A tale of two titles.
11 June 2015
So here's two books sitting on my nightstand right now: What Should We Be Worried About? Real Scenarios that Keep Scientists Up at Night (edited by John Brockman), and Retrain Your Anxious Brain: Practical and Effective Tools to Conquer Anxiety (by John Tsilimparis).
Yes, perhaps not the best concurrent reading choices. But it turns out I'm really, really enjoying the What Should We Be Worried About? book, while I haven't really gotten that far retraining my anxious brain. The thing about my anxious brain is that it tends to run in fairly predictable circles: we're all going to die on the highway; health care costs are going to bury us all; the CRjr's are going to fall off playground equipment and directly onto their heads. Thinking about that sort of shit (plus whatever doctor or dentist appointments anyone has coming up) makes me crazy.
John Brockman's book, on the other hand? Well, that's just a bunch of super-smart people worrying about the really BIG stuff. Here's some chapter titles to illustrate what the contributors think we should be worried about:
"We are in denial about catastrophic risks"
"The fragility of complex systems"
"Are we homogenizing the global view of a normal mind?"
'The mating wars"
"The rise in genomic instability"
Contributors include Charles Seife, Nicholas Carr, Sherry Turkle, Brian Eno, Daniel Goleman, Robert Sapolsky, Nassim Nicholas Taleb, and a ton, ton more.
I have yet to read a dull chapter in this thing and although I know it's presenting a lot of big, ugly, doomsday scenarios...but I'm actually using it to fall asleep. For some weird reason it's more calming to me to worry about the big picture. Some of these speculations really make the little stuff (like: why is my back so sore? Do my brakes feel like they're going? What kind of medical help and support are my parents going to start needing? And so on and so forth) seem, well, little.
I know. It makes no sense. If you don't enjoy thinking about worst-case scenarios, the Brockman book might not be for you. It's one of the most interesting things I've read this year, though.
And I'll keep you posted if I have any luck retraining my anxious mind. Training of any kind, either of myself or others, has never been my strong point, so we'll see.