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The Interrobang

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Why are people nicer when it’s your birthday? Questions of relativity and hope

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Photo: Jon Tjhia

How are you?

Such a habitual, everyday question remains one of our most difficult to answer honestly and fully. Where do we even begin? Are we ever possessed by just one state or feeling? What moves the tides of our emotional lives?

'Friendships are chosen. Family are not chosen. By definition, if something's chosen, it's chosen for certain kinds of reasons … the concept of friendship and the concept of being a father, a mother, a sister or a brother … they have standards. They're not always the standards of morality.'

Raimond Gaita

In a thoughtful discussion to address our very large – and more nuanced – human dilemmas, Raimond Gaita, Jane Caro, Benjamin Law, Kristin Alford and Sammy J  interrogate our search for meaning and contentment within our own circumstances (including gender, cultural background, upbringing and socio-economic position). Why happiness rather than contentment? Why does a part of us want to destroy what we love? Are we born happy, spending our lives defending that, or are we born neutral – destined to spend our lives trying to attain happiness?

How is it possible to be incredibly happy and incredibly sad at the same time? Our Brains Trust attempt to resolve the complicated experiences of satisfaction, kindness and contradiction.

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Portrait of Sammy J

Sammy J

Sammy J is an award-winning comedian, writer, and songbird.

Portrait of Kristin Alford

Kristin Alford

Kristin Alford is a futurist and founding director of foresight agency Bridge8 with a PhD in process engineering and a Masters of Management in Strategic Foresight. Her clients include government, corporate and non-for-profits where she builds capability to think and act effectively in response to big social, environmental and technological changes. She was an organiser and facilitator for the Australian Academy of Sciences project imagining Australia in 2050. Other initiatives have included crowdfunding ideas that don't make sense and running a symposium on time with a start time of 4:42am. She is currently writing a book on five ways to see the future. 

Portrait of Benjamin Law

Benjamin Law

Benjamin Law writes books, TV screenplays, columns, essays and feature journalism. He’s the author of the memoir The Family Law (2010), the travel book Gaysia: Adventures in the Queer East (2012) – both nominated for Australian Book Industry Awards – and the Quarterly Essay on Safe Schools, Moral Panic 101 (2017). 

He also created and co-wrote three seasons of the award-winning SBS TV series The Family Law, and his sold-out debut play Torch the Place (Melbourne Theatre Company) ran February–March 2020.

Portrait of Jane Caro

Jane Caro

Jane Caro is an author, novelist, speaker, broadcaster, columnist, advertising writer and media and social commentator. She has published seven books, including two novels about Elizabeth Tudor. Her memoir, Plain Speaking Jane, was released in September 2015. She writes regular columns in the Sun Herald Sunday Life magazine, MT magazine and Mamamia Debrief Daily. She appears often in the media, including on the Gruen Transfer, Agony, Q&A, The Drum, Sunrise and Weekend Sunrise.

Portrait of Raimond Gaita

Raimond Gaita

Raimond Gaita has published widely to academic and non- academic audiences. In 2009, the University of Antwerp awarded Gaita the degree of Doctor Honoris Causa ‘for his exceptional contribution to contemporary moral philosophy and for his singular contribution to the role of the intellectual in today’s academic world’.

The Interrobang

Catch up with the best discussions and reflections from The Interrobang: a new festival driven entirely by your questions, from the Wheeler Centre.