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This is an image of an original pen and ink sketch I commissioned from an artist from Las Vegas named Michael Godard.

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I love this visualization of The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion.   Godard brings fresh new ideas to the concept that enhance and enrich it.

Each person interprets a work of art in their own way.  Here’s what I see in this one, you may see something different:

The olive character and the martini glass are Godard’s signature figures.  They represent his home town of Las Vegas and the ideas of happiness, celebration, and fun.  Their presence in the drawing adds a touch of whimsy, and reminds us to stop and smell the roses, or sip the martini.  In the context of this particular image the olive’s partying style represents overconfidence on the part of consciousness and reason that they are in charge, and their obliviousness to the fact that it’s really the elephant of subconscious intuition who mostly determines our path in life.  

Notice that the tall tree on the right is in the shape of a brain.

The two trees on the right together represent “The First Division: Mind vs. Body,” in chapter one of The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom. The upper tree represents the brain, and the lower tree represents the “high degree of autonomy” of the “regional administrative center” of the “gut brain” with its “more than 100 million neurons.” In short, it represents gut feelings.

The bees and the hive represent the ethics of autonomy and community, and the question: which is more important?

The circus tent and the building with columns represent “your body may be a temple but mine is an amusement park,” and more generally Thomas Sowell’s concept of constrained and unconstrained visions from his book A Conflict of Visions: Ideological Origins of Political Struggles.   Notice the word “Temple” spelled out in dots near the base of the bottom right tree.

Degradation is spelled wrong intentionally to represent that “people are inherently imperfect.”

Each of the elephant’s ears have the number nine in them, representing the “99 per cent of mental processes – the ones that occur outside of awareness but that actually govern most of our behavior.”

The earthquake-like crack in the ground represents the political divide and Charles Murray’s Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2010. It also represents the slash in the dust jacket of the hardcover edition of The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion.

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Godard’s representation of the divide, and the relationship between it and the rider/elephant, is brilliant, and the conceptual heart of the piece.  The mass and momentum of the elephant suggest that the divide is practically inevitable.  The “ride-em cowboy” demeanor of the rider suggests the arrogance of reason, and the notion that, far from being a rational counselor steering the elephant along the path toward moral truth as it believes itself to be, the rider is more like an enabler to a destructive personality.    The rider, thinking reason is on its side, believes it is helping to cure or at least alleviate the divide, when in fact it often exacerbates it.

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