February 3, 2012 § 1 Comment

Recently, during one of my “uninspired” days when I was trying force feed myself some inspiration, I took a jaunt down to Soho to spend a couple of hours perusing my new favorite bookstore in New York (only to be rivaled by my favorite book store in Hong Kong). 

McNally Jackson Books is exactly what a book store should be.  This small shop located on Mulberry and Prince is a haven amongst the business that is inherent in New York.  Here, if you stop by, you’ll be delighted with soft warm light that fills the store and a buzz of people that are quietly perusing the aisles.  Your nose will be swooned by the gentle smell of coffee and baked goodies at its sister cafe.  Your eyes will light up at the vast array of selections before you.  Coffee table books filled with gorgeous pictures that will teach you how to cook like a Top Chef?  Check.  Books about sex and various styles of tantric breathing?  Downstairs please.  Volumes of poetry, artsy magazines, and even funny-one-of-a-kind cards abound in this carefully curated land of magic and wonder.  

On that particular Sunday, I didn’t get much further than the table of “Noteworthy Nonfiction” that greeted me when I first entered the store.  My eyes immediately drew to two books. “Rich People Things,” is a satire filled book by Chris Lehmann cataloging “the the fortifications that shelter the opulent from the resentments of the hoi polloi ( I have no idea what that word meant, so upon a quick search, hoi polloi means the great unwashed, plebians, commoners, etc.  Lovely term.).  On the other hand, “The Social Animal,” written by David Brooks of the NYTimes (which Rich People Things shits all over) is a book about “the hidden sources of love, character, and achievement.”  I’ll leave out the boring details of the mental battle that was waged to determine which book I would buy and simply say that I am now obsessed with David Brooks’ piece of work.

Brooks authors this book to validate the emotional side of decision making, the unconscious side of our brains that really affects and guides our day to day actions and decisions.  “If the study of the conscious mind highlights the importance of reason and analysis, study of the unconscious mind highlights the imporance of passions and perception.”  Of course I would love this book.  My name is Rodan “I-am-emotionally-in-touch-with-myself” Luo

I think all people are known by some trait and often times, by many traits.  I’ve got a girlfriend who is a painter, a movie lover, a-person-who-only-eats-half-of-anything.  One guy is known amongst our circle for his passion for start up companies, his love of skiing, and how he-has-more-stylish-clothes-than-half-my-female-friends.  I’m likely known for my obnoxious sweet tooth, my ability to only drink whiskey with pickle juice, and my highs-are-higher-than-your-highs-lows-are-lower-than-your-lows. 

So maybe I love this book because it’s a call for the validation of emotions, but I do think emotions need a bit of recognition.  Sometimes people perceive emotions or exhibiting emotions as such a negative thing, particularly when it’s associated with the feminine sex.  Males can relate well to this I believe.  Girlfriend upset over something seemingly small?  She’s just being emotional.  Girlfriend calling you to tell you how your actions are insensitive?  She’s just too sensitive.  Mom calling you to gripe about how she hasn’t heard your voice in three weeks?  She’s worrying as always over nothing.  However, despite this age old gender based devaluation of emotions, this book argues (and I agree), that there is a general cultural preference for the rational concious mind over the emotional unconsious one.  It’s entirely true that individuals who exhibit a cool, level-headed, rational decision making ability are given much more credit by their peers for the way they manage their lives than those individuals who let their passions, emotions, and unconcious feelings rule their choices.

However, without understanding the push and pull of our unconcious mind and it’s effect over the decisions we make as we journey through life, we are only able to understand half of who we are.  Brooks smartly analogizes the concious rational mind to a general, and the unconcious emotional one to that of his scouts.  “If the conscious mind is like a general atop a platform, who sees the world from a distance adn analyzes things linearly and linguistically, the unconscious mind is like a million little scouts.  The scouts careern across the landscape, sending back a constsant flow of signals and generating instant responses… These scouts coat things with emotional significance.  They come across an old friend and send back a surge of affection.  They descend into a dark cave adn send back a surge of fear… Each perception has its own flavor, texture, and force… [and while] these signals don’t control our lives, they shape our interpretation of the world and they guide us.”

I do caveat that my appreciation of this book, and what I hope to learn from it is not to exhalt pure feeling above thinking.  A person who only feels and cannot rationally make decisions is just as inept as someone who lives as a walking emotion-less robot.  Nonetheless, I do think that understanding one’s emotions, and this sometimes means understanding how to control one’s emotions, really leads us to understanding our internal motivations better.  It helps us gain clarity as to the type of person we are, our character, our ideals, and ultimately why we do some of the things we do.  So, I guess I’m pretty “excited” about this book, and maybe you could be too if you gave it a try!




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