Guide Semi-Barbarian at the Sorbonne (My Very Long Youth, Book 5)

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Ten years later his wilful and beautiful mother abandoned home and husband to become a painter in Mexico, where Lawrence learned his first foreign language and became a bullfight aficionado, "a passion which, like so many others, has long since dimmed, if not faded". After several years they moved to Jamaica, still under British rule, where Lawrence discovered his "first tropical paradise and the beauty of the island girls". By the time he was 16 his mother had led him to Greenwich Village which was where he was "really born". At age eighteen, Lawrence set out, on his own this time, to "be a student, rather than really study, at the University of Madrid, "an experience of little interest in itself, but during which I learned to drink from a wineskin and run faster than a bull".

He soon ended up in a village near Granada where he befriended an eccentric flamenco singer, Manolo Avila, who was also the town butcher. Becoming the lover of a "temperamental and self-destructive" German painter met by chance in the streets of Granada, Lilo, Lawrence moved to Paris to study at the Sorbonne, where over the next two years "I learned many important things about my civilization and also that I didn't want to spend any more time in schools". There, he fell in love with Valeria, "the Panamanian voodoo doll", and "after seeing the film Black Orpheus sixteen times also fell in love with Brazil's music and women".

His long stay in Rio, where Lawrence lived in a favela with a fisherman and his family, later becoming a leather bag and sandal maker in partnership with his Japanese friend Yukio "was both exciting and illuminating", but at the end of five years he had "another fit of restlessness". After two years in New York trying to publish his memoirs of Brazil "but failing miserably", he soon found himself in the Haiti of "Baby Doc" Duvalier, teaching sugar cane cutters to sew leather satchels "for export to men's fashion shops on St.

Now in the company of his adventurous mother, Joan, he fled south to Cartagena de Indias, setting up another leather shop which was "promptly wiped out by burglars in league with the Colombian police" Missing his European roots, Lawrence returned to France in , living in a village in the hills of Provence and then Paris, where he found "a modicum of success" as a postcard designer and became a translator for Unesco, "at last working in a field I was originally educated for, to my dear old Dad's great relief".

A few years later, Lawrence returned to his beloved Andalucian town, Montefrio, where he bought a white house in the olive groves and "began studying history in earnest at the age of forty-five, because it's the only thing worth studying". An unforeseen return visit to Rio resulted in the birth of his daughter Nina, who along with her mother accompanied him back to Montefrio and Granada.

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There, Lawrence made his living as a simultaneous interpreter at conferences around Spain, while restoring several cottages which he rented to visitors as "Las Casas de Lorenzo". After an impetuous incursion into village politics "at the risk of my life", Lawrence, a bachelor again, moved to Granada's old casbah, the Albaicin.

For the ancients, the discovery that different people have different ideas about how, practically, to live, did not paralyze them; it deepened their understanding of humanity and led to some of the most satisfying conversations human beings have ever had, about how life might be lived. Instead of despairing about these differences in moral codes, Aristotle argued that though specific rules, laws and customs differed from place to place, what does not differ is that in all places human beings, by their nature, have a proclivity to make rules, laws and customs.

To put this in modern terms, it seems that all human beings are, by some kind of biological endowment, so ineradicably concerned with morality that we create a structure of laws and rules wherever we are. The idea that human life can be free of moral concerns is a fantasy.

We are rule generators. And given that we are moral animals, what must be the effect of our simplistic modern relativism upon us? It means we are hobbling ourselves by pretending to be something we are not. It is a mask, but a strange one, for it mostly deceives the one who wears it. Because we do not yet have an ethics based on modern science, Jordan is not trying to develop his rules by wiping the slate clean—by dismissing thousands of years of wisdom as mere superstition and ignoring our greatest moral achievements.

He is doing what reasonable guides have always done: And although the topics in this book are serious, Jordan often has great fun addressing them with a light touch, as the chapter headings convey. He makes no claim to be exhaustive, and sometimes the chapters consist of wide-ranging discussions of our psychology as he understands it. Because these really are rules. And the foremost rule is that you must take responsibility for your own life. One might think that a generation that has heard endlessly, from their more ideological teachers, about the rights, rights, rights that belong to them, would object to being told that they would do better to focus instead on taking responsibility.

