reading

At Play in the Fields of the Lord (book 9 of 12)

At Play in the Fields of the Lord (book 9 of 12)

August 17, 2020
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”Holding his breath, swaying drunkenly beneath a bulb which illumined little more than grime and moisture, Moon stared awhile at the cement wall; it took just such a hopeless international latrine in the early hours of a morning, when a man was weak in the knees, short in the breath, numb in the forehead and rotten in the gut, to make him wonder where he was, how he got there, where he was going; he realized he did not know and never would. He had confronted his same latrine on every continent and not once had it come up with an answer; or rather, it always came up with the same answer, a such and gurgle of unspeakable vileness, a sort of self-satisfied low chuckling: Go to it, man, you’re pissing your life away.”

I bought At Play in the Fields of the Lord by Peter Matthiessen in the mid-nineties, in Bangkok, Thailand, in an Asia Books bookstore. My brother lived in Thailand the last decade of the last century, and books were but one of the things I had a habit of bringing home with me (much rather books than the amoeba I took home a few years later). This book has managed not to get culled in my now-and-then book-culling events, but coming up on 2020 I decided its time was now. Either I read it, or I let the book go. I chose to read it.

”[…]; when his hands were in use, his whole face eased and softened, and a tentative humor would replace his tiresome sense of moral right. With the vanity evaporated, with sweat on his dirty face and his hip-pocket comb forgotten, the face took on a true handsomeness of strength.”

Throughout high school I had a romantic notion of becoming an ethnopharmacologist like Paul Cox, active in the Samoan Islands. I have an inkling that this book spoke to that part of me, even though it’s not about ethnopharmacology per se. Rather, it’s about man. And nature. And what happens when cultures clash, in more ways than one.

”How easily, in the absence of children, the whole experience of life became abstracted, a pattern of words and daydreams. Because the life in Billy was so fresh and immediate, he had served as a reminder of reality.”

Now and again, I read a book, that I don’t know how to rate in Goodreads, upon pressing the I have finished this book”-button, moving it from Currently Reading to Have Read. This is such a book.
Did I like it? No. Not really.
Did I enjoy reading it? Not particularly.
So it warrants a really low rating? Well. No. It doesn’t. Just because it’s not an easy read, and it’s somewhat confusing, incomprehensible at times, it’s not a book that deserves anything less than three stars (on a scale of 1-5, with 5 being the highest rating). Possibly four. Maybe even five, because I honor the complexity of it, the experience, or research that must have gone into the preparations.

There are sentences, passages, that I find extremely beautiful.
Some that are so descriptive, I can feel the green rotting smell of the jungle while reading.
Others that speaks of truth (perhaps even Truth?).

”Our Christian–that is, Western–outlook is rather lugubrious, do you not think? We have persuaded ourselves that abnegation”–and he touched his cassock, not without irony–”and self-sacrifice are superior to joyous self-expression, to the emotions simple being? Now… if we could just take time from our teaching of our poor Indians, we might learn something from them. After all, the Indians come out of Asia, theirs is essentially an Eastern culture; they do not seek for meaning: they are. They are not heavy the way we are, they are light as the air; their being is a mere particle of the universe, like a leaf or wing of dragonfly or wisp of cloud. Unlike ourselves, they are eternal.”

Perhaps it’s one of those books that I am happy to have read, rather than having been happy while reading?


The book I am blogging about is part of the book-reading challenge I’ve set for myself during 2020, to read and blog (more or less) monthly about 12 Swedish and 12 English books, books that I already own.

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The signal value of reading

August 9, 2020
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For me, ”doing nothing” for the past month has, to a large extent, meant doing nothing but read. 20 books later, I got to talk about reading with Caspian the other day, speaking about the signal value of seeing someone read a book, rather than knowing they read (most commonly before falling asleep, I assume) but never actually seeing them with a book.

Both my parents read, read a lot, and read whenever there’s a possibility to read, not just before bedtime. And that’s been true for as long as I can remember. My grandparents also read, all of them. My aunts, my cousins, my siblings. We read. It’s simply something we do. (My mom says that once I learned how to read, I never stopped.)

But what Caspian said made me realize that today, when there are so many other ways of reading a book than to actually be holding a physical book –audiobooks, Kindle/ebooks–, I wonder at the signal value of it all. If I’m listening to a book (using my headphones that is), no one knows. I might as well be listening to music or a pod or whatever. And if I’m on my phone/iPad/computer reading an ebook, well… no one knows either. It looks the same as if I am scrolling SoMe, flicking thru the latest headlines in an online news site, or watching something on Netflix. If I’m on an actual Kindle, perhaps someone makes the link, knowing what a Kindle is and what it looks like, but I’m not sure everyone does. (That’s not true. I am sure not everyone knows what a Kindle is/looks like.)

