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Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Book Review - Original Mind by Dee Joy Coulter


This book should be called: How Buddhist Standard Americans Think About Brain Science. Coulter really turns me off in the beginning, starting her book with a classic mystic-tell, “Either you will get what I am saying or you are not spiritually evolved enough to do so,” therefore excusing herself from having to be actually convincing our say anything rational and making it so anyone who doesn’t like her book is automatically “wrong”. Classic religious move and not appreciated. Luckily I have enough self-esteem to be able to find her book lacking rather than myself not mystic enough.... That being said, it is always interesting to read about how someone else sees the world. Though, again, annoying when they act as if that is the only way to see the world.

Very few things in this book were useful—most was mystic crap. Not sure why she felt like she had to turn this book into a self-help book. I am fascinated by how reading changes the brain and how hunter-gatherers think, but rather than explore those things she accepts different metaphysical realities and then just moves on from there. If she had started with an objective reality and then explored the differences in perception, this book would have been more effective and a lot more interesting! Instead she just sounds like a crazy new-ager telling me I will understand if I just believe hard enough. Instead of trying to convince me that ghosts exist and native peoples can see them, how about we discuss what might be going on in the native’s brain when they think they see ghosts? We see different parts of the elephant—that doesn’t change the elephant! Reality stays the same. Ugh just kills me.

Some interesting tidbits—but I have a hard time trusting anything in this book as it is very Standard American for me (rocking babies to sleep, terrible twos, rewards and punishments, all these things that anyone who knows anything about children does not advocate):
-Doctors used to be trained to recognize some diseases by smell, no longer. Dogs can detect cancer with 99% accuracy—can I please have that instead of mammograms?
-A good time to teach kids to swim is before 6 months or after age 4.
-Sickle cell anemia had a great evolutionary purpose! Bet there are more diseases like that. (And exactly why I often consider living in the climate my body was actually evolved to live in rather than Los Angeles!) --The transcripts of discussions with natives trying to get them to categorize was fascinating! I would like to read more of those! Seems like school trains us to see similarities where as native peoples see differences. This would make sense—we are exposed to sooooo much we grasp for ways to group the information to make it easier—similarities. In a simpler world where you don't travel more than 100 miles over the course of your life, you would focus a lot more on differences. You are not overwhelmed with information trying to find similarities, rather, you differentiate. But this is my conclusion, no one would get that from her book where she just tries to help us accept a different reality.
-She makes the claim that reading makes us more future-oriented whereas not reading makes us more present-oriented. She doesn’t explain why enough or even convince me there really is some cause and effect going on but what an interesting idea!
-She claims that natives think in pictures and I think in words but… I think I think in pictures so… that doesn’t really make sense to me.
-She says that when children can predict outcomes and plan and have a measure of control, their magical thinking fades—so I would say tiny babies? Since that’s exactly what those little scientists do from the minute they are born? She says 7 year olds….
-She says reading in groups out loud was a great way for all of us to learn to read. I beg to differ. I recall being absolutely tortured by having to listen to my peers read. I do get it that they benefited from hearing me read; I don’t see how there was anything in it for me.
-Can’t stand it when people advocate controlling others as a way to a better world (which she does).
-Can’t stand it when people talk about children and adults as if adults have lots of self-control rather than a lot of addictions and strong abilities to repress. Moreover, I can't stand it when people talk about self-control as if it is a good thing. I think it is actually a concept that does not exist if a person has healthy psychology, but that I will have to write an entire lecture on.
-Loved the anecdote about the scientists who cured the malnutrition of a village by finding the healthiest people in the village and seeing what they were doing differently (they were eating some foods that no one else was eating that turned out to be life-savinly nutritious. Exactly the same thing Weston A Price did, except that these scientists were commended and heralded as heroes and Price was deemed “not a real scientist” and a "quack". Most likely because what he learned threatened the medical establishment and what these scientists did didn't.
-Coulter would benefit majorly from studying NonViolent Communication, Austrian Economics, Magda Gerber, Joseph Campbell, and Ayn Rand. If you are thinking of reading this book, make sure you are well-versed in the above or you will not be able to see through Coulter's crap.

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