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A fine balance (book 3 of 12)

A fine balance (book 3 of 12)

March 24, 2019
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A fine balance, written by Rohinton Mistry. This book, that I read the first time in 1997, while doing my degree project in Thailand to get my Masters in Biology. My brother put the book in my hand, and then did not see me for the next twenty-two hours, as I simply could not put the book down. Ever since I’ve stated A fine balance as the best book I’ve ever read, recommending it high and low.

“Flirting with madness was one thing; when madness started flirting back, it was time to call the whole thing off.”

So when I stumbled upon a copy at a flea market a while ago, I bought it, with the intention of rereading it. To ensure I would read it and really reflect upon it, given the importance I’ve put upon this book ever since that first read, I picked it as my book choice in the Gifted book club.

Still the best book I’ve ever read?
Now I’ve re-read it. And discussed it in Gifted.
So… is it still the best book I’ve ever read?
Do I still peg it at the number one position of all the books (3000 or so) that I’ve read?

And what about the fact that not just me, but my brother, my mother, my father as well as my two nieces all rank it as the best book they have ever read as well? We are a family of bookworms, yet we read quite different genres, generally speaking, so to have us all say this about A fine balance seems quite significant.

“Time had turned the magical to mundane.”

It did not grip me the way it did the first time around. I read it “like a normal book”, without any major problems to put it down after having read 10-15 pages or so. So I did not have that all-nighter-reading-experience again.

An intricate weave
It is a good book though. It is gripping. The intricate weave of the lives and destinies of the four major characters is like a tapestry of the middle ages, one of those many meters long tapestries depicting all sorts of stories at the same time. The Bayeux Tapestry comes to mind. A fine balance is that rich – containing enough sub-stories and interesting side characters to make it into ten different novels if Mistry had wanted to. Instead, he condensed it all down into one thick book.

Me, an ignorant Swede
When I read it the first time, I was astonished to understand that Indira Gandhi was not “just good”. As an ignorant young Swede, I had only picked up on the fact that here was a female Prime Minister of a huge country, something that still has yet to happen in Sweden (having a female head of state, that is). So the book opened me up to understand that there was more to it than that, much more.

“You see, you cannot draw lines and compartments, and refuse to budge beyond them. Sometimes you have to use your failures as stepping-stones to success. You have to maintain a fine balance between hope and despair.”

And I think those aspects, the much more than I had understood before-aspects of A fine balance, are actually the ones that still, my second read, tugged at me the most. I just do not want to accept the atrocities we humans can inflict on other humans. I. Do. Not. Be it demolishing the hovels of the destitute congregating in slum areas, the way Beggarmaster ensures his beggars have the appropriate combination of heart-tugging handicaps, be it blindness or the loss of limbs, or how Indian state and local officials performed the most horrendous acts of violence upon their citizens during the Emergency. I just do not want to accept that things like this happen. But it does.

Best book ever, still?
The language of the book is beautiful, Mistry paints his story using rich and colorful language like many Indian authors seem to. Resembling the rich and colorful country that is India? But is it still the best book I’ve ever read?

Well. Yes – because that’s how it affected me the first time I read it. And, well, no, because this time around it did not grip me as thoroughly as it did then, and I have other books more recent in mind that have. It is definitely worth reading though, don’t get me wrong! All of us in the Gifted book club agreed on that, even though it – once more – became so apparent that there are many different ways to read a book. Makes for interesting book club conversations, and thank god for that, otherwise, what would be the point right?


The book I am blogging about is part of the book-reading challenge I’ve set for myself during 2019, to read and blog about 12 Swedish and 12 English books, one every other week, books that I already own.

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Thinking, Fast and Slow (book 25 of 26)

December 16, 2018
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Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman is not an easy read. It’s not an impossibly hard read either. But sure, it’s not a book one breezes through in a day or two, at least not me. And yet, that’s almost what I made myself do, as I had my Sunday deadline, and had only gotten about 20% of the book read earlier in the week.

“You think with your body, not only with your brain.”

Kahneman won the Nobel prize of Economics in 2002 for the discovery he writes about in Thinking, Fast and Slow, describing the two different sets of “systems” in our brains, causing us to think fast (most of the time) and slow (as little as possible, from what I gather) when (fairly) appropriate.

