Ever read any Freud? Up on your stages of development?
I haven't, and really am not. Sure, I've heard about the concepts of oral fixation, imprinting, fight/flight, Alpha males, and even brainwashing, but really hadn't read even the most basic text about them.
Enter Robert Anton Wilson's Prometheus Rising, a sort of "owner's manual for the brain." It may be out of print -- my copy took months to get here from Amazon -- but you can download the PDF for free from this site (4 MBytes).
Written in an informal, swear-laden manual that reminds me of the hippie classic Steal This Book, Prometheus Rising summarizes the psychologies of Freud, Jung, and even Carl Sagan. I like it because it's full of insights that I wouldn't have noticed otherwise.
The book is structured on Wilson's discussion of eight (perhaps classical) brain "circuits," such as:
- "The Oral Bio-Survival Circuit. This is imprinted by the mother or the first mothering object and conditioned by subsequent nourishment or threat. It is primarily concerned with sucking, feeding, cuddling, and body security. It retreats mechanically from the noxious or predatory - or from anything associated (by imprinting or conditioning) with the noxious or predatory..."
"On the other hand, the State is not a gene-pool or a tribe, and cannot really play the bio-survival unit convincingly. Everybody on Welfare becomes paranoid, because they are continually worrying that they are going to get cut off ('exiled') for some minor infraction of the increasingly incomprehensible bureaucratic rules. And in real totalitarianism, in which the bogus identification of the State with the tribe is carried to the point of a new mysticism, the paranoia becomes total." (52-53)
Anyhow, each chapter I've read introduces a new primal bio-circuit that is followed by a discussion of what behaviors it induces. A particularly interesting collection of chapters is about brainwashing, in which victims are re-imprinted (with loyalty to their captor) by bringing them to a defenseless, infant-like state and following a method outlined in the book.
There is also an ongoing discussion - a "layering" - of the impact of each brain circuit on one's personality; for example, he discusses a personality grid whose quadrants cover imprint types such as: Hostile Strength (I'm okay; you're not okay); Friendly Strength (I'm okay, you're okay); Hostile Weakness (I'm not okay; you're not okay); and Friendly Weakness (I'm not okay; you're okay).
Also... I haven't read Finnegan's Wake, and I know nothing about literary analysis, but you might get a kick out of his translating the novel's repeating nonsense sounds into strings of cuss-words of our early reptilian brains.
I'm clearly doing a poor book review here. I recommend you take some time out to flip through the text, whose PDF I attached above. It might give you a new perspective on your business meetings!
Do You Have a Personal Syllabus?
In reading some of your blogs, I notice that many of us are still configuring, in our 30s, how best to spend our 24 hours of a day to achieve various personal goals. (Which, after subtracting various demands, becomes 3-4 hours a day, or less.) I see you having hobbies, reading books, writing analytical papers, riding bicycles, raising children, and generally smelling the roses.
Do any of you have (for lack of a better term) a "personal syllabus?" Is there a collection of skills or knowledge you'd like to acquire?
Lately I've been splitting the two, sharpening my knowledge (say) of optics or more math than I was able to pick up in college and grad school -- but also wanting to read fiction, gain better limb independence in bebop drumming, programming in some real language (C++), blah, blah, blah.
Throw this into a blender and I get... nothing. Dilettante-ville. So I gotta pare down.
I don't know what the final reading list is yet. I can bench the optics for a bit, having spent many (many) hours with a few deep texts through which I've gotten to the point that I finally see that some things might just be approximate models of nature rather than some complete picture which fails to exist (and hence I just don't get it). I don't really have the opportunity to practice the drums seriously, either. This leaves me with:
- C++ Primer (4e), a book on C++ programming staring back at me
- An even thicker tome about a software application called Mathematica
- Several math volumes that I've been paging through the years, which is an awfully unproductive way to learn things
- The books Prometheus Rising and Consilience; and
- A new private study, just for me, at home, which is a great recharging-area for an introvert like me.
Do any of you go through this pruning-of-intellectual-curiosities in the name of actual progress? Like, back-to-school, but at home?