#138 – No Sense or Sensibility

Critics argue which character trait Jane Austen was most in favor of sense or sensibility. In her novel Sense and Sensibility, she could have been a champion of both. In any case we are sorely in need of rationality and an appreciation of beauty in America today. Our tribal behavior suggests “atavism.” You won’t like this dictionary definition: “reverting to or suggesting the characteristics of a remote ancestor or primitive type.” See any primates dancing about? The behavior is certainly prevalent enough.

Another definition says: “the recurrence of or reversion to a past style, manner, worldview, approach or activity.” We have learned in these essays that our identity and behavior originate in our worldview. If that is, true we need to reexamine the story that we are telling ourselves because the behavior of Americans lately is definitely “primitive.”

Still another definition could send chills down our spine. Atavism is: “a recurrence in an organism of a trait or character type of an ancestral form and usually due to genetic recombination.” If indeed our genes are “out of whack” there may be nothing much we can do.

Many Americans today are behaving less rationally and with less appreciation for the good, the true and the beautiful. For example, in many of our schools we can’t find the money to include art, music and dance in the curriculum. And yet, we continue to include in our worldview a belief in the non-existent other which results in a paranoid, fear-driven and ultimately disastrous funding of self-destructive weapons systems.

We are going to reject the geneticists’ explanation of atavism since we believe that our species is empowered to create its own story, its own reality. Jane Austen seemed to have understood intuitively that both reason and an appreciation of beauty were necessary to a rich and joy-filled life.

“The psychologist Robert Ornstein and the biologist Paul Ehrlich argued decades ago, in their book ‘New World New Mind,’ that our minds had failed to keep up with the times—that we were, in a sense, cave men and cave women, struggling to deal with modern problems, like nuclear annihilation, to which our minds were not suited. They called for a ‘conscious evolution’ in how we processed information about the modern world, meaning an intentional change in our cognitive habits.” (1)

What do we need to know about the human mind if we are to begin the process of “conscious evolution?”

Click on the link below as we seek a deeper understanding of how to change our worldview.

Insight # 138:   The mind is its own place, and in itself, can make a heaven of hell, and a hell of heaven.    John Milton



  1. Slovic, Scott and Paul Slovic. “The Arithmetic of Compassion.” The New York Times Sunday. December 6, 2015, page 10.

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