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"The primary focus of this path of choosing wisely is learning to stay present. Pausing very briefly, frequently throughout the day, is an almost effortless way to do this. For just a few seconds we can be right here. Meditation is another way to train in learning to stay or learning to come back, to return to the present over and over again."
~ Pema Chödrön, from Taking the Leap  
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What It Means to Be Human

Being Human 2012: The Science of Human Experience
Palace of Fine Arts / San Francisco, CA 

We live at the dawn of a scientific revolution. Every day brings new findings from a broad range of disciplines – behavioral economics, cognitive neuroscience, evolutionary psychology, social anthropology, philosophy – that promise to overthrow long-held biases and stories about what it means to be human. 

The coming decades will bring a shift in our worldview as fundamental as any in the past five hundred years. As we use the tools of science to explore the nature of humanity, we are learning more and more about how our brains function and what motivates our behavior, built-in biases and blind spots. 

These fresh insights are interesting scientifically, but they also evoke significant questions about our lived experience. These perspectives challenge our basic assumptions of who we are, both as individuals and as a society.  

Being Human 2012 offered a multidisciplinary public dialogue led by the scientists, thought leaders, and philosophers pioneering this exploration to discover and experience: 

  • How has evolution shaped our brains to construct a model of reality?
  • How does the subconscious mind influence the decisions we make?
  • What is the relationship between self and culture?
  • Are you who you think you are, or is that just an illusion?
  • What does science tell us about our interactions with fellow humans?
  • Is humanity still evolving?





Naturally Metacognitive


I Have to Call Myself Back

“I’m very bad when it comes to worship. This is just me. This is probably a terrible thing to say [in a church], but I don’t need it very much. I try to live in this kind of presence and a kind of awareness and I have to call myself back time and time again to remembrance of who I am. Partly, I think, all that’s because as a kid, as a Presbyterian, I had to go to church four times on Sunday. That wears out your patience and your ass. I’ve sort of done my stint. But that’s just me. It’s not other people.”

~ Sam Keen, author of In the Absence of God: Dwelling in the Presence of the Sacred


What We Remember

“We’re constantly being swayed in what we do by just a little teeny change, something that comes, for examples, from our past experience with a certain kind of situation. But what we remember from the previous situation is not just the facts and not just the outcome that may be good or bad. We also remember whether or not what we felt was good or bad. This is something that people need to understand. When you are making decisions, any day of your life, the [choices] you make are going to produce a good or bad outcome – or something in between. You don’t only remember what the factual result is, but also what the emotional result is. And that tandem of fact and associated emotion is critical. And of course most of what we construct as wisdom, over time, is actually a result of cultivating that knowledge about how our emotions behaved – what we learned from them.”

~ Antonio Damasio, in conversation with David Brooks on the topic of emotions from the perspective of neuroscience and evolution during the Aspen Institute on July 4, 2009.