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


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?

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 will attempt to resolve the complicated experiences of satisfaction, kindness and contradiction.


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... Read more

Jane Caro

Jane Caro AM is a Walkley Award-winning Australian columnist, author, novelist, broadcaster, advertising writer, documentary maker, feminist and social commentator. Jane appears frequently on Q&A, The Drum and Sunrise. She has created and presented five documentary series for ABC’s Compass... Read more

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 b... Read more

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 to... Read more

Sammy J

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

From Melbourne to Edinburgh, he has earned a reputation as one of the most exciting and inventive performers on the international comedy scene.


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Acknowledgment of Country

The Wheeler Centre acknowledges the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nation as the traditional owners of the land on which we work. We pay our respect to the people of the Kulin Nation and all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Elders, past and present.