Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Morning Readings

So what's going to happen to George W Bush? Will the gorillas cheer him on? Will the gibbons curl their lips? Will the brow-antlered deer sneer? Will the chimps make rude noises? Will the owls hoot? Will the lions yawn and the giraffes bat their beautiful eyelashes? Will the crocs recognise a kindred soul? Will the quails give thanks that Bush isn't travelling with Dick Cheney, his hunting partner with the notoriously bad aim? Will the CEOs agree?

Arundhati Roy on Bush's visit in The Hindu. (Delhi's Old Fort, where Bush is going to give his speech, houses a zoo. That's where all the animals in the paragraph come from!)

Also this article in The New Yorker (via Arts and Letters Daily)on the general unhappiness and discontentment which plague most of our lives and why it has an evolutionary significance.
We have been hardwired to emphasize the negative, and, for most of human history, there has been a lot of the negative to emphasize.

In the book How the Mind Works, Steven Pinker explains the same thing in great detail. Mood disorders and mild depression aren't something new. Even our hunter-gatherer ancestors suffered from it. In fact it was these disorders that made them preferentially fit in the population, by making them alert, self-conscious, cautious and hesitant and that's the reason why the gene for mood disorder became widespread in entire population. It's a very nice theory and explains a lot of things. Also general mood disorders and clinical depression shouldn't be confused. The later is a medical condition and is quite destructive. Freud makes a good distinction between the two in his essay Mourning and Melancholia. I was trying to find the essay on the internet but instead found out this course description at harvard university. Great course description and a nice list of books :)


km said...

You mean to say that the 16-year old me sitting in a darkened room for hours and listening to "Dark Side of the moon" has evolutionary significance? ;)

That Pinker book is a great read. I wrote a gushing fan email to him back in 2000 and the man actually responded back!

Alok said...

Yes. Why not! I don't know if there is any scientific study on the subject but I am sure a 16 year old listening to floyd would have a better chance of getting a girl than the one who instead spent his time on, say, working on school assignments :)

I have read three of Pinker's books, all masterpieces. He is a true rock star in the world of science and ideas and not just because of his hair!