2020 at-home Reading Response #A

Brainpickings is an online publication, technically a blog of one person, Maria Popova, who reads extensively, and publishes essays on her blog in order to capture the connections between art & science.  Her writing takes some time to get used to, and you should expect it to feel slow.  There are lots of hyperlinks within her post that would take you to other posts she has written, or sometimes an outside source that she wants to make available; you don’t need to go down those rabbit-holes for now.  One or two sentences often unlock a great deal of meaning, and the piece as a whole will be gratifying to those who have the motivation and patience to read entirely through.

Read the post that I’ve linked here, “An Antidote to Hopelessness and Disorientation,” then

1. Comment on the article.  Your response should focus on different parts of the reading by using a quote to springboard your own thoughts, connections, feelings, agreements, and judgments, etc. of the reading.  Shoot for 500 words.

2. Comment on someone’s response, after I’ve had a few days to review them an allow them up on this site. Shoot for 250 words.

32 Responses to “2020 at-home Reading Response #A”

  1. Gemma Weinfeld Says:

    In this post, Popova shares a quote from Erich Fromm. This quote states, “he has to protect himself not only against the danger of losing his life but also against the danger of losing his mind”. Although Fromm said this a long time ago, it is something that is especially relevant today, and will be again in the foreseeable future. Popova comments on the human mind and how we have evolved to meet our own unique challenges. Without any instincts to guide us, we are completely free to make our own decisions. These decisions are what make us flawed, sometimes immoral, and human. The post also focuses on how we handle our flawed decisions and other mentally difficult times, like the one we are in now. Touching on that, she lists more fundamentally human traits, hope, and insanity, which seem to go hand in hand. In our circumstances, our physical health is fueling our insanity, creating relentless selfishness in multiple ways. On one end buying out all the necessities, shameless racism, and price gouging, but on the other side, gathering in groups, not social distancing, air travel, and continuing to live life as normal. Both of these are relentlessly selfish and extremely detrimental in our ability to successfully flatten the curve. With this modern-day “insanity” comes the lack of hope. Those who participate in the above actions feel a sense of hopelessness and are trying to make the best out of a bad situation. Obviously, they are simply making it worse for the rest of us, who are doing the things that we are supposed to be doing. As long as there are people who continue with these “insane” things, we will get nowhere. What will get us somewhere is everybody working together and doing what they are told, it will pass. Hope and insanity counteract each other, to a point. Too little hope causes selfish and helpless actions, such as hoarding resources, price gouging, and racism. Too much hope can have the opposite effect, extreme confidence, and the downplaying of the seriousness of the situation, which is equally as selfish. Things like ignoring social distancing rules, air travel, and group gatherings result form mentalities like this. These are equally as detrimental to our situation and the speed we get out of it as the previously mentioned “insanity”. Thinking that “you are not going to get it” or it “won’t affect me” are examples of the common overconfident mentality that many, especially young people, have. Even if it is true, and you are not at high risk, others are, and you not abiding by rules directly increases their chance to get sick. To quote Fromm again, “the nature of hope is often misunderstood and confused with attitudes that have nothing to do with hope and in fact are the very opposite”. Hope is a complicated thing. It is not overconfidence or selfishness, or something ugly and irrational. It is something not to be devoured or restricted, but cherished and savored.

    • apores Says:

      Do you think there’s an implication in Popova’s essay that insanity is the fault of the insane, or that it is a moral choice in other words?

      • Gemma Weinfeld Says:

        I believe that Popova is trying to convey that insanity is a distinctly human trait, fueled by the already insane. Of course, a human does not simply make the decision to go insane, and the insane are not aware of their own insanity. When people are scared, they are vulnerable and believe the comforting words of the insane, which they then become. Popova wrote, “What makes us human is not the fact of that elemental vulnerability, which we share with all other living creatures, but the awareness of that fact — the way existential uncertainty worms the consciousness capable of grasping it”. According to Popova, we are the only creatures aware of our vulnerability, a fact which in itself can lead to insanity. Simply put, Popova is implying that insanity has stemmed from vulnerability, and is spread by those who have already succumbed to it.

    • Rachaelp.5 Says:

      Is people negating these safety regulations truly loss of hope or self-absorption making them blind to the true extent of their humanity, and clouding them from seeing how truly vulnerable they are?

      • apores Says:

        Do you mean the Cov-19 safety regulations? You’re onto something. I think there are some complex reasons that people won’t follow the guidelines. For some, I think it makes them confront their own mortality, which many people find uncomfortable.

  2. Jessy Cao Says:

    Maria Popova states that “To make that awareness bearable, we have evolved a singular faculty that might just be the crowning miracle of our consciousness: hope.” Is hope really the crowning miracle of our consciousness? Human evolution, spanning millions of years – going from a microscopic single-celled organism to the living, breathing, talking mass of cells we are today – has been lauded as the greatest process in living history; we dream, we think, we hope because we know there is a future for any of us, but what is hope really? A rush of chemicals, fifty microliters of oxytocin, thirty of serotonin? A human will stare at their New York apartment, fifty thousand dollars in debt, their world crumbling around them as a disease rages through their city, and still think “Things will get better.” Against all the odds, a human, stranded at sea, clinging onto a piece of driftwood and feeling the chill of the unforgiving waters down to their bones, and still think “Things will get better.” A patient, lying on a hospital bed, struggling to breathe through their failing lungs and delirious with pain, knowing all of their organs are shutting down one by one, can still think “Things will get better.”
    At what point is it better for one to say “Things won’t get better,” and end the dream there?
    A dog, seeing you move over to the cupboard where you store their food, will jump up and follow you with their tail wagging – is that hope? Or is that anticipation, knowing that their bowl will be filled with little bits of kibble when you pull out the crinkly bag? If it is hope, then the crowning miracle of our consciousness may not even be ours, and that’s ever so fitting for humankind, the leech of Mother Earth and all her glory.
    Maybe our crowning achievement is our intelligence?
    A blue whale, over 30 meters long and the largest animal alive, can be said to be much more impressive than man – but no one thinks that whales are smarter than us, for how could they be, they don’t have an economy, homes to live in, a stable trading system. But how can intelligence be quantified? The IQ tests are still flawed, for what good is scrawling out mathematical equations and knowing the chemical processes for cellular respiration, when you can’t even cook or change a tire? Is knowing how to build a house any less impressive than sitting down and finding the hypotenuse of a triangle?
    Mark Twain once said that humans are the only animal that can be bad – a tiger, he says, will strike and kill a gazelle, not because it thinks it is right, but because it has to – a deep, instinctual desire all animals have to survive. A man, on the other hand, can assess a situation, realize the better and worse of the two, and yet still choose the worse option – proving our moral inferiority to the animals that cannot pick.
    So in our world, where we share almost everything with the ‘lesser’ animals (speech, parrots can mimic, large-scale cooperation, ants already build structures ten times their size, the ability to see ourselves in the mirror and know it’s us, orangutans and great apes have passed the mirror test), the one thing we know sets us apart from the others is our ability to do things that are intrinsically immoral.

