Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Literature Analysis (Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi)

TOPIC(S) and/or EVENT(S)

1.     As we have discussed in class, a book is said to be nonfiction if its content is based on facts or events.  What is your book about?  [a]. Try writing a paragraph first to capture your thoughts.  [b]. Then see if you can boil it down to one clear statement.  (Even if you feel like you can just skip to [b], please do both; remember that your reader doesn’t know what you know.)

[a.] Mihaly Csikszentmihakyi, one of the most prominent founders/leaders of the relatively new branch of psychology known as "positive psychology", is perhaps most revered for his theory of flow. His 1990 release, Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, serves to lay out nearly three decades of flow research in terms that most members of the general public can understand and benefit from. And it is this intent that not only sets the book apart from a standard psychology publication, but also ties it in so seamlessly with my masterpiece topic; for the primary purpose of the book is not only to present the research, as with most publications in its field, but rather to actually apply it. I would say that more so than flow itself, true happiness is the focus of this book, with flow being the means of attaining it. I will talk more about this in the "style" section. Moving on, I will provide a brief overview of the book as I have done with my other literature analyses: Csikszentmihalyi begins by discussing happiness, and the mysterious predicament that seems to bar most humans from ever truly attaining it. He points out that, despite our lives being, on average, overwhelmingly longer, less arduous, and more healthful than the lives of the people of any preceding era, we do not seem to be any happier. In the richest and most hospitable nation in the history of the world--where we are able concern ourselves with how we should spend our leisure time and stay entertained as opposed to what we must suffer through to merely survive--we seem to share the same internal discontent as members of history's harshest societies. The reason for happiness' deceiving elusiveness, according to Csikszentmihalyi, is that humans depend on external factors to make them happy--sex, money, power, material possessions--the things that society tells us we should long for. Further, he argues that these societal rewards are carefully, and intentionally, instilled in us to fulfill a very specific goal: to cultivate a population whose ethics match those of their society, enabling the people to fill the niches that society needs filled, even if those people aren't necessarily doing what they want. This leads into his most important argument; that true happiness is generated internally, and cannot result from any external circumstances. By this reasoning, it is clear why mankind seems to be constantly chasing its metaphorical tail, never content with any degree of "success". For if a person who is struggling to secure even the basic essentials is supplied with food, water, and shelter, he/she will soon long for some luxuries such as a television set or a computer or an automobile, then if those wishes are met, the desire for a bigger house and a nicer car will emerge, and so on and so forth all the way up until an opposite extreme from which we started is reached. Now, this person has everything available in the current day and age: an enormous mansion, a parking garage filled with exotic cars, an expert private chef, as many sexual partners as could possibly be desired, etc.--external conditions could not be more favorable. These things may provide temporary pleasure, but they cannot provide sustained happiness. This is because pleasure, man's most widely sought-after sensation, is not intertwined with happiness as many people believe.  