Wandering with my eyes and heart open, searching for pieces to add to my own personal big picture.

Category: New Reads Page 1 of 21

The Portable Atheist: New Read

The Portable Atheist – Essential Readings for the Nonbeliever – selected and with introductions by Christopher Hitchens is another one of those books that I didn’t write down why I ordered it. There was a reason. It came to me through another book, or a podcast…something. Every book on my TBR list has an origin story. I hate when I lose track of them, and yet I can’t seem to create a system that helps me.

Anyway, it’s been on my shelf for a while now and I’ve been meaning to pick it up. It’s filled with some of my favorite authors: Thomas Hobbes, Percy Shelley, John Stuart Mill, Mark Twain, George Orwell, even Penn Jillette! So why has it taken so long for me to start reading it?

Fear of being mis-judged.

Even writing this, I’m afraid to admit how I really feel, what my real thoughts are. Why? Because not everyone that reads this will understand and some may be disappointed. These are two my biggest fears in life, two things that have held me in mortal terror. I wish they didn’t and I’m trying to repair that rip in my soul, but you probably know how complicated that is.

This morning I posted the picture of the book on my Facebook page with this,

I debated for days whether to post about this book here for fear of being seen by my friends and family as a member of one team or another for exploring a point of view.

I’m not having it. Think what you want. I know my own mind.”

If I could get one thing through to the whole world it would be that I’m not on one team or another, anywhere. I don’t believe in teams at all. In fact, I think the idea of teams is one of the biggest problems we have right now. This whole “if you’re not with me, you’re against me” crap is killing us. From politics and religion to lifestyle and race…please, just stop.

Why am I reading this book? Because I respect the opinions of others and wish to learn more about them, possibly even adopt some of them as my own.

This morning I finished reading the introduction and it was hard. The tone is what I’m not appreciating. It’s something I dislike about believers and nonbelievers alike. This “holier than thou” attitude, as if anyone that does not agree with them is clearly an imbecile and should be ashamed of themselves. It’s not the way to win friends and influence people. In the first few pages, I’ve already found much that I don’t agree with and much that I do. I’d love to sit and talk about it, page by page, with someone who is genuinely curious about humanity and religion.

Why is it that we create religions in the first place? It seems today we’ve created brand new “godless” ones to fight about and beat people with; science, politics, culture, and lifestyle. I honestly think it’s something about human nature, some evolutionary thing that drives us to make an authority outside our own selves and create community and belonging around it. And then we take it and fight to the death over it to stay safe from “others.”

I’m looking forward to reading all these essays. I know it will take me quite some time to read and digest it all. I hope you’ll stick with me and hear me out, maybe even chime in with your own thoughts from time to time.

Heart of Darkness: New Read

I read Heart of Darkness in my early 20’s…geez that was a long time ago. Why did I read it? I’m not sure. It wasn’t for school. I had dropped out of university the year I turned twenty. I remember Barnes & Noble having a series of hardbacked classics at the time. They were relatively cheap, and I had decided to buy a new one each time I went in and then…wait for it…read them. I couldn’t live forever on Stephen King and Dean Koontz. I was trying to broaden my horizons.

I’d heard that the movie Apocalypse Now was based on that book. I still can’t stand that movie. It’s so depressing. I’m not sure what it is about any Vietnam era anything. I can’t discuss it calmly. “Understandable,” you think. Sure, but I swear it’s different for me. I don’t know. The feeling is strange. There’s no other subject that I am this averse to. It’s like a memory of a traumatic experience, and I wasn’t even born until 1972, so maybe it’s past life thing…who knows.

But Heart of Darkness! The first time I read it, I didn’t get it. I had no clue what was going on or what I was supposed to be understanding. And how, in the name of “based on the book,” was this related to Apocalypse Now? I don’t think I was paying close enough attention to either. I moved on.

Fast forward thirty years and I read Lord Jim, also by Joseph Conrad. I loved it, so I thought maybe I’d give his other books a try. That’s when I found this edition. It’s a used Barnes & Noble Classic and includes “selected short stories.”

