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paige's picture

Praise for Plasticity

When I read the first chapter of the Truth about Stories this time around, it struck me how very relevant the book has remained to our class conversation as well as the conversation that has transpired in my head throughout the semester.

King suggests that we are chained to the stories we tell. We must be responsible storytellers for once a story is released into the world, it cannot be taken back. However, King also emphasizes that we can manipulate stories.  This series of statements has really affected my thinking throughout the course. I feel that King gives an appropriately cautious and hopeful perspective with which to see the world.

From the beginning of the course when we discussed “facts” and “truths” we have acknowledged the uncertainty of seemingly absolute concepts but we have also acknowledged how useful such concepts can be particularly in science as the provisional basis for the next set of questions. We are also very familiar with the concept of turtles all the way down. I feel that we have spent much of our class discussing what we feel our limitations are (the unconscious vs the conscious –who is the I?, are we in “charge?”, we can never find ultimate truth, etc…) but we have also discussed how to stretch boundaries (neural plasticity, creating a dialogue between the subconscious and the conscious, how can cultural change come about, evolution in all senses of the word). I feel that we really have been living up to the course name of making sense of ourselves in an evolving universe particularly because I feel we have made sense of the fact that “making sense of ourselves” doesn’t mean finding a place where we fit in or defining our responsibilities. Rather, I think that we have begun to understand just how dynamic the world is and that it is often necessary to hold two contradicting thoughts in the head at the same time. I think we have also started to see with greater understanding comes more possibilities and challenges because we are responsible for what we do with our knowledge.

I have so much to say in this post but no good way to write it all out. I am sad that this our last post. I was skeptical at first but I think posting online is very liberating. I also think reading everyone’s post really enhances the development of our conversation. It’s an extra window into our thoughts.

Speaking of, my ways of thinking have been subtly developing throughout the semester, which was made clear when I realize I have had a running theme throughout the class (I am more cohesive than I thought!) when I go back through the postings but that I have been slowly been taking it farther and into different areas. I have a new way of thinking about non-fiction writing. Due to the weekly essays I have gotten to explore new and fascinating topics (even if I still get caught up in the collection of all that information)! I have gotten to know my brain (my best friend, still) even more intimately.  The treasure is though not just getting to see this in myself but in others too. I feel that this is sappy but true.

 I have sincerely enjoyed this course. I will miss posting on the esem wall as well as sitting in the softly-light Dalton basement room, having the door closed and making sense of ourselves! Thank you all for creating such a great environment!

P.S two last links, one to an article reviewing an art.essay book entitled Portraits of the Mind that uses real images of the brain to talk about the evolution of our understanding of our mind/brains and the second to an article talking about the use of animations in molecular biology and more. I think its interesting because the book and animations the result of an effort to make science more accessible to a wider public. The book seeks to engage the reader through the aesthetic pleasure of the images which brought me back to our discussions about Logicomix, our generation's preference for the visual and education. Will visual be the new standard? .

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/30/science/30brain.html?ref=science

www.nytimes.com/2010/11/16/science/16animate.html

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