The Profound Upside Of Self-Diminishment With George Saunders
George saunders. Thanks so much for coming on the show but it thank you for having me. What a pleasure. I was telling you before we started rolling. I'm almost finished with the brilliant lincoln and the bardo som- really and thrilled that we're able to get you to come on so i have a million questions to discuss. The first on my list is used a term with my compadres my comrade dj who is producing this episode of the show. You said you've been thinking a lot about what you call the unified theory of brain. What is that. yeah well. I was thinking about it because i read michael pollen's book how to change your mind and so he talks a lot about the state of the mind on hallucinogens. And then i'm always thinking about the changes in the mind underwriting. When i'm writing what's going on in my head because i noticed that it makes me happier to right after the fact somehow i'm just in a better place even if the day's been kind of crummy something neurologically is going on this pleasurable. And then also you know with that lincoln book. I was thinking a lot about death. And what happens in those moments. Which even if you're a spiritual person to some extent physiological thing is happening at the end there. So i'm just kind of interested in the idea that at some future time we'll be able to say this is what your brain is doing as a is. This is what your brain is doing when you're creating art this is what your brain is doing in. You're meditating and to me that seems like not merely academic interests. It's everything really. But i don't have any answers yet. I just had the intention so the thinking is if we can get this unified three sixty view of what the brain and the mind or doing or actually in specifically referring to the brain in these key activities of our life that could lead us to a better understanding of how to live a better life all the time in every moment. I think we're doing it all the time. I mean i'm sort of even at sixty two still stumbling towards some idea of how to start the day how to get into it what to do during it. So that my experience stays within certain parameters that and i m we might call that being happy or being whatever so yeah. I think that's the idea. I think we actually people have been doing it for thousands of years but they may be having been able to use the scientific angle. What do you do to keep yourself within certain parameters that might be called happiness and outside the is unhappiness. What are your modes for me. Writing is real real. Big one. I try to do that much as long as i can every day. Four or five hours six hours and then also a buddhist. My wife and i are buddhist. So we've been involved in meditation at sort of different levels over the years and those are the two things that i know how to do. And i think they're related somehow. But i am not sure how. I kind of know that the more of those things i do and yet him in that kind of classic. Mode of going yeah. I should do more of that. I would be happier. And yet somehow. I i don't Very familiar with that with conundrum. Okay so i have a ton of questions. Though based on the foregoing. So the i want to get to the buddhism in a second because obviously that's the primary obsession of the show but when you talk about writing as something that is happiness producing i start to feel very guilty because i experienced right as the worst thing in my whole life except for like a few minutes. A few seconds of you nanoseconds. Where i understand something or phrase something correctly or somebody tells me like something i've written but the rest of it is delicious and i know i'm not alone on this because just to give you some examples. There's that famous quote from who. I can't remember. Nobody likes writing a book. Everybody likes having written a book. And the other is philip. Roth who after he finished his final novel. I believe put a sign up on his computer that said by long struggle with writing is over. So what would you doing that. The rest of us are failing to do. No i mean. I don't think well first of all only really been a pleasure for the last some number of years. When i was younger it was just torment and all that i think the only thing that's changed for me is that of written enough stories where i kind of understand that a period of frustration self loathing is part of it so when i get there i don't really believe in it. I feel like i'm being. I'm having a kind of emotion but also got a little bit of on oregon and say oh. Yeah this is the part where you're filled with self loathing or you're you're frustrated. You know this kind of two levels of torment. In an emotion one is the emotion or the feeling and in the second has come from believing in the feeling as being something permanent or real so for me. Now get to a place. I mean i'm there now with the story. I'm working on head to trash the last four pages and i'm kind of at a loss and i'm feeling a little bit inadequate and a little bit frustrated but there's another little voice going. Yeah that's how it always is. This is the part work. It's good so. I think it might just be the exhaustion of of experience and then to there's something about my process which is really i think because i'm a little bit of an unclear thinker. I've had to develop this method of revising its really rigorous. It has a lot of rewriting ridiculous amounts but knowing that's the way it is. I'm a little patient with it and that becomes part of the fun ago. Okay i'm probably about a third of the way through this really really long thing that will eventually produce something good. I guess it induces the kind of patient. So i actually. At this point i really do enjoy it. Anaconda crave to do it and this may be another topic but the state of mind. That i'm in what i'm doing it is i think what i'm talking about when i say it makes me happy. It's something like meditation. And that afterwards i just feel better.