This morning I read the introduction. Do you read those? I didn’t used to, but I read the one for Frankenstein and boy did it really make the story feel different. It meant so much more to me. I suppose if you’re reading a modern book, one written in your own time, from your own culture and language, it would be easier to see what the author was trying to get at. But the farther from my experience an author is, the harder it is for me to understand. Our vantage points on humanity are different, like someone on the other side of the universe pointing out stars to guide each other. Introductions move us closer together.

The introduction to this book was long, but great to read. Understanding where the author came from and the world he lived in, gives context to his fiction. It went into his life, when he was writing, and the controversy that followed his work then and now. It did get into some of Heart of Darkness and pointed out the similarities to Apocalypse Now, which was very helpful. I thought I might have to watch that movie again (torture) and now I don’t.

I’m looking forward to reading this. It starts with the short story, Youth, then Heart of Darkness, Amy Foster, and The Secret Sharer. I’ll be trying to post some thoughts daily. Have you read this? Was it for a class? Some people have said they had to read it in high school. We never read anything in high school. Literature wasn’t important, only grammar, again and again and again. But that’s another story.

The Dictionary of Lost Words: New Read

It’s not like me but, I guess I’m just in the mood for fiction right now, any fiction. Lucky for me, I just happen to have a lot of fiction on my TBR shelf! I picked up The Dictionary of Lost Words by Pip Williams this morning after reading about ten pages of Haves and Have-Nots by Mortimer J. Adler, saying to myself, “Nope. Not happening.” I’m just not in the mood for politics or government, especially older ones. This one was written in 1991 and within a couple pages, I knew it would just depress me, so I shut it and looked for something else.

The Dictionary of Lost Words is another book I picked up at Barnes & Noble while “just browsing” and getting a cup of coffee, a.k.a. “escaping the heat.” This morning when I started reading, it sounded so familiar. A garden shed at a university used as a workshop to sort words and meanings to create and update a dictionary in the late 1800’s.

I googled, of course. Yes! The Professor and the Madman. Different story, same subject. But the movie was based on a true story, and there was a book. Yes, it’s now on my TBR list.

It was huge relief to find that movie. I was starting to think this was another one of those books I’ve read in the past and had completely forgotten about. And it would have been doubly bothersome because I paid full retail price for this novel.

So far as I’ve read this morning, only about twenty pages because my son is here visiting and we have BIG plans for pancakes and bacon when he wakes up, it seems like an adorable story. The professor’s young daughter plays under the table in the morning while he works and discovers lost words that drop from above and no one retrieves.

The back cover says, “As she grows up, Esme realizes that words and meanings relating to women’s and common folks’ experiences often go unrecorded.” And “Set in the early twentieth century during the height of the women’s suffrage movement, The Dictionary of Lost Words reveals a missing narrative, hidden between the lines of a history written by men.”

The title is what prompted me to pick the book up off the table, and description is probably what prompted me to buy it.

The Mary Shelley Reader

I read Frankenstein years ago and fell madly in love with it. Always meant to go back and read it again and now I MUST!

Another book I picked up at Dog-Eared Pages in Phoenix, The Mary Shelley Reader. Frankenstein is first in the book, since it’s the first she published. I’m excited to get to Mathilda and her letters, too!

But first…a warning:

“A human being in perfection ought always to preserve a calm and peaceful mind, and never to allow passion or a transitory desire to disturb his tranquility. I do not think that the pursuit of knowledge is an exception to this rule. If the study to which you apply yourself has a tendency to weaken your affections, and to destroy your taste for those simple pleasures in which no alloy can possibly mix, then that study is certainly unlawful, that is to say, not befitting the human mind. If this rule were always observed; if no man allowed any pursuit whatsoever to interfere with the tranquility of his domestic affections, Greece had not been enslaved; Caesar would have spared his country; America would have been discovered more gradually; and the empires of Mexico and Peru had not been destroyed.”

Probably should go get the house cleaned up and go to the grocery store, not just sit here and read all day…again.

