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Legendary Physicist David Bohm on the Paradox of Communication, the Crucial Difference Between Discussion and Dialogue, and What Is Keeping Us from Listening to One Another

“If we are to live in harmony with ourselves and with nature, we need to be able to communicate freely in a creative movement in which no one permanently holds to or otherwise defends his own ideas.”

Legendary Physicist David Bohm on the Paradox of Communication, the Crucial Difference Between Discussion and Dialogue, and What Is Keeping Us from Listening to One Another

“Words,” Ursula K. Le Guin wrote in her abiding meditation on the magic of real human communication, “transform both speaker and hearer; they feed energy back and forth and amplify it. They feed understanding or emotion back and forth and amplify it.” But what happens in a cultural ecosystem where the hearer has gone extinct and the speaker gone rampant? Where do transformation and understanding go?

What made, for instance, James Baldwin and Margaret Mead’s superb 1970 dialogue about race and identity so powerful and so enduringly insightful is precisely the fact that it was a dialogue — not the ping-pong of opinions and co-reactivity that passes for dialogue today, but a commitment to mutual contemplation of viewpoints and considered response. That commitment is the reason why they were able to address questions we continue to confront with tenfold more depth and nuance than we are capable of today. And the dearth of this commitment in our present culture is the reason why we continue to find ourselves sundered by confrontation and paralyzed by the divisiveness of “us vs. them” narratives. “To bother to engage with problematic culture, and problematic people within that culture, is an act of love,” wrote the poet Elizabeth Alexander in contemplating power and possibility. Krista Tippett calls such engagement generous listening. And yet so much of our communication today is defined by a rather ungenerous unwillingness to listen coupled with a compulsion to speak.

The most perennially insightful and helpful remedy for this warping of communication I’ve ever encountered comes from the legendary physicist David Bohm (December 20, 1917–October 27, 1992) in On Dialogue (public library) — a slim, potent collection of Bohm’s essays and lectures from the 1970s and 1980s, exploring the alchemy of human communication, what is keeping us from listening to one another, and how we can transcend those barriers to mutual understanding.

davidbohm

Decades before the social web as we know it and long before Rebecca Solnit came to lament how our modern noncommunication is changing our experience of solitude and communion, Bohm cautions:

In spite of this worldwide system of linkages, there is, at this very moment, a general feeling that communication is breaking down everywhere, on an unparalleled scale… What appears [in the media] is generally at best a collection of trivial and almost unrelated fragments, while at worst, it can often be a really harmful source of confusion and misinformation.

He terms this “the problem of communication” and writes:

Different groups … are not actually able to listen to each other. As a result, the very attempt to improve communication leads frequently to yet more confusion, and the consequent sense of frustration inclines people ever further toward aggression and violence, rather than toward mutual understanding and trust.

Art by Ralph Steadman from a rare edition of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

Suggesting that the difficulty might arise from our “crude and insensitive manner of thinking about communication and talking about it,” Bohm sets out to restore the necessary subtlety by reclaiming the true meaning of communication and its supreme mastery, dialogue:

“Communication” … is based on the Latin commun and the suffix “ie” which is similar to “fie,” in that it means “to make or to do.” So one meaning of “to communicate” is “to make something common,” i.e., to convey information or knowledge from one person to another in as accurate a way as possible.

[…]

Nevertheless, this meaning does not cover all that is signified by communication. For example, consider a dialogue. In such a dialogue, when one person says something, the other person does not in general respond with exactly the same meaning as that seen by the first person. Rather, the meanings are only similar and not identical. Thus, when the second person replies, the first person sees a difference between what he meant to say and what the other person understood. On considering this difference, he may then be able to see something new, which is relevant both to his own views and to those of the other person. And so it can go back and forth, with the continual emergence of a new content that is common to both participants. Thus, in a dialogue, each person does not attempt to make common certain ideas or items of information that are already known to him. Rather, it may be said that the two people are making something in common, i.e., creating something new together.

But of course such communication can lead to the creation of something new only if people are able freely to listen to each other, without prejudice, and without trying to influence each other. Each has to be interested primarily in truth and coherence, so that he is ready to drop his old ideas and intentions, and be ready to go on to something different, when this is called for.

