Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Short, But Not Always Sweet

Nassim Nicholas Taleb is the author of the challenging book, The Black Swan, an exploration of randmoness, Taleb's philosophical specialty. The Bed Of Procrustes is his latest, a collection of aphorisms challenging just about everything.

The Procrustes of Greek mythology was a cruel fellow who stretched or shortened people to make them fit his inflexible bed. Mr. Taleb’s new book addresses the modern day ways in which “we humans, facing limits of knowledge, and things we do not observe, the unseen and the unknown, resolve the tension by squeezing life and the world into crisp commoditized ideas, reductive categories, specific vocabularies, and prepackaged narratives, which, on the occasion, has explosive consequences.” In other words, we live under self-imposed delusions.
--Crosshairs Trader
I picked up the book at the library last week and found it fascinating. As a collection of aphorisms it is just that- short statements on different topics that are far more than bumper-sticker thinking. They are in the best tradition of wisdom sayings, proverbs, that point out the frailty of humanity and our accepted ways of thinking.

One that grabbed my attention was this:
Education makes the wise slightly wiser, but makes the fool vastly more dangerous.
I remember hearing a study a number of years ago about counselors and counselor training. What they discovered was that people who were not "naturally" good at counseling and helping were actually made worse at it (and hence more dangerous to their clients) by education in counseling. They think that knowledge is what makes one good at a career or vocation when it reality it is far more intrinsic than that.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Which ties into a second quote that hit me from Taleb's book:
Over the long term, you are more likely to fool yourself than others.
In my field we call it denial. And it is powerful and devastating.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

One more that made me stop and think:
Those who think religion is about "belief" don't understand religion, and don't understand belief.
That is one that makes my mind say "Right on!" but at the same time scratch my head in wondering what Taleb is thinking.

As I said I got the book out of the library. But it might is a book I would like to have on my shelf to bring me up short when I think I know what I am doing.

No comments: