Reader’s Forum — Catana Barnes & Jessie Fields


Catana Barnes

The Overweight Brain by Lois Holzman is the best book I have read in a very long time! I found what I experienced by reading the book to be very freeing. I related with chapter 5 the most because I was labeled difficult and oppositional in school. The fact of the matter was that I was very bored and the school couldn’t figure out what to do with me. More interestingly is the fact that I was later diagnosed by a psychologist as suffering from “Life Adjustment Disorder.” Holzman spoke about this on page 84,

The American Psychological Association’s Glossary of Psychological Terms defines behavior as “the actions by which an organism adjusts to its environment,”

and

Ignoring this wondrous human capacity, psychology and education wind up with “adjustment” being the basis for how we relate in the key evaluative measure—and that, of course, includes consequences for not adjusting—ergo, “behavioral problems.“

The second part that stood out to me was Chapter 8, “We Can’t Know, but We Can Grow.” I related to chapter 8 because of my activities involving the independent movement. And, through my work with people to build the independent movement in my state and in my local community, I have found it to be difficult, at times, to help people interact with the political system in a developmental way. I found what Holzman said on page 169 and 170 to be very helpful as she talks about play and how we develop from play,

Play is in non-knowing growing (playing and performing “a head taller“). Play as in a dance between imagination and rules (as Vygotsky described it). Play as in creating your conversations instead of merely having the ones you know how to have. And, Most importantly, play as an improvisational way you can be with people other than very little children and, thereby, create new possibilities for growth throughout a lifetime.“

The Overweight Brain is my new resource for those moments when I feel stuck in an activity. I look forward to exploring the unknown and unknowable. I recommend this book to everyone!

Catana Barnes is the founder and President of Independent Voters of Nevada.

Dr. Jessie Fields

I find the entire book to be deeply political, universal and therapeutic. One can see our work as independent activists in every line. Such as these,

Holding fast to the belief that the happenings of our lives are knowable can get us into deep trouble. (So to can believing that what will happen in politics and world events is knowable by the experts, which we are witness to each day). We can be unprepared, both materially and emotionally, if things seem to take a sudden turn because we “thought we knew for sure” how they’d go. Accepting – better yet, embracing – unknowability helps us be more, not less, prepared. More prepared to participate in what’s transpiring and give some direction to it. More prepared to create with others what will emerge from the process. More prepared to improvise. More prepared to grow.

Jenn Bullock and Jessie Fields petitioning in Philadelphia.

The two party system is fundamentally based on and perpetuates a knowing ideology of top down control, for example the focus on knowing which candidate’s health plan is better, as opposed to the American people transforming the entire process of politics and health. 

Lois Holzman illustrates in detail the detrimental roles that knowing plays in our culture. I found it very interesting to note the ways psychology and two party control function side by side and hold each other up. In both we see the obsession with knowing, measuring and dividing. In both there is constant polling. The parties have endless ways of dividing the American people as psychology has endless categorization. How do we break out of such straight jackets? The Overweight Brain is a primer on how to grow and lead. Non knowing growing, is the call to action of the book.

What’s needed to grow, to become, to transform our culture, politics and institutions, to make a better world are ways for human beings to exercise our creative power…We see creativity as a social phenomenon, a relational process, and one of the most important ways human beings give expression to our connection with each other...”

I see the independent movement to transform American democracy as a non-knowing growing process that touches all aspects of American life and history. I’m looking forward to our conversation with Lois Holzman as part of that process of becoming. 

Dr. Jessie Fields is a physician practicing in Harlem, and a Board member at Independent Voting and Open Primaries.

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Politics for the People

Conference Call With Author

Dr. Lois Holzman

Sunday, December 8th

7pm EST

Call in number: 605-313-5156

Passcode: 767775#

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The Overweight Brain

How our obsession with knowing keeps us from getting smart enough to make a better world


Founder of the Politics for the People free educational series and book club for independent voters. Chair of the New York County Independence Party.

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