    • apores Says:

      You an Imani had similar points, in bringing up the percieved, or let’s say assumed difference between humans and animals. A lot of philosophical arguments about the meaning of life, or how special humans are breaks down when you start getting into the reality that measuring differences in consciousness, especially between humans and any other species, is probably impossible. I think whales are much more graceful than many humans, except maybe ballet dancers. We do like to sit around thinking of ways to make ourselves feel special, though, don’t we?

  3. Olivia Halter Says:

    Popova’s connections to the current situation with the coronavirus and the sudden relevancy of Fromm’s writing is very interesting. It directly ties together as both of Fromm’s extremes of optimism and despair are presenting themselves right now. I agree with your sentiment of overconfidence being detrimental in this time and people’s carelessness being reckless and an endangerment to others. I also thought your connection between Fromm’s thoughts on insanity and to the quarantine was well-thought-out. Many people are glued to the news so much so that it’s consuming them. When the news has nothing, but bad news it takes a lot to be able to go on and to find some small kernel of hope hidden in all the depressing information. In this time, hope needs to find a balance between conservation and happiness which a lot of people have been struggling with. When I first read through the article I didn’t fully comprehend the connections that Popova was making with the coronavirus and only realized it when I read your response and re-read the article. It was also pretty interesting how humans lack of instinct was presented as a benefit and an obstacle. Is our lack of instinct and a lack of experience with raw survival impacting the masses’ ability to react to the situation properly? This makes me think that our freedom of choice is not very helpful right now as a lot of people are choosing the “wrong path” or are choosing out of ignorance and aren’t informed well enough to make a proper decision. Do you think Fromm expected anything like this to happen in the future as his works line up shockingly well?

  4. Rachaelp.5 Says:

    In this article Popova comments on the human condition, the one thing that all great works of art have in common, the most famous people and works of art all comment on what defines humanity and makes us so special.. Popova comments on the fragility of our minds and the fragility of our existence as a whole. One quote that stands out is the comments of hope “Hope — and the wise, effective action that can spring from it — is the counterweight to the heavy sense of our own fragility. It is a continual negotiation between optimism and despair, a continual negation of cynicism and naïveté.” Hope is the subject of so many works of philosophy and the one thing humanity has held on to; it has been known and described since the time of ancient greek philosophy. For example take Pandora’s box, this tale is the gods tempting humanities unwavering curiosity and allowing pandora to open a box releasing death sickness and other evils to the world but the one spirit that wasn’t released was hope. The one thing humanity kept control of was hope it was the one thing they held onto when all other control is lost. This story is rather relevant to this article since it is another take on the same concept. Take the quote mentioned above, all the evils the gods release to torment humanity is the heavy sense of fragility mentioned in Popovas writing. Humans have been fighting the evils their own fragility forced upon them since the beginning of time and always having this feeling that those evils were not the end a feeling now referred to as hope. This feeling of hope being the counter to the constant contemplation of our inevitable demise.

  5. Cameron Gerstenslager Says:

    Before the post begins there is a quote stated by Erick Fromm. He said,”Only through full awareness of the danger to life can this potential be mobilized for action capable of bringing about drastic changes in our way of organizing society.” Fromm is convinced that fear can drive humans to do miraculous things, and only when the “danger of life” is present that humans can do things they couldn’t do otherwise. While I can not relate to near death this makes me think of the word, clutch. When I use this word it usually relates to sports. When I am losing in a game and I am in a tight situation I play my best. In this case losing is like death and I play my best just like how humans think of their greatest ideas. To begin the post, Popova explains how hope is part of being human. She says that we hope only because we fear the outcomes. Knowing that our actions can effect the outcome is a miracle of evolution. I believe that in many cases, hope relates to luck. In other words, people hope for good results because they can not control what happens. So, while I do agree with most of Popova statements, I do not agree with the opinion that people hope when the outcome is changeable. Popova shares a quotes from Fromm. It states,”Hope is a decisive element in any attempt to bring about social change in the direction of greater aliveness, awareness, and reason. But the nature of hope is often misunderstood and confused with attitudes that have nothing to do with hope and in fact are the very opposite.” These attitudes that are misunderstood with hope may include overconfidence or self- assured. This is relevant today, I sometimes see people look at hope as annoying. Hope should be adored, not hated upon by others. Popava later talks about how all humans when faced with a problem have the choice between hope and fear. She had compared it with World War II. People were either hopeful that the nazis would be taken or scared of what more destruction could occur. It was also said the hope is a choice, it is not given. This Is especially relevant today because of the dilemma were in. We all have a choice as human beings to hope for the best or fear the worst. Humans can not automatically think numbers on the spot, so if there is even the slightest chance of success then there is hope present. It is one of the many things that makes humans special.

    • Imani Ojutomori Says:

      I agree with your supporting point that we are prone to generating hope for ourselves mostly in portentous situations with pivotal outcomes, such as a close sports game or during a war, however I also feel that this idea has interesting ramifications. Within egoistic altruism exists the belief that if we help to improve the lives of people throughout the world who have it worse off than us, they will eventually be comfortable enough to focus on new innovations that better our lives. This is not a wholly inaccurate way of seeing the world, but it suggests that hope in the form of bettering innovation and science is something also beget by peace and comfort, not solely existential fear. I also agree with your point about the choices we must make in midst of this pandemic, during which it seems quite a lot of people in this country have chosen to protest about pay, or rent, or issues of class that have made themselves more apparent in these highly tense times. Overall it seems to me that hope for improving the world exists in a lot of situations, but it is transferred into actions that people unite to take most often in the face of fear.

