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Below is the visual library for all the books I have summarized
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Hawk Genghis Khan Making Onward God Delusion Moonwalking_with_einstein Stroke of Insight Einstein Isaacson Siddhartha Titan fooling super brain Lila Meditations Fahrenheit 451  On the Road   Cooked On the Shortness of Life What every body is saying Aleph Animal Farm Sports Gene Love WinsBorn to Run  Emotional Intelligence Cool Tools Sun also rises Inutition Pumps  Moby Dick  Free to Choose  Power of Positive Thinking Experiments with Truth Vagabonding Slaughterhouse Five Aristotle in Outline the social animal_3.indd Cat's Cradle Thinking Fast and Slow  The Alchemist  Walden  Art of War  The Charisma Myth  Flatland  Mr. Feynman Money master the game 51qwpkjNP7L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_  7126 41ry6MoUc3L._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_ 51JNMx5G3iL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Berkshire 51K28NKVF3L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_ 1984-by-opallynn-d4lnuoh 6596 17184 cover2 cvr9781451695182_9781451695182_hr Mastery_Cover movieposter PicofDorianGray-728143 Rye_catcher 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Becoming Supernatural: How Common People Are Doing the Uncommon by Joe Dispenza

Summary
  1. “This book will show you how to accept your future dream as your current reality and to do so in a way that your body believes is happening “now.” You can discover how to set into motion a cascade of emotional and physiological processes that reflect your new reality. The neurons in your brain, the sensory neurites in your heart, and the chemistry in your body all harmonize to mirror the new thinking, and the quantum possibilities of life are rearranged to replace the unwanted circumstances of your past with the new circumstances that you’ve accepted as the present. The hope is that this book provides a roadmap for how to achieve some of these transcendental experiences yourself.”
Key Takeaways
  1. We are not linear beings living linear lives but dimensional beings living dimensional lives
  2. It takes a clear intent (coherent brain) and an elevated emotion (a coherent heart (to begin to change a persons biology from living in the last to living in the future. That combination of mind and body – of thoughts and feelings – also seems to influence matter. And that’s how you create reality
  3. All frequencies carry information, including the electromagnetism our bodies give off
  4. There are several energy centers within the body with their own chemistries, hormones, and brains and can be influenced to be more balanced and integrated. Learning how to shift from outer to inner focus (beta to alpha waves) is key to being able to program the autonomic nervous system
  5. The more you understand the science and reasoning behind these meditations and practices, the easier you’ll be able to accept and give into them
  6. There is a future you – a you who already exists in the eternal present moment – who is actually calling himself to the more familiar you who is reading this book. And that future you is more loving, more evolved, more conscious, more present, more kind, more exuberant, more mindful, more willful, more connected, more supernatural, and more whole. That is who is waiting for you to change your energy to match his or her energy on a daily basis so you can find that future you – who actually exists in the eternal now. And the only way you can create a new life, heal your body, or change your predictable future is to get beyond yourself. It takes practice to live in the present moment rather than the predictable future or familiar past
  7. The quantum world, the fifth dimension, is not available through normal senses but only when we’re totally present can we transcend and reach this space where all potential futures are available to you. The quantum of unified field is an invisible field of energy and information – or you could say a field of intelligence or consciousness – that exists beyond space and time. Nothing physical or material exists there. It’s beyond anything you can perceive with your senses. This unified field of energy and information is what governs all the laws of nature. Dispenza thinks of the quantum field as energy which is self-organizing intelligence. The quantum field is filled with infinite amounts of energy vibrating beyond the physical world of matter and beyond our senses – invisible waves of energy available for us to use in creation
  8. The brain thinks but the heart knows. The heart is the center of oneness, wholeness and unity consciousness
  9. Physiologically, stress is akin to fighting for survival. No organism can live in this space for extended periods of time but in today’s world, many humans are at a low level of stress at all times. All energy is sent to deal with external threats and there is nothing left for internal growth and repair, compromising the immune system. But, with proper focus, meditation and breathing techniques, you can teach your brain and body what your ideal future state will feel like ahead of the actual experience. Your brain and body does not know the difference between the real event and the one you imagine and emotionally embrace. You can pull your present self into the future by having this intention crystal clear in your mind and body
  10. Emotions are the chemical consequences (or feedback) of past experiences. The stronger the emotional quotient from any event – good or bad – the stronger the change in our internal chemistry. An experience becomes imprinted on the neural circuitry, and the emotion is then stored in the body – and that’s how our past becomes our biology
  11. It is difficult and takes time but have to completely surrender, get out of the way and let go of wanting any specific outcome and simply open up to possibility
  12. First have to master the concept of the present moment: the eternal now. Have to transcend the physical world and your identity and even time itself in order to turn possibility into reality. You have to get out of your own way, transcend the memory of yourself as an identity and allow something greater than you, something mystical, to take over.
  13. Mind is the brain in action. Your brain is a product of the past; a living record of everything you have learned and experienced up to the present
  14. Becoming aware of your thoughts is so important because thoughts influence feelings which influence behavior which influence life in a virtuous or negative cycle
  15. Changing up your routine and trying new things forces you to be more present and aware because you have to be in the moment and can’t go on autopilot. If not in the present moment, you’re probably in a program (habit). There is no room for the unknown in a predictable life. The unknown is unfamiliar, uncertain – but it’s also exciting because it occurs in ways you cannot expect or anticipate
    1. Something I need to incorporate more of: getting out of habits and routines (even though I feel they’re positive) to allow more space for the unknown and spontaneous to enter my life. Need energy to create an unknown experience in a new timeline if want to change something
  16. Think of emotion as energy in motion, they are the chemical residues of experiences. Brain creates electrical charges through neurons and when these thoughts create chemical neurons that result in an emotion, those feelings create a magnetic charge. These merge to create an electromagnetic field equal to your state of being. Only way to change our lives is to change our energy – to change the electromagnetic field we are constantly broadcasting. In other words, to change our state of being, we have to change how we think and how we feel. What you put your attention on and mentally rehearse over and over again not only becomes who you are from a biological perspective, it also determines your future. An internal focus rather than external (inside body rather than imagining seeing self as though in a movie) had much more profound effects in muscle growth visualizing practices. Shows the power thought alone can have on the body. You have to think greater than how you feel to make any real, lasting changes
    1. Honor this by taking an internal view and comparing self to previous self rather than others
  17. Now know that it’s not the gene that creates disease but both the external and internal environments that program our genes to create the disease.
  18. Experiences enrich the brain. Possessions fracture it’s energy, focus and attention. When outer world objects such as people, problems, social media, etc. take so much of your attention and energy, there is little left for you to put on your inner world of thoughts and feelings. What you own eventually comes to own you – becoming a victim of your life rather than the creator of your life. Too many outside distractions gets your brain to fire out of order and to work inefficiently and out of sync. When your brain is incoherent, you get incoherent. How much of your energy is taken up by possessions, fear, greed, envy, etc. that could otherwise be put to creating a new destiny? This is a shift from somebody to no body, from something to no thing, from being somewhere to being no where, from being in linear time to being in no time. The different compartments that were once subdivided now start to unify and move toward a coherent, whole-brain state – where your brain can synchronize, organize and integrate. The brain then can slow down and connect with our autonomic nervous system, healing the body as our consciousness merges with its consciousness.
  19. Goal of meditation is to create a reality from a world beyond your senses that’s defined not by your body as the mind but by you as the mind. So as you become aware of the program, you keep settling your body down into the present moment. The body wants to return to the familiar past because it wants to engage in a predictable future, but you keep settling it back down. Each time you overcome those automatic thoughts and habits, your will becomes greater than your program, you are reconditioning your body to a new mind. The hardest part of every war is the last battle. Push through this final stage to reach the unknown where all possibilities await
  20. Just like an electron appears when we observe it but when we don’t it is a wave (possibility), focusing on our life gets you the known and by getting past this,being in the eternal present, and focusing on the unknown, turns your life into possibility. The longer you can linger in that field of infinite possibilities, without putting your attention on your body, on things, or on people, places, and time, the longer you invest your energy into the unknown, the more you are going to create a new experience or new possibilities in your life. It’s the law. Need clear intention and elevated emotion – creating an electromagnetic signature that is equal to your state of being. You will literally tune in to the energy of a new future and the unified field will help endorse your creation
  21. Paradox: The unknown has never let me down. Difficult, but surrender to it
  22. These meditations will help you get in syntropy (opposite of entropy) by being aware and able to tune into higher energy frequencies
  23. Meditate by using both convergent (narrow) focus and divergent (open, broad) focus by putting awareness to different parts of the body as well as the space surrounding the body, bringing you into coherence. Focusing on no thing, focusing on information rather than matter, allows your brain waves to slow down and move from beta to alpha – sensing and feeling rather than thinking. This allows you to move into the seat of your body’s operating system, the ANS, and work in a more holistic fashion
  24. Energy centers have their own biological make up, glands, hormones, chemicals and individual mini brains. They help us in different ways and bringing attention to them brings energy to them – ka, pituitary, pineal, thyroid, heart, adrenal, digestive and pancreatic, sexual (chakras). Getting that circuit flowing the way it was designed to is the whole point of doing the Blessing of the Energy Centers meditation – we bless each of these centers so we can get stuck energy flowing again. When our consciousness is not evolving, neither is our energy
  25. Coherence is an orderly expression of frequency
  26. The viral electromagnetic field of light we emit is who we really are. When we are stressed, our body consumer too much energy from this light field and our body can’t grow and repair. This leads to disease or imbalance. Can repair this through a more balanced lifestyle
  27. Energy Centers meditation
    1. Focus on each of the seven chakras and then the space around the chakras, while in a state of elevated emotion such as love or joy or gratitude
    2. Start at first center (perineum), focus on it and then the space around it and bless it for the greatest good. Do this for all 7 centers and once get to the eighth (above head) bless it with gratitude. Raise the frequency on every step and then lie down for 15 minutes to let your body integrate it all
  28. The breath is a way to pull the mind out of the body. You will be using your body as an instrument of consciousness to ascend your energy – turning those survival emotions into creative emotions. As you free your body from the chains of the past and liberate this energy, you have available energy to do the uncommon – to achieve the supernatural. By unlocking the energy locked in the first three centers and shifting them up the body, you will regain the natural, healthy electromagnetic state you need to be in to live optimally
  29. Breath work: flex perineum, lower and upper abs, breathe through the nose and feel the energy running up your spine to your brain. Follow the breath up to the top of your head, hold your breathe for 10 seconds while keeping your muscles flexed, increasing the pressure inside your spinal cord and column. Exhale and relax your muscles. Do this for 3-10 breaths. This accelerates the upward movement of the cerebrospinal fluid, creating inductance and building up your electromagnetic field, unlocking huge amounts of ‘survival’ energy into divine or creative energy. This is not a passive process and takes huge amounts of will and intention and it is key to consistently feel elevated emotions, greater than what you and your body are used to feeling. The body will slowly catch on and catch up.
  30. By getting our heart into coherence, we can access our heart’s intelligence and intuition which has many emotional and physiological benefits. Coherence begins with the steady, coherent drumbeat if the heart through cultivating, practicing and sustaining elevated emotions such as gratitude, inspiration, appreciation and more. The heart center is the union of our lower three animal centers and our upper three divine centers. Heart coherence helps with brain coherence and homeostasis, all necessary to function optimally
  31. Heart is an auto rhythmic organ, the heartbeat is self initiated from within rather than from the brain. Gives out multiples more electromagnetism than the brain and more information passes from heart to brain than from brain to heart
  32. Heart rate variability measured environmental and physiological challenges as reflected by the variation of the heart’s beat to beat intervals. It measures the flexibility of our heart and nervous system which reflects our health and fitness as well as how well we are balancing our mental and emotional lives. Having a moderate level of variability is healthy and indicative of an ability to adapt and deal with challenges
  33. The chemicals released which lead to feelings and emotions last for about 90-120 seconds. Anything after that is self-induced and perpetuated
  34. Coherent heart can amplify the energy of the brain by 50-300x. By focusing on our heart and emotions, the hearts beating serves as an amplifier, increasing the synchronization between the heart and brain and creates coherence not only in the physical organs but also in the electromagnetic field surrounding our body. Very clear connection between the quality of our heart’s rhythm and our overall health
  35. We are only suggestible to the thoughts that equal our emotional state
  36. Heart lock in meditation – breathe through your heart center and chest for about ten minutes. Once you couple that with elevated emotions, send it beyond your body and marry it with your intention. This will help your heart go into a coherent state
  37. Uses kaleidoscopes to induce trance and open up people to be suggestible to mystical state. Plays these videos before the mind movies for this reason
  38. Mind movies (words, phrases, images, videos, songs of the future you want) help set clear intentions of the future you want to create, program unconscious and conscious mind into that new future, changing brain and body biologically to look like future has already happened, and paid with music to recondition body and mind to remember new future. watch first thing in morning or before bed as you’re most open at these times. This helps make your future as real and three dimensional as possible. By bringing in every sense, we make it real even before it actually happens. Recommends doing the kaleidoscope and mind movies together for about a month and to have several (wellness, health, work…)
  39. The standing and walking meditations are meant to keep your intention and energy up throughout the day
  40. Day to day life is Newtonian and thought of in terms of space-time where space is infinite but in the quantum world it is time-space and time is infinite. We travel through this world in terms of space as there is no future and no past
  41. The more whole you feel the less lack you experience, and therefore the less you want. How can you want, or live in lack, when you feel whole? If there is less lack, there is less of the need to create from duality, polarity, and separation. How can you want when you’re whole? When you create from wholeness you feel like you already have it. There is no longer wanting, trying, wishing, forcing, predicting, fighting, or hoping – after all, hope is a beggar. When you create from a state of wholeness, there are only knowing and observing. This is the key to manifesting reality: being connected, not separate
  42. Simply by placing your attention on the unified field – as you become of aware of it, notice it, experience it, feel it, interact with it, and stay present with that moment after moment – it shows up and unfolds in your reality on a daily basis. How does it show up and unfold? As unknowns: serendipities, synchronicities, opportunities, coincidences, being in the right place at the right time, and moments filled with awe
  43. The discipline is to:
    1. Allow your consciousness to merge with a greater consciousness
    2. Surrender deeper into intelligent love
    3. Trust in the unknown
    4. Continuously surrender some aspect of the limited self to join the greater self
    5. Lose yourself in nothing to become everything
    6. Relax into an infinite deep-sea of coherent energy
    7. Keep unfolding deeper and deeper into oneness
    8. Continuously let go of control
    9. Feel greater and greater degrees of wholeness
    10. As a consciousness, moment by moment become aware, pay attention to, experience, be present with, and feel more and more of this unified field all around you – without returning your awareness back to three dimensional reality
  44. Melatonin is thought to be very important for these transcendental experiences and production of melatonin is highest between 1-4am and is why this is the best time to have transcendental moments through meditation
  45. The pineal gland can tune into the electromagnetic field and convert and descramble this information into something meaningful. There are 4 steps needed to activate the gland: exert internal pressure on it to create electrical impulses and then an electromagnetic field through the flex breathing discussed earlier; the increased speed of the cerebrospinal fluid gets the gland to release some powerful melatonin; this aroused your mind and relaxes your body and allows you to pick up on signals from the unified field
  46. What we are training for is greater levels of wholeness, oneness, love, and higher consciousness. An elevation in consciousness is accompanied with an elevation in awareness and perception, raising and heightening your senses
  47. True leadership never needs confirmation from others. It just requires a clear vision and a change in energy – that is, a new state of being – that is sustained long enough and executed with a strong enough will that it causes others to raise their own energy and become inspired to do the same. Once they do raise themselves from their own limited state of being to a new energy, they see the same future that their leader sees. There is power in numbers.
  48. When someone is truly engaged in change, they are less likely to talk about it and more prone to demonstrate it. They are working on living it.
What I got out of it
  1. Have to change your energy before you change anything in your life, have to live today as if that future state you want has already happened, several different times of meditation and breathing techniques (energy centers meditation), importance of brain/heart coherence, need clear intention and elevated emotion – creating an electromagnetic signature that is equal to your state of being. You will literally tune in to the energy of a new future and the unified field will help endorse your creation, key to manifesting your reality is to be connected and not separate, elevation of consciousness is accompanied with an elevation in awareness and perception, where you put your awareness is where you put your energy

