Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Are Other People Interesting?

Malcolm Gladwell introduces his book of essays, What the Dog Saw, with what he calls the "other minds" problem - the discovery children make, at an early age, that what's in somebody else's head is not the same as what's in theirs.
"Why is a two-year-old so terrible? Because she is systematically testing the fascinating, and, to her, utterly novel notion that something that gives her pleasure might not actually give someone else pleasure."
Even as adults, he says, we never lose that fascination. We are curious about the lives and interior worlds of other people. Gladwell says this curiosity about what life is like for others is one of the most fundamental of human impulses, and it's the one that shapes his book: he's following his curiosity and giving his readers an inside scoop.

Then he says something that seems to be a contradiction:
"The trick of finding ideas is to convince yourself that everyone and everything has a story to tell. I say trick but what I really mean is challenge, because it's a very hard thing to do. Our instinct as humans, after all, is to assume that most things are not interesting. We flip through the channels on the television and reject ten before we settle on one. We go to a bookstore and look at twenty novels before we pick the one we want. We filter and rank and judge. We have to. There's just so much out there. But if you want to be a writer, you have to fight that instinct every day. ___________ doesn't seem interesting? Well, dammit, it must be, and if it isn't, I have to believe that it will ultimately lead me to something that is."

Malcolm Gladwell, What the Dog Saw, pp. x, xiii.

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