  6. Samantha Sobka Says:

    This article, written by Maria Popova, attempts to explain that humanity is very fragile, and that the idea of hope is what sets us apart from the rest of the living creatures. It states that, “ Hope — and the wise, effective action that can spring from it — is the counterweight to the heavy sense of our own fragility”. I have never really thought about this before, but I suppose that is true. When the world looks bleak, normally because of human action, people always say, “just hope”, or “just have faith”. That trait of hoping is unique to humans. Then, Popova switches the focus a little and says, “What makes us human is not the fact of that elemental vulnerability, which we share with all other living creatures, but the awareness of that fact” This is a really interesting thought to me, because it made me think, how do we know that we are the only species that is self aware? On the earth, there are 1.2 million known species, but there could be up to 8.7 million that we just do not know about yet. We truly have no way of knowing if we are the only ones with self awareness. Dolphins and monkeys are both able to recognize themselves in a mirror, which is a close link to self awareness. I thought that the line, “Writing well before Ursula K. Le Guin’s brilliant unsexing of the universal pronoun, Fromm (and all of his contemporaries and predecessors, male and female, trapped in the linguistic convention of their time) may be forgiven for using man as shorthand for the generalized human being:” was somewhat unnecessary. I think that the use of the word “Man” as a pronoun for “person”, although it is a practice from a much less equal time, is okay. I also thought that the quote, “But more important than finding the better solution is finding some solution that is viable.” I think that this quote really encapsulates what it is like to be human; that you may not always have the very best solution or option, but you have one that will work. Overall, I think this is a really interesting article, that challenges many basic ideals. It really makes the reader think about what it is like to be human, and how humanity is a complicated balance of “cynicism and naïveté”. I think this is a really good time to read this article, given everything that is going on in the world right now with the corona virus. It demonstrates that human nature is to have hope, even in seemingly hopeless times, such as right now, where the world is faced with a pandemic-level sickness with no known cure.

  7. Bella Rose Says:

    The preface of the article hones in on the concept of hope and labels it, essentially, as a saving grace to humanity. “To make that awareness bearable, we have evolved a singular faculty that might just be the crowning miracle of our consciousness: hope,” (Popova). The awareness this quote is referring to is how “precarious our survival” and “vulnerable our sanity” are, both of which are very relevant and true. I agree that hope can be a positive notion in many cases. For example, it can rescue humanity from being swallowed whole by despair. Hope springboards from dark feelings of despondency and anguish to optimism and hunger in believing those bad feelings can be reoriented into success and happiness. It can be a beacon of light to help people persevere through rough times. However, while having hope can ease the mind and lift spirits, it is sometimes merely a temporary oasis that can be vicious and savage when it is proven faulty and not balanced out by common sense. In dramatic cases, a person can hope for something so much that they are driven over the edge of sanity when their hunger is not fulfilled, plunging into a pool of lunacy because of a dangerous obsession they had with their hope. In these cases, hope does not make the awareness of how “vulnerable our sanity” is bearable, it destroys the sanity itself. Along with survival and physical well-being, mental health is crucial to leading a humane and enjoyable life. Having the mind of a human builds mountains of pressure from making decisions and having to contemplate all the potential outcomes instead of simply going solely on instincts, as supported by the article. This pressure is more than enough to crush a soul that is barely hanging on or unstable. Popova said, “As we navigate our own uncertain times together, may a thousand flowers of sanity bloom, each valid so long as it is visible in buoying the human spirit it animates.” Flowers of sanity include elements of comfort and happiness that take away from the crushing pressure and worries constantly running through the mind. Family, friends, a home, a good book, a nature hike, connecting with people, playing an instrument, sports, verbally expressing oneself. These are just a few blossoming flowers of sanity that bring us out of our own head and as Popova mentions, are valid to a person as long as they attribute to their spirit being stable and afloat. Currently, as we all adjust to quarantine with COVID-19, flowers of sanity are also adjusted, but there all the same: facetiming friends instead of meeting in person, baking, getting around to those tasks at home you never had time to do before, going outside to walk or run, participating in lessons over zoom, and more. They are especially crucial now that the world is going through a very uncertain time. As human beings we need some normal and routine in our lives. Essentially, life is just a balancing act. Hope is important but must be weighed equally with logic and realistic thought process. There should never be too much work, play, or discovery, but just enough of each.

  8. Ava Ayala Says:

    In this article by Maria Popova, she uses quotes and resources to explain “…our way of organizing society.” Popova really pulls attention to Eric Fromm, a humanistic philosopher and psychologist, by quoting his writings which focus on what makes us human in society and in our consciousness. Fromm states,”His decisions are not made for him by instinct. He has to make them.” This is saying that humans do not “know” infallibly and that we hold such pressure to survive that we create senses of hope instead of an instinct. Surviving does not mean to literally stay alive and breathing but it also means to keep sane in chaotic circumstances, we have to create a sense of hope and clarity to, “…escape the experience of utter helplessness, disorientation, and uprootedness.” Further into the article it presents a situation in which people seem more likely to become independent in their thoughts and arguing seems to be the only way to get opinions out there. The presidential elections are a chaotic time when people differ in opinions and they will do anything to prove their opinion is the right one. Even though people are so sure in their decisions, they have to hope more than anything that enough people feel the same way to actually make a difference. Fromm happened to compose a book in the same time that the presidential elections of 1968 were in effect. 1968 was a time when America’s people had very different opinions and people were hoping and praying for a change in a time of destruction and despair. Nixon won the election that year that left people with a new hope and vision of what they are capable of. If someone that is not the typical politician and that is opposed to war is running the United States of America, why can’t they make a change in our country? You would never expect radical youth, hippies, intellectuals, and liberals of the upper middle classes to come together to elect one president since they have such different opinions. They defied the odds which puts on a mindset that if everyone puts their opinions aside and comes together, they can make a change in America. In today’s world, with all the chaos between countries, natural disasters, and disease, people are panicked and stressed. There seems to be no room for hope. If we could all do our part though, there could be a serious change in our world. We all don’t have to have the same opinions, we just have to take small actions to make a bigger difference. A huge problem is global warming which is being revered tremendously due to the global pandemic. People move so fast using cars, trains, planes, and boats to go where they need to go to merely “survive” that we don’t think about the consequences. Survival really influences our decisions in what we do next so we don’t fail, we focus on the little things that give us hope to distract us from the bigger picture. If we stop and take a look around, we could make a change in how we organize our society today.