Sex at Dawn: The Prehistoric Origins of Modern Sexuality by Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jetha

Summary
  1. “Since Darwin’s day, we’ve been told that sexual monogamy comes naturally to our species. Mainstream science, as well as religious and cultural institutions, has maintained that men and women evolved in families in which a man’s possessions and protection were exchanged for a woman’s fertility and fidelity. But this narrative is collapsing. Fewer and fewer couples are getting married, and divorce rates keep climbing as adultery and flagging libido drag down even seemingly solid marriages…Ryan and Jetha’s central contention is that human beings evolved in egalitarian groups that shared food, child care, and, often, sexual partners…The authors expose the ancient roots of human sexuality while pointing toward a more optimistic future illuminated by our innate capacities for love, cooperation, and generosity.”
Key Takeaways
  1. The denial or ignorance of our true sexual nature is leaving millions of relationships in tatters as people don’t see themselves and their partners for what they truly are – descendants of hyper sexual primates
  2. Pornography makes more money than CBS and NBC combined and more money is spent at strip clubs than at jazz, comedy, Broadway and similar concerts combined
  3. The discrepancy between what we are told to feel sexually and what we actually feel may be one of the greatest causes of misery in today’s world
  4. Our ancestors probably lived in tight social groups where they shared almost everything, including sexual partners. Sharing of everything was simply the most effective way to minimize risk. This trend began to slowly change during the agricultural revolution. What we often assume is a product of our modern society, may have its roots much further back than we think. Agriculture, more than perhaps anything else ever has or will, fundamentally changed how humans thought, interacted, lived, worshiped, and more.
  5. Culture is so deeply ingrained and feels so natural to us that it is very hard to distinguish what is cultural vs human. What doesn’t feel right isn’t always wrong
  6. Changing food supplies, population densities, socio-economic opportunities, and more leads to all hell breaking loose in captive primate populations, just as it would in humans
  7. Because of our social tendencies, solitary confinement is the greatest torture there is
  8. One doesn’t need threats of death to follow one’s nature
  9. There are dozens of examples throughout the world of different familial and sexual relations – whole society takes care of kids and thinks of them as their own
  10. Humans, by far, spend the most time thinking about and engaging in sex. We are one of the few species in the world which have sex for fun and when the woman can’t bear children
  11. When looked at our biological ancestry, the standard Western narrative of monogamy and limited female sexual appetite seems terribly wrong
  12. The only way to live longer reliably is to sleep more and eat less
  13. A ton of discussion about how our foraging ancestors had a better lifestyle than many currently think and better than most people even have today in our modern, consumer, stressful, dense culture.
  14. Similar male to female size, size of male testes, general anatomy and more all point to a polygamous past
  15. Female copulatory vocalization (moans) are thought to have evolved in our polygamous past to let other males know that they may have a chance to get lucky
  16. There is research indicating that there is an inverse correlation in societies between sex and violence. Maybe this is part of why Britain was so eager for war
  17. One theory for men’s infidelity and constant search for novelty is as a means to decrease incest. By always wanting something new, they went seeking for new mates in different tribes and areas. While monogamy is the predominant relationship dynamic, there is so much infidelity and failed marriages that the authors think there might be a better way (having casual sexual relations in the side) but stress that each person must figure out what makes the most sense for them
  18. Higher levels of sex is correlated with lower levels of disease
  19. By making talking about sex taboo, Western societies distort how big of a deal sex is. It is essential but we need not take it so seriously. The sexual culture may be moving towards a more casual hooking up culture like that of our ancestors and may lead to less pathological issues
  20. One of the first examples of polyamorous relationships in modern Western culture was in Air Force pilots. So many of them were killed in battle that this may have been a way of ensuring that the pilot’s wife and kids would have someone else looking after them in case they were killed in battle
What I got out of it
  1. Don’t agree with a lot of the author’s conclusions but they do a thorough job of starting from an evolutionary, biological, social perspective and building up from there

Solve for Happiness: Engineer Your Path to Joy by Mo Gawdat

Summary
  1. Mo Gawdat uses his engineering and mathematics background to study happiness and make it replicable and scalable
Key Takeaways
  1. Happiness = perception – expectations (of situations, people, work, etc…)
    1. Shows that it is our perception and not the actual event that makes us happy. Changing our thoughts can make us happy
  2. Happiness is never reached but is a continuous process that never ends. It is reached internally and is actually our default state
  3. When you know what you are looking for, the quest becomes easy
  4. Success doesn’t elan to happiness but happiness contributes to success
  5. Think of things which make you happy and create a happiness list. Consult and add to this list as often as you like and do these things often. Can also create a pictures folder on your phone to consult at any time
  6. People tend to be happy when life seems to be going their way and unhappy when reality doesn’t match their hopes or expectations
  7. True happiness comes when you are in perfect harmony with life and have the proper expectations. At this point, all thought and mental chatter is made irrelevant as you know bumps will come in life and you deal with them with equanimity as they are expected
  8. What matters is not how much you know but how accurate what you know is
  9. Understand you control nothing but your attitude, actions, and reactions
  10. The true joy lies in giving it. The more you give the more you get and the more it will be attracted to you. Love everything and everyone. Love yourself. Be kind and spread your gifts selflessly and without expectation of getting anything in return
  11. Forgiving is the ultimate form of giving
  12. 6 – 7 -5
    1. 6 illusions
      1. Thought – you are not your thoughts and it is important to detach self and happiness from thoughts. Reduce this voice, this mental chatter.
      2. Self – You are neither your inner voice, body, emotions, achievements, or possessions. You are simply the observer
      3. Knowledge
      4. Time – Don’t be a slave to time. Always be in the present, it is the only thing that exists, don’t think too much about the past or future
      5. Control – don’t try to control things but find things which feel effortless to you – this is what is right for you. Effort needed to live our life grows exponentially which is why it is so important to simplify and surrender. Life can be easy but we make it difficult. Search for the path of least resistance
      6. Fear – The damage you do thinking about your fear is almost always worse than simply facing it. Thinking through both the worst and best case and are helpful exercises to help you get over your fear
    2. 7 blindspots
      1. Filters
      2. Assumptions
      3. Memories
      4. Labels
      5. Emotions
      6. Exaggerating
      7. Predictions
    3. 5 ultimate truths
      1. Choose to believe in the side that make you happy
      2. Now is the only thing that’s real – brings awareness by reducing doing and mental chatter
      3. Grand design
      4. Nothing is random
      5. Life generally follows patterns, laws, rules, or science
What I got out of it
  1. Happiness = perception – expectations and therefore it is our perception and not the actual event that makes us happy, create a happiness and picture folder list, happiness comes down to expectations

