Hello, and welcome to another edition of the Inside The Newsroom podcast newsletter! This week’s guest is Sebastian Junger, author of five books including The Perfect Storm (remember that movie?). Sebastian and I talked about his latest book, Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging, which is a detailed history of how and why tribes are formed, and why today’s society isn’t set up for humans to function properly. It’s one of those books that you know is going to change your life and way of thinking within the first 20 pages. Below is a post-game analysis of everything we talked about.
The Premise For a Book
Tribe is only 138 pages long, but that’s what I like about Sebastian’s work the most. Authors often try to fill out a 300-page book and, as readers, we’ll suffer with a ton of waffle. With Tribe, I was in and out within a couple of days. The book is actually an extension of the below longform piece Sebastian wrote on how PTSD became a problem for soldiers beyond the battlefield. Even if you skip the book and just read the original article, I promise you your mind will be blown.
Why Do They Keeping Taking Us To War?
At school I was always told that wars were fought over for economic and religious reasons. Take the U.S. and UK’s war against various terrorist groups in Iraq and Afghanistan. It’s very much a war of different ideas with big economic interests. But what I haven’t ever been told, until now, is the positive psychological effects that war brings — unity, cohesion and meaning. Now, this doesn’t mean I condone war. I do not. But to unpick things you disagree with, you have to dig deeper under the shell to understand the human traits that lead people to do certain things.
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Why Do Disasters Bring Us Together?
Turns out it’s not just war that unites us. The first thing we’ll hear whenever a hurricane or other natural disaster hits is about how tough the people affected are, and how they’re already rebuilding the community. Disasters, as well as wars, trigger our need for social-connection, and more specifically an increased willingness to help others in times of stress. Wars are one of the greatest stresses anyone could bear, so maybe we just need to get the world’s leaders to legalize weed and everything will be alright.
The Cult of Extreme Sports
Back in May I completed my first ever walking marathon. Six hours and 51 minutes of complete hell. Seriously, don’t knock until you’ve tried it. As I crossed the finishing line with my new 70-year-old walking buddy, Gill, I felt a sense of direct connection with her. We’d just walked for seven freaking hours together, and I knew many far-too-personal things about her. I’ve already signed up for my next one in September with hopes that Gill will be there too (I forgot to take her number). Anyway, this is a roundabout way of saying that I now understand the obsession of extreme sports. It’s about social connection and having an identity, especially in this modern world of comfort and routine. Take Badwater, for instance. Covering 135 miles through Death Valley is no joke. But the ability to be one of only a few to complete it each year is enough to drive people to do crazy things.
The Value of Suffering
Without becoming a depression newsletter, it is fascinating to learn about why we feel the way we do. For me, a big turning point was realizing I could turn rejection and unfavorable events into positives. Below, David Goggins neatly sums up why suffering is actually a good thing that we need in order to succeed.
The Need To Be Needed
This will be a test for my dad to see if he actually reads these things. Stephen Levitt recently retired after a 40-year career in the finance industry. He had a tight-knit group of about five or six colleagues he’d see or talk to every day, all conversing for the good of one shared goal. Now that he’s out of the business he, like millions of other retirees, has found it hard to know how to spend all of his free time. This is one of the most common misconceptions about retirement, the notion that no more work will be heaven. But no. Work and feeling needed is essential for the soul.
… is James Ball
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