The Darker the Night, the Brighter the Stars: A Neuropsychologist's Odyssey Through Consciousness

The Darker the Night, the Brighter the Stars: A Neuropsychologist's Odyssey Through Consciousness❴Download❵ ➽ The Darker the Night, the Brighter the Stars: A Neuropsychologist's Odyssey Through Consciousness Author Paul Broks – Bluevapours.co.uk '[A] beautifully written investigation of grief As an exploration of love and loss, as a portrait of a person and of the nature of personhood, this book is about as true as any I have read' James McC '[A] beautifully the Night, PDF Ì written investigation of griefAs an exploration of love and The Darker MOBI :✓ loss, as a portrait of a person and of the nature of Darker the Night, Kindle Ò personhood, this book is about as true as any I have read' James McConnachie, Sunday TimesAn audacious and beautiful account of grief and who we are Memoir, neuroscience and myth interweave to create a book unlike any otherWhen celebrated neuropsychologist Paul Broks' wife died of cancer, he found himself plunged into the world of the bereaved As he experienced the pain, alienation and suffering that make us human, his clinicianself seemed to watch on with keen interest He embarked upon a voyage of experience: a journey through grief, philosophy, consciousness, humanity and magical thinkingseen through the prism of a lifetime's work in neuroscience Fusing an account of living with and recovering from loss with thoughtprovoking meditations on the nature of the mind and the self, The Darker the Night, the Brighter the Stars is an audacious and beautiful work by a writer of astonishing wisdom and compassion.

Paul Broks the Night, PDF Ì is an English neuropsychologist and science writer He is The Darker MOBI :✓ a former Prospect columnist, and his work has been featured in The Darker the Night, Kindle Ò Times, Sunday Times, Daily Telegraph, and Granta Trained as a clinical psychologist at Oxford University, Broks is a specialist in clinical neuropsychology and is the author of Into the Silent Land, which was shortlisted for The Guardian's First Book Award.

The Darker the Night, the Brighter the Stars: A
    The Darker the Night, the Brighter the Stars: A James McConnachie, Sunday TimesAn audacious and beautiful account of grief and who we are Memoir, neuroscience and myth interweave to create a book unlike any otherWhen celebrated neuropsychologist Paul Broks' wife died of cancer, he found himself plunged into the world of the bereaved As he experienced the pain, alienation and suffering that make us human, his clinicianself seemed to watch on with keen interest He embarked upon a voyage of experience: a journey through grief, philosophy, consciousness, humanity and magical thinkingseen through the prism of a lifetime's work in neuroscience Fusing an account of living with and recovering from loss with thoughtprovoking meditations on the nature of the mind and the self, The Darker the Night, the Brighter the Stars is an audacious and beautiful work by a writer of astonishing wisdom and compassion."/>
  • Paperback
  • 309 pages
  • The Darker the Night, the Brighter the Stars: A Neuropsychologist's Odyssey Through Consciousness
  • Paul Broks
  • English
  • 16 June 2017
  • 9780241957462

10 thoughts on “The Darker the Night, the Brighter the Stars: A Neuropsychologist's Odyssey Through Consciousness

  1. SundayAtDusk says:

    The deeper I got into this book, the more I skimmed. Nothing Paul Broks was saying was sticking in my mind. Nothing. He appeared to be searching for meaning . . . I think . . . but all I felt was meaninglessness while reading. Three stars for a neutral rating. I quit reading.

    (Note: I received a free copy of this book from Amazon Vine.)

  2. Thomas says:

    Not a bad book. Very lyrical and poetic.

    In it the author digs deep in a grief inspired journey through eternity and the nature of consciousness and reality, you name it. He considers many questions I’ve pondered my whole life. It was interesting.

    He retells a number of ancient Greek myths and adds some stories of his own. They’re a bit hit and miss in my opinion. There are some interesting meditations on some very deep subjects here. He presents some interesting case histories that remind me of some other books written by Oliver Sacks.

    One thing that annoyed and puzzled me through much of this book was his take on the permanence of self. He claims it has no underlying physical reality because all the cells in our bodies are replaced every 7 to 10 years. I’m no scientist and I don’t know about the rest of the body but I’m pretty sure we have billions of neurons in our brains that last our entire lives. This is the second time I’ve encountered a book where someone, supposedly in the know, doesn’t seem to realize this fact. I thought I would quote from an article in the National Geographic website which you can find here:
    https://www.nationalgeographic.com/sc...