Impro: Improvisation and the Theater by Keith Johnstone

Summary
  1. “This is, in a nutshell, the Johnstone doctrine: you are not imaginatively impotent until you are dead; you are only frozen up. Switch off the no-saying intellect and welcome the unconscious as a friend: it will lead you to places you never dreamed of, and produce results more ‘original’ than anything you could achieve by aiming at originality.” Many of these answers extend theater to transacting in everyday life.
Key Takeaways
  1. 4 main sections: status, spontaneity, narrative skills, masks & trance
  2. Banished aimless discussion, all classes focused on enactment
  3. Where no technical vocabulary exists, develop your own simple name to describe the previously indescribable
  4. His analysis is not concerned with results but how to unlock the imagination
  5. At 9, Johnstone began reversing every statement to see if the opposite was true
  6. Spontaneity is suppressed in normal education but one of Johnstone’s mail goals was to develop it
  7. Don’t try to enforce your own perception of reality on others
  8. If you’ve been bottom of the class for years it gives you a different perspective: I was friends with boys who were failures, and nothing would induce me to write them off as ‘useless’ or ‘ineducable.’ My ‘failure’ was a survival tactic, and without it I would probably never have worked my way out of the trap that my education had set for me. I would have ended up with a lot more of my consciousness blocked off from me than now.
  9. I was successful previously because I didn’t exercise my taste. I would first read plays as quickly as possible, and categorize them as pseudo-Pinter, fake-Osborne, phoney-Beckett, and so on. Any play that seemed to come from the author’s own experience I’d then read attentively, and either leave it in Devine’s office, or if I didn’t like it, give it to someone else to read. As 99% of the plays submitted were just cribs from other people, the job was easy. I had experienced that there’d be a very gentle gradation from awful to excellent, and that I’d be involved in a lot of heart-searching. Almost all were total failures – they couldn’t have been put on in the village hall for the author’s friends. It wasn’t a matter of lack of talent, but of miseducation. The authors of the pseudo-plays assumed that writing should be based on other writing, not on life. My play had been influenced by Beckett, but at least the content had been mine. The more I understood how things ought to be done, the more boring my productions were.
  10. I began to think of children not as immature adults, but of adults as atrophied children. But when I say this to educationalists, they became angry.
  11. Drama is about relationships, not about characters
  12. When you are nowhere physically, you are everywhere spiritually
  13. In improv, it’s weird waking up knowing there’s nothing you can do to ensure success
  14. The actors don’t seem to be able to see or hear properly any more – they feel so wretched that scene after scene is about vomiting. Even if the audience are pleased by the novelty, you feel you’re swindling them. After a while a pattern is established in which each performance gets better and better until the audience is like a great beast rolling over to let you tickle it. Then hubris gets you, you lose your humility, you expect to be loved, and you turn into Sisyphus. All comedians know these feelings.
  15. As I came to understand the techniques that release creativity in the improviser, so I began to apply them to my own work. What really got me started again was an advert for a play of mine in the paper, a play called The Martian. I had never written such a play, so I phoned up Bryan King, who directed the theater. ‘We’ve been trying to find you,’ he said. ‘We need a play for next week, does the title The Martian suit you? I wrote the play, and it was well received. Since then I’ve deliberately put myself in this position. I get myself engaged by a company and write the plays as I’m rehearsing the actors.
  16. I didn’t learn how to direct again until I left the Royal Court Theater and was invited to Victoria. I directed the Wakefield Mystery Cycle there, and I was so far away from anyone whose criticism I cared about that I felt free to do exactly what I felt like. Suddenly I was spontaneous again; and since then, I’ve always directed plays as if I was totally ignorant about directing; I simply approach each problem on a basis of common sense and try to find the most obvious solutions possible. Nowadays everything is very easy to me
    1. Effortless Mastery…
  17. On Teaching
    1. My feeling is that a good teacher can get results using any method, and that a bad teacher can wreck any method.
    2. When teaching is done correctly, the pressure to get things right comes from the children, not the teacher. You have to force the children out of the classroom to take breaks. “When I hear that children only have an attention span often minutes, or whatever, I’m amazed. Ten minutes is the attention span of bored children, which is what they usually are in school – hence the misbehavior.
    3. There seems no doubt that a group can make or break its members, and that it’s more powerful than the individuals in it. A great group can propel its members forward so that they achieve amazing things. Many teachers don’t seem to think that manipulating a group is their responsibility at all. If they’re working with a destructive, bored group, they just blame the students for being ‘dull’, or uninterested. It’s essential for the teacher to blame himself in the group aren’t in a good state. The first thing I do when I meet a group of new students is to sit on the floor. I play low status, and I’ll explain that if the students fail they’re to blame me. Then they laugh, and relax, and I explain that really it’s obvious that they should blame me, since I’m supposed to be the expert; and if I give them the wrong material, they’ll fail; and if I give them the right material, then they’ll succeed. I play low status physically but my actual status is going up, since only a very confident and experienced person would put the blame for failure on himself. At this point they almost certainly start sliding their chairs, because they don’t want to be higher than me. I have already changed the group profoundly, because failure is suddenly not so frightening any more. They’ll want to test me, of course; but I really will apologize to them when they fail, and ask them to be patient with me, and explain that I’m not perfect. My methods are very effective, and other things being equal, most students will succeed, but they won’t be trying to win anymore. The normal teacher-student relationship is dissolved…In exchange for accepting the blame for failure, I ask the students to set themselves up in such a way that they’ll learn as quickly as possible. I’m teaching spontaneity, and therefore I tell them that they mustn’t try to control the future, or to ‘win’; and that they’re to have an empty head and just watch. When it’s their turn to take part they’re to come out and just do what they’re asked to, and see what happens. It’s this decision not to try and control the future which allows the students to be spontaneous.
    4. Intelligence is overrated – focus more on actions than thoughts
    5. Many kids learn best and look most intelligence when not being asked to learn
    6. When I was teaching young children, I trained myself to share my eye contact among the group. I find this crucial in establishing a ‘fair’ relationship with them. I’ve seen many teachers who concentrate their eye contact on only a few students, and this does affect the feeling in a group. Certain students are disciples, but others feel separated, or experience themselves as less interesting, or as ‘failures.’ I’ve also trained myself to make positive comments and to be as direct as possible. I say ‘Good’ instead of ‘That’s enough.’ I’ve actually heard teachers say, ‘Well, let’s see who fails at this one’, when introducing an exercise. Some teachers get reassurance when their students fail. We must have all encountered the teacher who gives a self-satisfied smile when a student makes a mistake. Such an attitude is not conductive to a good, warm feeling in the group
    7. If I’m playing with my 3 year old, and I smack him, he looks at me for signals that will turn the sensation into either warmth or pain. A very gentle smack that he perceives as ‘serious’ will have him howling in agony. A hard ‘play’ slap may make him laugh. When I want to work and he wants me to continue playing he will give very strong ‘I am playing’ signals in an attempt to pull me back into his game. All people relate to each other in this way but most teachers are afraid to give ‘I am playing’ signals to their students. If they would, their work would become a constant pleasure
    8. I have a simple way of telling if people are visualizers. I ask them to describe the furniture in a room they’re familiar with. Visualizers move their eyes as if ‘seeing’ each object as they name it. Conceptualizers look in one direction as if reading off a list. Galton investigated mental imagery at the beginning of the century, and found that the more educated the person, the more likely he was to say that mental imagery was unimportant, or even that it didn’t exist. An exercise: fix your eyes on some object, and attend to something at the periphery of your vision. You can see what you’re attending to, but actually your mind is assembling the object from relatively little information. Now look directly, and observe the difference. This is one way of tricking the mind out of its habitual dulling of the world.
    9. Relaxation is incompatible with anxiety; and by maintaining the relaxed state, and presenting images that gradually neared the center of the phobia, the state of alarm was soon dissipated – in most cases
    10. If we were all terrified of open spaces, then we would hardly recognize this as a phobia to be cured; but it could be cured. My view that we have a universal phobia of being looked at on a stage, and that this responds very well to ‘progressive desensitization’ of the type that Wolpe advocates. Many teachers seem to me to be trying to get their students to conceal fear, which always leave some traces – a heaviness, an extra tension, a lack of spontaneity. I try to dissipate the fear by a method analogous to Wolpe’s, but which I really got from Anthony Stirling. The one finding of Wolpe which I immediately incorporated into my work was the discovery that if the healing process is interrupted by a recurrence of the total fear – maybe a patient being treated for a phobia of birds suddenly finds himself surrounded by fluttering pigeons – then the treatment has to be started again at the bottom of the hierarchy. I therefore constantly return to the very first stages of the work to try to pull in those students who remain in a terrified state, and who therefore make hardly any progress. Instead of seeing people as untalented, we can see them as phobic, and this completely changes the teacher’s relationship with them
    11. Many students will begin an improvisation, or a scene, in a rather feeble way. It’s as if they’re ill, and lacking in vitality. They’ve learned to play for sympathy. However easy the problem, they’ll use the same old trick of looking inadequate. This ploy is supposed to make all onlookers have sympathy with them if they ‘fail’ and it’s expected to bring greater rewards if they ‘win.’ Actually, this down-in-the-mouth attitude almost guarantees failure, and makes everyone fed up with them. No one has sympathy with an adult who takes such an attitude, but when they were children it probably worked. As adults they’re still doing it. Once they’ve laughed at themselves and understood how unproductive such an attitude is, students who look ‘ill’ suddenly look ‘healthy.’ The attitude of the group may instantly change. Another common ploy is to anticipate the problem, and to try and prepare solutions in advance. Almost all students do this – probably it started when they were learning to read. You anticipate which paragraph will be yours, and start trying to decipher it. This has two great disadvantages: it stops you learning from the attempts of your classmates; and very likely you’ll have calculated wrongly, and will be asked to read one of the adjacent paragraphs, throwing you into total panic
  18. Status
    1. By focusing his students on trying to “get their status just a little above or below your partner’s”, he transformed their performance as it seemed authentic. They instinctively knew what this meant. Every inflection and movement implies a status, and that no action is due to chance, or really “motiveless.” Normally we are forbidden to see status transactions except when there’s a conflict. In reality, status transactions continue all the time. You really have to ‘see’ your partner in order to exactly relate your behavior to theirs
    2. Low status: twitching, unnecessary movements, blushing at the slightest annoyance
    3. Those who can raise and lower their status seamlessly and at will are the masters at social communication and rapport.
    4. Status is a confusing term unless it’s understood as something one does. You may be low in social status, but play high, and vice versa. Should really talk about dominance and submission but this would create resistance.
    5. There is no way to be neutral. Even if you try, the messages are modified by the receivers
    6. In formal group photographs it’s normal to see people guarding their status. You get quite different effects when people don’t know they’re being photographed
    7. See-saw Principle
      1. People surround themselves with lower status people to raise themselves
      2. People really want to be told things to our discredit in such a way that they don’t have to feel sympathy.
      3. Low-status people save up little tit-bits involving their own discomfiture with which to amuse and placate other people.
      4. If I’m trying to lower my end of the see-saw, and my mind blocks, I can always switch to raising the other end. That is, I can achieve a similar effect by saying “I smell beautiful” as “you stink.”
      5. Most comedy works on the see-saw principle. A comedian is someone paid to lower his own or other people’s status. Want others to be low status but we also don’t want to feel sympathy for them. Slaves are always supposed to sing at their work
      6. Tragedy also works on the see-saw principle: its subject is the ousting of a high-status animal from the pack. When a very high-status person is wiped out, everyone feels pleasure as they experience the feeling of moving up a step. The high-status person must never look as if he could accept a position lower in the pecking order. He has to be ejected from it
    8. Observing postures is one of the best ways to determine status in an interaction
    9. Social animals have inbuilt rules which prevent them from killing each other for food, mates, and so on. Such animals confront each other, and sometimes fight, until a hierarchy is established, after which there is no fighting unless an attempt is being made to change the ‘pecking order.’ This system is found in animals as diverse as human beings, chicken, and woodlice. I’ve known about this ever since I was given a book about social dominance in kittiwake colonies, yet I hadn’t immediately thought of applying this information to action training. This is because normal people are inhabited from seeing that no action, sound or movement is innocent of purpose. Many psychologists have noted how uncannily perceptive some schizophrenics are. I think that their madness must have opened their eyes to things that ‘normal’ people are trained to ignore
    10. In animals, the pattern of eye contacts often establish dominance. A stare is often interpreted as an aggressive act – hence the dangers of looking at gorillas through binoculars. Visitors to zoos feel dominant when they can out stare the animals. I suggest you try the opposite with zoo animals: break eye contact and then glance back for a moment. Polar bears may suddenly see you as “food.” Owls cheer up perceptibly
    11. There is some research which reveals that breaking eye contact can in fact be a sign of high status but I see it as high status as long as you don’t immediately glance back for a fraction of a second. Status is established not by staring but by the reaction to staring
    12. The short ‘er’ is an invitation for people to interrupt you; the long ‘er’ says “don’t interrupt me, even though I haven’t thought what to say yet.”
    13. Keeping your head still whenever you speak greatly changes the way people perceive you. Officers are trained not to move the head while issuing commands. Moving smoothly is high-status and moving jerkily is low-status.
    14. Hands on your face is low and hands away from your face when speaking is high.
    15. Toes pointing inward is low status
    16. Sitting back and spreading oneself to take up space is high status
    17. The body automatically takes over when you act in a high-status way. If you speak with your head still, then you’ll do many other high-status things quite automatically – speak in complete sentences, hold eye contact, move smoothly, occupy more space
    18. My belief is that people have a preferred status; that they like to be low, or high, and that they try to maneuver themselves into the preferred positions. It’s very likely that you will increasingly be conditioned into playing a status that you’ve found an effective defense. You become a status specialist, very good at playing one status, but not very happy or competent at playing the other.
    19. When you slow your movements down, you go up in status
    20. Things said are far less important than status played
    21. Status can be played to anything, status as well as people
    22. Space
      1. Space is so key to status because status is basically territorial. Space is very difficult to talk about but easy to demonstrate.
      2. In my view it’s only when the actor’s movements are related to the space he’s in, and to the other actors, that the audience feel ‘at one’ with the play. The very best actors pump space out and suck it in, or at least that’s what it feels like. Just as the earth is surrounded by an atmosphere, the living human being is surrounded by a magnetic aura which makes contact with the external objects without any concrete contact with the human body. This aura, or atmosphere, varies in depth according to the vitality of human beings. Man must first of all be aware of this boundless contact with things. There is no insulting layer of air between the man and the outside world. Any man who moves about causes ripples in the ambient world in the same way a fish does when it moves in the water.
      3. High-status player will allow their space to flow into other people. Low-status players will avoid letting their space flow into other people
