GIFTED book club

Bury me standing.

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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How should we live? (book 15 of 26)

July 29, 2018
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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.

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Sources of joy

May 16, 2018
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Sources of joyThe GIFTED book club.
Choir practice.
An evening of playing cards with my eldest.
Deeply immersed in a book that is riveting in one way or another.
Knitting!
Recording my upcoming podcast.
Receiving feedback from a participant in the pre-school-staff programme me and Pernilla have been running for a year, bringing tears to my eyes as I read about life-changing experiences.
Laughing with a friend.
Feeling the strength of my body as it takes me back and forth across town on my bike.
Slowly tilting my face up towards the sun, feeling the warmth of it, after months of cold weather.
The butterfly flitting around in my flowering garden.

You know what?
I could write and write and write here, boring you all to bits, because there’s so much joy to be found. Everywhere! I mean – truly!

God.
I’ve gone all Pollyanna here, haven’t I?

I mean… who would have thought I’d ever be able to state, emphatically, that I find sources of joy in things such as folding dry laundry, boiling some water and pouring it in a cup with a few leaves from the garden (walnut, back currant, raspberry and a moroccan mint-leaf), pouring a large glass of green smoothie and plonking myself down with it on the stairs to the garden to drink it while reading the morning paper, receiving a surprise postcard from a friend and colleague from a spur-of-the-moment visit to New York and any number of small and seemingly insignificant events, activities and interactions.

Well. This is the way it is. Most of the time. Not always, of course not always, but surprisingly often, I don’t see ”drab everyday life”. I see sparkles and magic, experience gratefulness and joy; so if you want to, feel free to call me Pollyanna.

Do you have any sources of joy that are a surprise to you, as you start to reflect upon the concept?

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A world of chance

May 15, 2018
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The-questions-echoed-in-my-head-without-answerIn a world of chance, is there a better and a worse? We yield to a stranger’s embrace or give ourselves to the waves; for the blink of an eyelid our vigilance relaxes, we are asleep; and when we awake, we have lost the direction of our lives. What are these blinks of an eyelid, against which the only defense is an eternal and inhuman wakefulness? Might they not be the cracks and chinks through which another voice, other voices, speak in our lives? By what right to we close our eyes to them? The questions echoed in my head without answer.

A paragraph from Foe, a book written by J. M. Coetzee. A book I read for The Gifted Book Club, chosen by Mr D. As I finished reading it, I wrote thisIt’s so interesting to read a book chosen by someone else (this is the book for my upcoming book club), a book I would not have picked up on my own volition. That in itself is a gift – to get to read a text written in a way that “most books I read isn’t written in”. Because it is an odd book, that’s for sure. I spent a few pleasant hours reading it last night.

What’s even more fascinating is that after, or honestly, during our conversation about the book that March evening, I felt a strong urge to reread it. To see if next time around, I would spot some of the things we talked about, things that deeply affected one or two of the other book club members, things which I didn’t pick up on at all, but definitely spark my curiosity.

That in itself is a gift – how our talk made me want to read the book again, with a different lens on. Or possibly two or three different lenses, besides my own. How wonderful: I look forward to it already!


Inspired to continue blogging on the theme from the #blogg100-challenge in 2017 I give you:
The book ”Foe” by J. M. Coetzee, which also happen to be the fourth book of The Gifted Book club, discussed March 21st 2018.

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The Great Migration

March 5, 2018
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A while back I listened to Isabel Wilkerson on On Being, talking about the Great Migration, which is – and I quote – “the diaspora of six million African Americans to the north of the U.S. in the 20th century“. I listened, and cringed, as I could not ignore my ignorance. I simply did not know, have never thought about, and despite considering myself fairly well-educated, I cannot hide behind the fact that “Western history” to such a large extent is actually “White Western history” at best. That might be an explanation, but it sure isn’t a valid excuse.

So a while back, as me and Jesseca were taking the bus home from a Gifted Book Club-evening, we got to talking and I mentioned Isabel and my urge to read her book, The Warmth of Other Suns. Jesseca immediately jumped on the suggestion, and made that “her book choice” for the book club. We haven’t read the book yet (we’ve yet to discuss Foe by J. M. Coetzee), but I was reminded of this magnificent episode of On Being, and wanted to re-listen to it.

I have recently discovered the series Underground, and it is… horrific. Horrible. Horrendous. Yet, there’s so much hope, heroism and heart as well! I absolutely love the fact that there are such strong female main characters in this show, which in and of itself made me reflect upon my surprise at this – I interpret it as being so unusual on screen, that is the reason why I take such strong notice of it! Anyway, the things we humans do to and with each others can be so disturbing at times, and yet, somehow I want to believe that things are getting better. And they are, to a large extent, but at the same time, they aren’t, for everyone, as these “striking, terrible statistic” that Isabel Wilkerson has noted: […] there was a lynching every four days in the early decades of the 20th century, and it’s been estimated that an African American is now killed by police every two to three days.

