Nathan Schneider —
The Wisdom of Millennials

There’s a kind of brilliance that flashes up in early adulthood: an ability to see the world whole. Nathan Schneider has been able to articulate and sustain that far-seeing eye of young adulthood. He’s also a gifted writer, chronicling the world he and his compatriots are helping to make — spiritual, technological, and communal. At the Chautauqua Institution, we explore the wisdom of a millennial generation public intellectual on the emerging fabric of human identity.

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is a scholar-in-residence of media studies at the University of Colorado Boulder. He is the author of God in Proof: The Story of a Search from the Ancients to the Internet and Thank You, Anarchy: Notes from the Occupy Apocalypse. He is a regular columnist for Vice magazine and America, the national Catholic weekly. He is currently co-editing a book on democratic business models for online platforms.

Pertinent Posts

For the world-weary, cynicism may feel safe. But, in our efforts toward self-protection, what might we be missing? A Millennial reflects on the doubt and distrust he sees in his generation, and suggests a courageous counterpoint: sincere and hopeful optimism.

Collection

The American Consciousness

This is the fourth and final episode in a special series on "The American Consciousness." Human identity is more fluid than ever before. How do we live gracefully in this moment of change, helping to shape it? How do we nurture common life, even as we are reinventing it? With Imani Perry, Richard Rodriguez, Michel Martin, and Nathan Schneider.

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In the Room with Nathan Schneider

Could the growing number of non-religious young people be a force for the renewal of spiritual traditions? How might the internet of the future look utterly different from the internet of now? And what did the Occupy Movement really tap into and what has it become below the radar?

A live conversation at the Chautauqua Institution with writer and millennial generation public intellectual, Nathan Schneider.

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Reflections

This interview is worthy of our attention and calls us to remember the fullness of a generation.

Is there a transcript of the interview with Nathan Schneider? I am particularly interested in what he had to say about story and the way we tell our stories.I am interested in how our stories impact society. Thank you.

Trent Gilliss's picture

Hi Jane. If you do a few finger-scrolls up the page, you'll see a link titled "Transcript" you can click and get it here: http://www.onbeing.org/program/nathan-schneider-the-fabric-of-our-identi.... Our transcripts are available on every episode page. Cheers!

Thank you!
Jane

Extraordinary series on the fabric of human consciousness in America. Congratulations to the On Being team for bringing so much light onto the world. This program NEEDS to become MAINSTREAM and captions are needed for translations of On Being shows in the world's major languages. I will reblog this story on The Spiritual Journalist to share with my readers. In Divine Friendship~

I loved listening to this interview this morning and heard Krista say that we could watch a video of it from the website. How can we do that? There was a lot to consider in the poetry of his words and in his own search. I was touched by his open heart.

The discussion of 'nones' in this weekend's show seemed to imply that the
number of people responding that way (20 to 30%) to questions about religious affiliation is a problem. Another perspective is that it is a sign
of increasing intellectual maturity in the population. Further, the speculations on the causes of the 'none' response suggested that it might
be the media's fault for not reporting the good deeds of religious organizations enough. I did not hear anyone mention the bad deeds of
religious organizations across the globe: genocide on 3 continents, draconian destruction of the welfare state here at home. The latter are surely more significant causes of recoil from religion than the former. Richard Dawkins, among others, has made that explicitly clear. Atheists and agnostics are usually not avid proselytizers and have been willing for
generations to work constructively with benevolent religious organizations. What has changed their (and my)perspective is overwhelming evidence that, on the whole, religion is proving to have diabolical effects in our time. I am reminded of my parents' mystification at the rebelliousness of youth in the late 60's and early 70's. They were interested in psychoanalysing us and persistently ignored the elephant
in the room, which was the war in Vietnam, though I constantly reminded
them of it.

I was so excited to find the show about a year ago. Honestly Krista in 2014 the lack of cultural diversity in your perspectives is boring. Come on you are awesome but really why not reflect our society's rich cultures more widely?

