“Narrative therapy assumes that the articulation of experience and its subsequent evaluation in the context of one’s values facilitates the construction and performance of a preferred identity. A patient is encouraged to conceptualize her past self as nonessentialized, to see herself in relation to her problems without seeing herself as defined by them.”—Melissa Petro
The vast majority of practicing scientists (except for a few propagandists like Pinker) probably do not embrace scientism, but it is the idiom journalists use to popularize scientific findings for a nonscientific audience. It is not, to be sure, an outlook based on the scientific method—the patient weighing of experimental results, the reframing of questions in response to contrary evidence, the willingness to live with epistemological uncertainty. Quite the contrary: scientism is a revival of the nineteenth-century positivist faith that a reified “science” has discovered (or is about to discover) all the important truths about human life. Precise measurement and rigorous calculation, in this view, are the basis for finally settling enduring metaphysical and moral controversies—explaining consciousness and choice, replacing ambiguity with certainty. The most problematic applications of scientism have usually arisen in the behavioral sciences, where the varieties and perversities of experience have often been reduced to quantitative data that are alleged to reveal an enduring “human nature.”
The scientism on display in the happiness manuals offers a strikingly vacuous worldview, one devoid of history, culture or political economy. Its chief method is self-reported survey research; its twin conceptual pillars are pop evolutionary psychology, based on just-so stories about what human life was like on the African savannah 100,000 years ago, and pop neuroscience, based on sweeping, unsubstantiated claims about brain function gleaned from fragments of contemporary research.
“I sometimes thought that he was ruled by his aversions; chief among them—worse than waste, haste, carelessness to details, hugging, and even germs—was bullshit in all its proliferating manifestations, subtle and gross, from the flabby political face telling lies on TV to the most private, much more devastating lies we tell ourselves. Culture lies were especially revolting. Hypocrisy was not some petty human foible, it was the corrupted essence of our predicament, which for Stanley was purely an existential predicament. In terms of narrative, since movies are stories, the most contemptible lie was sentimentality, and the most disgusting lie was sanctimoniousness.”—Michael Herr on Stanley Kubrick
“Computers served as transitional objects. They bring us back to the feelings of being “at one” with the world. Musicians often hear the music in their minds before they play it, experiencing the music from within and without. The computer similarly can be experienced as an object on the border between self and not-self. Just as musical instruments can be extensions of the mind’s construction of sound, computers can be extensions of the mind’s construction of thought.”—Sherry Turkle
“It’s simply my conscious getting in the way. I would be better off saying things more wildly, then looking at what I’d said. Do first, think later; many things can benefit from this method — falling in love, taking your first job, speaking up for what you believe in. Write first, think later. Repeat.”—Woody Allen
“We reenter time when we accept uncertainty; when we embrace the possibility of surprise; when we question the bindings of tradition and look for novel solutions to novel problems.”—James Gleick, Time Regained!
“While I enjoy America (a sense of bewilderment always accompanies this enjoyment) it behooves me to sharpen my skills of observation like an Englishman. A more shallow national orientation than the former it would be difficult to believe. How odd that intellect, movement and esprit de corps mark the same nation that boasts a thin veneer of what it calls culture … The American’s fears of financial indisposition, compromised hygiene and loneliness make even less sense.”—Henry James, The Vastness of Self in Unpeopled Exile
“Walking in delicate silence, in the cruel wasting of his illness, down a crowded sidewalk on his way to the library, unrecognized, unknown, forgotten, the proudness of his bearing set him off from the summer people.”—Lillian Hellman
“There is the pleasure of tiredness. I lean the scythe against a tree and wipe my brow. And as I do—at that moment and not before—I feel the power of the new urge. Suddenly I want my earned reward. I want the thing that will take all that tension of focus and turn it slowly around, letting what was tightened up go loose, smoothing down every sharp corner. For me this is wine, something red that has been aged in oak, the gift of gifts.”—Sven Birkerts
“Maybe I wanted to learn how to think. Writing is a concentrated form of thinking. I don’t know what I think about certain subjects, even today, until I sit down and try to write about them. Maybe I wanted to find more rigorous ways of thinking. We’re talking now about the earliest writing I did and about the power of language to counteract the wallow of late adolescence, to define things, define muddled experience in economical ways. Let’s not forget that writing is convenient. It requires the simplest tools. A young writer sees that with words and sentences on a piece of paper that costs less than a penny he can place himself more clearly in the world. Words on a page, that’s all it takes to help him separate himself from the forces around him, streets and people and pressures and feelings. He learns to think about these things, to ride his own sentences into new perceptions.”—Don DeLillo
Maurice Sendak: I hate them. It’s like making believe there’s another kind of sex. There isn’t another kind of sex. There isn’t another kind of book. A book is a book is a book. I know that’s terribly old-fashioned. I’m old, and when I’m gone they’ll probably try to make my books on all these things, but I’m going to fight it like hell. [Pauses] I can’t believe I’ve turned into a typical old man. I can’t believe it. I was young just minutes ago.
“A human being is a part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feeling as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.”—Albert Einstein
“In Chinese there is a term which is very difficult to translate into English, it is something like “chances.” It means: Why am I sitting here having this interview with you instead of somebody else? Why should we meet here?”—Wong Kar-wai
“The image of myself which I try to create in my own mind in order that I may love myself is very different from the image which I try to create in the minds of others in order that they may love me.”—W.H. Auden
“This may be shit. We don’t know. We haven’t had time to realize it yet. You know, that sort of thing. But that kind of gives the game away, because, actually, we are shit. And that’s why it takes three years to uncover the stuff underneath.”—Thom Yorke
“Yeah, it’s dope, but man, give me some time and I can give you way better! All I know is that at the end of the day, I’m very excited because I feel like I understand what I wanna do, and now it’s just about doing it. That’s the easy part. Understanding what you wanna do is the hard part. Now, I feel like I’m more comfortable than I’ve ever been in my entire life, and it’s pretty crazy. I feel extremely lost at the same time, like I’m screwed, but at the same time I really feel like, even though I’m screwed, I really know what I wanna do. So, no matter what happens, even if things go downhill, I still know what I wanna do. And that’s always gonna keep me going up. Everything else doesn’t matter, nothing matters unless you know what you wanna do.”—Teebs