The Accidental Mind

The Accidental MindSunday afternoon I tagged along to BookPeople with Vixen to hear David Linden talk about his book, The Accidental Mind.

I hadn’t heard of it before, but having already delved into Stumbling on Happiness (Daniel Gilbert), I was instantly curious. I might truthfully have a meta-brain, which wonders about itself; if this is the case, I’m not in bad company.

You won’t be surprised that in discovering his blog, my interest in Mr. Linden was increased. He even made an entry about the Electronic Orifice Orchestra, part of Arse Elekronika’s sex & tech offerings earlier this month in San Francisco (something else I have a mad interest in). It’s odd and wonderful that in the blogosphere I can often see clearly if a writer’s attentions intersect with my own. He also made the following post in September:

The Elevator in my Shanghai Hotel…

...has a sign which announces the following (as an ad for their spa).

“Foot soaking in Springtime will strengthen Yang and reinforce vital energy. In Summer, it will dispel disease caused by heat and dampness. In Autumn, it will lubricate the intestines and in Winter, it will warm the pubic region.”

Well, I’m sold. Dude, sign me up.

David Linden, I think we can be friends.

And so it was that on a sunny day in mid-October I went downtown to Texas’ most esteemed book-selling establishment to sit in a surprisingly comfortable folding chair, scribbling notes and listening intently to the musings of a man that reminded me strangely of Pittsburgh and Todd McCaffrey, for different reasons. He had a regional accent that I couldn’t quite identify, and he was decidedly charismatic as a speaker (at least from where I was sitting).

I took a veritable deluge of notes; when we arrived he was just launching into an explanation of the brain as accidentally functional, rather than expertly designed. We covered structural qualities, experiential development, and the sexual behaviors of animals as compared to their human counterparts. (I told you it was good.) This part of the discussion was particularly interesting, though we eventually found our way on to other topics.

“It’s not just porn,” he explained—“Not that there’s anything wrong with that.”

As animals that can think about themselves thinking (that’s us), we sure do have a complicated system to consider. There are so many details, and scientists have probably begun to understand only a small fraction of them. That said, Mr. Linden seems to be pretty sure of his ideas, and he communicates them well. As creatures whose brain development depends on experience (the reason our childhoods take up such a large portion of our entire life spans as compared to other creatures, as I understand it), it’s very interesting that we are built to create narrative. Our telling of stories is more important than we may realize—even if most of our details are, well, edits.

A lot of Linden’s discussion had nifty hooks into the material I read in Stumbling on Happiness and I can’t help but wonder if the two books might not turn out to be complementary. That said… I still need to finish the Gilbert book, at least before jumping into the next! But it’s on my list, and it looks like it will be quite interesting—especially if the fabulousness of the author is any indication.

2 Responses to “The Accidental Mind”

  1. stephanie @ 9:44 pm on October 18th, 2007

    oh, i am absolutely interested in some anti-lonely-cousin-ness! even if we just sit around and do nothing, that would be a great improvement in the state of my life! haha! definitely give me a call when you get to town. :)

  2. Megan @ 9:50 pm on October 18th, 2007

    I will definitely do so—awesome!!

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