    It says in part: “All across your organs, cells are being produced and destroyed. They have an expiry date.
    In your brain, it’s a different story. New neurons are made in just two parts of the brain—the hippocampus, involved in memory and navigation, and the olfactory bulb, involved in smell (and even then only until 18 months of age). Aside from that, your neurons are as old as you are and will last you for the rest of your life. They don’t divide, and there’s no turnover.”

    So am I mistaken about this? Is there something I missed? I have heard of recent discoveries that show that more neurons than we used to think do get replaced, but not all of them. I am aware that the mind is not a physical thing but a product of the brain. Consciousness is a process, but it seems to me that an underlying physical substrate, like neurons that last our entire lives, presents a pretty good theory for answering the question of the continuity of self. I’m not saying for certain that that is the answer, but it seems like a pretty compelling possibility to me and I don’t understand how Dr. Broks could possibly be unaware of this. If he is aware of it, he does a pretty good job of ignoring it.

    He even suggests that you wouldn’t be the same person when you woke up after ten years in suspended animation. Well, even if our bodies did completely replace themselves in 7 to 10 years so that we were no longer the same people but just had the same memories, that notion seems to suggest that the author doesn’t understand the basic concept of suspended animation. Has he read no science fiction novels at all?

    There are different points in this book when the author seems to assert that consciousness or self is an illusion. How can anyone possibly know that for sure when we don't even know exactly what consciousness is? For all we know, what we have is the real deal. If it's not, what exactly is it supposed to be? I think you have to know what a thing is actually supposed to be before you can decide whether or not it's an illusion.

    In any case, other than that glaring hole in his main arguments about selfhood not being real, I enjoyed this book overall. My one big take away, the thing that makes my forgive many of this book’s shortcomings, is this quote from the author’s wife as she faced down the end of her life, “You don’t understand how precious life is. You think you do, but you don’t.” Powerful words because they are so true. It sucks that we can never really fully appreciate life until we're almost out of it.

    Overall, a pretty good book with one giant caveat and few small ones.

  3. Jim Razinha says:

    I got a review copy of this from First To Read. The description (First line: Paul Broks weaves together imaginative stories of everything from artificial intelligence to the Greek philosophers in order to sketch a beautiful, inimitable view of humanness that is as heartbreaking at it is affirming.) grabbed me, so I requested a copy. The rest of the description follows...When celebrated neuropsychologist Paul Broks's wife died of cancer, it sparked a journey of grief and reflection [...] I had never heard of Broks so his celebrity might be localized. I am also not all that acquainted with neuropsychology, and had to do a little background research (unnecessary for reading this) to familiarize myself.

    Broks writes in his prologue

    This is not a conventional book and I think you should know what you're in for.
    He's right. It's not. Continuing:
    What (I hope) you are about to read is a mix of memoir, neurological case stories, and reflections on life, death and the mind.
    In short and long passages, he does all that and more.

    Broks' shares his grief following his wife's death in PART ONE: A GRIEF OBSERVED, meandering through nonlinear memories, fantasy and myth, and talking points of his trade. (He mentions Julian Jaynes, whose Origin of Consciousness is on my to-read list, nudging the book up a notch or two closer to eventual.) The grief is palpable.

    In PART TWO: A THOUSAND RED BUTTERFLIES, Broks delves more into his trade, musing much on the nature of consciousness between scientific research and theory and philosophical explorations. I kept having to set the book aside and digest his thoughts. One section prompted a mental WTH? and given that in his prologue he said that facts sit alongside fiction and that he thought the fictional elements were easily identified, I'm not sure if he was serious that not all humans are sentient - at least, that's what a colleague discovered in that particular story (although...there was considerable evidence of such in 2016 and since, but that would make his 10% far too low...) I won't spoil where the title of this second part comes from...you'll have to find that out yourself. I admit that I was, because I am by nature, less enamored of the philosophy elements, but the stories are still good anyway.

    Broks recommends reading the first chapters first and the last chapters last and the rest can be skipped around. I imagine that would work for some. I chose to read them in the order presented, and in the last section PART THREE: INTO THE LABYRINTH he mixes more myth and fantasy into his reality. He relives some final days again. Cathartic. And his concept of consciousness congeals here. The pace increases until his coda.

