Andersen Fantasyland

How Irrationality Worsened the Pandemic | Kurt Andersen

April 09, 2020

Kurt Andersen is the author of the novels Fantasyland: How America Went Haywire: A 500-Year History (2017), True Believers (2012), Heyday (2007), and Turn of the Century (1999). He has also written for film, television, and the stage. He is the former host and co-creator of the Peabody Award winning Studio 360, a weekly radio show about arts and culture. He regularly appears as a commentator on MSNBC, CNN, PBS, and the BBC. He is also the former editor of New York Magazine and co-creator of Spy magazine.

On this week’s episode Andersen speaks with Point of Inquiry’s new host, Leighann Lord, to discuss his book, Fantasyland and if the United State’s “fantasyland” thinking helped create the current predicament the country finds itself dealing with. Andersen and Lord offer context on Fantasyland to better understand what happens when the departure from empirical reality-based thought plays out during a global pandemic. You can also watch Andersen’s CSICon talk where he goes into riveting detail about Fantasyland and how he came to write it.

This Week’s Music

“Cold” by Pictures of the Floating World / CC BY-NC-SA 3.0

“Idle Ways” by Blue Dot Sessions / CC BY-NC 4.0

Which is to say, many, many more thousands of Americans are going to die in this pandemic than would have had to if it were not for American fantasy. 

My name is Leighann Lord and I’m the new co-host for Point of Inquiry. I’m an author and veteran standup comedian who you may have seen on HBO, Comedy Central. And you might know my voice from Star Talk Radio was Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson. I had the opportunity to meet quite a few of you in the listening audience last year when I am seats icon. 

I’m hoping to do for the podcast. What I did at the conference. And that’s to bring a sense of humor and levity to the amazing conversations we’ll be having. My guest this episode is Kurt Andersen. I had the pleasure of meeting him last year, 2019 at Psychon and introducing him as the conference’s opening speaker. He is a TV and theater writer, a former editor of New York magazine and the co creator of Spy. He’s the former host of Public Radio International’s Studio 360 and he’s the author of many books, including True Believers Hayday and My Personal Favorite Fantasyland How America Went Haywire A 500 Year History. He takes the American fascination with fantasy all the way back to Jamestown and then breaks it down through the centuries and decades. He shows his inspiration for the book and how he started from the premise America has gotten weird. Why is that? We agreed that there was a time when grown ups were in charge and now we’ve gotten out of balance. The current president perhaps being emblematic of that. Kurt was very clear, however, that the president did not create fantasyland. But he’s certainly the poster boy for it. 

And refreshingly, cart, being a glass half full kind of person is hopeful that this crisis may serve as a rallying cry for the reality based community. Because in a crisis, for better or worse, we become more intense versions of ourselves. The despicable become more so, and the heroes among us emerge. Please enjoy my conversation with Kurt Andersen. 

This is Leighann Lord, the new cohosts for Point of Inquiry. My guest today is Kurt Andersen. I had the pleasure of meeting him last year, its icon, and introducing him as the conference’s opening speaker. He is a TV and theater writer, a former editor of New York magazine and the co creator of Spy. He’s the former host of Public Radio International’s Studio 360 and he’s the author of many books, including True Believers Hayday and My Personal Favorite Fantasy Land How America Went Haywire A 500 Year History. He takes the American fascination with fantasy all the way back to Jamestown and then breaks it down through the centuries and decades. And at least be wondering if the at 19 pandemic and the country’s response to it or lack thereof is just the latest chapter. 

Kurt, welcome to Point of Inquiry. 

Hi, Liane. It’s completely my pleasure to be with you again. 

Yes, indeed. Yes, indeed. Just to give our listeners a little bit of context, can you tell us what inspired you to write Fantasy Land? 

Yeah, it was a long time simmering or fermenting or ginger beer in the early 2000s. 

I suddenly realized that the kind of openness to to craziness and preposterous, interesting falsehoods of all kinds and really gotten to a point where it was very different than when I was a kid, you know, in the 60s and 70s. 

And I wonder how that was and what that was. I mean, partly I was I was motivated by the rise of, you know, the anti evolution movement in fundamental fundamentalist Christianity, but other things as well. You know, New Age, genus and in all kinds of violations of what? 

