Griffiths will be the International Hay Festival Fellow for the next 12 months, visiting all our festivals around the world. Her visionary and poetic work explores her interest in nature, anthropology and art. Her books include Kith: The Riddle of the Childscape, Wild: An Elemental Journey, Pip Pip: A Sideways Look at Time, and her fictionalised hymn to Frida Kahlo, A Love Letter to a Stray Moon. She talks to Peter Florence.
As you grow up, you are told to renounce most of the hopes and dreams of your youth, and resign yourself to a life that will be a pale dilution of the adventurous, important and enjoyable life you once expected. But who wants to do any of that? No wonder we live in a culture of rampant immaturity, when maturity looks so boring. The moral philosopher discusses childhood, adolescence, sex, and culture, and asks how the idea of travel can help us build a model of maturity that makes growing up a good option and leaves space in our culture for grown-ups. Chaired by Sarah Crompton.
‘You can have a dog put to sleep but my mother had to go through hell.’ End of life issues are especially difficult for people with dementia and their family carers, as the person themself is often unable to make and communicate their views in a way that would be respected by our autonomy-centred healthcare decision-making frameworks. Drawing on empirical data from a socio-legal study funded by the British Academy, Professor Rosie Harding of the University of Birmingham explores the social, ethical and legal challenges of maximising dignity for those dying with, and of, dementia.
The winner of the 2014 Wellcome Book Prize introduces his wise and compassionate book Far From The Tree: A Dozen Kinds of Love. Ten years in the writing, it tells the stories of parents who not only learn to deal with their exceptional children but also find profound meaning in doing so. Chaired by Hay Festival President Stephen Fry.
100,000 years ago, at least six human species inhabited the earth. Today there is just one. Us. Homo sapiens. How did our species succeed in the battle for dominance? Why did our foraging ancestors come together to create cities and kingdoms? How did we come to believe in gods, nations and human rights; to trust money, books and laws; and to be enslaved by bureaucracy, timetables and consumerism? And what will our world be like in the millennia to come?
In Sapiens, Harari spans the whole of human history, from the very first humans to walk the earth to the radical – and sometimes devastating – breakthroughs of the Cognitive, Agricultural and Scientific Revolutions. Drawing on insights from biology, anthropology, palaeontology and economics, he explores how the currents of history have shaped our human societies, the animals and plants around us, and even our personalities. Have we become happier as history has unfolded? Can we ever free our behaviour from the heritage of our ancestors? And what, if anything, can we do to influence the course of the centuries to come?
This event was recorded for broadcast on the BBC World News programme Talking Books.
A classicist and a neuroscientist explore the Ancient Greek words Liberty, Comedy, Charisma, Xenia, Wisdom and Peace and travel both forwards and backwards in time, investigating how these ideas have been moulded by history and have made an impact on history and the human experience. Hughes is the author of Helen of Troy – Goddess, Whore and The Hemlock Cup. Critchlow is named as a British Council's Top 100 UK Scientist for her work in communication.
Humans don’t always behave as you expect them to. Sometimes their responses and actions are completely irrational – we don’t always make perfect decisions – but the model we base everything on is a rational one. Why? If we design our systems, our government, and all the products and services we use for perfect, rational people, is it any wonder they aren’t working? The Stanford academic and political advisor believes that change is possible and necessary: that we can create a more local, more accountable, more human way of living that will make us more productive, more fulfilled and ultimately happier.
Karen Armstrong, former Roman Catholic nun and one of our foremost scholars of religion, speaks out to interrogate the link between religion and bloodshed.
Religion is as old as humanity: Fields of Blood goes back to the Stone Age hunter-gatherers and traces religion through the centuries, from medieval crusaders to modern-day jihadists. Today we regard faith as a personal and private matter, but for most of history faith has informed people’s entire outlook on life, and has often been inseparable from politics. Fields of Blood is a celebration of the ancient religious ideas and movements that have promoted peace and reconciliation across millennia of civilization.
In 1902 HG Wells wrote ‘Humanity has come some way, and the distance we have travelled gives us some earnest of the way we have to go. All the past is but the beginning of a beginning; all that the human mind has accomplished is but the dream before the awakening.’ The astronomer boldly explores post-human evolution and offers a SWOT analysis of mankind’s short- and longer-term futures. He considers the risks of asteroid impact, climate change and, most worrying of all, the downsides of biotech, AI and other fast-advancing technologies. Chaired by Dan Davis.
On 2 August 1947 a young man gets off a train in a small Swedish town to begin his life anew. Having survived the ghetto of Lodz, the death camp at Auschwitz-Birkenau, and the harrowing slave camps and transports during the final months of Nazi Germany, his final challenge is to survive the survival. In his intelligent and deeply moving book, Rosenberg returns to his own childhood in order to tell the story of his father; walking at his side, holding his hand, trying to get close to him again. It is also the story of the chasm that soon opens between the world of the child, permeated by the optimism, progress and collective oblivion of postwar Sweden, and the world of the father, darkened by the long shadows of the past.
