval, which is a ticket to… for a child, the approval of adults is the acceptance that keeps you safe and keeps you fed.
Baby mammals are terrified of parental rejection. That's the worst thing that can happen to you. This mammalian instinct is leveraged to control kids, but it cuts them off from themselves. And then they grow up and they are already accustomed to denying that impulse that we were talking about the whole time of doing something meaningful, that serves society, that serves the world, that contributes to life and beauty, because they're so conditioned to doing things for rewards and avoidance of punishment that is meted out by manipulative authorities. And so a lot of what we're about here, and maybe one of the missions of your generation is to reclaim your authentic purpose and desire.
And it's interesting that you are in that inquiry. It means our starting point about nihilism, which is the denial of purpose, and which also flattens desire, is significant. It would make sense — if part of the mission of your generation is to reclaim purpose and desire — that the condition from which that reclamation comes would be the denial of purpose and desire. Kind of all fits together.
Philip Eisenstein (01:03:14.682)
Charles Eisenstein (01:03:23.146)
And that actually is a pretty good completion of the circle here. Do you want to put the dot in the center of the circle, Philip, in the next couple of minutes?
Philip Eisenstein (01:03:40.119)
I'm not sure I understand what that means.
Charles Eisenstein (01:03:43.37)
I was I'm just saying like we kind of came full circle and we've been on it for an hour. But is there one more piece?
Philip Eisenstein (01:03:46.458)
Oh, I was actually just thinking that, yeah, a minute or two ago, too, and even though I didn't come in fully knowing what I wanted to talk about, I think we hit upon most of the things that I was itching to express and to hear your thoughts on.
Charles Eisenstein (01:04:13.57)
We can do it again sometime too. I hope I wasn't being too… I don't know. I feel like I kind of dominated the conversation a lot. If you're satisfied with it, then I feel good about it.
Philip Eisenstein (01:04:15.333)
Yeah, haha, I'm definitely satisfied with it. What I mentioned, what I don't want to lose when I'm 56, that's something that I really value. In most conversations, you'll find me, if I'm not talking about some hobby or interest or TV show or whatever. In conversations that I think are really rich, you'll find me listening more than speaking. It’s because there's just so much in the world and I love listening to it all.
Charles Eisenstein (01:05:11.222)
Yeah, I've noticed that about you.
Alright, Philip, anything else you want to tell our listeners and watchers?
Philip Eisenstein (01:05:44.89)
I guess maybe I'll shout out Sudbury schools. They allowed me the freedom to explore a lot of the ideas and find a lot of the information that has brought me to where I am right now that I maybe would not have otherwise been able to devote so much time and resource to if I were in a public school.
Charles Eisenstein (01:06:16.574)
Yeah, yes. Great. Yep, you and Matthew and Jimmy all spent significant time at Sudbury Model Schools, and I'm grateful for those too.
All right. Thanks, Philip. This was a great idea. We'll have to thank mom. I'm sure she'll be psyched to watch it too.
Philip Eisenstein (01:06:41.543)
Yeah. This was fun.
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