The extent of this reaction has often moved both of us to the brink of tears. Sometimes these rules are demanding. They require you to undertake an incremental process that over time will stretch you to a new limit. Stretching yourself beyond the boundaries of your current self requires carefully choosing and then pursuing ideals: And perhaps because, as unfamiliar and strange as it sounds, in the deepest part of our psyche, we all want to be judged.

In , I started contributing to a website called Quora. On Quora, anyone can ask a question, of any sort—and anyone can answer.

Sorbonne Confidential

In this manner, the most useful answers rise to the top, while the others sink into oblivion. I was curious about the site. I liked its free-for-all nature. The discussion was often compelling, and it was interesting to see the diverse range of opinions generated by the same question. When I was taking a break or avoiding work , I often turned to Quora, looking for questions to engage with.

Thus, you can determine your reach, and see what people think of your ideas. Only a small minority of those who view an answer upvote it. Not exactly home runs. On such sites, most answers receive very little attention, while a tiny minority become disproportionately popular. Soon after, I answered another question: The Quora readers appeared pleased with this list. They commented on and shared it. We can just close the site now. Only a few hundred of the roughly six hundred thousand questions on Quora have cracked the two-thousand-upvote barrier.

My procrastination-induced musings hit a nerve. I had written a It was not obvious to me when I wrote the list of rules for living that it was going to perform so well. I had put a fair bit of care into all the sixty or so answers I submitted in the few months surrounding that post. Nonetheless, Quora provides market research at its finest. The respondents are anonymous. Their opinions are spontaneous and unbiased.

Perhaps I struck the right balance between the familiar and the unfamiliar while formulating the rules. Perhaps people were drawn to the structure that such rules imply. Perhaps people just like lists. A few months earlier, in March of , I had received an email from a literary agent. She had heard me speak on CBC radio during a show entitled Just Say No to Happiness, where I had criticized the idea that happiness was the proper goal for life. Over the 15 previous decades I had read more than my share of dark books about the twentieth century, focusing particularly on Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union.

In a crisis, the inevitable suffering that life entails can rapidly make a mockery of the idea that happiness is the proper pursuit of the individual. On the radio show, I suggested, instead, that a deeper meaning was required. This is part of the long history of the present work. From until I worked for about three hours a day on the only other book I have ever published: The Architecture of Belief During that time, and in the years since, I also taught a course on the material in that book, first at Harvard, and now at the University of Toronto.

In , observing the rise of YouTube, and because of the popularity of some work I had done with TVO, a Canadian public TV station, I decided to film my university and public lectures and place them online. They attracted an increasingly large audience—more than a million views by April The number of views has risen very dramatically since then up to eighteen million as I write this , but that is in part because I became embroiled in a political controversy that drew an inordinate amount of attention.

Maybe even another book. I proposed in Maps of Meaning that the great myths and religious stories of the past, particularly those derived from an earlier, oral tradition, were moral in their intent, rather than descriptive. Thus, they did not concern themselves with what the world was, as a scientist might have it, but with how a human being should act.

I suggested that our ancestors portrayed the world as a stage—a drama—instead of a place of objects. I described how I had come to believe that the constituent elements of the world as drama were order and chaos, and not material things. Order is where the people around you act according to well-understood social norms, and remain predictable and cooperative. The state of Order is typically portrayed, symbolically— imaginatively—as masculine. Chaos, by contrast, is where—or when—something unexpected happens. Chaos emerges, in trivial form, when you tell a joke at a party with people you think you know and a silent and embarrassing chill falls over the gathering.

Chaos is what emerges more catastrophically when you suddenly find yourself without employment, or are betrayed by a lover. Order and chaos are the yang and yin of the famous Taoist symbol: Order is the white, masculine serpent; Chaos, its black, feminine counterpart. The black dot in the white—and the white in the black—indicate the possibility of transformation: Conversely, just when everything seems lost, new order can emerge from catastrophe and chaos. For the Taoists, meaning is to be found on the border between the ever-entwined pair. To walk that border is to stay on the path of life, the divine Way.

It left her asking herself deeper questions. She emailed me, asking if I had considered writing a book for a general audience. I had previously attempted to produce a more accessible version of Maps of Meaning, which is a very dense book. But I found that the spirit was neither in me during that attempt nor in the resultant manuscript. I think this was because I was imitating my former self, and my previous book, instead of occupying the place between order and chaos and producing something new. I thought if she did that we could have a more informed and thorough discussion about what kind of topics I might address in a more publicly accessible book.