The Mary Shelley Reader
@desertdreamer72

The Splendid and The Vile: New Read

I picked up The Splendid and the Vile by Erik Larson at Costco a few months back while I was shopping with my mom. I try to cruise carefully (so that not too many throw themselves into my cart as I pass) through the books while I’m there just in case there’s a book that I recognize…or is about books, bookstores, libraries, etc. I can’t help it! I must bring them home! So far, I have had a pretty good record there.

When I saw a new book by Erik Larson, I grabbed it. I devoured The Devil in the White City last year, so this one is bound to be brilliant. And it’s about WWII and Churchill, something I already know a good bit about.

I started reading just before dawn this morning, after I finished an article in Creative Nonfiction magazine. That’s a new habit I’ve started, reading a magazine article first instead of scrolling through social media on my phone. I love magazines, but I tend to buy them and then never finish reading them because I set them aside for afternoon reading and then forget about them.

The new system is working because I’ve already finished one, and I’m halfway through another. It just goes to show that setting priorities for things you say you want to do does work. First things first! Right?

As I’m writing this, I’m 25 pages into The Splendid and the Vile. This man is amazing. More people should be writing history this way. From his introduction:

“Although at times it may appear to be otherwise, this is a work of nonfiction. Anything between quotation marks comes from some form of historical document, be it a diary, letter, memoir, or other artifact; any reference to a gesture, gaze, or smile, or any other facial reaction, comes from an account by one who witnessed it. If some of what follows challenges what you have come to believe about Churchill and this era, may I just say that history is a lively abode, full of surprises.”

And I love every moment I’m reading his books because he writes this way.

Here’s one more that caught my attention just before I closed the book this morning:

“But a civilian diarist named Nella Last had a different view, one she reported to Mass-Observation, an organization launched in Britain two years before the war that recruited hundreds of volunteers to keep daily diaries with the goal of helping sociologists better understand ordinary British life.”

I volunteer! Much of what we know about the details of the past comes from the diaries, not only of famous or important players, but regular people. People like you and me, just humming along our lives, jotting down notes about out thoughts and experiences. THAT’S why I keep a personal journal. And it’s why I encouraged friends and family to keep their own back when the shutdowns over Covid started.

Social media can be a great record of the community’s emotional climate, but personal journals, one’s you don’t expect anyone to read in your lifetime, are a much better barometer. We write what’s happening to us specifically, how we feel, what we might do, more openly and honestly because it’s not out for the world to read.

Looking back on my old journals, I wish I had made more of an effort to be consistent, especially when my children were younger or when there was a major crisis in our lives. But who has the time and wherewithal to sit and write at times like that? In hindsight, it may have been a good mental health practice to take that fifteen to thirty minutes a day to jot down at least a bulleted list of what happened and how I was feeling.

In my next life, I will. For now, I’ll encourage others to take up the pen or keyboard (the are advantages to both) daily for posterity! You never know who might read those words and how they may help reconstruct the details of the past.

On Disobedience: New Read

On Disobedience: Why Freedom Means Saying “No” to Power is the book I started reading on this very blustery Saturday morning. The subtitle says it all. I read Erich Fromm’s The Art of Loving back in November of 2020 and loved just about every page of it, so when I saw this small collection of essays written in the early 1960’s, I immediately had it sent to my house.

on disobedience

Disobedience is a major sin in our culture and I’ve railing against that idea for most of my adult life. I am not one with a “rebellious” nature. I do not feel like I must take the opposite stance of whatever authority figure presents as “the rules.” I want to work together and get along. BUT…again with the but…

I do not obey anyone blindly. In fact, I don’t believe I wish to obey anyone at all. What kind of a world could we live in if establishing an authority meant that your reasoning and argument were solid enough to convince others to agree with you, compromise with you, and work toward voluntary common goals?

