What We Do
The Contemporary Heroism Initiative (CHI) has produced a series of 30-minute documentaries entitled Conversations with Solomon: Exploring Human Motivation, featuring Dr. Solomon. He discusses the state of the world in interviews, conversations with colleagues, as well as in his classroom, and at public presentations. He and his guests rely on current research and past writers whose arguments hold true today. The series looks at a variety of topics affecting contemporary life.
Documentary Series Episodes
Episode 1: Mental Health
Why is the world in the mess that it’s in? Sheldon Solomon has been asking that question in one form or another for his entire adult life. He got together with some of his colleagues to share conversations about the state our society finds itself in: growing mental health issues, gross economic inequality, the threat of climate change, bigotry, and seemingly endless war. They draw on some of their own empirical research and many ideas from the great thinkers and writers past and present. Many of their ideas are rooted in the theories of Ernest Becker, the Pulitzer Prize winning author of The Denial of Death.
The first episode in the series addresses the rampant mental health issues confronting our country. What is at the heart of the problem of individual mental health in America?
Episode 2: Mental Health
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness one in five adults in the U.S. experiences a mental illness in any given year. Why is the United States a petri dish of psychopathology? Why are so many of us struggling with anxiety, depression, stress, addictions of all kinds, suicide, and a host of other psycho-social problems? In episode two of the conversations series, Sheldon Solomon and his colleagues pick up where they left off in the last episode and conclude with a search for hope.
Episode 3: Inequality
Our society is experiencing gross economic inequality that threatens our system of government and middle-class way of life.Why is this imbalance tolerated and even revered in our society? In episode three, Sheldon Solomon and his colleagues attempt to answer the question: “What is at the heart of the problem of Economic Inequality?”
Episode 4: Environment
97% of the world’s scientists agree that global climate change is due in large part, to human activities. We run the risk of being responsible for our own extinction. Yet there are large parts of our American population that denies this assessment and conclusion. Why? In episode four, Sheldon Solomon and his colleagues explore the social response to and denial of climate change.
Episode 5: Bigotry
Why is there bigotry? What is it that makes us hate, distrust or live apart from our fellow human beings who may look or act differently from ourselves? In episode five, Sheldon Solomon and his colleagues explore how we are to understand and act upon the psychological underpinnings of unconscious bigotry.
Episode 6: War
Why is there war and widespread violence? Why, in the 21st Century, does humankind still resort to killing one another to settle our differences? In this episode six, Sheldon Solomon and his colleagues ask the question, “What is at the heart of the problem of war and violence?”
The documentary episodes are produced from the viewpoint of Dr. Solomon who discusses the question,
“Why is the world in the mess that it’s in?”
An award-winning media producer with thirty years’ experience producing for local PBS in New Jersey and Connecticut, writing documentaries for the United Nations, and producing literally hundreds of videos and online media for corporate communications, training, and marketing. James is the author of the award-winning book American Stew: Hope in a Toxic Culture that applies Becker’s ideas, Terror Management Theory, and the thoughts of experts like Dr. Solomon to contemporary issues.
Corey D. Kaup
technical director and videographer
President of Kaup Communications, Corey is an award-winning filmmaker and journalist with 35 years’ experience, as well as an expert in designing and solving problems for complex media technology systems. He is the former Director of Biomedical Communications for New Rochelle Hospital Medical Center where he provided biomedical photography and media support for all medical, public relations and administrative departments.
Sheldon Solomon, Ph.D. is a professor of Social Psychology at Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, NY. He is a foremost authority on, and co-creator of, Terror Management Theory (TMT) which is concerned with how humans deal with their own sense of mortality. He is co-author of In The Wake of 9/11, The Psychology of Terror, and, most recently, The Worm at the Core (2015, Random House). He is also author or co-author of numerous articles on research in the groundbreaking field of TMT. He is known for his rare combination of intellect, quirkiness, and wit in a presentation style that informs, engages and entertains.
Sheldon Solomon has a way of challenging conventional wisdom. One of the most respected social scientists in his field, he brings a unique perspective to audiences around the world, getting them to rethink fundamental assumptions about humanity. Conversations with Solomon: Exploring Human Motivation is a series of six 30-minute documentaries featuring Dr. Solomon and a group of experts that look at a variety of topics affecting contemporary life including Mental Health, Economic Inequality, the Environment, Bigotry, and War.
The potential audience for Conversations with Solomon includes educated viewers of serious documentaries, people who read non-fiction and who are concerned about contemporary American life, and those who are dissatisfied with the way the world is at present, who want a change for the better, and who are not afraid of out-of-the-box, sometimes radical thinking. They can be any age, ethnicity, or orientation. Most viewers will have an interest in social psychology, psychology, economics, ecology, race relations, and the wars in the Middle East. Readers of non-fiction such as The Denial of Death by Ernest Becker, and other non-fiction writers including Friedrich Nietzsche, Adam Smith, CG Jung, Charles Darwin, Erich Fromm, Otto Rank, Martin Heidegger, Soren Kierkegaard, John Locke, Max Weber, Sigmund Freud, and William James will find viewing Conversations with Solomon a rewarding experience.
The series is available on Vimeo and YouTube and the first episodes are being submitted to festivals as Short Documentaries. Episodes 1 & 2 have already won outstanding achievement awards for documentary and television series at the Calcutta International Cult Film Festival.
We know the world is in sad shape, and we know people are hungry for new ideas, as well as new explanations for the sources of the world’s problems. We don’t have any magic beans to fix the world, but we have some thoughts on why there can be room for hope, unreasonable as it sometimes seems.
As Gandhi famously said, “You must be the change you want to see in the world.” Sheldon Solomon personifies the public intellectual who embodies the answer to the question of how to live, knowing that life is finite.