Once in a while it’s nice to get away from the computer for a couple of days. That’s what my lady love and I did this past weekend, predominantly so as to enjoy the final weekend of the Chicago Humanities Festival.

One of the things I enjoy most about big city life is the cultural amenities, and the CHF is a distinctive one. For two weeks every autumn, the CHF (a nonprofit organization) invites scores of prominent writers, scholars, thinkers and doers to town to offer public lectures and discussions. The highlight last week was David McCullough, as I wrote at the time.

This Saturday, among other things, we heard a group of urban planning experts discuss the prospects for high-speed rail in the U.S. (considerably better than they were a few years ago, given the now-obviously-dire future of fossil fuels), and enjoyed listening to Judge Frank Easterbrook, Harvard Law Prof. Laurence Tribe (a former instructor of Barack Obama), and U of Chicago Law Prof. Geoffrey Stone (a former colleague of Obama) discuss the current state of Constitutional Interpretation.

On Sunday, we heard physicist Ronald Mallett discuss the possibility of time travel; saw a panel of scientists including (via hologram!) Ray Kurzweil discuss the past, present, and future of human evolution, including the accelerating sophistication and likely effects of information technology; and saw Naomi Klein discuss her recent book, Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism, in the context of the current economic crisis and the potential for change under Obama.

History, law, science, politics, economics, and more… all wrapped up in a friendly format with Q&As and book signings, all at $5 a head per session. The large and diverse audiences that the event draws every year are heartening evidence that our society has not yet totally surrendered to anti-intellectualism. Taken all together, it’s a tonic, a reminder of the vast world of ideas out there in which we all swim, a reprieve from the day-to-day world and its mundane concerns. And it’s a good reminder that there’s more to life than just what you can find on the internet. What I saw this weekend will certainly influence my future reading and thinking, as it always does… and this time it’ll influence what I write on this blog, as well.

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One Response to “A festival of ideas”
  1. Andrew says:

    Surely good ideas can come from almost anywhere … no doubt about that.

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