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Marina Benjamin

Senior Editor, Aeon+Psyche

Marina is a former arts editor of the New Statesman magazine and deputy arts editor of the Evening Standard newspaper in London. Among her books, Living at the End of the World looked at modern end-time cults, Rocket Dreams offered an off-beat elegy to the Space Age, and Last Days in Babylon told the story of the Jews of Iraq. Marina specialises in the culture of science, developmental psychology and strong personal narratives. In the last few years she has written two memoirs: The Middlepause and Insomnia, and both are available in the US, UK and Australia, as well as in translation. She can be found on Twitter @marinab52.

Written by Marina Benjamin

Edited by Marina Benjamin

The divine Dante | Aeon
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Stories and literature

The divine Dante

At 700, Dante’s Divine Comedy is as modern as ever – a lesson in spiritual intelligence that makes us better at being alive

Mark Vernon

Is grandad on the moon? | Aeon
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Death

Is grandad on the moon?

We no longer have a clear sense of how to introduce our children to death. But their questions can help us face up to it

Pragya Agarwal

The whitewashing of Rome | Aeon
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The ancient world

The whitewashing of Rome

White supremacists fetishise ancient Rome – but antiquity was more diverse and polychromatic than racists will admit

Jamie Mackay

Hail the peacebuilders | Aeon
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War and peace

Hail the peacebuilders

Conflicts only fully end when the delicate threads of peace have been steadily and quietly woven by ordinary, dedicated folk

Tobias Jones

Shameful | Aeon
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Stories and literature

Shameful

Women who write about their pain suffer a double shaming: once for getting injured, twice for their act of self-exposure

Katherine Angel

The misinformation virus | Aeon
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Information and communication

The misinformation virus

Lies and distortions don’t just afflict the ignorant. The more you know, the more vulnerable you can be to infection

Elitsa Dermendzhiyska

Safety is fatal | Aeon
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Anthropology

Safety is fatal

Humans need closeness and belonging but any society that closes its gates is doomed to atrophy. How do we stay open?

David Napier

Not only the stranger | Aeon
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Biography and memoir

Not only the stranger

Growing up in the shadow of a serial killer I came to understand that danger within a locked house might exceed that without

Alicia Foster

The abuses of Popper | Aeon
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Thinkers and theories

The abuses of Popper

A powerful cadre of scientists and economists sold Karl Popper’s ‘falsification’ idea to the world. They have much to answer for

Charlotte Sleigh

The play cure | Aeon
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Psychiatry and psychotherapy

The play cure

In a clinical setting, playful activities are not distractions; they take patients deep into trauma – and out the other side

Susanna Crossman

In exile from the dreamscape | Aeon
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Sleep and dreams

In exile from the dreamscape

We live in a wake-centric world that devalues dreaming, yet we need to experience dreams to be our authentic selves

Rubin Naiman



Recent Comments

Impostors

Marina Benjamin

This is merely observational: but what I am seeing among my daughter’s teen generation is a dissipation or dissolving of the Noah’s Ark model of sex and gender. No more binary two-by-twos. No more this or that, gay or straight, male or female, but both or neither. The young don’t have an ontological problem with trans identities or with fluid sexualities. They don’t necessarily perceive their sexual orientations as situated somewhere between two opposing pole. They just are.

Obviously the trend for fluidity in identity politics is as contextual as any other, which is to say that there’s a conceptual cradle inside of which the young generation mould themselves: but it is also clearl...

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The bloodstained leveller

Marina Benjamin

There’s been a lot of discussion in this thread about the vested interests of those in power mitigating against the impulse to act in ways that reduce inequality. But I can’t help feeling we’re missing a trick if the powerful fail to understand that by giving stuff away, divesting themselves of certain kinds of excess, material and cpaital, they might not only feel lighter for it, but emotionally, and dare I say, spiritually, enlarged as a result! It feels good to give. It feels even better if you can institute systems of fairness more widely across society.

The problem with the powerful is not that they are rich, but that they are small.

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For the love of stuff

Marina Benjamin

There are so many lovely personal stories in this comment thread - which suggests to me that Lee randall has struck a real chord with this idea that our possession are part of us: often the better part.

I’m at a stage of life where I’m doing more shedding than acquiring, but that only focuses attention even more sharply on what I chose to retain (i.e. not shed). You have to think hard and consciously about what each thing means to you before discarding it. And that entails revisiting your past - the good and bad *charge* that each thing carries, the joyous and painful. When we chose to keep something that reminds us of difficult times, it can symbolise putting something away: as if...

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The future is emotional

Marina Benjamin

What about the outsourcing of emotional work, or, more accurately the corporatising of care? This can be as commercial, and as valued, as the next business. I am thinking, for example, of concierge services. If you’ve no time to book an anniversary supper/holiday/theatre ticket, or you’d like to buy your not-sufficiently-appreciated other half flowers/cologne/that book they keep saying they’d like to read, then that emotional work can be outsourced for a price. Then there’s surrogacy – actually carrying another woman’s baby to term. In the UK, paying for such services is illegal, but this kind of emotional work is highly priced elsewhere. I mention these examples because isn’t it just pos...