So many of these conversations take us back to the hard things. Hard things to talk about, hard things to feel. Being with pain not turning to Las Vegas, personally or publicly, to avoid pain. The Dali Lama wonderfully pointed to awareness practice as the true jihad, the holy fight. Psychology too is having this conversation where East and West meet. An interesting conversation for me is one that is happening with the work of Ann Weiser Cornell. With a background in linguistics she is developing language forms that facilitate connection and conversation with our "selves". Rumi said this life is a Guest House, meet each one, serve tea. But the thoughts and feelings associated with our survival conditioning frequently overwhelm us and we cope with some form of Vegas. Cornell is developing an accessible means of helping folks enlarging their Welcoming Presence capable of hearing the urgent voices but not being swept away by them.

I hear "On Being" occasionally when I'm in the car listening to KOPB in Oregon. I'm usually unimpressed, but I was glued to my radio listening to this interview. More like this, please.

What a fabulous interview. I am delighted to discover Nathan Schneider. Listening to him speak reminded me of my mother saying during Clinton's presidential inauguration, "someday, the president will be someone the same age as you!" In other words, the joy of seeing the beginning of my generation's maturing, and the beautiful, unique spirit we have to offer the world.

I listen to On Being rarely any more and was reminded why by this program: I have been a 'None' for a long time and I think that Krista Tippett and her guest agreeing that 'None' is an unfinished condition shows their Christian bias. As does the inclusion of only Christians - 4 Catholics, no less, - on a program about American identity and diversity.

There are more than Christians out here and Christianity itself is in steep decline in the West. It might be better to figure out why than to keep telling us how spiritually unfinished those of us who are 'Nones' are.

"The words of the prophets are written on the subway walls and tenement halls" Paul Simon. The lone voice has been the prophetic voice throughout history. The "none's" are our modern day truth tellers. Just like Jesus was in his day. I am a Christian, yearning for the "spiritual but not religious" and the "nones" to make their voices heard in the church and other religious institutions. Trouble is, the religious institutions need to listen. Everyone is "spiritually unfinished". It's a good thing. There is no end or arrival on the inner journey.

thank you for telling our story. few people listen & get to witness the more humble side of our occupy since we've gone underground. major #uptwinkles

Stories and Social Movements

I am intrigued by the stories people tell and don’t tell and the impact of those stories and those omissions on society. On this past Sunday morning, like most Sunday mornings at 7:00 am, I nestled under the covers and turned on the Krista Tippett show, On Being. This Sunday she was interviewing a young man, Nathan Schneider, who is an activist and a writer. He has written a couple of books and numerous articles as well as a blog. One of his books is about the Occupy Wall Street Movement. Both Krista Tippett and Nathan Schneider used the word story several times and, because I was intrigued, I printed out the transcript. Reading the printed text was disappointing because it was not clear what the specifics were of the social movements they were discussing. Both referred to social movements such as Occupy Wall Street, the Civil Rights Movement and the uprisings several years ago in Egypt. He said that what happens in movements all the time is that, “…the injustices in the outside world replicate themselves inside any community where we try to constitute ourselves and start over again. What is the story here? I am curious about what injustices were within the Occupy Movement. What was happening in the Occupy community? What is this story? Mr. Schneider then went on to say something about lives being changed and people going to places, “where they can support those who are most vulnerable, where they can connect the local with the global in a way that they hadn’t thought to before.” Please tell me more. It is inspiring that people went to places to help vulnerable people. Who were they and where did they go? I want to know what it means to bring the local and global together. It is also intriguing to me that when humans attempt reconciling contrasting elements like local and global, they create things they never thought of before. And, what was created?
Krista followed these comments of Mr. Schneider with, “I think that’s part of the story that hasn’t really been told.” This intrigues me and sounds like a story of social creativity. Krista went on to say that the Civil Rights Movement spawned other movements because the injustices were in the movement itself. These injustices in the movement, “became so apparent and so problematic.” This is so frustrating for me. What were those injustices and I wonder what other movements she is thinking about. Krista then says something about a legacy that exists from these movements and that it quietly lives on. What is this legacy?

