On Greene and Human Nature
Granskad i Storbritannien den 6 november 2018
Human nature, since the existence of men, is a hot topic shrouded by critical inquiry and analysis. What motivates us? What makes some float in negative bubbles and make others grow tall in positivity? There’s no one answer. Humans are fallible.
After six years of research on the subject of human nature, Robert Greene places his findings in a new gem, The Laws of Human Nature. He advises us, with copious historical examples, to let go of our tendency to judge people but rather to open our mind to seeing people in a new light.
Why six years?
In a digital age, where one could get books written in seconds, why would Greene choose to spend six years working on a book?
First, and this is my guess, Greene uses absence to create respect (Law 16 in The 48 Laws of Power). Second, he understands the dangers of not saturating the market with quantity but rather with quality books. With five classical books under his belt, he surely doesn't need to increase his reputation by publishing anything of mediocre quality.
What’s more important, Greene’s books are well researched. And good research in any subject takes time. The book speaks for itself.
Tell me more about the book…
Any Greene fan knows his books are punctuated with anecdotes. The Laws of Human Nature follows suit—in a typical Greenian structure—historical analogies, important keys and explicit summaries.
Whether or not Greene’s books should be found in the self-help shelves is a moot point. That said, The Laws of Human Nature, carries within it that motivational undertone. In Law 8 (Change Your Circumstances by Changing Your Attitude), for example, the author gives away free hint that helps the reader to elevate their minds from current realities. This is something you’d find in Jack Cranfield book, The Success Principles(2004). In this bright chapter, he advices us to go though life by understanding that attitude colours our perceptions. With example of the Russian author, Anton Chekov, the reader is reminded that life is what he/she desires it to be. These little sprinklings some would argue is un-Greene-like. Sentences like “get in the habit of writing your dreams down and pay deep attention to their feeling tone” would read strange to those who only see Greene as that Machiavellian lecturer. However, I would personally argue that this is refreshing.
In addition, his past works, especially Arts of Seduction(2001), Mastery(2012) and 33 Strategies of War(2006) stream into the pages of The Laws of Human Nature. Especially the part of self-mastery which is a strong thematic feature in Greene’s works. In Laws of Human Nature he reminds us to gauge our strengths and weaknesses and work on annihilating those weaknesses. Knowing ones character will help one in breaking what he calls “compulsive patterns”. However, our ability to find them in others puts us on another pedestal as we are able to sniff false fronts in this social media age. He reminds us that we must avoid weak characters as they are prone to quenching the good qualities an individual might possess. These individuals are enumerated in the toxic types, including but not limited to: the big talker, the personalizer, the pampered prince/princess. Anyone who has read Strategies of War would see some of these advice as a reminder.
What’s more, Greene has the capability to paint pictures in simple sentences. For example, on in Elevate Your perspectives (law 6)
“In a world that is complex, with myriad dangers that loom in the future, our short term tendencies pose a continual threat to our well-being and as our attention spans decrease because of technology, the threat is even greater. In many ways we are defined by our relationship to time. When we simply react to what we see and hear, when we swing from excitement and exuberance to fear and panic at each new piece of dramatic news, when we hear our actions toward gaining as much pleasures as possible in the moment without a thought for future consequences, we can say that we are giving in our animal nature, to what is primitive and potentially destructive in our neurological makeup.” (Greene, 2018:161). Such paragraphs leaves us with moments to reflect on contemporary nature of human coexistence.
For further discussion:
On Narcissistic Spectrum, Greene argues that another level of narcissism exist in entrepreneurs and “for many of these leader types,” he argues that their instability and chaos will be mirrored in the company or group they lead. They cannot forge a coherent structure or organisation. Everything must flow through them.” (Greene,2018:46) This argument is double edged: on one hand, he argues that they can’t build organisations. Elon Musk, Steve Jobs, Larry Ellison, just to mention these three come to mind here. Although these business icons fall under this spectrum but one could argue that they created companies and, sometimes, coherence exists. Narcissism carries its own advantages and perhaps, it needs to be buoyed for one to know how to use it one's satisfaction.
Why Four Stars?
As a Greene fan, I would have loved to make this five stars. But, in comparison to his other works, I don’t think The Laws of Human Nature has that sharpness the other books carry. However, I’d still recommend it to friends who are particularly interested in finding the self and understanding the human in others.
Well, Greene, as always in his works, leaves the reader to take his work as it is or leave it. Explaining a lot and leaving the audience to do the thinking themselves. There are a lot of open ended advices in the book but, overall, the book delivers it's message and shines a new light on features of human nature.
As Greene convalesces (after suffering from a fatal stroke), I wish him speedy recovery and more importantly, I’d give a piece of advice from his book: “people can recover much more quickly from illness through sheer desire and willpower.” I hope he recovers quickly.
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