Everything Fragile Breaks: Finding Meaning in Black Swan Events

Michael Prettyman at Online

Sat, Apr 4 at 7:30 p.m.   |   75 minutes
Olios: Drop-in classes led by professors

In his book “The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable” Nassim Nicolas Taleb describes events, either positive or negative, that are improbable yet when they happen they create massive consequences. History is not a linear progression, no matter how much we imagine it to be so.

Et lux in tenebris lucet: and the light shines in the darkness

Man is a creature that seeks meaning- alone among our fellow creatures it is humans who are able to seek and find meaning in the events that befall us, the relationships we find ourselves in, and in our intimate proximity to the natural world. For many of us, the importance of meaning is made vivid only in its absence. Unless we find some pattern or significance in our lives, we fall easily into ennui, nihilism or despair.

In this series of Olios, we will explore a variety of meaning seeking vectors and strategies, seeking in each attempt to push past the limits of analytic language to arrive at an awareness of what meaning seeking is, in the way we live our everyday lives. This is what lives at the heart of our search- the act of seeking meaning is a bid for increased awareness. The search itself contains the seed of that which is sought-it is like a lamp that once lit automatically dispels darkness; it what lamps do. But this is not easy. In order to seek out meaning in circumstance, we must grapple with randomness and we must confront difficulty.

Session 1 | The Black Swan: “The future has always been crazier than we thought.”

In his book “The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable” Nassim Nicolas Taleb describes events, either positive or negative, that are improbable yet when they happen they create massive consequences. We are of course in the middle of one now. Our world is shaped to a far greater degree by Black Swan events than by all of our planning and predictions. History is not a linear progression, no matter how much we imagine it to be so. It is a series of dramatic, world-changing events-that seemingly come out of nowhere-separated by vast stretches of dullness and predictability. But even these random events- though they may have no meaning in and of themselves, offer an opportunity for what Nietzsche called amor fati- the love of fate.

Teacher: Michael Prettyman

Michael Prettyman is an artist and scholar of Eastern Religions. He holds a Masters Degree in Theology from the Harvard Divinity School and teaches on the subject of religion and the arts, Asian Religion and philosophy at Hunter College and the CUNY Graduate Center in New York. He has been a visual artist for twenty years, with gallery shows in New York City, Hong Kong and Barcelona.


Venue: Online

Zoom link will be sent upon signup.

What is Think Olio?


Think Olio is here to put the liberation back into the liberal arts.

Classically, the liberal arts, were the education considered essential for a free person to take an active part in civic life. To counter a humanities that has been institutionalized and dehumanized we infuse critical thinking, openness, playfulness, and compassion into our learning experience.

Read more about our mission, our story, and how we are doing this.

Scenius Membership

If Friday night lectures, museum field trips, and living room salons sound like your kind of thing, then you've found your people. We can't wait to welcome you to the Think Olio Scenius. More info


Other Upcoming Olios


Apocalypse Now

Location: at Online

Teacher: Joydeep Bagchee

May 30, 2020, 2 p.m.

Heart in Hand: From Playboy to Poetry

Location: at Online

Teacher: Charlee Huffman

May 31, 2020, 6 p.m.

New Toys and New Tyrants: Capitalism and the Rise of Platform Economics

Location: at Online

Teacher: Rob Larson

June 4, 2020, 8 p.m.

A Dialogue: Buddhism and the Stoics

Location: at Online

Teacher: Bhante Kusala & Michael Prettyman

June 5, 2020, 8 p.m.

Internet Omnipresence & Critical Thinking

Location: at Online

Teacher: Jeanne Proust

June 8, 2020, 8 p.m.

Escape From The City

Location: at Online

Teacher: Ted Barrow

June 10, 2020, 8 p.m.

Progressives, Radicals & Well-Meaning Liberals

Location: at Online

Teacher: Angie Beeman

June 11, 2020, 8 p.m.

Plato Goes East: The Republic and The Bhagavad Gita

Location: at Online

Teacher: Vishwa Adluri

June 14, 2020, noon

Socialism, A Day in the Life

Location: at Online

Teacher: Danny Katch

June 15, 2020, 8 p.m.


Stay in Touch


Instagram Mailing List Contact

Get Involved


Liaisons Host an Olio

Olio: A miscellaneous collection of art and literature.