Skip to main content
Monthly Archives

March 2020

Is memoir writing a socially irresponsible activity?

By Autobiography, in English No Comments

Is memoir writing an irresponsible activity in times of crisis? Ought I not rather focus on what I could do to alleviate the dire situation? Write someting that spreads positive vibes and contribute to societal optimism?

Or is it the other way around? Maybe by looking back on my own life and preparing myself for my own endgame is a more prudent alternative?

It might even be a small contribution to lowering the general unease? If all of us began writing our memoirs we might develop a more relaxed attitude to death. Just saying.

Originally published on Facebook 30 March 2020, this short post it gave rise to a handfull of comments: Read More

The life course as a process of punctuated equilibrium

By Autobiography, in English No Comments
My remote FB-friend Mark Hineline came up with an interesting idea the other day. “It occurs to me”, he wrote, “that the self can develop over time in the manner of punk eek – punctuated equilibrium,” and then gave an example from his own life before summing up: “It’s almost as though my 1989 self was a substrate on which that new layer stuck as though epoxied. The point is that these weren’t gradual accretions. They were jumps.”

The theory of punctuated equilibrium was first proposed by Niles Eldredge and Stephen Jay Gould in 1972. Based on their empirical studies of the fossil record, they opposed the mainstream idea of gradual evolution, and suggested instead that once a species appears in the fossil record it will become morphologically stable (stasis). Significant evolutionary change occurs only rarely, but rapidly (punctuations). There have been lots of discussions about the theory (read more here: but basically I think it’s sound.

But what about transferring the theory to developmental psychology and life-writing, as a metaphor for the life-course? I do indeed think it catches an important aspect of our lives. A life-course can be described as a mixture of long periods of mental and emotional stasis interrupted by short periods of rapid personal development (punctuations). I guess I could describe my own life in these terms, and I remember how other autobiographers have viewed their own lives in terms of long periods of stagnations and bursts of rapid change, although I have never seen it described in terms of punctuated equilibrium.

The only reason for my mild skepticism is that I’m generally wary of importing metaphors from the natural sciences. This one is particularly problematic, because even though it may be an interesting analogy for those of us who are familiar with evolutionary biology, it may not be equally useful for someone who isn’t.

Nevertheless it made me think. Thanks, Mark, for giving me a creative start of the day.

Originally published on Facebook 26 March 2020, this post generated the following comments:

Read More