“If the capacity for disobedience constituted the beginning of human history, obedience might very well, as I have said, cause the end of human history. I am not speaking symbolically or poetically. There is the possibility, or even the probability, that the human race will destroy civilization and even all life upon earth within the next five to ten years. There is no rationality or sense in it. But the fact is that, while we are living technically in the Atomic Age, the majority of men – including most of those who are in power – still live emotionally in the Stone Age; that while our mathematics, astronomy, and the natural sciences are of the twentieth century, most of our ideas about politics, the state, and society lag far behind the age of science. If mankind commits suicide it will be because people will obey those who command them to push the deadly buttons; because they will obey the archaic passions of fear, hate, and greed; because they will obey obsolete cliches of State sovereignty and national honor. The Soviet leaders talk much about revolutions, and we in the ‘free world’ talk much about freedom. Yet they and we discourage disobedience – in the Soviet Union explicitly and by force, in the free world implicitly and by the more subtle method of persuasion.”

Disobedience as a psychological and moral problem by erich fromm

Oh, so dire. Right? Makes one want to give up and run into the forest. End it all.

Or does it?

To me, it’s hopeful. Once again, nothing really changes, so why get worked up about it? Why should I ruin my beautiful day because tomorrow may never come? There’s work to do, there always is, but I’ll do what I can cheerfully and with hope that little individual changes make big progress down the road of time. And leave others to do the same in their own lives.

This book is short, only four essays in about 100 small pages, but it’s chock full of some amazing words, almost every one of which applies to everything we are experiencing now. That is the glory of well thought out work, words that aren’t simply rhetoric glorifying one side of an issue or another.

I’m sure I’ll be finishing the book today, so I’ll have some more words of my own to share tomorrow. See you then!

Disneyanity: New Read

It’s been a while since I bought a book because I saw in advertised in a magazine, but when I saw Disneyanity: Of “Walt” and Religion by Douglas Brode in Reason magazine two months in a row, I had to have it.

Background: Just in case you don’t know this, I am an avid Disney fan. How do I explain this? Here is one photo from high school to shed just a little light.

This is my “backpack,” or what I called it back then, “my travelling locker.”

I had everything I needed in here. All my books, my binders, my pens, along with various high school sundries. I had a locker at school, yes, but using it would require forethought and planning. I was more of a fly by the seat of my pants kind of girl, so I kept everything with me, just in case.

Me. Backstage as always. The “magic” maker.

Just in case what?

Well, what if I were in math class and already done with the assignment? I could work on history instead. And what if I were in the theater, which was where I was most of my day, and I found some downtime between rehearsals? I could work on whatever needed to be done…if I didn’t have to run to my locker and find it.

Knowing me, I’d forget what I was looking for while walking to my locker anyway, wander off and get a coke and a cookie instead.

Writing this I just realized something. This squirrel brain is not being caused by old age.

Like I was saying, I was (and still am) a huge Disney fan. You might even say more of a devout worshipper than a fan. I’ve fallen away at times, especially recently, but I always come back around. Don’t even get me started on the effects of the pandemic on my pilgrimages.

When I started working there, I was seventeen years old. I felt like I was entering the holy of holies, “maybe I should take my shoes off” kind of awe in my whole being. When I was ceremoniously cast outside the gates (fired) at 20, I was a “lost toy,” one of the darkest moments of my life.

And again, when I returned at 26, and finally chose to be home with my kids at 30. And then today…

Well, let’s say I’m worshipping from afar, dreaming of the day I’ll be able to return to the source of the magic.

disneyanity

When I saw this book promising, “a cogent and thought-provoking meditation on Disney Magic as Religious Belief,” I swooned. Could that feeling I’ve had since I was kid be a real thing, not just something I created for myself? Could others feel this way? I had to know more.

I’m 67 pages into the book already and loving it. It’s not what I expected. I’m not sure how I’ll share pieces of it with you, but something will come up, I’m sure. As the religious say, the spirit (or the muse) will speak somehow, if I allow it room.

I’ll leave you with one quote for today, one that sums up my feelings about fantasy and storytelling.

“’Fantasy is hardly an escape from reality,’ philosopher Lloyd Alexander stated, rather a ‘way of understanding it.’ As Disney realized, most people find everyday reality so unbearable that they must seek what appears merely blithe escapism as an alternative. Then again, what’s wrong with that? ‘Why should a man be scorned,’ J.R.R. Tolkien asked, ‘if, finding himself in prison, he tries to get out or go home? Or if he cannot do so, he thinks and talks about other topics than jailers and prison walls?’”

from Disneyanity by douglas brode

Does this sound familiar, dad? I’ve heard you say it a million times. “I don’t watch movies to see real life.”

