Wandering with my eyes and heart open, searching for pieces to add to my own personal big picture.

Tag: sociology

The Tipping Point: New Read

The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference is the third Malcolm Gladwell book I’ve read. The first two were Talking With Strangers and Blink. Both ended up being an entirely different book than I thought they were going to be, and in the greatest way. The way he writes pulls you in. He’s talking about statistics and behavior, but it feels like a story.

Malcolm Gladwell leads you through a maze of interesting (and seemingly unrelated) pieces of information and then allows you to connect the dots yourself. Both the previous books I’ve read changed the way I look at things. I felt smarter, more ready to take on the world, and in positive ways.

And that’s exactly the feeling I need right now, which is why I picked this book for my next read. The Tipping Point is about how ideas and behaviors spread like a virus.

I don’t have much else to say about the book so far. I’ve only read the introduction and first chapter. I’ll leave you with a quote (of course) before I go.

“We need to prepare ourselves for the possibility that sometimes big changes follow from small events, and that sometimes these changes can happen very quickly.”

This book was written in 2000, so now this sentence feels quite ominous, doesn’t it?

We think life will continue on the same way forever; the frog in the water slowing coming to boil doesn’t notice the slow and steady changes, right? But at some point, the frog does notice, and things start happening. For the frog story, it’s bad. He gets boiled. Or does he? Maybe he jumps out. I don’t know! It’s just a silly analogy everyone knows.

My point right now is, what else around us has reached a tipping point and what was it? If we can notice the small changes that might trigger bigger ones, maybe we could respond in ways that make things better for ourselves instead of worse.

Want to read more posts about The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell? Try:
Product Epidemic in Real Time?
or Influenced? Yes, But That Can be a Good Thing

Instagram, I Like It

Are you a fan of Instagram? Do you feel like the energy you use there is well-spent?

I’m reminded of that old mom warning, “Don’t scarf your food so fast that you can’t even taste it!” Yeah, I’m reading through Love Your Enemies by Arthur C. Brooks pretty quickly, but does it really apply to books? I don’t think so.

It’s just that I’m loving it so much, it feels so good to get all these nourishing ideas, I have to gobble them up as fast as I can! Like I said before, it feels like an antidote to the poison I’ve been witnessing. I want to take a giant swig and pass that baby around to as many as will take it.

Like this quote, for instance, “It’s regular citizens acting as leaders who matter most in the battle against the culture of contempt.

By declaring our independence from the bitterness washing over our nation, each of us can strike a small blow for greater national harmony and become happier in the process.”

I feel like my neighbors and I have been doing that in a small way every week at our potlucks, but this book is inspiring me to do more. It’s hard though, especially on social media where I encounter most of the vitriol. I’m not a thick-skinned person and the past several years have made me angry at most of the world and far too prone to react to provocation, looking like a fool and creating more unhappiness. But the reason I’m really enjoying this book is that he isn’t simply inspiring me with the “why,” he’s giving me a good dose of “how” to go with it.

Speaking of social media…do you have Instagram? I’ve been on and off there and Facebook a lot over the last couple years, much to the dismay of some of my friends. What can I say? I’m learning as I go here. Sometimes you have to let of something to see if you need it or not.

In the past, I’ve used Instagram to post quotes from the books I’m reading along with quick riffs about what I’m learning. My hope was to generate interest for the blog, but it doesn’t seem to do that. I rarely get crossover clicks. Instagram is built more for images than words, and I’m more of a words person, speaking to words people. This past month, I let it go again and discovered something.

I like making the graphics of quotes from my reading. It helps me solidify the part I read that day and I remember more about the book. Besides that, it makes a nice reminder of where I’ve been. The bonus is every once in a while, I connect with another human. I’ve decided to bring it back.

Each hour I read, I go back and select a quote that stands out to me. I create a graphic, post it to Instagram and then write a sentence or two about it. Sometimes I use that quote in a blog post because there is more that I want to say about it. For a while there, when I was posting regularly there, you could tell how many hours I spent in a book by how many posts there were about it.