  9. Ella Thiele Says:

    In her blog, Maria Popova provides many quotes from Erich Fromm, a 20th century physiologist and philosopher who studied much about human consciousness and vulnerability through insecurities. He dedicated his life to helping people understand their own consciousness and vulnerable self doubts. Fromm wrote that, “Man is born as a freak of nature, being within nature and yet transcending it.” By writing “transcending nature” Fromm is referring to the human ability of consciousness instead of the natural animal instinct. By “trading out” our instinct we have a deeper understanding of the world around us and we have the freedom to make our own decisions. This ability, however, does not come without a cost. With this comes self-doubt in our actions because we don’t have the sure way of having a definite unquestionable instinct. We often take a moment and doubt ourselves and the decisions we make. We don’t have the ignorant bliss in the decisions we make because humans have to make them ourselves, without the role of overpowering instinct, so most of the time there is uncertainty in our actions. With the freedom we do have, however, allows us to have creativity, imagination, bigger personality and emotions bigger than just an animal connection. These traits allow us to live outside of many laws of nature with things like deadly wounds or sicknesses to an animal or plant can be healed by a human with modern medicine and medical practices. Many animals must go a long ways away in search of food or water, but we as humans have found a way to grow our own food and direct water supplies into our very own homes, which we have built, therefore making our own sheltered area away from many dangers of the outside world. We have the unique ability to “transcend nature” with our own thoughts and ideas because we choose to act on them. Our freedom to choose allows us to stop and think, why must we follow animal instinct and go in search of water or food when we could think of a way to bring it to us without much long-term effort. This is what allowed our species to grow and evolve faster than other animals and plants. We are not exempt from the laws of nature but we are capable of bending them, and that we do.We used what was given to us to make our life easier. Molding and shaping things with the hand, sharing ideas and thoughts with the mouth and making our own paths with the mind. We use our built in senses to act for ourselves and every day we exceed nature itself with every new step we take in the direction we choose. This is what Fromm was sharing when he called man “A freak of nature” who can “transcend it”, and every idea before and after it, inspiring Popova to share it. Our abilities are a gift that we share with the world and each other and we should embrace our surreal ability that takes us past nature itself.

  10. Joshua Weistrop Says:

    Erich Fromm writes, “Man is born as a freak of nature, being within nature and yet transcending it.” He states that humans have lost the instinctual abilities that other animals have to outfit themselves for “flight or attack”, thrusting doubt into the minds of even the most resolute individuals, and causing insecurities to arise
    from these doubts. The helplessness, disorientation, and uprootedness that ensues lead to insanity. Although humankind lacks the instincts that protect and prepare other animals, humans have an alternative: a conscience. Although the human conscience is a weak alternative for instincts in terms of a moral compass, the conscience forces one to make their own decisions, either proving beneficial or detrimental to one. It is through the hope that one can correctly choose these beneficial decisions that stave off the gnawing confusion of insanity; it is through the hope that, even though success is not assured, the conscience can find lodging in the footholds of logic and reality and hold off the helplessness, disorientation, and uprootedness that is insanity. It is through these correct choices that benefit humans that one begins to categorize the way they look at life. With enough correct choices, the human mind begins to find patterns that help one choose more successful choices, and this is the way that our consciousness perceives life, through a “frame of orientation” that Fromm speaks of. Without these successes and the “frame of orientation” that allows one to feel “at home in the world”, the individual tends to go insane. In Dale Carnegie’s “How to Win Friends and Influence People,” he relates a conversation that occurred between himself and the “head physician of one of our most important psychiatric hospitals. This doctor [. . .] has received the highest honors and the most coveted awards for his knowledge of this subject [. . .]” and yet his response to Carnegie’s question of “Why do these people go insane?” was that he did not know; he stated that no one knows the answer to that question. The physician then relates an anecdote about a current patient:
    “‘I have a patient right now whose marriage proved to be a
    tragedy. She wanted love, sexual gratification, children and
    social prestige, but life blasted all her hopes. Her husband didn’t
    love her. He refused even to eat with her and forced her to serve
    his meals in his room upstairs. She had no children, no social
    standing. She went insane; and, in her imagination, she divorced
    her husband and resumed her maiden name. She now believes
    she has married into English aristocracy, and she insists on
    being called Lady Smith.
    ‘And as for children, she imagines now that she has had a new
    child every night. Each time I call on her she says: ‘Doctor, I had
    a baby last night.'”
    That day, Carnegie realized that without any of the woman’s previous choices leading to a successful life, she had lost hope for her future, choosing to live instead “in the sunny, fantasy isles of insanity, all her barkentines race into port with canvas billowing and winds singing through the masts.” Although humans lack the innate instincts that are prevalent in all other animals, humans have a consciousness, which allows for decisions to be made based on previous experience. This can be beneficial, as it allows for a higher rate of success if one views the opportunities through a correct “frame of orientation,” but it also may lead to insanity in an individual if one is not careful and loses all hope for their future.

  11. Cupcake7 Says:

    Man is the only creature among nature that has a consciousness. This means he must use decision making to stay alive but hope to stay sane. Hope might not always keep you sane, it has a counterweight, fragility which is what makes a person fragile or fearful. This is unlike all of the other creatures because they solely rely on their instincts. Which is basically how they survive. In mankind instincts are replaced by decision making. Erich Fromm states that “as the salmon knows where to return to spawn its young and as many birds know where to go south in the winter and where to return in the summer.” Basically, he is saying that they use their instincts to survive while humans use their consciousness to survive. Unlike these creatures mankind can not rely on their instincts to simply just make decisions for them, he has to make them himself. He must deal with every insecurity his consciousness gives him like the risk of failure before making any decisions. Humans must make their own instincts. Not only do human beings have to survive physically but they must keep their sanity as well. This means that they must fight to survive such as finding food, water, and keeping their health up. Also they must stay sane, this is another part of survival because if you become insane it’s like you lose your will to live and you can longer survive physically. Human kind can stay sane in a number of ways, like self love and giving yourself hope instead of focusing on our fragility or insecurities.The fact that man has a consciousness is what makes him insecure, which is why we must stay sane to prevent our insecurities from taking over our mind, or becoming insane. This makes youvery vulnerable, and this is where hope comes in to counter those feelings and keep you from reaching insanity.Fromm also states that “the human being born, under the descriptions described here, would indeed go mad If he did not find a frame of reference which permitted him to feel at home…” This means that if the human kind’s circumstances of living were to be changed it would be very hard for one to stay sane. For example in a crisis like the CoronaVirus, mankind’s circumstances are changed because man can not go on about its normal day to day life which is focused on the idea of being social. When humans are cut from being social it will become harder and harder to stay sane, and they will lose their hope, fragility and insecurities will start to. take over, causing some insanity.

