Monthly Archives: January 2014

We Gravitate

…towards familiarity. One of my biggest takeaways from Jonah Lehrer’s book, How We Decide, was that our emotional brain is much more fine tuned after thousands of years of evolution versus our rational brain, which is actually quite a new development. And thus, we gravitate towards what’s familiar through an unconscious feeling channeled by the emotional brain. We base many of our decisions on instinct, on ‘gut feel’. Without even knowing it, I think our emotional brain provides a pretense for decisions we already know we are going to make. How We Decide is a really great book, I highly recommend it. Though Jonah Lehrer came under fire for his sophomore book which examines creativity, my understanding that his former book retained a greater validity.

“We are now children of the French enlightenment. We believe that reason is the highest of the faculties. But I think this research shows that the British enlightenment or the Scottish enlightenment, with David Hume, Adam Smith, actually had a better handle on who we are. That reason is often weak, our sentiments are strong, and our sentiments are often trustworthy.”
– David Brooks

One thing that Tim Kreider notes in his book, We Learn Nothing, is that the people that we fall in love with seems almost like it was chosen by an external entity rather than a conscious and rational decision of ‘I choose you’. In my experience, that’s probably true. All but one of the individuals that I’ve developed any sort of emotional attachment to have not really been textbook definitions of people I would anticipate myself with. The one that seemed to match me most was probably too close a match, and being with someone too similar to oneself can be challenging, as funny as that sounds. But maybe the idea that those with whom we develop emotional attachment is one of many real world examples of our highly sophisticated emotional brain out-processing our rational faculties and instinctively priming us to choose the partners that our emotional brains most desire.

That being said, I’m probably much more emotional brain-oriented, leaning more on my instincts and feelings for many of my actions and decisions versus a strongly rational approach. Maybe that means I’m basing my decisions on a platform fortified by thousands of years of evolution 🙂 Maybe the paradigm of the argument needs to shift from “creative vs logical brain” to “emotional vs rational brain”? Aren’t the artists stereotypically more in tune and more aware of their emotions than the mathematicians? Kurt Cobain decided to end his own life paradoxically after a stellar career-performance in music and entertainment. Not condoning this action by any stretch of the imagination, but assuming it was a monolithic emotional outburst that led to it. I can’t recall the last time I heard of a brilliant mathematician having a lachrymose and highly publicized outburst of uncontrollable emotion resulting in a less than favorable outcome.

Rosebud

In the film Citizen Kane, there’s that scene where Kane is dying, clutching a snowstorm globe. As he dies, he drops it on the floor and utters the word ‘Rosebud’. When he was a kid he had that sled, ‘Rosebud’, that he used to bomb down hills on, and he really loved it. In spite of the fact that in later life he became a millionaire and built a business empire and had all that power and all that success, when it came to the moment of his death, it was being a child on that sled that he remembered. Perhaps for all of us there is a moment that epitomizes our lives – a moment when you’re more yourself than at any other time, an instant of absolute self-realization.

– My Booky Wook

My Booky Wook

True to fan boy fashion, I’ve just begun reading Russell Brand’s, “My Booky Wook.” In contrasting this book which was written about six years ago with his latest stuff – it’s quite clear his writing, vocabulary, and prose have evolved significantly. Despite his self-crafted goofball public persona, this guy is with no doubt a very smart person. His ability to very fluidly and eloquently explain his points of view on a moments notice are inspiring. His ability to do this while employing his comedic abilities his admirable. Plus anyone who comes up with anything as mind blowingly poetic as, “Being in love is like discovering a concealed ballroom in a house that you’ve long inhabited” must have a few gears working in overdrive.

On a slightly more cosmic and questionably narcotic note, reading someone else’s writing is an incredible way to analyze how different people’s thoughts flow and how they structure their ideas. You’re given an inside look at how someone crafts tangible writing patterns out of idea clouds. I have come to appreciate reading on a much deeper level only in my declining twenties. Purchasing a Kindle, at a mall in Dubai of all places you could potentially purchase a Kindle, a couple years ago was instrumental to this. Whether it’s reading Reza Aslan’s Zealot, or Russell Brand’s autobiography, you can get a nonverbal feel for their personalities, prose, thought-patterns, and sense of humor among other things. It’s like directly channeling into someone’s brain waves to better understand their thoughts and expertise on things.

