Apr 8, 2022

In the Dust of This Planet

Horror, fashion, and the end of the world … In this episode, first aired in 2014, but maybe even more relevant today, things get weird as we explore the undercurrents of thought that link nihilists, beard-stroking philosophers, Jay-Z, and True Detective.

Today on Radiolab, a puzzle. Jad’s brother-in-law wrote a book called 'In The Dust of This Planet'.

It’s an academic treatise about the horror humanity feels as we realize that we are nothing but a speck in the universe. For a few years nobody read it. But then …


Then in a fashion magazine.


And then on Jay-Z's back. How? 

We talk nihilism with Eugene Thacker & Simon Critchley, leather jackets with June Ambrose, climate change with David Victor, and hope with the father of Transcendental Black Metal - Hunter Hunt Hendrix of the band Liturgy.

Also, check out WNYC Studio's On the Media episode Staring into the Abyss, in it Brooke Gladstone and Jad Abumrad continue their discussion of nihilism and its place in history.

You can find Eugene Thacker's 'In The Dust Of the Planet' at Zero Books

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[Radiolab Intro]

LATIFF NASSER: Hey, it’s Latiff. This is Radiolab. I’m just gonna kick it over to Jad. This is a rerun from several years ago. But it’s a weird one. It’s not a typical Radiolab episode, and yet like every great Radiolab episode, it feels like it’s about now somehow more so than things that are being made now that are about now. I don’t know. Whatever. Yeah, you listen to it. Enjoy. 

JAD ABUMRAD: Hey this is Jad Abumrad.This is Radiolab, the podcast. 

Robert is out of town today, so it’s just me. I thought in this podcast, I’d wander a little bit. 


JAD: So I’m gonna start with a conversation that Brooke Gladstone and I —This is Brooke from On The Media—That she and I had with my brother-in-law Eugene.

EUGENE THACKER: I'm Eugene Thacker. I'm an author and professor at the New School in New York City.

JAD: We talked about this very weird thing that happened to Eugene. And I asked Brooke to join me cus it just felt like her kind of story. 

BROOKE GLADSTONE: I’ve been wearing black since I was thirteen. [Eugene laughs]

JAD: I just want to point out that the two of you are in head-to-toe in black right now. 

In any case to set it up. Eugene is a hard-core scholar of philosophy and he writes these books that sometimes can be a little dense. He'll use words like "exegesis" and "ratiocination." And so the family joke is that he writes books for no one. 

EUGENE THACKER: I think the joke started out, I write books that nobody reads. And then, after a slow long period of acceptance, I started to think, maybe I should write books for no one to read. And just sort of embrace that. [Group laughs.]

JAD: Meaning: at a certain point if you do this kind of work you have to ask yourself…

EUGENE THACKER: If you knew that this would not be published, would you still write it? How committed are you? 

JAD: And he decided he was committed. He would write it no matter what. So the story begins a couple years ago


JAD: Eugene writes this book.

EUGENE THACKER: called In the Dust of This Planet

BROOKE GLADSTONE: In the Dust of This Planet. 

JAD: It’s kind of a hard book to describe, but if you had to sum it up in a sentence?

EUGENE THACKER: It's about the end of the world.

JAD: But not in the Hollywood, boom! sense. It's darker than that.

BROOKE GLADSTONE: Your hypothesis is the greatest horror is that nothing exists and nothing matters. And the world that we live in that we define in terms of humanity doesn’t care about us. 

EUGENE THACKER: Right. What in philosophy is often referred to as nihilism or pessimism. That there might not be a purpose to things or to your life or to our existence or to the cosmos. There might not be an order to things. We might not be here for a reason. This all might be purely arbitrary, an accident.

JAD: That there's no inherent meaning to anything.

EUGENE THACKER: That it just doesn't matter.

JAD: This is what Nietzsche called-

EUGENE THACKER: The most difficult thought. 

JAD: And in the book, Eugene traces this idea through all these different horror movies, [car crashing through a window, instense scream] from slasher films to sort of more supernatural horror. And also music. [heavy metal plays] At  one point, he goes into this deconstruction of how different types of black metal deal with this thought.

