Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Mind of a toddler

I recently picked up What the Dog Saw, a collection of Malcolm Gladwell's essays from The New Yorker. Not having completed it, this is not my official review or endorsement, but I did want to share his opening remarks while they were still fresh in my mind.

In the preface, Gladwell says that his impulse to write many of these essays stemmed from a "curiosity about the interior life of other people's day-to-day work". What does a doctor do? What does it FEEL LIKE to be a doctor? Being a doctor is not the same thing as sitting at a computer, or driving a truck, or teaching at school, so when we meet one, we want to know all about what it's really like, taking care of sick people all day long. This common human curiosity first emerges when we are toddlers and we exhibit what is known as the "other minds" problem.

One-year-olds think that if they like Goldfish Crackers, then Mommy and Daddy must like Goldfish Crackers too: they have not grasped the idea that what is inside their head is different from what is inside everyone else's head.

And that's when I realized that I have yet to outgrow toddler-hood.What do you MEAN you are not a Democrat? What do you MEAN you like country music and the musical stylings of Journey? What do you MEAN you own multiple guns? HUH?!

I also liked his response to the haters, the readers who say "I don't buy it." I've encountered several such haters after reading Outliers and quoting it to anyone who would listen. To them, Gladwell says that his writing isn't meant to persuade. His writing is meant to engage you and make you think.

I'm buying it, Malcolm. Me! I am! (Therefore, so should everyone else.)

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