Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Confessions of a Sociopath

I just finished reading Confessions of a Sociopath by M.E. Thomas.  It is her own story, along with a lot of quotations from research and from her blog.  I found it completely fascinating to read about a very intelligent person who lacks empathy and self-doubt.  It was a little like reading about autism from the standpoint of a very intelligent autistic person like Temple Grandin.

It is clear to me that a great many literary figures are sociopaths, from Star Trek's Khan to Sherlock Holmes and Dracula.

Thomas makes the case that sociopaths are useful to society and may be no more harmful than empathetic people, and she makes some good points. However, given her descriptions of her own needs and desires, I get the feeling that this may be partly a con. She tells us that she does nothing except in her own interests unless it is an impulse (sociopaths are impulsive). So how does the book serve her interests?

Nevertheless, I'm very glad to have read the book. It was fascinating, and in the end I had empathy for an author who has none herself.

Friday, July 03, 2009

Finding Neverland

Call me a sentimental fool, but the death scene in the movie 'Finding Neverland' never fails to move me.  

But then, I harbor a hope that fairies really exist, and if so that they are something like the ones in 'Midsummer Night's Dream'; free to play in the woods and play tricks on mortals.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Taverner and transcendent goodness

I went to the Church of the Advent on Beacon Hill in Boston last night to hear their magnificent choir sing the 'O Michael' Mass by John Taverner and motets by Peter Philips, Robert Parsons, and Orlando Gibbons.  The performances were uniformly excellent; the group sounds wonderful and tunes so well that the thickest textures seldom felt clogged or hazy.  There were so many memorable moments that I will not even try to list them; these were real composers, not hacks, and they each exhibit personal qualities within their common musical language.

I was most impressed with the Taverner piece, however.  It seemed gracious and generous, full of radiance and goodness.  In some ways it reminded me of the 3rd Piano Sonata of Boulez. Neither piece really takes you on a journey; instead you float on an undulating bed of sound.  But the differences are huge.  With Boulez the texture is dissonant and often jarring, and the piano sound is sharply crystalline.  With Taverner, the sounds are consonant and the voices are warm and sensuous.

Hearing the Taverner, I felt as if I were riding on a raft in Paradise.  Everything was safe and benign, and I didn't care where the raft was going, because it was Paradise.  The music seemed to be the embodiment of a vision of transcendent goodness.

That vision is one of the best things about Christianity, and one of the major reasons that consider myself a Christian.  That vision sustains and inspires me.

A conversation with a skeptic after the concert reminded me that this music is difficult for most people to understand.  There are no big repetitive tunes to hum, and little in the way of conflict and resolution in the structural sense.  

But an hour spent in Taverner's heaven was just what I needed.