As Csikszentmihalyi explains in Chapter 3: pleasurable things have become symbols of happiness in our society. If a "regular" person sees an extremely wealthy individual reaping all of the luxuries that money can buy, that person will almost always assume that the wealthier person must be far happier as a result of all of the pleasure that he/she is undoubtedly taking in. Again, people are inclined to want what they don't have; it is comforting to believe that there is "something more"--some upper echelon of living that offers guaranteed happiness and fulfillment. Unfortunately, no amount of "success", as society defines it, will ever be sufficient in pursuing this imaginary goal. The sensation of pleasure occurs as a result of psychological imbalances being reconciled, returning the internal self to equilibrium. In the words of Csikszentmilhalyi: "Sleep, food, rest, and sex provide restorative homeostatic experiences that return consciousness to order after the needs of the body intrude and cause psychic entropy to occur. But they do not produce psychological growth. They do not add complexity to the self. Pleasure helps maintain order, but by itself cannon create new order in consciousness." And it is this "optimal experience" of expanding one's self that can actually improve quality of life and facilitate happiness, as is covered in Chapter 2. It is certainly a good feeling that we experience when we grow and stretch ourselves in new directions, but if it isn't pleasure, what exactly is it? Enjoyment. Often lumped in as a synonym of pleasure, the two sensations are quite different. "Enjoyable events occur when a person has not only met some prior expectation or satisfied a need or desire but also gone beyond what he or she has been programmed to do and achieved something unexpected, perhaps something even imagined before." This is where the idea of flow as optimal experience comes from; for the enjoyment that such growth provides is unparalleled when it comes to happiness, and enjoying an activity in virtue of itself is one of the primary characteristics of flow. Flow, named such due to the effortless "flow" of psychic energy (attention) that people performing various flow-inducing activities reported in Csikszentmihalyi's interviews,  is a mental state which is said to to be the pinnacle of positive human experience. Csikszentmihalyi lays out a few key components/characteristics of flow: First and foremost is complete and total focus/immersion. During a flow experience, a person becomes completely involved in what he/she is doing, often to the extent that that person loses track of time, daily stresses and troubles, and even his/her very self. The free and effortless flow of attention that occurs during a flow experience acts as a wedge between a person and his/her own thoughts and feelings; exactly what the person is doing at that particular instance is the only thing he/she is aware of. Despite this lack of self-consciousness, the person still receives a deep sense of enjoyment from the activity while in the flow state. This alone is another component of flow; the activity must be enjoyable in and of itself, regardless of extrinsic rewards, in order for flow to be likely. A rock climber that Csikszentmihalyi interviewed described this perfectly: "The mystique of rock climbing is climbing; you get to the top glad it's over but really wish it would go on forever. The justification of climbing is climbing, like the justification of poetry is writing; you don't conquer anything except things in yourself... The act of writing justifies poetry. Climbing is the same: recognizing that you are a flow. The purpose of the flow is to keep on flowing, not looking for a peak or utopia but staying in the flow. It is not a moving up but a continuous flowing; you move up to keep the flow going. There is no possible reason for climbing except the climbing itself; it is a self-communication." Perhaps most importantly, a person must be attempting to accomplish a clearly defined goal that requires roughly the same amount of skill in a given area that that person possesses. It is at this convergence of skill and challenge that a person's psychic energy most easily flows, and also that a person is subject to the greatest amount of growth. Also crucial is that the goal provides immediate feedback--a person must be able to evaluate his/her performance level and/or progress instantly at any step. Without the ability to gauge the success of each of the numerous micro-goals that go into any task, the task becomes frustrating, and one may feel that his/her psychic energy is being wasted; this is obviously not conducive to flow. In summation: the more frequently a person is able to find flow, the more happiness he/she will generate for him/herself. While far easier said than done, mastering the ability to "control one's consciousness", as Csikszentmihalyi calls it, is perhaps the only way to guarantee happiness, effectively rendering external circumstances a nonissue.

