A book review and thoughts on failure

Posted on September 16, 2008
Filed Under book review, Experiments, Taylor Ellwood | Leave a Comment

I finished reading Paul Ekman’s book: Emotions Revealed…Below is my review

In Emotions Revealed, Ekman discusses how a person’s face can be “read” to determine what kind of emotions s/he is feeling. The author then proceeds to focus on emotions such as contempt, disgust, sadness, happiness, and anger. In each chapter he has a model who shows different expressions. He explains in great detail how to read the facial expressions as well as what they seem to mean. He also has an exercise that people can do to use facial expressions to invoke feelings. Overall, it’s a fascinating read, which shows how much the face is integral to feeling emotion as well as expressing it. At times, the book is dry and can be a bit of a slog to read through, but Ekman does a fairly comprehensive job of explaining the subject. I’m already eager to see how I can apply the concepts in my everyday communication.

Four out of Five.

It’s a useful book, at least for my studies in identity work. I’ll be curious to see what he produces down the line. I also think being able to recognize emotions as they are displayed on the face can help quite a lot in communication situations.

In other news…

I was reading a post tonight on livejournal by Ges on failure in magical practice. I agree with his sentiments. It goes back to something I’ve said, which is that even failure is a result…it indicates something about the magical process that you need to refine or correct. Without failure, how do we learn? Failure is something essential not only to magical practice, but also to living life. While I enjoy my successes, my failures define how I can improve my life (but don’t define my life in and of themselves).

I was thinking the other night about the purpose of magic, and I think how a person deals with the failures that occur in magic speaks something to the purpose of magic, and what motivates the person to keep trying or to give up. Our failures challenge us to learn from them and adapt. I’ve never perceived failure as a negative experience, though my reactions my be negative toward it. In the end, however, I’ve had to rely on my discipline and go back to the drawing board so that I can figure out what needs to change in order to make something succeed.

This is especially true with magical experimentation, since experiments won’t always go right. I can think of several experiments where what I thought would occur didn’t happen and I had to go back to drawing board. Sometimes the failure is the most intriguing part of the process because it forces you to go back and look at your theory and assumptions and ask yourself why something isn’t working the way you thought it would.

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