John Green

A couple of years ago, I stumbled onto an episode of the Modern Love podcast that led me to this New York Times essay titled To fall in Love, do this. That essay led me to this research paper. The premise of all of this is that there are 36 questions that lead two strangers from unfamiliarity to love. Since discovering it, I have answered these questions with a few friends, not in search of love, but because I thought the questions were quite good at helping guide a conversation with someone with whom I desired to build intimacy of some kind. The first question of the set is this

Given the choice of anyone in the world, whom would you want as a dinner guest?

My answer to this question for years has been the man best known to some as the author of young adult novels including the very popular ‘The Fault in our stars.’ I was recently talking to a friend about him, likely because we were answering these 36 questions, and on mentioning his name she responded — the crash course guy.

I first discovered John Green through his literature but have since become a loyal member of the online community led by him and his brother. Being a part of this community means listening to a weekly podcast, watching two youtube videos (at least) a week, sharing some extremely wholesome TikTok moments, supporting a football club in the third tier of English professional football, being part of a charity mission to reduce maternal mortality in Sierra Leone, being on the inside of a number of long-running jokes, having your own motivational synonym (DFTBA), being preview to some niche commercial services like a monthly socks delivery club and a coffee subscription service, and of course being a beneficiary of their work of implying educational material through crash course. It’s a rich experience to be part of nerdfighteria (the name coined for the community over 10 years ago.) Being part of this community has influenced me greatly in many ways. The richness of the influence this community has had on me, and especially John Green as a person, is why he is my dinner guest of choice.

John Green has taught me much about the person I want to be. When asked who my favourite author is, I will often say it is him but the reason has little to do with his writing. This is not to say that his writing doesn't play a part. The Fault in Our Stars book is one of the first major loves of my reading life as an Adult. Turtles all the way down introduced me to a less lonely understanding of some of my anxieties. His literature has been important to me but his philosophy has been even more so.

In a letter I wrote to my friend in 2020, I spoke about some ways I had changed now from who I was as a child. In my teenagehood when I first started to discover my interest in literature. I did it with certain principles. I was a purist in my interest in prose and prose alone. I did not like letters for their boundless rules and regulations. I did not like the hassle of remembering where the date went, what should go into the first paragraph or what kind of signoff I needed to use. All Ironic in retrospect as I am an adult that loves to write letters to people. I love them for the opportunity they offer me to express myself over the micro-interactions of texting. Another part of literature I snubbed as a younger man was poetry. One of my earliest essays on this medium page was on the topic of my dislike of poetry (written in 2016 when I was 19)

In that piece, as with a lot of writing, I did in the past, I find a version of myself that acted as a kind of gatekeeper. In that essay, I say to writers to write literally about their emotions instead of masking them in half-baked metaphors. It is funny to me that now as a more experienced writer and thinker, I am less likely to feel ownership of space to the extent of thinking that I have the authority of speaking about who else is allowed in it. I would not today ever speak in favour or against poetry or who is good enough to write it. None of that matters to me. Poetry has changed in meaning to me. I no longer believe it needs to rhyme. I believe now that poetry does something prose cannot. Poetry is able to describe the world we live in and the emotions we feel in ways prose can only aspire to. Expression through poetry starts where expression through literature ends. There is a reason we call things poetic.

I learnt this through John Green. I think he is poetic. He plays an ultimate part in my journey to discovering a love for poetry. His videos on life and the world and love and art and poetry have helped me slow down into myself. It is so often that he says a thing that I find myself feeling like he is saying the thing to me, that I am the person that needed to hear this thing he is saying.

In my faith and religious evolution, he has played a small influence in helping me articulate what it is that gives me peace. Spoiler alert: it is not a discovery of my life’s purpose.

In a recent TikTok video about how he and his brother handle their faith differences, he expresses that to them(the brothers), it is less important what prompts and motivations move either of them, and more important that they are both moved to the same thing — the improvement of the world and the creation of a better place for the people that will come after us. For reference, John describes humans as being ‘made to’ while his brother, Hank, describes humans as ‘evolving for’.

I recently rewatched this video where he answers big questions about death, love and religion and one sentence jumped out to me.

I am just not that interested in questions like whether God really exists or whether heaven is really real but I do get excited by questions like what meaning can we find for human life together while we are here and can that meaning hold up to scrutiny. Does the meaning acknowledge and embrace the humanity of all people and can we use the meaning to support and lift up the most vulnerable people in our community

So that sentence, that sentence I felt very deeply. Because in adulthood, I have settled in this place where I spend very little time pondering about the purpose of my existence and where I go when I die. I spend even less time worrying about whether what I believe is right or wrong or if other people should be convinced of my belief. I stopped considering any of that as an absolute or valid motivation for existence. I spend all my effort wondering what meaning can I create for life while I have it and how can that meaning propagate hope for myself and for other people. How can my work help other people feel seen even long after I have died?

I used to consider what it might be like to be famous and highly successful. I mean John Green is a famous person who has a subjectively successful career as an author and internet person. But I don’t like John Green because I aspire to his fame and success. I like him because of what he has chosen to do with the privileges that those things have brought him. He has taught me so much through his channels.

I have learnt about history and literature and culture from Crash course.

I have learnt about art and art discuss and art practice from his wife’s channel — The Art Assignment.

I have learnt about all kinds of topics in the human-centred world from his podcast — the Anthropocene reviewed.

I have learnt way too much about mars missions and the weekly ongoing of the tier English football team call AFC Wimbledon from his podcast Dear Hank and John

I have learnt more and more and more from John.

But most importantly, from him, I have learnt about hope and kindness and love and poetry and I have learnt about myself.



Writing what I can| Being Vulnerable and confused| Making podcasts

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Mo Isu

Writing what I can| Being Vulnerable and confused| Making podcasts