Share

cover art for Báyò Akómoláfé on fugitive ideas

How We Live Now with Katherine May

Báyò Akómoláfé on fugitive ideas

Season 5, Ep. 4

In this week’s episode of How We Live Now, Katherine speaks to author and public intellectual Báyò Akómoláfé. We consider how we can step out of the belief that humanity is in control of a passive planet, and instead wonder how we can learn to read the intelligence of the systems and landscapes that we inhabit. We meander our way to autism, and begin to think about how we can create a new language of neurodivergent experience that resists the labels applied from disinterested - or disgusted - outside viewers. And we take a look at ‘hushes’, the shadowy, scuttling figures that disrupt Báyò’s narratives.


Born in Nigeria, Báyò is a writer, speaker, teacher and founder of The Emergence Network who finds his most sacred work in fatherhood. His book, These Wilds Beyond Our Fences, is an extraordinary meandering through the cutting edge of contemporary philosophy framed in letters to his daughter, Alethea. He is also the editor of We Will Tell Our Own Story, an anthology exploring Black African scholarship and knowledge. He now divides his time between Germany, India and the USA.


Katherine's new book, Enchantment, is available now: US/CAN and UK


Links from the episode:



  • Join Katherine's Substack to receive episodes ad-free, extended intros and immersive, bonus mini-episdes
  • Find show notes and transcripts for every episode by visiting Katherine's website.
  • Follow Katherine on Instagram

More episodes

View all episodes

  • 5. Tom Newlands on writing neurodivergence with a light touch

    46:51
    Join Katherine as she talks with Tom Newlands about his debut novel, Only Here, Only Now. Katherine talks with Tom about his female main protagonist, the unforgettable Cora, setting the book in 1990s Scotland and how it offers a new way of writing about neurodivergence. She also explains the thinking behind choosing Only Here, Only Now for a non-fiction book club, and why it captivated her enough to break her own rules. Katherine's book, Enchantment, is available now: US/CAN and UKLinks from the episode:Tom's InstagramTom’s book, Only Here, Only NowJoin Katherine's SubstackFind show notes and transcripts for every episode by visiting Katherine's website.Follow Katherine on Instagram
  • 4. Samantha Irby on being a person

    57:22
    Join me for a recent conversation with comedian, essayist, blogger, and television writer Samantha Irby. Recorded as part of my True Stories Book Club hosted on Substack, we talked about realising you have a body again after lockdown, dogs that don’t love us enough/love us too much, writing about the darkest parts of our life, and terrorising Sex and the City fans by writing on And Just Like That… If you haven’t read it already, do check out her latest essay collection, Quietly Hostile.Katherine's new book, Enchantment, is available now: US/CAN and UKLinks from the episode:Samantha’s websiteSamantha’s book, Quietly HostileJoin Katherine's SubstackFind show notes and transcripts for every episode by visiting Katherine's website.Follow Katherine on Instagram
  • 3. Catherine Coldstream on life as a nun

    01:13:04
    Join my conversation with Catherine Coldstream as we relax into a questing, rambling chat about the deep pull that many of us feel towards the quiet and gentle rhythms of the monastic life, and the risks of submitting so completely.Katherine's new book, Enchantment, is available now: US/CAN and UKLinks from the episode:Catherine’s websiteCatherine’s book, CloisteredJoin Katherine's SubstackFind show notes and transcripts for every episode by visiting Katherine's website.Follow Katherine on Instagram
  • 3. Camille T. Dungy on unearthing histories

    50:07
    At a superficial level, Soil is a gardening memoir, full of gorgeous descriptions of plants and getting your hands in the soil. But the garden in question is a political gesture, an act of resistance and an assertion of belonging. Camille T. Dungy uproots the staid monoculture of the suburban garden, and takes a fierce, critical look at its assumptions.In this conversation, we talk about the way that gardens can become a means of social control and conformity, but also an expression of freedom and solidarity that crosses generations. We also touch on the idea of outsidership, and the difference between choosing to stay at the edges, and being forced out of the centre. Katherine's new book, Enchantment, is available now: US/CAN and UKLinks from the episode:Camille’s websiteCamille’s book, SoilCamille's InstagramJoin Katherine's Substack to receive episodes ad-free, extended intros and immersive, bonus mini-episdesFind show notes and transcripts for every episode by visiting Katherine's website.Follow Katherine on Instagram
  • 2. Kaitlin Curtice on resisting with integrity

    59:55
    In the past few years, resistance has been a live issue for many of us, whether we’re wondering for the first time how to bring about social change, or realising that we need to find new ways to be activists. For Kaitlin Curtice, this resistance is an ongoing practice, informed by her perspective as an Indigenous American, and imbued with gentleness, integrity and personal sustainability. In this episode, we talk about her book, Living Resistance, how her own perspective developed over time, and - appropriately for this podcast - how we can live in this unsettling moment. Katherine's new book, Enchantment, is available now: US/CAN and UKLinks from the episode:Kaitlin’s websiteKaitlin’s book, Living ResistanceKaitlin's InstagramJoin Katherine's Substack to receive episodes ad-free, extended intros and immersive, bonus mini-episdesFind show notes and transcripts for every episode by visiting Katherine's website.Follow Katherine on Instagram
  • 1. Erica Berry on the meaning of wolves

