With all the crowd-media swarming over us, there may be (as if) entirely too much “self-expression” going on.
I took this while the vacuum was going, but you get the picture.
This is how I feel, when I think that my two blog-bits get swallowed up in the cacophony.
Things have got so bad, it’s been reported that a fashion designer used the tag-word “Cairo” to tweet his new spring collection. Course, this report was published on the comedy podcast THE BUGLE, which expressly prides itself on making up shit.
Still. If this is a joke, the me-mad atmosphere has made it imaginable.
Yet I persist in this blog.
The trouble is, I keep getting inspired. And that inspiration feeds on itself when I imagine you joining me in it. I console myself that the comment feature is the check-and-balance. You get to tell me whether inspiration does or does not happen for you like it does for me.
Remember the last post? When I got up, in the sub-zero dawn, and took those pictures that got drowned out by Paul’s kindness? Here’s what happened later that same day.
What I was saying, about things thawing out in a day or two. Or less.
But today there’s another side to the phrase “drowned out.” This is the day after. Look a little gray to you?
Here’s what some folks are using to get out of the property. Chains.
We are chainless.
And we are on the wrong side of this.
The picture may not convey scale. It’s Australia, surrounded by ice cliffs.
Here’s a kind neighbor’s attempt to drain this thing. Isn’t working too well as of yet.
And there’s more freezing rain and snow in the immediate forecast. Matter of fact, as I write this, a few flakes are already drifting down.
So I will discuss the weather no further. I will talk about inspiration instead. I will talk about the point of this blog.
Recall that as being: To use my relationship with Cat Bugs as the means to explore listening with empathy. Given the inherent cuteness of the boy, also given that the nature of Cat in general seems to invite feeling rejected – The point of this blog is to avoid cat-cuteness and unscrupulous optimism on the one hand, and, on the other hand, either pro- or intro-jection.
The point is, rather, to embrace listening with empathy. When one doesn’t speak Cat.
A way-station might also include cultivating empathy for the hedgehogs amongst us – the experts, the know-it-alls, the ones long on opinion and advice, who are themselves empathy-challenged.
Today’s homily springs from Dr. Ginger Campbell’s excellent Brain Science Podcast, this time an interview with Drs. Stephen Macknik and Susana Martinez-Conde. Dr. Campbell’s webpage is at http://virginiacampbellmd.com Her various enterprises are gathered there in one place, plus a very nice picture of her and dog. For the specific Brain Science Podcast I’m going to talk about here, Episode 72, see http://www.brainsciencepodcast.com/bsp/magic-and-the-brain-bsp-72.html
Many words approach. Those of you who are more into pictures might want to scroll down to the end. If you do, though, you’ll miss some mighty good stuff –
This podcast episode is a plum. It’s about the neuroscience of magic. Along the way, fun, important, and beautiful things are said about the relationship of the arts to the sciences, decision-making, why experts are easier to fool, and empathy.
Taking empathy first, I am a complete fan as loyal readers know. I believe I could not have survived a lifetime of emotional mud-wrestling without the assistance of those rare and precious individuals who have extended to me the balm of understanding. You know who you are.
So. Then. I have wrestled mightily to understand, and I have failed to understand, why everybody alive does not seem to be equally a fan of the practice.
I might now have an inkling. I sense empathy’s underbelly, in Dr. Macknik’s remark that “magicians use humor and empathy to lower your guard; and if you sympathize with the magician, you’ll enjoy yourself more, and be less vigilant about catching the secrets behind their magic. . . .” I sense empathy’s underbelly, in Dr. Martinez-Conde’s remark that the “human brain is hackable.”
On the other hand, the interview sheds light on a sunnier side. Dr. Macknik: “[T]here’s a very strong tie between our emotions and attention, and the way that we pay attention. . . [W]e really don’t know much about . . . the relationship between . . . our emotions and attention. . . .”
In this attentiveness to the importance of emotion, friends of Marshall Rosenberg’s NONVIOLENT COMMUNICATION will recognize Step Two of that Method: Inquiry into, listening into, and articulating feelings.
I also notice how the interview sheds light on the wisdom of Rosenberg Step One: Observation of Facts.
Dr. Martinez-Conde says, neurologically, when a “task . . . is difficult to perform . . . your attention is enhanced at the center and . . . suppressed in the periphery. . . . So when we are faced with . . . complex decision[s] . . . there are often . . . many different factors, some of which seem very rational, and others are more like gut feelings. And it’s often hard to know which facts to go with.”
Look what she recommends. NVC colleagues, observe the “Observable-Facts” gloss:
“Simply make a list of all the facts. . . the rational facts and the intuitions; all of them, no matter how . . . trivial they may seem at first sight.” Then, “one by one, focus your attention on one specific fact. Just for a couple of minutes . . . concentrate on that piece of information; then move down the list, and so on. And your attentional spotlight will naturally enhance that fact and suppress everything else. . . . When you reach the end of the list you will have the fullest picture you can have, and be able to make the most informed decision.”
In a world where there are such dark implications in failing to make important decisions – Philosopher Walter Kaufmann has written a whole book on “decidophobia,” fear of decision-making. He thoroughly studies the curious and inventive strategies we deploy against making decisions. Which strategies cost us nothing less than our freedom, our human dignity.
Everybody, please be sure to read Dr. Campbell’s comment to this post. She adds some humor, as well as perspective on the importance of taking time. Which she took to write her comment — thus underlining what a wonderful tool the web is, in hands like hers.
So I’m excited about Dr. Conde’s antidote. For us nonhedgehogs, it seems important.
And as for the hedgehogs. . . .
Here’s a pastiche of what Drs. Campbell and Conde say, about how an acknowledged expert – a genius, a Nobel laureate – failed to figure out a magic trick. He may have been using the kind of intelligence that relies heavily on “pattern recognition and prediction.” “[T]he stronger your expectations are about the world, the more these expectations are going to be played with by the magician.”
Put that way, I feel for hedgehogs (maybe)
Well not so much. Maybe not yet.
But I sense possibilities. Given the imperatives (some might say compulsions) of my own pattern-recognitions and predictions – if empathy for hedgehogs dawns on my personal horizon, I will have earned the Nobel myself. Stockholm! Get me Stockholm!
Let me close – not by recalling cat-cuteness – I prefer to say the strong ties between emotion and attention.
Dr. Campbell’s Brain Science Podcast Episode No. 72, 1/26/11:
Drs. Stephen Macknik and Susana Martinez-Conde, Sleights of Mind: What the Neuroscience of Magic Reveals about Our Everyday Deceptions.
The Bugle, Audio Newspaper for a Visual World, Episode 143. Samples at:
It’s worth an iTunes subscription. It’s free, that is — but that’s not what I mean. You know what I mean. Search in iTunes: timesonline bugle
Walter Kaufmann, Without Guillt and Justice (out of print; obtainable secondhand)
My new running-cat logo, with gratitude, from