EUGENE THACKER: I don't know, it's something, a way of thinking I've always found really intriguing and ironically kind of inspiring. 

BROOKE GLADSTONE: Are you a pessimist? 

EUGENE THACKER: On my better days. [Jad laughs]

BROOKE GLADSTONE: Are you a nihilist?

EUGENE THACKER: Not as much as I should be. [Jad laughs]

[Jaunty flute music like from a cartoon]

JAD: Ok, so Eugene writes this book in 2011. It is dark, it is dense, he writes it as he says, for no one. And as expected, beyond a few philosophy types, no one really pays attention. So he keeps his head down, teaching, writing, but then, some things happen. 2014 - 

[eery music]

[TV CLIP, True Detective, unknown character: There's all kinds of ghettos in the world.

RUSS COLE: It’s all one ghetto man. Giant gutter in outer space.]

JAD: The show True Detective comes along. It becomes a big hit. And at the center of the show is this character is this character Russ Cole, this Louisiana detective, who is one dark dude. 

[RUSS COLE: I think human consciousness is a tragic misstep in evolution.]

JAD: He goes on these rants about how there's no order in the world, how humans are just this accident and we have to deal with that. 

[RUSS COLE: I'd consider myself a realist, but in philosophical terms, I'm what's called a pessimist.]

PREMA MURTHY: And I just remember watching it and being like, wow

JAD: That's Eugene's wife, Prama MURTHY, my sister-in-law. 

PREMA MURTHY: I was like, this replicates so many conversations we've had in the car.

JAD: She's like, we're they listening in on us?

PREMA MURTHY: Yeah, it was eerie. 

JAD: So Prama goes online, clicks around. 

PREMA MURTHY: And all of a sudden I see this article about the True Detective director.

JAD: It was an article in which actually the writer of the show, Nic Pizzolatto was asked, ‘how did you create that character of the nihilist police detective?’ And he lists a bunch of things he was reading at the time.

PREMA MURTHY: And included in that list was Eugene.

JAD: To which I was like, cool! [jaunty cartoon music returns] At least one person's reading the book.

EUGENE THACKER: But I really just try to keep my head to the ground and just keep writing, just doing what I'm doing. 

JAD: But then. Things got weirder.

EUGENE THACKER: Ok so now—let's pull up Lucky Magazine. Let’s see if we can find it. 

JAD: A short time later, Prama is flipping through this fashion magazine.

EUGENE THACKER: Lucky Magazine. And there was a spread with this actress…

JAD: Lily Collins, 25 year old actress.

EUGENE THACKER: Who I'd never heard of…

JAD: Pretty big right now. She's standing on a street corner…

EUGENE THACKER: Dressed up in all this goth make up and clothing

JAD: And in the photo she is [sudden chime noise] wearing Eugene's book on her chest

EUGENE THACKER: She had on, in one of the shots, a sweatshirt that had the cover of the book. 

JAD: In the Dust of This Planet. Big letters. Right on her chest.

PREMA MURTHY: And I was just, no way!

EUGENE THACKER: It was definitely, what the [bleep]

PREMA MURTHY: This is crazy, what? She's casually wearing my husband's book cover. 

EUGENE THACKER: I don't know, again, I didn't react, but it was just strange.

JAD: Turns out, a Norwegian artist had made a painting of the book. That image had gotten picked up by a fashion label and turned into some very expensive clothes. 

EUGENE THACKER: You know, I write books for no one to read so I’m obviously I’m not pulling in a lot of royalties on these, but you know—

JAD: Eugene says he’s not going to sue. 

EUGENE THACKER: I’m not going to sue or take any legal action or really do anything about it.

JAD:  Because he says that’s not why he writes. [jaunty music returns] Ok, so that happened. But then it gets weirder still. [EDM music plays] So one day when my wife, Carla MURTHY's online, this is the day that Jay-Z and Beyonce announce they're going to do this big international tour. Carla's watching the video that they released to promote that tour, sort of a fake movie trailer.

KARLA MURTHY: It says On the Run, it's sort of all flashy. Guns, fire, hookers.

