The Social Animal

Deacon Blog

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I’ve been a fan of TED Talks for years, considering it the perfect way to spend about 15 minutes listening to such innovators as Jane Goodall, Bono and the young Malawian who at 14 built an electricity-generating windmill for his family from scrap and inspiration found in a tattered textbook. The nonprofit touts itself as bringing together people from the worlds of technology, entertainment and design to discuss ideas worth spreading.

A friend of Wake Forest alerted me to this talk by David Brooks, op-ed columnist for The New York Times, who gave the keynote address last summer in Asheville to the Wake Forest Board of Trustees. “The central evolutionary truth is that our unconscious emotions matter most, and the central humanistic truth is that we have the ability to improve our emotions, to educate them to make ourselves better people,” he told the trustees. “Making smart decisions is not primarily about being hyper-rational. It’s about having very educated emotions.”

For those wishing to follow how his thinking has progressed, tune to the TED talk I’ve shown linked in the blog. Brooks expands on the ideas he shared last summer, challenging the notion that we as humans are “divided selves.” The assumptions of physics have produced “a shallow view of human nature,” he says, suggesting we are good at talking about material things but not about emotions. And emotions, he says, “are the foundation because they tell us what to value.”

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About the Author

Maria Henson (’82), a Pulitzer Prize winner and a 1994 Nieman Fellow at Harvard, worked at newspapers until 2009. After living in Botswana, she returned to the Reynolda Campus to oversee the Wake Forest Magazine, teach and share the notable tales of Demon Deacons.


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