Mr. Schneider then talked about meeting with people who had been part of the Civil Rights and other social movements. He said that we give ourselves amnesia about these movements. Krista added something about the fact that we don’t remember the human complexity and messiness. Mr. Schneider then says something I found interesting. He said we tell our history in the stories of great men. That certainly has an impact on those of us who are brought up on those stories of heroes. I was just reading last night about the pervasiveness of the hero archetype in novels and movies. Frankly, it seems natural to me that such stories would be organized around such a powerful archetype. Mr. Schneider seems to be lamenting the fact that this is the way stories are told. He goes on to say that when we tell the stories of great men it changes our society very little. The stories of great men allow us to forget what movements really looked like. Thus, he said, “we forget how to build strong ones in the future.” Why is that so? I wish he had explained what he meant. The hero seems to be on trial here.

The next part of the conversation had to do with the disappointment of the Occupy Wall Street experience. Mr. Schneider talked about the idealistic people involved and how frustrating it was for them. Here he said something that fascinated me. He felt that those people’s disappointment and frustration was the fault of the storytellers. I am curious about who exactly the storytellers were. Apparently those idealist people had been working with a story about the Tahrir Square uprising in Egypt. They felt they were joining a global movement and they were part of something wonderful going on around the world. I don’t know if Mr. Schneider meant that these individuals were the storytellers or the idealistic people influenced by the tellers.

It is a shame the interview was so lacking in specifics. I need to take a little time and think about the significance of what was said in regard to story. It is a shame more information was not given because I believe some interesting points were made. It would be great to see those points developed.

I think of Krista Tippett’s interviews as involving three parties. These are the interviewer, the interviewee and the audience. It is important for Krista to remember her audience when she is interviewing her guests.

Jane Knox

My face is certainly red. I just realized I dropped the second "t" off Krista's last name in my post and I apologize.

The LIE that is beLIEf is old-paradigm. Thus we have NONEs! The Unmanifest ('God') is no mere thing... to be believed in or not - some existent creation. Ha! Perhaps you've read A Universe From Nothing. 'Tis true - this is where we live.
Love U & what you do!

Just to mention Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, who speak rather often about the 99% versus the 1%, it's very clear to me that Occupy Wall Street did NOT "fail". Never has a challenge in a chess match this monumental achieved it's goals in one move. To negate what was actually accomplished in the protests is very disappointing to hear you say.

"Proof of God" ? Surely the word 'God' is obsolete today. If we think of all the harm done in the name of God lets try and forge a non-theistic approach . Spirituality without religion is the way forward. At least he says he may be asking the wrong question - Does God exist? is naive and philosophically meaningless.

This Holy Saturday, two thousand and sixteen, March twenty and six.
On the heels of The dulce sixteen become a narrower eight in the world of collegiate basket ball
We pay heed to the overwhelming wisdom and beauty of those from the upcoming vintage.

This is so very rich in content; I will have to listen again, and perhaps again. I forwarded the link to my daughter (b. 1981) and my son (b. 1985) and his fiancee (b. 1993). So much of what Mr. Schneider shared was close to or parallelled parts of my children's history...A Jewish father who was a spiritual seeker, an Anglican-raised mother who'd experienced rejection of her marriage by parts of his family and by a priest at her local parish...and later, when my DH was dying (Type 1 Diabetes), the inability of many in that same evangelically-oriented Anglican parish to come to grips with the grief my son and I shared as we witnessed the many losses that T1D extracts from life before it kills its sufferers. Then there was my own growing up in the sixties, just a few miles from the border with the U.S., with a WWII veteran step-father who was an Immigration Officer on that border during the Viet Nam War era, hoping he wouldn't encounter draft-dodgers...arguing with him about 'duty'...Altogether, yes, much to reflect on and much to learn. I might just have to save that transcript. Thank you.

