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Read Any Good Books Lately?

 
LadyJane
 
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LadyJane
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10 January 2014 11:56
 

I was fortunate enough to receive several books, as gifts, in December and a standout among them that I am compelled to recommend is An Astronaut’s Guide To Life On Earth by Chris Hadfield.  It is awesome.  When he was commanding the International Space Station last year I remember wondering about the little things that we take for granted with gravity here on Earth and it goes above and beyond answering those questions.  It is a riveting read and although I knew he arrived safely and returned safely I was still on the edge of my seat imagining the journey.  It has several laugh out loud moments and trust me when I say that you do not have to be an astronaut to be inspired by this book.

 
 
saralynn
 
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saralynn
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10 January 2014 12:04
 

I reading a biography of Hillary Clinton, by Carl Bernstein.  It is not inspirational, but it is interesting.  I never knew she was such a Methodist.  I feel more warmly towards her now.  I would love to get Bill & Hillary back in the White House.

 
bigredfutbol
 
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bigredfutbol
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10 January 2014 15:05
 

So far this year, I’ve read “Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America’s Police Forces” by Radley Balko, “From Enemy Terrirtory: Pale Diary” by Mladen Vuksanovic, and “Manifest Destinies: America’s Westward Expansion and the Road to the Civil War” by Steven Woodworth. I’d recommend the first two, not so much the third.

Balko’s book is not entirely new for anybody who’s read his reporting on the issue for the past few years—and the chapter on the past decade sometimes reads a little bit like a collection of anecdotes and reports put together (can’t really blame the guy), it’s a fantastic, if disheartening, look at what’s happened to policiing in this country in the past few decades.

Vuksanovic’s book is, as it says, a diary; one he kept over a four-month period at the beginning of the Bosnian War. It’s a rare eyewitness report of what it looks like when fascism takes over a society.

Woodworth is a fine stylist, and by all accounts a great Civil War historian, but his book doesn’t add much to it’s subject—the decade of the 1840s and how the acquisition of territory from Mexico and then the rapid settlement of California due to the gold rush overwhelmed the delicate political balance regarding slavery that had kept sectional tensions from getting out of hand. It’s an important story, but I’m not sure Woodworth adds much to it.

Also, I read the first half of a novella by an attorney from Texas; I need to finish that this weekend.

 
 
KathleenBrugger
 
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KathleenBrugger
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10 January 2014 16:52
 

Wow bigredfutbol—that’s an impressive list for 10 days! I’m just about to finish Julian Jaynes’ classic “The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind” which I borrowed from a friend. It’s a fascinating book and, Nhoj says, a godmother to his trioone theory.

TOOC looks at the same period of human history (development of language to the Axial Age) as Ken Wilber’s Up from Eden (which was a frame-changing book for me), but from a completely different perspective. One difference, which I was relieved to find, is that Jaynes basically ignores the details of mythology. Both Up From Eden and the similar book Cosmic Consciousness were filled with the names of gods and it was easy to get overwhelmed. But Jaynes sees all those various gods as irrelevant details of the larger picture.

Jaynes’ theory is that humans didn’t possess “meta-consciousness,” that is, the awareness of being conscious, until about 2500 years ago. Jaynes estimates the use of language developed around 70,000 years ago. This gradually led to the emergence of the bicameral mind, which was developed enough by 10,000 years ago to bring about the agricultural revolution. By “bicameral” he means the two brain hemispheres were split, and the interior voice, a function of the right hemisphere, was believed to be the voice of a God or King. There was no conception of “self.” This voice was an admonition and there was no distinction between hearing and acting. It’s similar to how schizophrenics hear voices.

Then about 2500 years ago a breakdown occurred, which was actually an integration of the interior mind into a new conception of the self. The perception at the time was that the gods retreated and quit speaking.

Jaynes provides evidence from many different writings of 2000-3000 years ago. His main texts are the two works attributed to Homer, the Iliad and the Odyssey. The Iliad has no terms for self, or thought, or reflection. Everything is directed by the gods. But the Odyssey is different: all of a sudden there is a hero, an individual who has thoughts and wishes.

He also uses the Old Testament, and in particular suggests the reader compare Amos with Ecclesiastes, which I did. Amos is almost completely the ravings of God against various peoples, with a very short section about Amos, and none of that has any reference to what Amos thought. In contrast, Ecclesiastes feels like the first self-help book, an advice manual full of the wisdom accumulated by a thinking human being. The author repeatedly says “I thought to myself” or “I applied my mind.”

The third section, which I have just begun, discusses the lingering bicamerality in the last two millennium, with the clear suggestion that we haven’t completely made the transition to meta-consciousness. Jaynes mentions in particular how we still seek authorization—our government’s national motto (“In God we Trust”) is “still a divine invocation” and social institutions like marriage are still largely religious-based.

 
 
bigredfutbol
 
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bigredfutbol
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10 January 2014 17:01
 
KathleenBrugger - 10 January 2014 03:52 PM

Wow bigredfutbol—that’s an impressive list for 10 days! I’m just about to finish Julian Jaynes’ classic “The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind” which I borrowed from a friend. It’s a fascinating book and, Nhoj says, a godmother to his trioone theory.

