Silence and Pilgrimage

A Conversation with Pico Iyer

August 29, 2023

Sam speaks with travel writer and novelist Pico Iyer. They discuss Pico's experience of sitting more than 100 silent retreats; his long-standing connection to the Dalai Lama; travel as philosophical exploration; religious longing vs. religious practice; tourism vs. pilgrimage; some of Japan’s distinct cultural qualities; the relationship between tribalism and globalism; wealth inequality; the benefits of exposure to foreign cultures; the spiritual significance of certain religious sites; and other topics.

Pico Iyer is the author of 16 books of fiction and non-fiction, translated into 23 languages, on subjects ranging from the Cuban revolution and the XIVth Dalai Lama to Islamic mysticism and the art of stillness. For 36 years he has been a constant essayist for The New York Times, The New York Review of Books, Harper’s, and more than 250 other periodicals worldwide. He has offered introductions to more than 80 other books, as well as many liner and program notes for Leonard Cohen. His four talks for TED have received more than 11 million views so far. You can find out more at his website.