[b.] Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, is a promiscuous-for-its-kind book that blends together elements of (positive) psychology, phenomenology, sociology, and other fields and applies them to explain happiness, the misconceptions that make it so unattainable, and the mental states/disciplines that can help facilitate it.

2.     Why did your author choose to write about this topic, person or event?

According to the preface, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi wrote this book to present his model of happiness--especially his research on the mental state of flow upon which that model is based--in the form of a straightforward body of text that as many people as possible may understand and benefit from.

3.     Why did you choose this book?  What about the book appealed to you the first time it came to your attention (and how did it come to your attention)?  What about the book made you want to keep reading once you began?

I chose this book because of my Masterpiece project - plain and simple. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi's theory of flow became a pivotal part of my topic after it was introduced to me by Dr. Preston and, seeing as nearly all of the resources I found on flow are based on Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, I figured I might as well cut out the middle man and just read the book. This book was quite a refreshing change of pace from the books I read for my last couple literature analyses. This book was not pettily mindless by any standards, but it was certainly not written to be intentionally difficult either. Aside from this new-to-me readability, the groundbreaking, yet practicable ideas that comprise the text drew me in without a doubt. I would recommend this enjoyable, and possibly life changing, read to almost anyone.

4.     Did you find the book realistic?  Did you make any connections between people/events you read about and people/events in your own life? Why or (if you didn’t) why not?

Everything in this book can be applied to one's own life. That is the entire point of the book after all: "to present general principles, along with concrete examples of how some people have used these principles, to transform boring and meaningless lives into ones full of enjoyment." I frequently made connections to my own life in order to solidify the things I'm doing correctly, and attempt to change the things I'm not. I wouldn't say that I'm unhappy, but there is always room for improvement in all areas, life quality included.


There are no characters in this book. A few situations involving people are mentioned, but briefly, and only as examples.


1.     Did the author use any tools from fiction writing (such as foreshadowing or symbolism), or did the author use a journalistic style? Example(s)?

Some tools from fiction writing--namely similes, metaphors, and other comparative forms of figurative language--are commonly used in nonfiction writing to relate a book's contents to the real world. In this book, however, real examples were paired with nearly every main point/idea, alleviating the need for any crossover devices from fiction. One might think that this more factual style would dry the text out, but I don't believe it does at all. Csikszentmihalyi's ideas are interesting enough on their own that any superfluity would be unnecessary at best, and distracting at worst.

2.     Does the author use lengthy descriptions of places and people,or does s/he focus more on action or dialogue?  What overall effect do these choices have on the book?

Csikszentmihalyi focused on explaining his ideas and their implications more than the places, people, and events that he used as examples. The few times that he did describe certain scenes, however, the actions of the people involved were most important for his purposes.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014


  • What are you working on?
         Becoming a veterinarian

  • Why?
         Loves animals and wants to work with/help them
  • What is the significance of this project in your life/career?
         Giving him direction and helping him take the first steps towards pursuing his dream job
  • How do you see this work helping you in life outside of school?
         Hopefully providing him with a career that he'll love
  • Has anything surprised you in your work?
         How difficult the job is. Arguably more difficult than being a "real" doctor, since a veterinarian has to  be completely versatile and can't specialize in one given area.
  • What do you need to successfully complete your project and present it?
         Needs to accurately document veterinary intern work
  • What have you learned that's worth teaching someone else?
         Too much to teach, which is a lesson in itself: one should always consult a professional regarding   problems with his/her animal's health 
  • What are you working on?
  • Why?
         It is his passion, plain and simple
  • What is the significance of this project in your life/career?
         Hopes to go pro and make a career out of it
  • How do you see this work helping you in life outside of school?
         Keeping him in shape, providing him with the ability to defend himself, and opening a possible career path
  • Has anything surprised you in your work?
         The amount of cardio that boxing requires - it's deceivingly exhausting
  • What do you need to successfully complete your project and present it?
         Needs to find a way to showcase skills/progress
  • What have you learned that's worth teaching someone else?
         Able to teach basic boxing skills to others as a means of self-defense.

  • What are you working on?
         "Preparing for the future."
  • Why?
         "What I'm currently starting, medical training, will help me in many of my career options. If I don't get exactly what I want, I've got somewhere to start."
  • What is the significance of this project in your life/career?
         "It will come in useful, in life and career, for myself and others. I plan to use these skills for others' benefit."
  • How do you see this work helping you in life outside of school?
         "Also in school if necessary, but it will put me in a better position for the future in what I want and what I can get. It's a very beneficial skill to know, life saving, and you shouldn't ever be without it."
  • Has anything surprised you in your work?
         "There aren't any surprises, but I have learned just how much work all of this can be. Even the simplest of tasks, CPR for example, is high intensity, for a few minutes let alone a half hour straight."
  • What do you need to successfully complete your project and present it?
         "A variety of skills to demonstrate, share, explore, and gather from others in order to share all of our knowledge in the best way possible. Everything is available and I want every contribution possible. I want to solicit the help of others, to learn from them and to teach them as well."
  • What have you learned that's worth teaching someone else?
         "There is much I know and much I don't. What I know and what anyone else does is very different. I have just as much to learn as anyone else. I like to think I have an early lead, but it doesn't really matter in the end. I want to discover what people want so I can give it to them, as well as find what I need and ask those who know for their knowledge. It's a give and take, one that I hope to contribute much to."


