Insights / Society
”We are all in some ways spiritually malnourished”
On lessons learned from conversations with the world’s leading minds
9 May 2023

Tell us about yourself.

— I started out as a journalist in Australia. In 2007, I made a pilgrimage to Berlin where I worked in the music industry for a solid decade, part of that included running Apple’s events program whilst also operating my own global booking agency, Imperial Music. In 2016, after moving to London, I felt the world was shifting dramatically; I had the seed of an idea to document the extraordinary changes we’re seeing and experiencing through inspiring people across many industries. This idea gave birth to 52 Insights. For the last seven years, I have been travelling the world and sitting with some of the most unique change-makers on earth, including Yuval Noah Harari, Anthony Bourdain, Jonah Hill, and Marina Abramović to try and get a sense of this.

What have you learned from the conversations with these persons, some of the leading minds in the world?

— Oh, tough question. All amazing in their own unique way — it’s very hard to say if I learned one thing. I have picked up fragments along the way, like disparate pieces of knowledge buried deep in my brain. It’s been such a pleasure talking to these giants, but I am also aware of the responsibility I share because these people care so much about their work, and your only job is to find a really unique way to share it with the world. How can you burrow deep inside their minds in the shortest amount of time and allow people to see the real them? One of the most distinguished people I have had the pleasure of coming across was a Canadian anthropologist called Wade Davis. It was like talking to Mother Nature herself. I still think about that chat years later. You could tell he lived the knowledge, not just proselytising.

This spring, you’re the moderator of Blique Talks at the Blique by Nobis hotel in Stockholm. How did the project come to life?

— In 2020, six months before the pandemic, I came to Stockholm and stayed at Blique by Nobis with my wife. I came across their beautiful cavernous lobby, full of great art, and it was just screaming for events. I approached the reception, and they told me to contact the events manager, which I did. A few months later, I was sitting down with one of the best music groups in Sweden, Amason, on the stage; and essentially, the concept was born. We took a hiatus because of Covid but launched this concept professionally in March of this year. I am a big believer in dialogue and awareness, opening up when everything feels like it’s closing and learning by interacting and conversing. Knowledge is light.

And, how has it been so far? What has the feedback been like?

— Amazing. Like all concepts, it’s slow to start, but it has grown, and the response has been wonderful. There have been lots of postings and support from across the industry. Short and impactful conversations that are unfiltered and free. I think that is so vital right now. 

Ari Stein interviewing film director Tarik Saleh in Blique Talks.

The next event is with Tove Blomgren from EY Doberman, speaking with her on the topic We are in a crisis of imagination. What will you talk about?

— The concept for this conversation came about because I had a chat with Tove on the climate crisis, and she mentioned that very line — ’We are in a crisis of imagination’ — which stuck with me. There’s an element of truth to this, but it is also open to interpretation. Sometimes, it feels like we are stuck in a dreadful feedback loop that often keeps paralyzing us. Dystopian, harmful, or even cryptic. There is a sense right now that we are held to a self-fulfilling prophecy around climate change. Rather than relying on one person to solve the climate crisis or even one government, we must tell ourselves new stories about how we can collectively come together and build solutions and narratives. Even if that means kind, hopeful, and creative stories we can tell ourselves. At the event, one of the world’s greatest photographers will join us; Mattias Klum. He’s the David Attenborough of photography and will speak from the storytelling point of view as an artist.

If you were to pick one topic, what are you most curious about right now?

— As you can tell from my work, it is hard to be limited to one topic; these are exciting and equally fearful times. But yes, the ongoing negative feedback loop created by media and big tech is so apparent, I really hope that shifts in the near future, but it doesn’t look like it will. But there is another thing that I think about a lot; it isn’t very sexy, but that is the idea that we are all in some ways spiritually malnourished. It shocks me that this concept is not even part of the Sustainable Development Goals. It makes no sense to me. We are a thinking species but rarely lack the skills to encourage a feeling species. Some inner work for everyone on earth would be incredibly transformative — less about our incessant need to firefight and more about encouraging inward awareness and empathic work.

What’s the reason behind many of us being ’spiritually malnourished’?

— For fear of sounding like an Brad Pitt or Keanu Reeves from Fight Club or The Matrix, I feel it’s because we are kept in a perpetual state of fear and anguish. You only have to look at our TV shows, newspapers, money systems, food systems, governmental systems. I mean, for me, that’s the original form of doom scrolling! Stein states, continuing,

— I believe we are brainwashed in every which way, of the heart and of the mind. I do feel our systems won’t allow us to look inwards; they don’t want us reflecting. They want you to want everything there is because if you don’t have it, because a) it preoccupies us and b) if you don’t, you are essentially deemed worthless. And the worst part of that is, I feel as though we believe that. 

— Spiritually malnourished means exactly that to me. You get calories from food, right? So I suspect we are all starved of something much deeper and more meaningful, more profound, and we’re unfortunately seeking it outside ourselves. All these existential threats we face, climate change, AI, civil unrest, and such, all come from our own dark dreams. If even just 10% of the world was able to work on some type of contemplative practice daily, it would terraform the planet. I truly believe that! I like the quote by Blaise Pascal, the famed French philosopher, who summed it so articulately, 400 years ago: ’All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.’ I feel that you and only you are responsible for your awakening, no one else. For me, there are all sorts of reasons why I think our systems are so pervasive and at the same time so dominantly harmful, and part of that is due to the fact that we have been separated like naughty kids in a classroom. They don’t want us ruminating collectively on the biggest known secret out there — that the only way out is in. 

Ari Stein.

And for you, what’s next? Any special projects coming up?

— I program one of the biggest technology festivals in the world, CogX, which is taking place in September in London, so I have to think about all the different market inflection points and how new technologies are altering industries. As you might have heard, AI is terrifying everyone — I hope by the time this piece is published, ChatGPT hasn’t taken over. But yes, it’s an interesting time to be alive and programming discussions around all these lightning speed changes feels like a real responsibility. The lineup I have put together is pretty incredible. I am also programming the second series of Blique Talks, which will be taking place from September to December.

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