Now, I love the physical book, because the kinesthetic value of it enriches my reading experience. I retain a physical sense of knowing if passages that stick out to me were in the beginning, middle or end of the book, on the right or left-hand page, if it was at the top, middle or bottom of the page, as well as being able to feel how much of the book remains. I love that. Am happy if people are reading books though, regardless of the medium.

But the signal value of it… that one has me puzzled. Perhaps I would not be reading as much as I do if I hadn’t seen my parent read all the time? Or if they had read in other ways than the very visible and easily spotted physical book?

What about you, who were your reading role models? And are you one?


#tankespjärn, for those who wish to discover. More. Other. New.
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calling out for mama

June 6, 2020
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She showed me the trailer to American son on Netflix, and in no time at all, I asked if we couldn’t watch it. So we did. Had us frustrated, irritated, annoyed, upset and shocked.

Then a friend in The Creative’s Workshop discovered Stabat Mater, the piece Jens Bragdell Eriksson, my choirmaster, wrote in 2016 for my choir. Listening she wrote, having me put the album on myself, so I can listen knowing she’s doing the same, on the other side of the world. Together, at a time like this. Important. Vital. Rejuvenating. 

American Son.

Stabat Mater.
At the Cross her station keeping,
stood the mournful Mother weeping,
close to her Son to the last.

And George Floyd calling out for his mama, before dying.
(Click this link. Read it. Promise me, you’ll read it. Then come back here.)

The synchronicity of it hitting me hard.
Parents. Children.
Death. Dying.
Life. Living. 

Trying to make sense of experiences I cannot possibly experience, asking when I don’t, taking in the differences in what it is to be human, in someone else’s body. 

There’s so much to learn, and I intend to continue learning.
Listening. Reading. Watching. Conversing. Asking. Writing. 

Being. And Doing.

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#blackouttuesday

June 2, 2020
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On this #blackouttuesday as I sit here, trying to take it all in, reading some (not a lot), watching some (not a lot), listening some (not a lot), I come back to this:

Attention energizes.
Intention informs.

To what do I give my attention?
What do I want to see more of in this world?

How am I being informed by my intentions?
What’s my learning like?
How can I expand it, go beyond, stretch myself, crossing edges as yet not crossed by me, helping me learn more, see more, grasp more?

And then… turning the energizing attention, and the informed intention into action.
That’s how change is made, by Being the person Doing the work.

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The nudges of inner wisdom

May 23, 2020
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Woke up Thursday morning with a strong urge to stay put. To not make sure I got my normal daily ten kilometers in my body. To not step one foot outside of my property. I just didn’t want to leave.

Now.

This isn’t unheard of, sometimes I get into a reading marathon and simply stay at home… but I don’t think I ever actually felt such a strong sensation, telling me, whispering to me, to stay put.

So I did.
Had lunch in the garden and then spent hours out there.
Reading. Weeding. Reading some more. Repotting plants and seedlings. Reading some more.
Just being.

The day after I had the same sense, but went by car with Mr D to fetch some soil for the garden. Much needed and a good little excursion. One that definitely didn’t make me get any 10K in me. 

And today, I had the same sense… until it was four o’clock when, all of a sudden, I wanted to go for a slow barefoot walk.
So I did.

Listening within.
Hearing the nudges of inner wisdom.
Telling me to slow down. Let go. Just be.

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I love it, and I loath it.

April 18, 2020
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Last year I did two digital sabbats most months, each lasting at least 24 hours, oftentimes 48 hours or more. It’s a habit I’ve not properly carried forward into 2020, even though my need for it certainly hasn’t diminished. On the contrary.

But last night I gave myself the gift of a Social Media sabbath, checking out from Facebook and Instagram, Tinder and LinkedIn, and have now been off for 25 hours. The mindless reaching for my phone, unlocking it, swiping to my SoMe-folder on screen two, opening up Instagram, scrolling, giving a heart here and there, writing a comment or two, moving on, then Facebook, scrolling, giving a thumbs up, writing a comment or two, moving on, then Tinder, checking to see if there’s a new match or a new message, swiping left, left, left, right, left, then back to Instagram, then… on and on.

It is so mindless. Such a waste of time.
T h i s aspect of it. The almost unconscious routine-like habit of it; my inner SoMe-junkie in search of my next high. It doesn’t all have to be mindless though. The potential for connection is there, it is real. But that potential can be harnessed with much less waste of time.

Going on SoMe-sabbaths gives me the ability to witness myself and my interactions, to observe what I do, when I do, how I do, and realize that now and again, the why I do isn’t all too clear. And, so what? If I want to waste my time once in a while, so be it. My choice. My life. Sometimes, that’s what Is. And that’s fine. But I do want to be conscious of it. I want to choose to just be, letting myself be unproductive, non-effective, time-wasting, rather than feel addicted to it.