In some ways, it is an escape. And there is nothing wrong with trying to move away from what is hurting you, to get some relief. In other ways, fantasy and story helps us explain our reality. It’s easier to hear the underlying problem and solutions offered if we’re talking about aliens instead of foreigners, talking trees instead of gods.

Disneyland was my escape in high school, my happy place where I wasn’t just another theater nerd, not another kid at school to be corralled and contained until I was old enough to be let loose on the world. I was a whole person there, especially once I started working there. Then I was “part of the magic” that millions came to see every year, one of the chosen.

So, yeah, I’m looking forward to reading this gem cover to cover. It feels like more of a collection of short essays about each film, so I may just pull out my favorite pieces, the ones that speak directly to issues that are dearest to me. I’ve found a few I completely disagree with already, so I’m sure you’ll read at least one where I disagree with Walt’s vision of the world.

…sigh…

It feels good to be back here. Thanks for reading with me!

Want read more posts about the book Disneyanity by Douglas Brode? Check out:
Storytelling in the Form of Movies
Silly Symphonies: It’s Research!

Nudity and Purpose: Final Thoughts on Disneyanity

Something Wicked: New Read

Let’s talk about Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury for just a few minutes. Have you read it? Did you see the Disney movie back in the 80’s? I have done neither. In fact, I didn’t even know what the book was about. Why did I get it? It was all part of a meticulous plan!

something wicked
Here he is, in my hot little hands! 😀

Nope! You know me. I saw it at the bookstore, love Ray Bradbury, don’t have that one, and dropped on top of my pile at the bookstore in which I swore I’d only get a cup of coffee and maybe buy ONE book. I wrote about that glorious day where I made a modest attempt to brighten the world a bit.

Sheesh…just realized that was nearly two months ago. Time flies when you’re…which brings me right back around to this beautiful book!

I thought it was high time for a novel, so I grabbed the first one I had sitting on my TBR shelf, noted it down in my reading journal and settled down into my comfy spot on the couch.

Two hours later, chills running up and down my spine, and warily looking out the window into the dark wondering if a creepy carnival might set up in my town while I sleep, I closed the book and made a few notes.

“I can see the Music Man movie while I read this. Has that feel. Trouble with a capital T!”

And “Bradbury…the way he writes I fall into the story and can’t find my way out. How does he do that!?”

The next day, after reading for a straight hour and half, I got a text. “Good morning! Come have coffee with me!” Virtually. We’re online friends, states apart.

I reply, “Can’t! I’m in love with a book and I cannot leave it now!”

“Who?”

“Bradbury.”

“Shit. I can’t compete with that.”

“Writers! Put your pens down, this man cannot be beat!”

“Someone has a crush!”

“Shut up. I’m busy!”

I didn’t think I had a favorite author, but here we are. And you know what’s strange? I never was a big fan of Fahrenheit 451. Anyway…

Something Wicked This Way Comes! What is it about? Facing time and death, something I could really use wise words about right now, creative and poetic ones. I love the Stoics and the philosophy does speak to my mind, but sometimes you just need some beauty. You know?

Here’s what I mean.

“…the carnival feels ulcerated egos miles off and lopes to toast its hands at that ache. It smells boys ulcerating to be men, paining like great unwise wisdom teeth, twenty thousand miles away, summer abed in winter’s night. It feels the aggravation of middle-aged men like myself, who gibber after long-lost August afternoons to no avail. Need, want, desire, we burn those in our fluids, oxidize those in our souls, which jet streams out lips, nostrils, eyes, ears, broadcasts from antennae-fingers, long and short wave, God only knows, but the freak-masters perceive Itches and come crab-clustering to Scratch. It’s traveled a long way on an easy map, with people handy by every crossroad to lend it lustful pints of agony to power it on. So maybe the carnival survives, living off the poison of the sins we do to each other, and the ferment of our most terrible regrets.”

