“Like a scarlet sock in the load of white wash, insecurity has the irksome power to stain our speech and writing, interfering with the immaculate poise we’d like to project. Yet if you know what linguistic tics to look for, you can recognize self-doubt (and perhaps bleach the fuchsia from your pants before anyone notices).”
“Most people assume the western church shares the same creation story as Jews, Muslims, and Orthodox Christians.” Not so: the doctrine of original sin is unique to Western Christianity. “The search for salvation from an inherently broken self has defined modernity as much as it did Christendom. The need for redemption has shaped the language of the market, technological innovation, advertising, politics and, most obviously, self-help movements. But what is new is for there to be so little consensus on how to find salvation.”
“What is unhappiness? Your intuition might be that it is simply the opposite of happiness, just as darkness is the absence of light. That is not correct. Happiness and unhappiness are certainly related, but they are not actually opposites. Images of the brain show that parts of the left cerebral cortex are more active than the right when we are experiencing happiness, while the right side becomes more active when we are unhappy.”
“Often enough, something we propose as a serious idea turns out to be more or less a joke. It’s much rarer that something proposed as a joke – or, at least, proposed as a semi-serious conceit, offered in the spirit of what’s often called, grimly, ‘tongue in cheek’ – turns out to be, or to have the germ of, a serious idea.” But Adam Gopnik has one.
“In popular imagination, the moon vivid, expansive, and fantastic. There was talk of winged creatures, moon elephants, scalding heat, and deep oceans. Newspapers were filled with stories—fictional, scientific, and artistic. In 1902, The San Francisco Call had an actual man act out the various faces of the man in the moon.”
“The question is how to structure and use tests effectively. One insight that we and other researchers have uncovered is that tests serve students best when they’re integrated into the regular business of learning and the stakes are not make-or-break, as in standardized testing. That means, among other things, testing new learning within the context of regular classes and study routines.”
“I started painting from morning till night, and often all through the night until morning. I used countless numbers of brushes at a time. I used knives, forks, sponges … I would gouge open tubes of paint–it was everywhere. But I was still in control at that point. Then, I started painting on the walls, the furniture, even the washing machine. I would paint any surface I came across. I also had my ‘expression wall’ and I could not stop myself from painting and repainting [it] every night in a trance-like state. My partner could no longer bear it. People close to me realized that I crossed some kind of line into the pathological, and, at their instigation, I was hospitalized.”
“What is sentimentality? Is it a manipulation tactic, a type of emotion – the desire to be overwhelmed mixed with self-regard – or an overwrought response to a trigger? What factors predispose you to it: youth or age, a gene, a gender, a mood, an IQ score? Is sentimentality useless or precious? … Why does weeping in the darkness of the theater feel so lovely? Why does clicking on an Upworthy link feel so wrong?”
“Peer-review is based on trust, but as the international scientific community grows, scientists won’t spend their careers in the small, trusted networks of known colleagues that earlier generations of researchers were used to. Journals and reviewers need to step up their efforts to check for misconduct, but inevitably, papers with major problems will get through. Crowd-sourced, post-publication review through social media is an effective, publicly open way for science to stay trustworthy.”
“It’s become fashionable in recent years to tout the notion that the language you speak affects the way you think, and even influences how you experience reality itself. It’s an attractive idea, and one that makes some visceral sense.” But linguist John McWhorter says it’s wrong, wrong, wrong, and he explains why in this Lexicon Valley podcast.
“The value-of-practice debate has reached a stalemate. Compiling results from 88 studies across a wide range of skills, it estimates that practice time explains about 20 percent to 25 percent of the difference in performance in music, sports and games like chess. In academics, the number is much lower — 4 percent — in part because it’s hard to assess the effect of previous knowledge, the authors wrote.”
“Think about how we all instinctively turned to artists to help interpret unthinkable events for us. It was our singers and musicians, our writers and poets that we, all of us everywhere, wanted to hear from. It was our artists that gave voice to our national agony and helped make the incomprehensible tolerable.”
“Parton’s skill at being many things to many people accounts for the diversity of her fan base, capacious enough to hold drag queens and the sorts of hard-core emotional supplicants depicted in the documentary For the Love of Dolly, as well as the more mainstream country fans who surrounded us at her parade, which kept going long after Parton had fled the scene.”
“We are all cartographic obsessives these days. It’s great in some ways, but it also feeds into the unhealthy situation in which if we don’t know exactly where we are and where everything else is in relationship to us, we start prodding our screens and thinking something is amiss. This is profoundly disempowering, for it suggests that without constant expert advice, we would all be driving in circles or off cliffs.”
“Of course, for many, academic philosophy proves a disappointment – an endless slog to publish, the tedium and heartache of departmental politics, and a dismal job market that tends to people to far-flung college towns, far away from family and friends. So what is a budding philosopher to do?” Quite a bit, actually.
“Over time, humans have learned how, under certain conditions, to sit still and give someone or something undivided attention. Such learning, though, runs counter to who we instinctively are. We are hardwired to pick up the slightest distraction in our environment and to move toward or away from that distraction. The popularity of events such as Wimbledon and the World Cup reminds us that most of us feel far more at home in stadium culture—getting up, moving around, making noise, attending off and on—than in sanctuary culture.”
“Considering the many challenges life has to offer, entertaining yourself with your own thoughts for a few minutes seems like one of the easier hurdles to overcome. … But it turns out that people find this assignment incredibly hard. And, according to new research, they’ll even resort to giving themselves electric shocks to keep themselves entertained.”