  12. Ava Tomayko Says:

    Man is the only creature among nature that has a consciousness. This means he must use decision making to stay alive but hope to stay sane. Hope might not always keep you sane, it has a counterweight, fragility which is what makes a person fragile or fearful. This is unlike all of the other creatures because they solely rely on their instincts. Which is basically how they survive. In mankind instincts are replaced by decision making. Erich Fromm states that “as the salmon knows where to return to spawn its young and as many birds know where to go south in the winter and where to return in the summer.” Basically, he is saying that they use their instincts to survive while humans use their consciousness to survive. Unlike these creatures mankind can not rely on their instincts to simply just make decisions for them, he has to make them himself. He must deal with every insecurity his consciousness gives him like the risk of failure before making any decisions. Humans must make their own instincts.

    Not only do human beings have to survive physically but they must keep their sanity as well. This means that they must fight to survive such as finding food, water, and keeping their health up. Also they must stay sane, this is another part of survival because if you become insane it’s like you lose your will to live and you can longer survive physically. Human kind can stay sane in a number of ways, like self love and giving yourself hope instead of focusing on our fragility or insecurities.

    The fact that man has a consciousness is what makes him insecure, which is why we must stay sane to prevent our insecurities from taking over our mind, or becoming insane. This makes youvery vulnerable, and this is where hope comes in to counter those feelings and keep you from reaching insanity.

    Fromm also states that “the human being born, under the descriptions described here, would indeed go mad If he did not find a frame of reference which permitted him to feel at home…” This means that if the human kind’s circumstances of living were to be changed it would be very hard for one to stay sane. For example in a crisis like the CoronaVirus, mankind’s circumstances are changed because man can not go on about its normal day to day life which is focused on the idea of being social. When humans are cut from being social it will become harder and harder to stay sane, and they will lose their hope, fragility and insecurities will start to. take over, causing some insanity.

  13. Ava Tomayko Says:

    Man is the only creature among nature that has a consciousness. This means he must use decision making to stay alive but hope to stay sane. Hope might not always keep you sane, it has a counterweight, fragility which is what makes a person fragile or fearful. This is unlike all of the other creatures because they solely rely on their instincts. Which is basically how they survive. In mankind instincts are replaced by decision making. Erich Fromm states that “as the salmon knows where to return to spawn its young and as many birds know where to go south in the winter and where to return in the summer.” Basically, he is saying that they use their instincts to survive while humans use their consciousness to survive. Unlike these creatures mankind can not rely on their instincts to simply just make decisions for them, he has to make them himself. He must deal with every insecurity his consciousness gives him like the risk of failure before making any decisions. Humans must make their own instincts. Not only do human beings have to survive physically but they must keep their sanity as well. This means that they must fight to survive such as finding food, water, and keeping their health up. Also they must stay sane, this is another part of survival because if you become insane it’s like you lose your will to live and you can longer survive physically. Human kind can stay sane in a number of ways, like self love and giving yourself hope instead of focusing on our fragility or insecurities. The fact that man has a consciousness is what makes him insecure, which is why we must stay sane to prevent our insecurities from taking over our mind, or becoming insane. This makes youvery vulnerable, and this is where hope comes in to counter those feelings and keep you from reaching insanity. Fromm also states that “the human being born, under the descriptions described here, would indeed go mad If he did not find a frame of reference which permitted him to feel at home…” This means that if the human kind’s circumstances of living were to be changed it would be very hard for one to stay sane. For example in a crisis like the CoronaVirus, mankind’s circumstances are changed because man can not go on about its normal day to day life which is focused on the idea of being social. When humans are cut from being social it will become harder and harder to stay sane, and they will lose their hope, fragility and insecurities will start to. take over, causing some insanity.

  14. Jenna Amos Says:

    Man, unlike any other animals, lacks instinct. It is replaced with the principles of action and decision making. With the ability to interpret the world- this is our psychological vulnerability- as humans we become fragile. Erich Fromm writes: “[Man] has to fight not only against the dangers of dying, starving, and being hurt, but also against another danger that is specifically human: that of becoming insane.” Our brains are not wired like animals, Fromm gave two examples of species, birds, how they know, “where to go south in the winter and where to return in the summer,” and salmon, how they know, “where to return to the river in order to spawn its young
    we have to make our own choices.” He adds, “[Man’s] decisions are not made for him by instinct. He has to make them. He is faced with alternatives and there is a risk of failure in every decision he makes. The price that man pays for consciousness is insecurity. Instead of instincts, we have a conscience that tells us what we should do. Nevertheless, with consciousness there is insecurity. This shows we have to focus on not only surviving, but also not losing our minds doing so. To overcome the fragility and insecurity we face, humans have hope. Maria Popova writes: “Hope- and the wise, effective action that can spring from it — is the counterweight to the heavy sense of our own fragility.” For humans, hope is like a warm blanket that comforts them. Fromm states, “Our capacity for hope— which has furnished the greatest achievements of our species — is rooted in our vulnerable self-consciousness.” This is interesting because if hope is truly rooted there, and every human has a vulnerable self-consciousness then should not everyone be hopeful? It also makes me question whether or not you can choose to have hope. He continues with, “But the nature of hope is often misunderstood and confused with attitudes that have nothing to do with hope and in fact are the very opposite.” This is another fascinating statement because I misinterpret hope as optimism. So what precisely is hope? According to Fromm, “Hope is a decisive element in any attempt to bring about social change in the direction of greater aliveness, awareness, and reason.” Humans turn to hope when battling insecurity. Whether it is something really small or really big, like overcoming a worldwide pandemic. In these stressful, times it is easy for humans to feel insecure or insane, especially with being isolated from people. We use hope to, as Fromm said, “find a frame of reference which permitted him to feel at home in the world in some form and to escape the experience of utter helplessness, disorientation, and uprootedness.” Fromm includes, “There are many ways in which man can find a solution to the task of staying alive and of remaining sane,” and that is with hope.