Art by Sydney Pink from Overcoming Creative Block

Such communication in the service of creating something new, Bohm argues, takes place not only between people but within people. He illustrates this with an example that calls to mind Alan Lightman’s beautiful reflection on the creative sympathies of art and science, and writes:

Consider, for example, the work of an artist. Can it properly be said that the artist is expressing himself, i.e., literally “pushing outward” something that is already formed inside of him? Such a description is not in fact generally accurate or adequate. Rather, what usually happens is that the first thing the artist does is only similar in certain ways to what he may have in mind. As in a conversation between two people, he sees the similarity and the difference, and from this perception something further emerges in his next action. Thus, something new is continually created that is common to the artist and the material on which he is working.

The scientist is engaged in a similar “dialogue” with nature (as well as with his fellow human beings). Thus, when a scientist has an idea, this is tested by observation. When it is found (as generally happens) that what is observed is only similar to what he had in mind and not identical, then from a consideration of the similarities and the differences he gets a new idea which is in turn tested. And so it goes, with the continual emergence of something new that is common to the thought of scientists and what is observed in nature.

In a sentiment that affirms the importance of the uncomfortable luxury of changing one’s mind, Bohm adds:

It is clear that if we are to live in harmony with ourselves and with nature, we need to be able to communicate freely in a creative movement in which no one permanently holds to or otherwise defends his own ideas.

He observes that these ideas are rooted in assumptions we hold about various aspects of life — from politics to economics to religion — and those assumptions are what we call our “opinions.” Four centuries after Galileo admonished against the folly of believing one’s preconceptions, Bohm argues that this tendency to cling to our existing opinions is a kind of self-protective “block” we use as a hedge against our fear of uncertainty. But in blocking uncertainty, we also block our ability to listen. Fertile dialogue, he points out, requires that we first become aware of our own “blocks,” then be willing to surmount them. He writes:

When we come together to talk, or otherwise to act in common, can each one of us be aware of the subtle fear and pleasure sensations that “block” his ability to listen freely? Without this awareness, the injunction to listen to the whole of what is said will have little meaning. But if each one of us can give full attention to what is actually “blocking” communication while he is also attending properly to the content of what is communicated, then we may be able to create something new between us, something of very great significance for bringing to an end the at present insoluble problems of the individual and of society.

In a passage of swelling timeliness today, Bohm considers the crucial difference between dialogue and discussion:

“Dialogue” comes from the Greek word dialogos. Logos means “the word,” or in our case we would think of the “meaning of the word.” And dia means “through” — it doesn’t mean “two.” A dialogue can be among any number of people, not just two. Even one person can have a sense of dialogue within himself, if the spirit of the dialogue is present. The picture or image that this derivation suggests is of a stream of meaning flowing among and through us and between us. This will make possible a flow of meaning in the whole group, out of which may emerge some new understanding. It’s something new, which may not have been in the starting point at all. It’s something creative. And this shared meaning is the “glue” or “cement” that holds people and societies together.

Contrast this with the word “discussion,” which has the same root as “percussion” and “concussion.” It really means to break things up. It emphasizes the idea of analysis, where there may be many points of view, and where everybody is presenting a different one — analyzing and breaking up. That obviously has its value, but it is limited, and it will not get us very far beyond our various points of view. Discussion is almost like a ping-pong game, where people are batting the ideas back and forth and the object of the game is to win or to get points for yourself…

In a dialogue, however, nobody is trying to win. Everybody wins if anybody wins. There is a different sort of spirit to it. In a dialogue, there is no attempt to gain points, or to make your particular view prevail. Rather, whenever any mistake is discovered on the part of anybody, everybody gains. It’s a situation called win-win, whereas the other game is win-lose — if I win, you lose. But a dialogue is something more of a common participation, in which we are not playing a game against each other, but with each other. In a dialogue, everybody wins.

