Jennifer Michael Hecht

Jennifer Michael Hecht on the Power of Poetry and the Weirdness of Existence

April 14, 2023

“Many of us who are happy to live outside religion still suffer from a lack of things religion gives its members,” writes historian and poet Jennifer Michael Hecht. “It seems to me the remedy to this suffering is a shift in the way we think about ritual and the poetry of our lives.”

Hecht is our guest on this episode of Point of Inquiry. She’s the author of books such as Doubt: A History, The Happiness Myth, and Stay: A History of Suicide and the Philosophies Against It. Her most recent book is The Wonder Paradox: Embracing the Weirdness of Existence and the Poetry of our Lives. In it, she shows us how encounters with poems can help us get through our toughest moments, enrich our celebrations, and cultivate a sense of awe and meaning—all without appeals to the supernatural. In a conversation with Free Inquiry editor Paul Fidalgo, Hecht discusses how poems offer all of us—secular and religious alike—a way to think and feel more deeply, and provide us with a foundation for ritual to mark the milestones of life. 

Look for the June/July 2023 issue of Free Inquiry magazine, which will feature an excerpt from The Wonder Paradox: “On Choosing a Code to Live By.”

This Week’s Music.

“Bon Journée” by Chad Crouch / CC BY-NC 3.0
“Idle Ways” by Blue Dot Sessions / CC BY-NC 4.0

Paul Fidalgo

Paul Fidalgo

Paul Fidalgo is editor of Free Inquiry and executive director of the Council for Secular Humanism. For ten years he served as communications director of the Center for Inquiry. He holds a master’s degree in political management from George Washington University, and his writing has appeared in outlets such as Religion News Service, CNN, USA Today, Dark Mountain, and Android Police. Fidalgo is also an actor and musician whose work includes five years performing with the American Shakespeare Center.