Book Review: The Patterning Instinct by Jeremy Lent

The Patterning Instinct: A Cultural History of Humanity's Search for MeaningThe Patterning Instinct: A Cultural History of Humanity’s Search for Meaning by Jeremy Lent
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This isn’t a book about seeing shapes in clouds. Especially not that shape.

In The Patterning Instinct Jeremy Lent argues that we humans like to create “patterns” which informs the way we think about things, which in turn shapes the way the world works. But, hey, did you know that those patterns could be wrong, we could think about things in different ways, and that would change the way the world works?

An interesting book with an interesting thesis.

I decided to read The Patterning Instinct after reading Lent’s rebuttal of the “Everything is Fine” nonsense you see trotted out by agents of the status quo. I was expecting that the book would be something similar to The Divide by Jason Hickel, but it was something quite different.

To summarise the book: why don’t we do better by thinking differently?

There. 600 pages summarised.

Obviously there is a bit more to it than that. Lent goes through our history of thinking, patterning behaviours, how those are shaped, have been shaped, and continue to be shaped. His argument is then that our current patterns of thought are kinda stupid (see problems like systemic racism, environmental destruction, and wealth inequality) and we should change the way we think about things.

For example, instead of thinking that the cost of fossil fuels is the price of extraction plus a little something something for the company, we should instead think of the cost of the extraction, the pollution, the remediation, the deaths caused, the tax evasion, and the political manipulation involved in fossil fuels. If we did this we’d act differently and want a different way of powering our society.

Overall this was a very interesting book.

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Banning books

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I’m against censorship. Unfortunately many are in favour of censoring books. You may have heard of the outcry over the decision to edit Mark Twain’s classic, Huckleberry Finn, to stop calling the main supporting character, N-word Jim. What you may not have heard is that schools had stopped teaching Huckleberry Finn because they didn’t want to have to explain the historical and racial undertones and themes of the book. We can’t have a literary book actually studied now, can we! Definitely don’t want to look at Twain’s biting commentary on racism in the south of America, because that would mean discussing racism, and we like to pretend it isn’t still an issue.

It isn’t just the school curricula that are being impacted, it is libraries and book stores as well. The list of frequently challenged books is far too long and the reasons cited are far too ridiculous. For example, Brave New World by Aldous Huxley is regularly objected to for being: insensitivity; nudity; racism; religious viewpoint; sexually explicit. Seriously? What about the other complaints?

I’m offended by the word ‘sustainable’ as it is ambiguous term that is used politically as a catch-cry to gloss over reality. Does that mean I can complain about books containing that word? And what is sexually explicit? Is it when two characters embrace for a passionate kiss, or when the ball-gag and whips make an appearance? Are parents really concerned about the level of “smut” in the books their kids read or are they trying to have books banned because readers might enjoy them?

I know I have a complaint about the Twilight books. Now, my reasons aren’t like the other complaints (Reasons: religious viewpoint and violence), I just don’t like them because I’ve been dragged to see four terrible films by my wife. Ban the Twilight books so that husbands and boyfriends everywhere aren’t tortured with Kirsten Stewart’s “acting.”