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

Untitled

Is anyone out there? Although I feel like a lonely gauche scientist who incessantly sends a life signal to an extraterrestrial being across the galaxies, I am again sending another life signal in writing to express that I am still alive. So, if any accidental reader stumbles on this blog, welcome.

I once read that magic is the power of manipulating nature without knowing the source of the force. If so, then the magic I once possessed is lost, making me good for nothing. But, as observed by Francis Bacon, I am talking about the faculty of cognition that affects linguistic abilities for speech that makes a ready person, reading a full person, and writing an exact person. The satisfaction of reason, the power of expression aspiring to development of the spirit, which gave me a content elbow room, vanished into the curtains of the past, leaving me to fend for provisional existence of survival in the most primitive way. It reminds me of Viktor E. Frankl’s memories in concentration camps, where many of the inmates dissipated into the hopelessness of abandoning themselves in the stupendousness of tragedies.

I always think of my life as an inspiration fit for a documentary film about a working-class immigrant single woman who painstakingly tries to preserve a sense of purpose in life with a grasp on intellectual aspiration. Doing so makes her compare to the burgeoning careers of her peers, who seem to be of a higher station in life than she. I am not trying to play a typecast role of proverbial fatalist or unreconstructed defeatist caviling at the happiness of others as a result of their hard work and abilities to do wonders. That would be a callous and sordid a priori judgment for her unfortunately cursed life. Didn’t Shakespeare also say that our lives are governed by our stars? Didn’t Cicero believe that our lives can be read by avian augury? Come to think of it, Francis Bacon and Isaac Newton also believed in and engaged in alchemy craft. The commonality of the examples described above illustrates that there are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt in your philosophy about the world, whatever it may be.

Posted in Miscellany

ages of man

No matter how many leaves have fallen from a tree as the wind of changes has been blown – sometimes placidly and many times harshly – I still feel like a girl who has refused to enter into adulthood, shunning away from the nature of things. Cicero said the ages of man have their stages of nature with sovereign rights, so anything you fly in the face of them will ask for troubles. But then Cleopatra declared to reject the forces of mortality, and Shakespeare thus praised her courage and fortitude by saying: “Age cannot wither away, nor customs can stale her infinite varieties.” Oh, and there is also Cher, now rightly revered as a dame of celebrity, and she has recently decried acknowledging her age on our evolutionary scale. So why not me with my consistent resistance against the fate of a mortal in all aspects with all my might, with all my soul, and with all my heart?

It’s not only the inevitable awareness of the passing of generations by me. With the recent death of Sidney Poitier, the eminent actor famous for his unforgettably charismatic roles in ‘In the Heat of the Night’ and ‘To Sir with Love, it has begun to dawn on me that those who lived through WW2 and pre and post Second Vatican Council are now gone with the wind to the haze of time, a new breed of generations has germinated, sprouted, and dispersed across the lands and oceans, just as mammals began to stage after the extinction of dinosaurs. It’s a nature of the universe, but still hard to accept it, especially when everything else but I change, or seems it so. The difference between the millennials and the Me generation seems as far and wide as that between the Victorians and the Flappers, so to speak. Less than 50 years must have felt a great leap of 100 years to the opposite generations, I gather. But that’s not hyperbole, I believe.

Greek gods knew too well about such a human yearning to be agrasia and played the weakness in favor of their everlasting egoism. Otherwise, why did they keep nectar made with ambrosia to themselves on the Mount of Olympus? Demeter, the goddess of harvest and corn, put the baby of her master who took the goddess in the guise of a poor woman as her baby son’s nurse in a sacred flame on the pretext of making him ageless as a favor to the kindness of her lesser mortals. And it doesn’t end with Greek gods. Jesus never became old, preserved in his prime days of preaching travels with stylishly long hair that reminds me of a famous musician or poet. So was Mary, the mother of God. In the end, only humans stand in the audience, appreciating the agrasia beauty and immortality, comparing the presence of eternal youth to the absence of it.

What with the flow of time and what with the present state I am in now, inching toward the end of the era, is already enough to blow me away into the twilight zone, where things are unlike Alice’s Wonderland but Vincent’s Price’s Haunted House. Magic is no joke and is real for sure, but you always have to pay for what you wish for. But I think it’s a mindset that significantly impacts physical reality, which is magic turning you forever young.