New York Thought: Smart Things to Do in NYC This Week

A philosophy of listening, the puzzle of the ancient Polynesians, and Janet Napolitano on just how safe we really are highlight our picks for the best smart things to do in NYC this week.

Monday, March 25

Polynesians, the most closely related and widely dispersed of peoples, were the only pre-European humans to settle the vast circuit of Hawaii to New Zealand to Easter Island. How did they do it, without benefit of writing or metal tools? Christina Thompson, editor of the Harvard Review and author of Come on Shore and We Will Kill You and Eat You All, shares her discoveries into the epic explorations of ancient Polynesians. The talk at The Explorers Club draws on “history, geography, anthropology, and the science of navigation.”

Find sanctuary at this talk with Palestinian American Muslim racial justice and civil rights activist Linda Sarsour on migration, refugees, and the politics of sanctuary. NYU Skirball Center.

Enter the world of magic with author Ian Frisch, who describes his adventures with a mysterious society dedicated to revitalizing the art of deceit, and the personal insights that came with it. Books Are Magic.

Tuesday, March 26

Among the ever-increasing number of lost arts of this world is the stewardship of trees: the knowledge of how to make hay from branches, or walls from hazel, or hulls from trained oaks. Arborist William Bryant Logan visits the Cathedral of St. John the Divine (its masonry another example of lost arts) to talk about his forthcoming book, Sprout Lands: Tending the Endless Gift of Trees. (Logan can be found again Wednesday night at Greenlight Bookstore, near his Brooklyn home.)

Feel safe—or realize why you shouldn’t—at this conversation with former Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano on the Homeland Security department and her book How Safe Are We?: Homeland Security Since 9/11 (she’s at the NYPL with Joe Biden on the 25th). National September 11 Memorial and Museum.

The Resident Spiritual Advisor at Jewel Heart, Demo Rinpoche, leads a session guiding guests into the Tibetan Buddhist approach to mindful practice, which includes concentration (jo gom) and analytic (che gom) meditation. The suggested donation entry includes a copy of the spring edition of Tricycle magazine.

Novelist and critic Gary Indiana speaks with New York-based artist Sam McKinniss about the recently published Vile Days: The Village Voice Art Columns, 1985–1988, a compilation of Indiana’s insightful takes on a legendary era in New York art.

NYU professor and psychologist Lawrence Ian Reed shares his expertise in moods and emotions. In this talk at Subject on the Lower East Side, he’ll lay out the how and why behind the optimal answers to all your dilemmas. 

Wednesday, March 27

Shoukei Matsumoto, a Buddhist monk at the Komyoji temple in Tokyo, elucidates the Buddhist motto, “Live to clean and clean to live.” He’ll explain why sweeping and tidying are considered spiritual practices in Buddhism—and how you can evolve from chore to contemplation. Japan Society.

Lawrence Kramer (The Thought of Music) speaks on his new book, The Hum of the World: A Philosophy of Listening, an ambitious survey of the role of sound as a marker of life. He’ll draw on “music, media, language, philosophy, and science from the ancient world to the present” in conversation with fellow Fordham music professor Matthew Gelbart. Book Culture.

Communication, use of fire and tools, and sex for ends beyond procreation are not exclusive to the human species. British geneticist Adam Rutherford talks about his new book, Humanimal. How Homo Sapiens Became Nature’s Most Paradoxical Creature—A New Evolutionary History, which uses the the latest research in genetics to illuminate how humanity tracks the animal world, and how we got so far ahead of it. McNally Jackson Williamsburg.

Thursday, March 28

Calculate how to attend this talk with poet and philosopher Emily Grosholz on the intersection of poetry and mathematics. Poets House.

Does the current practice of catfishing have roots in the cross-cultural persistence of the trickster? Ted Barrow, who teaches art history and the relationship between art and film, leads a Think Olio session that looks at fishing, reaching back through centuries of art, literature, and folktales to consider “how angling straddles the line between perception and deception, art and belief systems.”

Speaking of trickster entities, should Trump run in 2020? Hear from voices you may not usually access as Intelligence Squared US Debates presents the motion The Republican Party Should Not Re-Nominate Trump. (Former Arizona Senator Jeff Flake will be one of the parties in support.) Kaye Playhouse at Hunter College.

Find our picks for the weekend here.

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