Cellular Wisdom: Decoding the Body's Secret Language

Joan C. King, Author
Joan C. King, Author Celestial Arts $24.95 (240p) ISBN 978-1-58761-188-9
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A former Tufts neurosciences professor, King now makes a living as a life coach, helping people apply""principles of biology and physiology"" in order to learn how to""live exuberantly."" Readers who failed biology can relax, as King's sketchy but digestible mini-lectures on such topics as the spinal cord and the blood-brain barrier are easy going. Harder to wade through are the vague life lessons she derives from them, which rehash familiar self-help chestnuts about the importance of growth and change, following one's dream, finding balance and rhythm and connecting with others. She illustrates these platitudes with anecdotal case studies and reminiscences about her own quest to find herself (as an ex-academic and ex-nun with three marriages under her belt, she knows from life changes), and drills readers with exercises in hypno-meditative introspection. King's grounding of motivational pop-psychology in hard science is a cumbersome failure. Her""cellular wisdom"" consists mainly of inappropriate biological metaphors applied schematically to incommensurable psychological and social phenomena: parents transfer values to children just as neurotransmitters convey information across synapses, for example, while homophobia is like an""auto-immune disease"" that""causes aggression by one group against another within the body of society."" In proffering these facile and unenlightening analogies, her prose varies between peer-reviewed stolidity (""in our discussion of the sleep-wake cycle, we saw that the suprachiasmatic nuclei...function as the leaders, signaling or triggering the day-night alteration in many systems"") and New Age mysticism (""our individual energies pulse in and out of the sea of all energy, all love""). The result is not likely to satisfy either the scientifically curious or the seeker of wisdom.
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