I hope you’ll join me. I love Instagram for a number of reasons. First of which is that I get to meet new people there. Facebook, I reserve for friends and family I’ve met in person. You can follow my public posts there, and I’d love it if you did, but Instagram is where I share more of what I’m doing here. Instagram is where the beautiful strangers are.

The second reason, and don’t laugh, is that I’ve found the most amazing mental and relationship health helps. I follow some wonderful therapists that post the best helps for free. People like Self Work Co and The Love Therapist have changed my life, not to mention all the Bookstagrammers that have added to my TBR shelf!

If you’re interested, I’m DesertDreamer72. I’d love to connect with you there and see all the fun things you share with the world.

Love Your Enemies: New Read

Diving into Love Your Enemies: How Decent People Can Save America From the Culture of Contempt by Arthur C. Brooks head first!

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Today is a big day, people. A red-letter combo day. I started reading a new book AND I started a new journal. Why is starting a new journal such a crazy special feeling? It feels like a renewal, a new start, like New Years Day all over again. A new life has begun, anything can happen.

I know I’m a bit strange, but I also know there are people out there just like me closing their eyes for a moment and thinking, “Mmm… Yeah. That’s the best.” Thank you, internet, for bringing us together!

One more thing before I get into my new book. Have you ever noticed that if you write any word repeatedly it starts to feel wrong? Like the spelling can’t be right, so you look it up again just to be sure, type it one more time and then let it go. That’s how I feel about the word “enemies” right now.

Once again, I find my memory far less consistent as I would like to be. I remember writing a podcast roundup the day after I heard Arthur C. Brooks on Freakanomics but scanning back I can’t seem to find it. I did, however, write a notecard and place it in my possible TBR file about the book Love Your Enemies. On it I wrote the date I made the card and the podcast episode I heard the interview on, so that is progress.

I do remember one thing correctly. I did share the episode on my Facebook profile because what Mr. Brooks said really did touch me and I wanted to spread that message as far as I could immediately. The title of the episode reflects the subtitle of the book, “How Can We Break Our Addiction to Contempt?”

The reason I remember so clearly that I did share this episode there was because of a comment I received from a friend. She “laugh reacted” the post. Not wanting to misinterpret her intent, I asked her why. Her response was a little disheartening. Once again, a person’s reaction made me take a step back from social media for a moment.

Only two people reacted to the post at all, which is typical of a post that references anything other than something pretty or politically enraging. It seems that all we really want is more distractions or more confirmation that our side is right to be so contemptuous. Something that suggests that maybe there is something simple we can do on a personal level to make things better is laughed away. It confirms the premise of this book.

Are we addicted to this feeling contempt we all complain about others throwing our way? Like drug addicts, are we ruining our health and happiness chasing after something we know we don’t want?

I believe we are. I’ve felt it myself.

The first lines of this book suggest to me that these ideas may be the antidote:

“I live and work in Washington, DC, but I’m not a politics junkie. To me, politics is like the weather. It changes a lot, people drone about it constantly, and “good” is totally subjective.”

“While politics is like the weather, ideas are like the climate. Climate has a big impact on the weather, but it’s not the same thing. Similarly, ideas affect politics, but they aren’t the same.”

“However, even a climate scientist has to think about the weather when a hurricane comes ashore, and that’s what’s happening today.”

I do have one issue with that word, the one I’ve written so much this morning that I’m starting to think it looks spelled wrong, “enemies.” I think I know what he’s doing here, luring you in with an inflammatory word. Ultimately, I believe those who have not read the book will get the wrong idea about what he’s suggesting in the text. Having different ideas about what’s important, what needs to be done and how, doesn’t mean we need call each other enemies. No one needs to vanquished.

I’m looking forward to reading Love Your Enemies because it’s more than a “this is what’s wrong with the world” kind of book. This one promises some ideas about how you and I can fix things for ourselves and I’m excited to hear his plans. I hope someone out there wants to read this along with me or has read it recently. I’d love to hear anyone thoughts!

First Quote “Story”

Trying out a new blog feature!