Did you get that? Did you look back and realize what poison we fill ourselves with, regretting the past, worrying about the unknowable future? We sit and waste what little time we have with that crap, all the while calling to ourselves more misery to lament tomorrow.

We only have today. This moment right now. Live it just the way it is.

And by that I don’t mean run out and get crazy, spend all your money, or leave what you have in the lurch. I mean actually be aware of the glory of this day.

There are times, too many, when I get angsty about time. I’m wasting it sitting reading this book, doing the dishes again, or laying on the couch watching a movie. Am I? Only if I’m grumbling about what I could be doing instead, pissing and moaning that life could be different. Instead, I take a deep breath and look around me. I have the money and leisure to read. I have made meals and shared them. I am with a person I love enjoying a program we love, making memories.

Anything you are doing is not time wasted if you love what you’re doing. My son told me that.

But what if you don’t? Then do something right now to love it or change it. Make that date, buy that thing, go to that place. Make a plan and do it because tomorrow may never come. It’s cliché, yes, but it’s true.

One more thing before I go. Why do we fear death so much? Everything on this planet dies. It is inescapable.

“Death doesn’t exist. It never did, it never will. But we’ve drawn so many pictures of it, so many years, trying to pin it down, comprehend it, we’ve got to thinking of it as an entity, strangely alive and greedy. All it is, however, is a stopped watch, a loss, an end, a darkness. Nothing. And the carnival wisely knows we’re more afraid of Nothing than we are of Something. You can fight Something. But…Nothing? Where do you hit it?”

The Stoics say, “Memento Mori.” Remember death. And it took me a long time to understand why. Humans try to forget there is an end to everything. We’ve built up whole words to explain away and hide the fact that this consciousness ends, as far as we know. How do you fight that Nothing? You can’t and that’s what’s so scary.

Or is it? The older I get, the more I start to see that it’s not death I fear, but a life not lived. When we come up to the end, we look back and realize how much we didn’t get to do. Reminds me of my dad’s story of dragging me out of Disneyland when I was little.

It’s the ultimate acceptance of something we cannot change. The end comes and we must face it. Time does not speed up or go in reverse, not without dire consequences.

If I could get across one thing to people younger than me, to everyone really, it would be to live. Do what you want to do, enjoy the moment you are in, because tomorrow we die. Sounds depressing? I don’t think so. It’s permission to live without regrets.

Oh…and let others do the same. They are not living their life for you and to make them do so would be a tragedy for you both.

Norse Mythology: New Read

What is mythology?

The dictionary says: A body or collection of myths belonging to a people and addressing their origin, history, deities, ancestors, and heroes. But does that help define it? I don’t think so, so I’ll give you my definition of what mythology is.

Mythology is humanity attempting to describe, define, and explain their surroundings, where they came from, and why they are there, in creative and imaginative ways. All mythology expresses the creativity of the people in the context of where and when they are because humans love a great story.

And what are gods? Again, I’ll give you my definition.

The gods are our subconscious minds, swirling that context around in our heads and coming up with an explanation as to why things are happening. They speak to us in dreams and visions, tell us what we should do or which way to go.

Norse mythology

I picked up Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman because I am of Scandinavian and Irish decent and am not well-versed in the history or the mythology other than the Thor and Loki from Marvel comics, and that is just sad. I’ve been interested in heathenry and ancient religion for a few years now, only taking small forays into the subject, and it feels…real?

That’s not the right word though. It just resonates a bit, the whole acknowledgment of our natural surroundings, not worship in a godlike sense, but an awareness of it, acceptance of this reality instead of attempting to use spiritual means to change what is. It feels so human.

So why Neil Gaiman’s book instead of something more academic? Because I’m just getting started and I’d like to learn the stories in a similar way that children would have, around a campfire or hearth, through stories well-told. And Gaiman is the master of that.

I was not disappointed. This book is beautiful, and I highly recommend it, especially for kids. I can imagine reading this at bedtime with my sons, as we so often did. They would ask a million questions, come up with their own creative answers, and have vivid dreams to tell me in the morning all involving the imagery of the stories we had been reading about Loki’s cleverness and the Giants tricking the gods.

