That’s me. A synthesis of human nature

Just watched David Brooks TED talk on The Social Animal.  I’d highly recommend watching it, but here are my reflections:

David Brooks appears to be, among many things, a synthesizer (and brilliant).   He’s analyzed many perspectives of human nature old and new and after doing so come to some valuable conclusions about us as a species.  Here’s 3 of them:

  1. The conscious mind writes the narrative of our lives, but the unconscious mind does the overwhelming majority of the work. (But don’t fret our unconscious is very intelligent, perhaps more intelligent than our conscious mind).
  2. Emotions are at the center of our thinking, underlying every decision we make.  Emotions tell us what to value thus becoming the foundation of reason.   Understanding and educating your emotions is one of the central activities of wisdom.  
  3. We are social animals more than we are rational animals.  Sure we have developed logic and critical thinking but primarily our lives consist of the stories of those around us.  We feel the emotions of others, we live their experiences.

He then talks about 4 qualities/skills/states of existence that are signs of social and emotional intelligence.

  1. Mindsight: the ability to see the world as other people do and absorb what they have to offer; aka “hoover up” the knowledge they have to offer.   Do you know how to nurture empathetic relationships with others? 
  2. Equal poise: the serenity to see the biases and failures in your own mind.   Are you aware of your mind’s strengths and weaknesses? Can you be open-minded?  Curious?  Comfortable in the face of ambiguity?
  3. Metis: the ability to pick out patterns in an environment; it enables you to work in groups.  The effectiveness of a group is determined by its ability to communicate (not its collective IQ) so the ability to blend concepts, ideas, and different points of view is necessary for collaboration and progress.  Can you shape your self based on your environment? Can you shape an environment based on your actions? 
  4. Limerence: This drive speaks of the unconscious mind’s hunger for moments of transcendence, for losing the “self” in exchange for union with the world around you.   Mihály Csíkszentmihályi called it flow.  Can you relate to this state of being?  Do you what it takes you to achieve it? 

Two Asides:

1. I am again struck by what a valuable resource TED has become.  One of my personal passions is to synthesize knowledge and make it more accessible, TED has done this remarkably well.

2. I should explain why I bother writing these notes.  Even if no one reads them and instead watches the video they are worth the effort in my mind.  By actively working through the content of the video myself, I learn and remember it much better.  So my suggestion to you is to write your own reflections on videos that truly speak to you.  aka decide why this information is important and connect it to appropriate places in your mind 🙂


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