    I enjoyed this the more I read. On one hand outside my wheelhouse and life experience. On the other, appealing to my scientific curiosity. I might have to look up Mr. Borks' other work, but he left me with three other book recommendations that I really want to find and read first. Meanwhile, I expect to reread this again soon.

  4. Sarah Joyce Bryant says:

    I absolutely loved this book. I loved the mix of fiction, nonfiction, and memoir. It created the kind of edge in words that we live on every day in our minds. Broks perfectly captures the winding labyrinth of the mind and its thoughts, dreams, fantasies. I really enjoyed being able to return to this book each day to read a little and ponder on the questions Broks posits. I think, too, that it helps that many of these questions are ones that I struggle with too. Maybe that is because there are no answers. Still Broks grapples with grief, loss, philosophy, quantum mechanics, psychology, and so much more.

    So many of the lines in this book are quote worthy. His writing reminds me a lot of Oliver Sacks, but Broks has his own unique voice and observations. Lately, it has been very difficult for me to find a book that can pull me in and keep me interested, but I kept returning to this book again and again to learn more. I also really like the addition of the sketches. It brought something special to the book.

  5. Chantal Lyons says:

    I didn't enjoy this book as much as I expected to - but it's still a very good one, aside from some hiccups.

    Broks is at his best in the autobiographic chapters, passages and moments, writing starkly, honestly, and bittersweet-ly. The rest of the book is given over, mostly, to neurological/philosophical ruminations on consciousness, and Greek mythology. Both have a reason for being in the book - Broks' career as a neuropsychologist aside - but for me, they often went on for too long in the same train, the Greek mythology particularly. Perhaps more erudite readers will be able to see various connections between all the Greek stories recounted and facets of Broks' life, or of human consciousness, but I certainly didn't spot them. The author clearly finds them very interesting, harking as they do from a time and a culture that he attributes as the definitive direction-setter for mankind's intellectual progress since, but honestly, I wanted to read more about people with fascinating brain disorders, not bulls copulating with women and Zeus spreading his seed everywhere.

    There's some very weird moments too - the author explains at the beginning that some parts of the book are fictional or semi-fictional, but I didn't understand and didn't enjoy the hypothetical chapters where he is accosted by a drunk man (who usually joins him on a park bench or a train seat) who spouts ruminations about science and philosophy. If these were meant to be thought experiments, I would've preferred it if they'd stayed within the confines of Broks' head.

    But, to make up for said weirdness, for me the book did contain some deep-cutting stabs of understanding, or realisation, or perhaps appreciations of alternative explanations I had never considered before. It was definitely missing an octopus, though. I'm surprised that Broks didn't include anything about this wonderful creature, given the distinct possibility that it has a fragmented consciousness shared amongst its main brain and its eight tentacles.

    On the whole, I'm glad I read this book, but there were sections that tired or bored me - know what you're getting into!

  6. Gary Beauregard Bottomley says:

    Does life have meaning if we die? The Being of the now that leads to consciousness is it the ‘hard problem’? Is there a ‘self’ over time, does the question even make sense or is the ship of Theseus not a paradox. Is my partner a Zombie with 15% probability as the author implies with a vignette? All of these kinds of questions are standard neuroscience ponderings, but they are told with finesse and nuance within this story and are always highly entertaining and at times laugh out loud funny.

    The author starts the book with a quote from Albert Einstein on how a friend dying before Einstein really doesn’t matter because time is just an illusion and all that has happened and all that will happen has already happened within the block universe (you do believe in cause and effect? Or do you lean with Heraclites and we never cross the same river and all is ‘becoming’ not being?). Time is an illusion but it does not mean that consciousness is an illusion, as the author will say that for something to be an illusion it must be within the consciousness and if there is not consciousness there could be no illusion. Delusions are different, the author will say, a delusion is to know with certainty something about reality to be true but is not true. Certainty is the enemy of growth and stifles the discovery of meaning.

    The author suggests that the origins of a thought that led to the awareness of the self could be as Jaynes speculates in the pseudoscientific ‘The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind’ with his schizophrenic explanation for self awareness and explaining the universality of a God, or the more elegant theory of Antonio Damasio with the more believable path way that involves homeostasis and entropy (the author mentioned one of Damsio’s book, but I would recommend this one ‘The Strange Order of Things’). The author will let the astute reader decide for themselves which theory is more credible.

