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Monday, October 24, 2011

Social Animal: #1--Overview

Overview: It’s no startling surprise to find out that we’re all social animals, each belonging to our tribes, whatever we call them—families, companies, churches, or political parties. However, David Brooks, vaunted journalist and author, scrapes off the layers of paint atop that old truism down to its bare metal, exposing three key insights: 1) the power of the unconscious; 2) the centrality of emotions; and 3) the deep interpenetration and interconnectedness of our minds. Using the power of a narrative to weave in Brooks’ prodigious experience in politics and people, as well as the depth of his observations and interpretation of scientific research, the reader gets a decent story packed with solid facts. It’s a bit like reading excellent historical fiction; but, this book is about how we live today. Using two fictional characters, Harold and Erica, to carry the narrative and provide the scaffold for his story, Brooks borrows from the tradition of parable and fable, thus weaving extraordinary scientific research into a story we can actually remember. And these two characters emanate from two very different social classes—Harold from the upper middle class and Erica from a family of immigrants. As such, they come at life very differently, yet somehow connect with each other in what might be described as a rich cocktail of humanity. The author raises the old Greek notion that we suffer our way to wisdom. Such wisdom operates below the surface of our conscious in our intuitions, emotions, and biases that formulate our thoughts while we navigate the choices of life. In essence, we’ve all been given a gift of the unconscious—but until now have not realized its power so well. Brooks talks about a lot of skills that operate as we play out these three insights of unconsciousness, emotions, and interconnectedness. This week, I’ll explore his book in detail

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