One of my heroes, former New York Senator Daniel Moynihan, used to say, which was everyone is entitled to his own opinions, but he’s not entitled to his own facts. And I want to just stop as though it had reached the point of worsening that I wanted to figure out why that was what was going on. 

And I was writing a novel about that, much of which was set in the 1960s. And I thought, well, this may have had something to do with it. What all of. You know, that the bleeding, whatever you wanted it out, anything became so kind of privileged and allowed in the late 60s and early 70s, I thought, oh, maybe it was that. 

Maybe it was that was part of it. And I began doing more reading or researching nowise. Yes. I think that was a big part of it. But then it did. As I said, you know, following the threads back in time, I realize now that this is how they kept going further. And I realize that that various parts of this, what I call fantasy land, really have their roots in. You know, as you said in the introduction to in our beginnings in our in our prehistory, really before we even before the Europeans left Europe to come here. So so that’s really how I started. It was just like, wow, America has gotten weird. Why is that essentially with again? And so I spent a couple of years, you know, giving myself a kind of self run master’s program in American history and American religious history and cultural history and all kinds of things to try to figure it out again. 

Full disclosure, I am a total fan girl and I was just enraptured with what you did and how you broke it down. And it would have been very easy to stop at the 60s, you know, because we think history begins when we get here. So what I really admired how it went. No, no, no, no. 

Let’s let’s take a step back and sit back and step back to our pre beginnings, as you say. And I guess that leads to the big question of the moment. Did our fantasy land thinking sort of land us here in our current pandemic predicament? 

It certainly helped. It is certainly the predicament we are in. There is the the virus and that illness exists. And that’s a hard fact. But, of course, our our fantasy we’re in a moment. And Donald Trump, of course, is the lord of fantasy when I finish fantasy land, actually. The draft before he was even nominated for president and then he appears as president, as the nominee, and then as the president as I’m as I’m revising it, as it’s being edited as the sort of poster boy, ultimate poster boy for all that. I’m talking about conspiracy theories, crazy religion, you know, making up your own facts. All that he comes along. So to the degree he’s the president and he has this following of religious people and otherwise, who are the, you know, the denizens of fantasy land. 


So he thought for his own reasons and for a variety of reasons, most, many political reasons. No, I’m just gonna pretend this doesn’t exist. It’s not happening. Let’s ignore it. It’s going to be gray. Only a guy who who was sort of spawned by fantasy land and many of whose most fervent followers and constituents are fantasy land are hers. Yeah. Naturally, of course, he lost us two months of preparing. He lost the United States, better governments and American people, two months of proper preparation. And look, just compare this, for instance, to South Korea. At a certain point two months ago, the almost the disease, the virus existed at the same level in both countries. They may behave properly, incorrectly, because they’re not fantasists. The list of people running the government. And we didn’t. And so, yeah, you know, throughout the book, as you know, Lee and I talk about this thing that Thomas Jefferson said is not what his best book actually, that he wrote something something is about religion in America. And he said, no, I don’t care if my neighbor believes in no God or 20 gods, as long as it doesn’t pick my pocket or break my life. 

Well, here’s where wacking belief in empirical reality, if it is inconvenient or unpleasant to you, has led to a lots of legs being broken in pockets being picked, which is to say many, many more thousands of Americans are going to die in this in this pandemic than would have had to if it were not for American fantasyland. 

Agreed. And I guess coming off of that is and maybe I’m being hopeful here, but is this is this pandemic as serious as it is, something that can actually wake up enough people from fantasy land thinking? 

Well, that is that is that is the sixty four causality on our question. 

I am hopeful. But, you know, I’ve been hopeful before. I was hopeful that the financial crisis and crash knocked down recession of 2008, 2009 was going to be a wakeup call. I wrote a little book about that. How would that help? Now, you know, that’s different. And this in its ultimate social cultural impact, will dwarf. I think that the financial crisis. And what happened then? So I’m hopeful that it will. You know, I. I think it can do more than making people wake up from Fantasyland, because I think that’s a hard. I think that’s a harder. 