    Sometimes one must go down to a deep dark well in order to see the stars as Thales of Miletus did, ‘the darker the night, the brighter the stars’ and the more we can understand and the more meaning we find. As the author was reflecting on his life, he had realized that he had never applied his psychological expertise onto himself. Sometimes, it takes an event from the outside before one can reflect and understand the meaningful.

    I’m fairly certain that the Wall Street Journal review that led me to this book used the word ‘nihilist’ to describe the author. That was an unfortunate use of the word. The author of this book is smart enough to not outsource his meaning to any book or unfounded authority or belief in fairy tales that aren’t supported by reason or rational thought. The author refutes the myth of Sisyphus and Camus’ only question of philosophy ‘should we kill ourselves’. That author points out that Camus does muddle the response, but the author knows that our meaning must lie within ourselves not outside of us. The real ‘absurdity’ that Camus alludes to is that we all know that we will die one day with certainty but we all act as if we won’t.

    Nihilism ultimately means that there is no meaning in life and the author clearly knows that there is while not appealing to fairy tales for his support. Everyone has the option to search for what is true, what is ethically good and what is deserving of their time, and the author is using all the tools at his disposal in order to ‘awaken us from our dogmatic slumber’ and will make the reader think about problems in terms they almost certainly had never thought about previously. Sometimes, as illustrated with the author’s story, the ring of our deceased spouse that shows up out of the blue as a picture of the spouse falls from the closet, the event itself has no further meaning than the event itself. We impute purpose and meaning when the universe is just being itself and there is no reason beyond itself, pernicious teleology haunts us more than ghosts ever will.


  7. Charlie says:

    A really innovative book about the nature of consciousness. Rather than just try to answer the question of consciousness directly, Broks uses illustrations from different sources to touch on the answer from many angles. It is at one time both biological, cultural, personal and individual. It is one thing to experience it, and another to describe it or define it. It could be described differently at different times and places and life stages. It is the subject of philosophical discourse.

    Broks is, by profession, a neuroscientist. He is therefore able to tell us something of the biology of consciousness with illustrations relating his work and to some of his patients. Since his wife died he has considered the religious and philosophical nature of consciousness, the way it changes from conception to adulthood and whether, and in what ways, it might persist after death. But there are longer time scales to consider. How has consciousness in Man developed with the species? Is it related to language? What can Greek myth and legend tell us about the way our ancestors thought on the subject?

    Brok skilfully twines together strands from myth, legend, personal anecdote, philosophy, neurobiology, developmental biology and psychology to give us an answer which is much greater than the sum of the parts.

    I found it an intriguing and riveting read. I was left with almost more to think about after the book was done than before I started. But that is good. That is the nature of consciousness.

  8. Brann Gallagher says:

    Maybe should have given this a 4. Overall I really enjoyed the book.

    Very interesting discussions on a variety of topics related to neuropsychology and the overlapping philosophy of mind and consciousness, which is intertwined with some Greek mythology and the author’s personal narratives and reflections on life, love, impermanence, coincidence, grief, and finding a sense of satisfaction and coexistence with many of humans’ most fundamental but perhaps most unanswerable questions about the nature of the universe/their existence.

    Having said that, the book doesn’t get too, too deep in any one of those areas, and it might be more accurate that it glides across them. The author comes with a heavy science background, which keeps the writing pretty grounded, for better or worse depending on what you’re looking for I suppose.

    Three stars, I think, because some parts of the book were more hit or miss in terms of my desire to keep turning the pages. But the more enjoyable parts collectively made the whole book worth pushing through and finishing.

  9. Alan says:

    Read on Audible.
    A very personal account of the meanings of consciousness, this book interleaves Paul Brooks experiences relating to the death of his wife to his neuroscientific work, psychological and philosophical approaches to consciousness. It is very well-written and thought provoking. It’s more or less an action research case study approach, so not specifically mainstream scientific. This makes it into an enjoyable and not a daunting read. I think it’s worth a second, careful read as well to get to the nuggets.

  10. Colin says:

    I very much enjoyed a good deal of this book. The science was interesting, and accessible, the philosophy bits not quite so much. The personal story of bereavement was quite moving, and the case-studies interesting too. Some other themes didn't appeal so much to me - the Greek mythology I prefer in more original form, but even those carried the narrative along quite briskly.

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