I’m quite particular about what I want to let myself be addicted to. Reading, hell yeah! Moving my body, of course. Silence and solitude, wouldn’t want to be without. But caffeine? No way. Don’t like coffee, but am seriously restrictive about tea as well, because I truly do not appreciate the headache that rears its ugly head after the fifth-day-in-a-row of having a cup or two of black or green tea. Nicotine? Nah, have never gone down that road, and alcohol is the same. I am really restrictive, and much prefer a glass of water to a glass of wine or beer which makes it very easy to not build habits around drinking.

But social media?
Huh… For me, it’s a different creature, for sure.
And I guess that’s why I am torn. I love it, and I loath it, all at once. A beast to be tamed? Or is this me trying to control me to an unhealthy degree? Should I just let myself off the hook, and scroll mindlessly to my heart’s desire without giving it another thought?


#tankespjärn, for those who wish to discover. More. Other. New.
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12 English books to read in 2019

January 5, 2019
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The sub-challenge of 2018 to read 26 English (as well as 26 Swedish) books was enjoyable, to the extent that I will do a version of it this year as well. So I’ve chosen 12 English (and 12 Swedish) books that were in my home come New Years, that I will read in 2019. Just like in 2018, I will blog about these on Sundays, once a month/blog. Besides this sub-challenge, my overall reading challenge for 2019 is to read (a minimum of) 75 books, and you can tag along on my reading journey over on my Goodreads-profile.

A fairly good mix this year as well, and I look forward to getting acquainted with each and every one of them. Three of these I have had warming my bookshelves for quite a few years (Hargreaves/Fullan, Alsén/Troedson and Yunus) but the rest I got in 2018. I have learned my lesson from last year, and will not hold back on reading “the heavy books” until the end of the year, that’s for sure. And the heavy artillery is here, in the English section, I don’t think there are any really heavy reads amongst the Swedish ones (but hey. Who am I to guess?).

Sara gave me Lame deer; D suggested Tarnas; Hargreaves/Fullan I picked up during my school activist-days; I bought Ben David at Ängsbacka during a workshop she held; Homo Deus I ordered before I finished Sapiens because I wanted to read this one as well; Don’t Panic I bought directly from Troed; my sister, and others, praise this Murakami as being his best so when I stumbled upon it at a second-hand shop, I figured I’d give it a go. Banker for the poor is, embarrassingly enough, probably an illegal book copy I bought on the streets of Mumbai ten years ago; Clapton’s guitar I found at another second-hand shop in Karlskrona during a rare in-the-flesh-Mastermind-meeting; Coyle has been recommended to me; Whitehead was my pick from the rewards for having read and reviewed x number of books for the library’s “Summer book-challenge”; and finally: A fine balance. This book is special. Since I read it (in 98? 96? In Thailand anyway, visiting my brother.) I’ve pegged as the best book I’ve ever read. (Funnily enough, my brother says the same, and still does, I brought it up with him this week when we FaceTimed.) I have yet to re-read it, but when it showed up on the shelves of a second-hand store, I thought the time has come to do just that. And to ensure I will read it thoroughly it’s also my chosen book for the Gifted book club. I wonder: will I still think it’s the best book I’ve ever read after my re-read?

Have you read any of the books above, and if so, what did you think of it/them?

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2019. As I am.

January 1, 2019
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As I am. 

I asked my friend D to translate “gown off” into Swedish. “Gown off” popped up in my first conversation with my new coach. I described the general feeling of that conversation, and somehow D managed, as so often (always?), put words to that which goes unspoken.

So all of a sudden, “gown off” turned into “as I am”, which feels spot on. This is how I step into 2019, filled with energy and curiosity, with champagne bubbles coursing through my entire body, eager and ecstatic to experience all that is to come, “as I am”. Naked. Raw. Intimate. With power and pleasure.

2019. The year when I will…
* have my bodily wellbeing in focus by:

  • continuing with my daily Seven accompanied by burpees
  • Headspace daily
  • run a minimum of  75 runs
  • take cold (outdoors) baths as often as I can – and add to this by taking cold showers
  • dance Lindy hop as often as I can (taking a class during the spring, and then there’s the social dancing as well!)
  • continuing to ribe my bike and walk as much as possible

* have my mental and spiritual wellbeing in focus by:

  • reading at least 75 books, of which 12 in Swedish and 12 in English already have been chosen. These 12 + 12 I will be blogging about.
  • learn at least five songs by heart including lyrics on the guitar, which will be made possible by my aim at ten minutes of guitar playing on a daily basis
  • I will let the wonderful book The book of Awakening by Mark Nepo be my daily companion
  • hold digital 24-hour sabbats at least twice a month

* have creation in focus by:

  • booking at least four two-day writing retreats during the year
  • keeping up with daily Facebook Lives for as long as there’s energy in doing it
  • blog daily
  • start to pod

* have financial husbandry in focus by:

  • sowing, sowing and sowing a little bit more; on a weekly basis intentionally work on my various income streams
  • keep tabs on my set invoicing goal on a monthly basis
  • keep an accounts book on private income and expenses

And finally – on all levels – experiment and play, experience pleasure and exploring and challenging myself, all the while being gentle to myself!