She contacted me a few weeks later, after watching all four lectures and discussing them with a colleague. Her interest had been further heightened, as had her commitment to the project. That was promising—and unexpected. You can decide for yourself what truth there might be in that concern after reading this book. I thought immediately about my Quora list.

I had in the meantime written some further thoughts about of the rules I had posted. People had responded positively toward those new ideas, as well.

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So, I sent her the list. At about the same time, a friend and former student of mine—the novelist and screenwriter Gregg Hurwitz—was considering a new book, which would become the bestselling thriller Orphan X. He liked the rules, too. That was another piece of evidence supporting my supposition of their attractiveness. I suggested to my agent that I write a brief chapter on each of the rules. She agreed, so I wrote a book proposal suggesting as much. I had much more to say about each rule than I originally envisioned.

This was partly because I had spent a very long time researching my first book: I integrated all of that, for better or worse, trying to address a perplexing problem: People who live by the same code are rendered mutually predictable to one another. They can even compete peacefully, because everyone knows what to expect from everyone else. A shared belief system, partly psychological, partly acted out, simplifies everyone—in their own eyes, and in the eyes of others.

Shared beliefs simplify the world, as well, because people who know what to expect from one another can act together to tame the world. There is perhaps nothing more important than the maintenance of this organization—this simplification. They will fight, instead, to maintain the match between what they believe, what they expect, and what they desire. They will fight to maintain the match between what they expect and how everyone is acting. It is precisely the maintenance of that match that enables everyone to live together peacefully, predictably and productively.

It reduces uncertainty and the chaotic mix of intolerable emotions that uncertainty inevitably produces. Imagine someone betrayed by a trusted lover. The sacred social contract obtaining between the two has been violated. Actions speak louder than words, and an act of betrayal disrupts the fragile and carefully negotiated peace of an intimate relationship. In the aftermath of disloyalty, people are seized by terrible emotions: Conflict is inevitable, sometimes with deadly results.

Shared belief systems—shared systems of agreed-upon conduct and expectation—regulate and control all those powerful forces. A shared cultural system stabilizes human interaction, but is also a system of value—a hierarchy of value, where some things are given priority and importance and others are not. In the absence of such a system of value, people simply cannot act. We experience much of our positive emotion in relation to goals. We are not happy, technically speaking, unless we see ourselves progressing—and the very idea of progression implies value.

Worse yet is the fact that the meaning of life without positive value is not simply neutral. Because we are vulnerable and mortal, pain and anxiety are an integral part of human existence.

Similar authors to follow

We must have something to set against the suffering that is intrinsic to Being. We must have the meaning inherent in a profound system of value or the horror of existence rapidly becomes paramount. Then, nihilism beckons, with its hopelessness and despair. Between value systems, however, there is the possibility of conflict. We are thus eternally caught between the most diamantine rock and the hardest of places: In the West, we have been withdrawing from our tradition-, religion- and even nation-centred cultures, partly to decrease the danger of group conflict.

But we are increasingly falling prey to the desperation of meaninglessness, and that is no improvement at all. While writing Maps of Meaning, I was also driven by the realization that we can no longer afford conflict—certainly not on the scale of the world conflagrations of the twentieth century. Our technologies of destruction have become too powerful. The potential consequences of war are literally apocalyptic. But we cannot simply abandon our systems of value, our beliefs, our cultures, either.

I agonized over this apparently intractable problem for months. Was there a third way, invisible to me? I dreamt one night during this period that I was suspended in mid-air, clinging to a chandelier, many stories above the ground, directly under the dome of a massive cathedral. The people on the floor below were distant and tiny. There was a great expanse between me and any wall—and even the peak of the dome itself. I have learned to pay attention to dreams, not least because of my training as a clinical psychologist.

Dreams shed light on the dim places where reason itself has yet to voyage. I have studied Christianity a fair bit, too more than other religious traditions, although I am always trying to redress this lack. Like others, therefore, I must and do draw more from what I do know than from what I do not. I knew that cathedrals were constructed in the shape of a cross, and that the point under the dome was the centre of the cross. I knew that the cross was simultaneously, the point of greatest suffering, the point of death 18 and transformation, and the symbolic centre of the world.