I was born into an ecumenical home with beloved Jewish maternal grandparents and a mother who had converted in her 30s to the Methodist faith. My father was a nominal Catholic, who did not live his faith, and my paternal grandmother was said to be more Catholic than all the popes of Rome and most of the kings of Spain. For the first 50 years of my life, I tried to be Catholic, but I believed in birth control and choice and LBGTQ rights. In 1999, I took refuge in the Three Jewels as a Buddhist, but I believe in the validity of all paths to the Divine and Eternal. I answer polls as "none" only because there is no "all of the above."

As I was listening to this episode, I had the unrelenting impression that I was hearing a voice coming from some drifting ice floe or from the spokesperson of a community isolated from the continent by a natural disaster and frantically looking for ways to reconnect. Quite emblematic of that thirst for re-connection was the story of technology freak “nones” examining St-Benedict's Rule as a potential organizational blueprint.

Without denying value to mass movements like the Occupy Wall-Street or any other (that May 68 was my Occupy the World episode betrays me as Homo Neanderthalensis !), I believe such movements are always bound to fizzle out and to create disillusionment as long as the deep, slow, painful and lonely process of inner atonement does not take place in the human soul.

Heading to the barricades can be exciting and even noble, but it is also, for most, an escape from a more personal confrontation with Meaning. Ernest Becker, in The Denial of Death argues convincingly that we spend a great deal of time concocting inner and outer “immortality projects” to avoid the fundamental terror of the finite person we know (we think) we are. A more solid path to a new world order lies in the synergy of such lonely personal revolutions.

One could also argue that mass movements are part of what Paul Coelho calls "personal legends", those sinuous paths on which "we shall not cease from exploration and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time". These arduous paths are not without rewards and moments of grace: the bird on Bernie Sander's lectern in Portland was such a magic moment.

Thanks for On-Being, my Sunday morning mass.

I agree with Jane Knox. However, it was still an extremely good interview. Good enough to make me want to read God in Proof. I also want to say that I will remember his priest-sponsor who was dying while Mr. Schneider was converting. Mr. S may not have understood -- and still may not understand today -- how someone can lose his/her faith. But it happens. And, from personal experience, I can tell you that it's not necessarily a bad and/or sad thing to have happen.

Schneider talks about how the youth today are in many ways isolated and alienated from the traditional social elements of society, including religious institutions, which he believes have failed to toe the line between teaching tradition and accommodating a changing social consciousness. This is cited as one of the reasons for the rising level of none-identifying individuals, as well as attempts to fill the vacancy left by this absent communal element with the sense of unity that flourished during the height of Occupy. While I agree with him on the reality of alienation, looking at the historical development of religious institutions suggests that they are not embedded in society as he imagines they are. If these traditions assumed an ultimately social character, why is their existence predicated on the continued involvement of their religious organization? The ideas of altruism, solidarity, and collective struggle endured in the Occupy movement even in the total absence of an organized program or leadership. The particulars of religious belief, it seems, do not possess the same universal persistence when they stand on their own.

This suggests that religious tradition is not an innate part of the social fabric of society. Rather, it exists as a separate entity that impresses itself on the social fabric after the fact, assuming an ideological position that suggests that it was always a part of the human experience, or that the social conditions of the time are transcendent and divinely inspired. During periods of relative political and economic stability this represents no problem. However, periods of exhaustive crisis, like the one we live in now, trend towards the destruction of this system, potentially undermining the dominance of religious beliefs that were once all but universal. In the past, the spiritual vacuum this generates is often filled by a combination of new permutations of the old traditions better suited to respond to it, as was the case in the Catholic Reformation era, or varying types of mystical and unconventional spiritual beliefs, expressed in the last days of the Roman Republic, as well as in more modern times of instability up to and including today. The Millennial response is distinct because the growth of human understanding regarding the universe around us makes it possible to cultivate a world-view that is not dependent on any sort of religious base. This is one of many reasons that a growing number of millennials are simply “dropping out” of the religious community, becoming “nones.”