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

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Moral Foundations Theory: A Book Review

“The Righteous Mind” by Jonathan Haidt explains his ideas on Moral Foundations Theory. I just finished reading it and let me tell you, it was worth the effort. The first couple of chapters sucked me in with his elephant and rider analogy of human behavior, but about halfway through it started to lag. Maybe it got too technical. Maybe it just didn’t feel relatable. There was a time when I thought (and noted), “Yes, but what can we DO about it?” The last few chapters gave me some ideas and some hope, so I’ll rate it A for awesome.

Moral Foundations Theory in The Righteous Mind

The subtitle tells you exactly why I decided to read this book, “Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion.” I don’t know how many times I’ve wondered to myself (and aloud to my family) why such seemingly intelligent people could be so fired up and ready to physically go to blows over a difference of opinion. I have close friends and family that support and push political agendas that, in my opinion, just seem crazy. Why? What the heck, people? This book helped me make some sense of it.

Now…do I feel better? Do I think there is any hope of avoiding something seriously damaging to our world in the near future, now that I’ve read this book? Not really. Sorry. I’m a pessimist when it comes to collective thought and politics these days. I just don’t see a way out. But I do know that I’m not the smartest person around or the most well-informed, so there’s still a glimmer of hope in the back of my mind. A miracle could happen. There could be, somewhere out there, individuals scattered across the world, that can help the rest of us pull our heads out and turn the ship around. Right?

Yeah…kind of in a mood this week. Sorry.

But this book! His theories and his research have really lightened my mood. There are reasons why things are happening the way they are. There is a way to understand others and come to some kind of compromise. There’s chance that we could start the ship toward living together in peace. It’s a hopeful kind of understanding of the human mind.

“Politics and religion are both expressions of our underlying moral psychology, and an understanding of that psychology can help to bring people together.”

We all actually do have a similar goal, to live in peace, to end violence, for everyone to have enough, but we all come to it from different directions. We’re told not to post our thoughts and ideas on social media. Don’t share your point of view. Keep your opinions to yourself. It’s not polite. But if we can’t talk to each other about these things, how do even begin to understand?

“…self-righteous…means ‘convinced of one’s own righteousness, especially in contrast with the actions and beliefs of others; narrowly moralistic and intolerant.’”

We ALL are, left and right, liberal and conservative, self-righteous about something.

“Emotions are not dumb. Damasio’s patients made terrible decisions because they were deprived of emotional input into their decision making. Emotions are a kind of information processing.”

This reminds me of what Noah Rashad was saying on Secular Buddhism. The point of emotion is our intuition telling us something MAY be important. Our job is to notice it, pause and make an assessment, and then CHOOSE an action based on that assessment. Haidt here is speaking of patients that had lost their emotions due to accident or defect. Logic and reason will only get you so far. Those who base their action solely on logic and reason will end up doing atrocious things.

“In this chapter I’ll show that reason is not fit to rule; it was designed to seek justification, not truth.”

That is exactly what we do. We have a feeling, think about it some (hopefully), reason why we should have that feeling, and then go with it. Haidt says that when we want to believe something we reason to find out if we can, and when we don’t want to believe something, we reason to find out if we must.

His idea of Moral Foundations Theory is fascinating. He compares our morals to taste buds on the tongue, a limited number of basic tastes that combine to make each of us different. We’re born with a first draft of innate taste buds but our experience revises which ones we use more, rely on, or prefer. That really hit home because I’ve always thought of myself as naturally a conservative person, more likely to prefer less change and stable outcomes, but I’m liberally trained by my experience in the world. I have learned to enjoy some change and look for different experiences, points of view, and ways of thinking.

A whole chapter is dedicated to why we seem to be compelled to form into groups and take sides. And explains why some of us tend to be a bit more individualistic. It’s always safer in groups, that’s why women always take a friend to the restroom when they’re out in public. And groups are safer when we all have similar values and norms. This was my favorite chapter.

“We humans have a dual nature – we are selfish primates who long to be part of something larger and nobler than ourselves. We are 90 percent chimp and 10 percent bee. If you take that claim metaphorically, then the groupish and hivish things that people do will make a lot more sense. It’s almost as though there’s a switch in our heads that activates our hivish potential when conditions are just right.”