That reminds me…I mentioned in my post yesterday, I have a story to tell. The gods spoke to me in my dreams while I read this book.

My husband and I have been watching Outer Range in the evening. There’s another great story! I’ll be sitting here waiting as patiently as I can for the next season. Oh, there better be another season! Too many questions left unanswered! It’s like a western Twin Peaks.

But I digress.

In the morning, I read Norse Mythology. In the evening I watch Outer Range. Then my youngest son texts me, emotional and stressed: college semester ends in two weeks, work is overwhelming, relationship struggles. Teenage years have nothing on the early twenties. I went to bed that night wondering (in true Mom fashion) if there was anything I could do to help.

I have always had vivid dreams, even as a small child. I was a sleepwalker too, which led to some pretty funny family stories about my night adventures. This night, I dreamt as well.

My son fell into a wormhole of light in the ground and then it closed up behind him and I couldn’t reach him. I put my face to the ground and yelled to him. He could hear me; he would respond to my voice. I tried talking to him, asking him to describe what he saw and so I could possibly help him find his way back. It was so confusing.

After some time, I yelled to him that I was going to go find help, that I’d be back. I wasn’t deserting him. He didn’t respond and I was torn between staying there until he heard me and running for the help I knew I needed. Crying, I ran for help.

The next scene was my husband coming out of the shower. I frantically told him what happened, and he was completely non-plussed. In real life, that is his natural state, at least outwardly. His guiding principle is to let things go, relax, and see what happens. Only things that stick around are things you have to do anything about. And “do” usually means accept it and move on.

I kept explaining how upset he was and that we needed to get back there and help him. My husband smiled and went back to getting dressed. He said that our son would find his own way, he’s smart and capable. Besides, he can hear you for reassurance if he wants it.

That’s when I woke up. I got up, got my coffee and sat down next to my husband and told him the story. He laughed at the hole in the ground, just like Outer Range. Later, I texted the dream to my son. He thought it was bizarre too, sounded like a Twilight Zone. “It’s a big step, granted, but it’s just one.”

I went about my day, finished reading Norse Mythology, did my yoga practice, ate breakfast, and got in the shower. And that’s when it hit me. The gods have spoken.

In the night, my subconscious kept working on the problem. What can I do, what should I do, to help my son? It pulled in all kinds of imagery from my current physical reality, a tv show, a book, a conversation, and solved it the best way it could. Musing about it all morning, I finally heard the message.

Be there to listen and give advice if he asks, but ultimately, he’ll find his way. All of us find our way through life.

If I had been a Norse Viking, a medieval peasant, or an Arabian king, I would have seen much different images in my dreams. My gods would have spoken a different language. But the problem of what to do when your child is struggling with life would have been the same. Humanity just hasn’t changed that much.

I want to know more about the Norse people and what’s left of their culture, not because I want to emulate it, but because I want to honor where we came from. I want to put those pieces of my cultural puzzle in the box with the rest so that eventually I’ll be able to see as much of the big picture as I can.

A new online friend I’ve been chatting with on Boo (Yes, it says dating but it also says friends and I’ve met some fascinating people there) suggested I look into Jackson Crawford’s work. I’ve only taken a cursory look, but it does look promising and I’m excited to dive in. That is IF I can keep my squirrel brain on that track. For now, I’ve squirrelled the information away like a winter nut storage. The topic will come back around again, and then I’ll be ready to feast!

The Game of Life: New Read

Right off the bat, I’ll tell you that I’m a little disappointed with The Game of Life and How to Play It by Florence Scovel Shinn. “A little” doesn’t begin to describe my feelings, and of course I’m here to tell you why. I’ll start with the basics, how we got here and what I was thinking going into this book.

the game of life

This book was this month’s read for one of those book clubs I told you I joined recently, and I was excited to read it because I am a big fan of self-help books. Unpopular, I know. We’re all supposed to poo-poo them, but I love them, and I will not hide it. I especially love older ones, the tried and true that are still in print years later. They give me perspective, so many ideas and thoughts about how one can make their own lives a little better. What’s not to love?

