Eric Weiner: The World is a Laboratory of Ideas

Eric Weiner am a recovering journalist (a longtime foreign correspondent) and, currently, an author and philosophical traveler. His first book, The Geography of Bliss, chronicled his search for the world’s happiest places. He’s also written books about the relationship between place and creative genius, as well as spiritually. His most recent book, The Socrates Express: In Search of Life Lessons from Dead Philosophers, takes a very practical, and somewhat whimsical, approach to philosophy. He also writes regularly for outlets such as National Geographic, The Atlantic and AFAR magazine. Recently he wrote and produced an audio course called The Good Fight.

How did you become interested in that area?

My years as a foreign correspondent (for NPR, an American radio network) sharpened my skills as an observer, and chronicler, of human nature.

After a while, though, journalism’s focus on the negative aspects of the world—war, famine, disease—began to drag me down. That’s when I decided to focus my creative energies on the more positive side of humanity: happiness, creativity, spirituality and, in my most recent book, The Socrates Express, wisdom.

What’s the most important concept or idea that you teach people?

I treat the world as a laboratory of ideas—good ideas—and what I try to convey to people is that there are lessons to be learned from cultures, and eras, other than your own. Wisdom is portable, and transferable.

The most important piece of advice I can offer is this: question assumptions, especially your own.

Eric Weiner

What do you think is the most important piece of practical advice that we can derive from your work?

The most important piece of advice I can offer is this: question assumptions, especially your own. Chances are you are walking around with many such assumptions, including ones you don’t even know you have. Often, when we think “that’s just the way things are,” what we really mean is that “that is the way things are in this place and at this time.”

Do you have a favorite quote that you use?

I have two favorite quotes, actually. From the American writer Henry Miller, on travel: “One’s destination is never a place but a new way of looking at things.” And from Plato (the Man!): “What is honored in a country is cultivated there.”

What advice would you give someone who wanted to learn more about what you do?

Read my books! You can also find out more about me and my work on my website.

What do you think?