We must recapture the lost 'art' of scripture: Karen Armstrong

Former Catholic sister Karen Armstrong describes herself as a freelance monotheist. She focuses on the sounds, rituals and power of scripture, all of which she fears is endangered in our secular, digital age. She joined Nahlah Ayed to talk about recovering what she calls “the lost art of scripture.”

Da Vinci's sex life reveals a complex understanding of male love

Leonardo da Vinci is celebrated for his astonishing genius and inventive mind. Historian Elizabeth Abbott argues that understanding da Vinci’s sex life, or lack thereof, provides a rare glimpse into how sexuality and male love was understood and practised in Renaissance Italy — and what it may mean for looking at his achievements today.

Monster buff Leonardo da Vinci would have loved Halloween

Leonardo da Vinci would have loved Halloween. The renaissance artist and engineer was also a monster buff. Writer and historian Ross King unveils da Vinci’s sketches and stories of monsters, beasts, giants and dragons, and explains how the artist’s views on fantasy were in contrast to an increasingly rational age.

Slavery's long shadow: The impact of 200 years of enslavement in Canada

Is there a connection between the enslavement of Black Canadians and their overwhelming presence in the criminal justice system today? The United Nations has sounded the alarm on anti-Black racism in Canada, stating it can be traced back to slavery and its legacy. In Part 2 of his series on slavery in colonial Canada, Kyle G. Brown explores the long-lasting ramifications of one of humanity’s most iniquitous institutions.

IDEAS schedule for July 2020

Highlights: exploring Leonardo Da Vinci's sex life (July 3); recovering "the lost art of scripture" with Karen Armstrong (July 6); Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein breaking diplomatic rules (July 9 & 10); whether the peace walls in Ireland are helping or hindering community reconciliation? (July 23); and author Kamal Al-Solaylee on what it means to be brown in today's world (July 28).

A 19th century travelogue chronicles a world on the cusp of modernity

In the 18th and 19th centuries, a series of Persian travellers from Iran and India visited cities all over the world. They wrote popular travelogues describing the cultures and ideas they encountered and asked the questions fundamental to all of us: Who am I? What is our relationship to each other, and to the world?

How the modern flapper gal of the 1920s spurred moral panic in Canada

In the 1920s, a new style icon arrived: flappers. They had bobbed hair and penchants for smoking, drinking, and dancing. In Matthew Lazin-Ryder's documentary you'll hear how the spectre of the flapper became a moral panic in Canadian society, and dredged up fears of unhinged sex and drugs.

Pragmatic philosophers: let's just focus on 'the best we can do'

Is there anything better than “the best we can do”? According to some pragmatic philosophers, it’s not about settling for less but constantly pushing for more, and more. IDEAS presents the case for a particular, ‘moderate’ brand of pragmatism that may be deeply valuable in times of uncertainty.

What makes us read? Literary bright lights weigh in

Writer Barbara Nichol continues exploring shared assumptions about reading with original thinkers — writers, critics, scholars and journalists. This is the final part in a three-part series called Reading with a Grain of Salt.

The case of the disappearing reader: A Northrop Frye mystery

Northrop Frye viewed literature as a vast structure of the human imagination. He taught that imagination can broaden our beliefs and encourage tolerance. As readers, we are meant to ‘disappear’ into literature as a whole. But what happens to our bodies, our histories, and us as real individuals?

James Baldwin: a 'poet-prophet' in good times and in bad

On February 18, 1965, the writer, poet and civil rights activist James Baldwin was invited to Cambridge University for a debate on whether the American dream is "at the expense of the American Negro." He marshalled a devastating argument and won. The themes in his historic speech echo in our times today with both prescience and frustrating familiarity.

'Civilization is a very thin veneer': What the plague of Athens can teach us about dealing with COVID-19

The plague of Athens struck in 430 BC, violently killing up to half of the Greek city's population. The chronicler Thucydides documented the grim symptoms, as well as the social and psychological fallout. His vivid account holds enduring lessons for those of us living through the coronavirus pandemic today.

