reading

Letters from a Stoic (book 4 of 26)

Letters from a Stoic (book 4 of 26)

February 25, 2018
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Letters from a StoicTim Ferriss talks about it a lot.
My brother read it this summer when we met up at mom’s place.
And I got it in the fall, when picking up a few books from an online bookstore, so when the reading challenge of 2018 crystallized in my mind, including Letters from a Stoic by Seneca was an easy choice.

It’s amazing that this book is made up of letters written almost two thousand years ago, and here I sit, reading them. Two thousand (!) years later. That is mind-blowing. Aside from that, there are parts of the book that really resonate with me, and other parts I struggle with. I do like the Stoic drive to “learn in order to be a better human”, but at the same time, the prescriptiveness of the Stoic way of living jars with my fairly recent understanding that what works for me, doesn’t necessarily work for you.

But how can I object to advice such as this on reading:
“You should be extending your stay among writers whose genius is unquestionable, deriving constant nourishment from them if you wish to gain anything from your reading that will find lasting place in your mind.”

Or thoughts such as this on friendship:
“But if you are looking on anyone as a friend when you do not trust him as you trust yourself, you are making a grave mistake, and have failed to grasp sufficiently the full force of true friendship.”

And trust (in my naivety I do go for the first one, perhaps that’s why I like this line?):
“Trusting everyone is as much a fault as trusting no one (though I should call the first the worthier and the second the safer behavior).”

And this, taken from a longer conversation on traveling, which I find to be of extraordinary value today, what with the migration issues we are facing, which I believe will only get worse. Unless, that is, we heed Seneca’s words:
“Where you arrive does not matter so much as what sort of person you are when you arrive there. We ought not, therefore, give over our hearts for good to any one part of the world. We should live with the conviction: ‘I wasn’t born for one particular corner; the whole world’s my home country.'”

As I flip through this book that I just finished reading this morning, I gaze upon page after page of my scribbles in the margins, marking a passage here, a phrase there, a sentence or two and quote after quote, and I realize, here’s a book I want to re-read soon, at least once more. Makes me understand what Ferriss is talking about, when he says about Letters from a Stoic that “I’ve read it dozens of times, and I loved it so much that I turned it into The Tao of Seneca, a three-volume set of audiobooks. If you prefer a written version of the Tao of Seneca, you can find it here for free.

Throughout the letters, Seneca is clear on one thing above all else, coming back to it again and again, and that is how philosophy, the love of wisdom, is to be put to practical use:
“What we hear the philosophers saying and what we find in their writings should be applied in our pursuit of the happy life. We should hunt out the helpful pieces of teaching, and the spirited and nobel-minded sayings which are capable of immediate practical application – not far-fetched or archaic expressions or extravagant metaphors and figures of speech – and learn them so well that words becomes works.”

This cuts to the core of one of my pet peeves concerning the self-help genre, which is that many people don’t seem willing to do the work. Reading book after book, without actually trying it on for size. Somehow believing that just reading it, will make whatever the book is talking about come true? Laziness? An unwillingness to step outside both comfort and possibly safety zones? To use Senecas words, reading, but not applying the advice. And that will not make a change in how life is perceived, not in the least. And to finish off where I started this post, how will I ever know if what works for you (or the Stoics), might work for me, unless I try it?

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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The Icarus Deception (book 1 of 26)

January 14, 2018
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The first English book in my reading challenge of 2018 is The Icarus Deception by Seth Godin, a book he actually gave me himself, signed, sealed, delivered. I went to #SethinLondon in 2015 (Boy, times sure flies, can you imagine it’s been 2+ years already Michael?) and got two books to bring home.

My dear friend Michael Sillion, Seth himself, and yours truly at #SethinLondon, November 2015

My dear friend Michael Sillion, Seth himself, and yours truly at #SethinLondon, November 2015

Now, the book is… Seth. That’s one of his most prominent features I must say, having read his blog for years on end, listened to a number of podcasts with/by him, and having read a few books as well; he is Seth, where ever he is, whatever medium he’s coming across. He speaks the way he writes, and he writes the way he speaks.

And I love it. I am totally fascinated by the way this man’s brain operates, how he can see things that I am blind to, and how he shares it all – generously, and with such great warmth. I was totally star-struck upon meeting him, and he “brought me down” (or rather, brought himself down by being absolutely human, in the best possible manner!) in the most gentle fashion, asking my name, making small talk in a way that took away my anxiety, leaving only a great feeling behind.

The Icarus Deception is no exception – it’s Seth. His style of writing, his style of pointing out the would-be-obvious stuff that I (and you?) just miss, don’t even give a passing thought to – but which, when he put’s the magnifying glass upon it, I realize has immense value.

Sure – it’s filled with sentences that are very “quotable”, short, snazzy, to the point, and packing quite a lot of punch, a bunch of them. And I guess some people might not be into that. But for me it works. And I can see how being drip-fed “Seth-isms” for ten (or more likely fifteen?) years or so, has made a huge impact in my life.

Am I doing more art (he’s very particular about art!) now? Yes.

And I being more vulnerable, and sharing my art? Yes.

Do I constantly expand my comfort and safety zones, by putting myself on the edge? Yes. That’s what I am doing at the moment, holding a 9-day course in a subject that is far from “my home base”. Is it scary? You bet, but do I let fear stop me, from putting my stuff out there? No, except sometimes, so the better answer is: less and less. Or as Seth expresses it:
For the first time in history, most of us have the chance to decide what to do next, what to make, how to deliver it. Most of us won’t take that chance, but it’s there.

Take the chance!

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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#blogg100 – Above all love them.

April 3, 2017
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“A world will come over you, the happiness, the wealth, the inconceivable greatness of a world. Live for a while in these books, learn from them what seem to you worth learning, but above all love them.”

I do. Love them, that is.
I love books. Love reading.
My mother tells me, that once I learned how to read in first grade, I wouldn’t stop.
That was the start of a life-long (or so I believe) love for books and reading, that has only ever had one temporary lull, when me and my then soon-to-be husband first met. That whirlwind romance had me so up in the air, I was not grounded enough to pick up a book. So I didn’t, at all, for the better part of a year.

BooksWhat I’m reading has change a lot over the years, and also how I read, actually.

I do have a tendency to have multiple books going at the same time, and that’s a tendency that’s growing stronger again, after a less intense period.

I no longer feel the need to finish each and every book I pick up – and that has certainly made my relationship to reading much more enjoyable, infused with a greater sense of fun.

I’ve more or less completely stopped to read any type of crime novels, suspence thrillers and the likes. Don’t want to fill my inside with the horrors of what mankind is capable of doing to our fellow human beings.

I’ve started reading a lot more non-fiction than ever before, a lot of psychologically and spiritually exploring books.

But I still do love me a great science fantasy-series. And many are the books for young adults that I find immence pleasure in diving deep into.

And. Perhaps more so now than ever before, I am learning from them what seem to me worth learning. This is something I am concious of today, whereas for most of my reading years, I’ve not put as much of the spotlight onto that aspect of reading books. Now I do. This #blogg100-series on snippets of gold found in books is most definitely a direct consequence of this aspect of reading: these blog posts are all a tribute to what I’ve found that seems worth learning, for me. And you?

#Blogg100 challenge in 2017 – post number 34 of 100.

The book “Letters to a Young Poet” by Rainer Maria RIlke.

English posts here, Swedish at herothecoach.com.

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