“Thomas Sowell – The False Dichotomy of Race” (an excerpt from his book “Intellectuals and Race”)

Very interesting audiobook excerpt from Dr. Thomas Sowell’s book. Just finished his Black Rednecks and White Liberals and today began his Vision of the Anointed: Self-Congratulation as a Basis for Social Policy book. I do enjoy listening to that man’s perspective.

“Live Your Life As If Everyone Else Was Going to Die Today”

Read this piece tonight by James Altucher in his ebook The Choose Yourself Stories, available for free through signing up for his newsletter deal. Diggin’ his stuff lately. Some of his writings are humorous, others less so, but they tend to be thought-provoking regardless. Anyway, this story really struck me, having read similar elsewhere on his blog, though this piece I particularly appreciated and wanted to share here:

Live Your Life As If Everyone Else Was Going to Die Today

You ever have that dream where your credit cards and passport got in the salad bowl and are getting salad dressing all over them and your wife is cheating on you and your boss is yelling at you?

Yeah? Me too. Last night.

I’m traveling on business today. Actually, I already traveled. Today I have business to do.

I have one rule: never travel on business. You never make a dime when you travel on business.

The last half of that rule will not be broken today. I will not make a dime. But sometimes it’s good to just put a “face to the name”. I put that in quotes. It’s like I have this big list of names that need faces taped to them.

I’m going to tape some names today. I’m going to say that to a random guy in the hotel elevator later: “I’m going to tape some fucking names today!”

No I don’t know.

Here I am. Helloooo Boston.

If today were my last day would I be in Boston?

No.

But why do people always say that? LIVE TODAY AS IF IT’S YOUR LAST! It’s like a rallying cry for the world. Be happy…OR DIE! An anthem. Like the Partridge Family’s “Take me Back to Albuquerque”, or Queen’s “We are the Champions”. Those are anthems.

I picture the girl in Schindler’s List yelling, “Goodbye Jews!” “It’s Your LAST DAY, JEW!” “LIVE YOUR LIFE LIKE IT’S YOUR LAST DAY, JEW!”

If it were really my last day I would walk outdoors naked somewhere. For the fun of it I would tape two-dollar bills to my stomach.

It was 3am, after my salad bowl dream, when I was thinking of this. I told Dan the other day, “if you wake up at 3 in the morning thinking stressful thoughts tell yourself, “it’s 3am and probably my thoughts are irrational so I’m going to make an appointment with myself to reconsider these thoughts again at 3pm” The idea is that at 3pm those thoughts will seem totally irrelevant.”

Note to self: address salad bowl dream with credit cards sinking at 3pm. Further note: you might die today. Live it up! Goodbye Jew!

Claudia was sleeping next to me. I started to think if we got in a car crash what if I didn’t die. What if SHE died? Now we are talking about something here. Because then I would be alive and I would have to deal with it. I would be sad and cry. I was thinking, “I hope I will be nice to her today just in case we get in a car crash later and she dies.”

So that’s my golden rule today. I’m going to live life as if everyone else is going to die. For everyone I meet today I’m going to really imagine that today is his or her last day.

Then I will:

– Be kind to them

– Try to help them be less stressed

– Try to fulfill their dreams for the day

– Not talk badly about them. Don’t talk badly about someone about to die. Too soon!

– Hug them if it’s appropriate. Or kiss them. Not the people I’m going to “business” with later. That might be too much. But I will be nice to them anyway.

– Really listen to them. I will listen to everyone’s last words today without interrupting them. Even if I can finish their sentence because I am light years ahead of them I will let them finish their sentences without my stupid voice piercing the air with its presumption.

– Learn from them. I will picture as if some universal life force is speaking to me through everyone else. I will listen carefully for clues that I can piece together later. These are the only clues that god will ever give me so don’t interrupt.

– Don’t opinionate all over them. What does it matter if I change their minds today? Do they really need my fantastic thoughts? They are going to die anyway.

I feel like my life will be better if I practice living it as if everyone else is going to die today but I’m going to live forever. Floating in space eventually, with only your last words to cherish.

When you die, can I kiss your forehead? And when you finally close your eyes for the last time, my poor baby, I hope you can return that kiss to god when your eyes next blink open.

