On Neil deGrasse Tyson and interruption
I have a friend who interrupts me. He does it a lot. Always has. He moved to Ohio years ago and we don’t talk as much, but whenever we do, we pick up right where we leave off: us having a lively discussion and him constantly cutting me off to say something.
At a time—up until very recently, in fact—this drove me absolutely crazy. It felt like such a diminishment of anything I had to say. It was like he was telling me “whatever you’re saying doesn’t matter because listen to this!” I didn’t vocalize that frustration, rather I let it fester in my mind that he was incredibly self-important and frustrating to talk to.
Today, after knowing this guy for ten years, my perspective has shifted.
I started binging old episodes of The Joe Rogan Experience podcast, the full episodes he dropped on YouTube before he made his move to Spotify. I enjoy seeing these conversations. They feel raw and natural and human, which is probably why so many others listen to Rogan as well. I also enjoying hearing words from Neil deGrasse Tyson. I learn a good 27 new things whenever I listen to the man talk.
On this listen, specifically on episode 1159, from back in 2018, deGrasse Tyson and Rogan talk for more than three hours, and the former takes up the lion's share of the space. He goes from subject to subject seamlessly, leaping from the moral character of Christopher Columbus to the discovery of microwaves in minutes. It’s fascinating.
Here’s what I noticed: Neil deGrasse Tyson is my friend.
Not really. Never met the guy. But he’s a lot like my friend, who moved to Ohio. He’s not interrupting because he doesn’t care what Joe Rogan has to say. He’s interrupting because his excitement about all of these things is exploding out. He really can’t help it. There’s even a point where he stops himself and says “I’m screaming at you… sorry.” His cup runneth over.
deGrasse Tyson once said to Arianna Huffington, “Perhaps wonder, no matter where you are or what your circumstances might be, wonder is a window from where you are to where you want to be. No matter what that location is.” He’s a lifelong learner with a genuine curiosity, a childlike wonder, that has never gone away.
Well, what do kids do better than most? They interrupt. Good lord, they interrupt like nobody’s business. My seven-year-old son struggles endlessly to contain himself when he has some new bit of information to share or some point to add that he can’t let go of. He respects me. He loves me. He learns from me all the time. He’s not interrupting because he doesn’t care what I have to say. He’s doing it because he's just that excited to get to have the conversation with me in the first place.
Watching deGrasse Tyson bubbling with energy, spouting his points, and eagerly jumping on Rogan’s every question, shed new light for me. What does interruption look like when we remove our hurt egos and ideas of what’s polite and just take in the joy of the exchange.
Maybe we learn something. Maybe we feed off someone else’s uncontainable joy. Maybe we relax a little and enjoy the eccentricities of a brilliant friend.