What do the Charlie Hebdo murders and the rise of the Islamic State owe to Islam? It would be comforting to insist, as many have done, that they owe nothing at all; but Holland, in the inaugural Christopher Hitchens Lecture, argues that the truth is more complex. The best way to combat jihadism, he proposes, is to recognise the centrality of Muhammad to Islam – and that he comes in many forms. There is the moral leader who swallowed abuse peaceably; and there is the war leader who ordered people who insulted him put to death. How best, then, to de-radicalise the Prophet? Tom Holland is author of In The Shadow of the Sword, Rubicon, Persian Fire, Millennium and the new translation of The Histories by Herodotus. Chaired by Katrin Bennhold of the New York Times.
The frontline photographer discusses her memoir of post-9/11 photo-journalism and shows her pictures. She travels with purpose and bravery, photographing the Afghan people before and after the Taliban reign, the civilian casualties and misunderstood insurgents of the Iraq War, as well as the burned villages and countless dead in Darfur. She exposes a culture of violence against women in the Congo and tells the riveting story of her headline-making kidnapping by pro-Qaddafi forces in the Libyan civil war.
The award-winning photo-journalist has been documenting the island of Haiti for the past 15 years and has produced an astonishing record of one of the world’s most extreme cultures and natural environments, racked by civil war, climatic catastrophe and violent deprivations. He shows his images and discusses his work with Oliver Balch.
Born and raised in Essex, Maajid Nawaz was recruited into politicised Islam as a teenager. Abandoning his love of hip hop music, graffiti and girls, he was recruited into Hizb ut-Tahrir (the Liberation Party) where he played a leading and international role in the shaping and dissemination of an aggressive anti-West narrative. Arriving in Egypt the day before 9/11, his views soon led to his arrest, imprisonment and mental torture, before being thrown into solitary confinement in a Cairo jail reserved for political prisoners. There, while mixing with everyone from the assassins of Egypt’s president to Liberal reformists, he underwent an intellectual transformation and, on his release after four years, he publicly renounced the Islamist ideology that had defined his life. This move would cost him his marriage, his family and his friends as well as his personal security.
Nawaz now works all over the world to counter Islamism and to promote democratic ideals through his organisation, the Quilliam Foundation, and is standing for Parliament.
Tallis is inspired by EM Forster’s thought that ‘Death destroys a man but the idea of it saves him’. He looks back on his world from the standpoint of his future corpse. He reflects on the senses that opened up his late world, the elements they reveal, the distances, divisions and intimacies of space, the multifarious activities that occupied his days; his possessions, his utterances, his relationship to others, the extinguished flame that was his self, his journey towards the end, and his afterlife either side of the grave.
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We flatter ourselves about the nature of free will. And yet the most enormous forces – biological, physical, metaphysical – constrain our every action. Instead of embracing our condition we battle against it, with everyone from world conquerors to modern scientists dreaming of a ‘human dominion’ almost comically at odds with our true state. The philosopher talks to Francine Stock.
How do ordinary people become revolutionaries? In 2000, too-cool-to-care Belgrade rock kid Srđa Popović found himself at the centre of a movement which was about to change the world. Popović was one of the unexpected leaders of the student movement Otpor! that overthrew dictator Slobodan Milošević and established democracy in Serbia all by avoiding violence and opting for something far more powerful: a sense of humour.
Following on the success of last year, the Professor of Behavioural Science at the LSE is back for part two of his now published and bestselling book Happiness by Design. Through ‘Decide, Design and Do’, he reveals the ways in which we can actually become happier without having to think too hard about it. Change what you do, not how you think, to get more pleasure and purpose in everyday life.
Words are grained into our landscapes, and landscapes are grained into our words. Landmarks is about the power of language to shape our sense of place. It is a field guide to the literature of nature, and a glossary containing thousands of remarkable words used in England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales to describe land, nature and weather. The author of The Old Ways, Mountains of the Mind and The Wild Places shows that language, well used, is a keen way of knowing landscape, and a vital means of coming to love it.
We know that, as individuals, we often 'miswant' – that is, want things that will not improve our wellbeing. How can we miswant as citizens, policymakers, or societies? How might some of the 'good' desires also have a darker side to them? Desires around hope, choice, and achievement, for example, can all make things worse as well as better. Dolan is a Professor of Behavioural Science at LSE. Tharoor is an Indian MP with over 1 million constituents in Thiruvananthapuram, and 3 million Twitter followers.
Can delusional beliefs and distorted memories have redeeming features? Psychologists have consistently found that we are more optimistic than is warranted by the evidence. This form of ‘unrealistic optimism’ leads to mild distortions of reality but it has been shown to contribute to good mental health, motivation and productivity. Bortolotti is Professor of Philosophy at University of Birmingham.