TOOC looks at the same period of human history (development of language to the Axial Age) as Ken Wilber’s Up from Eden (which was a frame-changing book for me), but from a completely different perspective. One difference, which I was relieved to find, is that Jaynes basically ignores the details of mythology. Both Up From Eden and the similar book Cosmic Consciousness were filled with the names of gods and it was easy to get overwhelmed. But Jaynes sees all those various gods as irrelevant details of the larger picture.

Jaynes’ theory is that humans didn’t possess “meta-consciousness,” that is, the awareness of being conscious, until about 2500 years ago. Jaynes estimates the use of language developed around 70,000 years ago. This gradually led to the emergence of the bicameral mind, which was developed enough by 10,000 years ago to bring about the agricultural revolution. By “bicameral” he means the two brain hemispheres were split, and the interior voice, a function of the right hemisphere, was believed to be the voice of a God or King. There was no conception of “self.” This voice was an admonition and there was no distinction between hearing and acting. It’s similar to how schizophrenics hear voices.

Then about 2500 years ago a breakdown occurred, which was actually an integration of the interior mind into a new conception of the self. The perception at the time was that the gods retreated and quit speaking.

Jaynes provides evidence from many different writings of 2000-3000 years ago. His main texts are the two works attributed to Homer, the Iliad and the Odyssey. The Iliad has no terms for self, or thought, or reflection. Everything is directed by the gods. But the Odyssey is different: all of a sudden there is a hero, an individual who has thoughts and wishes.

He also uses the Old Testament, and in particular suggests the reader compare Amos with Ecclesiastes, which I did. Amos is almost completely the ravings of God against various peoples, with a very short section about Amos, and none of that has any reference to what Amos thought. In contrast, Ecclesiastes feels like the first self-help book, an advice manual full of the wisdom accumulated by a thinking human being. The author repeatedly says “I thought to myself” or “I applied my mind.”

The third section, which I have just begun, discusses the lingering bicamerality in the last two millennium, with the clear suggestion that we haven’t completely made the transition to meta-consciousness. Jaynes mentions in particular how we still seek authorization—our government’s national motto (“In God we Trust”) is “still a divine invocation” and social institutions like marriage are still largely religious-based.

I’ve read that Jaynes book twice. It’s fascinating and thought-provoking. Ultimately I’ve decided I don’t quite buy his argument, but I certainly also don’t dismiss it out of hand.

I love the idea that in the Ancient world, people didn’t “read” pictographic forms of writing so much as “listen” to them. It’s been almost 20 years since I read it—now you’ve got me anxious to read it again!

 
 
Nhoj Morley
 
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Nhoj Morley
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10 January 2014 17:12
 

I also had to read it twice. His case is full of flaws like the right-left hemisphere thing and the suggestion that there is a single tangent of development through our history. But the basic notion of an evolution of human consciousness was deliviered a feast by Jaynes. He was very observent and spot-on about a number of details.

Today’s trioon post in the freedom thread can serve as a trioon-translation of Ms. Brugger’s summary of Jaynes.

 
 
EN
 
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EN
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10 January 2014 17:16
 
KathleenBrugger - 10 January 2014 03:52 PM

He also uses the Old Testament, and in particular suggests the reader compare Amos with Ecclesiastes, which I did. Amos is almost completely the ravings of God against various peoples, with a very short section about Amos, and none of that has any reference to what Amos thought. In contrast, Ecclesiastes feels like the first self-help book, an advice manual full of the wisdom accumulated by a thinking human being. The author repeatedly says “I thought to myself” or “I applied my mind.”

So interesting. Abraham is reported to have heard a very clear voice telling him first to sacrifice, then not sacrifice Isaac.  Samuel hears God’s voice very clearly and thinks it’s Eli.  It’s easy to see how someone would think God was speaking when they didn’t understand the makeup of their own mind.  In 2500 years brain architecture hasn’t changed that much - we just have a different theory of mind.  We understand where a lot of those voices come from.

 
EN
 
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EN
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10 January 2014 17:18
 
Nhoj Morley - 10 January 2014 04:12 PM

Today’s trioon post in the freedom thread can serve as a trioon-translation of Ms. Brugger’s summary of Jaynes.

So Flashlight was narrating but the individual didn’t realize it was coming from just one story up instead of from the heavens? Is this a case of not knowing who your own house guests are?

 
Nhoj Morley
 
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Nhoj Morley
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10 January 2014 17:23
 

Er: yes. Strictly speaking, we don’t call it Mr. Flashlight until our power of narration is fully possessed. Before that happens, the bridge is on auto-pilot and seems to be occupied by mysterious auto-narrators.

 
 
EN
 
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EN
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10 January 2014 17:31
 
Nhoj Morley - 10 January 2014 04:23 PM

Er: yes. Strictly speaking, we don’t call it Mr. Flashlight until our power of narration is fully possessed. Before that happens, the bridge is on auto-pilot and seems to be occupied by mysterious auto-narrators.

Thanks for the clarification.

 
cunjevoi
 
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cunjevoi
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10 January 2014 19:12
 

Just finished Pinker’s Better Angels. It Changed the way I look at humanity and was absolutely fascinating.

 
LadyJane
 
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10 January 2014 19:22
 
bigredfutbol - 10 January 2014 02:05 PM

I read the first half of a novella by an attorney from Texas; I need to finish that this weekend.

Of all the books you mentioned this one I’ve read.  (Rumour has it the author is a bit of a scoundrel.)  The Mladen Vuksanovic one sounds like something that would definitely be of interest to me.  Thanks very much for the heads up.
 
Lying by Sam Harris is quite thought provoking, is puny, and can be read within a day.

The Stray Bullet by Jorge Garcia Robles is pretty cool.  It’s about William S. Burroughs who I realize is an acquired taste.  I can’t seem to find my copy of Naked Lunch so I must’ve given it away.  I have parted with four or five copies of that book over the years (one was lost in a lake) which seems to suggest it was meant to be shared.

My Best Stories by Alice Munroe I am having trouble getting into but I imagine there must be some great short stories in there.  What I’ve read of it is okay but not exactly up my alley. 

My attention has been diverted by a lot of great works since stumbling through the doors of this forum, although, not so much lately as I find myself fetching for them.  Please keep ‘em coming.  Many thanks.

 
 
sojourner
 
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sojourner
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10 January 2014 20:22
 

I Of The Vortex, by Rodolfo Llinas. Wading slowly through the more mechanical descriptions of movement in the body at the moment, which are a bit engineer-ful for me. Even so, it’s fascinating to learn about how a complex system like that works and to see the inevitable parallels to other systems in life. The idea that we have a full-time (pulsing, but active during rest) physiological tremor sent through muscles, for example - it’s invisible unless you extend your arm and cover your palm with a piece of paper, but always there beneath the surface. The function of this tremor is to keep muscles in a state of readiness for coordinated, synergistic movement, as opposed to trying to rally the troops from a thousand different places all at once. Rather, I think, like culture, in a much larger sense.


The general direction the author is going, so far as I can tell, is that motor movement is the basis for self is the basis for thought. And that by design it is made to be future-oriented and goal-directed, as our judgement and feedback systems evolved primarily to help us reach tangible physical targets via mental simulations (I’m over here, that food is over there, how to maneuver…) using closed loop ‘feedforward’ and open loop ‘feedback’ mechanisms together.

 
 
KathleenBrugger
 
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10 January 2014 20:43
 
bigredfutbol - 10 January 2014 04:01 PM
KathleenBrugger - 10 January 2014 03:52 PM

Wow bigredfutbol—that’s an impressive list for 10 days! I’m just about to finish Julian Jaynes’ classic “The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind” which I borrowed from a friend. It’s a fascinating book and, Nhoj says, a godmother to his trioone theory.

I’ve read that Jaynes book twice. It’s fascinating and thought-provoking. Ultimately I’ve decided I don’t quite buy his argument, but I certainly also don’t dismiss it out of hand.

I love the idea that in the Ancient world, people didn’t “read” pictographic forms of writing so much as “listen” to them. It’s been almost 20 years since I read it—now you’ve got me anxious to read it again!

I’m planning on reading it again soon…I saw today where he published a version in 1990 with an extensive Afterword so I’m going to look for that edition.

 
 
KathleenBrugger
 
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10 January 2014 20:46
 
EN - 10 January 2014 04:16 PM
KathleenBrugger - 10 January 2014 03:52 PM

He also uses the Old Testament, and in particular suggests the reader compare Amos with Ecclesiastes, which I did. Amos is almost completely the ravings of God against various peoples, with a very short section about Amos, and none of that has any reference to what Amos thought. In contrast, Ecclesiastes feels like the first self-help book, an advice manual full of the wisdom accumulated by a thinking human being. The author repeatedly says “I thought to myself” or “I applied my mind.”

So interesting. Abraham is reported to have heard a very clear voice telling him first to sacrifice, then not sacrifice Isaac.  Samuel hears God’s voice very clearly and thinks it’s Eli.  It’s easy to see how someone would think God was speaking when they didn’t understand the makeup of their own mind.  In 2500 years brain architecture hasn’t changed that much - we just have a different theory of mind.  We understand where a lot of those voices come from.

Jaynes’ book has definitely changed my view of what is going on in the Old Testament, and it cleared up some mysteries like the confusion Abraham felt. I never thought I’d read Amos, that’s for sure. LOL

 
 
icehorse
 
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icehorse
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11 January 2014 01:32
 

The Quran, which is horrible, but ought to be at least partially read. I can offer an idea however… if you read about every 30th page or so you’ll get the gist, and you won’t miss much.

Who Owns the Future - Lanier - a fantastic take on modern economics.

The Design of Everyday Things - Norman - Just gifted this one again and gave a quick re-skimming. Do yourself a favor if you’ve never read it.

Information Anxiety - 2nd ed. - Wurman - Another gift and re-skim - also awesome.

 
 
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