Tashi and the monk

40 minutes

The swimmer

12 minutes

Agnes Callard on the agency of becoming

31 minutes

9at38

18 minutes

The clinic

16 minutes

A monk dedicates himself to giving unwanted children the childhood he never had

In a remote region of the Indian Himalayas, Lobsang Phuntsok, formerly a Buddhist monk, has dedicated his life to rescuing unwanted, orphaned and needy children. He cares for and educates them at a unique, donor-supported community called Jhamtse Gatsal (Tibetan for ‘garden of love and compassion’), which houses around 90 children and their caretakers. Abandoned as a child and taken in at a Buddhist monastery, Lobsang now strives to give vulnerable youngsters the loving father figure and the experience of childhood that he feels he missed. Tashi and the Monk follows Lobsang as he balances pleas for help from nearby families with the Jhamtse Gatsal’s limited resources. Meanwhile, he’s faced with a difficult recent arrival, five-year-old Tashi who is a restless cyclone of a girl, prone to spitting, hitting, pushing and crying.

Winner of the 2016 Emmy Award for Outstanding Short Documentary, Tashi and the Monk is at once uplifting and heartbreaking as it contemplates the many challenges – and remarkable rewards – of making compassion truly the centre of one’s life.

Director: Andrew Hinton, Johnny Burke

Website: Pilgrim Films

‘It makes sense of everything I am.’ The transcendence of the long-distance swimmer

but today you swirl and spin
in sea water as if,
creatures of salt and slime
and naked under the sun,
life were a waking dream
and this the only life.
– From ‘A Swim in Co Wicklow’ (2011) by Derek Mahon

In 2012, the Irish long-distance swimmer Stephen Redmond became the first person to complete the Ocean’s Seven challenge, which includes marathon swims in seven channels around the world. In The Swimmer, the Irish filmmaker Thomas Beug takes us along on a brisk Atlantic swim, gracefully weaving lyrical images of Redmond on land and in the water with his musings on the ineffable sense of purpose he finds in the open water. Complementing Redmond’s narration are lines written and performed by the Irish poet Derek Mahon, offering a refreshing glimpse of the sublime and the spiritual within the realm of extreme sports.

Director: Thomas Beug

Producer: Jessica Bermingham

How the philosophical paradox of aspiration is resolved by a new theory of self-creation

Let’s say you’ve decided to enrich yourself by learning to appreciate classical music, even though you didn’t have much previous interest in it. Such a resolution is hardly uncommon, but acting on the aspiration requires you to value an activity that you don’t yet know how to. In this video, Agnes Callard, associate professor of philosophy at the University of Chicago, borrows from her book Aspiration: The Agency of Becoming (2018) to put forth a solution to this paradox centred on understanding our current and future selves as inexorably bound through the act of aspiration. Further, she argues, in resolving this paradox, we can understand ourselves as responsible for the act of self-creation – and, by extension, for our own morals and values. This video is part of the series Into the Coast, which sets out to capture philosophy as a ‘living discipline’ through interviews with leading academic philosophers.

Director: Octavian Busuioc

Producer: Katie Howe

Music: Tuomo Tiisala

The violinist staging a concert of unity at the border between North and South Korea

The South Korean violinist Hyung Joon Won has held a singular – and perhaps quixotic – dream for the past seven years: a joint concert by North and South Korean musicians at the world’s most contentious border. At 160 miles long and 2.5 miles wide, the Korean Demilitarised Zone (DMZ) separates the two countries at the 38th parallel. On this narrow strip, the threat of all-out war hangs heavy – and anyone with a violin case or a film camera gets short shrift. The South Korean-born filmmaker Catherine Kyungeun Lee follows Hyung Joon as his plan for a show of peace at the border teeters between success and collapse, at great personal cost to him. Filmed in 2015, her documentary traces the confluence between fraught geopolitics and all-too-human struggles on the peninsula.

Lee is now directing two documentaries in East Africa. One tells the story of a child-soldier who became a Harvard graduate and activist who was jailed in South Sudan, and the other follows the woman in charge of realising Somalia’s first democratic election in 50 years, despite seemingly insurmountable opposition.

Director: Catherine Kyungeun Lee

Producers: TR Boyce Jr, Ciara Lacy, Sarah S Kim

Website: 9at38

Basic healthcare and clean needles is all in a day’s work at a roving addiction clinic

Marc Lasher works as an addiction medicine specialist but, between his regular appointments, he oversees a clean-needle exchange on the streets of Fresno County in California, out the back of a modified school bus. Lasher’s decades-long dedication to public health is all the more impressive considering that his programme was illegal in the state until 2012. In the wake of the opioid epidemic, his approach – addressing drug addiction as a matter of public health rather than criminality – has only recently come into favour in much of the United States. In this acclaimed documentary, the US filmmaker Elivia Shaw follows Lasher and a team of young volunteers as they provide people coping with addiction with clean needles, as well as basic medical care and referrals to specialists and detox centres. The result is both a moving testament to Lasher and his team’s selfless work and a damning indictment of a healthcare system in which unaddressed health issues, costs and the physical and emotional tolls of poverty compound each other relentlessly.

Director: Elivia Shaw

A monk dedicates himself to giving unwanted children the childhood he never had

In a remote region of the Indian Himalayas, Lobsang Phuntsok, formerly a Buddhist monk, has dedicated his life to rescuing unwanted, orphaned and needy children. He cares for and educates them at a unique, donor-supported community called Jhamtse Gatsal (Tibetan for ‘garden of love and compassion’), which houses around 90 children and their caretakers. Abandoned as a child and taken in at a Buddhist monastery, Lobsang now strives to give vulnerable youngsters the loving father figure and the experience of childhood that he feels he missed. Tashi and the Monk follows Lobsang as he balances pleas for help from nearby families with the Jhamtse Gatsal’s limited resources. Meanwhile, he’s faced with a difficult recent arrival, five-year-old Tashi who is a restless cyclone of a girl, prone to spitting, hitting, pushing and crying.

Winner of the 2016 Emmy Award for Outstanding Short Documentary, Tashi and the Monk is at once uplifting and heartbreaking as it contemplates the many challenges – and remarkable rewards – of making compassion truly the centre of one’s life.

Director: Andrew Hinton, Johnny Burke

Website: Pilgrim Films

Aeon is not-for-profit
and free for everyone
Make a donation
Get Aeon straight
to your inbox
Join our newsletter

Saturday night in Borgarfjörður eystri, Iceland, 2007. In 2018, 70 per cent of births in the country were outside of marriage. Photo by Jonas Bendicksen/Magnum

Essay/
Love and friendship
Is marriage over?

Marriage is practised in every society yet is in steep decline globally. Is this it for longterm intimate relationships?

Manvir Singh

Photo by Debbie Lee Harrison/Getty

Essay/
Cognition and intelligence
It’s hard to fool a nose

Theories of perception are heavily tilted to the visual: we have much to learn from our surprisingly acute sense of smell

Ann-Sophie Barwich