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Season 2 | Episode 2-7

The Dark Passenger, Finding Meaning in Life and the Hierarchy of Agency with Dr. Emily Bashah

Published on: 12/16/2022

In this episode of The Optimistic American, Paul Johnson and Dr. Emily Bashah address several questions they received from people in regards to the concern about the arising recession and how to navigate your way through it, as well as the hierarchy of agency, how to navigate difficult conversations and finding meaning in life.

  • The conversation between Paul Johnson and Dr. Emily Bashah kicks off by addressing the biggest part of the problem related to the bad national economy: the concept of the ‘dark passenger’. 
  • Paul shares something he considers inarguable: the fact that we’re going through a period of Enlightenment where we have dramatically reduced poverty throughout the world, decreased child mortality, and increased literacy, as well as promoted trade and free market, and advanced both the human condition and the economy in the U.S.
  • The concept of Enlightenment dates back to the 1800s where it was challenged by followers of the so-called End of the Century movement that promoted the idea of pessimism and the notion that how people felt was more important than optimism and rationality.
  • The End of the Century “philosophy” came to an end in the 1930s when the stock market crashed in 1929. That was followed by the rise of “isms”, Communism, Fascism and other movements that began to blossom all around the world.
  • When talking about contemporary Enlightenment, some people bring the concept of Dark Enlightenment into the conversation. Some people have a very pessimistic view of the world. They believe that democracy isn’t working and that the only way to solve the issues that are bothering them is by overthrowing democratic means.
  • Paul believes that many people have the Dark Passenger within themselves, and that’s overpowering their ability to make decisions and move forward in life.
  • Paul and Dr. Bashah touch upon the role that showing your own vulnerability can make in regards to agency, having conversations with others and how to approach – and diffuse – difficult situations, and showing that we care about other people.
  • Paul and Dr. Bashah unpack four elements of the hierarchy of agency: ‘know the truth’, ‘be accountable to yourself’, ‘finding meaning’, and ‘we, not me’.
  • Paul brings up Viktor Frankl’s roadmap for finding meaning in life – and he and Dr. Bashah share what their meaning and purpose are.

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