JAD: It doesn’t really make a whole lot of sense. It’s some sort of Bonnie and Clyde thing, I think. They’re running from someone, but you don’t know who. Beyonce's in a wedding dress

KARLA MURTHY: She's got a veil on.

JAD: But she's shooting semi-automatic weapons in this wedding dress. Cut to car chases, cut to money flying everywhere. But at exactly 37 seconds in… 

KARLA and JAD: Oh! Go back, go back! 

JAD: You see Jay-Z turn, stick a giant gun out to his right, and he is wearing Eugene's book. [Beyonce song clip] Right there on his back. In the Dust of This Planet. [Beyonce song clip] Now this is the point at which I was like, ok. What do we make of this? I mean, could it be that Eugene is no longer writing books for no one, that somehow he has become a conduit for this idea that we all, in that subterranean way that pop music operates, that we all are channeling right now. That was my thought. 

EUGENE THACKER: Yeah, no I think that's the question. Is whether this is something particular to the moment we're living in.

JAD: And Eugene, his knee-jerk reaction is…

EUGENE THACKER: I think it could have been this cover or a million other covers.

JAD: No. This is just meaningless appropriation?

EUGENE THACKER: Yeah I don't think there's anything more than that to me than it just looks like a cool phrase to go on a T-shirt to go on a goth girl in some photo shoot.

BROOKE GLADSTONE: And why is it cool? 

JAD: Right. Cause my hunch is, you might be right, but you also might be wrong because of the answer you're about to give to Brooke's question. 

EUGENE THACKER: It's cool because some publicist…


JAD: And this was sort of the conversation I wanted to have, that's why I called Brooke. What's behind all this nihilistic entertainment? Now Brooke, for her part, agreed that Eugene probably is tapping into something. 

BROOKE GLADSTONE: Yes. But, is this unique to this moment? And to that I would say, no.

JAD: Really? You don't think this says anything about now?

BROOKE GLADSTONE: I think there are cycles in which the sense of meaninglessness comes out in sharper relief than other times. But you can identify them over and over again.

SIMON CRITCHLEY: Yeah. Nihilism goes all the way back. 

JAD: Brooke actually turned us onto this guy. 

SIMON CRITCHLEY: Simon Critchley, I'm the Hans Jonas professor of the New School for Social Research. 

JAD: Simon wrote an article that basically made the argument that nihilism is the basic credo of cool.

SIMON CRITCHLEY: Cause it’s—it's sexy, it's interesting.

JAD: And it's been that way forever.

SIMON CRITCHLEY: Oh, I've got the best thing for you, you'll love this. It's a Russian word.

JAD: He said the word that really got it’s pop in 1862. This is 150 years ago

SIMON CRITCHLEY: There's a novel by Turgenev called Fathers and Sons.

JAD: And in the novel, the son, who's the nihilist, turns to his conservative dad. And he says…

SIMON CRITCHLEY: "We base our conduct on what we recognize as useful. In these days, the most useful things we can do is repudiate. And so we repudiate everything." The father says, "Everything?" "Everything with indescribable composure.” So that’s the nihilist moment. Everything goes. 

JAD: And Simon says roughly from that point on, you see young people glom on to this idea again and again as a way to say no to the older generation, or to just what's happening in the world. For example, after World War I, you had 10s of millions of people dead, this lost generation that was confused and disgusted at what just happened. And out of that says, Brooke, you get dada.

BROOKE GLADSTONE: I want to pull up here on the computer, the manifesto of Tristan Tzara. 

JAD: He was one of the founders of the dada movement. 

BROOKE GLADSTONE: He says dada means nothing. Everything one looks at is false. Dada: the abolition of memory. Dada: abolition of archaeology. Dada: abolition of profits. Dada: abolition of the future.

JAD: And after World War II, she and Simon say you had similar movements in the 70s and 80s. With the threat of nuclear annihilation, you get punk rock that just keeps going.

SIMON CRITCHLEY: Pop culture at least since I was a kid, has always been deeply nihilist, you know. 

JAD: Alright, so it's nothing new. But when I ran Simon through the Eugene-jacket situation, and then I asked, is there something different about today's nihilism versus the nihilism of the past. Is there something more potent about it? Without hesitation, he said..

