Following is an excerpt of Stephen’s latest book “The Dynamics of Gender and Life”.
Imagine the scenario: A man on a train is being loud and abusive and as a result those nearby are anxious and fearful as to what he might do. Then one passenger says to the others, "he’s just lost his wife and children and both his parents in a dreadful motor-vehicle accident”. Then the mood changes from one of condemnation, fear and anger, to one of compassion and understanding.
Knowing ‘why’ involves context, and knowing the context, like that of the man on the train, is vitally important to living with more ease and well-being. It’s important to gaining some peace-of-mind in our troubled world. It’s central to gaining and maintaining optimal ‘mental health’. And it is central to our ability to take action: when we know ‘why’, we know the appropriate ‘how’ with ‘what’, with ‘whom’.
In light of the above, this book provides the ‘why’ of various phenomena, including but not limited to human and animal behaviour, and that of the natural world.
Understanding our own personal ‘why’ is also highly important for the sake of resilience, and well-being.
As Friedrich Nietzsche put it,
Those who have a why to live can bear almost any how.
Having a strong why –a strong reason or purpose to live– is one of the main factors in overcoming serious illness, according to research cited by Dr Kelly Turner in her book Radical Remission: Surviving Cancer Against All Odds. Having a strong why pulls us through the rough, difficult phases in our lives, like a rope pulling us out of a swamp.
Why you might not want to read this book
There is an interesting consequence of reading new ideas that can stretch or undermine our existing belief-system. We intuitively infer where the ideas are heading in broad terms, and if the ideas in this book push into territory that we simply don’t wish to explore, we’ll find all sorts of reasons for not reading further.
A common telltale is finding the material ‘too wordy’ and thereafter discontinuing further reading, having foregone the simple expedient of skimming or skipping the ‘too wordy’ material to find worthwhile content in later sections. Another indicator might be that the footnotes are too distracting, or that the book is 'hard to read', or 'too intellectual', despite the author inviting discussion of whichever sections, or paragraphs deemed 'hard to read'.
Whatever those reasons, whatever those justifications for not reading further, they will appear 'reasonable' or even highly commendable. However, in that situation, the ideas remain unexamined and their merit unappreciated, and the possibility for growth and greater understanding of the world, avoided.