      4. There is an instinctual fear crouch animals take to protect their soft under-belly’s. The opposite is the ‘cherub posture’, which opens all the planes of the body: the head turns and tilts to offer the neck, the shoulders turn the other way to expose the chest, the spine arches lightly backwards and twists so that the pelvis is in opposition to the shoulders exposing the underbelly – and so on. The opening of the body planes is a sign of vulnerability and tenderness, and has a powerful effect on the onlooker
      5. The corners of couches are usually high-status and high-status ‘winners’ are allowed to take them
      6. Approach distances are related to space. If I approach someone on open moorland I have to raise an arm and shout ‘excuse me’ as soon as I’m within shouting distance. In a crowded street I can actually brush against people without having to interact
      7. Johstone’s Law – a master-servant scene is one in which both parties act as if all the space belonged to the master. A servant’s primary function is to elevate the status of the master
    23. 10 Golden Rules for people who are number ones
      1. You must clearly display the trappings, postures, and gestures of dominance
      2. In moments of active rivalry you must threaten your subordinates aggressively
      3. In moments of physical challenge you (or your delegates) must be able to forcibly overpower your subordinates
      4. If a challenge involves brain rather than brawn you must be able to outwit your subordinates
      5. You must suppress squabbles that break out between your subordinates
      6. You must reward your immediate subordinates by permitting them to enjoy the benefits of their high ranks
      7. You must protect the weaker members of the group from undue persecution
      8. You must make decisions concerning the social activities of the group
      9. You must reassure your extreme subordinates from time to time
      10. You must take the initiative in repelling threats or attacks arising from outside the group
    24. It is the lack of ‘pecking order’ that make most crowd scenes look unconvincing – the spaces between all the people are phoney.
    25. Once you understand that every sound and posture implies a status, then you perceive the world quite differently, and the change is probably permanent. In my view, really accomplished actors, directors, and playwrights are people with an intuitive understanding of the status transactions that govern human relationships. This ability to perceive the underlying motives of casual behavior can also be taught.
    26. A great play is one which ingeniously displays and reverses the status between the characters.
    27. Pauses are part of the pattern of dominance and submission
    28. I don’t myself see that an educated man in this culture necessarily has to understand the second law of thermodynamics, but he certainly should understand that we are pecking-order animals and that this affects the tiniest details of our behavior
  19. Spontaneity
    1. You have to be a very stubborn person to remain an artist in this culture. It’s easy to play the role of ‘artist’, but actually to create something means going against one’s education.
    2. We have an idea that art is self-expression – which historically is weird. An artist used to be seen as a medium through which something else operated. He was a servant of God. Maybe a mask-maker would have fasted and prayed for a week before he had a vision of the Mask he was to carve, because no one wanted to see his Mask, they wanted to see the God’s. It’s no wonder that the talent of our children die the moment we expect them to become adult. Once we believe that art is self-expression, then the individual can be criticized not only for his skill or lack of skill, but simply for being what he is
    3. Schiller wrote of a ‘watcher at the gates of the mind’, who examines ideas too closely. He said that in the case of the creative mind ‘the intellect has withdrawn its watcher from the gates, and the ideas rush in pell-mell, and only then does it review and inspect the multitude.’ He said that uncreative people are ‘ashamed of the momentary passing madness which is found in all real creators…regarded in isolation, an idea may be quite insignificant, and venturesome in the extreme, but it may acquire importance from an idea that follows it; perhaps in collation with other ideas which seem equally absurd, it may be capable of furnishing a very serviceable link.’
    4. I now feel that imagining should be as effortless as perceiving
    5. People may seem uncreative, but they’ll be extremely ingenious at rationalizing the things they do. You can see this in people who obey post-hypnotic suggestions, while managing to explain the behavior ordered by the hypnotist as being of their own volition
    6. The truth is that the best ideas are often psychotic, obscene and unoriginal. The teachers, who are so sure of the rules, don’t produce anything themselves at all. My thought is that sanity is actually a pretense, a way we learn to behave. We keep this pretense up because we don’t want to be rejected by other people – and being classified insane is to be shut out of the group in a very complete way. Most people I meet are secretly convinced that they’re a little crazier than the average person. People understand the energy necessary to maintain their own shields, but not the energy expended by other people. They understand that their own sanity is a performance, but when confronted by other people they confused the person with the role. Sanity has nothing directly to do with the way you think. It’s a matter of presenting yourself as safe. Little old men wander around London hallucinating visibly, but no one gets upset. The same behavior in a younger, more vigorous person would get him shut away. A Canadian study on attitudes on mental illness concluded that it was when someone’s behavior was perceived as ‘unpredictable’ that the community rejected them
    7. When I explain that sanity is a matter of interaction, rather than of one’s mental processes, students are often hysterical with laughter. They agree that for years they have been suppressing all sorts of thinking because they classified it as insane
    8. We all know instinctively what ‘mad’ thought is: mad thoughts are those which other people find unacceptable, and train us not to talk about, but which we go to the theater to see expressed
    9. Most people’s idea of what is or isn’t obscene varies. In some cultures certain times are set aside when the normal values are reversed – the ‘Lord of Misrule’, Zuni clowning, many carnivals – and something similar happens even in this culture, or so I’m told, at office parties for example. People’s tolerance of obscenity varies according to the group they’re with, or the particular circumstances. People can laugh at jokes told at a party that they wouldn’t find funny on a more formal occasion. It seems unfortunate to me that the classroom is often considered a formal area in this sense
    10. Many students block their imaginations because they’re afraid of being unoriginal. They believe they know exactly what originality is, just as critics are always sure they can recognize things that are avant-garde. But the real avant-garde aren’t imitating what other people are doing, or what they did forty years ago; they’re solving the problems that need solving, like how to get a popular theater with some worth-while content, and they may not look avant-garde at all. The improviser has to realize that the more obvious he is, the more original he appears. I constantly point out how much the audience likes someone who is direct, and how they always laugh with pleasure at a really ‘obvious’ idea. Ordinary people asked to improvise will search for some ‘original’ idea because they want to be thought clever.
    11. People trying to be original always arrive at the same boring old answers. Ask people to give you an original idea and see the chaos it throws them into. If they said the first thing that came into their head, there’d be no problem. An artist who is inspired is being obvious. He’s not making any decisions, he’s not weighing one idea against another. He’s accepting his first thoughts. How else could Dostoyevsky have dictated one novel in the morning and one in the afternoon for three weeks in order to fulfill his contracts? If you consider the volume of work produced by Bach then you get some idea of his fluency (and we’ve lost half of it), yet a lot of his time was spent rehearsing, and teaching Latin to the choir boys. According to Louis Schlosser, Beethoven said, “You ask me where I get my ideas? That I can’t say with any certainty. They come unbidden, directly, I could grasp them with my hands.” Mozart said of his ideas, “Whence and how they come, I know not; nor can I force them. Those that please me I retain in the memory, and I am accustomed as I have been told, to hum them.” Later in the same letter he says, “Why my productions take from my hand that particular form and style that makes them Mozartish, and different from the works of other composers, is probably owing to the same cause which renders my nose so large or so aquiline, or in short, makes it Mozart’s, and different from those of other people. For I really do not study or aim at originality.” Suppose Mozart had tried to be original? It would have been like a man at the North Pole trying to walk north, and this is true of all the rest of us. Striving after originality takes you far away from your true self, and makes your work mediocre.
    12. There are people who prefer to say “yes”, and there are people who prefer to say “no”. Those who say “yes” are rewarded by the adventures they have, and those who say “no” are rewarded by the safety they attain. There are far more “no” sayers around than “yes” sayers, but you can train one type to behave like the other
    13. Blocking is a form of aggression. I say this because if I set up a scene in which two students are to say “I love you” to each other, they almost always accept each other’s ideas. Many students do their first interesting, unforced improvisations during “I love you” scenes. The motto of scared improvisers is “when in doubt, say “no.” We use this in life as a way of blocking action
    14. If you’ll stop reading for a moment and think of something you wouldn’t want to happen to you, or to someone you love, then you’ll have thought of something worth staging or filming. We don’t want to walk into a restaurant and be hit in the face by a custard pie, and we don’t want to suddenly glimpse Grannie’s wheelchair racing towards the edge of the cliff, but we’ll pay money to attend enactments of such events. In life, most of us are highly skilled at suppressing action
    15. Good improvisers seem telepathic; everything looks prearranged. This is because they accept all offers made – which is something no ‘normal’ person would do. Also they may accept offers which weren’t really intended. I tell my actors never to think up an offer, but instead to assume that one has already been made…This attitude makes for something really amazing in the theater. The actor who will accept anything that happens seems supernatural; it’s the most marvelous thing about improvisation: you are suddenly in contact with people who are unbounded, whose imagination seems to function without limit. By analyzing everything into blocks and acceptances, the students get insight into the forces that shape the scenes, and they understand why certain people seem difficult to work with. These ‘offer-block-accept’ games have a use quite apart from actor training. People with dull lives often think that their lives are dull by chance. In reality everyone chooses more or less what kind of events will happen to them by their conscious patterns of blocking and yielding. A student objected to this view by saying, “But you don’t choose your life. Sometimes you are at the mercy of people who push you around.” I said, “Do you avoid such people?” She said, “Oh! I see what you mean.”
    16. The stages I try to take students through involve the realization that 1) we struggle against our imaginations, especially when we try to be imaginative; 2) that we are not responsible for the content of our imaginations; and 3) that we are not, as we are taught to think, our “personalities”, but that the imagination is our true self
  20. Narrative Skills
    1. Content lies in the structure, in what happens, not in what the characters say. Even at the level of geometrical signs, “meaning” is ambiguous. A cross, a circle, and a swastika contain a “content” quite apart from those which we assign to them. My design was that content should be ignored. This wasn’t a conclusion I wished to reach, because it contradicted my political thinking. I hadn’t realized that every play makes a political statement, and that the artist only needs to worry about content if he’s trying to fake up a personality he doesn’t actually have, or to express views he really isn’t in accord with. If you want your play to be religious, then be religious. An artist has to accept what his imagination gives him, or screw up his talent. Once you decide to ignore content it becomes possible to understand exactly what a narrative is, because you can concentrate on structure.
    2. We used to play this game at parties, and people who claim to be unimaginative would think up the most astounding stories, so long as they remained convinced that they weren’t responsible for them
    3. The improviser has to be like a man walking backwards. He sees where he has been, but he pays no attention to the future. His story can take him anywhere, but he must still “balance “it, and give it shape, by remembering incidents that have been shelved and reincorporating them. Very often an audience will applaud when earlier material is brought back into the story. They couldn’t tell you why they applaud, but the reincorporation does give them pleasure. Sometimes they even cheer! They admire the improviser’s grasp, since he not only generates new material, but remembers and makes use of earlier events that the audience itself may have temporarily forgotten.
    4. A knowledge of this game is very useful to a writer. First of all it encourages you to write whatever you feel like; it also means that you look back when you get stuck, instead of searching forwards. You look for things you’ve shelved and then reinclude them. If I want people to free-associate, then I have to create an environment in which they aren’t going to be punished, or in any way held responsible for the things their imagination gives them. I devise techniques for taking the responsibility away from the personality. Some of these games are very enjoyable and others, at first encounter, are rather frightening; people who play them alter their view of themselves. I protect the students, encourage them and reassure them that they’ll come to no harm, and then coax them or trick them into letting the imagination off its leash. One way to bypass the censor who holds our spontaneity in check is to distract him, or overload him. I might ask someone to write out a paragraph on paper (without premeditation) while counting backwards aloud from a hundred. The trick is to keep your attention equally divided, rather than switching quickly from hand to hand. Also you shouldn’t decide what to draw; just sit down with a blank mind and draw as quickly as possible. This regresses your mind to about five years of age. Curiously, each hand seems to draw with the same level of skill
    5. The brain constructs the universe for us, so how is it possible to be “stuck” for an idea? The student hesitates not because he doesn’t have an idea, but to conceal the inappropriate ones that arrive uninvited.
    6. An improviser can study status transactions, and advancing, and “reincorporating”, and can learn to free-associate, and to generate narrative spontaneously, and yet still find it difficult to compose stories. This is really for aesthetic reasons, or conceptual reasons. He shouldn’t really think of making up stories, but of interrupting routines…Many students dry up at the moment they realize that the routine they’re describing is nearing its completion. They absolutely understand that a routine needs to be broken, or they wouldn’t feel so unimaginative. Their problem is that they haven’t realized what’s wrong consciously. Once they understand the concept of “interrupting routines”, then they aren’t stuck for ideas anymore.
    7. I began this essay by saying that an improviser shouldn’t be concerned with content, because the content arrives automatically. This is true, and also not true. The best improvisers do, at some level, know what their work is about. They may have trouble expressing it to you, but they do understand the implications of what they are doing; and so do the audience. You have to trick students into believing that content isn’t important and that it looks after itself, or they never get anywhere. It’s the same kind of trick you use when you tell them that they are not their imaginations, that their imaginations have nothing to do with them, and that they’re in no way responsible for what their “mind” gives them. In the end they learn how to abandon control while at the same time they exercise control. They begin to understand that everything is just a shell. You have to misdirect people to absolve them of responsibility. Then, much later, they become strong enough to resume the responsibility themselves. By that time they have a more truthful concept of what they are.
  21. Masks & Trance
    1. The reason why one automatically talks and writes of Masks with a capital ‘M’ is that one really feels that the genuine Mask actor is inhabited by a spirit. Non-sense perhaps, but that’s what the experience is like, and has always been like. To understand the Mask it’s also necessary to understand the nature of trance itself.
