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"How to Know a Person" by David Brooks

I've followed author David Brooks for many years. Columnist, ethicist, and speaker, Brooks' latest book is a NYT bestseller. You may have heard interviews featuring him. Here's a sample that struck me. It's about one of the characteristics of what Brooks calls "Illuminators" - people who bring out the best in everyone they meet. This section is about showing affection:

"We children of the Enlightenment live in a culture that separates reason from emotion. Knowing, for us, is an intellectual exercise. When we want to "know" about something, we study it, we collect data about it, we dissect it. But many cultures and traditions never fell for this nonsense about the separation between reason and emotions, and so they never conceived of knowing as a brain-only, disembodied activity."


I explained it to my students like this. A graph shows a regression line of a linear correlation between x and y. If a person smokes cigarettes, they are more likely to get lung cancer. But although the correlation appears to be linear, it only represents a portion of the people who will get lung cancer. The line is a mathematical representation mapping data points that are scattered above and below the line. I ask the students what the scattered dots are. When they can't answer, I say, "They are human beings." We have to get to know the individuals.

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