Link List: Knowing Life

What I think about as I go through these links:

Maritza Ruiz-Kim, untitled, 2017; ink, pigment, wax; 10×8 inches

– I’m not the only one who gets a rush of faith when my health (or my son’s) is returning to functioning
– how in one moment, we can be taken to several other places in time, making associative leaps
– how memory works that way too, one idea can take our minds to another point in time
– joy in observing and experiencing new things, the joy in my work
– the humility of accepting that joy as enough
– we want to know ourselves and others, though there’s no exactness to it
– the only experience we truly know is our own
– the beauty of living simply, enjoying our work for its own merits

FYI: all links below are provided in this order->
• format (listen/read/watch/see)
• title with hyperlink
• original publish/broadcast date
• text, excerpted from linked sources 

LISTEN Oliver Sacks: A Journey from Where to Where

Oct 27, 2017 (at about 6m30sec mark)
Bill Hayes, narrating: For Oliver, writing was a form of thinking and the primary activity for a human being. 
Oliver Sacks: My normal, my normal health, normal, state of health, and energy…

The New Yorker: Ninth Avenue Reverie by Oliver Sacks

March 30, 2015
Sacks’ essay… “Driving down Ninth Avenue, choking on diesel fumes from a truck just ahead of us, I say to my friend Billy (he is exactly two-thirds my age), “I wonder whether you will see the end of internal-combustion engines, the end of oil, a cleaner world.” A cleaner world. The thought zooms me away from Ninth Avenue to a forest world—in particular, to the one described in “That Glorious Forest,” Sir Ghillean Prance’s book about his thirty-nine visits to the Amazon in the past fifty years. … I went to that glorious forest in 1996—eleven days of botany, study, and hiking, seeing hundreds of different species of trees in a single acre. I had planned, before I became ill, to go to Madagascar, to see its forests—and its unique fauna and other wildlife, especially the lemurs. I love lemurs.

READ The Downside of Having an Almost Perfect Memory by Amanda Macmillan

Dec 8, 2017
Price, who would later become the first person to be diagnosed with HSAM, had complained that her extraordinary memory was a burden. “Whenever I see a date flash on the television (or anywhere else for that matter) I automatically go back to that day and remember where I was, what I was doing, what day it fell on and on and on and on and on,” she had written in an email to McGaugh. “It is non-stop, uncontrollable, and totally exhausting.”

The New Yorker: The Catastrophe: Spalding Gray’s Brain Injury by Oliver Sacks

Apr 27, 2015
There was a brief, dramatic break in Spalding’s rumination just a week before he came to see us, when he had to have surgery because one of the titanium plates in his skull had shifted. The operation took four hours, under general anesthesia. Coming to from the anesthesia and for about twelve hours afterward, Spalding was his old self, talkative and full of ideas. His rumination and hopelessness had vanished—or, rather, he now saw how he could use the events of the past two years creatively in one of his monologues. But by the next day this brief excitement or release had passed. As Orrin and I talked over Spalding’s story and observed his peculiar immobility and lack of initiative, we wondered whether an organic component, caused by the damage to his frontal lobes, had played a part in his strange “normalization” after anesthesia….The frontal lobes are among the most complex and recently evolved parts of the brain—they have vastly enlarged over the past two million years. Our power to think spaciously and reflectively, to bring to mind and hold many ideas and facts, to attend to and maintain a steady focus, to make plans and put them into motion—these are all made possible by the frontal lobes.

Hidden Brain: The Sorting Hat: Can a Personality Test Tell Us About Who We Are? hosted by Shankar Vedantam

Dec 4, 2017
In one of the most famous scenes from the Harry Potter series, a group of kids, new to the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, line up before an old and crumpled wizard’s hat. It is the sorting hat. The hat will tell them which house they’ll belong to during their Hogwarts education. There is something deeply appealing about the sorting hat. It is wise. It seems to know people better than they know themselves. We humans love this kind of insight. And our drive to better understand ourselves and the people around us has led to the creation of a multi-billion dollar industry built around personality testing. This week, we delve into the world of personality tests, and discover new research that suggests the power of personality assessments may not be in pinpointing the person you are, but the person you have the potential to become.