    2. A Mask is a device for driving the personality out of the body and allowing a spirit to take possession of it. A very beautiful Mask may be completely dead, while a piece of old sacking with a mouth and eye-holes torn in it may have tremendous vitality. In its original culture nothing had more power than the Mask. It was used as an oracle, a judge, an arbitrator. Some were so sacred that any outsider who caught a glimpse of them was executed. They cured diseases, they made women sterile. Some tribes were so scared of their power that they carved the eye-holes so that the wearers could only see the ground. Some Masks were led on chains to keep them from attacking the onlookers. One African Mask had a staff, the touch of which was believed to cause leprosy. In some cultures dead people were reincarnated as Masks – the back of the skull is sliced off, a stick rammed in from ear to ear, and someone dances, gripping the stick with his teeth. It’s difficult to imagine the intensity of that experience. Masks are surrounded by rituals that reinforce their power. A Tibetan Mask was taken out of its shrine once a year and set up overnight in a locked chapel. Two novice monks sat all night chanting prayers to prevent the spirit of the Mask from breaking loose. For miles around the villagers barred their doors at sunset and no one ventured out. Next day the Mask was lowered over the head of the dancer who was to incarnate the spirit at the center of a great ceremony. What must it feel like to be the dancer, when the terrifying face becomes his own? We don’t know much about Masks in this culture, partly because the church sees the Mask as pagan, and tries to suppress it wherever it has the power (the Vatican has a museum full of Masks confiscated from the ‘natives’), but also because this culture is usually hostile to trance states. We distrust spontaneity, and try to replace it by reason: the Mask was driven out of theater in the same way that improvisation was driven out of music. Shakers have stopped shaking. Quakers don’t quake anymore. Hypnotized people used to stagger about, and tremble. Victorian mediums used to rampage about the room. Education itself might be seen as primarily an anti-trance activity. The church struggled against the Mask for centuries, but what can’t be done by force is eventually done by the all-pervading influence of Western education. The US Army burned the voodoo temples in Haiti and the priests were sentenced to hard labor with little effect, but voodoo is now being suppressed in a more subtle way. The ceremonies are faked for tourists. The genuine ceremonies now last for a much shorter time. I see the Mask as something that is continually flaring up in this culture, only to be almost immediately snuffed out. No sooner have I established a tradition of Mask work somewhere than the students start getting taught the ‘correct’ movements, just as they learn a phoney ‘Commedia dell’Arte’ technique. The manipulated Mask is hardly worth having, and is easy to drive out of the theater. The Mask begins as a sacred object, and then becomes secular and is used in festivals and in theater. Finally it is remembered only in the feeble imitations of Masks sold in the tourist shops. The Mask dies when it is entirely subjected to the will of the performer.
    3. The truth is that we learn to hold characteristic expressions as a way of maintaining our personalities, and we’re far more influenced by faces than we realize. Adults lose this vision in which the face is the person, but after their first Mask class students are amazed by passersby in the street – suddenly they see ‘evil’ people, and ‘innocent’ people, and people holding their faces in Masks of pain, or grief, or pride, or whatever. Our faces get ‘fixed’ with age as the muscles shorten, but even in very young people you can see that a decision has been taken to appear tough, or stupid, or defiant. (Why should anyone wish to look stupid? Because then your teachers expect less of you.) Sometimes in acting class a student will break out of his habitual facial expression and you won’t know who he is until you look at his clothes. I’ve seen this transformation several times, and each time the student is flooded with great joy and exhilaration
    4. It’s not surprising then to find that Masks produce changes in the personality, or that the first sight of oneself wearing a Mask and reflected in a mirror should be so disturbing. A bad Mask will produce little effect, but a good Mask will give you the feeling that you know all about the creature in the mirror. You feel that the Mask is about to take over. It is at this moment of crisis that the Mask teacher will urge you to continue. In most social situations you are expected to maintain a consistent personality. In a Mask class you are encouraged to let go, and allow yourself to become possessed.
    5. Many actors report ‘split’ states of consciousness, or amnesias; they speak of their body acting automatically, or as being inhabited by the character they are playing.
    6. Normally we only know of our trance states by the time jumps. When an improviser feels that two hours have passed in twenty minutes, we’re entitled to ask where was he for the missing hour and forty minutes
    7. In ‘normal consciousness’ I am aware of myself as ‘thinking verbally’. In sports which leave no time for verbalization, trance states are common. If you think: ‘The ball’s coming at that angle but it’s spinning so that I’ll anticipate the direction of the bounce by…’ you miss! You don’t know you’re in a trance state because whenever you check up, there you are, playing table tennis, but you may have been in just as deep a trance as the bobsleigh rider who didn’t know he’d lost a thumb until he shook hands
    8. I see the ‘personality’ as a public-relations department for the real mind, which remains unknown. My personality always seems to be functioning, at some level, in terms of what other people think. If I am alone in a room and someone knocks on the door, then I ‘come back to myself’.
    9. When you’re worried about what other people might think, personality is always present. In life-or-death situations, something else takes over. In extremity the body takes over for us, pushing the personality aside as an unnecessary encumbrance
    10. Meditators use stillness as a means of inducing trance. So do present-day hypnotists. The subject doesn’t have to be told to be still, he knows intuitively not to assert control of his body by picking his nose or tapping his feet. When you are ‘absorbed’ you no longer control the musculature. You can drive for miles, or play a movement from a sonata while your personality pays no attention at all. Nor is your performance necessarily worse. When a hypnotist takes over the function normally exercised by the personality, there’s no need to leave the trance. Mask teachers, priests in possession cults, and hypnotists all play high status in voice and movement. A high-status person whom you accept as dominant can easily propel you into unusual states of being
    11. Many ways of entering trance involve interfering with verbalization. Repetitive singing or chanting are effective, or holding the mind on to single words; such techniques are often thought of as ‘Oriental’, but they’re universal. One dramatic way of entering trance is by ‘trumping’. This was used in a West Indian play at the Royal Court, with the unwanted result that actors kept going into real trance, and not just acting it. It works partly by the ‘crowd-effect’, everyone repeating the same action and sound, but also by over oxygenating the blood. It looks like a ‘forward-moving two-step stomp’. ‘With the step forward the body is bent forwards from the waist so sharply as to seem propelled by force. At the same time the breath is exhaled, or inhaled, with great effort and sound. The forcefulness of the action gives justification to the term ‘laboring’…When the spirit possession does take place…an individual’s legs may seem riveted to the ground…or he may be thrown to the ground.’ Crowds are trance-inducing because the anonymity imposed by the crowd absolves you of the need to maintain your identity.
    12. The type of trance I am concerned with in this essay is the ‘controlled trance’, in which permission to remain ‘entranced’ is given by other people, either by an individual or a group. Such trances may be rare, or may pass unrecognized in this culture, but we should consider them as a normal part of human behavior. Researchers who have studied possession cults report that it is better adjusted citizens who are most likely to become possessed. Many people regard ‘trance’ as a sign of madness, just as they presume that ‘madmen’ must be easy to hypnotize. The truth is that if madmen were capable of being under ‘social control’ they would never have revealed the behavior that categorized them as insane. It’s a tautology to say that normal people are the most suggestible, since it’s because they’re the most suggestible that they’re the most normal
    13. Once one person is possessed, others usually follow almost immediately. In a beginners’ Mask class there is usually a ‘dead’ twenty minutes before the first Mask appears – if you’re lucky. My method is to ‘seed’ the class with a fully developed Mask. The presence of a ‘possessed’ Mask allows students to ‘let go’, and alarms and reassures at the same time. The same phenomenon is reported in possession cults; and it’s easier to hypnotize someone who has just seen it done to someone else. The problem is not one of getting the students to experience the ‘presence’ of another personality – almost everyone gets a strong kick from their reflection – the difficulty lies in stopping the student from making the change ‘himself.’ There’s no reason for the student to start ‘thinking’ when he already ‘knows’ intuitively exactly what sort of creature he is.
    14. In normal life the personality conceals or checks impulses. Mask characters work on the opposite principle: they are childlike, impulsive, and open; their machinations are completely transparent to the audience, although not necessarily to each other. If you look at, say, the adults on a bus, you can see that they work to express a ‘deadness.’
    15. Mask work is particularly suitable for ‘tough’ adolescents who may normally think of drama as sissy. It appeals to them because it feels dangerous. I’ve seen excellent, and very sensitive Mask work by rather violent teenagers. Personally I think Mask work is something almost anyone can learn to enjoy. It’s very refreshing to be able to shed the personality thrust on you by the other people. ‘It’s like you get the freedom to explore all the personalities that any human being may develop into – all the shapes and feelings that could have been Ingrid but aren’t. Some Masks don’t trigger any response…maybe these are spirits outside of Ingrid’s repertoire, that is any one person may have a limited number of possibilities when he develops his personality
    16. The greater the emotion expressed on the face the greater the change in behavior and the easier it is to improvise.
    17. The place of the personality in a particular part of the body is cultural. Most Europeans place themselves in the head, because they have been taught that they are the brain. In reality of course the brain can’t feel the concave of the skull, and if we believed with Lucretius that the brain was an organ for cooling the blood, we would place ourselves somewhere else. The Greeks and Romans were in the chest, the Japanese a hand’s breath below the navel, Witla Indians in the whole body, and even outside it. We only imagine ourselves as ‘somewhere.’ Meditation teachers in the East have asked their students to practice placing the mind in different parts of the body, or in the Universe, as a way of inducing trance. Some suggest inventing imaginary bodies and operating them from imaginary centers. Your whole being, psychologically and physically, will be changed – I would not hesitate to say even possessed – by the character…your reasoning mind, however skillful it may be, is apt to leave you cold and passive, whereas the imaginary body has the power to appeal directly to your will and feelings. You will notice that the center is able to draw and concentrate your whole being into one spot from which your activity emanates and radiates. Try a few experiments for a while. Put a soft, warm, not too small center in the region of your abdomen and you may experience a psychology that is self-satisfied, earthy, a bit heavy and even humorous. Place a tiny, hard center on the tip of your nose and you will become curious, inquisitive, prying, and even meddlesome. Imagine a big, heavy, dull and sloppy center placed outside the seat of your pants and you have a cowardly, not too honest, droll character. A center located a few feet outside your eyes or forehead may invoke the sensation of a sharp, penetrating, even sagacious mind. A warm, hot and even fiery center situated without your heart may awaken in you heroic, loving and courageous feelings. You can also imagine a movable center. Let it sway slowly before your forehead and circle your head from time to time, and you will sense the psychology of a bewildered person; or let it circle irregularly around your whole body, in varying tempos, now going up and now sinking down, and the effect will no doubt be one of intoxication.
    18. Trance states are likely whenever you abandon control of the musculature. Many people can get an incredible ‘high’ from being moved about while they remain relaxed. Pass them round a circle, lift them, and (especially) roll them about on a soft surface. For some people it’s very liberating, but the movers have to be skilled
    19. One of the strangest paradoxes about the Mask is that the actor who is magnificent wearing it may be colorless and unconvincing when he isn’t. This is something obvious to everyone, including the actor himself. In the Mask events really happen. The wearers experience everything with great vividness. Without the Mask they perpetually judge themselves. In time the Mask abilities spill over into the acting, but it’s a very gradual process.
    20. Critics raved about Greta Garbo’s face: her face, early called the face of the century, had an extraordinary plasticity, a mirrorlike quality; people could see in it their own conflicts and desires. People who worked with her said that her face didn’t change. The muscles in her face would not move, and yet her eyes would express exactly what she needed. The eyes told it all. What Garbo had was a body that transmitted and received. It was her spine that should have been raved about: every vertebra alive and separated so that feelings flowed in and out from the center. She responded simultaneously with emotion and warmth, and what she felt, the audience felt, yet the information transmitted by the body was perceived as emanating from the face.
    21. What happens to the actor who puts on a mask? He is cut off from the outer world. The night he deliberately enters allows him first to reject everything that hampered him. Then, by an effort of concentration, to reach a void, a state of un-being. From this moment forwards, he will be able to come back to life and to behave in a new and truly dramatic way.
    22. Closing your eyes and ‘looking’ into the darkness of the eyelids is a common trance-inducing technique.
    23. Something happens to people in moments of great seriousness. When Annigoni was painting the Queen, she told him that usually she feels like an ordinary woman, but that when she wears the robes of state she ‘becomes the Queen’. We all know how a wreath should be placed on a memorial during a great ceremony: we may have to be told where to stand, and when to move forward, but the way we move and hold our bodies is instinctive. We know we mustn’t do anything trivial or repetitive. Our movements will be as simple as possible. Our bodies will be straight. We won’t hurry. There will be a smoothness about us. The people you see standing around after mine disasters, or similar tragedies, have a stillness and simplicity of movement. They rise in status. They are straighter, they don’t make nervous little movements – not when the shock is on them – and I would guess that they hold eye contacts for longer than normal.
    24. It’s amazing how few people can stand really still; yet nothing is more powerful than absolute stillness on stage.
    25. When actors insist on ‘thinking’ about the Mask, I tell them to ‘attend’ to it instead. I say, ‘Imagine you’re in a great forest and you hear a sound you can’t identify quite close to you. Is it a bear? Is it dangerous? The mind goes empty as you stay motionless waiting for the sound to be repeated. This mindless listening is like attending to a Mask’. This usually works. If you attend to a Mask you’ll see it start to change – probably because your eyes are getting tired. Don’t stop these changes. The edges crawl about, it may suddenly seem like a real face in your hands. Fine, don’t lose the sensation, put the Mask on gently and hold the image in your mind. If you lose it, take the Mask off.
    26. People seem to be afraid of three things: 1) that the students will be violent; 2) that the students will go ‘mad’; 3) that the students will refuse to remove the Mask when instructed (a combination of the first two)
    27. When you give the student permission to explore the material he very soon uncovers layers of unsuspected gentleness and tenderness. It is no longer sexual feelings and violence that are deeply repressed in this culture now, whatever it may have been like in fin-de-siècle Vienna. We repress our benevolence and tenderness
      1. Even more important and a way to separate self today because of this lack of empathy, benevolence, tenderness.
    28. The facial expression as a whole – independent of the individual parts – has to be carefully observed. We know the depressed face of the melancholic patient. It is peculiar how the expression of flaccidity can be associated with a severe chronic tension of the musculature. There are people with an always artificially beaming face; there are ‘stiff’ and ‘sagging’ cheeks. Usually, the patients are able to find the corresponding expression themselves, if the attitude is repeatedly pointed out and described to them, or shown to them by imitating it. One patient with ‘stiff’ cheeks said: “My cheeks are as if heavy with tears.” Suppressed crying easily leads to a masklike stiffness of the facial musculature. At an early age, children develop a fear of “faces” which they used to delight in making; they are afraid because they are told that if they make a face it’ll stay that way, and because the very impulses they express in their grimaces are impulses for which they are likely to be reprimanded or punished. Thus they check these impulses and hold their faces “rigidly under control.”
What I got out of it
  1. Less movement indicates higher-status (especially of head, amazing how few can be totally still), there is no action that is done which doesn’t indicate/raise/lower status and by focusing on this actors can let their instincts take over, those who can raise and lower their status seamlessly and at will are the masters at social communication and rapport, observing postures is one of the best ways to determine status in an interaction, status is established not by staring but by the reaction to staring, the body automatically takes over when you act in a high-status way, if you speak with your head still, then you’ll do many other high-status things quite automatically – speak in complete sentences, hold eye contact, move smoothly, occupy more space, slow down, things said are far less important than status played, the incredible connection between Masks and trance and how deep a part of our culture trance states have been until recently, good teacher can propel any group (play low status by sitting on floor but have status go up by taking responsibility for their success or failure, share eye contact amongst the group), free up imagination by telling students they are not responsible for what comes out, “I don’t myself see that an educated man in this culture necessarily has to understand the second law of thermodynamics, but he certainly should understand that we are pecking-order animals and that this affects the tiniest details of our behavior.” Striving after originality takes you far away from your true self, and makes your work mediocre.