That was not somewhere I wanted to be. I managed to get down, out of the heights—out of the symbolic sky—back to safe, familiar, anonymous ground. Then, still in my dream, I returned to my bedroom and my bed and tried to return to sleep and the peace of unconsciousness. As I relaxed, however, I could feel my body transported.

A great wind was dissolving me, preparing to propel me back to the cathedral, to place me once again at that central point. There was no escape. It was a true nightmare. I forced myself awake. The curtains behind me were blowing in over my pillows. Half asleep, I looked at the foot of the bed. I saw the great cathedral doors. I shook myself completely awake and they disappeared.

Sorbonne Confidential by Laurel Zuckerman

My dream placed me at the centre of Being itself, and there was no escape. It took me months to understand what this meant. During this time, I came to a more complete, personal realization of what the great stories of the past continually insist upon: The centre is marked by the cross, as X marks the spot. Existence at that cross is suffering and transformation—and that fact, above all, needs to be voluntarily accepted.

It is possible to transcend slavish adherence to the group and its doctrines and, simultaneously, to avoid the pitfalls of its opposite extreme, nihilism.

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It is possible, instead, to find sufficient meaning in individual consciousness and experience. How could the world be freed from the terrible dilemma of conflict, on the one hand, and psychological and social dissolution, on the other? The answer was this: We must each adopt as much responsibility as possible for individual life, society and the world. We must each tell the truth and repair what is in disrepair and break down and recreate what is old and outdated.

It is in this manner that we can and must reduce the suffering that poisons the world. But the alternative—the horror of authoritarian belief, the chaos of the collapsed state, the tragic catastrophe of the unbridled natural world, the existential angst and weakness of the purposeless individual —is clearly worse. I have been thinking and lecturing about such ideas for decades. I have built up a large corpus of stories and concepts pertaining to them. I am not for a moment claiming, however, that I am entirely correct or complete in my thinking. In any case, the consequence of all that previous research and thinking was the new essays which eventually became this book.

My initial idea was to write a short essay on all forty of the answers I had provided to Quora. That proposal was accepted by Penguin Random House Canada. While writing, however, I cut the essay number to twenty-five and then to sixteen and then finally, to the current twelve. It took a long time to settle on a title: An Antidote to Chaos. Why did that one rise up above all others? First and foremost, because of its simplicity. It indicates clearly that people need ordering principles, and that chaos otherwise beckons.

We require rules, standards, values—alone and together. We must bear a load, to justify our miserable existence. We require routine and tradition. We need to stay on the straight and narrow path. Each of the twelve rules of this book—and their accompanying essays— therefore provide a guide to being there. Perhaps, if we lived properly, we would be able to tolerate the weight of our own self-consciousness.

Perhaps, if we lived properly, we could withstand the knowledge of our own fragility and mortality, without the sense of aggrieved victimhood that produces, first, resentment, then envy, and then the desire for vengeance and destruction. Perhaps we could come to avoid those pathways to Hell—and we have seen in the terrible twentieth century just how real Hell can be. I hope that these rules and their accompanying essays will help people understand what they already know: If we each live properly, we will collectively flourish.

Best wishes to you all, as you proceed through these pages. However, these interesting and delicious crustaceans are very much worth considering. Their nervous systems are comparatively simple, with large, easily observable neurons, the magic cells of the brain. Because of this, scientists have been able to map the neural circuitry of lobsters very accurately.

This has helped us understand the structure and function of the brain and behaviour of more complex animals, including human beings. Lobsters have more in common with you than you might think particularly when you are feeling crabby—ha ha. Lobsters live on the ocean floor.

They need a home base down there, a range within which they hunt for prey and scavenge around for stray edible bits and pieces of whatever rains down from the continual chaos of carnage and death far above. They want somewhere secure, where the hunting and the gathering is good. They want a home. This can present a problem, since there are many lobsters. What if two of them occupy the same territory, at the bottom of the ocean, at the same time, and both want to live there? What if there are hundreds of lobsters, all trying to make a living and raise a family, in the same crowded patch of sand and refuse?