It is easier to live in a group than alone. Self-sufficiency is inefficient, like “The Rational Optimist” points out. But there are degrees of groups, from urban city to rural farms, from suburbs to mountain towns. And what it takes to get along in each of those is different. I keep seeing east coast city dwellers attempt to make laws and regulations for Midwest farmers, and west coast suburbanites dictate what life should look like in the rural south. That’s where the fights begin. Is there a way for us all to live our own lives in our own areas without harassing our distant neighbors about how they live theirs?

Have I convinced you to go get this book? I hope so. One more thing before I go. The last chapter was titled, “Can’t We All Disagree More Constructively?” It’s the chapter that gave me some hope. We all have to live here together, whether we like it or not. The best way to do that is to stop making other people live and act the way we want them to. Instead of lifting up and emphasizing our differences: race, color, culture, location, creed, etc., we could do a lot better by emphasizing our similarities. If we make teams and take sides, good and evil, right and wrong, it’s very hard to meet in the middle. There is no compromise with a partner that is evil and wrong.

We could sit back and take care of ourselves, leave others to do the same, and compromise when we need to so that we can share space without getting on each other nerves. Seems too reasonable. Probably will never work.

If you’d like to read my first post about this book, go back to The Righteous Mind: New Read. If you’re interesting in learning more about Moral Foundations Theory, I have an extra copy of this book that you’re welcome to have. The first person to comment that they want it will get it!

Lord Jim & This ‘Cancel’ Idea

Lord Jim book review

I really got into Lord Jim even though there were times when I wasn’t sure what was going on. Joseph Conrad tends to ramble, say things that seem to have no cause or effect, and then come back around to them. I liked it.

Poor Jim. He made a mistake when he was just a boy by our standards, and he felt guilty about it for the rest of his life, right up to the end. It made me think of a lot of news stories I’ve been seeing lately. This person went to a party and was a racist. That person did drugs. This one made sexist remarks. All accusations made about events at least twenty years in the past.

We all do things we regret, every single one of us, and not all of us dwell on it for the rest of our lives. I don’t think we are meant to. We learn from our mistakes (or not) and move on with our lives. Thanks to our new permanent and worldwide media, we can’t escape our past and our culture seems to lean into and celebrate that.

Now that I think about it, that’s not a new thing, is it? It’s just that we have more opportunities to record and bring up proof of the past. Throughout the ages, we’ve ostracized people for their past discrepancies: bad business deals, sexual infidelities, where people were born or to whom.

What good does it do? If I do something to offend someone when I’m twenty years old, does that mean I’m a terrible person and unfit for service when I’m forty? Jim thought so. He fell into a big mistake, following along with the people around him, and ended up being the only one that paid legally for it. Then socially, too. He was ruined, not only in society, but in his head and heart.

A friend believed he was a good man and helped him start a new life. It was good one. He did well, helped people, made a life for himself, but in the back of his mind was that fateful deed. He never forgave himself and ended up paying for it again and again until he died.

Is that what we want today for everyone? Is that what seems like justice, community, progressive thinking? I think what we’re doing is harmful to our society. We expect people to be perfect right from the start, never make a misstep, and to be clairvoyant enough to know what a misstep will look like in the future. All we’re going to get is a neurotic society, afraid to step out of line, afraid of the people around them, afraid to make any remark, create anything, or to let go even a little.

Jim’s story was a sad one, echoing now from 120 years in the past.

If you want to read more posts based on quotes from “Lord Jim”, you’ll find a list of them at the bottom of my first post, “Joseph Conrad is my Next Read: Lord Jim”

Listen Like You Mean It: Final Thoughts

Listen Like You Mean It book cover

Listen Like You Mean it by Ximena Vengoechea was a strange journey. It started strong for me, started to peter out, and then picked up again at the end. The author used her experience in business, as a researcher for apps, to explain how to better listen in conversation. It makes sense. Her job was to listen to people’s first thoughts, experiences, and usage needs of an app to make it work better for them and for the company.

I suck at wrapping up what I think of a whole book. Bottom line of this one was that I liked it. I got some good bits from it. And I hope I can practice some of the things I learned in it. That’s the key. Most of it was the stuff you always hear about how to be a better listener, but if you don’t practice new ways consciously and often, you’ll only fall back into your old routines and habits.

How does one practice better conversation techniques? Especially now.

One thing I noted to myself in the margins of this book was that much of these listening skills could really be used in self-discovery and self-talk as well. How we talk to and listen to ourselves is how we look at the world around us. Can I make some useful reminders to practice these techniques on myself at home? If I can master a few of them, make them a habit when alone, maybe I can use them more readily the next time I’m out to lunch with a friend?