When I saw the title, I thought it would be a fun read. I like the idea of looking at life as a game to play. My personal philosophy is similar, and I celebrate my birthday every year as a “level up” day, taking stock of the special skills I have accumulated and the companions I’ve chosen to help me along the way.

When I looked the book up online, I found that it was first published nearly 100 years ago and by a woman. That was intriguing. I wondered how her life must have been so different from mine and what kind of ideas she would have about the game.

The description had me excited to read as well. “First published in 1925, this book has inspired thousands of people around the world to find a sense of purpose and belonging. It asserts that life is not a battle but a game of giving and receiving, and that whatever we send out into the world will eventually be returned to us. This little book will help you discover how your mind and its imaging faculties play leading roles in the game of life.”

Yes, please!

But then I started to read it.

I did assume that the book would have a Christian point of view because of when and where it was written, but I didn’t realize that the whole basis of the book is to use Jesus as a magic wish machine. All you must do is think what you want, speak it to Jesus, and you will have it.

What?

I’m not going to unpack each chapter, but I will say that for me, this idea never really held water, even when I was feeling deeply religious. I’ve read the bible several times through, done many bible studies, and I never found the idea that God grants wishes. The best we could ever do was to pray to be aligned and accepting of God’s path for you. Peace comes from letting go of desires, accepting what is, much like the Buddha’s path of non-resistance.

After the first chapter, I felt like putting the book down and walking away, but then where would I be. You can’t judge a book by it’s cover, clearly, and neither can you judge it by the first chapter. It’s only 111 pages long, so it’s not wasting too much time. Besides, I may find pieces that fit into my life, change my thinking, or at least come to understand someone else’s point of view.

So, like Adler said to do in How to Read a Book, I kept reading to understand.

I did find a few gems to hold on to. Things like, “Man has an ever a silent listener at his side – the subconscious mind.”

That’s very true. And how we speak to ourselves in our minds is how we perceive the world around us. Better to keep up the positive talk instead of shooting ourselves down before we even get started. Like reading this book, I can’t sit here grumbling. I have to take deep breath and listen to learn.

“You can control any situation if you first control yourself.”

I’ve found this not to be very helpful. I can’t control any situation, but I can control how I react to it and that makes all the difference.

I learned that the word “acme” means perfection. Acme is always the company the coyote gets his tools and contraptions from to catch the roadrunner. Funny.

“Life is a mirror, and we find only ourselves reflected in our associates.”

This…yes. All my life I’ve been so irritated with the people around me. That driver, that food service person, the post office guy…what the hell, people? But these days I find myself thinking, “Well, maybe there’s something wrong.” “I could have made that same mistake.” And “Everyone has bad days.”

What’s different is how I’ve been learning to treat myself. I’ve been talking to myself in new ways, learning to forgive mistakes and not have to be perfect, to allow myself to feel loved just the way I am. It’s made all the difference.

And then there was, “The robbers of time are the past and the future.”

Oh, wow. We know that! Right? Sitting here lamenting our past mistakes. Nothing we can really do now but move forward and do better. And spending all night worrying about what tomorrow will bring. Wastes the time we could be getting a good night’s rest so that we’re at our best no matter what happens.

See? I did find some little tidbits even though I felt repulsed at first. That’s what happens when you listen to people you don’t agree with, even fundamentally. We find common ground and move forward on it instead of staying at a stand-still.

No, I don’t believe that Jesus will put money in your bank account if you believe hard enough. But we can relax and know that things generally do work out eventually. Less attachment to outcomes, more acceptance of what is, does make life nicer.

No, mothers can’t attract illness to their children with worry. But mothers can make themselves sick with worry and cause their children to be nervous and timid because their protector seems so helpless.

There were more crazy things, like “death can be overcome by stamping the unconscious mind with the conviction of eternal youth and eternal life.”

And more great ideas, like “Real love is selfless and free from fear. It pours itself out upon the object of its affection, without demanding any return.”

Now my question is, what will the book club think about this book? Will they be in love with it? Are they going to be a group full of that kind of Christian? That’s me, worrying about the future, wasting time. Does it matter? Nope. I’ll go and enjoy whatever experience is presented to me because that’s what the game of life is all about.

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