Art by Salvador Dalí from a rare 1969 edition of Alice in Wonderland

True dialogue, Bohm argues, not only leads us to question the very assumptions upon which our opinions are built but invites a continual act of self-revision at the level of the thought process itself — the process of which our opinions are a product. This self-revision takes place both on the individual level and on the collective level. He considers the difficulty of rethinking thought itself:

You cannot defend something without first thinking the defense. There are those thoughts which might question the thing you want to defend, and you’ve got to push them aside. That may readily involve self-deception — you will simply push aside a lot of things you would rather not accept by saying they are wrong, by distorting the issue, and so on. Thought defends its basic assumptions against evidence that they may be wrong.

Noting that we engage in two kinds of thought, individual and collective, Bohm points out that most of our individual assumptions are the product of our cultural conditioning and our “collective background.” He writes:

Language is collective. Most of our basic assumptions come from our society, including all our assumptions about how society works, about what sort of person we are supposed to be, and about relationships, institutions, and so on. Therefore we need to pay attention to thought both individually and collectively.

Writing in the same era in which evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins coined the term “meme,” Bohm adds:

Assumptions or opinions are like computer programs in people’s minds. Those programs take over against the best of intentions — they produce their own intentions.

Those intentions operate on what Bohm calls the “tacit level” — not the level of our conscious awareness but someplace deeper, more intuitive, and almost automatic, of which we only have a vague conscious sense. He explains:

“Tacit” means that which is unspoken, which cannot be described — like the knowledge required to ride a bicycle. It is the actual knowledge, and it may be coherent or not. I am proposing that thought is actually a subtle tacit process. The concrete process of thinking is very tacit. The meaning is basically tacit. And what we can say explicitly is only a very small part of it. I think we all realize that we do almost everything by this sort of tacit knowledge. Thought is emerging from the tacit ground, and any fundamental change in thought will come from the tacit ground. So if we are communicating at the tacit level, then maybe thought is changing.

The tacit process is common. It is shared. The sharing is not merely the explicit communication and the body language and all that, which are part of it, but there is also a deeper tacit process which is common. I think the whole human race knew this for a million years; and then in five thousand years of civilization we have lost it, because our societies got too big to carry it out. But now we have to get started again, because it has become urgent that we communicate. We have to share our consciousness and to be able to think together, in order to do intelligently whatever is necessary. If we begin to confront what’s going on in a dialogue group, we sort of have the nucleus of what’s going on in all society.

But Bohm’s most crucial point — which is also the point most disquieting to our present customs of communication — is that true dialogue must be aimed not at some immediate or practical solution but at the higher-order objective of meaning. A quarter century before physicist Sean Carroll made his beautiful case for “poetic naturalism” as our supreme source of meaning in a universe otherwise devoid of purpose, Bohm writes:

It is not an arbitrary imposition to state that we have no fixed purpose — no absolute purpose, anyway. We may set up relative purposes for investigation, but we are not wedded to a particular purpose, and are not saying that the whole group must conform to that purpose indefinitely. All of us might want the human race to survive, but even that is not our purpose. Our purpose is really to communicate coherently in truth, if you want to call that a purpose.

[…]

It is necessary to share meaning. A society is a link of relationships among people and institutions, so that we can live together. But it only works if we have a culture — which implies that we share meaning; i.e., significance, purpose, and value. Otherwise it falls apart. Our society is incoherent, and doesn’t do that very well; it hasn’t for a long time, if it ever did. The different assumptions that people have are tacitly affecting the whole meaning of what we are doing.

Echoing his magnificent conversation with philosopher Jiddu Krishnamurti about intelligence and love, Bohm adds:

Love will go away if we can’t communicate and share meaning… However, if we can really communicate, then we will have fellowship, participation, friendship, and love, growing and growing. That would be the way…

And perhaps in dialogue, when we have this very high energy of coherence, it might bring us beyond just being a group that could solve social problems. Possibly it could make a new change in the individual and a change in the relation to the cosmic. Such an energy has been called “communion.” It is a kind of participation. The early Christians had a Greek word, koinonia, the root of which means “to participate” — the idea of partaking of the whole and taking part in it; not merely the whole group, but the whole.

On Dialogue remains an illuminating and acutely timely read. Complement it with Einstein on widening our circles of compassion and Carl Sagan on moving beyond “us vs. them,” then revisit Bohm on how our beliefs shape our reality.

