“Superfood Hunter” Darin Olien talks about life, the universe and everything with musician Brandon Jenner
You may have caught bestselling author, podcast host, greentech entrepreneur and wellness guru Darin Olien trekking through jungles with Zac Efron on Netflix’s Down to Earth and wondered, “What exactly is Zac Efron doing eating odd things in South America?” Olien is just the guy to take him on this journey though, having brought to light the health benefits of the baru nut, a “supernut” he found indigenous people in Brazil consuming but nobody else had ever really seen. He became known as the “Superfood Hunter,” for discoveries like this and his quests in pushing the bounds of wellness.
He talks here with his friend and musician Brandon Jenner about the big questions in life. Obviously familiar with the phrase “go big or go home,” Darin dives deep with Brandon, starting off with questions of existence and jumping off from there.
Darin Olien: Okay, Whalebone. We came up with some big questions. Brandon, first thing that comes to your mind when I ask: Who are you?
Brandon Jenner: I’m an entity that didn’t have a choice whether or not I wanted to be here. I found myself in this very interesting reality. And I’ve been spending my entire life trying to figure out what the purpose of my existence and everybody else’s is.
Darin: Great answer.
Brandon: But people call me Brandon.
Darin: What are you?
Brandon: I’m an experiment. If I really had to just guess, I feel like I’m some sort of an experiment, whether I meaningfully evolved out of single-cell organisms without any type of intervention, or we were given this intelligence by some outside being, I think that what I am is an experiment. I do think that there’s some other entity that has a reason for why I’m existing.
Darin: Where are you going? Answer it however you want.
Brandon: I think I’m going around in circles. It feels like we experience time in this linear way, but I think that that’s just kind of this fabrication of this existence. I think that what I’m doing really is just going around in circles. I’m on a path that is a part of the circle of all the people that lived before me, and like—a hamster doesn’t really experience the hamster wheel as we do. Right? We look at it and go, “Bro, you’re just spinning around in circles,” but it’s like, “I’m going to get there eventually.” It’s thinking in a different way. That’s kind of what I feel like sometimes, like I’m just going through this existence, walking down the paths that so many other people walked before us.
Darin: What do you think the purpose of that wheel or bigger wheel would be then?
Brandon: For me, it’s always been trying to discover things about myself. I saw a quote recently that I really loved, it was actually at the beginning of that show Alone. And the old man that wrote the Tao Te Ching. Lao Tzu?
Darin: Yeah, Lao Tzu.
Brandon: Yeah, Lao Tzu. There is a quote, and I’m going to paraphrase here, but it was, “He who conquers others is strong, he who conquers himself is mighty.” And so that’s kind of where I see my purpose. How can I deconstruct all of the things that have been programmed within me since being a child, and really try to figure out who I am at my core, and try to strip away all the things that inhibit me from ascending to what you could call a higher level? And if this is, as some people call it, an “earth school,” it’s more about learning what I can about myself, that’s going to allow me to come, and maybe potentially when this is all over, move into a higher realm and not have to repeat this over and over.
Darin: Awesome. What matters?
Brandon: The only thing that really matters when you’re gone is the effect that you’ve had on other people, not the things that you gained, not the things that you were able to buy or the money that you have in the bank or the body that you’ve created. The only thing that really matters is the way that you made other people feel. And so the more that you can brighten a person’s day and life up, that’s the noblest thing that you can do. Which is part of why I take parenting so seriously, because the biggest effect that you’ll have on another human being is on your own children, right? You’ll leave the biggest imprint on them than you will a little brother, or sister, or parent, or wife or husband or whatever.
So being a parent is really, I think, the thing that matters most, being a good parent. Because the things that I pass on to them—the moral compass, the lessons—they will carry that into the way that they raise their kids, they will carry that into the way that they treat people for the rest of their lives, the way they treat everybody from the waiter or the person taking their ticket to anybody else they meet, their own kids, that’s the most important person in their life.
Wait a minute, there’s no such thing as up at all.
Darin: So this is a little bit of the same, but it might be different. What is your greatest hope for the future?
Brandon: That we all find a common purpose as a society, and when I say society I mean the world, right? So as a species. That this species finds a common purpose that we can all rally behind. We’re in this situation right now where we still view the world and people as “us” and “them.” We are Americans, they are Canadians, right? And it’s this “us and them” mentality. Part of the reason why I love astronomy and cosmology so much is because it really gives us something for the whole planet to get behind. When Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon and all those people were watching on tiny little TVs all around the world, for that little split second, we didn’t view it as us and them, right? We really didn’t see the world like that, we saw the world as, “Oh my God, look what we are doing.” It didn’t matter what country you were in, what little village in Africa or in the Middle East, you were in, you were feeling like a part of this.
And so I really hope that as a species we are able to find a common goal. The most pressing issue is really saving this planet, saving life on this planet and the ecosystem, and then once we’re able to move past that and feel like we’ve got a good, sustainable balance, then hopefully we can really move into exploring space together. Inner and outer space. And try to answer the question that I think is embedded in all of us since birth, which is, “Why are we here?” I think most people ask that question. Most people that have the time to be able to ask that question, that have the luxury of being able to ask that question, ask, “Why are we here?” And, I do believe that exploration and science can potentially bring us closer to answering that, and that’s a good, common goal for all of us as a species to have.
Darin: What does death mean to you?
Brandon: Death is like a black hole. There’s no way to ever figure out what happens beyond the event horizon. Right? And we can spend all this time and money and maybe one day we’ll have a more clear answer to it. But I think it might be one of those things in the world that is just going to remain a mystery for us. And we might never find out what it is.
What does it mean to me personally? It’s just the source of a bunch of questions. I’m just in the camp of “we will ascend and have all the answers in that moment, and all the things that we’ve ever wanted.” Or even the potential of it depending on you, it will be some sort of a judgment on how you lived your life. I’m completely as open to all of those possibilities as I am with a black hole.
Mathematically, scientifically, we will probably never know the answer. It’s just the source of a lot of mystery, which also is fantastic. It’s very humbling. It’s also a source of humility. One of the things that I find so interesting about the cosmos is that when you lay on the surface of the earth, you’re looking up at the stars and then you start to realize, “Wait a minute, there’s no such thing as up at all, I’m just stuck to this ball and I’m looking down on the stars and I’m just being held here,” and it kind of freaks you out. And it’s a source of really good humility. And I think death is the same kind of thing. We’re not here forever and we’ll never know what happens on the other side of it.
Darin: What does music mean to you?
Brandon: The most simple answer would be music is an opportunity to be able to say whatever you want, for a few minutes within a song. You have a license to be able to say whatever it is you want. And people listen with more of an open mind than if you would just have a three-minute conversation with them. So music is a very, very powerful tool to be able to express yourself and to be able to have people’s minds and hearts open for that moment so that they can potentially view the world through your eyes for just a split second.
Music also potentially has the ability to be able to reach deeper into our emotions in a way that we can’t really explain, but I don’t really know if we learn it when we’re kids, or if it’s something that is just inherent in us. If somebody had never heard music their entire lives, a 30-year-old man that had never heard of music, and then all of a sudden they heard a great Sigur Rós song or whatever, a Bon Iver song—would they begin to cry? I don’t know. Maybe it would have no emotional impact on them.
So I don’t know if the emotions that are risen from the chords and the progressions that we find, if that’s innate in us, or if it’s something that’s learned. I really don’t know. I’d like to think that it’s just innate and it’s like looking at a sunset. We’ll all appreciate it.