“There are two ways of seeing: with the body and with the soul.
The body’s sight can sometimes forget, but the soul remembers forever.”
― Alexandre Dumas, The Count of Monte Cristo
I am a romantic. I love love stories. I love movies that are based on true stories. Historical epics, life documentaries, tear jerkers I love them all. I read and write poetry. The best valentine, birthday, and anniversary cards are the ones that are blank inside leaving me more room to write my own love words. I compose scavenger hunts every Christmas giving clues to my kids in poetic form that guides them from clue to clue and then eventually to their big present! I love novels that take the time to develop deep social and psychological characters. The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas is one of my favorite novels. All this confirms to me what David Brooks writes in his book The Social Animal, that I am emotionally astute not a “girly-man.”
Many try to rationalize the emotional side of themselves. “Real men don’t cry.” “A real lady does not let her emotions show.” Yet the caging of the inner emotional animal is much more difficult than we all have been told. Brooks reveals that within the realm of the unknown lurks a creature greater than any have thought before. One that far out weighs the conscious mind that we have been taught to believe is the one in control. We try to suppress our urges, control our inner fantasies, deal with that inner child that seems to always want his way. Yet, to be Vulcan (ok, that is just concerning when the auto spell checker automatically capitalizes Vulcan. Wow! Ok, sorry. “Squirrel!”) To be Vulcan according to Brooks would be to also eliminate the rational part of our brain. There is no separating our conscious mind from the emotional dramatic side of ourselves. This emotional side can actually improve our rational side. Brook states, “If you improve your emotional sensitivity, you will improve your powers of rational deduction because you’ll be able to make more subtle valuations.” Spock is a fictitious character. Sorry, to break the news to you.
Throughout the book Brooks takes his fictitious characters Harold and Erica through the emotional, irrational, and at time rational roller costar of life with all of its confusing ups and downs and loopty-doos showing how much the unconscious social animal is more in control than we ever would imagine. How we fall in love, how we learn, and how we arrive at conclusions are more out of our control then we ever imagined. We are in a real sense out of control, but since we are all out of control we begin to recognize patterns in this crazy life that allow us to steer courses through the ebb and flow of emotional waves. As Brooks notes, “No piece of information is processed in isolation. Mental patterns are contagious, and everything is judged in comparison to something else.” And our brains are masters of automatically trying to build patterns out of the multitude of data it is daily bombarded with.
I love the kaleidoscope of learning that Brooks gives. True to his research he feed us in the manner our brains operate. A little here, a little there, continual reinforcement of the basics, returning to the familiar and then launching out in new waters, to return once again. It is the rhythm of expansion and integration. He continued to give the familiar, perhaps a trip down memory lane of how high school clicks operate, or our first love, or how we were as adolescents going through puberty, and then broadens our perspective with authors, research, statistics that have direct implication to the familiar that was just recalled. Then he would do it all over again. Masterful! I loved it!!
So, I have learned that “decision making is an inherently emotional business” and therefore if I continue to build my emotional side it will help me make better decisions. So as I leave this writing to enjoy the smell of my wife’s distinct lovely hair I am carving out new mental patters that will help me complete my dissertation by December 31 of this year! That is what my emotional heart is leading me to do. So I better follow my heart. As Blaise Pascal put it, “the heart, has reasons the head knows not of.”
 David Brooks, The Social Animal: The Hidden Sources of Love, Character, and Achievement (New York: Random House Trade Paperbacks, 2012), 380.
 Ibid., 181.
 Ibid., 89.
 Ibid., 87.
 Ibid., 17.