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Kindness Over Fear: Naomi Shihab Nye Tells the Remarkable Real-Life Story That Inspired Her Beloved Poem “Kindness”

“Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside, / you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.”

Kindness Over Fear: Naomi Shihab Nye Tells the Remarkable Real-Life Story That Inspired Her Beloved Poem “Kindness”

“Let us temper our criticism with kindness. None of us comes fully equipped,” Carl Sagan urged in his beautiful and timely case for moving beyond us vs. them and marrying conviction with compassion. But what does kindness mean, really, and how does it manifest?

The measure of true kindness — which is different from nicety, different from politeness — is often revealed in those challenging instances when we must rise above the impulse toward its opposite, ignited by fear and anger and despair.

That’s what the poet Naomi Shihab Nye captures with grounding and elevating tenderness in her poem “Kindness,” found in Words Under Words: Selected Poems (public library).

KINDNESS

Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken
will stare out the window forever.

Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness,
you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho
lies dead by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you,
how he too was someone
who journeyed through the night with plans
and the simple breath that kept him alive.

Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.

Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to mail letters and purchase bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
It is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you everywhere
like a shadow or a friend.

In her altogether elevating On Being conversation with Krista Tippett, Nye tells the remarkable real-life backstory that inspired this beloved poem — a story that only lends more potency to the poem’s message:

Complement with Ta-Nehisi Coates on our conditioned resistance to kindness, Adam Phillips and Barbara Taylor on how it became our forbidden pleasure, and Einstein on its centrality in our existence.

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Staying Alive: Mary Oliver on How Books Saved Her Life and Why the Passion for Work Is the Greatest Antidote to Pain

“The world’s otherness is antidote to confusion [and] standing within this otherness — the beauty and the mystery of the world, out in the fields or deep inside books — can re-dignify the worst-stung heart.”

Staying Alive: Mary Oliver on How Books Saved Her Life and Why the Passion for Work Is the Greatest Antidote to Pain

“There are perhaps no days of our childhood that we lived as fully,” Proust wrote in contemplating why we read, “as the days we think we left behind without living at all: the days we spent with a favourite book.” And yet childhoods come in varied hues, some much darker than others; some children only survive by leaving the anguish of the real world behind and seeking shelter in the world of books.

Among them was the poet Mary Oliver (September 10, 1935–January 17, 2019), who recounts the redemptive refuge of reading and writing in her essay “Staying Alive,” found in Upstream: Selected Essays (public library) — the radiant collection of reflections that gave us Oliver on the artist’s task and the central commitment of the creative life.

maryoliver_books
Mary Oliver

Looking back on her barely survivable childhood, ravaged by pain which Oliver has never belabored or addressed directly — a darkness she shines a light on most overtly in her poem “Rage” and discusses obliquely in her terrific On Being conversation with Krista Tippett — she contemplates how reading saved her life:

Adults can change their circumstances; children cannot. Children are powerless, and in difficult situations they are the victims of every sorrow and mischance and rage around them, for children feel all of these things but without any of the ability that adults have to change them. Whatever can take a child beyond such circumstances, therefore, is an alleviation and a blessing.

Rebecca Solnit, in her beautiful meditation on the life-saving vanishing act of reading, wrote: “I disappeared into books when I was very young, disappeared into them like someone running into the woods.” Oliver disappeared into both. For her, the woods were not a metaphor but a locale of self-salvation — she found respite from the brutality of the real world in the benediction of two parallel sacred worlds: nature and literature. She vanished into the woods, where she found “beauty and interest and mystery,” and she vanished into books. In a sentiment that calls to mind Kafka’s unforgettable assertion that “a book must be the axe for the frozen sea inside us,” Oliver writes:

The second world — the world of literature — offered me, besides the pleasures of form, the sustentation of empathy (the first step of what Keats called negative capability) and I ran for it. I relaxed in it. I stood willingly and gladly in the characters of everything — other people, trees, clouds. And this is what I learned: that the world’s otherness is antidote to confusion, that standing within this otherness — the beauty and the mystery of the world, out in the fields or deep inside books — can re-dignify the worst-stung heart.

