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Marina Benjamin

Senior Editor, Aeon+Psyche

Marina is a former arts editor of the New Statesman and deputy arts editor of the Evening Standard newspaper in London. Her books include, Living at the End of the World which looked at end-time cults, Rocket Dreams, an off-beat elegy to the Space Age, and Last Days in Babylon, the story of the Jews of Iraq. Marina specialises in the culture of science, developmental psychology and strong personal narratives. Her acclaimed memoirs The Middlepause and Insomnia have been translated into 9 languages. Her latest memoir A Little Give will be published in 2023. She can be found on Twitter @marinab52.

Written by Marina Benjamin

Edited by Marina Benjamin

Our Earth, shaped by life | Aeon
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Earth science and climate

Our Earth, shaped by life

Darwin was the first to see that all lifeforms, from worms to corals, transform the planet. What does that mean for us?

Olivia Judson

The invention of free love | Aeon
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History of ideas

The invention of free love

Percy Shelley thought romantic love freed men and women from the strictures of monogamy, but did it free them equally?

Neil McArthur

Leave them alone | Aeon
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Stories and literature

Leave them alone

Parenting advice from D H Lawrence: don’t smother your children with love. They are more sagacious than you think

Lara Feigel

The utopian machine | Aeon
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Subcultures

The utopian machine

For children like me, growing up in an utopian community, life was a bewildering chaos of freedom and indoctrination

Susanna Crossman

A touch of moss | Aeon
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Biology

A touch of moss

Inside a rainforest or on the city pavement, moss asks so little yet offers so much: a tactile encounter with time itself

Nikita Arora

Here’s to the aquapolis | Aeon
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The environment

Here’s to the aquapolis

Unkempt, beguiling and lacking conventional geometry, wetlands bring a roguish, raffish wildness to the city

Tom Blass

Reasons to be cheerful | Aeon
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History of ideas

Reasons to be cheerful

A cheery mood, you might think, is a terribly self-absorbed response to serious times. But history tells us otherwise

Timothy Hampton

The haunted city | Aeon
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Cities

The haunted city

The city, for all its mechanical speed, artificial light and industrialisation, is the most uncanny of human habitats

Azania Imtiaz Khatri-Patel

Her body is a problem | Aeon
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Art

Her body is a problem

When 1970s women artists put the female body under the female gaze, why did the critics see only obscene monsters?

Lauren Elkin

Nature does not care | Aeon
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Nature and landscape

Nature does not care

Too many nature writers descend into poetic self-absorption instead of the sharp-eyed realism the natural world deserves

Richard Smyth

Nil by page | Aeon
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Stories and literature

Nil by page

When a writer stares down a blank page, the whole of literature stares back. Why, then, leave the empty page as it is?

Andrew Gallix

Dashing to nowhere | Aeon
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Travel

Dashing to nowhere

D H Lawrence’s restless travels in Sardinia were a quest for self-knowledge. The real island slipped beneath his notice

William Atkins



Recent Comments

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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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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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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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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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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Bring back Women’s Lib

Marina Benjamin

Where are the women respondents to this plea to re-vamp the Libertation Ethic to pull up the shortfalls the feminist enterprise? The wall of comments here is filled with men who think they are being well-meaning by suggesting that equality has been achieved (when it hasn’t), and so their arguments feel retro-sexist to my ear. Where are the women? And what do we want?

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A fake of art

Marina Benjamin

I keep waiting for someone to mention Andy Warhol, who made reproduction the very subject of his art, thereby emptying the meaning of the question: but is it original?

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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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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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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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Midnight at the oasis

Marina Benjamin

I run out my anxiety. I put my body in charge of my head, and submit to the foot-pounding, scenery-absorbing, heart-bearting, music-pumping rhythm of being on the run. Haruki Murakami has described this feeling this far more eloquently in a gem of a short book: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/08/10/books/review/Dyer-t.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

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