Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Black Swan

I just finished a good book called The Black Swan by Nassim Nicholas Taleb. This book demonstrated how our reality is a lot more improbable than we want to believe - we just construct a narrative after the fact to random events to make them make sense. We fool ourselves into thinking we know more than we do. I have been worried lately about an economic meltdown but the book rather convincingly makes the point that it's not the bad things that you can imagine will happen that you need to worry about; it's the unknown unknowns that will have the big impacts. One trick of coping with the randomness is to focus on appreciating small pleasures. To quote the book on hedonic happiness:
"...your happiness depends far more on the number of instances of positive feelings, what psychologists call "positive affect," than on their intensity when they hit. In other words, good news is good news first; how good matters rather little. So to have a pleasant life you should spread these small "affects" across time as evenly as possible. "

Lately, I've been eating lunch in the beautiful Haupt Garden, this week taking pleasure in some Virginia bluebells and profuse forget-me-nots that grow there. In another nearby garden I was happy to discover a "Black Swan" of flowers, the Guinea Hen flower (pictured). I think Lynnis should grow some since she likes fowl.

1 comment:

Gordon said...

That sounds like a wise book, author and reader.