Jay Cross
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I read these so you don't have to
Saturday, January 08, 2005
The inner cover blurb of Margins of Reality, The Role of Consciousness in the Physical World promises that, "In a pioneering work sure to spark intense controversy, two researchers draw on a decade of experimentation by their Princeton Engineering Anomalies Research program to challenge the currently accepted rift between physics and metaphysics."
Consciousness contemplates no more profound or perplexing question than this: what is its role in the establishment of reality? In one extreme view, endorsed by much of traditional Western science and philosophy and exemplified by modern pragmatic materialism, the mind of man is relegated to a passive processor of experience imposed by a totally deterministic external world - a mere visitor meandering through the numerous and enduring mystical traditions of many cultures and eras, all experience is presumed to be created by the consciousness, so that any tangible reality ultimately traces to illusion.... As Niels Bohr concluded from the enigmas of modern physics, "we are both onlookers and actors in the great drama of existence."
The authors take us on a 350 page journey through mysticism, weird stuff from the past, Albert Einstein quotes, statistics homework, oddball research at Duke, and some interesting ESP experiments. Their conclusion? (This is why you never heard of this book.) "Perhaps." My conclusion? Their grant proposal specified that they had to write a book, even if they discovered nothing whatsoever.

I enjoy library book sales. When the price gets down to 50 cents a bag, First Impressions is the sort of book I end up with. I'm a sucker for the lowdown that "isn't taught in school," e.g., the secrets of making a superlative first impression. It would be so cool to have women sigh and swoon when I enter a room.

The authors, both young women with Ph.D.s, have founded a company that advises the managers of Fortune 100 companies in leadership when they are not providing one-on-one advice to the lovelorn on how to get dates. How can I put this politely? These babes are clueless.

The concluding quotation from Goethe is priceless. As the authors say, "it's the choice you make."
I have come to the frightening conclusion that I am the decisive element. It is my personal approach that creates the climate. It is my daily mood that makes the weather. I possess tremendous power to make life miserable or joyous. I can be a tool of torture or an instrument of inspiration. I can humiliate or humor, hurt or heal. In all situations, it is my response that decides whether a crisis is escalated or de-escalated and a person is humanized or dehumanized.
Wolfgang, I'm glad we never met at a party.

A Sideways Look at Time by Jay Griffiths, is in a different category. I paid $26 for Jay's book. (Jay's a she, by the way.) That Jay has lived with island tribes where the time of day and season of the year are discerned from the scent of the forest. She covers antiquity and today, the obscure and the commonplace, the near and the far. Her language is poetry. She questions Western bedrock: "With its dominant ideology, the West declares its time is the time." Time is not regular. "Asking a small child to wait a few hours for ice cream is like asking yourself to wait a week for a whisky."

Jay recalls the familiar but forgotten.
Woody Allen may not have read Ulysses, but, he says, 'I took a speed reading course and read War and Peace in twenty minutes. It involves Russia.'

Skim-talking and skim-reading promote skim-thinking. Thoughts summoned at speed are likely to be not the best but simply the first; the habitual response, thoughts automatic as opposed to thoughts idiomatic, reflective or ruminative.
I thought to myself, "Great introduction." But the introduction never stopped. More anecdotes, more fast=bad/slow=good, more words. Then feminism raised its head. Female time, menses, moonbeams, months: it's something we folks with a Y chromosome will never understand. It's deep. It's female. I get it; you don't. I didn't have a month to finish reading this claptrap.

Words you don't want to hear during your annual performance review (like coot, feral, squirrelly) is yet another compendium of Dilbert cartoons. You know these people. Wally used to work a couple of cubes down at SmartForce. I've outsourced projects to Elbonia. Substitute programmer for engineer, and I know a hundred Dilberts. And the pointy-haired boss seems to follow me whenever I get too deeply involved in organizations. I laughed out loud at some of these, but if I read too much, I become negative. I don't include Dilbert in my daily diet.


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