Sunday, August 28, 2022

Off the Shelf: A Whole New Mind


My latest read is one long in coming: a book written by a favorite author back in 2005, then updated with an "annotated edition" the following year. It's now 2022. I'm a little behind in my reading.

I already knew I needed to pay attention to this writer. Long ago, when I finally considered what I want to be when I grow up, I settled on becoming a free agent. Not that I knew any free agents. The term simply expressed how I wanted to design my life, so I co-opted the phrase from the world of sports.

Then, come to find out, former speech writer Daniel Pink brought that very idea to life in his first book, Free Agent Nation. I was sold. I've been reading Pink ever since—or, at least, assembling a collection of his works on my overladen bookshelves.

The 2006 edition of A Whole New Mind has especially fit this month's reading list for another reason. While I've always found the concept of "Story" compelling, and the wonders of what long has been called "right-brain" thinking fascinating, Daniel Pink has found a way to blend these two of my candy sticks into one 286-page collection of quotable material.

If I were my English-teaching mother, I would have handwritten each of those passages on index cards and taped them all over my office wall. Consider this from Pink:

We are our stories. We compress years of experience, thought, and emotion into a few compact narratives that we convey to others and tell to ourselves. That has always been true. But personal narrative has become more prevalent, and perhaps more urgent, in a time of abundance, when many of us are freer to seek a deeper understanding of ourselves and our purpose.

He fingers these story strands even more carefully and, in the examination, observes that we "see this yearning for self-knowledge through stories in many places"—including, as you may have guessed, "in the surging popularity of genealogy" where we use the many tools now available to us to extract the facts of our ancestry and reshape them into those narratives we call family history.

The book, true to its title, delves far deeper than just the aspect of Story. The author explores our collective history as a culture having moved from an industrial age through an information age and onward into a "Conceptual Age." There, the successful will meet the challenge of blending "left brain" analytical reasoning with "high concept and high touch" gifts of the "right brain." Hence, a creative, synthesizing world in which we learn to employ our whole mind.

For me, though, the book's inspiration is in the mingling of creativity's roots. Pink cites what he calls the "six senses" which will shape the future: design, story, symphony, empathy, play, and meaning. Beyond inspiration, the book includes resources to help readers pursue those concepts in a practical manner. I felt a surge of family pride to notice, for instance, that his recommendation of the "granddaddy of American story-telling festivals" was the National Storytelling Festival in Jonesborough, Tennessee, home of my Boothe, Broyles, Davis, and Tilson lines. And an eerie sense of connection to wonder whether my English teacher mom in her later years might have served as a substitute instructor in the author's own high school classes in Columbus, Ohio.

Unafraid to share the work of others and point us to a rich collection of resources, Daniel Pink weaves this abundance of inspiration with equally-enriching factual detail. Still, for me, the gift from this volume is Story—even when he shares about this from the talents of others. Consider this quote I'd otherwise never have discovered from author Barry Lopez's book, Arctic Dreams:

If stories come to you, care for them. And learn to give them away where they are needed. Sometimes a person needs a story more than food to stay alive.

Doesn't that pinpoint exactly where we're at?  




  1. Wow. Thanks for the book review - so much food for thought, especially that quote at the end about stories. The point is very apropos for our times - and for me personally, working away so slowly on my ancestors' letters :-)

    1. Lisa, while it may seem slow to you, I'm so glad to hear you are making progress on that treasure trove of ancestors' letters!


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