Conscious awareness depends on our survival. Without that genetic and conditioned reality, nothing exists.
Although the concept of survival is evident in a biological sense, it expands far beyond simple physical survival for the human being. The questions of psychological, emotional, intellectual and spiritual survival, as well as the overriding question of identity all play a role. Who is the ‘me’ that is fighting to survive? That is the existential question we struggle consciously or unconsciously to address.
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Review of Survive: Why We Do What We Do, by Jerry Pannone Reviewed by Charles P. Golbert, Attorney, Chicago Oh no, not I, I will survive Oh, as long as I know how to love, I know I'll stay alive I've got all my life to live And I've got all my love to give and I'll survive I will survive --Gloria Gaynor What does it mean to survive? Not just in the physical sense but including psycho-emotional and spiritual survival? And not just at the individual level but in terms of evolutionary biology? What do we humans do to survive? What should we do? Is greed or cooperation a better survival strategy? What can we humans learn about survival from other species and even from the tiniest microorganisms? What is the difference between surviving and existing? What about the relationship between surviving, thriving, and achieving self-actualization? Between surviving and being happy? These are just a few of the quandaries explored in the fascinating new book Survive: Why We Do What We Do, by Jerry Pannone. In analyzing these questions, Pannone draws from many disciplines including philosophy, psychology, anthropology, evolutionary biology, and neuroscience in a manner that is scholarly yet accessible. Pannone enlivens the discussions with references from literature, film, popular culture, and personal anecdotes. There is a remarkable amount of knowledge packed in this slim volume. I found myself mesmerized by the latest research about the learning abilities and survival mechanisms of single-celled organisms. Amoeba proteus microorganisms can demonstrate Pavlovian response and associative memory. Physarum polycphalum, a single-cell organism commonly known as slime mold that has been in existence for some 500 million years, is capable of a type of learning known as habituation. Even more extraordinary, it is able to transfer learned information to other members of its group. In other words, slime mold is able to teach. I enjoyed the book’s observations about death as a constant of life and the sanitation of death in our society over time. It happens that I read much of the book during an airplane flight home from the funeral of an aunt. Perhaps for this reason I found these insights particularly resonant. I was also absorbed by the discussions of the evolutionary and neurobiological bases for empathy, altruism, and morality. It turns out that these traits are vital for individual and collective survival, for both humans and other species. One of the most important takeaways from the book is that Darwinian survival of the fittest does not mean the most aggressive, the physically strongest, or even the smartest. It means the most adaptable to change. This insight from evolutionary biology has been confirmed by research in anthropology, primatology, and other disciplines. Adaptability to change is also vital to happiness and fulfillment, especially as our world continues to change at an increasingly dizzying pace. The good news is that our brains exhibit remarkable plasticity. Survive includes several helpful appendixes including an excellent, concise tutorial on the leading ethical theories utilized throughout the book. Another appendix summarizes game theory and survival including a theoretical exercise known as the prisoner’s dilemma. A final appendix contains an example of a mindfulness meditation exercise. The book includes comprehensive references for further reading. Pannone is a musician, composer, and retired public high school teacher. His background as an educator likely contributes to Pannone’s ability to synthesize complex ideas from diverse disciplines in a way that is accessible to lay readers. As an educator, Pannone created programs in critical thinking and ethics, and helped start National High School Ethics Bowl debate teams for two schools. He has been thinking about and teaching the ideas in Survive for decades, and it shows in the refinement of his reasoning. In the preface, Pannone describes the book as his “COVID project.” While the rest of us were binging on mediocre television and comfort food during the COVID-19 lockdowns, Pannone took the isolation as an opportunity to reflect, meditate, and write about these profound questions. And thank goodness for that; we are the beneficiaries of his captivating volume. ~ Jerry Pannone, Charles P. Golbert
Jerry, I read through your book and was bowled over by its breadth and depth, and by the scholarship in it, and by the clarity and fluency in your writing. Excellent! ~ Rick Hanson Ph.D., New York Times bestselling author of Buddha’s Brain, and UC Berkeley psychology professor
Jerry Pannone helps us make sense of our world and ourselves in his life-affirming book that goes deep, fast. “Survive” resonates in a powerful way, asking us to consider the questions of life: why do we do what we do? and why does that matter? The author takes us on his journey of self-discovery, and by the end of the book, we can’t help but have a greater understanding of our own life journey. ~ John Sharify, multi Emmy Award winner, and 2021 duPont - Columbia Award-Winning broadcast journalist and filmmaker
SURVIVE is an excellent-written book that presents valuable information on several aspects of survival; physiological, philosophical, psychological and spiritual. It provides awareness-raising techniques and coping strategies. This is a book for everyone, young and old. ~ Roma Runeson-Broberg, Ph.D., retired associate professor, Uppsala University in Sweden and licensed psychologist/psychotherapist