To Err is Bounteous

By: Matthew Battles
December 2, 2009


One of my favorite blogs, Bozo Sapiens, offers a thoughtful consideration of Aleister Crowley, who as a HiLo Hero was recently fêted in this space.

Blogger Michael Kaplan serves up elegant and evocative accounts of human drives and foibles like “grace” or “force” or “devotion,” each centered on a person or episode from history. In his Crowley essay he charts the ways in which the occultist’s commitment to the esoteric exemplifies deep-seated human drive to think magically, and offers a tender paean for these committed energies:

Magical thinking is properly banished from the functional world, but this risks making all the world seem functional, even where this is unnecessary. It is pleasant to feel, if not believe, that one’s personal morning rituals make the coming day lucky; or that one’s closest embraces help regenerate the bounty of the earth; or even that scratching one’s head will make inspiration come. Life, at its best, should be like poetry, where several kinds of truth meet in lovely conjunction. Without that feeling, it loses some of its magic.

With his mother Ellen, Kaplan is the author of one of the year’s wisest and most compelling books, Bozo Sapiens: Why To Err Is Human. In it the Kaplans map the mind’s logical blindspots, attributing them to our species’ peculiar evolutionary path. But unlike evolutionary psychology or the kind of pop-middlebrow psych-outs offered by the Gladwell/Freakonomics camp, the Kaplans see these supposed shortcomings as sources of richness and invention in the human career.


Kudos, Read-outs