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  • Writer's pictureSean

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Patterns, and Grisettes

“He knows that you have to laugh at the things that hurt you just to keep yourself in balance, just to keep the world from running you plumb crazy.”

Hitting the fiction again today on this rainy #TBT. I'm sure many of you have had the opportunity to read this one as it was required reading in school here. And yet, I remember more of it from a second reading later in life than all the time spends trying to dissect it for class, go figure!

Ken Kesey's One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest is one of the more famous books in American literature later turned into an Oscar-winning film starring Jack Nicholson. It popped into my head the other day as I slowly make my way through Ernest Becker's Denial of Death. His ideas on heroism and the terror of death struck me when thinking about McMurphy and his seeming escape from this terror. Then I re-read this quote and thought maybe his outward persona is but another form of escape to "keep yourself in balance."

Maybe I'm stretching a little but it's interesting how our brains remember odd things/ideas from books in the past and tries to make those links. One of our human superpowers for sure; always on the hunt for patterns to make sense of the world and our lives. Michael Shermer, in his book called How We Believe, writes that we were built to be pattern recognition machines. Ultimately we are trying to determine, in a split second, what is safe and what isn't. Consider these two options:

False Positive: You think you see a snake on the ground and you jump but then realize it was just a stick. You may feel like an idiot but at least you didn't step on a snake!

False Negative: You think you see a stick on the ground but it's a snake and you step on it! Now what?! Seek medical attention immediately!

This example is simple but exists all around us every day and thus our brains are always primed to look for patterns and to error on the side of false positives.

As we continue to dive into more and more books we also see these patterns come alive and this false positive narrative, I think, can be something we use to strengthen our understanding. To recognize patterns and then question them. What is it that I'm seeing and how does that relate to what else I've seen? How do these topics come together?

If we get in the habit of not asking these questions, however, we can fall into the trap of filter bubbles. Our pattern recognition fires away and we fail to question where the information is coming from. Suddenly we see the patterns everywhere and begin to feel strongly about ideas and opinions that are not based on facts. A double-edged sword if there ever was one.

Phew, a tangent for sure, but interesting nonetheless! Back to the book.

Have you had the chance (or made to as required reading) to read this one or see the movie? I think my preference leans towards the movie; I thought it was really well done and the acting was excellent.

Beer Pairing:

Without trying to spoil anything, this felt like an inspired beer pairing given how the book comes to an end. Run By Night is a Feodre Aged Grisette with Damson Plums from 2 Crows Brewing (@2crowsbrewing ). Packs a tart punch this one with a nice plum flavour lingering afterwards.

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