Monthly Archives August 2018

Outliers (book 17 of 26)

Outliers (book 17 of 26)

August 26, 2018
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OutliersI have been attending a training all weekend, and once that finished, I went immediately to a dear friend for dinner, arriving back at my hotel room just after nine pm, with 70 pages yet to read. Luckily, I am a fast reader. With an hour to spare, I just finished reading my book-of-the-week, Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers.

”Outliers are those who have been given opportunities – and who have had the strength and presence of mind to seize them.”

Another stroke of luck: Outliers is an easy read. A fun read. Highly informative and once in a while very thought-provoking. At the same time, Malcolm hails hard work a tad too much to my liking. Because somehow I find he misses out on the distinction of hard Smart work.

I mean. I get it, hard work, tenacity, the ability to put in the effort and do the work – of course that is a trait worth praising.

But at the same time – using my smarts to not only work hard, but also to work smart – to ensure I set up feedback loops, find rolemodels whos work or traits I can emulate and/or get inspired by, and most importantly, work hard at building pipelines rather than hauling buckets (a Robert Kiosaki-reference, aka Rich dad – Poor dad) – is something I don’t find expressed in so many words in Outliers.

Still. He has sure found some great stories to tell, and he is a very skilled storyteller. And I fully agree with this:
”To build a better world we need to replace the patchwork of lucky breaks and arbitrary advantages that today determine success – the fortunate birth dates and the happy accidents of history – with a society that provides opportunities for all.”


The book I am blogging about is part of the book-reading challenge I’ve set for myself during 2018, to read and blog about 26 Swedish and 26 English books, one book every week, books that I already own.

 

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Inching closer

August 23, 2018
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Pod directionsSlowly but not very steadily, my Doing gentle podcast-project is inching closer to reality. Today, while on the train to Stockholm, I took Caspians advice and used the time fruitiously: I started to (Finally. Jeez, I planned to have this done in June or July at the very latest!) listen to the raw uncut version of my pod-recordings from May, making notes on what to keep and what to discard.

I have one hour forty minutes of raw unedited recordings to go through…. and in three hours I managed forty minutes of it. Luckily I’ll be headed home by train as well. I know what I’ll be amusing myself with then, that’s for sure!

 

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Bury me standing.

August 22, 2018
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I should not be sitting here, in the sofa, closer to 11 pm, after a long day, when I still haven’t even begun packing my trip to Stockholm tomorrow morning… but I am. Tonight was the first GIFTED book club meet-up after the summer, and the book of the day was Bury me standing by Isabel Fonseca.

Bury-me-standing-I-ve-been-on-my-knees-all-my-lif“Bury me standing.
I’ve been on my knees all my life.”

A Roma proverb by Manush Romanov, which he called out to Isabel at the end of a mutual visit in Sofia.

First of all – this meet-up marks our one-year-anniversary, and I have to say, I’ve read books I most likely would not have read, had it not been for the book club. For that I am very grateful. It is one way to combat the narrowing of my filter bubble, for sure.

Secondly, Bury me standing is a daunting read. Informative, detailed, perplexing, shocking and sometimes even downright horrendous. It evokes so much in me, it’s hard to know where to start. But… I think…. maybe what strikes me first and foremost, is, truly, how hard it is for me to u n d e r s t a n d the Roma way of life, sentiment and culture. It is a culture very alien to me. Here we have a culture, a people (even though even the classification of the Roma as “a people” is not unproblematic in itself, see the quote below), that seem so foreign, to what almost all cultures across the globe have “assimilated into”. I mean, look at schooling. Most people across the globe go to school, regardless if you are 10 years old in Cuba, Nairobi, Shanghai or Malmö. And those schools, more or less, are very similar. Superficial differences exist for sure, but the basic structure is the same. And here we have a group of people, who just doesn’t buy into what I, what we, what the Western society (for lack of a better word), have deemed good, worthwhile, necessary.

And from the book, it’s made perfectly clear (in all to graphic descriptions sometimes) how we have not been able to stand this, for five hundred years or so. In fact, it seems we’ve done our very best throughout the centuries to thwart every possibility for Gypsies (the term Isabel Fonseca uses throughout the book; the library copy I’m reading was published in 1996) to become a part of society. Shunning them. Ostracizing them. Killing them. Making up laws and regulations (still in effect today. I mean, t o d a y, in 2018!) that are specifically designed to make it as hard as possible for them to live their life, their way.

Why can’t we live and let live? Why is “the other” so frightening to us?

I don’t know. It’s hard even to write about this book.
We did have a really good GIFTED conversation about it though, and somehow, I find it easier to talk about my thoughts, insights, questions and curiosities both towards the book and the Roma people, than to pin them down on paper.