NYT Book Review: How Emmanuel Carrère Reinvented Nonfiction by Wyatt Mason

Mar 2, 2017
“I’m not an idiot,” Carrère has said about the moment after he wrote those lines. “I very quickly realized that this impossible book to write was now becoming possible, that it was practically writing itself, now that I had accepted writing it in the first person. … Others are a black box, especially someone as enigmatic as Romand. I understood that the only way to approach it was to consent to go into the only black box I do have access to, which is me.” In the work that followed “The Adversary,” Carrère has continued to present himself presenting the lives of others. Though that might sound narcissistic, it has the upending feeling, for the reader, of humility in action. There’s a reason for this. Carrère told a great story to The Paris Review about the source of that humility: A little girl once said something in front of me that I just loved. She had misbehaved and her mother was scolding her, saying, “But put yourself in other people’s position!” And the little girl answered, “But if I put myself in their position, where do they go?” I have often thought of that since I started writing these kinds of “nonfiction” books, the rules and moral imperatives of which I was starting to become acquainted with. I don’t think you can put yourself in other people’s positions. Nor should you. All you can do is occupy your own, as fully as possible, and say that you are trying to imagine what it’s like to be someone else, but say it’s you who’s imagining it, and that’s all.

Lives Other Than My Own by Emmanuel Carrère

English translation copyright 2011
After the girls were in bed, Patrice and I went down to his studio in the basement, where he had made up a bed for me. He talked about a comic strip he was planning, one of his usual stories about knights and princesses, to be entitled “The Paladin.” Really? The Paladin? I smiled, and he laughed a little ruefully, but proudly, too, as if to say, I am what I am. In the meantime, he had a commission, some sketches for a story set in a kennel with a half dozen dogs, familiar character types like the grumpy Rottweiler, the stuck-up poodle, the muscle-bound Dalmatian who likes to show off, the adorable mutt–who I suspected would be the noble hero of these tales. When I said as much, Patric gave me that same little laugh, meaning, Nice going, you got me, paladin and simpleton, that’s me. I looked at the drawings, one by one: a comic strip for children, a bit old-fashioned but drawn with a delicate and confident hand, and with incredible modesty. I should say, with incomprehensible modesty, because it’s a trait I can’t understand. I’m ambitious, I worry. I have to believe that when I’m writing is exceptional, that it will be admired, and I get excited believing this but collapse if I lose faith. Not Patrice. He enjoys drawing but doesn’t believe his work is exceptional and doesn’t need to believe it to live at peace with himself. Neither does he try to change his style That would be as impossible for him as changing his dreams: he has no control there. I decided that in this respect he was an artist. 




Link List: Connected Brains


Maritza Ruiz-Kim, Progress #7, 2017, acrylic on wood panel, 22 inches x 17 inches

This is a list of links I gathered back in June about some of what I heard & read & watched & thought about at the beginning of the summer. (I didn’t finish the list at the time, and there have been other topics since then… .) If I’m able, I’ll go back to some of what I’ve consumed, and going forward I hope to keep posting these Gathered Links. So I expect this to be an ongoing thing. :)

~ maritza

What I think about as I go through these links:

– our minds as individual parts of the whole in which each influences the other
– thinking of a community as one organic connected entity (connected brains, etc)
– how social maladies are infectious and hard to eradicate
– how deeply we must look into ourselves (not just out at others) to ensure change
– how we are incapable of complete isolation (not to be confused with introversion)
– social groups as single organisms
– social groups as In Real Life organisms

Good to know:
all links below are provided in this order->
• format (listen/read/watch);
• title with hyperlink
• original publish/broadcast date
• text from linked sources (aka excerpts, not my writing) 

LISTEN: Hidden Brain, “‘The Thumbprint of the Culture’: Implicit Bias and Police Shootings”

Jun 5, 2017
VEDANTAM, HOST: Implicit bias is like the smog that hangs over a community. It becomes the air people breathe. Or, as Mahzarin [Banaji] might say, the thumbprint of the culture is showing up in the minds of the people living in that community. There are many examples for this idea that individual minds shape the community, and the community shapes what happens in individual minds.
BANAJI: What we’re discovering here is that the individual mind sits in society. And the connection between mind and society is an extremely important one that should not be forgotten and that more than any other group of people, social psychologists owe it to the beginnings of their discipline to do both and to do it even-handedly, to be focused on the individual mind and to be talking about how that mind is both influenced by and is influencing the larger social group around her.