Problem to cure, then the the kind of adjacent connective problems of of a bad governance and in electing bad presidents and bad members of Congress who believe in all kinds of craziness. 

I think you can have that effect in terms of making some new majority of Americans say, by golly, you know, empirical reality, we should stick to that and we should stick to science and that whole entire science thing I was into no more. I have my doubts that it will have that effect. 

I think what it can do, however, is mobilize and galvanize those of us who do believe in science and and and something like objective, if not objective and empirical reality, and take control of the of the culture and and the political world. 

Again, as as as we of of left and right. But the reality based community used to be in charge. And so I think we can have that effect of it. But that requires you know, that requires politics. I think the turning the world upside down. I do. I can imagine that that good will come from. Yes, I do. I don’t think that the lunatics will suddenly be rendered safe, however. 

Well put. Well put. And I’m glad to hear that you have some hope. I know I. I too. You know, I Skrull Twitter, which is not the healthiest thing I do. But they Twitter has its moments when, you know, Dr. Falchi was missing from the press briefings, the White House press briefings for a couple of days. It felt like sane America went mad, like, where’s our Dr. Foushee? Where’s Foushee was trending on Twitter, which I although Twitter was a much smaller medium than, say, Facebook, although it was happening on Facebook as well. It it said to me that there were people who were thirsting for real knowledge and real information and not the circus that we’ve been treated to. 

You know, I’ve never been a big Andrew Cuomo fan being a New Yorker, but you know about reform is OK. As always, obvious problems. But among other things, among the other ways, use being a great and inspiring leader through this in his daily briefings is is how fact based they are. It gives you the numbers. Yes. Surely the charts. He explains complicated epidemiological facts. And my God, what what a pleasure that is. As opposed to the president and his you know, his little sycophant. The vice president, an intern in their briefing. So. So, yeah, there there there is hope. But yeah, in terms of of of reality and denial of reality, we you know, we’ve seen the president go from. No. No, it’s not good. It’s going to be done by April 1st. It’s we’re good. It’s not going to be a thing. Mark, it’s going to. We’re going to all be out, you know, celebrating together and Easter, all that stuff. 

Well, the fact that he, at least for the moment, changed that big lie to another big lie, which is that he you know, he’s he’s never he’s never downplayed the seriousness of this. 

It’s always been from the beginning, he was trying to he understood how what a what a terrible crisis that was. Well, I wouldn’t. But I’d rather have it be telling that big lie and pushing that fantasy than the fantasy that this pandemic is nothing to worry about. You know, so that’s where we are. It’s the choice of which giant fantasy. And why do we prefer it? Well, I guess the one that accords more with with at least the present day reality that can save lives. 

That’s where we are now. We are choosing our fantasy where this guy. 

That’s exactly where I guess and you’ve talked about this in your book, how amazing it is that you can have people watching perhaps the exact same coverage or the exact same speech and still walking away in their own little bubble. 

Like what they’ve said. What’s been said is just vindicates their opinion and they are unmoved. And it’s almost like these two camps. And I’m simplifying, of course, these two camps, you know, well, we’ll use the same information to bludgeon each other. 

Know, why do we keep doing this? 

Partly it’s because, I mean, a lot of room that’s part of us. You know, when I wrote this book to try to figure out I mean, in the early 2000s, 2002, back when the sane and rational Republicans were running the country, Karl Rove, George W. Bush’s mastermind. It is. In a statement anonymous at the time, but it was he about how he was making fun of a reporter for being a member of the reality based community. He claimed that phrase and say, we control reality now. Will we control how people understand the facts or not in their little jinxes way? They they use that very thing that, again, had its roots in in American history and had its roots in, of all places, the 1960s and the counterculture. When, you know, do your own thing, find your own truth, became a kind of countercultural idea and then became an American I.B.M. even more than it had always been. And so that’s why we are where we are. And you throw the Internet into that where and cable television and all of the new technologies of information and misinformation delivery into the mix. 