“‘Risk’ does not exist ‘out there’, independent of our minds and culture, waiting to be measured. Human beings have invented the concept of ‘risk’ to help them understand and cope with the dangers and uncertainties of life. Although these dangers are real, there is no such thing as ‘real risk’ or ‘objective risk’.” – Paul Slovic

When I posted a blurb on Facebook about having 40% of reading left in this book, I got a comment from a friend stating “Haha. The book that most people never finish. Me included.” and I completely understand. I admit, that this is one of those books that I would have stopped reading was it not for my reading challenge. The first part is super-interesting, but parts of part two, three and four are a bit heavy, I have to say.

“To think clearly about the future, we need to clean up the language that we use in labeling the beliefs we had in the past.”

I had no problem finding lots of passages from the book to share, and there are plenty more where these came from. But still, unless you are really nerdy about the brain and behavior, I bet you can find a great video on You Tube explaining the concepts of Kahneman in 10-15 minutes or so. (Just did a quick search on YT. Yes. You can. Better bet than picking up a copy of the actual book.)

“Optimism is normal, but some fortunate people are more optimistic than the rest of us. If you are genetically endowed with an optimistic bias, you hardly need to be told that you are a lucky person – you already feel fortunate. An optimistic attitude is largely inherited, and it is part of a general disposition for well-being, which may also include a preference for seeing the bright side of everything. If you were allowed one wish for your child, seriously consider wishing him or her optimism. Optimists are normally cheerful and happy, and therefore popular; they are resilient in adapting to failures and hardships, their chances of clinical depression are reduced, their immune system is stronger, they take better care of their health, they feel healthier than others and are in fact likely to live longer.”

The part about optimism I find really interesting because based on the experience I have of living life as Helena, I’ve changed from being a pessimist to becoming an optimist. I even have a hard time spending time with die-hard pessimists nowadays… So I don’t know about the genetic disposition? Or perhaps, that’s just one way of being a fortunate optimist, the other is by intentionally deciding to become one?

“Some experimenters have reported that an angry face ‘pops out’ of a crowd of happy faces, but a single happy face does not stand out in an angry crowd. The brains of humans and other animals contain a mechanism that is designed to give priority to bad news.”

Given the way we (modern human beings) live our life, I dare say being aware of this negativity bias is a really good idea, also because of the focusing illusion: “Any aspect of life to which attention is directed will loom large in a global evaluation. This is the essence of the focusing illusion, which can be described in a single sentence: Nothing in life is as important as you think it is when you are thinking about it.”

Or the way I usually express it: we get more of that which we focus on. So be mindful of what you think about!


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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Outliers (book 17 of 26)

August 26, 2018
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in Tip
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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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26 English books to read during 2018

January 3, 2018
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in Tip
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One of my sub targets for the year, linked with my intention to live a more intentional digital and analog life during 2018, is to read 26 Swedish and 26 English books, books that I already own. There are more books in the house, still unread that I want to read, but of the English books these 26 were the most enticing.

26 English books

As you can see, it’s a mix of new and old books. The Swedish collection has a more diverse touch to it, whereas this collection feels a bit heavier. However, all of these books have one thing in common: I want to read them!

SwopI pondered if I should predetermine which book to read what week, but decided against it. Have entered all the books (both Swedish and English) into my Goodreads-profile under ”To read”, so I have them there, when the time comes to move them, one by one, into ”Currently reading” before filing them under ”Read”.

However, as I did that, I noticed that I actually already read David Whyte’s The house of belonging. So I replaced it with a book I got from a fellow Supercoach in 2014, which I’ve been intending to read ever since.26 English on display

I will read these chosen English books every other week, and blog about them (at least once) by the end of said week. I started off the year with a Swedish book, so you’ll just have to wait for another week before knowing which book I start with out of these 26.