Halfway into the book, I started to get frustrated. Some of it seems too technical and businesslike. Maybe these would be great for someone that was around a lot of people all the time, at work or school. I don’t feel like they apply to my lifestyle. I read but glossed over much of those chapters and kept reading instead of giving up and not finishing.

I’m glad I did because the chapters on difficult discussions and resting and recharging between conversations were especially inspiring.

“We can express ourselves with humility, admitting what we do and do not know, and with curiosity, staying open to how others may receive us in conversation. We can practice patience, become aware of when our body language is telling us we are closing ourselves off, and quiet our minds when our thoughts and fears get in the way of being honest. We can make the necessary space to be ourselves, just as we do for our partners.”

Listen Like You Mean It

See? Conversation is a give and take thing. We are all in need of that intimate connection with another human or two. The first step, like everything we wish to achieve, it ours to make.

Was the book worth reading? Yes, and it would be even more so if you happen to be in a situation where you work or live closely with a lot of other people.

Pop back to my post “Listen Like You Mean It” – Another New Read, to start at the beginning of my journey and find other posts about this book.

Classic Crime Drama: Prayer for the Dead

Remember that book I started a few days ago, Prayer for the Dead? It turned out to be a classic crime drama that I couldn’t put down.

A Crime Drama Classic

I wasn’t all that impressed with the first chapters, but as I read on, I started to see its charm. And then it got creepier…and then there I was, yelling at the book, “No! What the hell?” and “Don’t go in there!”

My son came in the room right as I started the last twenty pages, and I was forced to tell him that whatever he had to say at this time would have to wait. I held the book aloft, my thumb in the crack just pages from the end, and pleadingly looked at him. “Just a few more minutes? I can’t stop now.”

He shook his head at me, “Nothing changes around here. Well, except my room.” He laughed and walked into the kitchen to make more coffee. It’s a running joke right now that I took over his room the moment he left for University. In my defense, I warned him what I was planning, and he was all for it when he left.

But that, my dears, is another post. What I’m here to talk about is the draft…no, wait…the book I just finished!

I’d say, “I love it when a plan comes together,” but there was no plan. I’d never heard of the book or the author. I only picked up because the cover and title were appealing. Yes, I judged a book by its cover! And I was not disappointed.

The shy and quiet serial killer with a reason behind his madness, the retired special agent with a checkered past, the bumbling local cops and police chief. All the strings coming together at the end. Perfect.

If you like crime drama tv shows, you’ll love this book. Classic characters and a great story. Go find it at Thriftbooks.com!

Behold! The June Newsletter!

Here it is, my dear readers, the June newsletter. If you like short and sweet book reviews, or simply think people who lose their minds over their reading list are a hilarious breed, please sign up for my monthly newsletter.

Once a month, I send out my thoughts on about the five or six books I read in the past four weeks, along with some witty quips about my current mood and situation. I promise I won’t SPAM your email inbox with messages about what to buy and political advertisements.

You might be entertained. You might even find a book you want to read!

Even if you don’t read it…at least you’ll give me and ego boost and raise my readership! Yay!

Click HERE to read the June “What In The WORLD Is She Reading” Newlsetter!

Thirteen Books!

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For a while now, I’ve been attempting to post about every book I read but I think I’m changing my plan. I have a backlog and it’s disrupting my peace. The picture you see above is my current pile of already read books waiting to be summed up. When anything starts to pile up, my anxiety starts to build and that’s when I shut down and discontinue my practice. Homework, email, laundry, diet plans: that overwhelm feeling grates on my nerves and colors everything else I attempt to do. I’ve found that it’s much better for me to pick and choose my battles. I can’t just throw out the clothes or the dishes instead of washing them when they pile up, but I can delete all the emails, drop the class, or walk away from the diet, so I do.

So here we are with a pile of books on the corner of my desk, waiting to be reviewed and blogged about. Every day I see them and walk by. Every day I pick up the top one, thumb through it, look at the rest of the pile, and walk away. I can’t even sit at my computer and write about something else, because those books are looking at me in the accusatory way that makes me start to sweat every time I see them.

This morning, I walked by and thought, “My that pile looks so pretty like that. I should take a picture.” As I did, I had an epiphany. Why not post about that pile? Maybe pull one thing from each book to write about, give them closure so to speak, and then file them away on my bookshelf? And that is exactly what I’m doing right now.

