This is a book about the biology of wisdom. Elkhonan Goldberg's wisdom paradox is that although our brains deteriorate physically with age, they are designed to massively improve in function.
I bought this book a couple of years ago and gave up at about chapter four. I found it hard to read and quite dry; not a `sound bite' in sight. This year I started to read it again and I found it fascinating. I was surprised at how my opinion had changed in just a few years. It is certainly written in an easy to read style. Then I realised it could be that my brain has changed. This would prove Elkhonan's point - that the brain develops `attractors' (points of focus) around which other information collects over time. In the past year I have refocused my business on Wisdom and its application at work. Perhaps this has given me an `attractor' connection in my brain for the material in this book.
So my review of this book is a paradox too - if you don't have a point of reference for the information and concepts within it, you will find it hard going. On the other hand, if you have a connection point, you will find it fascinating. So here are the possible `attractors' that could engage you in this book. You may:
* Want to know how to improve your mind with age * Be keen to protect your mind from age related deficiencies such as dementia * Like to feel confident that any physical damage to the brain, such a strokes or accidents, will have less chance of debilitating you * Want to experience a `thinkers high' (mental equivalent of a `runner's high') * Be interested in learning more about recent research on the mind - brain connection and functionality.
Goldberg leaves us with two main `lessons' at the end of his book:
1. `The scope and quality of one's mental lifetime will shape the quality of its final stages'. He concludes that `Wisdom is the land at the end of a hard journey of the mind'; wisdom does not inevitably arrive with age.
2. We should take full advantage of our mental `auto pilot' but not be tamed by it; we are designed to gravitate towards cognitive laziness; avoid it by working on your brain.
This is not just the same old `use it or lose it' message - there are many fascinating departures from standard thinking about the brain. For instance, he challenges the accepted belief that language is a function of the left hemisphere and relates this to research showing that most people shift towards left side dominance as they age.
Goldberg shows us how we can develop a stronger brain as we age. It it's hard, it requires work, and as Thomas Edison observed `There is no expedient to which a man will not go to avoid the real labour of thinking.' However, the rewards are considerable for those who choose to do it.
The paradox is that the harder you work at it now, the easier it will become later; the easier you take it now, the harder it will be in years to come. Your choice - but you can start by reading this book and doing something about your thinking before you get too old....