February 2018

The Rabbit Hole by Blas Moros 
     
Jump In. 
 

My monthly newsletter covers the books I have read over the course of the month, the challenges I undertook as well as some other interesting articles, blog posts, interviews, tools, hacks, etc.   

Books

Full list of books read in 201820172016, 2015, 2014

Any book, which is at all important, should be immediately re-read

 

Teacher’s Reference Guides

Monthly Challenges

  • Run a 6-minute mile – it had been a while since I was able to do this and it took some time to get it back but I’m happy I did. Probably won’t keep it up though…
  • Read Sam Altman’s blog – not quite Paul Graham-level but had some worthwhile insights

Other

  

Amor Fati

Blas

 

“Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.” – Carl Jung

 
     
   
   
 
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January 2018

The Rabbit Hole by Blas Moros 
     
Jump In. 
 

My monthly newsletter covers the books I have read over the course of the month, the challenges I undertook as well as some other interesting articles, blog posts, interviews, tools, hacks, etc.   

Books

Full list of books read in 20172016, 2015, 2014

Any book, which is at all important, should be immediately re-read

 

Teacher’s Reference Guides

  •  None this month

Monthly Challenges

  • Daily tweet – hardly did anything on Twitter before but it was fun to try to come up with a quick daily blurb that wasn’t totally worthless
  • No caffeine – I usually only drink 1-2 cups per day but this was surprisingly easy after the first 2 days. Definitely slept better but miss coffee and will go back to 1-2 per day

Other

  

Amor Fati

Blas

 

“Learn to love what you have been taught to fear.” – Felix Baumgartner

 
     
   
   
 
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Boyd: The Figher Pilot Who Changed the Art of War by Robert Coram

Summary
  1. “Boyd has had a bigger impact on fighter tactics, aircraft design, and theory of air force combat than any man in history but he was also court marshaled and investigated dozens of times for leaks to the public, stealing computer time to work on his theories, and more. He was cantankerous, loud, and offensive and made a lot of enemies but it was all in the pursuit of his theories which positively impacted how the US military trained and fought.”
Key Takeaways
  1. Boyd was a rare combination of skills and talents and became known as 40 second Boyd because of his ability to beat anyone in air to air combat simulation.
  2. He was the first to codify air to air combat. He was only a junior in the army when he changed how the Army and Navy at large trained fighter pilots. Much of Boyd’s work is classified so his contributions were almost unknown to the outside world during his lifetime. Even then, except for the Marine Corps, most divisions of the military didn’t give Boyd proper credit for his contributions because of how much of a ruckus he caused
  3. He was in search of truth and a pure man but he was also larger than life, rude, cared little for his appearance
  4. Boyd was born in Erie, Pennsylvania in 1927 and his father died when he was only three years old. His mother worked very hard to keep the family afloat and she taught her kids the principles of frugality and hard work that would stay with Boyd forever. The mother severed ties with religion, friends, and family if she thought it would hurt her children. Also, Boyd’s sister contracted polio and the family became a sort of pariah because at the time people didn’t know what caused polio. Although John was somewhat socially awkward, his mom instilled in him that if you work hard and had integrity, you would win in the end
  5. As a child, Boyd had incredible focus and was a championship swimmer in Pennsylvania
  6. Boyd questioned the limit of everything and often found that it was always greater than what people told him
  7. Boyd had little tolerance or patience for those who didn’t understand what he was working towards but for those who did, he would go into great detail to make sure they understood
  8. After Boyd graduated from flight school, he was asked to stay on as an instructor which is one of the most prestigious job requests that a pilot can get
  9. After several years at Flight Weapons School, Boyd wanted to get his undergraduate engineering degree and got it from Georgia Tech. It was here that he was able to intertwine thermodynamics with his aerial studies. It was the trade off between potential and kinetic energy that tied them together and the beauty and simplicity of the idea made his hair stand on end when it clicked for him. Like entropy, a plane could have energy that was unavailable for work because of his position, speed, or strength of opponent. This was his excess power theory, which eventually became known as the Energy Maneuverability Theory. At its most basic, this determines the specific energy rate of an aircraft – how fast can you speed up or slow down compared to your opponent. Using specific energy makes this ratio universal across planes because, simply put, it is energy divided by weight of aircraft
  10. Boyd’s EM did 4 things for aviation
    1. It allowed for a quantitative basis for teaching aerial tactics
    2. It forever changed the way aircraft are flown in combat
    3. It provided a scientific basis for how the maneuverability of an aircraft could be evaluated. It allowed for a comparison of aircrafts and how to negate or minimize the advantages when flying against a superior jet
    4. It became a fundamental tool when designing fighter aircraft
  11. Boyd was able to see a page of numbers and visualize how they would affect his airplane, flight, tactics, and more. He had the hologram in the head
  12. Boyd hated optimization. Instead, he iterated on his thoughts and processes, letting them grow in a very Darwinian, organic way rather than trying to have a set plan or perfect solution to work towards
  13. By getting his engineering degree and deeply understanding thermodynamics, Boyd was able to see and understand the pros and cons of fighter jets’ designs, often better than the designers themselves
  14. To say he was a perfectionist is an understatement of epic proportion
  15. When Boyd determined that somebody had an “obstruction” (didn’t agree with him or didn’t give him the respect he felt he deserved), he took it upon himself to show them why he was thought of as one of the best fighter pilots, instructors, and most knowledgeable person on jets
  16. Boyd’s temperament and harsh way of dealing with people came back to bite him as he was continually passed over for promotions
  17. Trade-offs are the heart and soul of jet fighter design. Discipline and understanding the mission at hand are key too
  18. Boyd’s incredible intensity and passion for his work of course hurt his family situation and many of his kids ended up distanced from him. He neglected and ignored his family to the point that sometimes they didn’t talk for years
  19. Ambiguity, although difficult for people to deal with, tends to reflect reality better than black and white thinking and allows for new thoughts and spontaneity to arise and help evolve an idea or situation
  20. Another of Boyd’s great contributions was Patterns of Conflict. This piece studies the emotional, moral, and behavioral aspects of people during war and is helpful to compare different strategies, technologies, and techniques to one another
  21. The OODA loop (Observe, Orient, Decide, Act) was another big contribution but what most people don’t understand or what they oversimplify is the fact that you always have to have one foot in reality in order to update your ideas and understanding of the situation. Otherwise, you’re orienting and acting with outdated and wrong information
  22. General Mattis developed a reputation as a genius simply by not saying much
  23. The Pentagon is not set up to protect America, it is set up to buy weapons
  24. Boyd cared far more for his ideas being spread, adopted, and practiced than for getting any credit or payment for them
  25. Boyd’s theories were all over the Gulf War and had a meaningful impact on how quickly and dramatically America overcame the local opposition
  26. Boyd experienced some severe health scares and later developed an all consuming depression. He wasn’t sure what he was afraid of but it was real and it deeply frightened him. Boyd later developed aggressive cancer which was the cause of his death
  27. if you’re fighting for the right thing there’s always a way to win
What I got out of it
  1. A great biography on a man I didn’t know anything about. He had a deep desire to learn and search for truth but his rude, in your face manner earned him many enemies and opposition to his ideas. Energy Maneuverability, Patterns of Conflict, OODA Loop were his main contributions