I mean, we always believe what we believe and have our own opinion, but it was never so reinforced by both this kind of subjective. I can believe my own truth and I don’t need experts, so I don’t need science. It’s just whatever I feel is true is true. Combined with the ability by a cable television and the Internet to have your own bubble reinforced as it has never been able to be reinforced before. That’s what got us here. And again, it’s not inevitable. Hey, the United States is different. 

And, you know, in the rest of the world, they have the same technologies. Yes. They do not suffer from the same kind of mass polarized versions of reality. To the extent we do. Very well. 

I’m glad you said that because they’re in the very beginning of your book. You talked about people that came to this country with their delusions, despite the facts on the ground. People are dying. There is no gold. You know, you don’t get get off the boat and you’re famous or not famous here. You’re wealthy. Within a week. But it’s part of that fantasy. The upside of that fantasy is that. American ingenuity, it. 

It built a nation, you know, by hook or by crook. And so now are we just are we on the bad edge of that now? The same thing that built us is the same thing that will take us down. 

That’s the short answer. 

And because of that, I mean, the the sad thing is, I mean that back your dream, the impossible dream builder. I had this idea or I can be whoever I want. I’m not forced to be a member of the class I was born. And all that stuff is great and indeed is what made America great. 

But when it’s like in all things, it’s a matter of control. It’s like, you know, you know, the carburetor in your car. Make sure there’s not too much gas, you know, and it stays in the balance. And we got auto balance these last 50 years. And and and that like, you know, believe whatever I want, imagine whatever I want. All those things that in their proper degree are great. And what made this country amazing in so many ways has gotten out of control and and exploited by certain, you know, political economic interests to to keep it under control. And that’s a big problem as well, because it didn’t you know what I’m right about? Fantasyland was more or less spontaneous. You know, a bunch of nutty, high spirited people came together form this country. But, you know, always kept the grownups more or less in charge and believes the experts and the and the and the learned people and the people who really knew about things, let them run the show more or less. And once once our kind of anti-establishment impulse, which was again, always a big part of the American impulse, got out of control and and pushed the push to the designated drivers out of the driver’s seat. Then we weren’t. Then we then that’s what got us to the place we are now. So, yes, but back to your your, you know, succinct way of putting it. 

The very thing that is part of our great exceptional strength is it is exceptional in a different way and is leading us to the terrible set of places we’re we’re in now. 

I often say many times to my friends and anyone who will listen that, you know, I watch the news. I watch what’s going on in the world. And the question that keeps popping up in my mind is where are the grown ups? 

I feel like when I was a kid, they were grown ups. There were there were people, you know, things would get a little crazy. You know, somebody with a suit and a tie and a briefcase, you know, would walk in and go, OK, enough of that in every back. Not everybody would get everything they wanted, but they would something reasonable would come from it. And I feel like I’m just watching not reason go out the window. Reason not even be in the room. 

Well, to be in moderation of what’s real. What’s true. Well, it’s good to know in a way. It’s good to to interrogate and examine all the givens and all the conventional wisdom and all that. But like anything, it can go overboard. And I believe it has in some ways. And again, I mean, one of the things you know, from what one of the ways that I talk about in the investment in the history that time is not just, you know, what the experts say and knows. To hell with you, professor or Mr. Establishment. It’s also our love of entertainment, our art, excessive love of entertainment. And including the unreality that it creates. And so, again, in the way that Donald Trump came along, embody so much of what I was writing, you know, history from the 18th and 19th century about. He’s an entertainer and he’s a showman. And entertainers aren’t about what’s true or real. It’s about what’s entertaining. And again, you do get us here. But he is is symptomatic of it and exploiting every bit of it, including that that American knack for and weakness or the entertainingly untrue. 

And I’m going to try not to take that personally as a as an entertainer. 

Well, you’re right. So we’re all entertainers. Yes. 

We all you know, we have our our our 15 minutes, you know, on on Twitter and Instagram and any other platform where we can get people to hear us. Although I do think stand up comedians at times carry a different legacy. Yeah. In a different way. 

Nobody was telling legacy. Absolutely. 

Yes, and I feel that particularly as someone who comes from the George Carlin School of Comedy, his ability to make fun of these terrible conditions and make people laugh. 

