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Genesis of a Historical Novel

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

adventure from cradle to grave

Goodness gracious. This blog's birthday came and went yesterday, and I didn't think of it until just now. Happy birthday to it.

Is it possible to generate any kind of excitement or interest around a life of the mind? Worldly adventures have their own undeniable appeal. My niece Clare is adventuring in Central America right now (and is running her own blog of the adventures). Snorkeling in lagoons, canoeing down Belizean rivers, bouncing in Guatemalan buses--these are adventurous.

What about the mind--the place where I now do my "adventuring"? Can I convey any sense of that adventure? Indeed, can I feel that adventure?

Yes, I can. Conveying a sense of it is perhaps another matter. In a small way, I've tried in this blog. I haven't engaged in physical adventure for some time now. I don't travel; I scarcely manage to get out of the house. If I did, though, I would have a nagging feeling that I'm missing the action. The action, for me, right now, is in books.

Yesterday I read further into Daniel Goleman's Vital Lies, Simple Truths. He has moved from discussing the unconscious restrictions of attention that we all unknowingly engage in as individuals, to discussing how this phenomenon--the selective permitting of only certain data into awareness--operates at the group level. Here is a Goleman's description of some of the effects of groupthink:

The first victim of groupthink is critical thought. Typically, talk is limited to a few courses of action, while the full range of alternatives is ignored. No attention is paid to the values implicit in this range of alternatives, nor does anyone stop to consider the drawbacks of these initial choices. The ignored alternatives are never brought up, no matter what advantages they might have. Facts that challenge the initial choice are brushed aside. The group expects success, and makes no contingency plans to deal with failure.

As an example of groupthink and its effects, Goleman presents the Bay of Pigs invasion of 1961. The Kennedy administration appeared to sleepwalk its way into this botched adventure in Cuba, much to its own embarrassment. I couldn't help but draw a connection to the current war in Iraq. It shows many of the above-named signs of groupthink. Has the U.S. sleepwalked its way into another blundered adventure--this one vastly larger than the 1,500 Cuban exiles who landed in the Bay of Pigs?

Having read (and reviewed) Gwynne Dyer's Future: Tense, about the implications of the Iraq war, I also had this thought: Is Mesopotamia, often called "the cradle of civilization", also to be its grave?

This is a sampler of some of the recent thoughts in my life of the mind. It is its own kind of adventure--no less so, and indeed I think more so, than jumping into the water with the barracudas when I was in Belize as a young man in 1979.


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