The Night of Ideas Celebrated the Theme of Being Alive

Music filled the halls of the Natural History Museum on the last night of January. You could almost see the moose twirling along to the sounds of the French clarinet as throngs of people from around Los Angeles meandered excitedly through the exhibits, lectures, film screenings, community speed dating, and pop-up performances offered throughout the evening.

A Night of Ideas was hosted by The Natural History Museums of Los Angeles, the Consulate General of France in Los Angeles, and the Cultural Services of the French Embassy in the U.S. The program had multi-city participation around the world. The theme of the evening was “Being Alive” and well. Hosted every year, this 2020 edition took place in 150 cities and 65 countries between January 25 and February 2.

One of the scheduled Mini Lectures was given by Evens Stievenart, 37, a race car driver and ultra cyclist, who once biked 590 miles in 24 hours. When asked what keeps him going through pain, he mentioned, “There are people suffering for real in this world who can’t choose to stop their suffering, whereas I have the privilege to participate in something challenging. That’s what keeps me going.” Steivenart finished with words of advice: “Do the things you love first. Learn a new language, call someone you love, activate your body, and activate your mind. You don’t know your limits yet.”

Before departing the magical evening, I asked three attendees to answer the theme-relevant question, “What does it mean to be alive?”

“Having deep and meaningful relationships,” said Santa Monica resident Leigh Rybak.

“Connecting with life in general, whether your neighbors or the natural world. In order to feel alive we have to fail sometimes, but find constant growth and support,” noted eight-year volunteer docent Rachel Adams.

“To be alive is to have the opportunity to experience the full breadth of everything this life has to offer – the good, bad, heartbreaking, soulful, and woeful,” chimed in L.A.-based musician Michael Kohl.

They all agreed that the three answers could be combined to say that being alive and well involves experiencing connection, appreciation, and adaptation – just as we were experiencing at the Night of Ideas! Stay tuned for the 2021 edition!

By Kalina Silverman


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