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What's the Value of a Human Life? Don't Hold the Elevator

Two friends discuss whether it’s selfish to act nice.



Years ago, my good friend Misha Glouberman and I ran a lecture series together called Trampoline Hall, at which amateurs speak on random subjects in a bar. He was the host, and I picked the lecturers and helped them choose their topics. I was interested in finding people who were reticent, rather than showy people who wanted an opportunity to perform. People lectured on many things: The number 32, getting a liver transplant, why we shouldn’t climb Mount Everest, Jews at Christmas.

After three years of working on the show, I quit, but Misha kept it running. A few years later, though, I realized I missed working with him, so I decided I would write a novel called The Moral Development of Misha. I got about 60 pages into the story of a man who wandered the city, who was nervous about his career and his life, yet was a force of reason in any situation. The writing stalled, however, when I couldn’t figure out how to develop him morally.

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