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In the News 21.05.16 : Today’s Articles of Interest from around the Internets

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In the News 21.05.16 : Today’s Articles of Interest from around the Internets
In the News 21.05.16 : Today’s Articles of Interest from around the Internets
In the News 21.05.16 : Today’s Articles of Interest from around the Internets

Secrets of the Creative Brain

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As a psychiatrist and neuroscientist who studies creativity, I’ve had the pleasure of working with many gifted and high-profile subjects over the years, but Kurt Vonnegut—dear, funny, eccentric, lovable, tormented Kurt Vonnegut—will always be one of my favorites. Kurt was a faculty member at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop in the 1960s, and participated in the first big study I did as a member of the university’s psychiatry department. I was examining the anecdotal link between creativity and mental illness, and Kurt was an excellent case study.

He was intermittently depressed, but that was only the beginning. His mother had suffered from depression and committed suicide on Mother’s Day, when Kurt was 21 and home on military leave during World War II. His son, Mark, was originally diagnosed with schizophrenia but may actually have bipolar disorder. (Mark, who is a practicing physician, recounts his experiences in two books, The Eden Express and Just Like Someone Without Mental Illness Only More So, in which he reveals that many family members struggled with psychiatric problems. “My mother, my cousins, and my sisters weren’t doing so great,” he writes. “We had eating disorders, co-dependency, outstanding warrants, drug and alcohol problems, dating and employment problems, and other ‘issues.’ ”)

Read the rest of this article at The Atlantic

Bill Clinton’s Big Moment: His Health, His Battle Plan for Trump, and What He’ll Do if Hillary Wins

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To be an ex-president is to live forever in the past. You write books and build museums to preserve your great moments, to commemorate a time when you led the free world. Crowds still gather and men in dark suits still hover protectively nearby. But mostly these are vestiges. You’re a historic figure now, and that makes living in the present—or making the case for the future—a bit tricky. Bill Clinton knows this better than anyone.

On a cool spring morning, the 42nd president, almost 16 years removed from the White House, was standing on the blacktop outside a school in a blighted section of Oakland. It was the third and final day of the annual conference he hosts for college students, a powwow for the world’s young thought-leaders-in-training held under the auspices of his Clinton Global Initiative. A few hundred of the students had gathered now to prettify some playgrounds, and Clinton—dressed in the politician’s community-service-casual uniform of a blue pullover and stiff jeans—walked among them. Mostly, he posed for pictures. As he did, I watched one especially assertive student wade into the scrum and stride up to the former president.

“Hi, my name’s Emma,” she said, and then explained that she had a question about the Middle East. Clinton’s smile dimmed a bit, as if he were bracing for something. But Emma, it turned out, wasn’t there for a debate—just a photo, albeit of a certain kind. “There’s a really cool picture of you standing behind Rabin and Arafat,” she said, referring to the famous shot of Clinton pushing the Israeli and Palestinian leaders to shake on the Oslo Accords in 1993, “and I was wondering, Could my boyfriend and I re-create that picture with you?”

For a moment there, Clinton seemed almost let down, as if, having readied himself to consider the intractable dilemmas of the world, he was reduced to a prop—a wax figure in a historical re-enactment. Quickly, however, his grin returned as they struck the pose. Though Emma and her boyfriend didn’t ask for one, he proffered a memory, shoehorned into a joke: “It was a lot harder to convince Rabin and Arafat to shake hands than it was to convince you two.”

Read the rest of this article at GQ

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The Empty Brain

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No matter how hard they try, brain scientists and cognitive psychologists will never find a copy of Beethoven’s 5th Symphony in the brain – or copies of words, pictures, grammatical rules or any other kinds of environmental stimuli. The human brain isn’t really empty, of course. But it does not contain most of the things people think it does – not even simple things such as ‘memories’.

Our shoddy thinking about the brain has deep historical roots, but the invention of computers in the 1940s got us especially confused. For more than half a century now, psychologists, linguists, neuroscientists and other experts on human behaviour have been asserting that the human brain works like a computer.

Read the rest of this article at Aeon

Privileging the Forbidden

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Ileene Smith: Patti Smith said in Just Kids, “If you meet an obstacle, kick it in.” Am I correct in thinking that unforbidden pleasures are often interior, and that your point is that they don’t really require a kick, that they are low-hanging fruit, there for the taking?

Adam Phillips: I think the book is about the many ways in which forbidden pleasures have coerced our thinking and experiencing of pleasure. And one of the disarming and appealing things about unforbidden pleasures is that they are there for the taking. In a way they are pleasures without obstacles, except for or apart from the obstacle of our not having really considered their being of any major significance. So I think that part of the problem of unforbidden pleasures is their availability, their obviousness.

Read the rest of this article at Work in Progress

A Largeness of Contemplation: Bertrand Russell on Intuition, the Intellect, and the Nature of Time

“Both in thought and in feeling, even though time be real, to realise the unimportance of time is the gate of wisdom.”

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Albert Einstein, in contemplating the human “passion for comprehension,” asserted that every true theoretical physicist is “is a kind of tamed metaphysicist” — a rather controversial statement amid a culture increasingly bent on disentangling science and philosophy (which used to be called metaphysics), and particularly controversial for modernity’s most significant scientist to make. But a mark of genius is precisely this unwillingness to succumb to culture’s artificial and limiting polarities — a continual commitment to seeking nuance over forced contrast.

Bertrand Russell (May 18, 1872–February 2, 1970) — another thinker of rare genius, a staunch champion of reason and one of the greatest philosophers who ever lived — made a magnificent case for that interplay between science and metaphysics a generation earlier in the title piece of his superb 1918 collection Mysticism and Logic and Other Essays (free ebook | public library).

“Metaphysics, or the attempt to conceive the world as a whole by means of thought, has been developed, from the first, by the union and conflict of two very different human impulses, the one urging men towards mysticism, the other urging them towards science. Some men have achieved greatness through one of these impulses alone, others through the other alone: in Hume, for example, the scientific impulse reigns quite unchecked, while in Blake a strong hostility to science co-exists with profound mystic insight. But the greatest men who have been philosophers have felt the need both of science and of mysticism: the attempt to harmonise the two was what made their life, and what always must, for all its arduous uncertainty, make philosophy, to some minds, a greater thing than either science or religion.”

Where science is a function of reason, mysticism for Russell is a function of intuition and therefore a form of “poetic imagination, not science” — it is “little more than a certain intensity and depth of feeling in regard to what is believed about the universe.” And yet it offers a powerful complement to the scientific lens on reality. With an eye to the ethics of Heraclitus, he writes:

Read the rest of this article at Brain Pickings

P.S. previous articles & more by P.F.M.