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Welcome 2018 – living an intentional digital and analog life

January 1, 2018
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Welcome 2018Welcome 2018, the year when…

  • I continue being gengle with myself – this is a perspective upon life that I will forever carry with me.
  • I live a more intentional life, in both digital and analog aspects – choosing what’s most fitting given the situation.
  • digital 24-hour sabbats will become a ritual in my everyday life. Every month? Weekly? Not sure, but two per month minimum.
  • my bedroom is a sheltered analog zone, without computers, iPads or phones, and if I need an alarm clock I will work it out with something other than my IPhone.
  • I will not buy a single online-course based on me watching video clips and reflect on my own. It. Does. Not. Work. For Me. I have learnt this lesson now.
  • I will, despite what I just wrote, restart and complete the “A year to clear what is holding you back” purchased during 2017.
  • I will be going – with good company – to an “analog” writers course with Bob Hansson at Mundekulla.
  • Pernilla Tillander and I will continue to work together – grow, learn and have loads of fun doing it – in Skurup for the ESF-project Include & Meet.
  • I will read 26 Swedish and 26 English books, one per week: books I already own. Each Sunday I will do a reflection on either blog on the book of the week.
  • above and beyond the 52 “books I already own” I will set my #Goodreadsreadingchallenge for 2018 to one hundred books.
  • I will let my Upholder-tendency have free reins, which you can see in the above, which for me is far from a punishment, rather, quite the challenge, something that tickles and entices me!
  • I aim at being a ChattyMeals-hostess and/or attend others ChattyMeals at least on a monthly basis. LÄNKA
  • riding my bike and taking walks, as well as my daily Seven and my Headspace-meditations, will continue to be my daily companions in life.
  • my economic husbandry gains clarity – in all senses. What this really means is something still remaining for me to defins, so I know what it truly is I want to achieve.
  • my eldest will graduate. Yikes. How time flies. This deserves a celebration!
  • I – perhaps more important than anything else – will enjoy life, explore, discover, expand, and in all manners possible allow myself to have as much fun as I can!

Intentions of previous years have come to me more in the form of a single word, more or less. This year is different, but if I summarize all of the above, this is where I end up: Living an intentional digital and analog life. That will be the intention for 2018.

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Doing gentle – 20 – Listen. Read. Watch.

May 29, 2016
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I take in a lot, and wasn’t all that surprised when Strengths Finder indicated that Input is one of my foremost strengths.

I listen. To podcasts. To people around me. To documentaries, wise friends, to nature. To myself, the inner voice.

I read. Books. Fiction as well as non-fiction. Blogs. Articles. Snippets on social media.

I watch. Myself. Those around me. Society at large. TED Talks. Inspirational movies, shows, clips.

I’ve always done this.

readBut there’s been a shift, these past three-four years. I used to bounce good things, that is, I’d get it, read it, listen to it, watch it, and immediately send it back out into the world. As is. And I grew dissatisfied with that habit of bouncing. I wanted to sit with stuff more, reflect, put my own twist to it. Send it back out into the world, yes, but with the addition of my own words to it. With my images. Adding a layer, a tone, adding me. Explaining why I felt this was important, inspiring, innovative.

And in doing that – mostly through my daily blogging – the level of my intake has shifted. Possibly I take in less, in numbers. But I definitely take in more, in depth. I go deeper. That which calls out to me, I often read, more than once. I often listen to, or watch, more than once. I want to get deeper, find the nuances. And every iteration means I hear, or see, or notice, something new. I experience more.

This has made life richer. Less black-and-white, less either-or. More flavors. More colors.

It’s as if I am a consumer. And a producer. At the same time. I used to consume. Period. And when I started to produce (for me, blog posts, mainly, but also the work I put into the coaching I do, and the non-profits I am involved in) I realized that consumption is simply part of the deal. It’s one side of the coin, and both are needed for the coin to have any real value.

So. Listen. Read. Watch. And then – make something of it. If only for yourself, within yourself, making it come alive within you. Nothing more is needed. If you want to put it out into the world. Do. If you don’t. Don’t. But regardless, be open to, reflect and learn from that which you hear, read, watch.

Welcome to my humble abode, where the underlying tone centers around being gentle to oneself. On Sundays I share thoughts on how I do gentle, and I hope you enjoy it. If you do, please subscribe to updates so you won’t miss out on future posts in this series.

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