A Virtual Book Club - What are YOU reading?!

Category: Quotes Page 2 of 4

Get A Hold of Yourself, Man!

 I paused on these lines and thought, “That happens to me all the time,” underlining it so I could find it again later.

It’s the reason I post quotes like this on Instagram these days, a text has jogged a thought. I used to underline it and maybe make a note in the margin and leave it at that. Sometimes, if the passage struck me in a significant way, I’d write about it on my blog. Usually though, the thought came and went, and I rarely went back to it. I’ve always been jealous of people that can pull quotes from memory while they write or speak years after they read the book.

This quote got even more interesting when, at the end of my reading hour, I flipped back through the pages to create something for my daily post. I had highlighted several passages, but my eye went to this one again. Copying it down into the graphic, I was pulled in another direction.

“The condition, known as hysterical blindness, may be partial or complete, including one, several, or all objects.”

Have you ever been “blind with rage” or so upset you can’t see straight? That’s a form of hysterical blindness, anxiety so strong that your vision clouds and you feel blind. What causes that kind of anxiety? Huge transitions, deep grief, loss…global pandemics.

When we are living in a constant state of anxiety, we can’t think straight. Our minds, flooded with adrenaline, are blind to even obvious solutions to our problems, and we make terrible decisions.

I’ve been given a pretty healthy ration of shit lately for turning off the news channels, unfollowing/unfriending people that consistently share negative and nasty news articles on social media, and generally staying out of the loop when it comes to politics. How can I possibly make informed decisions if I don’t have all the “facts”? I’m hiding my head in the sand!

Stand by for imminent cliché…

We live in the information age, where we can be bombarded and inundated with “news” from all over the world 24/7 and I don’t think it’s healthy for any human being to live under that kind of stress.

I look around at my friends and family online and I see them under constant stress about things completely outside their control causing anxiety to the point of hysteria. I saw in it building up in myself, becoming blind to my immediate surroundings, so I put a stop to it. It hasn’t stopped me from completely freaking out from time to time. These are stressful times and, honestly, I’m tired of pretending they aren’t.

By opting out of the 24/7 news cycle, I’ve been able to focus on what is in my immediate realm of responsibility, my family, my home, and my neighborhood. My anxiety has lessened tremendously, and I’ve been able to think more clearly and make better decisions that benefit my life and those around me.

Reading the paper, watching TV news, or popping over to social media for a moment, reminds me of those old movies where someone is screaming hysterically and someone grabs them by the shoulders, slaps them hard across the face and says, “Get a hold of yourself!” We’ve all whipped each other into such a frenzy, we can’t possibly make logical decisions.

What else can I do but take a big step back, protect myself, and wait for the storm to clear? Humans have survived on this planet for a long time without knowing what everyone is doing, everywhere, at every moment. I don’t need anyone to make a law, start a movement, or create a boycott to make a decision that keeps my mind and body healthy and neither do you.

New Read – “A Literary Education”

Some of My Friends

It happened again. I forgot why I put this book on my wishlist. I need a better system. Or do I? Does it really matter where I got the recommendation? I suppose not. I’ve learned to trust my list. It’s there for a reason, so I buy them when I can.

As I sat down to read, I remembered; my mother-in-law had recently shared an article with me that she thought I’d enjoy. We’ve lived together for 18 years and the woman knows me well. She had pulled it out of a magazine and brought it over to me, old school sharing. There is something awesome about that. I have it still sitting on my desk. What do I do with it now? Share it with someone else maybe? By mail? Before the internet, I had a folder of pulled articles like that, some photo-copied and sent from friends and relatives.

“A distinction needs to be made between solitude and loneliness. One chooses solitude, one is afflicted by loneliness.” Alone Again (Unnaturally) by Joseph Epstein – National Review

My favorite line from that article was, “Proust notes that books have over friends that you can call upon them only when you wish and dismiss them at your discretion. Proust also felt that reading could be an aid to solitude, especially to the indolent mind that is unable to think in solitude but requires rubbing up against, through the stimulus of reading, a finer mind than itself.”

Long before all this “social distancing” stuff, I always had a hard time navigating the social world. The past six months has made that much worse. I feel like I simply don’t fit in, not for any specific reason, just in my head more than anything else. But yet I crave conversation, that back and forth with another thinking human. On a weekly basis I cycle through, “I need solitude to think. Thank you, world!” to “But I want to sit in a coffee shop with friends or join a writer’s group!” to “Screw it. People suck!” Books have been my compromise, the “rubbing up against” that I need to spark my own thinking. Books ask for so little in return and they never get in my way, despite how my family feels about the bookcases.