I’m Quite Sure

…that among Jon Stewart and Ryan Leslie, Russell Brand has just achieved status and placement in my ‘man crush’ category. As obnoxious as I used to think he is, I think he’s a really well thought out and well expressed individual. He’s able to leverage comedy to discuss some pretty important topics… an art Jon Stewart has certainly perfected.

Russell Brand Will Blow Your Mind

Sweet Words

Jinnah had urged a Cambridge educated scion of a prominent merchant family, Mirza Abol Hasan Ispahani, to tour the United States in the mid 1940’s to drum up support for an independent Muslim state in South Asia. In a November 1946 letter to Jinnah, Ispahani explained what he knew of the American psyche. “I have learnt that sweet words and first impressions count a lot with Americans,” he wrote. “They are inclined to quickly like or dislike an individual or oganization.” Ispahani later became Pakistani’s first ambassador to the united States.

Magnificent Delusions

Russell Brand

…is surprisingly a lot more interesting and well written than I ever thought. I thought this was pretty amazing – and funny.

(This is a small cut/paste from the full article – which you can find here: Russel Brand on the GQ Awards)

I have had the privilege of scuba diving. I did it once on holiday, and I’m aware that it’s one of those subjects that people can get pretty boring and sincere about, and sincerity, for we British, is no state in which to dwell, so I’ll be brief. The scuba dive itself was nuministic enough, a drenched heaven; coastal shelves and their staggering, sub-aquatic architecture, like spilt cathedrals, gormless, ghostly fish gliding by like Jackson Pollock’s pets. Silent miracles. What got me, though, was when I came up for air, at the end. As my head came above water after even a paltry 15 minutes in Davy Jones’s Locker, there was something absurd about the surface. How we, the creatures of the land, live our lives, obliviously trundling, flat feet slapping against the dust.
It must have been a while since I’ve attended a fancy, glitzy event, because as soon as I got to the GQ awards I felt like something was up. The usual visual grammar was in place – a carpet in the street, people in paddocks awaiting a brush with something glamorous, blokes with earpieces, birds in frocks of colliding colours that if sighted in nature would indicate the presence of poison. I’m not trying to pass myself off as some kind of Francis of Assisi, Yusuf Islam, man of the people, but I just wasn’t feeling it. I ambled into the Opera House across yet more outdoor carpets, boards bearing branding, in this case Hugo Boss, past paparazzi, and began to queue up at the line of journalists and presenters, in a slightly nicer paddock who offer up mics and say stuff like:
“Who are you wearing?”
“I’m not wearing anyone. I went with clobber, I’m not Buffalo Bill.”
Noel Gallagher was immediately ahead of me in the press line and he’s actually a mate. I mean, I love him: sometimes I forget he wrote Supersonic and played to 400,000 people at Knebworth because he’s such a laugh. He laid right into me, the usual gear: “What the fook you wearing? Does Rod Stewart know you’re going through his jumble?” I try to remain composed and give as good as I get, even though the paddock-side banter is accompanied by looming foam-tipped eavesdroppers, hanging like insidious mistletoe.
In case you don’t know, these parties aren’t like real parties. It’s fabricated fun, imposed from the outside. A vision of what squares imagine cool people might do set on a spaceship. Or in Moloko. As we come out of the lift there’s a bloody great long corridor flanked by gorgeous birds in black dresses, paid to be there, motionless, left hand on hip, teeth tacked to lips with scarlet glue. The intention, I suppose, is to contrive some Ian Fleming super-uterus of well fit mannequins to midwife you into the shindig, but me and my mate Matt just felt self-conscious, jigging through Robert Palmer’s oestrogen passage like aspirational Morris dancers. Matt stared at their necks and I made small talk as I hot stepped towards the pre-show drinks. Now, I’m not typically immune to the allure of objectified women, but I am presently beleaguered by a nerdish, whirling dervish, and am eschewing all others. Perhaps the clarity of this elation has awakened me. A friend of mine said: “Being in love is like discovering a concealed ballroom in a house you’ve long inhabited.” I also don’t drink, so these affairs where most people rinse away their Britishness and twitishness with booze are for me a face-first log flume of backslaps, chitchat, eyewash and gak.

