By William Carter

Photographer, Author, Jazz Musician

Them vs. Us, and Beyond, Part 4

leave a comment »


By William Carter

Stellshagen, Gernany, 1999

Stellshagen, Germany, 1999. Click on image for full-size version.

So often, these days, we feel caught in a clash of forces. When passions collide, resolution appears impossible.

Interminable wars, tribal struggles, sagging economies, rancorous politics, divorce courts, teenage gangs sometimes mirror our own internal struggles.

“Kill! Kill!” the drill sergeants taught my platoon to scream in basic training, running down a hill with fixed bayonets.

Violent mainstream movie content suggests such urges are never far from the surface.

Science has brought huge material gains, zero moral progress.

We are as we are.

End of story?  Or can the situation change?

Research on human brain activity is famously hard to do. But progress is under way, and a spate of recent books describes the gradual unveiling of this final frontier. Careful, long-term studies are shedding light on the deep wellsprings of our thoughts and actions.

In The Moral Molecule (2012) neurologist Paul J. Zak summarizes decades of research into the ways the brain-and-blood chemicals oxytocin and testosterone powerfully affect human thought and behavior.

How culturally and tribally based languages, including music, express and determine our attitudes and actions via specific brain centers and pathways is the focus of the work of Daniel J. Levitin as outlined in books such as This Is Your Brain on Music (2007) and The World in Six Songs (2009).

Oliver Sacks is a well-known writer on these crossover areas between brain, behavior, and art.

Here are a few other recent titles, in alphabetical order:

Christopher Boehm, Moral Origins: The Evolution of Virtue, Altruism and Shame (2012)

Richard J. Davidson with Sharon Begley, The Emotional Life of Your Brain (2012)

Denis Dutton, The Art Instinct (2009)

Jonathan Haidt, The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion (2012)

Marc Lewis, Memoires of an Addicted Brain: A Neuroscientist Examines His Former Life on Drugs (2011)

Bruce H. Lipton, The Biology of Belief: Unleashing the Power of Consciousness, Matter & Miracles (2005)

Mark Pagel, Wired for Culture: Origins of the Human Social Mind (2012)

Sebastian Seung, Connectome: How the Brain’s Wiring Makes Us Who We Are (2012)

We are as we are. Not necessarily as we thought we were — or could be.

The research nudges us past our deeply rooted tendencies to separate mind and brain, spirit and matter, them and us. The physical and spiritual are shown as one substrate. We are encouraged to seek resolution beyond the opposites, within that unified field.  At least we can witness ourselves from a wider perspective, hopefully adding some humility.

While the wars rage on.

Copyright statement: William Carter papers, © Stanford University Libraries. Click here for a detailed usage guide.


Written by bywilliamcarter

January 9, 2016 at 12:00 pm

Posted in Posts

Tagged with , , , , ,

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: