Quotes From The Social Animal

The_Social_Animal_(David_Brooks_book)‘Columnist David Brooks [<==this is a link to him speaking on TED; this quote is from TED, but the rest are from the book] unpacks new insights into human nature from the cognitive sciences — insights with massive implications for economics and politics as well as our own self-knowledge. In a talk full of humor, he shows how you can’t hope to understand humans as separate individuals making choices based on their conscious awareness.’

‘Artists take the sentiments that are buried in inchoate forms across many minds and bring these to the surface for all to see. They express the collective emotional windows of the [human] race. They keep alive and transmit states of mind from one generation to the next.”We pass on culture, therefore,” Roger Scruton has written, “as we pass on science and skill; not to benefit the individual, but to benefit our kind, by conserving a knowledge that would otherwise vanish from the world.” ‘ p.355. like passing on the family tree, for example.

Harold ‘loved these grand views. They gave him a feeling of elevation, of being connected to a sacred and all-encompassing order, a part of some stupendous will. People who are out in nature do better on tests of working memory and attention than people who are in urban settings. Their moods are better. As the philosopher Charles Taylor writes, “Nature draws us because it is in some way attuned to our feelings, so that it can reflect and intensify those we already feel or else acknowledge those which are dormant. Nature is like a great keyboard on which our highest sentiments are played out. We turn to it, as we might turn to music, to evoke and strengthen the best in us.” The views of the mountains and trees soothed him and enlivened him. But they didn’t really satisfy him. As others have noted, nature is a preparation for religion, but it is not religion. ‘ p. 366.

‘As this process of self-analysis went on, Harold grew essentially sad…. Some psychologists urge patients to sit in a chair and look inside themselves. [However, a study shows that] ruminators fell into self-defeating, negative patterns’. p.371. uh-oh.

‘Part of that kingdom [of a child’s imagination] grew out of his relationships with his parents. They weren’t the most profound parents … but they had been good people, who loved him. The loops still reverberated across the decades, from generation to generation.” pp.372-373. similarly, i too have parental totems, my ‘loops’: my mother’s quilt, my father’s sculpture and carving.

‘One thing we know is that we need both systems to thrive, the conscious and unconscious, the rational and the emotional.’ p.380. yes! i use my emotional response as a guide when selecting rational, conscious texts.

‘When historians of ideas look back to this new understanding of ourselves….’ p.377 i wonder what we’ll think next century, or in a million years, if we’re still around?

‘Cognitive tools [such as the Pareto formula] like this are helpful in overcoming the mind’s mental biases. But the most important thing is to develop an attitude of epistemological humility, an awareness of how little you are likely to know and how little you will understand the things you do know.’ there is so much to know, like holding the paradox of seeming opposites, akin to rohr’s yes and no, or quantum theory’s precise imprecision and its entanglement, and what are dark matter and dark energy, eh? p.382.

‘Much of life is about failure…. And your destiny is profoundly shaped by how much you learn from and adapt to failure.’ p.382.

‘Some days Harold watched the [US Presidential] campaign and thought about how meaningful it really was. Despite all the triviality and show, it really did highlight, if only subliminally, the fundamental choices in life. Politics, he would conclude some days, is a noble undertaking. On other days, of course, he just wanted to throw up.’ p.309.

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