Tag Archives: Julia Cechvala

A famous dad (Kurt Vonnegut) and an infamous mental illness

by Julia Cechvala, Contributing Writer

A few years before he died I had the pleasure of seeing Kurt Vonnegut speak to a sold-out crowd at the University of Wisconsin – Madison. I remember him saying he didn’t have much hope for the world, we’ve screwed it up too badly already, but that a few things still make life worthwhile, one of them being music. On that note he ended his talk, cued the auditorium to fill with the transcendent notes of Strauss’ “Blue Danube” and proceeded to waltz around the stage with an imaginary partner.

Kurt passed on his enjoyment of the arts as a saving grace to his son Mark Vonnegut, who includes a few of his own paintings in his new memoir, “Just Like Someone Without Mental Illness Only More So.” Growing up in a household with a long history of mental illness and a father who spoke of suicide casually, Mark tells how the arts have been a coping strategy throughout his life in dealing with bipolar disorder. Mark’s story of humility and grace in striving to live a normal life and maintaining a demanding career — all while living with mental illness — is worthy in it’s own right. That it offers insight into what it was like to be the son of one of America’s most famous authors is just a bonus. Continue reading

The hypocritical mind — A talk with the man who understands our two-faced tendencies

by Julia Cechvala, Contributing Writer

Why do people say one thing yet do another? Scientist Robert Kurzban believes the reason is all inside your head

It’s getting so common for anti-gay-marriage Republicans and conservative Christian preachers to turn out to be gay it’s becoming cliché. How can they be such hypocrites?

Cognitive scientist Robert Kurzban has an explanation. He sees evidence that inconsistencies are inherent to how our brains work. What people say and what people do may be directed by entirely separate parts of the brain. This goes way beyond right and left hemispheres. According to Kurzban our brains are made up of many different components or “modules” responsible for different functions. Here’s the kicker: Not all of these modules can talk to each other and not all of them can talk at all because they’re not connected to the modules that allow us to verbalize. With all these modules in our brains contributing sometimes contradictory information, even how we think of our “self” becomes problematic. Kurzban explains all of this in his entertaining new book, “Why Everyone (Else) is a Hypocrite: Evolution and the Modular Mind” (Princeton University Press, $27.95). Continue reading