Rationality by Steven Pinker: New Read

“Rationality: What it is, Why it is Scarce, Why it Matters” by Steven Pinker is my new read of the week and how I got it in my hot little hands is story I have to tell! Get a cup of coffee or a snack. It’s a rambling one!

How many times have I listened to a podcast interview with an author or read an article that suggested a book, jot said book down on my wish list, and then maybe get around to buying and reading it years later, forgetting why I had put it on my list in the first place? At least twice, if not a million times.

I usually love reading the book but can’t for the life of me remember where I heard about it so I get bummed out that I can’t trace it back and thank whoever it was that brought it to my attention. So sad.

These days I have a new system that seems to be working. A card file TBR list! When I get a recommendation, I add it to my Amazon wish list AND write it down on a card with the date and the place I heard about it, maybe a sentence about why I wanted to read it. When I buy a book, I can look it up in that card file and use that info to start a blog post when I start reading it.

This time though was a little different.

I recently added Quillette to my online reading list and found out a few days ago that they also have a podcast. Yay! A new one to add to my playlist! On my way into the city this week, I clicked it open and the latest interview was with Steven Pinker, so I immediately started playing it.

I’ve heard him interviewed before and really enjoyed what he had to say, so I was excited to hear this and I was not disappointed. I took few notes during my drive/listening time. There was so much going on that I couldn’t translate anything into a few simple words I could jot down blindly while I drive. I decided to listen as closely as I could and planned on putting his new book on my wish list when I got home.

Then something amazing happened. I decided to browse Barnes & Noble while I was in the city. I swore I would stop buying books there. I have nothing against the store and, yes, I know “support the brick-and-mortar stores,” but I buy A LOT of books and I can’t afford to pay 30% more for each one. I’m sorry, you guys. Amazon is cheaper and always has the books that I’m looking for. Nothing beats browsing a physical store, but I try to keep my book browsing to used bookstores these days.

But there I was across the street from Barnes & Noble, eating lunch with a friend, just yearning towards getting a cup of coffee and walking among friends, so I went in. What can a girl do?

I came out $84 dollars poorer but only FOUR books richer. THAT’S why I don’t go in there!

Get to your point, Michelle!

Oh, yes! My point!

Well, Steven Pinker was being interviewed because he has a new book, “Rationality,” out, of course. And there it was right at the front of the store. Guess who did a little dance of glee right then and there, to the embarrassment of my poor friend who now thinks I’m more insane than they thought? That’s right! This girl! The best part is that I had just finished a book that morning and was on the hunt for new read.

Yes, I have three shelves full of TBR books at home, but this was FATE people!

I’m loving the book so far, just as I thought I would. His language is complicated (uses long sentences and BIG words), so I’m reading slower than usual, looking up words I don’t know, but it’s worth the effort.

Here’s my first quote.

“A major theme of this book is that none of us, thinking alone, is rational enough to consistently come to sound conclusions; rationality emerges from a community of reasoners who spot each other’s fallacies.”

I’m not the poster child for “logical” or “rational” most of the time. Ask anyone that knows me. I’m naturally reactionary, leaping from one craziness to another in hopes of landing somewhere solid enough to rest a moment. I blame it on the Viking blood and red hair.

Over the years, through meditation and study, I have learned some new tricks to lengthening that time between stimulus and response, but it’s a slow process. There is a lifetime of conditioning to overcome. The progress is there though! Even my children have commented on it.

At the moment, I’m sixty-six pages in and very excited. He’s great at pointing out fallacies but not making the reader feel stupid, much like my sons, so I’m enjoying the anecdotes leading up to how we can become more rational. A BIG plus for this book is that it’s something my son and husband are interested in, so I get to explain what I read in all the detail I want without them trying to back away slowly.

Have you read any of Steven Pinker’s books? Are you going to read “Rationality?” I’d love to hear your thoughts! Subscribe to the blog and you’ll get to read some of my thoughts about as I read.

Has Someone Changed The Message?

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This picture made me think, but probably not in the direction you imagine.

