Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Snow on the Mendips

We took a walk this morning through Walcombe to the countryside surrounding Pen Hill. There is still snow on the top and the temperature did not exceed freezing point. We spent the early afternoon moving a pile of tree branches from the side of the house into the car and then off to the dump (two car trips). Unlike George Bush we failed to find such brush-clearing particularly relaxing, except insofar as it's a relief to have got it done.

Pen Hill with TV mast

Snow on the Mendip plateau

Clare and Nigel feeling the cold

Just finished a re-read of Iain M. Banks' "Use of Weapons" and marvelled yet again at Banks' sheer confidence as an author; his mastery of description and multi-threaded plot development. And did I mention the subtlety of his writing? Yeah, he's good, and to rub it in, it seems effortless.

I also finished "The Two Million-year-old Self" by the renowned Jungian analyst Anthony Stevens. This short book comprises essays linking Jung's thought (centred on his concepts of archetype and the collective unconscious) with more recent thinking from ethology and sociobiology. It may be the case that Jung got there first, and deserves kudos for standing firm against the "blank slate" paradigm which has trashed social science for the last hundred years. Still, there seems little interesting new research being done within the Jungian tradition per se.

The conclusion I drew was that Jung's intuitions were spot-on but only technological advances, especially in brain scanning, can be relied upon to shed more light on the underlying mind-brain conundrums.

Stevens' thoughts on the way in which modern societies violate the psychological "environment of evolutionary adaptation" are interesting and pertinent. His clinical examples are compelling enough although I suspect that agrarian societies have accomplished a little more evolution in the psychological space than he admits: we used to be hunter-gatherers but that was a while (and a fair bit of adaptation) ago.