Chimpanzee Politics: Power and Sex Among Apes by Frans de Waal

Summary
  1. An incredible insight into the takeovers and social organization of a chimp colony in the Netherlands. “The behavior of our closest relatives provides clues about human nature. Apart from political maneuvering, chimpanzees show many behaviors that parallel those of humans, from tool technology to intercommunity warfare. In fact, our place among the primates is increasingly a backdrop of substantial similarity. Our uniqueness breaks down as we study our relatives.”
Key Takeaways
  1. Simplified conditions, like the one found at Arnhem Zoo with this chimp colony, allow researchers to see more because there is less. A totally wild environment is too dynamic, too chaotic to be able to closely observe some of the interactions which are dissected in this book
  2. “Every country has its Dick Cheneys and Ted Kennedys operating behind the scenes. Being over the hill themselves, these experienced men often exploit the intense rivalries among younger politicians, gaining tremendous power as a result. I also did not draw explicit parallels between how rival chimpanzees curry favor with females by grooming and tickling their young and the way human politicians hold up and kiss babies, something they rarely do outside the election season. There are tons of such parallels, also in nonverbal communication (the swaggering, the lowering of voices), but I stayed away from all these. To me, they were so obvious I am happy to leave them to my readers…The social dynamics are essentially the same. The game of probing and challenging, of forming coalitions, of undermining others’ coalitions, and of slapping the table to reinforce a point is right there for any observer to see. The will to power is a human universal. Our species has been engaged in Machiavellian tactics since the dawn of time, which is why no one should be surprised about the evolutionary connection pointed out in the present book.”
  3. Only in harmonious groups are adult males solicitous and tolerant of kid’s behavior
  4. When excited or aggressive, their hair stands on end so they appear larger than life and often this behavior can be seen as much as 10 minutes before by inconspicuous body movements and changes in posture
  5. The group dynamic is one large web and the alpha male is just as, if not more, ensnared in the web as the rest
  6. Since they don’t need to forage for food as they do in the wild, there is considerably more time to socialize and the close quarters, especially in the winter months, which leads to nearly twice as many aggressive incidents as in the summer months
  7. “Experts sometimes choose to create the impression of knowing nothing. They act in exactly the opposite way from the young teacher, who held forth with such conviction. Both attitudes lead nowhere, but unfortunately I will not be able to avoid them completely.”
  8. “Everyone can look, but actually perceiving is something that has to be learned. This is a constantly recurring problem when new students arrive. For the first few weeks they “see” nothing at all…Initially we only see what we recognize. Someone who knows nothing about chess and who watches a game between two players will not be aware of the tension on the board. Even if the watcher stays for an hour, he or she will still have great difficult in accurately reproducing the state of play on another board. A grand master, on the other hand, would grasp and memorize the position of every piece in one concentrated glance of a few seconds. This is not a difference of memory, but of perception. Whereas to the uninitiated the positions of the chess pieces are unrelated, the initiated attach great significance to them and see how they threaten and cover each other. It is easier to remember something with a structure than a chaotic jumble. This is the synthesizing principle of the so-called Gestalt perception: the whole, or Gestalt, is more than the sum of its parts. Learning to perceive is learning to recognize the patterns in which the components regularly occur. Once we are familiar with the patterns of interactions between chess pieces or chimpanzees, they seem so striking and obvious that it is difficult to imagine how other people can get bogged down in all kinds of detail and miss the essential logic of the maneuvers.”
  9. When chimpanzees are frightened or distressed, they bare their teeth much further than when they put on the so-called play-face
  10. When males are displaying and trying to intimidate, it is not uncommon to see females take away their weapons
  11. Side-Directed Behavior: behavior toward opponents and behavior toward companions or outsiders
    1. Seeking refuge and reassurance – the most common form and an excited or frightened chimpanzee clearly has a need for physical contact
    2. Recruitment of support
    3. Instigation
    4. Reconciliations – after conflict, the opponents are attracted to each other like magnets! They had to physically connect to make up and tension and hesitancy remains as long as the opponents had not reconciled their differences. This action serves to repair valuable relationships
    5. Coalitions – when two apes fight or threaten each other, a third ape may enter the fray and side with one of them. Sometimes this escalates and larger coalitions are formed. However, this does not cascade – chimpanzees never make an uncalculated move and the top position in a group may depend on aggressive cooperation (highest form of strategy, dominance) and, often, it was the females who were the most important part of helping their chosen male get into the position of alpha
  12. Social Intelligence Hypothesis
    1. Chimps developed such high intelligence in order to deal with an increasingly complex group life. The evolution of primate intelligence started with the need to outsmart others, to detect deceptive tactics, to reach mutually advantageous compromises, and to foster social ties that advance once’s career
  13. Alpha males
    1. Hair is constantly slightly on end, even when not actively displaying and walk in an exaggeratedly slow and heavy manner – all meant to make one look larger and heavier
    2. The submissive greeting is the most special form of behavior indicative of social order – deep bows, grunting, looking up at the alpha, kiss his feet/neck/chest. Alpha reacts to this by standing taller and making his hair stand on end which makes the contrast even greater
    3. Dominance manifests in two different ways – social influence (power, who can defeat whom and who weighs in most heavily when a conflict in the group occurs) and formal dominance (ones actual rank within the colony)
    4. Physical strength is only one factor and almost certainly not the critical one in determining dominance relationships
    5. A leader who hesitates in defending his proteges might very well have problems defending himself
    6. Tantrums are indicative of the beginning of the end but familiarity breeds contempt. Tantrums which are thrown too often are ignored
    7. Tend to think that the outcome of a fight determines the social relationship, whereas here the outcome was determined by the social relationship. The same was seen in later dominance processes. The prevailing social climate affected the self-confidence of the rivals. It was as if their effectiveness depended on the attitude of the group (rather like a soccer team playing better at home than away).
    8. Speed and agility are just as important as strength
    9. Alpha males experience a physical and emotional change when they become the alpha – hair on end, a “policy” of trying to stabilize the group after the shake up in hierarchy
    10. Pattern Recognition – an older alpha had a better eye for potentially dangerous social developments and realized better than his partner that such developments must be nipped in the bud
    11. One of the new alphas, Nikkie, received great resistance from the females and never had secure rule. He was “greeted” and groomed and obeyed but he lead from a position of fear rather than respect. Must have the backing and support of the females or else your power is fragile
  14. Chimps overcome basic competitive tendencies more than other animals and achieve a high degree of cooperation. They cooperate in order to create a common front against the neighbors – the psyche is one of both competition and compromise and this is what makes chimp society so much more recognizable to us than the social structure of the other great apes
  15. Chimpanzee males avoid looking at each other in moments of tension, challenge, and intimidation. In moments of reconciliation, on the other hand, they look each other straight and deep in the eyes. After a conflict the former opponents may sometimes sit opposite each other for a quarter of an hour or more, trying to catch each other’s eye. Once the opponents are finally looking at each other, first hesitantly but then more steadily, the reconciliation will not be far away. Often, a “sense of honor” would need to be overcome before the reconciliation begins and often it was a third party who would help them out of the impasse. This third party was always one of the adult females
  16. After a fight, contact and conciliation is so important than the winner can blackmail the loser. The winner refuses to have anything to do with the loser until he has received some respectful grunts
  17. A stable hierarchy is a great sign of peace and harmony in the group but only partially ensure peace in the social system. Horizontal developments – in which children grow up and social ties are established, neglected, or broken – inevitably affect the temporarily fixed “vertical” component, the hierarchy. Western “ladder” view of social ties compared to Japanese “network” view. Hierarchical stability cannot be equated with stagnation and monotony, dominance must constantly be proven (Red Queen Effect)
  18. Loser-supporters: a third individual who intervenes in a conflict on the side of the party who would otherwise have lost
  19. Young males of superior fighting ability cannot usurp power without the support of a sizable portion of a group. You have to have the group buy-in and back you – can never do it alone
  20. The chimps have incredible awareness of their social cues. During one of the fights, both sides were bluffing about how brave they were and could be seen holding their hands in front of their mouths so that nobody could see them bearing their teeth (a sign of fear, excitement, nervousness
  21. In all the time studying the apes, the researchers never once witnessed a conflict between the two highest ranking females
    1. Key for stability within a hierarchy to have the top women on the same page?
  22. There are often issues when there is ‘dual leadership’ or a second person who feels they are entitled to respect and power just as much as the true leader. As Machiavelli reasoned, “He who attains the principality with the aid of the nobility maintains it with more difficulty than he who becomes the prince with the assistance of the common people, for he finds himself a prince amidst many who feel themselves to be his equals, and because of this he can neither govern nor manage them as he might wish.”
  23. The males are incredibly tolerant of children. They cannot risk getting upset and losing the support of the females
  24. Sex
    1. The formation of territories is one way of demarcating procreational rights; the formation of a hierarchy is another. There is a definite link between power and sex; no social organization can be properly understood without knowledge of the sexual rules and the way the progeny are cared for. Even the proverbial cornerstone of our society, the family, is essentially a sexual and reproductive unit. Sigmund Freud, speculating about the history of the unit, imagined a “primal horde,” in which our forefathers obeyed one great chief, who jealously guarded all sexual rights and privileges for himself
    2. A female can only be fertilized by one male. By keeping other males away from her, a male increases the certainty that he will be the father of the child. Consequently, children will more often be sired by jealous than by tolerant males. If jealousy is hereditary, and that is what the theory assumes, more and more children will be born with this characteristic, and later they in turn will attempt to exclude other members of the same sex from the reproductive act.
    3. Whereas the males fight for the right to fertilize as many females as possible, the situation for the females is totally different. Whether she copulates with one or one hundred males, it will not alter the number of children she will give birth to. Jealousy among females is therefore less marked. Female competition occurs almost exclusively in pair-bonded species, such as many birds and a few mammals, such as humans. Men get most upset at the thought of their wife or girlfriend having sex with another man, women dislike most the thought that their husband or boyfriend actually loves another woman, regardless of whether or not sex has occurred. Because women look at these things from the perspective of relationships, they are more concerned about a possible emotional tie between their mate and another woman
    4. If a female does not want to mate, it is usually over. Persistent males run the risk of being chased by the female they approached and some of the other females too. Consequently, it is the females who largely engineer the evasion of the rules that exist among males
  25. If the number of individuals in any colony becomes unnaturally alrge, the system collapses (Dunbar’s Number)
  26. Triadic Awareness (Lateral Networks)
    1. Just as individual recognition is a prerequisite of a stable hierarchy, so triadic awareness is a prerequisite of a hierarchy based on coalitions. The term triadic awareness refers to the capacity to perceive social relationships between others so as to form varied triangular relationships. For example, Luit knows that Yeroen and Nikkie are allies, so he will not provoke conflicts with Yeroen when Nikkie is nearby, but he is much less reluctant to do so when he meets Yeroen alone. What is special about this kind of knowledge is that an individual is not only aware of his or her relationships with everyone in the group, but also monitors and evaluates relationships that exist in the social environment so as to gain an understanding of how the self relates to combinations of other individuals. Elementary forms of three-dimensional group life are found in many birds and mammals, but primates are undoubtedly supreme in this respect. Mediation with a view to reconciliation, separating interventions, telling tales, and coalitions would all be inconceivable without triadic awareness
    2. If any of this sounds simple, it is because triadic awareness is second nature to human beings, and we find it hard to imagine a society without it
    3. Dependence on third parties plays such a prominent role in the chimpanzee hierarchy that the basic relationships are completely overshadowed. This is not only true for the complex balance of power in the male triangle. A small child, for example, may chase away a full-grown male. He is able to do so under the protection of his mother or “aunt.” Like the children, these females are basically inferior to the males, but they, in turn, can rely on the support of other females and sometimes can appeal to dominant males for help
  27. The Female Hierarchy
    1. The basis of hierarchical positions is sex-related. Among males coalitions determine dominance. The male dominance over the females is largely determined by their physical superiority. Among females it is above all personality and age that seem to be the determining factors.
    2. Conflicts between females are so rare and the outcome is so unpredictable that they cannot be used as a criterion for determining rank.
    3. The female hierarchy in our chimpanzee group seems to be based on respect from below rather than intimidation and a show of strength from above
      1. Perhaps why it is so stable and powerful – get buy in and respect from the bottom
    4. Our understanding of ape hierarchies is further complicated by the fact that there is a third type of dominance that exists alongside formal dominance and power. For example, when the alpha male places a car tire on one of the drums in the indoor hall with the intention of lying down on it, one of the females may push him away and sit down herself. Females also remove objects, sometimes even food, from the hands of the males without meeting with any resistance
    5. They have things to offer that cannot be taken by force, such as sexual and political favors, and their silent diplomacy, which helps to calm tempers. This provides the females with a good deal of leverage: if being popular among the females is critical for the stability of a male’s leadership, he had better be lenient and accomdating towards them
    6. Quite the opposite from subhuman primates, a man must be generous to be respected
  28. Mutual fear as the basis of alliance formation makes nations weigh in on the lighter side of the balance. The result is a power equilibrium in which all nations hold influential positions. The same principle applies to social psychology and is known as the formation of “minimal winning coalitions.”
  29. A rational choice is based on an estimate of the consequences.
  30. The hankering for power itself is almost certainly inborn. The question now is, how do chimpanzees achieve their ambitions? This too may be hereditary. Some people are said to have “political instinct,” and there is no reason why we should not say the same of chimpanzees. I doubt, however, whether this “instinct” is responsible for all the details of their strategies. Experience is needed to use innate social tendencies as a means to an end in the same way that a young bird born with wings to fly needs months of practice before it has mastered the art. In the case of political strategies, experience can play a role in two ways: directly, during the social processes themselves, or through the projection of old experiences into the future
  31. Sympathy is related to intimacy and familiarity
  32. Sharing
    1. For the adult male, the amount that he himself possesses is not important. What matters is who does the distributing among the group. (However, this only applies to incidental, extra food. Main meals and hunger can cause chimpanzee males to quarrel violently, as the Holloman colony showed.) Females, on the other hand, tend to share mainly with their own children and best friends and do not get into quarrels with other group members. Taking food by force is extremely rare in our colony; sharing is something apes learn young
    2. Their control rests on giving. They give protection to anyone who is threatened and receive respect and support in return. Also among humans the borderline between material and social generosity is scarcely distinguishable. Observations of human children by the psychologists Harvey Ginsburg and Shirley Miller have demonstrated that the most dominant children not only intervene in playground fights to protect losers but also are more willing to share with classmates. The investigators suggest that this behavior helps a child to command high status among peers. Similarly, we know from anthropological studies of pre-literate tribes that the chief exercises an economic role comparable to the control role: he gives and receives. He is rich but does not exploit his people, because he gives huge feasts and helps the needy. The gifts and goods he receives flow back into the community. A chief who tries to keep everything for himself puts his position in jeopardy. Noblesse oblige, or, as Sahlins said, “A man must be generous to be respected.” This universal human system, the collection and redistribution of possessions by the chief, or his modern equivalent, the government, is the same as that used by chimpanzees; all we have to do is replace “possessions” by “support and other social favors.”
      1. Honor this golden rule of generosity in all areas of life. Give more than you receive in every manner
  33. Reciprocation
    1. The influence of the recent past is always overestimated. When we are asked to name the greatest human inventions we tend to think of the telephone, the electric light bulb, and the silicon chip rather than the wheel, the plough, and the taming of fire. Similarly the origins of modern society are sought in the advent of agriculture, trade, and industry, whereas in fact our social history is a thousand times older than these phenomena. It has been suggested that food sharing was a strong stimulus in furthering the evolution of our tendency to reciprocal relations. Would it not be more logical to assume that social reciprocity existed earlier and that tangible exchanges such as food sharing stem from this phenomenon? There are indications of reciprocity in the nonmaterial behaviors of chimps. This is seen, for instance, in their coalitions, nonintervention alliances (A remains neutral if B does the same), sexual bargaining (A tolerates B mating after B has groomed A), and reconciliation blackmail (A refuses to have contact with B unless B “greets” A). It is interesting that reciprocity occurs in both the negative and the positive sense. Nikkie’s habit of individually punishing females who a short time before joined forces against him has already been described. In this way he repaid a negative action with another negative action. We regularly see this mechanism in operation before the group separates for the night. This is the time when differences are squared, no matter when these differences may have arisen. For example, one morning a conflict breaks out between Mama and Oor. Oor rushes to Nikkie and with wild gestures and exaggeratedly loud screams persuades him to attack her powerful opponent. Nikkie attacks Mama, and Oor wins. That evening, however, a good six hours later, we hear the sound of a scuffle in the sleeping quarters. The keeper tells me later that Mama has attacked Oor in no uncertain manner. Needless to say Nikkie was nowhere in the vicinity. Negative behavior hardly enters into the theories about reciprocity that anthropologists and sociologists have developed. Despite the emphasis on powerful exchanges there has not been much theoretical progress
    2. Every individual voluntarily enters and stays in any relationship only as long as it is adequately satisfactory in terms of rewards and costs. Interactions between humans have been regarded as a kind of trading in advantageous and disadvantageous behavior. Here too reciprocity is an important theme, not only in the positive form but also in its negative form.
    3. This give-and-take mechanism is a very old, and very fundamental feature of our species and of chimps. Much of the process may take place in the subconscious, but we all know from experience that things come bubbling up to the surface when the difference between costs and benefits becomes too great. It is then that we voice our feelings. By and large, however, reciprocity is something that takes place silently. The principle of exchange makes it possible actively to teach someone something: good behavior is rewarded; bad behavior is punished
    4. Life in a chimpanzee group is like a market in power, sex, affection, support, intolerance, and hostility. The two basic rules are: one good turn deserves another and an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth
  34. The major themes found and discussed in the chimpanzee colony
    1. Formalization – ranks are formalized. When they become unclear a dominance struggle ensues, after which the winner refuses reconciliation as long as his new status is not formally recognized
    2. Influence – an individual’s influence on group processes does not always correspond to his or her rank position. It also depends on personality, age, experience, and connections. I regard our oldest male and oldest female as the most influential group members
    3. Coalitions – interventions in conflicts serve either to help friends and relatives or to build up powerful positions. The second, opportunistic type of intervention is seen specifically in the coalition formation of adult males and goes hand in hand with isolation tactics. There is evidence for a similar sex difference in humans
    4. Balance – in spite of their rivalry, males form strong social bonds among themselves. They tend to develop a balanced power system based on their coalitions, individual fighting abilities, and support from females
    5. Stability – relationships among females are less hierarchically organized and much more stable than among males. A need for stability is also reflected in the females’ attitude toward male status competition. They even mediate between males
    6. Exchanges – the human economic system, with its reciprocal transactions and centralization, is recognizable in the group life of chimpanzees. They exchange social favors rather than gifts or goods, and their support flows to a central individual who uses the prestige derived from it to provide social security. This is his responsibility, in the sense that he may undermine his own position if he fails to redistribute the support received
    7. Manipulation – chimpanzees are intelligent manipulators. Their ability is clear enough in their use of tools, but it is even more pronounced in the use of others as social instruments
  35. To my eyes, the most striking result is that there seem to be two layers of social organization. The first layer we see is a clear-cut rank order, at least among the most dominant individuals. Although primatologists spend a lot of energy discussing the value of the “dominance concept,” they all know that it is impossible to ignore this hierarchical structure. The debate is not about its existence but about the degree to which knowledge of rank relationships helps to explain social processes. I think that, so long as we concentrate on the formal hierarchy, the explanations will be very poor indeed. We should also look behind it, at the second layer: a network of positions of influence. These positions are much more difficult to define, and I consider my descriptions in terms of influence and power only as imperfect first attempts. What I have seen, though, is that individuals losing a top rank certainly do not fall into oblivion: they are still able to pull many strings. In the same way, an individual rising in rank and at first sight appearing to be the big boss does not automatically have the greatest say in all matters. If it is hard to explain this duality of the social organization without using human terms, it is because we have very similar behind-the-scenes influences in our own society. When Aristotle referred to man as a political animal he could not know just how near the mark he was. Our political activity is part of an evolutionary heritage we share with our close relatives. What my work at Arnhem as taught me, however, is that the root of politics are older than humanity
  36. Human’s daily dabbling in politics are not always recognized as such because people are past masters in camouflaging their true intentions. Politicians for example, are vociferous about their ideals and promises but are careful not to disclose personal aspirations for power. This is not mean to be a reproach, because after all everyone plays the same game. I would go further and say that we are largely unaware that we are playing a game and hide our motives not only from others but also underestimate the immense effect they have on our own behavior. Chimps on the other hand, are quite blatant about their “baser” motives. Their interest in power is not greater than that of humanity, it is just more obvious
  37. To compare humans with chimps can be taken to be just as insulting, or perhaps even more so, because human motives seem to become more animal as a result. And yet, among chimps, power politics are not merely “bad” or “dirty.” They give to the life of the Arnhem community its logical coherence and even a democratic structure. All parties search for social significance and continue to do so until a temporary balance is achieved. This balance determines the new hierarchical positions. Changing relationships reached point where they become “frozen” in more or less fixed ranks. When we see how this formalization takes place during reconciliations, we understand that the hierarchy is a cohesive factor, which puts limits on competition and conflict. Child care, play, sex, and cooperation depend on the resultant stability. But underneath the surface the situation is constantly in a state of flux. The balance of power is texted daily, and if it proves too weak it is challenged and a new balance established. Consequently chimpanzee politics are also constructive. Humans should regard it as an honor to be classed as political animals.
What I got out of it
  1. Female support counts for as much as nearly anything, coalitions/reconciliation as important in chimp’s life as in human life, much more about cooperation than simply brute strength/size/speed, aggressive cooperation is one of the highest forms of strategy, the need for physical contact is crucial for social bonding and reconciliation, power is truly comprised of two things: social influence and formal dominance, must get buy in from the bottom of the group in order to have a stable hierarchy, man must be generous in order to be respected, stability vita for a well functioning group and hierarchy, hierarchy is a cohesive and a constructive factor which put limits on competition and conflict