This may be a bit long and boring but it has to be done. My reader heart needs closure on these. Feel free to scroll through and find a title that catches your eye! I will allow it…this time!

“Following Muhammad – Rethinking Islam in the Contemporary World” by Carl W. Ernst

This book was suggested reading from another book I read about religious literacy and it was an excellent read. I highly recommend it for everyone. It really helped me understand Islam, its history, its diversity, and cleared up a lot of misunderstandings for me. It’s also not a long, boring, overly detailed read. It’s just an overview, something to get you started on the path to understanding and tolerance. Go get this book right now.

“The Last Days of the Late, Great State of California” by Curt Gentry

A friend sent me this book, with a few others, after our last big earthquake. He thought I’d like it and he was so right! It’s historical fiction, written as if the “Big One” hit and all of California was dumped into the sea, disappearing forever. It’s so easy to read and a great story. Most of the book highlights California history in the first half of the 20th century. What would the rest of the country miss if California disappeared? I couldn’t put it down and ended up adding a few other California History books to my reading list.

“Writing as a Path to Awakening” by Albert Flynn DeSilver

This one was a little too “woke” for me, but not a waste of time. I found some inspiration. Little things like “we are meaning-making machines” made me smile. I wrote that one down and posted in on my “writing altar” along with “Practice doesn’t make perfect, practice makes process, and with consistent attention, proficiency, and eventually, with further devotion, mastery.”

“The Best American Essays – 2018” edited by Hilton Als

I love a good essay! These would have been better if fewer of them were about how much Trump has ruined their lives. There were some great ones though. I love hearing people’s perspectives and experiences.

“Reading Like a Writer: A Guide for People Who Love Books and For Those Who Want to Write Them” by Francine Prose

“Hey! That’s me!” That’s what I thought when I saw the title on Amazon and clicked BUY. It was a bad idea though because…well…it added a couple dozen books to my reading list! Ha! It is full of great examples of narration, character, and dialogue, among other things. Reading it is like talking to a fellow book lover!

“The Man Who Quit Money” by Mark Sundeen

I read this under duress. It was assigned to my son by a college English Composition teacher last year and there has been much debate about its content, premise, and subject, but…no one had actually read it all. I decided I would. “In 2000, Daniel Suelo gave away his life savings. And began to live.” It was hard to read. I kept thinking, he’s not living with less or living without or “off the land,” he’s only living off others. He stays with friends, dumpster dives, and uses the internet at the library. I honestly don’t think he was any happier living that way than if he had just focused on being more conservative in how he lives, using less, etc. The only reason he could live the way he did was because most people don’t. Most people have more than they need, throw away excess, underuse what they have, so he has those resources. There was a lot to think about though and I appreciated his journey.

“Bright Lights, Big City” by Jay McInerney

So, what do I think when I read that title? “James and the Giant Peach” of course! I hear the centipede singing it every time I read those words. I hear there was a movie of this very book. I know…I’m so lost. Anyway, book was…interesting. Pretty darn sad. And deep at the end. Wow.

Two things I took away from it that were awesome. First of all, he works in a magazine’s “Department of Factual Verification.” I can’t imagine doing this job before the internet! Every article they buy from a writer must be “fact checked” by a third party before printing. They have to call places and look things up in the encyclopedia, libraries, and other publications. It’s a huge amount of work. The magazine has a reputation to protect. They can’t just pull an article off the internet if it turns out to be false like they do now. Once it’s in print, it’s there forever! Wow.

The other thing was this quote, “…what you are left with is a premonition of the way your life will fade behind you, like a book you have read too quickly, leaving a dwindling trail of images and emotions, until all you can remember is a name.” Ouch.

“Carrie” by Stephen King

This book has a back story too. It’s one of the scariest movies I ever saw, mostly because I saw it when I was around six years old! Before you go calling my mom a monster, little kids are supposed fall asleep late at night and my brother and I were safely tucked away and sound asleep in the back seat of our car in our feet pajamas when the movie started. You just gotta love drive-ins! My parents were watching the movie in the front seat and at the end of the movie, there I was with my head poked between the seats, eyes wide. I had nightmares for years! We were all traumatized!

Something I noticed when I finished the book…Carrie is just Frozen with a much more horrifying ending. Small girl with latent powers the adults can’t deal with so they lock her away until she becomes an adolescent, at which point her powers are too much for anyone to deal with including the girl.

“How to do Nothing – Resisting the Attention Economy” by Jenny Odell

Another great book with some amazing insight into stepping out of the world for a bit and changing your focus. I just wish it could have been done in a more positive way, without adding “the world is ending because Trump is president” bologna. The world is just as messed up as it always was. The internet isn’t destroying us. Facebook is not the great Satan. Please. Just stop. I also wish it had more examples and ideas of “how” instead of so much “why.”

“Wise Blood” by Flannery O’Connor

Ok. This…was strange. I never got the point of the story. Didn’t really care about the characters. The whole book was odd. Maybe I missed the point? While I did finish the book, desperately hoping for meaning, it did start a series of DNF’s (did not finish) in August.

“Beyond Good and Evil” by Friedrich Nietzsche

DNF. That’s what they write by your name if you start a race but don’t finish. Maybe your bike broke down or (Lord forbid) you crashed and didn’t get back on the bike, but you never crossed the finish line.

This book I did not finish. I just couldn’t read it. Several pages in and I had no idea what he was trying to say and no patience to have every page explained. I’m not sure if it’s the translation or what. I enjoy Nietzsche’s philosophy, so I was disappointed that I couldn’t read it for myself. Maybe I’ll find about book that explains it better? Or…maybe…take a class?

“Revolution at Berkeley” by Miller and Gilmore

Another DNF. A collection of articles about the protest at Berkeley in the 60’s. Fascinating read, mostly because the articles are from that time, not ours, but I gave up reading about a third of the way through. I had enough information and just wasn’t interested the subject anymore.

“Night Shift” by Stephen King

On a bit of a Stephen King jag lately. I have two more on my “to read” shelf! This guy really knows how to entertain through horror. My husband walked into the room while I was reading this and I about jumped out of my skin!

So, there you have it! Thirteen books! Phew…I’m exhausted!

Wind Sand and Stars: Adventure Story

“Wind, Sand, and Stars” made me feel like I’d been there, flying over the deserts of the Middle East and Africa. Reading memoir connects me with lives that have never before even shown up on my radar!

wind sand and stars
“Wind, Sand and Stars” by Antoine De Saint-Exupery

This book…wow…the imagery he brings up through his words is amazing. Every page is filled with beauty. And it’s a true story. I have never given much of a thought about Africa or the Middle East before our own time, much less about how mail would get across the desert in those areas! And now, well, I’m enchanted. A technology was invented that changed the world, airplanes. Suddenly, there was a way to communicate with people across vast distances in a fraction of the time it used to take. And there were people that were unhappy about it. Imagine that!

He describes amazing scenes and adventures, some that didn’t end well, with an insight to human nature that we can all use a dose of today. Imagine the risk of flying those old airplanes across the desert just to get a letter or other document to a relative or business partner? Makes posting to social media seem like child’s play, but imagine the impact it can have compared to that one letter!

I never even knew “Wind Sand and Stars” existed until I heard another author mention it as his favorite book as a child, one he has read over and over again. Ahh…that…reading one book over and over. I’ve never done it. I sometimes wonder if, in my quest for more information, more story, I miss the deeper meaning and joy of really knowing one small piece of the world. I probably do.

Sometimes I feel like a collector. At the moment, I’m collecting books like there’s no tomorrow. What if there isn’t? What if the time comes when I can buy no more for some reason or another, and all I have is what I’ve already collected? That will be the time to start re-reading!


 “Numerous, nevertheless, are the moralists who have attacked the machine as the source of all the ills we bear, who, creating a fictitious dichotomy, have denounced the mechanical civilization as the enemy of the spiritual civilization.”

Funny to think a book written in 1939 would have the same complaints we have today. When I hear people complain that the technology we have today is the end of the civilization, I wonder if they’ve ever read anything older than 20 years.


“What are the hundred years of the history of the machine compared with the two hundred thousand years of the history of man? It was only yesterday that we began to pitch our camp in this country of laboratories and power stations, that we took possession of this new, this still unfinished, house we live in. Everything around us is new and different – our concerns, our working habits, our relations with one another.

“Our very psychology has been shaken to its foundations, to its most secret recesses. Our notions of separation, absence, distance, return, are reflections of a new set of realities, though the words themselves remain unchanged. To grasp the meaning of the world today we use a language created to express the world of yesterday.”

How’s that? How much more has changed in 100 years, more than any other century of the past? We’ve created a technology that will change everything yet again. Yes, things seem insane and upside down. It will be ugly for awhile. Evolution isn’t pretty and it doesn’t always end well. But it’s happening and the only way to deal with it is to ride the wave and see where it goes.


“Every doctrine swears that it can breed men, but none can tell us in advance what sort of men it will breed. Men are not cattle to be fattened for market.”

That’s what I think schools are doing, fattening cattle for market. In the past we could know what the market will be one from one generation to the next. We’d need farmers, businessmen, explorers, etc. There were jobs we needed to fill that were predictable. And to do those jobs there was a set amount of information, education that each would need. Life has changed so much that that has become increasingly untrue. I think it started just before the author’s time and has steadily increased in the number of changes until now and beyond. We’re better off teaching our children basic skills like communication and how to stay flexible and alert, than a set of rules and dictations as we have in the past. Right now, anything can happen and we need to be ready to move one way or another. Those that can’t, won’t survive.


And this sweet reminder to write!

“Let a man in a garret but burn with enough intensity and he will set fire to the world.”


“For man’s greatness does not reside merely in the destiny of the species: each individual is an empire.” I don’t think we respect the individual as much as we should. We tend to act like hive mates and treat the hive as supreme. It’s limiting. Each of us holds a world in our heads and hearts. Each of us has something to add to the world, no matter how young or old, rich or poor, brilliant or dull. “Interdependent” that’s the word I love. We are each our own sovereign world, capable of taking care of ourselves, but when we work together we become so much more. It’s the same with people as it is when nations and cultures. If we could only see that and stop trying to force each other to bend to each other’s will.

“Each shell that fell upon Madrid fortified something in the town. It persuaded the hesitant neutral to plump for the defenders. A dead child weighs heavily in the balance when it is one’s own. It was clear to me that a bombardment did not disperse – it unified. Horror causes men to clench their fists, and in horror men join together.”

How, after all these years of war, can we not see this today? Do we really think we are doing any good in the world when we commit violence against another?


And the last…

“To come to man’s estate it is not necessary to get oneself killed round Madrid, or to fly mail planes, or to struggle wearily in the snows out of respect for the dignity of life. The man who can see the miraculous in a poem, who can take joy from music, who can break his bread with comrades, opens his window to the same refreshing sea. He too learns a language of men.

But too many men are left unawakened.”

It can be easy to read true stories of adventure and start to think that the only way to really live is be out there living through disasters, that they only way to learn to live through struggle is to struggle yourself, that the only way to respect life is by losing parts of it, but that’s not true. Humans have an amazing ability to communicate over generations. It’s what sets us apart from any other animal. It’s what I believe is the “image of God” in us. We communicate through all types of medium, the written word, music, paint, and technology. Open yourself up to it. Read, experience, and create. Wake up to the world around you!

Years after reading, “Wind Sand and Stars,” I finally got the chance to read “The Little Prince.” Click over and read about that experience!

The Death of Expertise – Book Review

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This was a difficult book for me to read objectively. It’s condescending tone and elitism bugs me to my core, but he does have some good points. With the invention of the internet we suddenly have the world at our fingertips. Not only can we access all the great thinkers and the experts in any field, we can also read all the alternatives as well. We can get a second, third, and fourth opinion about anything we like. We don’t even have to search for answers at all. We can simply go to a social media platform and ask a question. Within minutes we can have the opinion of thousands of people to sift through. The key word here is “opinions.”

There are things we don’t need an expert for, things social media are amazing at. Finding a good place to eat in your area, what stores have the best prices, and where to find a good mechanic, are all excellent uses for the internet. Whether or not you should vaccinate your kids, the legal ways to evict a tenant, or how to pay your taxes, are probably best answered by an expert, not just someone who’s done it before or read an article about it.

The trouble for me has been trust. Who can I trust these days? Just because someone is an expert in something doesn’t necessarily mean I can trust his opinion regarding my personal choices. I’d love to have several professionals I can trust, ones that offer their professional opinions, listen to my own preferences, and respect my choices. But that doesn’t seem to be available. What I generally get is a person who treats me as an ignorant and willful child that they must protect, one that can’t possibly make intelligent decisions for herself with the information they present. It makes it hard for a person to take their expert opinion seriously, which I so desperately need sometimes.