Sit with that for a moment or two. It’s more dangerous being black in the US today, than it was a hundred years ago. How??? How is this possible? I just do not (want to) believe it. But those are the facts, however much I would like it to be otherwise.

probably-no-migration-is-about-migration-It-s-aboBeing legal guardian to unaccompanied minors, as well as involved in a project on migration, I am getting a lot of new perspectives on this on a personal level, interviewing people who have migrated to Sweden (or from their home countries, ending up in Sweden more on chance than by design), for one reason or another, be it war, persecution, famine, love or work. Listening to Isabel, she gives me a point of view that opens the very concept of migration up to me anew: I often say that the book is viewed as being a book about the Great Migration, and over time, as I’ve talked about it over these years, I’ve come to realize that it’s not about migration. The Great Migration is not about migration, and really, probably no migration is about migration. It’s about freedom and how far people are willing to go to achieve it. This is the means that they feel they must take in order to find freedom wherever they can find it.

 

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Good bye 2017

December 31, 2017
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Good bye 2017, the year when…

  • I had Wholeheartedness as my intention, something I’ve blogged about on a monthly basis since.
  • my company Respondi AB turned ten years old. Imagine that!
  • me and Pernilla Tillander started to work together for the ESF-project Include & Meet in Skurup, something which has been among the most fun and rewarding things I’ve done during my ten years as an entrepreneur. We will continue to work together in 2018 in Skurup and I greatly look forward to it!
  • I did two “current state” analyses that made quite the impact, especially in me.
  • my longest running assignment ended, after nearly five years.
  • thoughts on my future business enterprise are starting to become clear.
  • I rediscovered my fascination with husbandry, also in an economic fashion.
  • music played a big part:
    • the musical highlight above all else throughout my life is performing Stabat Mater by Jens Eriksson. The first performance took place already during Easter 2016, but during 2017 Stabat Mater was released on Spotify, and the church choir from Södra Sallerup performed Stabat Mater no less than three times this year. One performance took place in Salzburg where the choir went for a trip in september. Stabat Mater is on repeat at home, and I absolutely love this piece of music!
    • my musical highlight number two took place in twofold this year as well: we recorded an album in the beginning of the year, and this was released (both as an actual CD and on Spotify) at the end of the year, Vi är i advent. Another abum running on repeat in my headphones.

HERO in Edinburgh

  • I turned fortyfive and discovered the thrill of hosting a potluck party – what a smashing idea!
  • sad farewell’s were mixed with the joy of new budding lives.
  • acting legal guardian for unaccompanied minor refugees is an ongoing assignment, a roller coaster of joy, frustration and pride; for my legal guardians as well as others.
  • we decided to stay together but live apart… only to hand in our divorce application a few months later.
  • far later I finally removed my wedding ring, leaving me with the feeling of a phantom ring on my ring finger.
  • I participated in the #blogg100 challenge for the forth time, after refraining for a year. For the first time I trid blogging onehundred days in a row based on a set theme (by myself) – mixing Swedish and English blog posts – which definitely was to my liking.

GoodReads

  • I have read, read, and read some more. 73 books and 22889 pages according to GoodReads. But then I also proof read a book not yet published, so in total I read 74 books and 23014 pages during 2017. My #Goodreadsreadingchallenge for 2017 was fifty books, so I reached my goal by far.
  • The Gifted book club saw the light of day in conjunction with my birthday, and during the fall we’ve read two books. We are starting 2018 with Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, following it up with Foe by J.M. Coetzee and I am thrilled to see what other books we will be reading after that.
  • for the first time ever have I technically proof read a book (and buy what a book. Only available in Swedish, but if you know Swedish, most definitely pick up, and read, a copy of Sigrid sover på soffan!)
  • ChattyMeals made an entrance into my life, an aquaintance I will definitely continue to entertain during 2018.
  • I understood my relationship to inner and outer expectations, this concept that I’ve been reflecting upon for years now, and now have an even greater understanding of, being the Upholder I am.
  • I ran my first ever race!
  • I tried taking a digital sabbat, which definitely wet my appetite, to the extent that it actually served as the basis for my intention for 2018.
  • my firstborn came of age and my lastborn turned teenager and started junior high school. Oh how time flies!
  • for the first time in forever we stayed in Sweden during the summer holidays (o the chagrin of the kids).
  • all four Roths are finishing off the year participating in the largest New Years Eve-street party in the world, the Hogmanay celebrations in Edinburgh.

Roths in Edinburgh

And with that, I wish you and yours a very Happy New Year!

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Shared, exchanged and made available

December 5, 2017
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”During much of his long life, he was the nexus of the scientific world, writing some 50,000 letters and receiving at least double that number. Knowledge, Humboldt believed, had to be shared, exchanged and made available to everybody.”

