Posted in book review

‘Thinking Fast and Slow’ by Daniel Kahneman – book review

We are not always right in what we believe. What we see with the eyes may not be the truth but in the likeness of truth as our instinctual response to sensory stimuli is swifter and mightier than the wise arbitrator of reason. Whether you like it or not, we procrastinate diligently assessing what the senses tell us, bypassing the voice of reason and judgment. Using automatic and biased instinct is a mental shortcut to make a judgment call in one fell swoop, sans inconvenience of time and cognitive analysis. Socrates knew it, Plato portrayed it, Aristotle acknowledged it, Shakespeare saw it, and now in our time Daniel Kahneman, an Israel-American psychologist and economist interpretes it in this book.

Kahneman illustrates our intuition, or sense, as System I and mind, reason, as System 2. System 1 activates the images stored in a mind’s cabinet when prompted to evaluate the stimuli. There are three factors contributing to this design of instant machinery of thinking without an assistant of reason: available information, time constraints, and limited cognitivity. The system is highly biased, touchy, and impatient like a quick-tempered, spoiled celebrity. It is tuned to subjective truth inured to sensory perceptions about our surroundings and ourselves with quick fixes without consulting System 2, the voice of reason, the superego, which strives for objective truth. But such a dichotomy of Sense and Reason has always been observed and acknowledged, as I introduced earlier in this writing. For example, Plato alluded to the Chariot of Two Horses, of which one is noble and logical, and the other impulsive and recalcitrant. But the difference between Plato and Kahneman is the applicability of the mind-system to the principle of economic activities and consequences.

The book is a steady bestseller, readable to all ranges of readers who want to search for the cause of their mental malaise and existential vertigo. What might have been a reiterating modern interpretation of how the mind works proves to be a piece of practical advice on how to overcome emotional trauma and live a purposeful and gainful life as thus: 1) When the signs of ill-judged biases arise from within, slow down and ask for reinforcement of the spirit of System 2. In doing so, we must acquire such skills to dominate the hubris of System 1 in a regular steady environment that provides an adequate opportunity to practice and rapid and unequivocal feedback about the correctness of thoughts and actions. If you still prefer a mental and physical shortcut to put the aforesaid into more effortless locomotion, how about taking the simple advice from Socrates?: “When unpleasant, depressive thoughts begin to cast on you, breathe deeply once, then bring a smile to your face.” Too trivially mundane? “Of course, you have to make it a habit,” quibbled Aristotle to support his teacher.

Posted in Miscellany

Musing on Earth Day

Glass globe photographed in a moth forest

With the power of the mind put into practice for conserving nature, we can make the whole world a better place because we are part of nature, made of fire, water, earth, and air.

In our annual celebration of this year’s Earth Day, we want to spread the spirit of Mother Nature. We want all to find the beauty of life in music from the trills of birds in the rhythm of running brooks, words of wisdom in the susurrus of trees, and books in the vivid scarlet twilight of the sunset lingering in the west. The wonders of nature tame belligerent brutes and soften the hardened hearts of cynics.

One-touch of nature makes the whole world kin. In the arms of Mother Nature, we are all her children, so keeping the earth clean and livable is our filial duty to her.

Posted in Miscellany

What Easter means to me

Urbi et Orbi

Of all liturgical feast days, only Easter Sunday rekindles my dying embers of hope at the dire moment of despair, beginning to grow bigger and glow lighter, filling the void of the heart’s chamber with excellent brilliancy. So when the priest during the homily this morning asked the congregation what Easter meant to us, I had my inner share of answer that it’s about Hope against Hope till the last breath, just as Jesus himself has risen from death. Whether a pious Christian myth or ecclesiastical dogma, the idea of Resurrection gives one the joy of reckoning that there is no night so long that it has no hope of a day. It is aptly applied to the present -day of the war in Ukraine and everyday life circumstances when hope seems a fleeting dream, foolhardy gambling without responsibility.

Pope St. Francis addressed the Ukrainians during the Easter Vigil Mass and the Way of the Cross on Good Friday: “We can only give you our company, our prayers, and say’ you’ courage, we accompany you.” Courage with humor being a handmaid to hope defeats the shadows of darkness. It motivates one to continue a journey in life, however perilous and disappointing it seems to appear, as attested by Viktor E. Frankl, the father of Logotherapy during his internment years in Nazi death concentration camps. Frankl forced his mind to be occupied with the hopeful thought of writing a book about Logotherapy. Suppose anyone challenges Frankl’sFrankl’s experience as no more sordid than what the present-day Ukrainians are experiencing now. In that case, the person is equally no less lofty than an unreconstructed nationalist with no regard for the human race.

Further to the importance of courage and hope, the pope also spoke of reconciliation and forgiveness when loss of values, vengeance, and rage dominated humanity’s better angels. However, the Major Archbishop of Ukraine’s Byzantine-rite Catholic Church disagreed with the pope, calling it untimely during the carnage of the war broken up by Russia. In the meantime, Zelensky is pressuring President Biden to declare Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism, striking “HELP” to the West. Didn’t Jesus point out the importance of love of your enemy because the fury would consume your whole being, making you ever unhappy and miserable with no sight of mirth and laughter but anger clenched with fists? While I commiserate with the sufferings of the Ukrainians, I also understand the price of a continuous blaze of ire hell-bent on vengeance. It will only continue a vicious cycle of war in epicycle, just as Herodotetus realized in the narrative of the ancient battles in the Histories. One can use the free will to either forget the past regrets thing or move on because the footprints left behind can only take you back and in a backward mode, making you fall by the wayside of your yet unknown destinations in life.

Easter Sunday is beginning to be drawn into the past. I want to record and convey my train of thought visible before the sun with its pale scarlet hues lingering in the twilight of the West. But I still have hope and keep it with me. Thucydides called it a dangerous illusion more potent than the reason that transforms it into an awareness of odds in one’s favor. Whatever it may be, for what’s worth, I will have hope as long I breathe—Happy Easter to Urbi and Orbi.