SIMON CRITCHLEY: I'd say—say yes. 

ANDY MILLS: Based on what?

JAD: That's producer Andy Mills, who was with me during the interview.

SIMON CRITCHLEY: Well.... [sighs]

JAD: Simon says it was more of a gut feeling based on this class that he taught last year. With Eugene, oddly enough. I didn't know they knew each other. They had taught this class together.

SIMON CRITCHLEY: So this seminar that we did in the fall last year was one of those rare seminars. We're teaching mysticism. No one teaches mysticism. Nobody teaches mysticism, really obscure stuff within Desert Fathers, medieval female mystics.

JAD: This is early Christianity. 

SIMON CRITCHLEY: Neither of us are religious.

JAD: He says they started the seminar not really expecting much, by talking about how in the 4th Century A.D. 

SIMON CRITCHLEY: There was this city—Alexandria.

JAD: This was near Egypt.

SIMON CRITCHLEY: Alexandria was a lot like Manhattan. There's an offshore island. It was a colony of a former power.

JAD: Roman Empire.

SIMON CRITCHLEY: And it's the seat of all culture and all learning in the ancient world. it's the seat of all learning and culture in the ancient world. At a certain point in the 4th century, people start to leave. They start to leave. They start to leave and go into the desert. People wander off and they seem to want something else. The city just doesn't do it anymore.

JAD: Why?

SIMON CRITCHLEY: It's corrupt. It's broken. It's sinful.

JAD: He said crime was rampant, pollution, and so people just started to wander off into the desert. Live in these caves.

SIMON CRITCHLEY: And these intense forms of ascetic practice begin.

JAD: Like you had these women… 

SIMON CRITCHLEY: Who were not educated because women couldn't be educated.

JAD: Who were so enraptured with Christ that they began -

SIMON CRITCHLEY: Hurting themselves, throwing themselves into icy rivers, jumping into ovens. The body is something which is you're trying to strip away in order that you can free the capacity for love.

ANDY: That's a classic mystic idea, right? The body is just getting in the way. I want to go soul-to-soul…


ANDY: With God.

SIMON CRITCHLEY: Exactly. But the premise of that, again, is that the world is a kind of filled of ruins.

JAD: But he says but really struck him is that as he was talking about this, he would glance out at the students, and he would notice this look in their eyes.

SIMON CRITCHLEY: I just felt that in the room, this deep need was being fulfilled by these strange mystics.

[soft, eerie music in background]

JAD: He said the students were just in it in a way that almost never happens when you're teaching 

SIMON CRITCHLEY: We weren't—not saving souls—but it was it was hitting something really, really deep.

JAD: What exactly? Do you think they were starting to form the thought of wandering into the desert, so to speak?

SIMON CRITCHLEY: Yeah, I think there's a sense of what you do is secede, walk away. That's where a lot of people are at. 

JAD: As for what's behind it all, he says just turn on the news

[NEWS clip: A video showing the beheading of a second American journalist has now been verified.]

[NEWS clip: Disease experts say this is turning into one of the longest deadliest outbreaks ever.]

[NEWS clip: The girls were gang raped and strangled.]

[NEWS clip: Once again, it is mostly children we are seeing brought into this hospital.]

SIMON CRITCHLEY: In the world I grew up in, it made sense. It was completely crazy—mutually assured destruction—but it made sense and you could understand it in very simple terms. It was the United States and the Soviet Union. We were going to be eviscerated that was clear. But it made sense, you knew what the balance of power were.

JAD: You're nostalgic for mutually assured destruction, is that what’s happening now?

SIMON CRITCHLEY: It seems a much simpler world.

ANDY: Well, you at least knew who to blame for it, right?


JAD: That's Andy again.

ANDY: I feel like that's the thing like you look at the Cold War, and you could see like, specifically like, [beep] you, Soviets. [beep] you, Americans. 

ANDY: [beep] the nukes. 

SIMON CRITCHLEY: Yeah. That's right. That's right. 

ANDY: And now who am I supposed to say? [beep] you to?, I'm saying [beep] you to 


ANDY: Carbon emissions! 

JAD: Speaking of which—

[NEWS clip: Today the world's leading climate scientists warned it will get worse.]

JAD: Now, one of the reasons for the current gloom is we're in the middle of an uncomfortable shift in how we talk about climate change. 

[NEWS clip: NEWS: Heat waves will be more frequent and last longer]

JAD: This was made official when the IPCC, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released a report where, where for the first time they stopped using the language of prevention and shifted to the language of adaptation. In other words, hundreds of scientists and policy makers, this is the world's top organization for assessing climate change were now saying, we can't stop it, it's inevitable.

DAVID VICTOR: So now we need to deal with the mess that's now on our doorstep.

JAD: That's David Victor.

DAVID VICTOR: Professor of international relations at University of California at San Diego.

JAD: And he's one of the authors of the report.

DAVID VICTOR: When the IPCC first began back int he late 1980s you could imagine that people would take the climate change problem seriously. They would start to control emissions and over a period of decades, the climate would stop changing. And instead what's happened is people have talked a lot about climate change but they haven't actually done much to control emissions.

JAD: And now he says, We're all in this strange middle ground where we're trying to find the language to say why it's important to keep working at this, while at the same time admitting some degree of failure. 

DAVID VICTOR: And that's the kind of inevitability that I think you see and the new, the new reports and the reports are bending over backwards to try and find ways to be optimistic. The report says if you put into place all these technologies and international agreements we could still stop warming at 2 degrees. My own assessment is that the kind of actions you'd need to do that are so heroic that we're not going to see them on this planet. 

JAD: All of which reminded me of that True Detective moment.

[TV CLIP, True Detective, Russ Cole: Look, I'd consider myself a realist. But in philosophical terms, I'm what's called a pessimist.

Unknown character: Um, okay, what's that mean?]

JAD: Pessimists, like nihilists, agree there's no meaning, they're just a little more mopey about it, less likely to do something. 

[TV CLIP, True Detective, Russ Cole: It means I'm bad at parties.]

JAD: I mean, is that where we're all headed. In a recent Wall Street Journal poll, 76% of people 18 and over weren't confident that the future's going to be brighter than the past. Which brings we back to Brooke’s question.

BROOKE GLADSTONE: Why is it cool? 

JAD: Call it nihilism, pessimism, what ever, shouldn't it be depressing? What would you want to put a phrase like, "In the Dust of This Planet," a phrase that deliberately negates the person wearing it, why would you want to put it on your chest or on your back? And since it was Jay Z's jacket, which was in a way, the catalyst for this whole podcast, we decided to talk to him. Sort of, that's coming up.

[Radiolab break]

JAD: This is Jad. This is Radio lab. So we ended up in the flow of things, you know, as we're trying to figure out like ‘In the Dust of This Planet’, why is that cool? Why isn’t that just scary and depressing. We ended up…

JUNE AMBROSE: They want to talk to me, why?

ANDY: That’s a good question.

JAD: Talking to this lady. Who it turns out was the person who made the decision to put it on Jay-Z's back.

JUNE AMBROSE: I should say my name I guess. My name is June Ambrose. I've been a costume designer for 22 years. 23 this year, and I've worked with everyone from Luther Vandross to Puffy to Sean, Mariah Carey to Busta Rhymes, Mary J. Blinge, Alicia Keyes, Dave Mathews Band, Backstreet Boys, Kelly Ripa, Kim Cattrall, Missy Elliot. [samples of artists’ music plays throughout]

JAD: Did you do the Missy with the balloons? 


JAD: That was you? 


JAD: Oh, my God. And of course, Jay-Z and Beyonce. 

ANDY: That’s like culture, basically. 


JAD: It occurred to Andy and I during the interview that June has probably influenced the fashion sense of a significant portion of the human beings on this planet. And she was very clear that a costume is more than just a costume.

JUNE AMBROSE: It's like a conversation. Without words.

JAD: That really what she's doing when she styles someone is whispering to all the people that are gonna watch the videos, come in contact with the billboards, go to the concerts.

JUNE AMBROSE: I don't have to talk to you, but I can create this conversation with a pair of pants and how they fall and how they fit and the texture and the color and the feel. 

JAD: She says with Jay-Z for that video, she knew she needed something epic…

JUNE AMBROSE: But, like, effortless. I knew I wanted a biker jacket because it was a motorcycle scene, but I knew I couldn't just give him a black leather jacket, I needed it to say something to feel like something so we were on the hunt. 

JAD: Her and her assistant went to dozens of places.

JUNE AMBROSE: Ateliers, studios, showrooms.

JAD: Looking at all these leather jackets

JUNE AMBROSE: It's like finding a needle in a haystack.

JAD: Nothing was right

JUNE AMBROSE: But then -

JAD: They saunter into this one place 

JUNE AMBROSE: Black denim

JAD: This place does sort of high end grunge. They're flipping through the racks, when - she see it. The jacket. Those words.

JUNE AMBROSE: And that was it. I knew it. I said, this is what I need. If just felt, it was perfect.

JAD: The question was, why? At this point I hadn't really told her the whole back story. So I pulled up a screen capture from the video. This is when you see Jay-Z sort of standing in the desert, shot from behind. In the Dust of This Planet on his back. He's kind of pointing this really long Dirty Harry gun off to his right, sort of up. Like he's about to shoot the sun.

JUNE AMBROSE: Yeah you think he's about the sun.

JAD: I printed it out because it's just got this like billboard quality to it, right? Here it is.

JUNE AMBROSE: I’ve got a really cool one on my phone.

JAD: Ok, so let's look at this. So why did you choose that jacket.

JUNE AMBROSE: You know, it's something very menacing about it. It's almost like the aftermath that there was something going on that was paralleling the end of an era, the beginning of something new.

JAD: She says in the back of her head she was thinking about how the music industry might be dying.

JUNE AMBROSE: It's definitely in a place where it's like, what now? You can hear it in the music. 

JAD: And this is the biggest tour in history, really, what now?

JUNE AMBROSE: And these are the whispers that you hear. 

JAD: But she says one of the loudest whispers was super simple. Just here's a guy, massive pop star—

JUNE AMBROSE: Like a sovereign.

JAD: He's in the desert, it's about to go down, the end of the world is literally on his back.

JUNE AMBROSE: But, it was almost as if he didn't know that was on his back. You know what I mean? It's like that was the afterthought.

JAD: Like, oh yeah, the world is ending? Psht, I don't care.

JUNE AMBROSE: Going out in style.

JAD: In other words…

JUNE AMBROSE: He wasn't afraid.

JAD: He wasn't afraid. 

JUNE AMBROSE: Wasn't afraid.

JAD: You know what, that's what this—we talked about whispers? That's what I get from it. And now that you've said that, it's not so much "I don't give a [beep],” it's "I'm not afraid."

JUNE AMBROSE: Yeah. I mean, we all have to leave the planet. Everyone has their day. What you work on is not being afraid when you have to leave. 


[Jad and June talking as June leaves the studio]

JAD: Yeah, we’ll get it to you. That'd be cool. And thank you!

JUNE AMBROSE: This was—this was actually refreshing. Thank you!

JAD: Walking out of that interview. This was by the way, after we had told her that phrase on Jay Z's back was lifted from a book written by my brother-in-law, Eugene.

JUNE AMBROSE: Oh, wow. Now I need to get the book and I need to get it to Jay. 

JAD: Which he was very interested to know. [Can we do that?]

JUNE AMBROSE: Yeah, let's do that. Oh, my God. 

JAD: And we did send him the book. Haven't heard back. Anyhow, walking out of there. I kept thinking, Is that what this is all about? That all this pop nihilism around us. This is not about tearing down power structures or embracing nothingness. It's just, "Look at me. Look how brave I am." 

BROOKE GLADSTONE: That I can wear it on a t shirt.

EUGENE THACKER: Yeah, I would go with that. And this is why as you pointed out, you know, from data to punk, this is a recurring motif of how, how badass you are in facing mortality.

BROOKE GLADSTONE: Bingo, badass. That's what I was thinking.