Tuesday, April 29, 2014


I began writing that learning takes place within the individual, independent of external factors, but stopped as I realized that there are few or no cases in which that is true. I know from my own experience how drastic the effects of one's surroundings on his/her learning can be, and I believe it is crucial to take that into account while attempting to learn or teach. For example, I am significantly less productive at school than I am at home. While trying to work in class, I am lucky to solve a single physics problem in the time that it takes me to solve the rest of the problem set at home, and there is a noticeable gap between the quality of my in-class essays and the quality of the essays that I complete at home. This unfortunate decline in performance that afflicts everything from my mental faculties to my fine motor skills is undoubtedly due to the vast differences in the two environments; having to sit in a misshapen, rigid, plastic desk instead of my own familiar desk and chair, being constantly bombarded by obnoxious distractions instead of being immersed in some prolific tunes, having to wear regular clothes instead of my far more comfortable pajamas, etc. can go a long way in determining whether whatever I'm working on will be something that I am proud of, or something that I throw away and start from scratch at a time/place that is more conducive to learning. Everyone experiences learning (and most everything else for that matter) differently though, and as a result, different elements of a learning environment affect different people in different ways. This is why the "one size fits all" approach is broken and needs to be retired by a better, more individualized system of learning.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Upbringings: Implications for Individual and Societal Well-being

Taken in the order that they are listed, the four assigned articles tell a story illustrating the relationship between the way a child is brought up, and how well that child develops into a problem solver as opposed to a problem causer. The first two articles, "Raising a Moral Child" and "Parental Involvement is Overrated", discuss various approaches to raising a child to be successful (where success is a developed sense of compassion/morality in the former, and traditional academic/economic achievement in the latter). The final two articles, "Recovery for Whom?" and "Saving Young People From Themselves", discuss the United States' precarious economic situation, and the problems that it poses for the generations stepping into it. With the articles arranged in this fashion, a clear, common theme begins to emerge: the effects of parenting on individuals, as well as on society.

It is no mystery that parenting is one of the most significant determinants of a child's future. Young minds are incredibly malleable and, as a result, the general ethics, morals, and ideologies by which a person chooses to live his/her life are largely shaped by the parents and/or other authority figures that comprise that person's childhood environment. Obviously, as a person matures, s/he is exposed to more and more things, enabling him/her to derive different outlooks on some matters from personal experience but, for better or worse, the core set of beliefs that a person is endowed with during youth generally persists. We live in an infinitely complex world and, without internal organizational mechanisms to help us make sense of things, we would be hopelessly overwhelmed. In response to the constant influx of information that the brain receives, it naturally develops categories to which it can assign new information with a single, snap judgement. This process applies universally, from the way that we interpret our immediate, physical environment, to, more importantly for my purposes, the way that we form our views on social, political, and philosophical issues. While the absence of this crucial component would severely impair our cognitive functioning, its presence has some side effects of its own. Namely, once established, mental categories are incredibly difficult to reform. This doesn't necessarily have to be negative: say a person is raised to be an extremely hard worker--no amount of resentment from co-workers who are content to skate by with minimal effort is likely to change that. On the other hand, if a person is raised to adopt flawed, discriminatory outlooks, for example, s/he is likely to remain a bigot, even when confronted with fierce public disapproval and mountains of counter-evidence proving the error of his/her ways. This should be cause for caution. Raising a child is like building a sculpture out of clay that ossifies without warning after a certain amount of time: one must achieve the correct shape before time runs out, or s/he risks losing the ability to effect the changes that s/he desires.

