Caspian

Inching closer

Inching closer

August 23, 2018
/ / /

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!

 

Read More

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

August 12, 2018
/ /
in Tip
/

“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.

 

Read More

How should we live? (book 15 of 26)

July 29, 2018
/ /
in Tip
/

How should we live? is a book subtitled Great Ideas from the Past for Everyday Life, written by Roman Krznaric. Sounds extremely cheesy, but thanks to a recommendation by Navid Modiri (I do believe) a year or more ago, I ordered the book, and it made the cut for my weekly-reading-challenge of 2018. Of that I am glad. Because I don’t find the book as cheesy as the title, not even close to it.

“The plague of divorce in the West is closely linked to the silences between couples, and in many families you can find relatives who refuse to talk to each other, often for days and sometimes for years. Conversation is the unseen thread that binds families together and it is time we took it more seriously.”

“For Socrates, conversation was a dialectical process in which the dance of ideas could help people inch closer towards their own personal truth.”
– From the chapter Family in the first section of the book.

Set up with four major sections – Nurturing relationshipsMaking a livingDiscovering the worldBreaking conventions – each containing three chapters, with each chapter having at least three examples of great ideas from the past, this book has a lot of content – and it is a mix of facts and opinion, stories and advise, commentary about where we are at today and pointers on what might be instead, if only we start to experiment a bit more with life, with ample suggestions of what to experiment with.

“[…] we need to find ways of overcoming our fears and lack of self-confidence, which may be holding us back from taking action. […] Whatever strategies we try, we should endeavour to treat our working lives as experiments in the art of living, heeding the words of the nineteenth-century writer Ralph Waldo Emerson: ‘Do not be too timid and squeamish about your actions. All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make, the better. What if they are a little coarse, and you may get your coat soiled or torn? What if you do fail, and get fairly rolled in the dirt once or twice? Up again, you shall never be so afraid of a tumble.'”
– From the chapter Work in the second section of the book.

I am having serious problems limiting the number of quotes from the book. Without problems, I could surely write a blog post based on a quote from this book for every week of a full year, and still have pencil markings lest un-blogged about at the end of it – and one of the things I most appreciate about the book is the humorous undercurrent of it mixed with a sharpness that certainly cuts straight to the core.

“The greatest explorers have not been those who pushed back the geographic frontiers on colonial maps, but rather those who have travelled beyond the frontiers of their own prejudices and assumptions – whether they are based on race, class, gender or religion. A successful expedition is one which challenges and alters our worldview, liberating us from the narrowness of deeply ingrained beliefs that we have often unconsciously inherited from culture, education and family.”
– From the chapter Travel in the third section of the book.

As I read, I connect dots. Between books I’ve read before (for instance the one on Humboldt). Conversations I’ve had (including conversations on the book on Humboldt, as that was a book for my Gifted book club). Blog posts I’ve written, as well as those still left unwritten on thoughts that have yet to land, to solidify into words on paper.

He-who-cannot-draw-on-three-thousand-years-is-livBits and pieces click in place, making me feel like I’m at least starting to draw from those thousands of years, as Goethe suggests in the opening quote of the book.

“One form of belief is the idea that our nation is superior to others in particular ways, such as cultural achievements, natural beauty or sporting prowess. Australians much believe they have the best food in the world – but so do the French, Italians, Spanish, Peruvians and Chinese. George Bernhard Shaw recognized the absurdity of it all when he noted that ‘patriotism is your conviction that this country is superior to all other countries because you were born in it’.”
– From the chapter Belief in the fourth section of the book

I finished reading this book three days ago. And already, as I flick through it in search of suitable excerpts for this blog post… an itch starts within. I want to reread this book. And I could start already today, really. The only thing hindering me is the fact that it’s time for me to finally put my friend Caspian out of his misery, but reading the one book he’s been ordering me to read for quite some time now. So I won’t. Reread this book. Now that is. Because reread it I most certainly will!


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.

Read More