Hillbilly Elegy: A Memory of a Family and Culture in Crisis by JD Vance

Summary
  1. JD Vance wrote this book not because he’s accomplished anything extraordinary, but because he’s accomplished something ordinary. His poor upbringing and difficult childhood indicates he’d never escape but he was able to graduate from Yale Law School.
Key Takeaways
  1. There is of course inequality but there is also a lack of agency, of responsibility, of accountability that JD has found in his cohort
  2. The honor culture of the south leads many into violence and revenge, not being able to let an insult go
  3. For most hillbillies, the only way up is to move out. There are astonishing numbers of people moving away from the Appalachian region every year, in pursuit of a livable wage
  4. People don’t expect much of themselves because the people around them aren’t doing very much
  5. Despite all the social and peers pressures, JD received a different message at home that it was alright to learn and to strive and that made all the difference to him
  6. Parent’s desire for their kids to do better didn’t just relate to education, work, and pay, but to relationships too. Low expectations for those living in the Appalachians is hurting every generation
  7. JD had no role models for relationships and thought that screaming, violence, and hitting was how adults spoke to each other
  8. We are all very bad at judging ourselves
  9. His grandma was his most important positive influence as she showed him not only what was possible but how to get there. She helped him raise what he expected out of himself
  10. The instability in JD’s life was so disruptive. He was in several different homes with several different father figures in only a couple of years. Once he had a safe, stable place with grandma, he was able to focus and do his work
  11. JD enlisted in the marine corps and graduating was his proudest accomplishment. He got out of his learned helplessness and it made him see and question things once he returned home
  12. Sometimes those in power try to help the helpless without truly understanding their situation, which often ends up with negative consequences
  13. When a group believes that hard work will pay off, they all work harder and go all-in, often with amazing results
  14. The predominant emotion in lower middle class working white Americans is a sense of pessimism and a lack of accountability. They’re not willing to work hard and be consistent and blame others or the government for their problems
  15. Most successful people don’t even play the same game as the people JD grew up with. He had no idea how important networking, one’s social capital, was for one’s prospects. He learned this during his time at Yale Law and going through the interview/admissions process
What I got out of it
  1. An amazing dive into the life of poor Appalachians and the struggles they face. JD told his story in such an open, transparent, vulnerable way and gave me insight into situations I didn’t appreciate or know much about before. Inspiring how hard JD worked to escape his situation, his learned helplessness

Shadow Divers: The True Adventure of Two Americans Who Risked Everything to Solve One of the Last Mysteries of World War II by Robert Kurson

Summary
  1. John Chatterton and Richie Kohler risked their lives to explore a sunken WWII sunken German U-Boat just 60 miles off the coast of New Jersey
Key Takeaways
  1. Diving for shipwrecks is one of the most dangerous professions but even here it tends not to be the obstacles that kill divers, but their reaction to them. Great divers learn to overcome their emotions and their unborn fight or flight instincts and remain calm when most would panic. Liberated from his instincts he becomes something else, a freak of nature
  2. Fix the first problem fully and wholly before even thinking of addressing the second
  3. When a man finds what he is supposed to do or where he is supposed to be, it is impossible to be lost
  4. Chatterton, Nagel, and the rest of the crew couldn’t believe they had found a German U-Boat. The definitive moment came when they found a statue of the German eagle
  5. Always take your swing while the other guy is telling you how badly he’s going to beat you up
  6. After months of diving, hours of research, three lives lost, Chatterton and Kohler finally thought they had identified the U-Boat as boat U857
  7. It is amazing how murky and complex things can get when you leave it to experts. In order to feel confident, you have to do your own work and come to your own conclusions
What I got out of it
  1. Really exciting and well told stories about an unlikely find just 60 miles off the coast of New Jersey. The risk these men put on solving this mystery is amazing