Illustration from The Book of Memory Gaps by Cecilia Ruiz

Oliver approached her new sacred world not just with the imaginative purposefulness typical of children aglow with a new obsession, but with a survivalist determination aimed at nothing less than self-salvation:

I learned to build bookshelves and brought books to my room, gathering them around me thickly. I read by day and into the night. I thought about perfectibility, and deism, and adjectives, and clouds, and the foxes. I locked my door, from the inside, and leaped from the roof and went to the woods, by day or darkness.

[…]

I read my books with diligence, and mounting skill, and gathering certainty. I read the way a person might swim, to save his or her life. I wrote that way too.

Art by Oliver Jeffers and Sam Winston from A Child of Books, an illustrated love letter to reading
Art by Oliver Jeffers and Sam Winston from A Child of Books, an illustrated love letter to reading

In literature, she had her fill of the “clear and sweet and savory emotion” absent from the reality of her ordinary world, until reading alone was no longer enough — writing beckoned as the mighty world-building force that it is. Oliver recalls:

I did not think of language as the means to self-description. I thought of it as the door — a thousand opening doors! — past myself. I thought of it as the means to notice, to contemplate, to praise, and, thus, to come into power.

[…]

I saw what skill was needed, and persistence — how one must bend one’s spine, like a hoop, over the page — the long labor. I saw the difference between doing nothing, or doing a little, and the redemptive act of true effort. Reading, then writing, then desiring to write well, shaped in me that most joyful of circumstances — a passion for work.

With an eye to how the enlivening power of this “passion for work” slowly and steadily superseded the deadening weight of her circumstances, Oliver issues an incantation almost as a note to herself whispered into the margins:

You must not ever stop being whimsical. And you must not, ever, give anyone else the responsibility for your life.

Echoing young Sylvia Plath’s insistence on writing as salvation for the soul, Oliver takes a lucid look at the nuanced nature of such self-salvation through creative work and considers what it means to save one’s own life:

I don’t mean it’s easy or assured; there are the stubborn stumps of shame, grief that remains unsolvable after all the years, a bag of stones that goes with one wherever one goes and however the hour may call for dancing and for light feet. But there is, also, the summoning world, the admirable energies of the world, better than anger, better than bitterness and, because more interesting, more alleviating. And there is the thing that one does, the needle one plies, the work, and within that work a chance to take thoughts that are hot and formless and to place them slowly and with meticulous effort into some shapely heat-retaining form, even as the gods, or nature, or the soundless wheels of time have made forms all across the soft, curved universe — that is to say, having chosen to claim my life, I have made for myself, out of work and love, a handsome life.

[…]

And now my old dog is dead, and another I had after him, and my parents are dead, and that first world, that old house, is sold and lost, and the books I gathered there lost, or sold — but more books bought, and in another place, board by board and stone by stone, like a house, a true life built, and all because I was steadfast about one or two things: loving foxes, and poems, the blank piece of paper, and my own energy — and mostly the shimmering shoulders of the world that shrug carelessly over the fate of any individual that they may, the better, keep the Niles and the Amazons flowing. And that I did not give to anyone the responsibility for my life. It is mine. I made it. And can do what I want to with it. Live it. Give it back, someday, without bitterness, to the wild and weedy dunes.

Complement the endlessly nourishing Upstream with Oliver on what attention really means, love and its necessary wildness, and the measure of a life well lived, then revisit Joan Didion on the wellspring of self-respect, Neil Gaiman on what books do for the human spirit, and this animated oral history of how libraries save lives.

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Composing a Life: Anthropologist Mary Catherine Bateson on Our False Mythos of Achievement and the Messy, Nonlinear Reality of How We Become Who We Are

“The knight errant, who finds his challenges along the way, may be a better model for our times than the knight who is questing for the Grail.”

Composing a Life: Anthropologist Mary Catherine Bateson on Our False Mythos of Achievement and the Messy, Nonlinear Reality of How We Become Who We Are

“Living has yet to be generally recognized as one of the arts,” proclaimed a 1924 guide to the art of living while, across the Atlantic, Bertrand Russell was contemplating what the good life really means. And yet as the twentieth century wore on and consumption eclipsed creativity, our ideals of and ideas about what constitutes a good life grew increasingly fogged by the cult of having, to which we submitted the art of being as a sacrificial offering.

In the mid-1970s, the great humanistic philosopher and psychologist Erich Fromm turned to the problem of setting ourselves free from the chains of our culture. Fromm was a seer of a different order — so much so that legendary anthropologist Margaret Mead would turn to him for advice on the most challenging aspects of living — and insisted that “the full humanization of man requires the breakthrough from the possession-centered to the activity-centered orientation.” But it took more than a decade for this sobering spark to kindle the light of awareness in the hearth of culture.

Few people have been more instrumental in this awakening to the authentic life than anthropologist Mary Catherine Bateson (b. December 8, 1939), Mead’s daughter. Her 1989 treatise Composing a Life (public library) endures as an immensely insightful inquiry into our culturally conditioned mythologies of achievement and success, and what it takes to transcend them in order to live an authentic, meaningful life — a life that is invariably far messier and more strewn with contradiction than our misleading cultural mythos of self-actualization allows.

Bateson with her mother, Margaret Mead, in 1960 (Smithsonian National Anthropological Archives)
Bateson with her mother, Margaret Mead, in 1960 (Smithsonian National Anthropological Archives)

Bateson writes:

Our aesthetic sense, whether in works of art or in lives, has overfocused on the stubborn struggle toward a single goal rather than on the fluid, the protean, the improvisatory. We see achievement as purposeful and monolithic, like the sculpting of a massive tree trunk that has first to be brought from the forest and then shaped by long labor to assert the artist’s vision, rather than something crafted from odds and ends, like a patchwork quilt, and lovingly used to warm different nights and bodies.

Bateson considers why the notion of “composing a life” is the perfect metaphor for that ultimate creative act, that of self-creation:

Composing a life has a metaphorical relation to many different arts, including architecture and dance and cooking. In the visual arts, a variety of disparate elements may be arranged to form a simultaneous whole, just as we combine our simultaneous commitments. In the temporal arts, like music, a sequential diversity may be brought into harmony over time. In still other arts, such as homemaking or gardening, choreography or administration, complexity is woven in both space and time.

When the choices and rhythms of life change, as they have in our time, the study of life becomes an increasing preoccupation.

Art from Daytime Visions by Isol

But the most robust legacy of Bateson’s foundational text — the insight that comes alive anew in our own age — is her insistence that the art of composing a life isn’t always neat and linear, just as it isn’t reserved for the privileged and for those kissed by fortune’s benevolence. Writing while the dust of Women’s Liberation and the Civil Rights movement is still settling, as people are claiming their hard-earned place in culture while juggling the demands of their daily lives, she argues that the disenfranchised, the downtrodden, the historically sidelined and oppressed, and those whose lives have been violated and constricted in other ways, can partake in this art of living with equal dignity and grace. With an eye to these winding roads to self-actualization, which might appear aimless and confused to the judgmental onlooker, Bateson writes:

It is time now to explore the creative potential of interrupted and conflicted lives, where energies are not narrowly focused or permanently pointed toward a single ambition. These are not lives without commitment, but rather lives in which commitments are continually refocused and redefined. We must invest time and passion in specific goals and at the same time acknowledge that these are mutable. The circumstances of women’s lives now and in the past provide examples for new ways of thinking about the lives of both men and women. What are the possible transfers of learning when life is a collage of different tasks? How does creativity flourish on distraction? What insights arise from the experience of multiplicity and ambiguity? And at what point does desperate improvisation become significant achievement? These are important questions in a world in which we are all increasingly strangers and sojourners. The knight errant, who finds his challenges along the way, may be a better model for our times than the knight who is questing for the Grail.

In the remainder of the indispensable Composing a Life, Bateson goes on to profile four women who exemplify this art of wresting meaning from chaotic, interrupted lives. Through their stories, she examines our inherited beliefs and misbeliefs about ambition and achievement, dismantling some of our most limiting cultural mythologies — ones with which we continue to struggle decades later, particularly in our notions of success — to reveal the innermost truths of human fulfillment.

Complement with Nietzsche on how to find yourself, then drink in more of Bateson’s intelligent and sensitive insight into modern life in her wonderful On Being conversation with Krista Tippett:

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