2011.04.13 My mind is your mind

Written by David Green.

By COLLEEN LEDDY

For several weeks now, I’ve been reading Malcolm Gladwell’s book, “What the Dog Saw: and other adventures.” It’s probably been more like several months that I’ve been flipping through its 400 pages, but I only pick it up sporadically. (I’m a slow reader, but not that slow.) It’s a fascinating book that explores the most intriguing of topics.

The book is a compilation of essays that previously appeared in The New Yorker magazine where Gladwell is a staff writer. Gladwell gives the inside story on more than 20 ordinary topics such as hair dye, the Showtime Rotisserie and the Veg-O-Matic, dog training, job interviews, pit bulls, and ketchup. 

Ever wonder why our grocery stores have loads of offerings in the mustard department and not so much for ketchup?

In 20 pages, Gladwell will have you riveted and more interested in ketchup than you’d ever want to be. Without even knowing it, he’ll offer the key to understanding why your daughter Maddie went from eating everything as a toddler, but then became an incredibly picky eater.

And he doesn’t go into it, but his ketchup article makes you realize why we have a mustard museum in this country—it used to be in Mt. Horeb, Wis., but now it’s in Middleton, Wis., and called the National Mustard Museum—but not a ketchup museum.

Although...there was this one link on a Google search that had me going for a minute...

Planetpasadena.net, the joke website of Mildred and Violet Planettino, mentions the Pasadena Museum of Ketchup, the Tournament of Ketchup Parade, and the Young People's Ketchup Social, sponsored by St. Didley’s Parish Church.

Gladwell researches everyday kind of topics, ones that most people can relate to, ones that even if you haven’t ever wondered about them before, you are now intrigued by them. He has an amazing curiosity about such a diverse array of topics and his writing just pulls you in.

But the second paragraph of his preface just shocked me. I didn’t read the preface until I’d read about a third of the essays. I often don’t read the preface or introduction of books at all, but this one started with “When I was a small child” and I just figured if Gladwell was so interesting as an adult, he must have been quite a kid.

But he was just working his way up to explaining how his curiosity about the interior life of human beings developed. 

Gladwell explains that “One-year-olds think that if they like Goldfish Crackers, then [their parents] must like them too: “they have not grasped the idea that what is inside their head is different from what is inside everyone else’s head.”

When kids realize that others might not necessarily like what they like, “that moment is one of the great cognitive milestones of human development.”

Two-year-olds are so terrible, Gladwell says, because they are “systematically testing the fascinating and...utterly novel notion that something that gives [them] pleasure might not actually give someone else pleasure—and the truth is that as adults we never lose that fascination.”

Arrested development? That’s what explains my over-protective mothering instincts? I’ve mentioned before that if I’m cold I think my kids must be cold so I want them to wear hats and gloves, but it never occurred to me that my reasoning is rooted in a lack of adequate brain development.

I pretty much think if I like something, others will too. I kind of have a vague inkling that I am sometimes weird and that my mind operates differently, but I still think people will embrace ideas and thoughts with as much enthusiasm as I do. And, I’m always left shaking my head when they don’t. 

And, now, I know, thanks to Gladwell’s explanation of a two-year-old’s brain, there’s no cause for the head shaking—unless it could shake some sense into my deluded brain.

  • Front.nok Hok
    GAMES DAY—Finn Molitierno (right) celebrates a goal during a game of Nok Hockey with his sister, Kyla. The two tried out a variety of games Saturday at Stair District Library’s annual International Games Day event. One of the activities featured a sort of scavenger hunt in which participants had to locate facts presented in the Smithsonian Hometown Teams exhibit. The traveling show left Morenci’s library Tuesday, wrapping up a series of programs that began Oct. 2. Additional photos are on page 7.
  • Station.2
    STRANGE STUFF—Morenci Elementary School students learn that blue isn’t really blue when seen through the right color of lens. Volunteer April Pike presents the lesson to students at one of the many stations brought to the school by the COSI science center. The theme of this year’s visit was the solar system.
  • Front.leaves
    MAPLE leaves show their fall colors in a puddle at Morenci’s Riverside Natural Area. “This was a great year for colors,” said local weather watcher George Isobar. Chilly mornings will give way to seasonable fall temperatures for the next two weeks.
  • Front.band
    MORENCI Marching Band member Brittany Dennis keeps the beat Friday during the half-time show of the Morenci/Pittsford football game. Color guard member Jordan Cordts is at the left. The band performed this season under the direction of Doyle Rodenbeck who served as Morenci’s band director in the 1970s. He’s serving as a substitute during a family leave.
  • Front.poles
    MOVING EAST—Utility workers continue their slow progress east along U.S. 20 south of Morenci. New electrical poles are put in place before wiring is moved into place.
  • Front.cowboy
    A PERFORMER named Biligbaatar, a member of the AnDa Union troupe from Inner Mongolia, dances at Stair District Library last week during a visit to the Midwest. The nine-member group blends a variety of traditions from Inner and Outer Mongolia. The music is described as drawing from “all the Mongol tribes that Genghis Khan unified.” The group considers itself music gatherers whose goal is to preserve traditional sounds of Mongolia. Biligbaatar grew up among traditional herders who live in yurts. Additional photos are on the back page of this week’s Observer.
  • Front.bear
    HOLDEN HUTCHISON gives a hug to a black bear cub—the product of a taxidermist’s skills—at the Michigan DNR’s Great Youth Jamboree. The event on Sunday marked the fourth year of the Jamboree. Additional photos are on page 12.

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