  15. Lauren Banta Says:

    In the post, “An Antidote to Helplessness and Disorientation: The Great Humanistic Philosopher and Psychologist Erich Fromm on Our Human Fragility as the Key to Our Survival and Our Sanity,” written by Maria Popova, she goes into an immense amount of detail displaying the true nature and effects of the concept, human fragility. By using the book, The Revolution of Hope: Toward a Humanized Technology, created by Erich Fromm, Popova illuminates upon the idea of hope and how the motivational force intertwines itself into the human mind and guides it through life. Fromm states, “His decisions are not made for him by instinct. He has to make them. He is faced with alternatives and there is a risk of failure in every decision he makes. The price that man pays for consciousness is insecurity. He can stand his insecurity by being aware and accepting the human condition, and by the hope that he will not fail even though he has no guarantee for success.” The human being makes and commits to choices that can and most likely will forever alter either their physical life or mental state. We have the power to choose. This power then allows for us to become vulnerable, by allowing the probability of life to invade and conceal choices made in the future. Vulnerability or in other words, human fragility are a choice. As basic animals, humans were not made as fragile creatures by instinct. Life has proven that death is a constant and will always be. Death is the fact that haunts every living thing. Yet, the power of choice has allowed humans to use hope to turn human fragility and the strong negative and positive emotions that come with vulnerability into one of the main reasons for why we are alive and why we should keep on living. Hope is the reason why humans keep going even though others and even themselves try and bring them down. The motivation of ones will to live is the driving force in humanity, a force derived from a humans choice to not be just an animal, but to be something more. Further into Popova’s post, she quotes Fromm’s writing once again, “He has to have a frame of orientation that permits him to organize a consistent picture of the world as a condition for consistent actions.” The purpose of life for a human being has evolved and changed in many ways. In my perspective, the only way for human beings to truly be able to completely be happy or at least be able to truly understand the concept of happiness is to alter ones mentality for life. Happiness is an emotion that has driven humans for the majority of their existence. Happiness is the goal in life and is the only thing a human wants most. Most people think happiness is the only necessity in life, and yet we were the ones who created the concept. Our ability to be vulnerable enough to contain emotion has created almost a dangerous idea in the human mind. Losing ones mind in my opinion is worse than being harmed physically. The mind is so complex and intricate and its impressive how such a intelligent species has made one emotion the most important and sought after goal in life. The hope that one day, all that a person has done physically and mentally, will lead them to happiness, has become the fundamental base of human societies. When in reality, happiness is already in all of us. It is the ability to become fully accepting of every insecurity in oneself that will allow for happiness to truly blossom. And even as intelligent as we are, being able to truly control the frame of orientation and the concepts of insecurity, emotions, and life perceived by humans is a task not yet achievable. Acceptance of existence and the facts of life and death is the main concept that I derived from Maria Popova’s post. It is through the use of acceptance that a human being can begin to truly view and perceive life and humanity as a whole without the insecurities born from human fragility destroying a human mind, allowing for physical aspects in life to thus thrive.

  16. Dalia Powell Says:

    This post includes a quote by Erich Fromm. He states, “He has to find principles of action and decision making which replace the principles of instinct.” Fromm elaborates this in a separate quote by including that a salmon “knows” where to return to in the river to spawn and birds “know” where to fly South for the Winter and North for the Summer. This “knowing” factor is not taught, it is instinctual. Popova includes ideas such as the human does not have set instincts. SInce we are such advanced beings our instincts are the decisions we make for ourselves. Animals are put in danger by environmental elements like predators and food sources. But humans are not only put in danger by environmental elements, but conscious elements. These include the ability to lose one’s mind. Humans are capable of foresight, meaning we are much more insightful beings, therefore are at risk for developing mental illness. This builds off of instincts because being aware of decisions and the ability to lose your mind are both traits distinct to humans. In order to deal with these vulnerabilities humans have hope. Humans hope because although dreadful outcomes are constantly possible, our choices can still positively impact the outcomes. Hope provides a scapegoat that is used during hard times and even the most harmful situations. In my opinion, humans would lose their minds without hope. I think this because during stressful or dangerous situations, humans look to hope to provide comfort. Without comfort human’s minds could spiral and think to even worse outcomes, while typically hope halts this thought process and creates a new peaceful state of mind. I think the most common form of hope is religion. When people are in times of need or desperation, they typically look to a higher being and ask for a better outcome. Most people are involved in some type of religion which provides hope. Animals do not have hope, they have instinct. During a dangerous situation, an animal would not ask a higher being for guidance or help, they would do what they are born to do. Whether this be fight, run, or hide, they will do what their body tells them to. This does not require a thought process, it is instilled into them from birth. This is one of the major differences between humans and animals. This different way of thinking. In my mind there is a gray area between instinct and taught abilities in humans. Such as, instinct does not tell you “stranger danger” this is learned. But is the gut feeling you get at times instinct or learned behavior? This article has opened a new thought process to which I am wondering what is instinctual and what is taught. There could be many arguments to say that humans have many animal-like instincts. But also many could argue the fact that everything humans do could be taught. This article was very interesting to me and has given me a lot to think about.

    • apores Says:

      I like how you’ve pointed out the link between our choices and our instincts. It is highly likely that evolution has favored people who make logical choices about things, because it is such a foundational part of our mindsets, i.e. science, technology, even English literature scholarship. The creation of art, though, I would say happily, is still a mystery.

