Why relaxing is so much work.
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Understanding what makes us who we are
John Edward Terrell Ph.D.
We need better ways to talk about why we aren't all alike everywhere on earth.
We all have ancestors, or we wouldn't be alive today. We all have a heritage, or we wouldn't be human. The difference between these two statements is fundamental and important.
Scientists can prove that human races doesn't really exist, but so far they are doing a poor job of explaining to the rest of us why this is true.
Some scientists accept assumptions about what is real, even when it comes to race and genetics.
If you don't know where your ancestors were from, ask yourself if there isn't something better you can do with your money before sending off your saliva to be genetically tested.
What are popularly called memories are our working impressions of the world we live in. We need to distrust what our senses have been telling us more often than we normally do.
The importance of asking why humans are open to seemingly outlandish ideas.
Maybe it is true that the COVID-19 pandemic couldn't have been avoided, but if we had listened to what history tells us, we wouldn't be where we are today in dealing with it.
We don't all look alike, yet we all belong to one and the same biological species. Setting aside accounts about space aliens and like, how are we to explain this paradoxical truth?
It's not kind and may be dangerous to ignore that dogs are dogs, not people. It would be naïve to believe, however, that what makes a dog happy doesn't depend a lot on us.
Both have to learn how to get along successfully with others.
History shows that it is easy for those of us who are human to think we know a lot more than we actually do. Lesson 5: A good explanation may not be the right explanation.
Lesson 4: Be careful what you take for granted. Dogs can sometimes know us better than we know ourselves. It is not surprising they have things to teach us.
Lesson 3: If we pay close attention to them, our dogs are more than just our intimate companions and helpmates. They have much to teach us about ourselves.
Dogs and people have been living together for thousands of years. They can teach us a lot about ourselves. Lesson 2: Don't judge a book by its cover, or a dog by its appearance.
Dogs and people have been living together for tens of thousands of years. It's not surprising they have things to teach us. Lesson 1: Just because you can doesn't mean you will.
Thinking outside the box is not something we may want to give a lot of time to doing. Ironically, however, it is a lot easier to do so than many of us may think it is.
Even scientists may not see that what they are saying is just repackaging old wisdom (anthropologists call it cultural knowledge) relabeled to come across as newsworthy and substantial.
We have been given brains that can do so much more than we often ask them to do.
Philosophers have long pondered the ageless question What Is Truth? But the more revealing questions are How and How Much can we really learn about the world outside our skulls?
The story of you is not just about your brain's remarkable ability to work with what your senses tell you about the outside world, but also about what you do with what you know.
The world beyond our skulls is not an illusion. What we think is out there, however, is a fabrication of the mind, and we are easily convinced we know more about it all than we do.
The facts of life are hard for some of us to swallow. But don't deny the obvious. Our lives depend on how we are linked with others in productive and enduring social networks.
The soft jelly-like mass hidden inside our skulls makes us not only clever and creative creatures, but at times also astonishingly naïve, opinionated, and even decidedly dangerous.
The notion that when it comes to sex and gender we are as programmed in our ways by our genes as other creatures on Earth misses completely the whole point of being human.
What can babies tell us about ourselves? More than you may suspect. For starters, they can teach us a lot about the challenges and the distinctive advantages of being human.
Philosophers, theologians, psychologists, and barroom patrons have been arguing since the beginning of time about what makes us special as a species. But how truly unique are we?
The challenge of being human is not how fast or slow your brain is running, but what you are doing with it even while you are daydreaming or fast asleep.
Why do some scholars not believe what we think makes a difference to what we do? Can't our dreams and fantasies lead us to do things we otherwise wouldn't even think of doing?
Living in a world that is dull and boring may be hard for some, but such a world gives us the time to think for ourselves rather than just about what is happening around us.
John Edward Terrell, Ph.D., is the Regenstein Curator of Pacific Anthropology at the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago, and Professor of Anthropology at the University of Illinois Chicago.