So far, it may seem as if I am merely elaborating on the obvious. That is because I am. I wasn't able to draw any profoundly earth-shattering points out of these four articles, and, although I do wish I could have done more, I suppose I'm okay with it. While new and poignant insight is always the goal, clarification of what is already known can be beneficial as well. Everyone knows, to one degree or another, that a person's upbringing is the mold for his/her inner self. If the workers, entertainers, educators, enforcers, protectors, and policy makers that comprise our human infrastructure were all shaped by parental guidance (or lack thereof), then it follows that it is that parenting which collectively determines the nature of society on a generational basis. In a perfect world, each generation would pass down all of their positive attributes and withhold any negative ones but, realistically, that is simply not going to happen for countless reasons. Just because we may never attain perfection does not mean that we should forgo the pursuit, however; all aspects of life are connected in one way or another, and it is of the utmost importance to gain ground wherever possible. By instilling the morals, ethics, and skills that we feel are important into our children while still allowing them room to come into their own, we are facilitating growth on a societal level. This is not restricted to society's standards, either. In fact, in order for true growth to occur, it is necessary to diverge away from and expand past what is already known/accepted. Many parents stress the importance of doing well in school, for example. This seems like something parents should do, and it very well may be, but it also important look past the current standard, and strive for what could be, instead succumbing to what is. Especially in this case where "what is" is enduring a broken education system for at least twelve years, and then punching the clock for the remainder. 


Thursday, April 10, 2014


The Crossroads of Should and Must expresses an interesting outlook on the way we choose to live our lives. In short, the author broke down the decision making process into two components: "should" and "must", where "should" describes the path(s) that serve to satisfy the expectations of society, and "must" describes the path(s) that a person would naturally choose in virtue of his/her true self. Upon looking around one's environment, it becomes clear that societal pressure is the impetus behind the majority of the decisions that are made; the curious, creative, malleable minds of our youth are forced into a school system that stifles intellectual growth and replaces it with the ability to follow directions. As it happens, the old cliche "a slave to society" is perfectly accurate; we are trained to be employees from birth and, as a result, we lose sight of what we actually want out of our short time on Earth.

