- Used Books
- Staff Picks
- Gifts & Gift Cards
- Sell Books
- Stores & Events
- Let's Talk Books
Special Offers see all
More at Powell's
Recently Viewed clear list
Used Trade Paper
Ships in 1 to 3 days
The Power of Placeby Winifred Gallagher
Synopses & Reviews
THE SCIENCE OF PLACE
Last spring, I spent several days sealed off from the sweet palmy swelter of New Orleans in a series of frigid polyester conference rooms, listening to men in white coats discuss the latest developments in brain science. Weary of sci-fi scanning techniques and neurotransmitter balances, I treated myself to a lecture by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, a professor of psychology at the University of Chicago best known for his. improbable best-seller, Flow; despite its easygoing title, this rather difficult, scholarly book methodically explores the parameters of what the author terms "optimum experience" and the rest of us call a good time. As I had hoped, Csikszentmihalyi was not concerned with the workings of pills or the measurement of rats, and his introductory remarks, which centered on his earliest forays into his chosen area of inquiry, went straight for the jugular of behavioral science. "As a small child, I wondered why most of the otherwise knowledgeable, accomplished adults who surrounded me seemed to have almost no idea about how to live a satisfying life," he said. "It was clear to me even then that the answer wasn't money or power but, somehow, the ability to control and enjoy one's experience."
A bit of unaccustomed reflection on one dimension of our experience suggests that the answer to that perennial child's questionIf grown-ups know so much, why aren't they' happy?--is increasingly bound up with the places in which we spend our lives. Many, of the eclectic researches that support this commonsensical idea are less discoveries than rediscoveries of principles that our forebears considered obvious. Throughout history, . people of all cultureshave assumed that environment influences behavior. Now modem science is confirming that our actions, thoughts, and feelings are indeed shaped not just by our genes and neurochemistry, history and relationships, but also by our surroundings.
Classical science's propensity for viewing a person's state in its environmental context persisted down through the ages. In the seventeenth century, the English scholar Robert Burton, who suffered from, bipolar disorder; in which profound depressions alternate with chaotic bursts of mania, compiled his exhaustive Anatomy of Melancholy: This text includes some, stereotypical assumptions about (climate and national as well as individual temperament that remain commonplace: "Hot countries are most troubled with . . . great, numbers of madmen . . . . They are ordinarily so choleric in their speeches, that scarce two words pass without railing or chiding in common talk, and often quarreling in their streets .... Cold air in the other extreme is almost as bad. as hot. ., . . In those northern countries, the people are therefore generally dull; heavy, and in'clude) many witches, which some ascribe to melancholy." Two, hundred years later, this tendency to see connections between behavior and its setting still prevailed among the first practitioners of the infant science of psychiatry.
Are New Yorkers and Californians so different because they live in such different settings? Why do some of us prefer the city to the country? How do urban settings increase crime? Why do we feel better after an experience in nature?
In this fascinating and enormously entertaining book, Winifred Gallagher explores the complex relationships between people and the places in which they live, love, and work. Drawing on the latest research on behavioral and environmental science, The Power of Place examines our reactions to light, temperature, the seasons, and other natural phenomena and explores the interactions between our external and internal worlds.
Gallagher's broad and dynamic definition of place includes mountaintops and the womb, Alaska's hinterlands and Manhattan's subway, and she relates these settings to everything from creativity to PMS, jet lag to tales of UFOs.
Full of complex information made totally accessible, The Power of Place offers the latest insights into the any ways we can change our lives by changing the places we live.
Includes bibliographical references (p. -235) and index.
About the Author
Winifred Gallagher is the author of House Thinking, Just the Way You Are (a New York Times Notable Book), Working on God, and Spiritual Genius. She has written for numerous publications, including Atlantic Monthly, Rolling Stone, and the New York Times. She lives in Manhattan and Dubois, Wyoming.
What Our Readers Are Saying
Other books you might like