A lesson to keep in mind

Talent and mastery of any given subject is equally a function of perseverance in the face of the self-defeat naturally experienced when challenged by the trials of the novel task as it is a circumstantial luck granted by a genetic code that supports your natural proficiencies. Oh, and you gotta like what you do – that’s crucial. You can’t master something you don’t love.

My crazy British friend once advised me that the wise man has a diverse set of interests and spends time in learning about each. If the books that he has are any indication of his diverse interests, than they include the Kama Sutra and Applied Mathematics for Mechanical Engineers. I think he’s right though, there’s something refreshing about meeting that person in a Harlem Starbucks who you can discuss not only the complications of the technology-centric medicine industry, but also the challenges of writing a captivating plot-line to a story in efforts to help people you have never met to viscerally experience the same spectrum of euphoria and depression you have endured during your life’s challenges. I don’t watch TV or follow sports, not because I’m an elitist asshole that thinks I need to prove myself in some capacity to anyone, but because I just think there are so many other things to do that are much more fulfilling.

I’m trying to remember that in life there really is no ‘promised land’ of achievement that you will reach eventually reach and be infinitely satisfied. The very essence of human nature is to desire what we don’t have. Given this, I am actively trying to appreciate every challenge as something that I will look back and smile upon – because only through facing each challenge do we gain the capacity to appreciate the pleasures of overcoming that challenge and attaining the fruit of its completion. As Tim Krieder once put it, happiness is not an end-goal, but an experience achieved through being fully engaged in the business of living your life. We could never comprehend happiness had we never felt the pains of loss and failure. If Andy Weir is right, this incubation period that we have entitled as ‘living’ is simply a cyclical process of preparation and learning prior to the next step in our soul’s journey to some currently undefined end state.

“The prettiest smiles hide the deepest secrets. The prettiest eyes have cried the most tears and the kindest hearts have felt the most pain.”

Just some thoughts. Time to refill on my light roast.

An observation

So if it isn’t painfully obvious yet, I’m enamored by Tim Kreider’s writings. If you haven’t read, please do.

Aaaaand an excerpt before the link.

“It’s one of the maddening perversities of human psychology that we only notice we’re alive when we’re reminded we’re going to die, sort of the same way some of us only appreciate our girlfriends after they’re exes. I saw the same thing happen, in a more profound and lasting way, to my father when he was terminally ill, and then to my mother after he died; an almost literal lightening, a flippant indifference to the silly, quotidian nonsense that preoccupies most of us and ruins so much of our lives. A neighbor was suing my father for some reason or other during his illness, but if you tried to talk to him about such “serious” matters he’d just sing you old songs like “A Bird In a Gilded Cage” in a high, quavering old-man falsetto. When my mother, who’s now a leader in her church, sees people squabbling over minutiae or personal politics, she reminds them, diplomatically I’m sure, to focus on the larger context.”

Reprieve – Tim Krieder

2014

I have a strange feeling 2014 will be a year of significant, positive, personal and professional growth. The last time I had a strong intuitive spark akin to this, I was soon thereafter on a plane to work in the middle east for a year. Which was awesome in every way, shape, and form. I previously felt the solar system in my head out of sync, but with each week the planets seem closer to orbital alignment. Each week the the hazy peripherals are coming into colorful focus, and the previously bland wood-work now artistically burnt with intricate detail.

To lofty dreams and a re-framing of regrets into lessons learned. This year I hope to openly embrace the unpredictable hues of life experience, from the darkest shades of internal conflict to the vibrant colors of growth and success. I will no longer roam the NYC streets in an anxiety-induced fear of what each turn holds, but embrace the challenge. When life gets too heavy, I plan to add more weight. Where some marionettes dance to the tune of life , I will cut the strings, build a freaking violin, and create my own music. Good or bad, at least it is completely my creation.