Understanding Humans

The biological purpose of the conscious mind

Illustration of an eye.
Illustration of an eye.
Image by from

Among the tall brown grasses of late summer, in the long pink light of a fading sun, my friend said, “I finally saw your . I want to tell you that it’s bullshit. You know me, I got to be truthful.”

We had been hiking in what I thought was silent reverie for nature’s dance: rounded hills that exploded into curvaceous mountains, crinkled oaks lining crests like old praying women stretching for heaven.

But I was wrong. Priya’s mind had conjured a different reality. A witch's brew of angst and dread had been swirling inside of her.

“Did you…

Understanding Humans

How I learned to understand everyone, whatever the crazy stuff that they do

An oak tree next to a bench.
An oak tree next to a bench.
Photo by Simon Wilkes | Unsplash

A divorcing couple sat in my office. Four years before, on a fateful night, on their eighth wedding anniversary, an oak tree fell in front of their car. The husband stepped out into the rain. He stepped into a puddle. His body convulsed. He fell to the ground.

He had been electrocuted.

Several weeks later, as he lay in a coma, his wife left for their vacation home in Mexico — where one day they were to retire. She never did return. He learned to talk again. Alone. He learned to walk again. Alone. Now, four years later, she sought…

Understanding Humans

What is the purpose of joy and suffering?

Woman merges with tree roots in art.
Woman merges with tree roots in art.
Image by from

“I’m not going to hand over my kid. You don’t even know him!” Her tears fall onto my office couch.

He responds, “Fuck you, Alyssa! He’s my kid too. And you are the reason I don’t know him.” He pauses, looks away. “Still a bitch.”

I’m supposed to help this couple. I’m a mediator, which is to say an attorney who makes peace. They came to me to avoid the hell of battling in court. But they brought their brimstone with them. And I do see her point: the boy is only two, and the dad, Lamar, who plays in…

Understanding Humans

Who’s running this joint anyway?

Photo by from

It was late winter. A blustery morning. I was mountain biking. Raindrops pattered high branches. But below the canopy, the world was still dry. A sudden wind bent the redwoods. And then I saw it. To my left. Now behind me. I skidded to a stop.

I was surprised I saw it — because I never do notice trees and branches and leaves when I’m moving quickly. But I did.

Oh god, I thought.

I flipped my bike around and pedaled slowly, quietly, for I might frighten away magic.

Oh, she would have loved this.

I rolled closer. Twigs snapped…

(but we could Go Down Loving)

Photo by on lash

Last Saturday my wife and I went to Trader Joes. We arrived twenty minutes before opening and were 30th in line. Everyone was spaced outside the store in six-foot gaps. Within ten minutes 50 people lined the street behind us. We strategized:

Split up. Get meat, we are low on chicken. And of course, get a lot of broccoli and kale. Important for the immune system…

A smiling TJ’s clerk walked up the line spraying waiting hands. Who would have thought that sanitizer could make us all feel so happy? They opened the store early. The line moved very quickly…

Larry C. Rosen

Helping people understand people. TEDx speaker on what makes humans go. Internationally-regarded expert on motivation and peacemaking.

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