EUGENE THACKER: I think that that is nothing more than a posture. I mean, it's all fine when you're 18 to wear that T-shirt. But when you're like in your 50s dealing with cancer, like okay, you know, maybe maybe then is when you really have to confront those things. So I just, it's a it's simply a posture, and that's why it's in pop culture.

SIMON CRITCHLEY: Because cynical response would be to say, you know, why we love nihilism and pop culture is that it saves us having to be burdened with it. 

JAD: Simon Critchley again. 

SIMON CRITCHLEY: It saves us from feeling it. We can we can enjoy it in our rooms. We can get off on it, and then we can let it go. And we go, we go back to work.

JAD: But Simon says, you don' t have to be cynical about this if you don't want to be. Nietzsche, Mr. Dark Pessimist himself, had this idea about nihilism that it was just the beginning, that if you really dealt with it, took it in, accelerated it to its logical end, you could get to the other side. Which he called…

SIMON CRITCHLEY: A re-evaluation of values. Some new way of thinking of who we are as moral creatures. And that's kind of where I am. And love. Love is that capacity which can see you through that. 

JAD: And that, he suspects, is why his students were so interested in those mystics. Cause they had found a way through.

SIMON CRITCHLEY: These people, these mystics, have got the uncompromising commitment to something like love.

JAD: The fact that they were ready to go all the way, to negate even their own bodies for that love.

SIMON CRITCHLEY: In a world where love has been reduced to Tinder exchanges. If that's the hell that you're living in as a 25 year old, yeah you're going to read these mystics and think, "I want what she's having" you know? "I'll take what she's having!"

JAD: Burn my flesh! And you could argue that Jay-Z and Beyonce—I mean why not?—they've got a little of that going on. I mean part of what's made this tour so big, the biggest tour ever, is that it's like this grand love story.

JUNE AMBROSE: I'm with the love of my life, so it’s all like—it works.

JAD: I have a fantasy. I have a fantasy that Beyonce and Jay-Z will do this tour, and they will go off into the desert [June snorts and laughs] and they'll live in a little hut, like this monastic existence. Together in love in a—and new age of Aquarius will begin. Starting with the two of them. 

JUNE AMBROSE: That's beautiful. 

ANDY: The loudest mic drop?

JAD: Any chance of that?

[sound of a slurp through straw]

JUNE AMBROSE: Oh, you can really hear me slurp on that. 

ANDY: Yeah. It's a nice sound.

JAD: That was your answer?

JUNE AMBROSE: [Ahhhs after taking a drink] Pina Colada on the beach. [Group laughs.]

ANDY: That maybe a perfect response to Jad’s question.

JAD: Yeah. 

[music plays: a mix of Western, Space and action movie sound effects]

JAD: Special thanks to the Murthy tribe and to Zero Books, and of course to Eugene Thacker—who even though he harbors no redemptive fantasies about human beings whatsoever—is an awesome dude. This piece is an homage to him, one of the most committed writers I know—also happens to be my brother-in-law,. If you want to read In the Dust of This Planet—and I actually do highly recommend it—It's super fascinating. Go to our website radiolab.org and we'll link you to it. I'm Jad Abumrad. Thanks for listening.

UNKNOWN: Radio lab was created by Jad Abumrad and is edited by Soren Wheeler. Lulu Miller and Latif Nasser are co hosts. Suzie Lechtenberg is our executive producer. Dylan Keefe is our director of sound design. Our staff includes Simon Adler, Jeremy Bloom, Becca Bressler, Rachel Cusick, W. Harry Fortuna, David Gebel, Maria Paz Gutiérrez, Sindhu Gnanasambandan, Matt Kielty, Annie McEwen, Alex Neeson, Sarah Qari, Anna Rascouët-Paz, Arianne Wack, Pat Walters and Molly Webster, with help from Carolyn McCusker and Sarah Sandbach. Our fact checkers are Diane Kelly, Emily Krieger and Adam Shybil.

[BRIAN: This is Brian from Alameda, California. Leadership support for Radiolab science programming is provided by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, Science Sandbox, Assignments Foundation Initiative and the John Templeton Foundation. Foundational support for Radiolab was provided by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. Thanks guys.]



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