Reading the article, I suddenly felt less lonely and far more secure in my solitude. I immediately went online to look for the author. Maybe he has a website. What else has he written? I love the internet, and especially Amazon, but I found myself longing for a well-stocked bookstore where I could thumb through and pick out the book I liked best, maybe get a cup of coffee and talk to a person…there I go again. I picked this one mostly because of its title. “A Literary Education” is what I’ve been working on for the past ten years.

Do you read the introductions to books? For fiction, I don’t want someone else’s thoughts to color my reaction to a story. Sometimes, I’ll go back and read it though. For non-fiction, or collections, I generally do read them…unless it’s boring!

Last Friday, I really wanted to chill and read my new book, so I went around the house looking for a spot. I’m easily distracted, so I need a very quiet space to read and that is hard to find in the afternoon in a small house with four adults. My husband was still working in our room. My younger son was in his room working on his college classes. And my older son was doing some research on the computer in the livingroom. The perfect scenario!

I gathered my book, glasses, notebook, and a cup of tea and settled myself into my favorite spot on the couch. It was glorious. Right from the start I knew I had the perfect book in my hands.

“Initially my essay collections were divided between what I thought of as literary essays and familiar essays; the former were essays about other writers, the latter about the world at large, or at least those things in it that captured my fancy at the time.”

…drops pencil…what the…other people write about these things?!

There are times when I wonder what the point of my blog is. Ok…I’ll admit…most times I feel that way. But then I come around to, I write about what I like to write about, what I find interesting, and because it makes me happy. I don’t look for and write to a specific audience. I write my point of view, my opinions, my thinking, in the hope that someone out there might want to hear it.

I kept reading for over an hour, smiling and nodding, tearing up and underlining pieces that spoke directly to my poor little writer heart. When my time was up, I marked my place, closed the book, and went off to get dinner started feeling on top of the world. I’d found encouragement to keep working, keep reading, and to keep writing and I wasn’t even looking for it.

Once again, my “follow the trail wherever it leads” way of living has paid off big time. I can’t wait to read more of these essays. And the world will be reading mine as well. I’m not lonely, I’m in solitude, quietly working away in the background building worlds to share.

Unconcious Power

What if our minds unconsciously affect the physical world around us?

The further we look out into space, the finer our calculations need to be to get where we want to go. The smallest mistake in our math here, puts us way off our trajectory a billion light years away.

So what about microphysics? What if the further inside our own physical world, the more our thinking affects what we’re looking at?

Most of us agree on the power of positive thinking, the idea that how you feel about a project will have an effect on the outcome. We’ve all solved a problem in our lives by “sleeping on it.” Creative ideas have popped into our heads when we were relaxed and focused on something else.

What if our minds can do more? What if what we think can change physical existence? Maybe it does on a small scale right now only because we aren’t tapped into and using our full unconscious potential.

I’m imagining spacecraft navigated by our thoughts alone. Instant communication, not through words but whole thought alone. What else could we accomplish?

Fascinating.

Modern Art

Why modern art exists has never had a better explanation for me.

When we simply copy something, it loses its magic.

When we attempt to let our unconsciousness speak through our medium, we may discover the deeper meaning behind what we see with our conscious physical eyes.

Social Media Animals

Let’s face it, I don’t get out much. I’m sure you can relate. Social media is the majority of my total social interaction these days, so I do spend an equivalent amount of time trying to figure out how to make it work. BC (before covid) you could have told me to get a life, but now I’m not allowed, right? So here I am stuck between my books, my immediate family, and my smartphone.

“Man And His Symbols” edited by Carl G. Jung was recommended to me by another book…lost that thread of the tapestry but that’s what’s nice about them, when you step back you can still see the big picture even if a few threads are missing. This morning, in a chapter about “The Process of Individuation” by M.-L. von Franz, I found this…

“We know from studying the social behavior of the higher animals that small groups (from approximately 10 to 50 individuals) create the best possible living conditions for the single animal as well as for the group, and man seems to be no exception in this respect. His physical well-being, his spiritual psychic health, and, beyond the animal realm, his cultural efficiency seem to flourish best in such a social formation. As far as we at present understand the process of individuation, the Self apparently tends to produce such small groups by creating at the same time sharply defined ties of feelings of relatedness to all people. Only if these connections are created by the Self can one feel any assurance that envy, jealousy, fighting, and all manner of negative projections will not break up the group. Thus an unconditional devotion to one’s own process of individuation also brings about the best possible social adaptation.”