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It’s not that your teeth are too big: your jaw is too small

Marina Benjamin

In Melanie McGrath’s east end memoir Silvertown, there is the most vividly described dental nightmare, rooted in reality. When the author’s grandmother turned 17, her mother’s special birthday present was to take her to a backstreet dentist-butcher who strapped the unspsected birthday girl into a blood-strained chair, sank his knee into her chest to keep her from moving, and proceeded one by one to pull out all her teeth. The girl was sent home with her mouth a bloody pulp. Unable to move for pain, or to eat anything but thin gruel for days on end, she was left to recover in her bed. The idea was that as soon as her swelling had died down, she would be fitted with a pair of dentures that ...

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Why we need to bring back the art of communal bathing

Marina Benjamin

Wonderful replies here. Thank you. Reading them, I was reminded of two spaces where single-sex communal bathing routinely occurs and almost never invites remark. The first is among sportsmen who play team sports and then shower together - footballers, hockey players, whatever; the bathing here serving to heighten team bonding and camaraderie, perhaps even a shared recognition of the blood and sweat that goes into giving a game your all. Nakedness is important here, too, because it signifies sameness and equality and that feeling of ‘oneness’ that team membership demands.

The second field of communal washing that sprang to mind are the shower rooms at swimming clubs, where you do fi...

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We are multitudes

Marina Benjamin

Thank you Katherine for such a rivetting essay. The poetry of microchimersim will stay with me for a very long time. Even so, as I was reading it, I kept being reminded of a Robin Cook novel I’d read long ago (the title escapes me) that dramatised the dark side of foetal manipulation of the mother: its premise was that the foetus was bascially ‘colonising’ the mother’s body, diverting its resources, metabolic power and chemistry, to its own ends, stopping short only at the evolutionary buck which demands that the mother survives, if only as a reproductive machine.

Nightmares aside, however, as a mother, I love the idea that my daughter’s cells will linger in me forever. I’ve always...

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He died as he lived: David Hume, philosopher and infidel

Marina Benjamin

What about contemporary ethical debates around Euthanasia? My personal feeling is that anyone who wishes to terminate their own life should be allowed to do so, and be advised on the most humane method available for achieving the desired gentle end. But I know this view is vehmently opposed by others. Often on specious grounds (What if someone isn’t in full mental health when they elect to die? Are there not ways in which euthanasia can be exploited – by malign relatives, for exmaple? Is it moral for anyone to profit from another’s death?). It ought to be relatively straightforward to hedge people’s decision-making with protection. And yet euthanasia is very far from being a widespread, o...

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Only the lonely

Marina Benjamin

I’m struck in reading the responses so far by how many people have found positivity in loneliness. Yet the term loneliness seems to me to be freighted with negativity. Perhaps we ought to think instead about the upside of being alone in terms of the riches one can discover in solitude. This word seems to carry connotations of reflectiveness and wholeness. It doesn’t cry out its need. Humans are obviously social animals, but it’s just as obvious that iwe neglect a vast part of ourselves if we think that’s all we are.

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Be amazed

Marina Benjamin

What an interesting thread. It’s made me wonder about the contrasting emotional states I experinece getting lost in an unfamiliar city (anxiety) compared to getting lost in a bound environment, like a maze (a singular focus on the puzzle of getting out again). I envy the ability that some poeple have of being able to enjoy the former, and really open themselves to unexpected discoveries in the moment. The only city I can think of that I enjoy getting lost in in Venice, which oddly, is more like a maze than a city.

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Rise up fellow complainers, let’s be vulnerable together

Marina Benjamin

What a delightful piece Kathryn, thank you. I am persuaded by your argument that compaining about something is not always about the ‘thing’ but often about a need to have one’s feelings acknowledged, or affirmed. But what about when it is about the ‘thing’? When the complaint is lodged because a person feels a keen sense of injustice about something. They might be aggreieved about being charged too much for something, and feel they’ve been taken advantage of; or if someone promises to do something for them then doesn’t do it, they’d understandably feel undervalued; or they might feel unseen, unheard, ignored by friends or colleagues, and complain as a result). Is complaining because you f...

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How philosophy came to disdain the wisdom of oral cultures

Marina Benjamin

Beneath Justin Smith’s elegant prose, I am picking up a clear political argument, which is this: by whose light is the canon established? And by whose authority does it change?

The epistemic arguments of the ancient Greeks, for example, feel as dry and peeling as ancient plaster to me. And yet this is what we are taught to revere at school. What is real and what is not? Narrow masculine preoccupations with what can and can’t be know. I can barely stifle a yawn. Like so many other canons - Literature, History – challenge from without should be welcome. In my view it can only do good.

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