The first step in solving any problem is, of course, recognizing it. For those who have managed to extricate themselves from the fetters emplaced by this broken system, the problem is as clear as it is appalling. Most people, however, have known nothing different than the institutionalized sapping of potential that is the current standard, and are unlikely to become aware of it on their own. I speak from personal experience here. I despised the first eleven years of my school career, and, at that point, I didn't even know why. School was never a bad experience for me--I live in a moderate area, I have never been bullied or forced to face any other hardships of the sort, and I have liked nearly all of my teachers to one extent or another--I just never found any value in it. I would show up, sit down, be quiet, and have a humdrum, "one size fits all" curriculum shoved down my throat, which I was to spit back out in return for a grade. There was no room for my interests, no room for me. I'm just remembering as I'm typing this: I was obsessed with astronomy for several years. Every time I looked up at the stars I was transfixed by the vast expanse of space. I was content to lie there for hours, staring into the night sky and letting my mind wander. I was only a small child, but the mysteries of the universe fascinated me even then. I knew at least as much about the subject then as I do now. If asked, I could have described in detail the life cycle of a star, beginning with its birth in the heart of a nebula as gas eventually accumulated to form a body massive enough that the pressure within its core was sufficient for nuclear fusion to take place, all the way to its death resulting in the creation of a white dwarf, a neutron star, or perhaps a black hole, all depending on the star's mass, and I could have explained why those things happen the way that they do (though probably not to the degree that I could now in that respect). That is just one example. From stars and the relationships they have with their satellites, to various types of galaxies, to black holes and related phenomena such as quasars, to the macro arrangement of the visible universe (stars, solar systems, star systems, galaxies, galaxy clusters, etc.), I possessed a level of understanding parallel to the books and television programs from which I attained it, which is exactly my point. I took it upon myself to use my free time to look into what I found interesting; school was nothing more than an obstacle. I accrued a fair amount of knowledge, but the books and television shows that I had access to were necessarily "dumbed down" so as to be appealing to the general public. I wanted the real thing, but there was no way for me to get it on my own. One might say "well, a ten year old doesn't need access to high level science..." I have been confronted with that sort of foolishness before, and have but one counterargument: why put a cap on potential? Why discourage curiosity and scientific thinking? I have always loved science, and it seems that science class should have provided at least some sort of relief from the rest of school, but the introductory level science classes that I was placed in were, as arrogant as this sounds, far below the level that I desired. I understand that not everyone goes into, say, a junior high school general science class with the knowledge that I did, and I will admit that such classes do serve their purpose in introducing children to the scientific method and preparing them for more specialized, subject-specific classes in high school (though many concepts are often oversimplified, which is counterproductive). I have one gripe that I cannot rationalize, however: the lack of choices in selecting classes. In junior high school, everyone takes the same two science classes, with the same standardized curriculum; there is no possible way to further explore the subjects that one is interested in other than the approach that I took, which, like I said, has its limitations. With multiple subjects and AP classes, high school is much better, but still far from ideal. I didn't get to study astronomy in school at all until 9th grade, and it was a two-week-long unit at the end of the year... I have since expanded my horizons and now find nearly all of the sciences equally interesting, but that is beside the point. I wanted to pursue something in school, and I couldn't, because schools should have a standard state curriculum which they must strictly adhere to. This is only one class/subject, and my favorite one at that. Other classes were far worse. I observed the amount of value that school had to offer me, and invested effort proportionally. The result: I used my natural academic aptitude to skate through school with decent grades. I was eligible for honor roll and other academic awards every year, but I never attended the assemblies. I wasn't learning, at least not in the way that I wanted to, and I knew it. I was told that I should do well in school, so I did by the standards of those who were telling me, but I didn't excel to the degree that I could have because I didn't want to. I wasn't able to study what I wanted in the way that I wanted, so I didn't feel any internal drive to perform to the very best of my abilities. It wasn't a must for me.

This example was much lengthier than I intended, but I think it got my point across. I believe that most students have had a school experience similar to my own. Especially in high school, I have observed an overwhelming lack of effort, and it is very unsettling. People are not born without ambition, and definitely not without curiosity. Slackers don't care about school because being schooled rather than actually learning causes their will to learn to quickly diminish. This effect is difficult enough to reverse as it is, and when only a few teachers/administrators are making any real effort to change the system, the odds converge on zero. I consider myself lucky that my desire to learn wasn't snuffed out completely by school, given the circumstances. Even though, before this year, nearly all of my classes have followed the drudgerous "memorize, restate, and be graded accordingly" model that often marks the end of a learning life, I didn't completely succumb to a "should" existence. I still pulled out the interesting/beneficial material where I found it and learned as much as I could, getting adequate grades in the process. Over time, I developed into a perfectionist which provided an inherent boost to my school effort, but deep down inside, I still didn't care. I still felt like I was putting in the time and getting nothing in return, and I wasn't sure why. Finally, just this year, I was able to connect the dots with Dr. Preston's class, which brings me back to the beginning of the last paragraph. After being subjected to something for so many years, especially starting at a young age, it is difficult to view it in a different light. School is the biggest transmitter of "shoulds" that I've encountered, and I failed to see it for what it really is until I was exposed to people who are educated on the matter. Expert intervention is the only method I foresee being successful in  rectifying this problem and pointing people towards living the lives that they must live rather than the lives that they should live. Dr. Preston is an anomaly--I'm not sure that there is another teacher like him alive. But that is not cause for concern; while it is ideal to have the necessary information incorporated in a course/curriculum as Dr. Preston has done, there are other means of attaining it. Articles, TED talks, etc.; there are other people seeking to get the same message out, and I've seen it done in some wonderfully innovative ways (like this fantastic remix that I found on last year's course blog).