    01:04:19
    The wolf carries an almost unbearable amount of symbolism in western culture, encapsulating the predatory, the carnal, the supernatural and the ravenous. But in her book Wolfish, Erica Berry suggests that it’s time to understand wolves differently: as tender, as hunted, as guardians of the landscape. What’s more, those evil qualities may be better attributed to ourselves than to wolves. Berry weaves memoir with natural history, cultural critique, folklore and conservation to show that wolves have too often been a cypher for all our fears, and that this has left them under threat of extinction. In this fascinating and wide-ranging conversation, recorded as part of Katherine’s True Stories Book Club, Erica discusses her experiences with wolves real and imagined. Katherine's new book, Enchantment, is available now: US/CAN and UKLinks from the episode:Erica’s websiteErica’s book, WolfishJoin Katherine's Substack to receive episodes ad-free, extended intros and immersive, bonus mini-episdesFind show notes and transcripts for every episode by visiting Katherine's website.Follow Katherine on Instagram
  • 7. Dacher Keltner on awe, humility and purpose

    49:35
    I stumbled across Dacher Keltner’s work when I was first researching Enchantment, and now - for the final episode in this season - I’m honoured to speak to him about Awe: The New Science of Everyday Wonder and How It Can Transform Your Life.  Dacher’s research attempts to understand this very fleeting, ineffable emotion. He and his colleagues have shown that  awe induces a feeling of being small within a vast universe - a radical shift into context. What’s more, by absorbing ourselves in awe, we become better people, more motivated to go out and do good. In this episode, we explore how it feels to experience awe, how we can seek it out in the everyday, and we share the personal experiences of awe that have inspired both of our books. Dacher Keltner is a professor of psychology at UC Berkeley and the director of the Greater Good Science Center. He has over 200 scientific publications and six books, including Born to Be Good, The Compassionate Instinct, and The Power Paradox. He has written for many popular outlets, from The New York Times to Slate. He was also the scientific advisor behind Pixar’s Inside Out. Katherine's new book, Enchantment, is available now: US/CAN and UKLinks from the episode:Dacher’s websiteDacher’s book, Awe: The New Science of Everyday Wonder and How It Can Transform Your LifeJoin Katherine's Substack to receive episodes ad-free, extended intros and immersive, bonus mini-episdesFind show notes and transcripts for every episode by visiting Katherine's website.Follow Katherine on Instagram
  • 6. Marjolijn van Heemstra on the overview effect

    48:29
    Marjolijn van Heemstra believes that we can change the world by gazing into the night sky. Her book, In Light Years There’s No Hurry, explores the ‘overview effect’, a personal transformation reported by astronauts who have seen the earth from space. People who’ve experienced this rare view often report an ethical shift taking place, a new sense of mission in their lives. They come to see themselves as guardians of their planet, rather than its passive citizens. Clearly not all of us can - or want to - leave the atmosphere to gaze over the earth from space. But in this thought-provoking conversation, Marjolijn makes a case for us learning to draw on the overview effect from where we stand, suggesting that this could lead us to become better stewards of our environment, and form closer bonds with the communities around us. Marjolijn is a Dutch theatre-maker, journalist and poet who has recently been named Amsterdam’s Poet Laureate. Her most recent work has focused on reacquainting ourselves with darkness, and this includes her creative project The Night Watch, and the Amsterdam Dark Festival, of which she is the founder. Katherine's new book, Enchantment, is available now: US/CAN and UKLinks from the episode:Marjolijn’s InstagramMarjolijn’s book, In Light Years There’s No HurryAmsterdam Dark FestivalJoin Katherine's Substack to receive episodes ad-free, extended intros and immersive, bonus mini-episdesFind show notes and transcripts for every episode by visiting Katherine's website.Follow Katherine on Instagram
  • 5. Amy Jeffs on ancient stories and new understandings

    55:31
    How can we return to a richer, more complex understanding of national identity and personal ethics - one that can only come from folklore?Amy Jeffs is the perfect person to ask. An art historian and printmaker, she creates immersive retellings of ancient stories, beautifully illustrated with her own woodcuts and etchings. In this week’s episode of How We Live Now, we discuss the function and appeal of folklore, and roam around the wind-blasted landscapes of Medieval Britain. We get a glimpse of the British Isles through ancient eyes - a haunted place stranded on the far edge of Europe, isolated and vulnerable, but full of courageous, hardy folk. What can these tales tell us about who we are now? And how can we restore this agile way of understanding the world?Katherine's new book, Enchantment, is available now: US/CAN and UKLinks from the episode:Amy’s InstagramAmy’s TwitterAmy's book, Wild: Tales from Early Medieval BritainAmy’s book, Storyland: A New Mythology of BritainJoin Katherine's Substack to receive episodes ad-free, extended intros and immersive, bonus mini-episdesFind show notes and transcripts for every episode by visiting Katherine's website.Follow Katherine on Instagram