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Our spring talk series Brainwave 2016: Emotion is almost over”¦but these three moments from recent programs have kept us thinking well after the on-stage talks ended.

1) The Science of Reincarnation

“I think people can now believe in life after death based on evidence, and not just faith.” ““ Jim Tucker

Our Brainwave talk between child psychiatrist and researcher Jim Tucker and author Sharon Guskin was on an unusual topic: consciousness after death. But this was not a faith-based talk. It was based on evidence and research. Jim Tucker has spent more than a decade building upon the research of Ian Stevenson, a pioneer in the area of reincarnation in children. This conversation revealed some interesting case studies of young children remembering their past lives. One case that stood out was that of a young boy named Ryan, who remembered his past life as Marty Martyn, a former Hollywood agent. He told the audience that “Ryan made over fifty statements that matched Marty Martyn’s life.”

Dr. Tucker said that when investigating these cases it’s most important to “get the case before the previous person has been found, so we can see if the child’s description matches up. Make sure that there’s no way they could find that information.” The children in these cases usually stop talking about or completely forget their memories around six or seven years old.

2) Curse Words and Poetic Speaking

“It’s better to have a silly word than a four letter word” ““ Stephen Sondheim

During a talk titled “The Lyric Mind,” Stephen Sondheim and Steven Pinker dissected how language and sound works and investigated how words function with music. An unexpected moment came at the beginning of the discussion, when Pinker and Sondheim revealed their love for curse words and how these emotion-filled expressions have changed throughout their years.

In regards to these taboo terms, there are entire families of similar words used in the place of swear words. Some examples of these poetic euphemisms include “golly gee willikers,” “crikey,” “cripes,” “criminy,” “son of a gun,” “applesauce,” “blatherskite,” and so on. “There’s a phenomenon where we are all natural poets. We all use the devices of poetry in everyday speech,” said Pinker. He stated that we don’t use such words anymore, though, “because our creativity is not challenged anymore. You can just use the taboo word now!”

3) Groovy Cooking

“Then I got curious about anyone who made food”¦ And I wanted to see how, for chefs, it paralleled the music world.” ““ Questlove

A discovery during the Brainwave talk “Food and Innovation,” with musician and foodie Questlove, chef Daniel Humm, and scientist Stuart Firestein, was that the process of creating music often seems to parallel the art of cooking. Since music is a live performance, it is similar to a recipe because it needs (and can) be recreated every time in a different and more delightful way. It was emphasized that consistency and collaboration are the most important components to creating innovative food and music.

Questlove revealed how he came into his love of food when he happened to see the movie Jiro Dreams of Sushi. “But I saw this film and the dedication and thoroughness. This was his passion. That’s when I started to put two and two together, that maybe musicians and chefs are parallel on the same journey, searching for perfection in various ways. The whole experience left me awestruck. Then I was more curious. And I realized he was telling me a story. Even though there wasn’t a narrative going on,” Questlove told the audience.

This year’s season of Brainwave is nearly finished! Be sure to catch our next spring talk, Emotional Rescue with Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche + Samantha Boardman on May 9th.