I read this and took a deep breath. This is it. This is the piece of the puzzle I was missing when trying to understand why I get so frustrated with people on the internet, supposedly “connected” by social media. We think we are so “evolved” that we don’t need to understand our instincts, follow our intuition, or listen to our unconscious souls to move well in this world, but I’m really starting to think that it’s just not true. Technology does make many things easier, but I feel like we are losing ourselves in the learning curve of the new.

These social media connections aren’t created by the Self (that unconscious “real you”), they’re connected by the Ego (our drive to be noticed and accepted by the group). They are draining our social energy, like being at a party non-stop for years. We jump online every chance we get to interact, defend, and accuse until we flop on our couches exhausted, only to pick up the remote and watch the “news” or the latest sitcom’s for hours. At the end of the day, we check one more time to see if anyone in the world needs our attention before we collapse into bed, only to start the whole process over again the next day.

Social media is short-circuiting our drive to set ourselves apart and develop ourselves into individuals. This process is complicated, takes time and energy. It takes quiet reflection. But when we do it, we turn a light on that only others that have done the work, or are in the process of doing, can see. That’s when we create our small group of real connection, the one that builds a community and makes us bigger than our own individual whole.

When we lead with our Ego, we have tons of superficial connections with people that don’t share our light. That’s when the battle for control begins, jealousy and envy creep in and take over our life’s work. That’s when we decline into chaos, ripe for a bigger Ego to come in and claim they can clean things up for us, dispel the bad guys and make everyone fall into line and do what’s right. Politicians and super stars are great at this.

I struggle with my use of social media, you know that. There days recently that I think, “Well, Mother Nature has sent us to our rooms to think about what we’ve done, but I sure wish she would have taken away our smartphones.” I know forced learning doesn’t help in the long run, but these days…I just don’t know. You wouldn’t be reading this if we didn’t have the internet. I wouldn’t have found the book recommendations that have made my life better. I would have been able to post quotes that have encouraged friends over the years without social media. I don’t really want it to go away.

Then I think, maybe soul searching just isn’t for everyone. If you’re interested in taking the journey, this book is a great start to creating your own road map. Which leads me to the quote I shared on Instagram this morning.

Find your own path by the light of others ahead of you, as well as your own.

Disputes Over Ideas – Confusion of Language

Once again, the more I read about it, the more I see the similarities. Our current situation isn’t unprecedented. The end isn’t written in stone though. We could end up in a different place, as we have many other times when unrest began.

I finished watching “Trotsky” on Netflix yesterday and was out watering my trees this morning. I don’t have sprinklers. I like taking half an hour early each morning and inspecting the property while I water; a tree needs trimming, a shrub needs to be shored up, etc. It’s relaxing and meditative too. I get a chance to take a good look at what I have around me.

It’s early when I water in the summer, usually about an hour after the sun comes up. I’ve already been up for a couple of hours, reading and journaling. I’ve gone for a walk or done my yoga practice for the day.  I’m starting to get hungry for breakfast. And I’m thinking quietly, without other voices.

Today I was thinking about the book I’m reading, “A People’s Tragedy,” and the Netflix show “Trotsky.” And that led me to what I discovered about George Orwell. Well…maybe I didn’t “discover” it. I’d heard that he was a Democratic Socialist before, but when I read his books I assumed he had changed his mind and was writing to denounce it because that’s what I got from the stories. It turns out he was lamenting that the political philosophy was hijacked by thugs and ruined.

I’m getting the same feeling from the book and show today. The author of the book and the producers of the show have obvious sympathy for socialism. They are building up the benefits and positives, which they are correct about, and then showing why it failed and that it wasn’t the socialism/communism/or Marxism, that was the problem. It was bad humans.

The strange thing is what I’ve noticed about where my mind goes with the same information. I read what happened and I think, “That’s why it doesn’t work because of bad humans.” From what I’ve learned, all I see is an opening for bad people to do very bad things. Their system of government would lead to some wonderful things if we lived in a perfect world. But we don’t. And so far, it’s always ended in so much death and destruction.