Lessons from an ancient Athenian in an era of 'fake news'

About 2,500 years ago, Thucydides travelled ancient Greece, gathering stories about a brutal war that plunged the ancient world into chaos. He set high standards for accuracy, objectivity and thoroughness in his reporting. IDEAS producer Nicola Luksic explains why his account of the Peloponnesian War is relevant today.

The dirt on handwashing: the tragic death behind a life-saving act

The resistance Ignaz Semmelweis encountered to his life-saving ideas would ultimately lead to his tragic end. With handwashing in the midst of a renaissance in the era of during the coronavirus era, Semmelweis deserves at least some of the credit.

Writers explain why we shouldn't worry about what we read — or don't read

Writer Barbara Nichol continues exploring shared assumptions about reading, readers and books with original thinkers — writers, critics, scholars and journalists. This is part two in a three-part series called Reading with a Grain of Salt.

Turkish dissident remains hopeful in prison despite COVID-19 outbreak

Lawyers and supporters of celebrated Turkish novelist and journalist Ahmet Altan are calling for his immediate release from prison, where he remains on false charges. The call is made more urgent, they say, as COVID-19 sweeps through the facility.

If we abolish prisons, what's next?

Prison abolitionists say prison is a failed social policy. The cost of running prisons is climbing upward but it does nothing to address the root causes of crime or the harm those crimes do to society. Ultimately what it does is address the expected consequences of inequality and marginalization. So, maybe, the time has come to get rid of prisons altogether. If so, how do we move forward?

Doris Lessing dismantles groupthink in her 1985 CBC Massey Lectures

Writer Doris Lessing grew up in white Southern Rhodesia where she became an astute observer of the ways ordinary people learn to cling to extreme beliefs. In her 1985 CBC Massey Lecture, the Nobel laureate addresses the question of personal freedom and individual responsibility in a world increasingly prone to mass unrest.

Why nations rely on geometry to create order

The story of geometry is bound up in the Renaissance, the rise of nation states, and the expression of absolute power. Geometric designs came to represent order in the universe. But order’s war with chaos continues — just compare the geometric plans for Washington, D.C., with the lived reality. Historian Amir Alexander traces the rise of geometry from Euclid to the United Nations.

Think reading means you're smart? Think again

We tend to think that reading is a sign of intelligence, that we’re improved by it. But are our assumptions well-founded? Not really, according to an array of literary front-runners including Fran Lebowitz and Nick Hornby. Writer Barbara Nichol explores the assumptions we have about reading, readers and books in a three-part IDEAS series.

Writers on a mission — 3 high-stakes stories from award-winning authors

Three Canadian writers read and reflect on the theme of troubled missions: Joan Thomas on her childhood as an evangelical Christian, Erin Bow on the self-sacrificing dedication of scientists, and Don Gillmor on the whys of suicide. All are winners of 2019 Governor General’s Awards.

How Iceland helps us understand Mars' past and Earth's future

Iceland’s terrain — and mythology — yield surprising insights into potential past life on Mars, and sobering lessons on Earth’s future.

The Enright Files: Rethinking how our cities can be more liveable

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted what doesn’t work in our cities, from overcrowding on public transit, to the lack of green spaces where people can be physically active outside — yet maintain a safe, physical distance from each other. This month on the Enright Files, conversations about how to make cities happier, healthier and more liveable.

Canada's slavery secret: The whitewashing of 200 years of enslavement

Why is it common knowledge that Canada was the terminal stop on the Underground Railroad for runaway slaves from the U.S., but few know that Blacks and Indigenous peoples were bought, sold and exploited right here? Contributor Kyle G. Brown asks how slavery went on for 200 years, and yet is one of the least talked about aspects of our history?

America's Other Civil War: How white nationalism led to 'civic coups d'état'

In the decades after the Civil War, four American cities over four decades saw white civilians ⁠— and officials ⁠— attack and destroy thousands of African-American properties, businesses and lives. Contributor Melissa Gismondi examines each incident to exhume the socio-cultural dynamics at work ⁠— and how they persist today.