Other creatures have this problem, too. When songbirds come north in the spring, for example, they engage in ferocious territorial disputes. The songs they sing, so peaceful and beautiful to human ears, are siren calls and cries of domination. A brilliantly musical bird is a small warrior proclaiming his sovereignty. Take the wren, for example, a small, feisty, insect-eating songbird common in North America. A newly arrived wren wants a sheltered place to build a nest, away from the wind and rain.

He wants it close to food, and attractive to potential mates. He also wants to convince competitors for that space to keep their distance. Birds—and Territory My dad and I designed a house for a wren family when I was ten years old. It looked like a Conestoga wagon, and had a front entrance about the size of a quarter. My elderly neighbour had a birdhouse, too, which we built for her at the same time, from an old rubber boot.

It had an opening large enough for a bird the size of a robin. She was looking forward to the day it was occupied. A wren soon discovered our birdhouse, and made himself at home there.

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  7. We could hear his lengthy, trilling song, repeated over and over, during the early spring. He packed it so full that no other bird, large or small, could possibly get in. Our neighbour was not pleased by this pre-emptive strike, but there was nothing to be done about it. I had broken my leg skiing the previous winter—first time down the hill—and had received some money from a school insurance policy designed to reward unfortunate, 23 clumsy children.

    I purchased a cassette recorder a high-tech novelty at the time with the proceeds. So, I went out into the bright spring sunlight and taped a few minutes of the wren laying furious claim to his territory with song. Then I let him hear his own voice. That little bird, one-third the size of a sparrow, began to dive-bomb me and my cassette recorder, swooping back and forth, inches from the speaker. We saw a lot of that sort of behaviour, even in the absence of the tape recorder. If a larger bird ever dared to sit and rest in any of the trees near our birdhouse there was a good chance he would get knocked off his perch by a kamikaze wren.

    Now, wrens and lobsters are very different. Lobsters do not fly, sing or perch in trees. Wrens have feathers, not hard shells. However, they are also similar in important ways. Both are obsessed with status and position, for example, like a great many creatures.

    The birds that always have priority access to whatever food is sprinkled out in the yard in the morning are the celebrity chickens. After them come the second-stringers, the hangers-on and wannabes. Then the third-rate chickens have their turn, and so on, down to the bedraggled, partially- feathered and badly-pecked wretches who occupy the lowest, untouchable stratum of the chicken hierarchy.

    Chickens, like suburbanites, live communally. Songbirds, such as wrens, do not, but they still inhabit a dominance hierarchy. The wiliest, strongest, healthiest and most fortunate birds occupy prime territory, and defend it. Because of this, they are more likely to attract high-quality mates, and to hatch chicks who survive and thrive. Protection from wind, rain and predators, as well as easy access to superior food, makes for a much less stressed existence.

    Territory matters, and there is little difference between territorial rights and social status. It is often a matter of life and death. If a contagious avian disease sweeps through a neighbourhood of well-stratified songbirds, it is the least dominant and most stressed birds, occupying the lowest rungs of the bird world, who are most likely to sicken and die. This is equally true of human neighbourhoods, when bird flu viruses and other illnesses sweep across the planet.

    The poor and stressed always die first, and in greater numbers. They are also much more susceptible to non-infectious diseases, such as cancer, diabetes and heart disease. When the aristocracy catches a cold, as it is said, the working class dies of pneumonia. Because territory matters, and because the best locales are always in short supply, territory-seeking among animals produces conflict.

    Conflict, in turn, produces another problem: This latter point is particularly important. Imagine that two birds engage in a squabble about a desirable nesting area. The interaction can easily degenerate into outright physical combat. Under such circumstances, one bird, usually the largest, will eventually win—but even the victor may be hurt by the fight. That means a third bird, an undamaged, canny bystander, can move in, opportunistically, and defeat the now-crippled victor.

    That is not at all a good deal for the first two birds. Conflict—and Territory Over the millennia, animals who must co-habit with others in the same territories have in consequence learned many tricks to establish dominance, while risking the least amount 24 of possible damage. A defeated wolf, for example, will roll over on its back, exposing its throat to the victor, who will not then deign to tear it out. The now-dominant wolf may still require a future hunting partner, after all, even one as pathetic as his now-defeated foe.

    Bearded dragons, remarkable social lizards, wave their front legs peaceably at one another to indicate their wish for continued social harmony. Dolphins produce specialized sound pulses while hunting and during other times of high excitement to reduce potential conflict among dominant and subordinate group members. Such behavior is endemic in the community of living things. Lobsters, scuttling around on the ocean floor, are no exception. Each lobster will first begin to explore the new territory, partly to map its details, and partly to find a good place for shelter. Lobsters learn a lot about where they live, and they remember what they learn.

    If you startle one near its nest, it will quickly zip back and hide there. If you startle it some distance away, however, it will immediately dart towards the nearest suitable shelter, previously identified and now remembered. A lobster needs a safe hiding place to rest, free from predators and the forces of nature. Furthermore, as lobsters grow, they moult, or shed their shells, which leaves them soft and vulnerable for extended periods of time.

    A burrow under a rock makes a good lobster home, particularly if it is located where shells and other detritus can be dragged into place to cover the entrance, once the lobster is snugly ensconced inside. However, there may be only a small number of high-quality shelters or hiding places in each new territory. They are scarce and valuable. Other lobsters continually seek them out. This means that lobsters often encounter one another when out exploring.

    Researchers have demonstrated that even a lobster raised in isolation knows what to do when such a thing happens. It has complex defensive and aggressive behaviours built right into its nervous system. It begins to dance around, like a boxer, opening and raising its claws, moving backward, forward, and side to side, mirroring its opponent, waving its opened claws back and forth. At the same time, it employs special jets under its eyes to direct streams of liquid at its opponent. The liquid spray contains a mix of chemicals that tell the other lobster about its size, sex, health, and mood.

    Sometimes one lobster can tell immediately from the display of claw size that it is much smaller than its opponent, and will back down without a fight. The chemical information exchanged in the spray can have the same effect, convincing a less healthy or less aggressive lobster to retreat. If the two lobsters are very close in size and apparent ability, however, or if the exchange of liquid has been insufficiently informative, they will proceed to dispute resolution Level 2.

    With antennae whipping madly and claws folded downward, one will advance, and the other retreat. Then the defender will advance, and the aggressor retreat. After a couple of rounds of this behaviour, the more nervous of the lobsters may feel that continuing is not in his best interest. He will flick his tail reflexively, dart backwards, and vanish, to try his luck elsewhere. If neither blinks, however, the lobsters move to Level 3, which involves genuine combat. This time, the now enraged lobsters come at each other viciously, with their claws extended, to grapple.

    Each tries to flip the other on its back. A successfully flipped lobster will conclude that its opponent is capable of inflicting serious damage. It generally gives up and leaves although it harbours intense resentment and gossips endlessly about the victor behind its back. If neither can overturn the other—or if one will not quit despite being flipped—the lobsters move to Level 4.

    Doing so involves extreme risk, and is not something to be engaged in without forethought: Their claws are open, so they can grab a leg, or antenna, or an eye-stalk, or anything else exposed and vulnerable. Once a body part has been successfully grabbed, the grabber will tail-flick backwards, sharply, with claw clamped firmly shut, and try to tear it off.

    Disputes that have escalated to this point typically create a clear winner and loser. The loser is unlikely to survive, particularly if he or she remains in the territory occupied by the winner, now a mortal enemy. In the aftermath of a losing battle, regardless of how aggressively a lobster has behaved, it becomes unwilling to fight further, even against another, previously defeated opponent. A vanquished competitor loses confidence, sometimes for days. Sometimes the defeat can have even more severe consequences. If a dominant lobster is badly defeated, its brain basically dissolves.

    Anyone who has experienced a painful transformation after a serious defeat in romance or career may feel some sense of kinship with the once successful crustacean. This is reflected in their relative postures. Whether a lobster is confident or cringing depends on the ratio of two chemicals that modulate communication between lobster neurons: Winning increases the ratio of the former to the latter. A lobster with high levels of serotonin and low levels of octopamine is a cocky, strutting sort of shellfish, much less likely to back down when challenged.

    This is because serotonin helps regulate postural flexion. A flexed lobster extends its appendages so that it can look tall and dangerous, like Clint Eastwood in a spaghetti Western. When a lobster that has just lost a battle is exposed to serotonin, it will stretch itself out, advance even on former victors, and fight longer and harder.