  17. Ryan童鎮豐 Dong Says:

    In Maria Popova’s article, one of Erich Fromm’s most critical observations of human nature states, “Only through full awareness of the danger to life can this potential be mobilized for action capable of bringing about drastic changes in our way of organizing society… One cannot think in terms of percentages or probabilities as long as there is a real possibility—even a slight one—that life will prevail.” As Popova states, Fromm is trying to illustrate the resilience that human motivation has against overwhelming odds. It is the thin sliver of hope which keeps us from becoming insane. However, ignoring percentages and probabilities may be unreasonable. A classic example of the irrationality brought upon by human hope is the lottery. In a typical 6-from-49 lotto, the chances of winning a jackpot is one in 13,983,816. Worse yet, in the more popular “bonusball” lotteries, the chances of winning are even more slim, at one in 258,890,850. These numbers are unfathomably infinitesimal compared to any statistical data in ordinary life. From a mathematical standpoint, it would be illogical to purchase a lottery ticket or receive a thrill from this action, since it is equivalent to giving away money. However, the average American spends around $223 on the lottery each year. This seemingly paradoxical situation is created by our tendencies to not “think in terms of percentages or probabilities as long as there is a real possibility—even a slight one—” as Fromm stated. In this example, the human brain only imagines the one reality which results in winning, without foreseeing all the other 258,890,849 disappointing outcomes. This irrational way of thinking is only amplified when we become more desperate, since the human mind tries to balance out despair with hope. For instance, a link has been fairly well established between low-income purchasers and lottery sales. A review conducted in 2004 by three Cornell economists using data from 39 states over 10 years found a strong correlation between poverty rates and lottery sales. Unfortunately, the financial insecurity of the poor creates room for more wishful thinking, which is put into the empty chances of winning a lottery. In the same way that hope tries to prevent insanity, hope may also override our rational thinking, which ultimately still makes us insane.

    • apores Says:

      What you’ve identified is your basic confirmation bias. The “gambler’s luck” theory is based around this idea. Nice example. Here’s my “dad joke:” The lottery is just a tax for people who are bad at math.”

  18. ivaperiod5 Says:

    In the blog post “An Antidote to Helplessness and Disorientation: The Great Humanistic Philosopher and Psychologist Erich Fromm on Our Human Fragility as the Key to Our Survival and Our Sanity” Maria Popova analyzes quotes by Erich Fromm about a variety of topics, such as hope and sanity, and how these fragile concepts make us who we are as human beings. Many of Fromm’s insights into the use of hope for empowerment are derived from the time period in which he lived. He was a German Jew who narrowly escaped the Nazis, seeking refuge in Switzerland, and eventually settling in the United States. Fromm wrote about mankind, “His decisions are not made for him by instinct. He has to make them. He is faced with alternatives and there is a risk of failure in every decision he makes. The price that man pays for consciousness is insecurity. He can stand his insecurity by being aware and accepting the human condition, and by the hope that he will not fail even though he has no guarantee for success. He has no certainty; the only certain prediction he can make is: “I shall die.” As a result of this, I believe that the human condition is being aware of your present choices and how they affect you. Even the smallest choices like what you’re doing while in this time of quarantine can affect your future. Whether you’re keeping up on schoolwork, learning a new hobby, or just laying around, these actions have the possibility to affect you in negative or positive ways. In the end, the only thing that is inevitable is death.
    Fromm also said, “Only through full awareness of the danger to life can this potential be mobilized for action capable of bringing about drastic changes in our way of organizing society… One cannot think in terms of percentages or probabilities as long as there is a real possibility — even a slight one — that life will prevail.” In times like these, these words are extremely relevant. With all the statistics being shared about the novel coronavirus, it is very easy to distance yourself from the numbers being broadcasted. While it is very important to make sure that you’re not watching the news 24/7 and that you’re also consuming positive media, it is even more important to make sure that we internalize these numbers. As of now, there have been over 14,800 thousand deaths in the United States alone. The government predicts that even if everyone social distances correctly, the death toll could be around 250,000 people. Even though this seems like a relatively small number, those are thousands of lives lost. It is important that we remember these lives and remember how the government has responded to the novel coronavirus. We must be aware of the dangers this virus poses and think of what is happening now in the United States, not just in terms of how many were lost, but why they were lost. Only with this knowledge can we change our government infrastructures for the better. As Fromm said, if we are fully aware of the danger to life, can we use its potential to bring about drastic change.

  19. Huamae-P.6 Says:

    In Popova’s article, she shares a quote from Erich Fromm stating, “The price that man pays for consciousness is insecurities. He can stand his insecurity by being aware and accepting the human condition, and by the hope that he will not fail even though he has no guarantee for success. He has no certainty; the only certain prediction he can make is: “I shall die”. Fromm’s belief seems to be apathetic, for a person’s hope can be rooted in many things, and simply accepting or being aware of the human condition does not lead to tolerance or acceptance of our insecurities. For some, the awareness of our broken human nature is crippling. It can result in negativity and actions that not only hurt themselves, but others in the process. Failure is also clearly inevitable, no matter how hard we try to live perfect lives, measure up to standards set before us, or fully honor promises, there will always be failure. Naturally, our will is to live for ourselves, but it is also futile to live our lives fully according to our desires, for it simply amounts to fleeting pleasures that in the end, leave you feeling more empty. Faith in God, however, shows that all hope rests in Him alone, for only He transcends creation. Upon my belief, there is certainty in all His word and promises, the Gospel. This teaches there is hope beyond the grave and physical death, for there lies eternal life free from all pain and suffering for those who believe. Our trials in life don’t have to be endured purely by our strength alone, for He has endured and defeated it all for our sake. He is always with us, working for the good of his people, having set a purpose for their lives. As Popova and Fromm also mentioned, we are aware and have consciousness of our lives that far exceeds that of other species. This leads to the realization of realities such as humanity’s brokenness, our capabilities that can either be harnessed for good or evil, and forces that we are subject to, things we have neither power nor the authority to control. From our beliefs, knowledge, and experiences, we form values that impact our decisions, actions, and our unique perspectives or mindsets. Popova commented that humans are a miracle of evolution, and for the sake of bearing the awareness we have, hope is a power we’ve evolved to cope. This, I disagree with, for I don’t believe hope is attained through birth or evolution. Rather, it is a product from our perseverance through sufferings that builds character, patience, and experience, from which hope arises. Our free will and choices are sometimes good, but more often it leads to detrimental habits or paths. Overall, there is no solid foundation to place our trust and hope in without God. There is certainty in life that can be found in the assurance of God’s greater power, the one that is made perfect in our weakness.

