Friday, September 17, 2021

A Hunter-Gatherer's guide and Post-Traumatic Growth


On 8-25-21 I was trimming branches out front, sawed most of the way through an especially large one which kept hold of my saw as it fell to the ground.  Unfortunately for me I held onto the saw.  The fingers on my right hand were bent back.  I thought they might be broken, but when I got up found that they weren’t.  However, something in my hand hasn’t completely healed.  When I write with pen and paper, as I do in my journal, pain increases with each line.  Fortunately my hand seems fine when I type.    

I’ve begun A Hunter-Gatherer’s Guide to the 21st Century: Evolution and the Challenges of Modern Life by Heather Heyling and Bret Weinstein.   Quite a bit on this subject appears in science magazines, and I wondered if I would find anything new.  Perhaps I have:

From page 7: “Conscious thoughts are those that can be communicated to others.  We define consciousness, therefore, as ‘that fraction of cognition that is packaged for exchange.’  This is no trick.  We have not chosen a definition to make an intractable question simple.  We have chosen the definition at the epicenter of what people mean when describing a thought as ‘conscious.’”

I have gone on a bit in the book but keep coming back to this idea.  I recall Susan, in our early days of getting to know each other, telling me that I wasn’t in touch with my emotions.  She urged me to write her some poetry so I could find out what I felt emotionally, and that worked.  No doubt it worked before Susan urged me to do it.  I was writing poetry long before I met her, but I never thought of it in the terms she used.  

In one of the reviews I read recently, a poet (whose name I can’t recall) was asked the purpose of poetry and he said something along the lines of “a poet writes in order to find out what he thinks.”   That seems right as well.  I do not seem able to sit down and think my way to answers.  That probably wasn’t always true, but it seems to be true now.

In the 9-11-21 issue of ScienceNews is the article “Roads to the Good Life, Happiness and meaning are not the only ways to get there” by Sujata Gupta.  She begins “In December, my husband, our 5-year old daughter and I tested positive for COVID-19.  Life, already off-kilter, lurched.  Smell, taste, breath – were they normal?  The air smelled only of cold; everything tasted vaguely of cardboard. . . Prior to the sickness, I’d been researching pandemic fatigue, a term used to describe the boredom that can arise during a protracted crisis like the one we’re in now . . . research [of Shigerhiro Oishi and his team] suggests that the ingredients of a rich life come not from stability in life circumstances or in temperament.  Rather . . . it arises from novelty seeking, curiosity and moments that shift one’s view of the world. . .

Gupta goes on in a rather stream of consciousness fashion. One needn’t assume that we are all at risk for PTSD.  “A large body of literature shows . . . that natural disasters and other traumatic events can trigger a phenomenon known as post-traumatic growth: a transformation that gives people a newfound appreciation for life and a desire to help others.” [Gupta here quotes SN Online: 4/3/19]

“Growth” sounds unrealistic when applied to someone 86 years old, but perhaps I’m wrong.  I’ll have to give that some more thought, and I should probably give up sawing large branches from trees for fear of losing my ability to think.

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