Oh, I. I found that fascinating. And we still have that. And, you know, it didn’t evaporate with George Carlin. But that’s just who I sort of trace it back to. 

I have a question. I wonder what you think of this when you talk about are Americans excessive level of entertainment? We are in the part of the world where we are. Everybody stay home. 

You know, we’re not supposed to go out. And so what people are doing. You know, some people are enriching themselves and learning a new skill or cleaning their homes, being very idealistic here. But some people are bingeing. They are they are turning to entertainment. Are we self medicating when we do that or are we denying. 

I mean, both. I mean, we all our lives. I have had these moments fewer this week, the last. But these moments where I watch, I get so involved in a in an episode of a show or a movie or cooking or reading a novel that I literally I forget. Well, you know, I that the nightmare we’re in with the pandemic. And then I, I suddenly get back to reality and realize, oh, I’m back, I’m back in this nightmarish reality. It’s not denial, but it’s it’s respite. I am despite my doomsday here I am a kind of glass half full optimist. 51 percent optimistic. And I and I feel like, wow, this is a peak TV, you know, 400 shows being green. You know, a more more scripted television than ever. I feel like, oh, it’s all been leading up to this. These three months. Thank you. Powers of the of the television show business universe for creating this backlot and stuff I haven’t haven’t seen. And it could be a great golden age of of of consuming more. This glutted time, time and just seeing I know there’s you know, a month ago. Two months ago. Ask any of us. I think we would have all said, oh, there’s too much to watch. There’s so much good stuff I want to watch. Well, now’s your time. 

I like the way you phrased that, that it’s not necessarily denial, but it’s resprout because I do think we have to give our brains a break. I can’t watch the news all day long. You know, I’ve done that in it. Nope. No good ever comes of it. I also like to think of it as well as a turning toward the arts. 

That’s what people turn to weather, whether, you know, it’s it’s drama or comedy or music or art. You know, that that human beings, whether they think of it consciously or not, they know that this is something that helps me. 

This is something that helps us look at what we can do when we’re working together and we’re at our best. That’s what I think. Art is in its various form. 

I totally agree. And no, that’s a secondary better, hopefully. So I have that, like, you know, we are free to. Yes. Consume the best that is there, whether it’s whether it’s on Netflix or in books, you know. Yes. It’s it’s it’s it’s not all bad that, you know, I mean, you know, more not more than 99 percent of us are going to live and and one hundred percent of us have these weeks and months in which to do whatever we come closer to our kids or our mothers or our love, our lovers or husbands and want and read and consume. 

And so, you know, again, I don’t why it’s it’s it’s a grisly kind. It’s about to get grizzly for so many of us, working more than one job and work, work, work and. 

Oh, God, I’ve got to make that schedule. Well, you know, it’s it’s there there’s there’s some upside here of of of for all of the, you know, financial distress and other kinds of distress and health anxiety and all the rest. My my mom, my late mother always used to say, well, you know what, if something bad happens or, you know, something good can come out of it, she’s right in her way. Yes. You don’t have to be a constant consumer of information and empirical reality all the time. I think it’s also an opportunity to yes. As you’re suggesting, sort of drink, drink from the cups of origin and great entertainment and various cough. 

You echoed something that Governor Cuomo, who’s the governor of New York State as as fact bases as his briefings are, they’re also oddly honest and compassionate when he’s saying, are you bored? I’m bored. Are you scared? I’m scared. I can’t do it. It’s just so, so blunt and open. And the echoing part is that, yeah, you know, I’m spending more time with my daughter than I normally would. Now, you know, I you’re getting to be with your family and you’ll go as annoying as that can be. So it’s like. He’s acknowledging the opportunity and the exacty of it, which I guess is what makes his his briefings, you know. 

Must see TV. I feel like in some ways, because of the everyday Americans response to this, that maybe we’ve watched one too many disaster movies. 

You know, when the when people dashed out to the store to buy tons of groceries and in particular in particular toilet paper, like no toothpaste, but toilet paper in their heart, like, what was that? 

It was a curious one. 

I mean, I get the I’ve never done the hoarding thing when hurricanes are going to come or whatever. I’ve never literally done it. 

I mean, after 9/11, my wife and I, you know, bought some stuff for the next time, like, you know, put a bunch of stuff in the basement. 

But there’s this hoarding in advance of what of of of this thing in particular, because unless it lets the whole society and all of the systems collapse and I get the fear that this time, you know, with medicines you need or whatever, but. Yeah. Toilet paper really is that that’s the thing you’re gonna miss most. I mean, there are other ways to take care of that problem, you know. I was running water continues. I feel like after that after that initial few days of that, I’m running pretty darn stocking up on a paper pass. I feel as though people got over that. But now, I mean, again, panic and panic. And you see, you never know how different people are going to react. 

Although the thing the thing among them that, you know, I always had said one. One of my first novel, I mean, one of the characters always said all cliches are true. She said that repeatedly. 

And it’s the thing I believe as well. And this the cliche that crises like this, people become more intense versions of whoever they are already got. That is so true. And I’ve and I’ve seen that in these last weeks. To become to be such a true cliche, for better and for worse, the panicky people become panicky that chill and wise people will come chillen wise and they’re practical people become we’re all of it. And, you know, and the the capricious fantasy and monster like the one in the White House becomes or more that and the heroes become heroes. You know, it’s it’s it’s really true. 

I feel seen. And that’s usually something that you only get to see in slow motion. You because I believe the same thing. But as you get older, become as you get older more if you are correct. But I guess you’re right this that also comes out in a crisis. 

I’m sure you like I have read the various guides to writing screenplays. One of the things common to the mall is that a movie is about putting your character in in a moment of crisis or pressure, and she or he will. Well, that’s this character test and the character will be revealed. That’s how they change. Or the arc of your film. Well, here we are. I mean, you know, and that’s that’s how you do it fictionally in two hours or, you know. And here we’re seeing it before our eyes, you know, as we saw again, because those of us who haven’t fought in war, for instance, have never seen it. Never seen that happen. Right. 

And you’re right. Yeah. No, I’m I’m a child of the 80s. You know, all all the wars I’ve been through have been financial. 

OK, I will. I’m a little unprepared here except for this and what I’ve seen on the History Channel. 

And you put that guide to the guide to writing screenplays. That was perfectly said. That’s exciting. If you could have written it word for word. And speaking of writing word for word, I if I’ve heard correctly, you have a new book coming out. 

I’m not sure when it’s Evil Geniuses The Unmaking of America. Did I hear that correctly? 

You heard that exactly correctly. And I am literally rotten, madly going over the edits with my editor now my editor, who was has been sick these last few weeks, learned something. 

He was tested negative, Labidi. He recovered. And he’s great. And he’s and we’re trying to put that to bed. And it’s coming out August, actually. So. So it’s it’s yeah. It’s a history. The last 50 years. 

It’s kind of a sequel or companion volume, really, the fantasy land. Whereas as you know, fantasy land is about culture mostly and religion and all of those things over 700 years. 

This is really the last 50 years and really about economics and politics and how how, you know, the hard ways in which things got rotten and unfair in the last. 

Fifty years in America and in you know, in this pandemic, the two the two sides meet. 

I mean, it’s really fantasyland meets evil geniuses. Let’s let’s deny reality and let’s make sure we we all one of the reasons we should deny it is because it can all get us back to work and get the stock market back up again, because that’s all we really care about. Because as I was writing penicillin, as I went, I thought about it for a year or more, two years, really. 

People would say, but, oh, OK, I get what you’re saying. But how how did this climate change denial thing happen and why did that happen? 

And, you know, I realized the fantasy land part of the story really is only half the story of of of how America got to be in dire straits. I mean, they’re pretty dire straits home, the fantasy land part of the story. But the other part of the story which which connects and in this in this in this response or lack of response to the pandemic, you can really see how it connects to this other story. So, yeah, evil geniuses, they are making America out in August. I hope it explains explains whatever. Fantasyland doesn’t explain it. 

Well, it sounds like it sounds like a wonderful companion book. You already have one sale. I have. I’m very much looking forward to that. I want. This is not a gotcha question. But I’m curious, what does your corner of fantasy land look like? What? Where do you kind of like go down the rabbit hole? Perhaps unconsciously or by choice? 