I’m still studying and I’m learning a lot. I’d like to find more books about the history of Marxism and what evolved from it over the last 100 years. I’d also like to learn more about the democratic socialist movement we have today in the United States. I won’t say I’m looking for unbiased information. I don’t think that exists, but I would like to find several points of view.

A side note, I’ve tried discussing things like this on social media with friends, but it seems to me that we are all coming from different corners and we all have different definitions for words and phrases. It’s like we attempted to build a tower to reach the heavens and have been afflicted with the confusion of language, a “Tower of Babel” story. Each time I make an attempt, I’m baffled by people’s reactions and have to retreat.

Maybe it’s better to have discussions in smaller groups, so that we all have the chance to actually be heard. When I post a topic, everyone comes running at me from every direction. Friend A comments and before I can answer them, Friend B and C join in and then Friend D comes throwing insults to Friend A, replying to him instead of my post. Ugg. It’s anarchy and completely pointless.

The privacy of speaking instead of publicly writing would probably help too. Just because I commented on something or posted it, doesn’t mean it’s gospel. We seem to have lost the concept of batting around ideas and discussing things openly. We’re all making statements and defending our stances more than attempting to understand each other.

Instead, I simply post a picture of my cat. Sometimes we can agree that he’s cute and fuzzy, but then there’s always that one person that doesn’t like cats, the one that heard cats are evil and I’m evil for having it as a familiar, the one that wants to save them all from destruction and used by cults, and the one that thinks it’s just mean to keep one as a pet. Sigh.

Banning Political Thought and Expression

“Whereas in Europe new ideas were forced to compete against other doctrines and attitudes, with the result that people tended towards healthy skepticism about claims to absolute truth, and a climate of pluralism developed, in Russia there was a cultural void. The censor forbade all political expression, so that when ideas were introduced there they easily assumed the status of holy dogma, a panacea for all the world’s ills, beyond questioning or indeed the need to test them in real life.

Convinced that their own ideas were the key to the future of the world, that the fate of humanity rested on the outcome of their own doctrinal struggles, the Russian intelligentsia divided up the world into the forces of ‘progress’ and ‘reaction’, friends and enemies of the people’s cause, leaving no room for doubters in between. Here were the origins of the totalitarian worldview.”

A People’s Tragedy – The Russian Revolution by Orlando Figes

It’s things like the quote here that lead me to believe I’ve stumbled across the playbook of our current political climate. I’ll be honest, it scares me. The more I read, the more I start to see the parallels, and the more I start to think we are being played by factions of our own government, our own people.

Several times in the past few years I’ve wondered why we all seem to think it’s ok to ban certain types of speech, political and philosophical. Several times I’ve wanted to post that banning, censoring, or otherwise legislating against “hate” is a slippery slope we don’t want to be on. I want to stand up and say, “If you forbid people to speak against you, if you say to your friends and family, “This kind of thinking will not be tolerated,” you aren’t changing anyone’s heart or mind. You only drive them underground, where their supposedly hateful ideas will fester and grow.” But I’ve been afraid.

The fact that I’m afraid to publicly state that “hating” is also a protected right, even in a semi-private, friends and relations only page, makes me shudder. What kind of country have we become that we are afraid to say what we think? Where will this lead us? Reading about the Russian Revolution, I’m starting to see where it could and that makes me terribly sad in some ways and reassures me in others.

It scares me because I worry that we’ll repeat the same mistakes we’ve made in the past. I hate to see people suffer, and I’m afraid those that will suffer most are the very people that are being used as pawns in a game; the poor, uneducated, and “underprivileged” that we say we are trying to help gain a better position.

It reassures me because I’m reminded that there is actually nothing new under the sun. People have always suffered in some way. Governments have always overreached. Revolutions have happened, people have struggled, and atrocities have been committed, over and over again. Humans seem to thrive on it.

What does shine through, for me, is human ingenuity and intelligence. The more I focus on individual stories, the more comforted I am. The big picture might be terrifying, but the things we do, the lives we lead inside that picture? Wow. We’re amazing.

This book is going to take me FOREVER to read. It’s over 800 pages long and I’m currently reading abut 25 pages an hour. I’m not getting much done other than to read, write, and do basic housework, but I’ll just keep going like this until someone around here complains!

Freedom

A friend sent me a book he thought I’d like. That alone makes my heart happy. Since “It” was starting to give me nightmares that I just don’t need right now, I decided to put it aside awhile and read this instead.