 

Hopefully he won’t mind.

“American Psychosis (written by Chris Hedges)”

Devchelle2 read a portion of Chris Hedges’ book Empire of Illusions: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle that I just have to store here and share elsewhere with others:

I’ve been a big fan of Chris Hedges’ work for several years now and own (and have completely read) the book mentioned above, War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning (can’t recommend that one highly enough), I Don’t Believe in Atheists, American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America (very important read), and Losing Moses on the Freeway. I also have his book Collateral Damage in my collection but haven’t completed it thus far. VERY good author whose experience as a war correspondent provides such amazing insight, not to mention the clarity he brings to making sense of America’s social and political predicament.

And the man who made that video above deserves recognition for his awesomeness in helping get the word out. Very inspiring.

The neurotic and the artist — another excerpt from Ernest Becker’s book “The Denial of Death”

Continuing on where we left off on page 181 in Ernest Becker’s book The Denial of Death:

Another way of approaching neurosis is from the opposite end of the problem. There is a type of person who has difficulty fetishizing and narrowing-down; he has a vivid imagination, takes in too much experience, too large a chunk of the world—and this too must be called neurotic. We introduced this type in the last chapter where we talked about the creative person. We saw that these people feel their isolation, their individuality. They stick out, are less built-into normal society, less securely programmed for automatic cultural action. To have difficulty partializing experience is to have difficulty living. Not to be able to fetishize makes one susceptible to the world as a total problem—with all the living hell that this exposure raises. We said that partializing the world is biting off what an animal can chew. Not to have this talent means constantly biting off more than one can chew. Rank puts it this way:

The neurotic type . . . makes the reality surrounding him a part of his ego, which explains his painful relation to it. For all outside processes, however unmeaningful they may be in themselves, finally concern him . . . he is bound up in a kind of magic unity with the wholeness of life around him much more than the adjusted type who can be satisfied with the role of a part within the whole. The neurotic type has taken into himself potentially the whole of reality.

Now we can see how the problem of neurosis can be laid out along the lines of the twin ontological motives: on the one hand, one merges with the world around him and becomes too much a part of it and so loses his own claim to life. On the other hand, one cuts oneself off from the world in order to make one’s own complete claim and so loses the ability to live and act in the world on its terms. As Rank put it, some individuals are unable to separate and others are unable to unite. The ideal of course is to find some balance between the two motives, such as characterize the better adjusted person; he is at ease with both. The neurotic represents precisely “an extreme at one end or the other”; he feels that one or the other is a burden.

The question for a characterology is why some people cannot balance their ontological urges, why they hug at the extremes. The answer must obviously go back to the personal life history. There are those who shrink back from experience out of greater life-and-death anxieties. They grow up not giving themselves freely to the cultural roles available to them. They can’t lose themselves thoughtlessly in the games that others play. One reason is that they have trouble relating to others; they haven’t been able to develop the necessary interpersonal skills. Playing the game of society with automatic ease means playing with others without anxiety. If you are not involved in what others take for granted as the nourishment of their lives, then your own life becomes a total problem. At its extreme this describes the schizoid type par excellence. Classically this state was called the “narcissistic neurosis” or psychosis. The psychotic is the one who cannot shut out the world, whose repressions are all on the surface, whose defenses no longer work; and so he withdraws from the world and into himself and his fantasies. He fences himself off and becomes his own world (narcissism).

It may seem courageous to take in the whole world, instead of just biting off pieces and acting on them, but as Rank points out, this is also precisely a defense against engagement in it:

. . . this apparent egocentricity originally is just a defense mechanism against the danger of reality. . . . [The neurotic] seeks to complete his ego constantly . . . without paying for it.

To live is to engage in experience at least partly on the terms of the experience itself. One has to stick his neck out in the action without any guarantees about satisfaction or safety. One never knows how it will come out or how silly he will look, but the neurotic type wants these guarantees. He doesn’t want to risk his self-image. Rank calls this very aptly the “self-willed over-valuation of self” whereby the neurotic tries to cheat nature. He won’t pay the price that nature wants of him: to age, fall ill or be injured, and die. Instead of living experience he ideates it; instead of arranging it in action he works it all out in his head.

