This is one of those books that help me to triangulate the position that I find myself increasingly taking in my clinical work with men.
The tale is, in it's own scholarly way, an account of the man in the gray flannel suit. If suggests that the consequence of the economic transformation of the world through "free trade," was made possible by men who imagined freedom in a particular way. The freedom to rule over others.
The book itself explores the particular problem of a merchant ship captain, one Amasa Delano from Duxbury, MA, who, in 1804, encountered a Spanish ship off the Chilean coast. While initially appearing to be a ship in distress that might be in need of Christian charity, it might also be a potential prize as salvage. In truth, it had been the site of a slave rebellion. The actual resolution of this maritime drama became quite famous, eventually the basis for Herman Mellville's novella, Benito Cereno.
In the post Columbian world of seemingly infinite possibility for the creation of new wealth, the politics of freedom were focused on the removal of "unfair" barriers to the exploitation of whole new continents of resources and peoples. Much of the book's argument about the legal rulings in this morality play pays attention to the historical context of European revolution and the moral confusion about an emerging social order organized by a declaration of "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."
It is in this way that the book amplifies the conversation about, or awareess of, a moral domain that floats under the surface of us all. Call it what you want, the central feature of it, from the perspective that more and more of us share, is that things aren't fair. In trying to determine "rights," it is instructive to consider "wrongs." In many years of seeing couples and families in distress, much of my work, particularly with determined men, is to help them consider the basic question of "what if the shoe were on the other foot?"
The feeling for something, and the sense of being something are hallmarks of human experience. The nature of the self that knows these things is perhaps the most ancient discussion in the humanities. What I find remarkable, as someone who finished graduate school in the early 1980's, is the tremendous sense that somehow, finally, we are about to really understand the brain. The last thirty years has seen remarkable expansion of knowledge in the fields we collectively call "neuroscience."
This concise work by Dr. Churchland, explores neuroscientific contributions to many of the old arguments about the nature of the self with particular attention to moral philosophy, and how we come to be the persons we are. While clearly versed in the scientific material, and able to draw appropriate implications from the research (in stark contrast to some authors who seem simply carried away by the implications of the science) the narrative (performed gracefully by Karen Saltus) is down home and even folksy.
Interwoven with the science are teaching stories from a rural Canadian background. The stories illustrate the author's invitation to view the world (including the sense of self) as phenomena of mind, emerging from our biological brains. In a worldview grounded in biology and the philosophy of science, she finds the commonsense view that we are unique creatures with brains which are constructed by evolutionary processes that leave us with much in common. She finds herself personally comfortable, and I would say hopeful, that this understanding does not amount to "paradise lost," but rather embraces new possibilities in appreciating complexity and difference.
Dan Siegel's 1999 work, "The Developing Mind," changed the way I thought about the practice of psychotherapy more than any other single book I'd read.
I wasn't alone in that experience, and the new century has seen the elaboration of this paradigm in which the brain is understood as the creator of "mind."
Dan has become the quintessential spokesman for this viewpoint in the psychotherapy community, with frequent appearances, several books, and lots of web based material that makes this complex set of ideas accessible to those who don't have a background in neuroscience.
This work on "Mindsight," provides good access to this thinking and these practices for anyone who would like to understand this new paradigm. The explanations and case examples from Dan's practice are straightforward and easy to follow.
What I particularly enjoy is the relational stance in a psychotherapy that understands and values presence, connection and commitment. The work of the human mind has everything to do with our connections to others, and Dan Siegel masterfully explores this domain as he teaches new ways of understanding what goes on in our heads.
As a baby boomer, I watched (and participated in) the era in which US military power has been steered off the track. Rachel's point that this process wasn't a back room conspiracy awaits investigations that won't happen. From Watergate, to Iran-Contra, to Valerie Plame, and the drone wars, it sure looks like the folks at the very top of the executive branch aren't interested in talking about this "drift" in any forum where they are potentially vulnerable to rules of evidence. Rachel has opened this history to the generations that grew up believing that America is a great power, and that grown-ups are in charge. She deserves special thanks for this from her own generation, and praise form those of us who have been watching helplessly for the last fifty years.
I'm guessing that she'll never hear from Dick Cheney, who floats in the background like the Dark Lord. Too bad, I'm sure it would be a great epilogue.
The author and I inhabit the same age cohort. His descriptions of the moral domain of combat, and the context in which the war in Viet Nam was fought, but particularly what it was like to come home, broke my heart. It is so important that others read this account so that we can begin, collectively, to understand the terrible forces unleashed in those of us who find ourselves pursuing this path as young people.
Aside from being a great story teller, Marlantes has taken a depth psychological view of the subjective domain of the Warrior. He writes about the "temple of Mars", in a way that enlivens the commentary on morality that is his central thesis.
I like to think that I was savvy enough to have seen the handwriting on the wall by the end of the summer of 1966, where I'd been closely exposed to the life of a Marine fire team during an exercise at Camp Pendleton. As a 20 year old midshipman, I knew deeply that the grunt who was leading our little patrol, though he was my age, was inhabiting a different universe than mine, but not that different than the guy in Texas who had just wiped out 20+ students firing as a sniper from the Texas Tower. I decided at that point, I wasn't looking to get a Marine commission. Didn't think I needed to be a hero, and realized I'd rather have a steel hull around me than a jungle. Consequently, I have no PTSD. As a result, my coming to terms with Viet Nam has taken a different shape. I became a family therapist and have spent well over thirty years grappling with the struggles that all of us, particularly men, have in reconciling the parts of ourselves that go to war. I am very thankful for this book in a way that is quite personal and yet hope that everyone can find some link to the personal stories about war that haunt American lives.
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