This afternoon, I put my work aside and sat down with a cup of coffee to read for an hour. There are so many things I could spend my time on, but I just can’t seem to get my butt in gear, as my Mom used to tell me when I was a kid.

This piece touched my soul. It gets to the bottom of how I feel. I shouldn’t feel this way about my fellow humans, but sometimes I can’t help it.

The difference between her and the rabbits is that she wanted to be free.

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From “In The Time of the Butterflies” by Julia Alvarez

Down Days

“Witness your emotions without acting on them.”

Interesting.

This came up in my meditation app this morning and I wrote it down to remember it.

I’m not having the best of emotions today. I feel pretty damn crappy actually and for no reason at all, which makes me feel worse than if I had something to be unhappy about. I’m unhappy that I’m unhappy and that makes for a pretty shitty day.

Am I acting on them? I’m not sure. I’m not changing anything. I’m not calling to tell people how crappy I think they are. I’m not on social media making the snarky comments I want to make. I’m not canceling all my plans.

I am making myself busy though. I stopped around noon today and thought (as I mindlessly scrolled through social media feeds, one right after the other), “This is a nasty feeling, maybe I should do something about it.”

Or maybe I shouldn’t.

I can’t always be thrilled to be alive. There isn’t always a reason or a trigger for a bad mood. It just is and no amount of tortilla chips and Pepsi is going to make it better (but I did get some anyway, just in case).

I focused on getting busy. I got one corner of my livingroom cleaned up from Christmas. I’m attempting to declutter the whole house and I did mutter “someone just burn it all down and help me start over” as I sorted through the old and broken ornaments. The dishes are done. Dinner is in the crockpot.

Maybe I’ll go for a walk in a bit. Or get me a nice shot of tequila on ice!

I know one thing. Bad moods don’t last forever.

Reading a Book in Public Invites Conversation

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Photo by Alex Blăjan on Unsplash

I know many of my friends and family are big fans of e-books, but I’ve never been able to love them. It’s not that I disapprove of them or am daunted by technology. I actually think it’s brilliant. I have the Kindle app on my phone and occasionally buy the e-book version of a book so that I can take it with me on a trip more easily or, when I’m reading a more provocative title, read it more privately, but I just can’t love them like I want to.

The truth of the matter is that I simply enjoy having the books that I have spent time in on my physical shelves, no matter how crowded they get. When I walk into the room, I can see them, and I get an instant sense of accomplishment. It’s a physical representation of my effort. I remember them and visit, like seeing old friends. When I’m bored, I scan through the titles sitting so prettily on my selves like small sentinels of my past. Sometimes I pull them off the shelves and leaf through them, see my notes, and read a paragraph. It warms me and brings me closer to… What? I don’t really know. All I do know is that it feels good and I don’t want to let them go.

Today I read this in “The Bookshop on the Corner” by Jenny Colgan,

“I think I just stopped seeing books around,” the man went on. “You know, on the bus, everyone used to read books. But then they were fiddling with their phones or those big phones, I don’t know what they’re called.”

“They were probably reading on their tablets,” said Nina loyally. She loved her e-reader too.

“Yes, I know,” said the man, “But I couldn’t see. I couldn’t see what they were reading or ask them if it was good or make a mental note to look for it later. It was if suddenly, one day, all the books simply disappeared.”

It brought up something I never thought of before and not in a negative, “these damn things,” kind of way, in a “something is missing” kind of way.

When I love a book, just by having it out in my hand in public, I’m sharing it with the readers around me. And if I see someone with a title or book cover that looks interesting, I can make a note of it without saying a word. We communicate with the people around us even when we don’t think we are! It’s a covert operation. The perfect introvert sharing opportunity.

When we’re looking at our e-readers, most people assume we’re busy talking to another person, so they don’t want to interrupt. But having a book out sitting next to you at the coffee shop, reading at the park or on the bus, is a conversation starter for those around you. “Oh! I love that book!” or “I was thinking about getting that. Is it good?” are great ways to start talking to a stranger. If they don’t want to be bothered, they’ll cut it short and I can move on. But if they’re interested in sharing about the book, they’ll keep talking and I’ll be in heaven. It’s a win/win situation.

I think I’ll start carrying a purse again, one big enough to have a novel in it that I can pick up and read while I’m in line or waiting for a friend. Who knows what conversations it might start or who it will inspire to pick up and read it too?

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