We can see that neurosis is par excellence the danger of a symbolic animal whose body is a problem to him. Instead of living biologically, then, he lives symbolically. Instead of living in the partway that nature provided for he lives in the total way made possible by symbols. One substitutes the magical, all-inclusive world of the self for the real, fragmentary world of experience. Again, in this sense, everyone is neurotic, as everyone holds back from life in some ways and lets his symbolic world-view arrange things: this is what cultural morality is for. In this sense, too, the artist is the most neurotic because he too takes the world as a totality and makes a largely symbolic problem out of it.

If this neurosis characterizes everyone to a certain extent and the artist most of all, where do we cross the line into “neurosis” as a clinical problem? One way, as we saw, is by the production of crippling symptom or a too-constricting life style. The person has tried to cheat nature by restricting his experience, but he remains sensitive to the terror of life at some level of his awareness. Besides, he can’t arrange his triumph over life and death in his mind or in his narrow heroics without paying some price: the symptom or a bogging down in guilt and futility because of an unlived life.

A second way of crossing the line into clinical neurosis follows naturally from everything we have said. Rank asked why the artist so often avoids clinical neurosis when he is so much a candidate for it because of his vivid imagination, his openness to the finest and broadest aspects of experience, his isolation from the cultural world-view that satisfies everyone else. The answer is that he takes in the world, but instead of being oppressed by it he reworks it in his own personality and recreates it in the work of art. The neurotic is precisely the one who cannot create—the “artiste-manqué,” as Rank so aptly called him. We might say that both the artist and the neurotic bite off more than they can chew, but the artist spews it back out again and chews it over in an objectified way, as an external, active, work project. The neurotic can’t marshal this creative response embodied in a specific work, and so he chokes on his introversions. The artist has similar large-scale introversions, but he uses them as material. In Rank’s inspired conceptualization, the difference is put like this:

. . . it is this very fact of the ideologization of purely psychical conflicts that makes the difference between the productive and the unproductive types, the artist and the neurotic; for the neurotic’s create power, like the most primitive artist’s, is always tied to his own self and exhausts itself in it, whereas the productive type succeeds in changing this purely subjective creative process into an objective one, which means that through ideologizing it he transfers it from his own self to his work.

The neurotic exhausts himself not only in self-preoccupations like hypochondriacal fears and all sorts of fantasies, but also in others: those around him on whom he is dependent become his therapeutic work project; he takes out his subjective problems on them. But people are not clay to be molded; they have needs and counter-wills of their own. The neurotic’s frustration as a failed artist can’t be remedied by anything but an objective creative work of his own. Another way of looking at it is to say that the more totally one takes in the world as a problem, the more inferior or “bad” one is going to feel inside oneself. He can try to work out his “badness” by striving for perfection, and then the neurotic symptom becomes his “creative” work; or he can try to make himself perfect by means of his partner. But it is obvious to us that the only way to work on perfection is in the form of an objective work that is fully under your control and is perfectible in some real ways. Either you eat up yourself and others around you, trying for perfection; or you objectify that imperfection in a work, on which you then unleash your creative powers. In this sense, some kind of objective creativity is the only answer man has to the problem of life. In this way he satisfies nature, which asks that he live and act objectively as a vital animal plunging into the world; but he also satisfies his own distinctive human nature because he plunges in on his own symbolic terms and not as a reflex of the world as given to mere physical sense experience. He takes in the world, makes a total problem out of it, and then gives out a fashioned human answer to that problem. This, as Goethe saw in Faust, is the highest that man can achieve.

[All emphases his]

Let’s stop there on page 185.

Excerpts from the audiobook “Age of Empathy” by primatologist Frans de Waal

A short excerpt from the audiobook The Age of Empathy: Nature’s Lessons For a Kinder Society by Frans de Waal (read by Alan Sklar; 2009; disc 3, tracks 3-6) on the topic of social synchronicity and imitation among primates as well as humans:

Disc 4, tracks 1-4; on the topics of empathy and sympathy in chimps and humans:

Disc 5, tracks 4-5; on the subject of primates and humans evolving in group environments, arguing that altruism is emotionally driven: