Modern life is hard for everyone involved. I don’t know if it was merely something I had never before, but it seems like there are more and more self help books available. It would seem that no one knows how to live anymore without the assistance of some author or the other. Some of those books reek of charlatanry or make-it-so-paternalism. For better or worse Daniel Levintin’s The Organized Mind resorts to a more scientific approach, and tries to offer a more scientifically justified way of how to live our lives.
The Organized Mind is not exactly a self help book, but it has shades of it. It claims that it can lead us to a better life by having a better understanding of just how the brain works. The hope is that we will react better to the information deluge we live in by knowing how to recognize good information and then better retain it. The book is as much how to organize the mind as it is how the mind is organized. The book comes in measured parts scientific explanation and practical advice. The proportions are not 50-50, but where never oddly balanced in a way that seemed ill-fitting.
The word of the day is Epistemology. Whenever one encounters a book that makes claims about the world around me I am usually very intrigued, but also a little skeptical. This book does everything within its power to mitigate these concerns. Everything the author talks about is sourced and cited, and there is a heavy dose of name dropping in the book – a fact which may irritate some people, but can be seen as necessary. But of course this does not solve all our problems, as we ultimately end up wondering to what extent we are justified in believing this book.
However, a sort of ironic feeling overwhelmed me while reading this book. Considering the book’s title and subject matter, I could not help but chuckle at how unorganized the book felt. While it is true that it is handling a very broad subject, there seems to be a ‘junk drawer’ approach to the subject matter, where many disparate and perhaps tangential subjects are brought up, or thrown in, just to see what may or may not fit.
There is a meta aspect to this feeling of irony as well. Let is not be lost on the reader that this author that warns us of the looming threat of ‘information overload’ is contributing to the said same information overload by writing this very book. This book ends up being just another drop in the knowledge pool of the modern world that requires additional information to work through – an epistemological square I just can’t seem to circle.