This story originally aired on Jan. 14, 2017.
Ira Glass, the host of This American Life, is headed to Seattle later this month to give a talk. We grabbed a few minutes with him to ask what it is that keeps him from sleeping.
As a child, Ira Glass spent nights considering his own mortality.
“I would just lie in bed, trying to get my mind around the idea that I would be dead and everything in the world would continue without me,” remembers Glass.
After he witnessed an uncle ship out to Vietnam and saw coverage of life there as a soldier, Glass concluded the same fate must await him.
“I was kind of a fat kid ... I knew that whatever it was that I would be called on to do in Vietnam would involve a lot of running ... and being outside in the heat,” said Glass, “And I just knew I was going to be bad at that; and I knew that people die in Vietnam; and I knew that I would die in Vietnam.”
Years of obsession, of dwelling on death with no distraction, passed before repetition made him tired of the places his mind took him at night, ready to move on, said Glass.
As an adult, other subjects play on his mind.
“I mean everything keeps me up,” Glass said. “Everything keeps me up at night. I go over things that happened during the day. I wonder if I’m being kind enough to those around me and attentive enough to my wife ... Everything keeps me up; everything keeps me up at night.”