    In one of the more staggering demonstrations of the evolutionary continuity of life on Earth, Prozac even cheers up lobsters. The opposite neurochemical configuration, a high ratio of octopamine to serotonin, produces a defeated-looking, scrunched-up, inhibited, drooping, skulking sort of lobster, very likely to hang around street corners, and to vanish at the first hint of trouble. Serotonin and octopamine also regulate the tail-flick reflex, which serves to propel a lobster rapidly backwards when it needs to escape. Less provocation is necessary to trigger that reflex in a defeated lobster.

    You can see an echo of that in the heightened startle reflex characteristic of the soldier or battered child with post-traumatic stress disorder. The Principle of Unequal Distribution When a defeated lobster regains its courage and dares to fight again it is more likely to lose again than you would predict, statistically, from a tally of its previous fights.

    Its victorious opponent, on the other hand, is more likely to win. That same brutal principle of unequal distribution applies outside the financial domain —indeed, anywhere that creative production is required. The majority of scientific papers 26 are published by a very small group of scientists. A tiny proportion of musicians produces almost all the recorded commercial music. Just a handful of authors sell all the books.

    A million and a half separately titled books! However, only five hundred of these sell more than a hundred thousand copies. Similarly, just four classical composers Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, and Tchaikovsky wrote almost all the music played by modern orchestras. Bach, for his part, composed so prolifically that it would take decades of work merely to hand-copy his scores, yet only a small fraction of this prodigious output is commonly performed.

    Great book for anyone interested in France!

    It's the very funny and, unfortunately, rather tragic story of an American woman who wants to teach English in France's public schools only to discover she must write French dissertations and memorize jargon! She begins to wonder if what see is experiencing at the Sorbonne has anything to do with France's failure to learn English and launches an investigation.

    Excellent mix of facts and story which is both shocking and often hilarious. The book reads li Great book for anyone interested in France! The book reads like a novel but explores its topic like a non-fiction expose. Everyone keeps calling this book hilarious. I suppose so, but only because it's so difficult to believe it's true. Living in France and working as a private English teacher, all I can say is that it is all too believable. Proves so many of my suspicions to be true.

    It makes me wonder if the author is a genuine American candidate to "L'Agreg" or an actual French teacher in disguise. Laurel Zuckerman mastered all the taboos of French education.

    Too bad she has flunked the exam, I would have loved the sequel about teaching "Les Programmes". Jan 20, coffeedog rated it it was amazing Shelves: Cross-posted on LIbraryThing, my blog http: If you've experienced some cross-cultural frustrations, you will perhaps find the humor in this book familiar.

    The author is an American forty-something former IT professional, naturalized French citizen with a French husband, and mother of two children in French schools. She speaks fluent French and has a degree from a prestigious French university. Up until making this momentous decision, the author had felt well-grounded in her own assimilation into French life, saying, "[I had been: My children were perfectly integrated, excelled in French, enjoyed school and their friends. I loved living in my town in France and appreciated the company of my neighbors.

    I probably thought that I had integrated. My French language skills, sufficient to manage multimillion-dollar projects, were insufficient to qualify me to teach English in a French public school Running in the background of this fine narrative are the day-to-day frustrations and small obstacles easy to relate to: This "docu-fiction" was originally published in France in and reportedly contributed to debate on education and the effectiveness of teaching English as a second language. France is coping with issues of ethnic and racial discrimination with regard to assimilation and integration of foreigners, and this book apparently touched a few nerves, hopefully to enact some change for the better.

    I enjoyed this book and admire the author both for writing it originally for French consumption and for taking on the entrenched French education system. I'm glad it's now available in English. In the Epilogue there are indications that things are changing with English education in France. Zuckerman will be inclined to follow up on these changes in future writings. I'm of two minds about Sorbonne Confidential. On the other hand, though, it reads like a conspiracy theory nutcase book. I swear, lady, the entire world is not out to get Americans down France hasn't built its whole very flawed, we agree education system just to make sure there was no possibility for Am I'm of two minds about Sorbonne Confidential.

    All in all, it's still a very fun read and I don't regret picking it up even if it made me roll my eyes hard quite a few times. This book is based on my experiences at the Sorbonne in , supplemented by research and interviews. For those interested in learning more, I provide the sources on my website http: I appreciate comments from readers which I read and try to answer promptly.