Sebastian Junger — Seeking Freedom, Near-Death Experiences, and Reordering Your Place in the World (#513)

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“It’s freedom from oppression that you have a right to; it’s not freedom from obligation.”

— Sebastian Junger

Sebastian Junger (@sebastianjunger) is the New York Times bestselling author of Tribe, War, A Death in Belmont, Fire, and The Perfect Storm, and codirector of the documentary film Restrepo, which was nominated for an Academy Award. He is also the winner of a Peabody Award and the National Magazine Award for Reporting. He’s based in New York City and Cape Cod. His newest book is titled Freedom.

For more Sebastian, you can find our first conversation from 2016 at

Please enjoy!

Listen to the episode on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Overcast, Stitcher, Castbox, Google Podcasts, or on your favorite podcast platform.

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You can find the transcript of this episode here. Transcripts of all episodes can be found here.

#513: Sebastian Junger — Seeking Freedom, Near-Death Experiences, and Reordering Your Place in the World


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What was your favorite quote or lesson from this episode? Please let me know in the comments.


Want to hear the last time Sebastian was on this show? Lend an ear to our conversation in which we discussed Thomas Paine and Stoicism, how to develop a writing style, the psychiatric effects of war, the lonely nature of society, how to really “support the troops,” and much more.

#161: Lessons from War, Tribal Societies, and a Non-Fiction Life (Sebastian Junger)



  • Connect with Sebastian Junger:

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram


  • Sebastian shares how he barely survived a recent experience he wouldn’t wish on anyone: an undiagnosed aneurysm in his pancreatic artery. [06:15]
  • What profound truths were made clear in the aftermath of this traumatic brush with death? [09:21]
  • Sebastian has always been willing to take risks (like reporting from war-torn countries). Did becoming a father and surviving the aneurysm change this? [12:48]
  • What lessons did Sebastian learn from picking up two hobbies no ordinary 51-year-old would pursue: boxing and playing the accordion? What itch does boxing seem to scratch? [16:07]
  • What compelled Sebastian to pick up the accordion, and how has it rewarded him? [18:37]
  • How successful have Sebastian’s efforts to raise his two daughters in an “elemental, mindful, tribal manner” been thus far, and what is his foray into fatherhood teaching him? Why does he think he’s getting more from the experience in his 50s than he would have in his 20s? [21:54]
  • How does Sebastian relate to the aging process of a warrior, and how did Crow chief Plenty Coups come to understand the role as one of protection rather than ego-driven aggression in order to ensure the survival of his own tribe into the 20th century? [28:42]
  • What prompted Sebastian to write his new book, Freedom, and why is it divided into three sections: Run, Fight, and Think? [39:26]
  • Why is the inclusion of women in insurgencies crucial to their success? [47:47]
  • Sebastian shares the story behind The Last Patrol, and how walking hundreds of miles along American railroad tracks gave him an unparalleled sense of freedom. [52:05]
  • Did the structure of Freedom change from conception to finished product? [57:44]
  • While studying history and witnessing firsthand how terrible human beings can be to other human beings, how does Sebastian refrain from withdrawing into full-blown nihilism? [1:00:48]
  • As an atheist, why did Sebastian choose to preface Freedom with a verse from the Bible? [1:07:21]
  • On the mental trick that humans have used throughout history to downgrade people from “other” groups to subhuman status in order to remorselessly exploit, subjugate, torture, or kill them. [1:09:28]
  • What is the Gini coefficient, and how does it tie in with the discomforting etymology of the word “freedom” and the relative inequality of history’s most dominant empires? [1:12:13]
  • What does Sebastian hope people will take away from Freedom or perhaps ponder more closely after reading it? [1:19:07]
  • As free individuals, what do we owe our society? [1:24:42]
  • An ask of the audience: figure out what you owe. [1:30:51]
  • Sebastian’s advice, as a new father, to aspiring parents. [1:34:31]
  • Parting thoughts. [1:36:39]