I mean, I’m fairly I stick fairly, you know, close to the provable empirical truth. But, you know, like any I mean, none of us are are I hope none of us are absolutely devoid of of weird hunches and odd beliefs. I mean, I still say knock wood when I say, you know what? I don’t want something to happen. I you know, I mean, I have my superstitions. I’m not without fantastical belief in it. Moreover, I mean, I find some of my least favorite friends are the ones who have no room for the mysterious or the even even glimpses of the spiritual. I mean, we can get into this whole other discussion about what that means. But but I know I I am pretty you know, I am as rational as I think one wants to be. I mean, I still can look up the sky. And as I said, my wife the other night as we were walking along this rural road where we’re lucky enough to be spending the duration of this pandemic like, you know, looking up at the moon and the stars and the trees and then hearing the frogs and all of it saying, like, who needs religion? This is this is this is fucking unbelievable and amazing as it is. What? Why do you need anything more to produce all or whatever else it is that religion people need? So I have my, my, my. I wouldn’t say I, I’m not spiritual but not religious. But I am not. So I’m not such a, you know, explainer away of the miraculous and the amazing as hell some of my friends are. I like to be on by the inexplicable and there’s plenty of inexplicable left in the world and I think there will be for the rest of my life and and humankind’s life. So. So all of which is to say I you know, I you know, I meditate. OK. Does that make me a resident of fantasyland? 

I don’t think so, because I don’t believe I’m, you know, connecting with some higher power when I do that. 

I don’t consider prayer, but. But it isn’t you know, it isn’t consuming facts. 

I don’t think that consuming facts and doing experiments are the only way to get to truth. Truth. 

Truth consists of more than than the facts. 

And and, you know, I I’m open to all kinds of emotion. I mean, emotion, God knows, is is maybe all reducible to chemicals and algorithms. But I don’t think, you know, I think it’s I think the people who we can go too far in our in our skepticism that met in our skepticism, but yet are are kind of in the narrowness of sculpt is, you know, we can be too narrow in in our, you know, hyper directionality. 

You make me. Think of Carl Sagan. Yes, it’s good to be rational. 

But we also have to leave room for wonder on all of the great scientists and rationals, the truly great ones, in my view, like Carl Sagan. Yes, I understand that. That. Yes. That wonder and awe are part of what makes us human. And however you get it, there is is is great. And the more you can get there without abandoning science and reason, the better. My book. 

Well said. Well said. And on that note, I want to thank you again for agreeing to be a guest on Point of Inquiry. I was very tickled to meet you at Psychon last year and read your book. And I’m so glad that there’s there’s a new one coming out, The Companion Evil Geniuses, The Unmaking of America, which if you and your editor are key, continue furiously working will be out August 2020. So, Kurt, thank you again for being a guest on Point of Inquiry. Oh, thank you, man. It was a pleasure. 

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Leighann Lord

Leighann Lord

Standup Comedian Leighann Lord was the New York City face of the African Americans for Humanism outreach campaign sponsored by the Center for Inquiry and it’s Millions Living Happily Without Religion campaign. Author Chris Johnson featured her in The Atheist Book: A Better Life. Leighann has been a co-host on the Emmy-nominated StarTalk with Neil de Grasse Tyson. Leighann has shared her comedic and hosting talents at many secular conferences including American Atheists, American Humanists, Center for Inquiry, CSICon, DragonCon – SkepTrack, The PA Freethought Society, NECSS: The Northeast Conference on Science & Skepticism, PASHTACon, and Skepticon. Leighann is also a CFI certified Secular Celebrant; officiating at milestone life events commemorated with a nonreligious worldview. And she was honored with the 2019 Humanist Arts Award from the American Humanist Association. As a veteran standup comedian, Leighann has been seen on Lifetime, VH-1, Comedy Central, and HBO. She is the author of Leighann Lord’s Dict Jokes: Alternate Definitions for Words You’ve Probably Never Heard of But Will Definitely Never Forget (Volumes 1 and 2) and Real Women Do It Standing Up: Stories From the Career of a Very Funny Lady; available on Amazon.