“You need to ask smaller questions”

With every turn of the page of Humans of New York: Stories I was reminded of that saying “Be kind; everyone is fighting a great battle.” The micro stories that accompany each photo are fascinating. And must reading for anyone who is a writer.

My favorite photos are the “microfashion” ones of toddlers in adorable attire.

My favorite story might be the one on page 326:

“I’m a neuroscience researcher.”
“If you could give one piece of advice to a large group of people, what would it be?”

“Listen to your inner voice.”

“You’re a scientist. Isn’t ‘inner voice’ a spiritual term?”

“Bullshit! You’ll hear scientists talking about following their inner voice as much as you’d hear a musician or priest.”

“So how do you know which of your thoughts are your true inner voice?”

“All of them are! The question is – how much weight do you give them? How much authority do you give your own thoughts? Are you taking them seriously? Or are you sitting in front of the damn tube letting other people tell you what to think?”

“Studying the brain is like working in a toy store. Nothing could be more fucking fun.”

“What do you think is the greatest weakness of the brain?”

“That’s a lousy question! I’m not answering it.”

“Why is it a lousy question?”

“What do you want me to say? Road rage? That we get pissed and shoot people? That the newest parts of our brain should have been in the oven a little longer? How’s that going to help you? If you ask a crappy question, you’ll never get a decent answer. You need to ask smaller questions – questions that give you a pathway to finding some pertinent information. The major advances in brain science don’t come from asking crappy questions like, “What is consciousness?” They come from microanalysis. They come from discovering pertinent information at the cellular level.”

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