Tuesday, May 13, 2008

A Species Immersed in Fantasy

Homo sapiens is a bizarre literary ape - one that, outside of working and sleeping, may well spend most of its remaining hours lost in landscapes of make-believe. Across the breadth of human history, across the wide mosaic of world cultures, there has never been a society in which people don't devote great gobs of time to seeing, creating, and hearing fictions - from folktales to film, from theater to television. Stories represent our biggest and most preciously varied repository of information about human nature. Without a robust study of literature there can be no adequate reckoning of the human condition - no full understanding of art, culture, psychology, or even of biology. As Binghamton University biologist David Sloan Wilson says, "the natural history of our species" is written in love poems, adventure stories, fables, myths, tales, and novels.
Jonathan Gottschall

I would argue that this is a big reason why humans so often get detracted into (nay, even manytimes demand) forays of folly. It's a species that enrobes itself in fatasy every day, so it is easily duped into believing that the current dubious scheme will magically solve its problems where other (or perhaps even the same one) has failed every time before.

Monday, May 12, 2008

People's Response to the Approach of Great Danger

"With the enemy's approach to Moscow, the Moscovites' view of their situation did not grow more serious but on the contrary became even more frivolous, as always happens with people who see a great danger approaching.

At the approach of danger there are always two voices that speak with equal power in the human soul: one very reasonably tells a man to consider the nature of the danger and the means of escaping it; the other, still more reasonably, says that it is too depressing and painful to think of the danger, since it is not in man's power to foresee everything and avert the general course of events, and it is therefore better to disregard what is painful till it comes, and to think about what is pleasant."

--Leo Tolstoy, "War and Peace"