When I was able to put aside the “better than you” tone, which I’m sure was not intended and only my immature interpretation, the book had some wonderful points. He brought up where he believes things have gone wrong through higher education, the overwhelm of conflicting information, the loss of the art of conversation, problems with journalism, etc. There seems to be a balance missing these days and it’s starting to have serious negative effects.

The truth is that we do need experts. It’s so much more efficient if we all take care of our own immediate needs, take responsibility for own lives and choices, AND rely on experts when we come up against unfamiliar territory. There should be someone I can trust with my medical needs, my legal needs, and yes, my political needs. I should be able to trust that someone that has spent their lives studying and working in politics would know more about what do in the middle east. I should be able to trust that the person that studied medicine would know what’s best for my condition. But I should also be well versed enough in critical thinking to know when the so-called “expert” is bullshitting.

The book is worth your time. I’m not sure I agree with a lot of what he presents, but I do believe something has gone terribly wrong and I think he has some good points about where we may have taken a wrong turn. I don’t necessarily agree with the solutions he implies. The answer is never going to be “control things with government regulation” in my “non-expert” opinion. The answer lies in a much more complicated direction, allowing people to make their own mistakes, not tread on other people’s rights, and encourage people to think critically and solve their own problems.

Bad TV. Great Book. Surprise!

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How many times have you read a book and then found out it would be a movie or tv series? Just about everyone that reads has had that experience and it’s rarely positive, right? We automatically anticipate that the movie will not measure up, even though we secretly hope that it will. How can it? Not only can a book’s several plot lines and depth of characters not easily be condensed into two or three hours, but we each conjure up our own visions of those characters and scenes that just don’t seem to compare when presented to us in visual form from someone else’s imagination.

Long, complicated books are being turned into some pretty decent limited series programs on things like Netflix and Amazon though. I’ve seeen several amazing shows that follow a book or series of books very closely and I’ve loved them. I do wish some of the historical fiction they are creating right now would focus more on the historical aspects and less of the sensationalism of graphic sex and violence, but I digress.

A few years ago, we started watching “Under the Dome” in the evenings and were sucked into the story. It’s an intriguing idea. A whole town cut off from the rest of the world by an invisible dome, like a giant glass jar was dropped over the top of it. What would happen? What would the world outside do? What would the trapped people do? And where in the world did it come from? This was why I kept watching, only to be completely disappointed by the end of the series, prompting the whole family to look around in disappointment when we realized it was over. It was like they only half tried to make a story.

And then I found out that it was based on a book by Stephen King, one of my very favorite authors. I hadn’t read anything new from him since I was in college. Was he really writing books this bad? Or did the tv producers ruin it? I couldn’t imagine a famous author letting someone do that to his story? Crazy part…I was so disappointed in the show that I just forgot all about it.

Fast forward a few years later and I’m at Barnes & Noble looking for fiction and I stumble across “Under the Dome” by Stephen King. It’s a fat book, of course! On the front cover was the review, “Seven words: The best yet from the best ever. – Lee Child.” Not from what I saw on TV! Well, I love him, so I gave him a chance to redeem himself.

While not the best book I’ve read by King, I still enjoyed the story very much. It was classic. Several storylines, several characters going through a bunch of typical things, with clues to the bigger story all along the way, leading to the thing that ties it all together. I loved it. At the end of each hour of reading, I could feel the air getting more and more stale, the slow building urgency of the whole town and every resident’s different reaction to the event. How in the world does he do that?!

Don’t worry. I won’t give away the ending! Let’s just say that it seems to me that the TV show wasn’t even trying to portray the big picture, the “lesson” we are supposed to learn from all this. It was a huge let down. And I’m not sure how anyone could have liked that show at all, unless just going through the motions of life, not trying to figure out the whys and hows is how they live their life and like to watch the same on TV. I know. It’s harsh. But damn. Really? Did anyone that wrote the show read the book? Or did they get the Cliff’s Notes version and go from there?

A classic example of “the book is better” and these days there really is no excuse for that other than laziness, in my oh so humble opinion. If you watched the TV show and want answers to all your questions, read the book. They’re in there. And it’s worth your time!

Nearly 24 Glorious Hours!

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Yes! I keep track! 771 pages and nearly 24 hours!

“The Goldfinch” by Donna Tartt was a book I picked up on a book buying binge at Barnes & Noble a few months ago. It’s my favorite way to buy fiction, in person at bookstore! No reviews, no suggestions, just pure infatuation with a good cover. I go in to intentionally succumb to mass marketing. It’s an indulgence.