  20. Imani Ojutomori Says:

    In the beginning throes of her article, “An Antidote to Helplessness and Disorientation: The Great Humanistic Philosopher and Psychologist Erich Fromm on Our Human Fragility as the Key to Our Survival and Our Sanity” , Maria Popova can be quoted as to proclaiming the following: “What makes us human is not the fact of that elemental vulnerability, which we share with all other living creatures, but the awareness of that fact — the way existential uncertainty worms the consciousness capable of grasping it.” This quote essentially expresses the opinion that humans are distinguished from all other species of animal by their constant awareness of unavoidable “elemental vulnerability”. If elemental vulnerability is understood to mean a proneness to eventual death and harm as the rest of the text suggests, then a brief examination of other animal species can prove the idea of this section to be slightly inaccurate. Different species simply aren’t equivalently vulnerable to the harm of say, nature or the elements. Given an isolated bird species in the amazon rainforest and an isolated ant species, it’s likely that one hundred dead birds in that population would have more drastic effects than one hundred dead ants, as their species are differently proportioned, and overall those two populations are not equivalently vulnerable to/harmed by death. In a similar vein, human urban development has not created the same amount of so-called vulnerability in common pigeons as it has in the white tiger, a much more endangered animal. When describing the attributes of different species it seems more productive to specify than to generalize across prominent variations.

    The claim made by the rest of this snippet also imbues the rest of the text. At one point Popova states that “[People] hope precisely because we are aware that terrible outcomes are always possible and often probable, but that the choices we make can impact the outcomes,” which coincides with her aforementioned statement that “awareness” of vulnerability is what distinguishes human beings, further illustrating the belief that people are set apart by an unmatched ability to understand harm/death and believe in peace/life. However, many species of bird build nests high up in order to keep their progeny away from predators, which can be seen as a demonstration that they are aware of the world’s dangers to them. These birds continue to create nests anyway, as though they have hope that they’ll be able to secure life for a new generation. The same concept goes for many other species of animals, which elucidates that maybe the belief in life (and protecting it) isn’t that uniquely human.

    Moreover, it bears recognizing that true hope for life to prevail as this article defines it is not showcased completely in every human being. Many of us believe in principles that contradict security and peace for our fellow human beings, or act in ways that harm other individuals, a fact that Popova touches upon with a quoted statement from Erich Fromm. In essence he says that people must work to obtain awareness of our deep vulnerability to death and harm so that we can create positive change. Yet if clarity in this way must be gained or strengthened by people, then it isn’t simply ingrained into human beings; we must aspire to it. With this in mind, is it fair to say that only humans can be truly aware of life’s precariousness? Is it better we open our minds further to the possibility that clarity doesn’t only exist anthropologically? Expanding further, are we wrong not to examine the thought that there are ideas about life we haven’t grasped, but which other animals understand deeply?

    • apores Says:

      I think about animals a lot, and most philosophies have to assume they’re just talking about humans. There’s the assumption here that humans are uniquely posed to self-assess, but if we’re being honest, who are we to assume that we would be able to detect everything in an animal’s ability to communicate?

  21. Max Zahirovic-P6 Says:

    In this post, Maria Popova comments on multiple quotes from Erich Fromm about the nature of human consciousness. Erich Fromm is quoted saying, “Man is born a freak of nature, being within nature and yet transcending it.” This quote outlines that humanity is still contained within nature, and is an integral part of it, but also above nature because we have the ability to consciously make decisions. Humanity has the ability to change nature just like any other animal, but our decisions are made ourselves, and not of instinct. When humans introduced rabbits to New Zealand by accident, they began to destroy the local wildlife, especially certain native plants. Our response was to introduce ferrets to New Zealand to reduce the rabbit population, but instead, they ate the native birds instead of the rabbits. This catastrophic destruction of a native ecosystem was an accident, but trying to act on what we thought would work for an ecosystem ended up ruining it even more. Humans are both gifted and cursed with consciousness; we are gifted in the sense that we can understand more about our surroundings and our existence, but are cursed in that this ability to understand our existence gives us a feeling of responsibility because we have the ability to control our actions, not by instinct. We have the ability to think about doing something right or wrong, and we can understand when something we do is right or wrong. When the rabbits and ferrets began destroying New Zealand’s ecosystem, they did not do it of their own will, they were only exercising their base instincts to survive in a foreign area. As conscious beings, we can see that our actions led to dire consequences, and this is why we can feel as though we have a responsibility to the world. This responsibility is expressed in ideologically different ways, some may understand their responsibility as a need to conserve the world that we knew, or to change the world to something that can work best for us. Our consciousness is limited in that the average person cannot comprehend the impact we have on our planet until we experience the consequences of our actions. In 1918, our use of chemical weapons and unsanitary trenches during World War I led to the worst flu pandemic the world had ever seen. By 1920, over fifty million people were dead and a third of the world’s population had been infected. We adapted by advancing our knowledge of medicine forward and ridding ourselves of customs such as spitting, open coughing, and sneezing. We had taken responsibility for our own actions to better our lives. What we did not know was that our destruction of native wildlife habitats and our reckless and unsanitary treatment of animals would result in a virus that would kill one hundred thousand people and infect over one and a half million people (as of April 10). Our consciousness is limited in its ability to understand certain ideas until they negatively affect us in some way. When times get hard, we learn from our mistakes and hope that things will get better. Maria Popova says, “Hope — and the wise, effective action that can spring from it — is the counterweight to the heavy sense of our own fragility.” In times such as ours, we cling onto the hope that things will be better and look forward. We know that terrible outcomes could and have happened, but using a mixture of our base instincts like fear, and our conscious reasonings that things could be much worse, helps us to continue forward even through hard times. In the face of the coronavirus pandemic and global climate change, we can take our conscious responsibility and use it to take care of ourselves as a species and to realize our mistakes and remedy them. Our consciousness gives us an advantage over other species, and we need to be responsible for our actions. We have the ability that no other species had, and that is to change our ways for the betterment of our descendants. All we can do is pray that our descendants will learn from our mistakes and better themselves, and the world, as a whole.

    • apores Says:

      Do you think that humans, then, are also the other creatures with the ability to make moral choices? In New Zealand, could it be said that they were doing something morally right by introducing ferrets, even though it totally destroyed the environment when they did so?

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