The personal insight that I've shared throughout this essay should paint a decent picture of where I've walked in relation to the crossroads thus far, but just for the sake of clarity, I will restate it as directly as possible: for most of my life, I have fallen somewhere in between "should" and "must". I can recall doing things I didn't believe in, as well as giving up ideas that I knew were right, in order to avoid punishment. It makes me sick just thinking about it, but I can also remember a time when I would follow others in order to try and fit in with the norm--the exact opposite of what I strive for today. In these respects, I did what I should have done according to my authority figures and peers, respectively. On the other hand, I never let school, nor anything else, tame my natural curiosity. I question everything, never taking anything for granted simply "because it is". If I get a problem wrong on a test, for example, I am not content leaving it be. If I can't find my mistake, I ask the instructor what I did wrong, why it's wrong, and why the correct answer is correct. To me, the "why" is actually more importnat than the "what", which is why I don't do well in math classes that are taught on the basis of "this number goes here, that number goes there, and the answer just pops out". I need to know and understand the underlying concept in order to truly put it together. I invest my psychic energy into the things that are important to me, and brush aside the things that aren't. In this way, I have always done what I must in order to remain me. With that, I feel that any "should" stages have passed as I've matured, and I can say with confidence that this dichotomy is over. I plan to live my life as I must from this point forward, never conforming to societal whims.        

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Resource of the Day 4/5/2014

Interesting article describing Bhutan's attempts to, as a nation, put happiness ahead of economic status in measuring the nation's overall well-being: http://www.stwr.org/economic-sharing-alternatives/gross-national-happiness-an-alternative-measure-of-progress.html

Thursday, April 3, 2014


I always try to let my coursework reflect as much of my inner thinking as possible. I am an admittedly opinionated (though certainly not close-minded) individual, and I will never hesitate to make clear my position on an issue, so long as I provide veritable facts and/or cogent arguments to support my points. By its very nature, this somewhat argumentative style is indicative of one's capacity for both creativity and critical thinking. In fact, the argument is perhaps the purest embodiment of critical thinking there is; formulating an effective argument requires a clear, open-minded, analytic evaluation of the facts--practically the word-for-word definition of critical thinking. Creativity is also central. What use is the ability to acquire the building blocks without the ability to assemble them? To put forth an argument is to create ideas based on facts, and give them form. Also, believe it or not, collaboration plays its role here as well. While seemingly working against each other, when two or more individuals debate a matter, they are effectively collaborating. They are exchanging a series of arguments in order to determine what is true and what isn't, and the progress that results isn't reserved exclusively for the victor.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014


Today's modified Socratic Seminar period was wonderful in itself; the free flow of ideas and willingness to help that I observed impressed me, and I feel that everyone who participated benefited both as individuals, and as a group.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Masterpiece Project Update: Final Product Difficulties

Ever since embarking on this this journey at the beginning of the semester, I have been struggling to come up with an end to my project that I will be satisfied with. I have been studying, in one word, happiness and, naturally, my goal is to present the information I have gathered, as well as my own knowledge/understanding, in a way that will help people succeed in attaining the most sought-after, and arguably the most elusive, commodity known to man. The challenge is doing so in a way that is unique, pervasive, and, most importantly, in a way that actually works. There are countless "life changing" books and articles claiming to provide tips and tricks on how to be happier already out there but, in addition to being painfully boring and generic, they obviously don't work, as evidenced by the overwhelming percentage of the population for whom the idea of happiness is little more than wishful thinking. The LAST thing I want is for my work to fall into that bleak category but, at the same time, I'm not quite sure how to set myself apart...


Today, I solely discussed my peers' projects with my table group, hoping that the conversation might spark some ideas for my own. I still don't have a clear picture of what my project will look like, unfortunately, but I did get a few ideas flowing and, not for nothing, had a fairly productive conversation about Jared's project (which has real potential and I am quite excited about).