“The Jews have responded to persecution and dispersal with a monumental industry of remembrance. The Gypsies – with their peculiar picture of fatalism and the spirit, or wit, to seize the day – have made an art of forgetting. 
Historically the Gypsies have not had an idea of, or word for, themselves as a group. In place of a nation, they recognize different tribes and, more locally, extended families or clans. Their European names – like Gypsy or Zigeuner – suggest a monolithic what. This isn’t an accurate reflection of how they see themselves: it is a reflection of how they are seen by outsiders.”

Outsider who, like me, have such a hard time understanding what it is we are seeing, that we cannot comprehend it. Perhaps (even likely) we cannot even see what it is we should, or could, be seeing, because our frame of reference is so vastly different.

“But things are changing. Just as Eskimos have chosen to call themselves the Inuit – which means “people” – “Roma” is emerging as a common name and signaling the arrival of a new collective identity.”

I hope, oh, how I hope, that the coming five hundred years will not be a continuation of what has gone on for far too long. So… what to do?

Listen.
Be there. Curiously. Non-judgmentally. Not wanting/needing/aiming to “solve the problem/s”.
Letting go of the idea that the Western way of living is “the right way of living”, letting come… a broadened perspective? A deeper understanding? Self-determination (truly)?

Listen (and learn).

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Sapiens – A Brief History of Humankind (book 16 of 26)

August 12, 2018
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in Tip
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“The immense diversity of imagined realities that Sapiens invented, and the resulting diversity of behavior patterns, are the main components of what we call ‘cultures’. Once cultures appeared, they never ceased to change and develop, and these unstoppable alterations are what we call ‘history’.”

Caspian has been on my back for a long time about reading Sapiens A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari. And I’ve been meaning to, for a long time. So when the time came to pick books for the reading challenge of the year, giving one spot to Sapiens was an easy choice. However, I’ve been putting reading it off, until I had plenty of time, so from the beginning I had my mind set for a summer read. However, my summer has gone my in a flash, with all sorts of things booked, so I finally realized I just had to start. So I did. I even gave myself two weeks to read it, as I started it at the same time I read the Swedish book of last week, which was a fairly short read.

“[…] the average forager had wider, deeper and far mot varied knowledge of her immediate surroundings than most of her modern descendants. Today, most people in industrial societies don’t need to know much about the natural world in order to survive. […] The human collective knows far more today that did the ancient bands. But at the individual level, ancient foragers were the most knowledgeable and skillful people in history.”

Sapiens_Still. With a few days to go, I wasn’t even halfway, so I’ve been cramming it this weekend, let me tell you. Woke up this morning with 70% of the book read; approximately 120 pages to go. Not an impossible feat at all, even though I’ve been busy with work and other things all morning and well into the afternoon.

“How can we distinguish what is biologically determined from what people merely try to justify through biological myths? A good rule of thumb is ‘Biology enables, culture forbids.’ Biology is willing to tolerate a very wide spectrum of possibilities. It’s culture that obliges people to realize some possibilities while forbidding others. […]
Culture tends to argue that it forbids only that which is unnatural. But from a biological perspective, nothing is unnatural. Whatever is possible is by definition also natural.” 

And yes. It’s now done; honest to god, I swear I’m not cheating, blogging about a book I’ve yet to actually finish. I did finish it, and I do recommend you read it. In 466 pages Yuval take me by the hand and walk me through the history of humankind, just as the title promises. Cramming in 70 000 years in 466 pages makes it brief, by default. Yet it’s far from shallow. I wouldn’t say that at all. No. Yuval both summarizes, and provides me with some startling new perspectives on the Cognitive, Agricultural, Scientific and Industrial Revolutions, each in turn.

“We study history not to know the future but to widen our horizons, to understand that our present situation is neither natural nor inevitable, and that we consequently have many more possibilities before us than we imagine. For example, studying how Europeans came to dominate Africa enables us to realize that there is nothing natural or inevitable about the racial hierarchy, and that the world might well be arranged differently.”

Yuval looks to the history of humankind in Sapiens, while his next one, Homo Deus (sitting on the shelf, unread, possibly a part of a similar challenge for next year?) is aimed forward, as far as I’ve understood it. But Sapiens isn’t solely a book that looks in the rearview mirror. He extrapolates, suggests, and fantasizes about what might be – and let me tell you, it might as well be heaven or hell, from what I understand. And the only way “to know”, is for someone to look back, many many years from now, to document the history of what is, as yet, the future.

“Science can explain what exists in the world, how things work, and what might be in the future. By definition, it has no pretensions to knowing what should be in the future. Only religions and ideologies seek to answer such questions.”

Caspian.
I am with you.
We could have a field day talking about this book, so yes, let’s record a pod about it soon, ok?

“[…] we are witnessing the formation of a global empire. Like previous empires, this one, too, enforces peace within its borders. And since its borders cover the entire globe, the World Empire effectively enforces world peace.”


 

The book I am blogging about is part of the book-reading challenge I’ve set for myself during 2018, to read and blog about 26 Swedish and 26 English books, one book every week, books that I already own.

 

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