Existential Pokes

An inter-generational, life-long, learning community.


  • Sarah Alvarez
  • Erin Beddingfield
  • Leigh Beamer
  • Sarah Bearam (Morin)
  • Logan Burum
  • Pablo Castillo
  • Gustavo Castillo
  • Marina Castro -Meirelles
  • Timmy Clay
  • Cait Cobb
  • Elizabeth Conrad
  • Keegan Cooke
  • Megan Coolidge
  • Jessa Coulter
  • Nate Delano
  • Laura Meinzen-Dick
  • Christine Exley
  • Tatiana Faramarzi
  • Tatjana Farjadi
  • Sam Fortier
  • Shin Fujiyama
  • Marie Funk
  • Stephanie Hough (George)
  • Ehren Guzman
  • Mike Hakim
  • Zach Handlin
  • Ana Hecton
  • Mark Herring
  • Hannah Hopkins
  • James Hutcheson
  • Ashna Jain
  • Alli Jakubek
  • Farhat Jilalbhoy
  • Isaac Knowles
  • Zakaria Kronemer
  • Theophe Love
  • Katie MacEwen
  • Jessica Marshall
  • Kelly Mason
  • Olivia Mason-Lucas
  • Harry Masters
  • Katie Mauro
  • Lisa Medina
  • Thomas Meldrum
  • Jessica Melvin
  • Megan Menter (Higgs)
  • Luke Mendelsohn
  • Bethany O’Connor
  • Jeff Paddock
  • Jon Pierce
  • Courtney Prentice
  • Lara Pugh
  • Hannah Pullen
  • Hannah Rothwell
  • Ben Saunders
  • Dean Schaffer
  • Jaren Seid
  • Pete Shammas
  • Will Shephard
  • Sepehr Sobhani
  • Ethan Stackpole
  • Peter Stanley
  • Catherine Stewart
  • Jessica Suddreth
  • Daniel Tees
  • Clare Timmis
  • TL Tutor
  • Ashley Utz
  • Megan Vaugh-Albert
  • Melanie Walter
  • Hart Wood
  • Mustafa Yonus


I asked the following four questions:

  • What do you do?
  • Why do you do what you do?
  • Can you share a recent thought, epiphany or profound concept you’ve come across?
  • Can you recommend a book, article, blog or podcast episode?

Here are the answers I received: Us



Podcasts, music, poems, and other resources that inspire us to take a more “telescopic” view of life.




The condition of being good is that it should always be possible for you to be morally destroyed by something you couldn’t prevent. To be a good human being is to have a kind of openness to the world, an ability to trust uncertain things beyond your own control, that can lead you to be shattered in very extreme circumstances for which you were not to blame. That says something very important about the human condition of the ethical life: that it is based on a trust in the uncertain and on a willingness to be exposed; it’s based on being more like a plant than like a jewel, something rather fragile, but whose very particular beauty is inseparable from its fragility.

– Martha Nussbaum (ht Brainpickings)

But a defining moment for me happened when I was getting my locks washed, and my locker’s daughter came in one morning, and she had been hustling all night. And she had sores on her body, and she was just in a state, drugs. So something said to me, “Ask her, ‘Where does it hurt?’” And I said, “Shelly, where does it hurt?” And just that simple question unleashed territory in her that she had never shared with her mother…And she talked about having been incested. She talked about all of the things that had happened to her as a child, and she literally shared the source of her pain. And I realized, in that moment, listening to her and talking with her, that I needed a larger way to do this work, rather than a Marxist, materialist analysis of the human condition…And those moments made me really begin to seek, to go back to really think deeply about black folk religion and to really want to develop, in a very intentional way, an inner life that had to do with how I lived in the world.”

– Ruby Sales (ht On Being)

We’re only here for a short while. And I think it’s such a lucky accident, having been born, that we’re almost obliged to pay attention. In some ways, this is getting far afield. I mean, we are — as far as we know — the only part of the universe that’s self-conscious. We could even be the universe’s form of consciousness. We might have come along so that the universe could look at itself. I don’t know that, but we’re made of the same stuff that stars are made of, or that floats around in space. But we’re combined in such a way that we can describe what it’s like to be alive, to be witnesses. Most of our experience is that of being a witness. We see and hear and smell other things. I think being alive is responding.

– Mark Strand (ht Brainpickings)



  • This is Water by David Wallace (commencement speech at Kenyon College in 2005)