LISTEN: Invisibilia, “The Culture Inside”

Jun 9, 2017
Is there some other ‘me’ in there I don’t know about? We … ask this question about one of the central problems of our time: racism. Scientific research has shown that even well meaning people operate with implicit bias – stereotypes and attitudes we are not fully aware of that nonetheless shape our behavior towards people of color. We examine the Implicit Association Test, a widely available psychological test that popularized the notion of implicit bias. And we talk to people who are tackling the question, critical to so much of our behavior: what does it take to change these deeply embedded concepts? Can it even be done?

WATCH: The Brain”Why Do I Need You?”

Nov 11, 2015
In ‘Why Do I Need You?’ Dr. David Eagleman explores how the human brain relies on other brains to thrive and survive. … As we grow up it becomes important for us to be able to understand, and decode, the intentions of others. … We unconsciously mirror the facial expressions of others, which allows the brain to get a sense of how another person feels and the brain mirrors other people’s emotions at a deeper level. … One brain unconsciously simulating another’s, feeling what that person is feeling.  … Our social brain draws us together into groups. An experiment with a simple game of catch reveals that the pain we feel when we are excluded from the group is the same kind of pain as when we hurt ourselves. … In groups humans have accomplished great things but there’s a darker side. For every ‘in group’ there is an ‘out group’. Dr. David Eagleman’s lab has shown that at an unconscious level our brains care less about members of the ‘out group.’ … Dr. Lasana Harris at Leiden University has discovered that the brain can dehumanize people, registering some people as little more than objects. … When we perceive others as less than human it’s easier to ignore them, and it’s easier to suspend the moral and social rules we normally live by. Dr Eagleman reveals that Propaganda is an important step from dehumanization to the mass atrocities of genocide, [plugging] directly into circuits in the brain, dialing down the degree to which one group cares about another group.

LISTEN: Hidden Brain, “Inside The Hole: What Happens to the Mind in Isolation?”

Apr 3, 2017
SHANKAR VEDANTAM, HOST: This week on HIDDEN BRAIN, we thought we’d take a look at what happens inside the prison cells that few people ever see and the psychological effects of being alone for long periods of time.
KARAMET REITER, INTERVIEWEE, professor of criminology at the University of California Irvine and the author of the new book “23/7: Pelican Bay Prison And The Rise Of Long-Term Solitary Confinement.”: So people talk about not having seen the moon in years or decades and how much they miss that. And then people talk about missing just pure human touch. And, you know, I tell a story in the book about a prisoner who – his cell door and the cell door of the prisoner next to him were accidentally opened at the same time. And they were rival gang members, but they had been talking to each other shouting through the cell walls. And when the cell doors opened, they just reached around and grabbed each other’s hands and held on because it had been so long since either of them had had a gentle, human touch like that.

READ: Financial Times, “Yuval Harari Challenges the Future According to Facebook”.” 

March 25, 2017
Zuckerberg correctly points out that any effort to build a global community must go hand-in-hand with protecting and strengthening local ones. For millions of years, humans have been adapted to living in intimate communities of no more than a few dozen people. Even today most humans find it impossible to really know more than 150 individuals, irrespective of how many Facebook “friends” they boast. No nation, corporation or global network can replace communities of people who actually know each other intimately. Without these groups, humans feel lonely and alienated. … Zuckerberg … never acknowledges that in some cases online comes at the expense of offline, and that there is a fundamental difference between the two. Physical communities have a depth that virtual communities cannot hope to match, at least not in the near future. … Zuckerberg says that Facebook is committed “to continue improving our tools to give you the power to share your experience”. Yet what people might really need are the tools to connect to their own experiences. In the name of “sharing experiences”, people are encouraged to understand what happens to them in terms of how others see it. If something exciting happens, the gut instinct of Facebook true-believers is to draw their smartphones, take a picture, post it online, and wait for the “likes”. In the process they hardly pay attention to what they actually feel. Indeed, what they feel is increasingly determined by the online reactions rather than by the actual experience. … it is extremely difficult to know each other as “whole” people. It takes so much time and direct physical interaction.