I first became aware of the existence of The Black Swan by Nassim Nicholas Taleb when my son put it on his Christmas list (last year? the year before?) and I bought it for him. Looking through it casually (the subtitle is “The Impact of the Highly Improbable”) I knew I eventually wanted to read it. Recently my son brought it with him on one of his trips home and told me that he was finished with it for the moment and I could read it. I stuck it on the shelf to await my attention once I’d finished various other books I was involved with.
Recently, finished with One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, I stood in front of my bookshelf in preparation for going to the Y (where I needed a new book to read while I rode the stationary bike) and asked the Lord what I should read next.
Should I start my own Guardian King books as a dear friend recommended I do (I have never read any of my books in entirety since they’ve been published) or something else? The Lord drew my eye to The Black Swan sitting at eye level between Builders of the Ancient World and One Door Away from Heaven. I asked again, specifically, should I read Guardian King or Black Swan? He prompted me to pull Swan off the shelf and open it to the place where I’d left off when Adam had first given it to me (on the first page), where I read, “[the sighting of the first black swan] illustrates a severe limitation to our learning from observations or experience and the fragility of our (human) knowledge. One single observation can invalidate a general statement derived from millennia of confirmatory sightings of millions of white swans. All you need is one single black bird.”
I was immediately pulled in: “First, it [the black swan] is an outlier, as it lies outside the realm of regular expectations, because nothing in the past can convincingly point to its possibility. Second, it carries an extreme impact. Third, in spite of its outlier status, human nature makes us concoct explanations for its occurrence after the fact, making it explainable and predictable.”
Is this not a perfect description of the first advent? And the second? Nothing in the world points to it, only the Word of God.
The writer goes on…”A small number of Black Swans explain almost everything in our world, from the success of ideas and religions, to the dynamics of historical events, to elements of our own personal lives…”
I continued reading, riveted, knowing that there was much here about perception, belief, human bias and our almost total inability to predict the future even though many of our authorities claim to be able to so, all of it showing just how much of a deception the cosmic system really is, and how much more reliable is the word of God. The writer’s premise is that we think we know far more than we do (about the world and life and events) when, in fact, we really know very little… and this fits so into the whole framework of deception… which God has recently pointed out to me as being the “Thing” that I’m to write about (and have been writing about all along) that I knew this would be the next book I’d read.
So I took it with me to the Y and as I mentioned here, I have not been disappointed. I’ve dog-eared page after page and have taken to writing about thoughts generated from reading it in a spiral notebook. It has opened my eyes to so many things — not only with regard to how the cosmic system (of thinking) works, but also why we are so vulnerable to it.
Naturally, I’ll be blogging more on the subject in the next few days.