Why did I choose this book? One reason…well…maybe two. The cover, the ripped away piece revealing the bird, pulled my eye. And then Stephen King called it “A triumph.” How can I resist?

In my book notes, at the end of all those 771 words, all I wrote was, “Deep. Wow” The ending must have been impressive, although I can’t remember a lick of it without thumbing through it a bit and getting some reminders. And when I do thumb through and look at my notes…there it is… Some people may be appalled, but I’m glad I write in my books!

I both loved and hated this book at the same time. Typical, right? At first I was drawn into the story, mostly because of its intensity. She has a serious way with words. You can feel every scene. It’s very emotional. But then, I started to wonder where in the world the story was going. Would it ever end? What was the point of all these details? There better be some huge surprise at the end that wraps up all these little pieces and makes me want to read it all over again to catch them in action! I was not disappointed.

Some things I truly hated. There was a negative description of homeschoolers that triggered me to anger. I almost put the book down right there. How can I trust someone with my heart that so easily stereotyped my own education choice? That’s what we do when we read fiction, trust a stranger with our heart. It’s a relationship like any other, one we do not fool ourselves about. We know it’s a tryst, a few hours of adventure and it will be over, to be remembered forever and maybe returned to from time to time, if it proves itself to be exciting or fulfilling enough. I decided to love her anyway. I know my heart is pretty resilient. It will heal if broken and we’ll have our memories to look back on. I had to know how it all ends!

Hobie was one of my favorite characters. He repairs antique furniture and at first I thought that was completely irrelevant. Sweet and pretty, yes, but probably irrelevant. You’d think I’d have learned by now that nothing in fiction is irrelevant! She goes into so many details about how he repairs things and why, what pieces are worth saving and for what reasons, how they became damaged in the first place and how it could have been avoided. Different pieces, different eras, different kinds of wood, all take a different touch. Humans are very similar. Each of us has a reason for being here. We’re all damaged in different ways, by different usage. And we’re all savable for one purpose or another. Just beautiful.

And then there was this, “Even though a copy Proust was able to re-dream that image, re-shape reality with it, pull something all his own from it into the world. Because – the line of beauty is the line of beauty. It doesn’t matter if it’s been through the Xerox machine a hundred times.”

We are all copies. Not one of us is an original. But each time we go out in the world in our own way, whether just living, creating, or dreaming, we re-create that “line of beauty” for the world. Like an image of an image of an image, we are a link in the chain into the future. Don’t break that chain. Go out into the world, either in person or virtually, and share your joy so that someone else sees it and reflects it further.

“…good doesn’t always follow from good deeds, nor bad deeds result from bad, does it? Even the wise and good cannot see the end of all actions.”

“Because, if bad can sometimes come from good actions – ? Where does it ever say, anywhere, that only bad can come from bad actions – ? Maybe sometimes  – the wrong way is the right way? You can take the wrong path and it still comes out where you want to be? Or, spin it another way, sometimes you can do everything wrong and it still turns out to be right?”

“As long as I am acting out of love I feel I am doing best I know how. But you – wrapped up in judgement, always regretting the past, cursing yourself, blaming yourself, asking ‘what if,’ ‘what if.’ ‘Life is cruel.’ ‘I wish I had died instead of.’”

It’s been a long standing idea of mine that all of us are doing the best we can with the information we have at the moment we made the decision. There are no perfect answers. There are no perfect decisions. If we live looking back, we’ll never see what’s right in front of us. Don’t miss your life by looking backwards or by looking too far into the future. You’re life is right now.

And from the very beginning of the book…which seals the deal on reading the whole thing again, and soon, “Whenever you see flies or insects in a still life – a wilted petal, a black spot on the apple – the painter is giving you a secret message. He’s telling you that living things don’t last – it’s all temporary. Death in life. That’s why they are called natures mortes. Maybe you don’t see it at first with all the beauty and bloom, the little speck of rot. But if you look closer – there it is.”

I had underlined it right there on page 24. It gave me chills then, but not for the same reason it did just now, after 747 more pages and a month of reflection. That’s what makes life worth living, the fact that it is only temporary. Live it right now. Don’t wait. And don’t despair, because when one joy ends, another begins. No regrets, just love.

I’ve added her two other novels to my reading list!

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