The Clearing by Katherine May
The Clearing by Katherine May Podcast
The dark side of fascination

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The dark side of fascination

With Mike Sowden on the interesting bits of human existence


I sometimes wonder if there’s a gene that governs fascination. It seems intrinsic to me, so easily found, irresistible. I have this unquenchable desire in me to hold the world up to the light and say, wow, and then to hit Google until I know everything about it.

If there were such a gene, then Mike Sowden would probably write about it. His Substack, Everything Is Amazing is fascination in action, a romp through the interesting bits of human existence - and it’s all interesting. That’s why I wanted to invite him to a live hangout. 

One of the things that struck me about our conversation was the idea that fascination and knowledge are almost opposing forces. Fascination does not come from what we already know, but what we have yet to know; it is an enthusiasm for learning, a joyful expression of the beginner’s mind. It is fundamentally forward-looking and curious, never fixed or still. As Mike pointed out, fascination is happy to stand corrected, because that correction brings more knowledge, more understanding. I begin to think it could save the world. 

It was interesting, then, to talk about the dark side of fascination too - the way that a phobia might be a thwarted kind of fascination. But most of all, I was left thinking that fascination might be a kind of healing, drawing us back into the chatter of communities, and allowing us to feel small again.

You can watch a clip of our conversation below - click ‘CC’ to watch with subtitles.

Scroll down for a full video, an audio version if you prefer to listen, and a full transcript.

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Twice a year, I run an online retreat for members, and every six weeks, I also send them a mini retreat in an email, with journalling prompts, projects and a recorded meditation deeply rooted in that moment in the year. I’ve de-paywalled a recent one for you to sample.

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The Clearing by Katherine May
The Clearing by Katherine May Podcast
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