Once we accept violence as an adaptation, it makes sense that its expression is calibrated to the environment. The same individual will behave differently if he comes of age in Detroit, Mich., versus Windsor, Ontario: in New York in the 1980s versus New York now: in a culture of honor versus a culture of dignity.
Having kids has proven to be this amazing - for me, this amazing source of ideas of anecdotes, of examples, I can test my own kids without human subject permission, so they pilot - I pilot my ideas on them. And so it is a tremendous advantage to have kids if you're going to be a developmental psychologist.
Empathy has some unfortunate features - it is parochial, narrow-minded, and innumerate. We're often at our best when we're smart enough not to rely on it.
Even in the most peaceful communities, an appetite for violence shows up in dreams, fantasies, sports, play, literature, movies and television. And, so long as we don't transform into angels, violence and the threat of violence - as in punishment and deterrence - is needed to rein in our worst instincts.
Too often, our concern for specific individuals today means neglecting crises that will harm countless people in the future.
Some of the natural world is appealing, some of it is terrifying, and some of it grosses us out. Modern people don't want to be dropped naked into a swamp. We want to tour Yosemite with our water bottles and G.P.S. devices. The natural world is a source of happiness and fulfillment, but only when prescribed in the right doses.
Our best hope for the future is not to get people to think of all humanity as family - that's impossible. It lies, instead, in an appreciation of the fact that, even if we don't empathize with distant strangers, their lives have the same value as the lives of those we love.
Imagination is Reality Lite - a useful substitute when the real pleasure is inaccessible, too risky, or too much work.
Imagination tends to be truly useful if accompanied by the power of mental control - if the worlds in one's head can be purposefully manipulated and distinguished from the real one outside it.
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