Andrea Wulf on von HumboldtI mean. Fifty thousand letters. Whooooooa, that’s a whole lot of letters. And even though the man did indeed live a long life – living to be ninety years old – not excluding his childhood, that means writing almost two letters a day and receiving four.

But what I find even more memorable in this paragraph is the latter sentence about knowledge having to be shared, exchanged and made available to everybody.

Born in 1769 and dead in 1859, he lived quite a memorable life, Alexander von Humboldt, described in detail in the book ”The invention of nature – the adventures of Alexander von Humboldt, the lost hero of science” by Andrea Wulf, and he sure was a sucker for knowledge, amassing it as well as sharing it. That becomes abundantly clear from reading this biography, and read it I suggest you do.

I greatly enjoyed the book, and even though we discovered, in the second book discussion of the GIFTED book club, that it’s a book that can be experienced differently, most of us did enjoy the read! And for most of us, he was indeed lost, a man that had such an impact on so much of what has shaped the world as I know it today (due in large part to this belief of his, that knowledge was to be shared, exchanged and made available!)… and yet, I can honestly say I had no idea of the man and his influence.

Now I do though!

Inspired to continue blogging on the theme from the #blogg100-challenge in 2017 I give you:
The book ”The invention of nature – the adventures of Alexander von Humboldt, the lost hero of science” by Andrea Wulf, which also happen to be the second book of The Gifted Book club, discussed November 16th 2017.

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Where should we begin?

November 19, 2017
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I stumble upon the podcast “Where should we begin? with Esther Perel” and all of a sudden, Esther is everywhere. I read about her here and there, friends refer to her, and she’s even a guest on “Terrible, thanks for asking”. Her book Mating in captivity is mentioned as a possible future read at the latest GIFTED book club meet up, and I can only surrender to this onslaught of synchronicity:Message from the universe

Yes – I hear you, Universe.
I am listening to her podcast.
I will pick up her book.

I get the message!

Listening to “Where should we begin? with Esther Perel” is quite the special pod-experience, unlike most other podcasts I listen to on a regular basis. Most intriguing is the way Esther surprises me, over and over again – she provides a different perspective; focussing on things I would not have thought of; she picks up on small, subtle nuances and… somehow… now and again, magic happens. There’s insight, there’s laughter, there’s a release of tension that is palpable even through the airwaves. Well worth a listen!

In 2015 I ran a series on herothecoach.com with Sunday postings of podcasts to my liking. In 2017 I will be re-posting some of those blog posts, mixing them up with new podcast recommendations, such as this one.

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Symbols of loyalty

October 2, 2017
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“You might one day be offered the opportunity to display symbols of loyalty. Make sure that such symbols include your fellow citizens rather than exclude them.”

Timothy Snyder puts his finger on something that I’ve not been able to pinpoint before, but with this sentence the significance of symbols of loyalty becomes very clear. The chapter title reads Take responsibility for the face of the world, and he continues:

The symbols of today enable the reality of tomorrow. Notice the swastikas and the other signs of hate. Do not look away, and do not get used to them. Remove them yourself and set an example for others to do so.

It is so easy to set standards of Us and Them, to separate, distinguish, exclude. It doesn’t take much at all. To some extent, I think it comes naturally for us (as a species); but that doesn’t negate the individual responsibility I have, to be observant of myself, to notice when I do exclude, when I divide the world into good and bad guys, into Us and Them. Because me noticing, and gently nudging myself towards unity, inclusion, connection, makes my life so much lovelier to live, truth be told. And I think that makes your life lovelier as well. That’s me taking responsibility for the face of the world.

Inspired to continue blogging on the theme from the #blogg100-challenge in 2017 I give you: The book ”On tyranny: Twenty lessons from the twentieth century” by Timothy Snyder, which also happen to be the first book of The Gifted Book club, having the first meeting come October 4th 2017.

 

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The GIFTED book club

August 23, 2017
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On my birthday me and a friend gifted one another a book club, and when we sat down to think it through a week later, that’s the name we gave it. Tonight we had a first get-to-know-one-another-so let’s-wait-to-read-the-first-book-after-all-meeting, expanding upon the basic structure we had previously outlined, so we are set for the upcoming two meetings, and then we’ll see what works and what needs to be tweaked.

GIFTED book club

Now I have six weeks until our next meeting to read On Tyranny by Timothy Snyder, a book I wanted to read since listening to him in conversation with Sam Harris. We decided upon our next book as well, so I will immediately request it from the library.

I’ve never been a part of a book club before, let alone initiated one – so I am really looking forward to this experience. Feel like a rookie, learning as I go along, which is a state I am truly starting to enjoy more and more. It means there’s a potential for expansion, for growing, for gaining new perspectives upon life. And that it something I love!

If you’ve ever been a part of a book club, and have good ideas or tips to share, please do so in the comments. I’d love to get some input!

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