It immediately brought me back to the movie. Rowdy Roddy taking off the glasses, staring incredulously, and then putting them back on. It’s a family favorite here and has become code for “Are you seeing what I’m seeing?” I love the movie because it fictionizes common human behavior, groupthink or “community.”

I personally don’t think any group is trying to deliberately control the people, but I do believe there are in individuals who want the power to move things in the way they believe is best for everyone. The trouble is there is no “what’s best for everyone.” What is best for everyone is simply allowing people to the freedom to take care of themselves without infringing on the people around them. Just about everyone can agree with that. The trouble comes up when we try to define how. The devil is in the details, as they say.

I liked seeing this movie reference on Instagram because it highlighted something I had just started to notice all over social media and news outlets. These were the words we were passing back and forth to each other the past month, but recently something has changed. This week some are beginning to say something else. Has one of our cue cards changed?

Humans are such community-minded beings. We have evolved in ways to help us fit in and work together. When something changes we generally all adapt and do the same until one person questions it and then some follow that person until there are enough behind him that more feel safe and then we all do what he suggests until someone else questions it.

It reminds me of that “People Are Sheep” video going around a while back where people were in a waiting room, instructed to all stand at a sound. Then when a new person came in they saw it and did it too, not knowing why. I didn’t take it as a negative. It’s just what our instincts tell us to do.

What is it that does that? Are there some people that want to follow and stay with the group, some that are more likely to see something others don’t, and some that simply don’t want to be a part of the group?

Sometimes it does feel exactly like subliminal messages are being sent to the community.

The Death of Expertise – Book Review

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This was a difficult book for me to read objectively. It’s condescending tone and elitism bugs me to my core, but he does have some good points. With the invention of the internet we suddenly have the world at our fingertips. Not only can we access all the great thinkers and the experts in any field, we can also read all the alternatives as well. We can get a second, third, and fourth opinion about anything we like. We don’t even have to search for answers at all. We can simply go to a social media platform and ask a question. Within minutes we can have the opinion of thousands of people to sift through. The key word here is “opinions.”

There are things we don’t need an expert for, things social media are amazing at. Finding a good place to eat in your area, what stores have the best prices, and where to find a good mechanic, are all excellent uses for the internet. Whether or not you should vaccinate your kids, the legal ways to evict a tenant, or how to pay your taxes, are probably best answered by an expert, not just someone who’s done it before or read an article about it.

The trouble for me has been trust. Who can I trust these days? Just because someone is an expert in something doesn’t necessarily mean I can trust his opinion regarding my personal choices. I’d love to have several professionals I can trust, ones that offer their professional opinions, listen to my own preferences, and respect my choices. But that doesn’t seem to be available. What I generally get is a person who treats me as an ignorant and willful child that they must protect, one that can’t possibly make intelligent decisions for herself with the information they present. It makes it hard for a person to take their expert opinion seriously, which I so desperately need sometimes.

When I was able to put aside the “better than you” tone, which I’m sure was not intended and only my immature interpretation, the book had some wonderful points. He brought up where he believes things have gone wrong through higher education, the overwhelm of conflicting information, the loss of the art of conversation, problems with journalism, etc. There seems to be a balance missing these days and it’s starting to have serious negative effects.

The truth is that we do need experts. It’s so much more efficient if we all take care of our own immediate needs, take responsibility for own lives and choices, AND rely on experts when we come up against unfamiliar territory. There should be someone I can trust with my medical needs, my legal needs, and yes, my political needs. I should be able to trust that someone that has spent their lives studying and working in politics would know more about what do in the middle east. I should be able to trust that the person that studied medicine would know what’s best for my condition. But I should also be well versed enough in critical thinking to know when the so-called “expert” is bullshitting.

The book is worth your time. I’m not sure I agree with a lot of what he presents, but I do believe something has gone terribly wrong and I think he has some good points about where we may have taken a wrong turn. I don’t necessarily agree with the solutions he implies. The answer is never going to be “control things with government regulation” in my “non-expert” opinion. The answer lies in a much more complicated direction, allowing people to make their own mistakes, not tread on other people’s rights, and encourage people to think critically and solve their own problems.

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