2019. Here I come. As I am. Gown off! 

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Good bye 2018…

December 31, 2018
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Good bye 2018, the year when…

  • I expanded upon the intentions of previous years, from a word to a full sentence: living an intentional digital and analog life, which got a lot of activities and plans, that I’ve been following up on a monthly basis (on the Swedish blog).
  • I started the year with being a teacher at Newton college of higher vocational studies. The course is called Mapping and documenting processes, and the students were Business Analysts IT. Thrilling, challenging and very generative. Am gearing up for a re-run, as I will be giving this course in January of 2019 as well.
  • our divorce was finalized. At the same time, I took over full ownership of the house (with a little help from the bank, of course).
  • I visited Paris for the first time, with the kids, my mother, aunt, brother and nieces. Glorious!
  • my eldest graduated from secondary upper gymnasium. Time sure does fly…
  • I’ve started to explore inner and outer dimensions of myself in new ways. I spent my birthday at a godess weekend course, spent a week at the No Mind-festivalen at Ängsbacka. And towards the end of summer I painted a mandala with Lisa Withlovelisa Rislöw before taking a two-day course in Playful Tantra with Charlotte. Talk about being wowed! So maybe you’ll not be surprised that I’ve also downloaded Tinder…
  • for a full week, I had my lovely Campfire Sisters visiting Sweden.
  • for the better part of 6 months, I’ve been low… which I realized when I stopped being low in the end of October. Not surprising given the past years up’s and down’s, and yet, it feels good “to be back”.
  • I joined the #BusinessBoomUtmaning on Facebook at the beginning of Novemver, and have since done a Facebook Live every day, something I think I will continue doing! It’s fun, expanding and rewarding. Earlier in the fall I recorded my first #TeachingOfTheDay at the bequest of Caspian, and both these activities have gotten me started in many ways.
  • I finally took up swing dancing again, also known as Lindy hop. I absolutely love it and will continue dancing!
  • I got myself a new coach – and boy am I ever curious about what this will generate in 2019! One thing is for sure; I want to coach more than I have these past years, and I very much look forward to this.
  • I let my Upholder tendency run loose (looser than before). This has resulted in…
    * 21 digital sabbats, minimum 24 hours, but a few were 48 hours long
    * 5 ChattyMeals with me as hostess, and one that I took part of as a guest
    * 52 runs, which evens out to one a week, which is what I set my mind to
    * 110 days of practicing the guitar
    * my daily Seven this morning being my 1597th in a row (yes. For 1597 days I have done my morning exercise!). As part of my daily Sevens I’ve also done 2890 burpees (since I started that challenge May 28th 2016 I haven’t gone a day without at least one burpee, and have done a total of 12442 burpees by now).
    * me doing 1597 Headspace meditations, but with a broken run streak. Today was my 108th Headspace in a row. For some reason it’s easier to remember doing my daily Seven than the meditation, so once in a while, I forget a day.
    * I’ve decided to do my German DuoLingo-course daily as well – today was day 157, and there are only 11 lessons left to get to level 2, then I’ve reached level 2 for the full course. There are a total of five levels, so I have my work cut out for me a few more years!
  • And then. The reading. Massive enough to warrant its own bullet.
    I challenged myself to read 100 books in 2018, and I did, last night. Managed to squeeze in one more book this morning, so I have read a total of 101 books in 2018, reading 28 723 pages…
    I added two more challenges to this as well:
    1) to read 26 Swedish and 26 English books, chosen a year ago (books I already had at home), and to blog about them every Sunday on my two blogs. Lats last night I crossed the finishing line, with The Black Swan being the last of the English books.
    2) reading the alphabet in 2018, a challenge I stumbled upon when a lady made a comment on a blog post of mine. I only partly managed this one, reading 21 of 29 letters of author given names, 23 of 29 letters of author surnames, 24 of 29 on book title, but… luckily I managed to read all the letters when combining these three lists, so I did manage to read the entire (Swedish) alphabet, 29 out of 29 letters done!

Now… time to prepare the New Years Eve dinner. I am grateful and happy for this rich and exciting year, and I am pleased to be able to round off this year like this. Reflecting back, with gratitude, giving me a form of closure of the year that’s passed, which makes for a great start-off point for 2019.

With this, I wish you and your loved ones a very happy New Year!

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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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