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Notes Psychology

Chapter 6: Fuse the Intuitive with the Rational (Mastery)

One way of understanding how something works is to divide it into its component parts, and then to study the parts individually. This is the linear way of understanding. But there is a second way, and this is the holistic way of understanding something. This requires you to understand how the whole works, and how it is connected to everything. The Tao (or the way) is an example from the East for this way of thinking, while Stoicism (the logos) is an example from the West.

Proust

For most of his life, Marcel Proust was considered an oddball and a failure who had no job, slept through the day, and only interacted with the upper class. He loved reading and wanted to become a writer, but his first book was a failure. Approaching the end of his youth, he became desperate to contribute something to the world, and that is when he wrote “In Search of Lost Time.” It was the culmination of his experiences in life since he was born, and it contained deep insights into human psychology, and memory. Proust was intensely interested in people and was obsessed with analyzing them and himself. And he didn’t just passively read books, he took them apart and rigorously analyzed them.

After many years of reading and observing others and himself, he created a masterpiece. His work was not like anything other people had read before, it did not focus on one subject or one aspect of life, but on everything, and from the point of view from the individual. When reading it, you felt as if you were the author himself.

Einstein

Einstein knew two very important things about himself. One, he hated authority. Two, he hated controlled experiments. This allowed him to avoid academia. He was a theoretician, and he was a genius at that. After many years of focusing on the same problem, he was able to come to conclusions about Simple Relativity and General Relativity that were only later confirmed by highly sophisticated tools. He did so through purely the power of abstract reasoning, and for that reason, is regarded as a super genius.

Goethe

Goethe was a young man when he left home for university, and he felt himself being freed from his domineering father. All his impulses were let loose. He fell in and out of love, and nearly went insane. This convinced him that he had an inner daemon, he was a pagan, so he didn’t think it was God. He believed that this daemon could determine his fate. If he allowed it to take over, he would lose control and descend into chaos, but if he learned how to channel this daemon, he would add years to his life and would become much more productive. Goethe was a poet and a writer, and a very successful one, but he read widely, there were few subjects he was not interested in.

Universal Man

These are examples of men who refused to specialize in one thing. They were rebels, and were considered failures for a time, but they were all generalists. They were determined to see life, as per the Renaissance Ideal of the Universal Man. By studying many different parts of reality, they understand how seemingly distinct things were related, and were able to make immense contributions to human knowledge.

We are all tempted to look for easy ways of understanding things, but these rarely work so well. It is only after we accept the complexity of the world, and face it head on, that we make any real progress. Technology poses a problem for us in that it makes our world too easy, it makes memory somewhat redundant, but it is precisely a strong memory that allows us to understand the world more deeply. Thus, it is better, in your spare time, instead of distracting yourself with trivial things, to train your memory, by learning a foreign language, or by playing a musical instrument.

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"A gilded No is more satisfactory than a dry yes" - Gracian

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