Book Review: “The Social Animal”

“We are living in the middle of a revolution in consciousness.  Over the past few years, geneticists, neuroscientists, psychologists, sociologists, economists, anthropologists, and others have made great strides in understanding the building blocks of human flourishing.”

I’m not good at book summaries. In one of my favorite books, East of Eden, John Steinbeck describes one of the characters as mucking through books and emerging from them with the words still stuck on him. This book made me feel like that. I can’t gain an objective veiw point on it because it’s still stuck to me. It’s interesting, it’s heartfelt, it’s sad, but mostly, it rings with truth. The characters are real – they do things that real people would do.

Mostly this book is about the human brain. A vast and fascinating topic. David Brooks goes into detailed explanations, drawing on longitudinal studies stretched over lifetimes, as well as the old rats and college sophomores to explain what we are learning about the design and development of the human brain, but I think my favorite part of this book is that the more we learn the less we know.

I think there was a brief space in time (The Industrial Era) where humans thought we could figure it out. And it made us arrogant and cruel and coldly scientific. The optimist in me believes that we really are going through a revolution in consciousness and that people will become more ok with admitting that we don’t have a clue what’s going on. Yes, it’s all neurons firing and cells moving and gravity and science, but it seems to me that the more we know the more we come face to face with the vastness of what we can’t even fathom.

So here’s to humans, the social animals, the little bumbling race on planet earth uncovering a whole new layer of mystery we don’t know shit about.