There are certain figures in our lives and in society who we call upon for guidance when things get rough or when we just want to feel inspired. Call them gurus, mentors, or figureheads, either way they help us by doing something we can’t do ourselves: giving us a grand vision of ourselves or society that’s at once aspirational and seemingly attainable. I’m interested that while we’ve had several of these figures in society, there doesn’t seem to be anyone new in recent years that we’re coalescing around. Perhaps we’re due now that we’re past the dialogue of self-care and are moving (politically at least) into a space of action and actualization. It’ll be interesting to see if one pops up post-November.
So, here we go.
1. Gwyneth and the Goop Haters
I know I’m a little late to the table on this one, but the NYTimes profile of Gwyneth Paltrow (G.P.) and the empire she’s built is fascinating. While I totally get the criticisms of her lifestyle, it wouldn’t be as culturally-leading as it is if it weren’t resonating in some way. She found a way to tell her true story, and take hippie potions and make them palatable and aspirational for everyday Americans.
I recently devoured the 30 for 30 podcast on the charismatic founder of Birkram Yoga: Birkram Choudhury. His story, from guru to the stars to disgrace in the face of abuse allegations is gripping and shows a lot of how we got to the wellness moment of today, starting in the 1970s.
3. The Happiness Hypothesis
On the suggestion of a friend, I recently read Jonathan Haidt’s The Happiness Hypothesis. It it he looks at the science of happiness, from psychology to religion, sociology to spirituality. The book is a fascinating way into the neuroscience that makes us tick, but more importantly provides space for religion and science to coexist and finds that maybe we all need each other a bit more than we thought — certainly a hopeful thought in challenging times.