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

Tag: human behavior

Does Grendel Represent the Chaos of the Natural World? Part 1 of 2

The following post, my notes on book, Grendel by John Gardner, is my first two-parter, so bear with me. There was just too much in this book for one post to contain!

Grendel quote on a desert background.

I’ll tell you what…going through this book and pulling out the quotes that still resonate with me one month after reading was a downer. I started this day with so much hope and joy and then in crashes Grendel…that beast!

At first, I didn’t understand the point of this book, other than a view from another character’s perspective. Then a few weeks later I was listening to the Isaac Morehouse podcast and heard someone (and I’m really sorry but I can’t remember what interview it was) say that the story of Beowulf was showing how humans had fought their way out of chaos and how they had to keep defending civilization from collapsing back into it. That chaos was in the form of Grendel coming each night to kill warriors.

That was when the meaning of the book I read come flooding in on me. Grendel in John Gardner’s book was not chaos, he was simply another part of nature, and he was angry watching mankind kill and destroy its way through the world, just as he did, yet not take responsibility for its actions. Humans sat there in their great halls, pretending that they were better than nature, that they had risen above violence, and yet used it against each other in the most horrific and manipulative ways.

Grendel (nature) is unapologetically violent. He doesn’t hide it or pretend there are good reasons for killing and destroying things. He just is what he is. It is not his job to change his nature, but for others to be aware of him and avoid him if they can.

This is a feeling I’ve had myself. I want to know right out front how the people around me feel about certain things. I don’t want them to blend in. I want them to stand loud and proud. That way I can take full responsibility to avoid or move towards those people, to choose whether I can band together with them or pass them by and leave them to their lives the way they see fit.

I enjoyed reading Grendel’s perspective. He’s open and honestly murderous. He doesn’t hold it against others when they avoid or best him. He is who he is and I can respect that, although I’d rather not live next door to him.

The following are some of my favorite quotes from the book and a few of my thoughts on each. Ever since this morning, when I opened the book and flipped through to copy down my notes here, I’ve had some of these rolling around in my head.


“That is their happiness: they see all life without observing it. They’re buried in it like crabs in mud. Except men, of course.”

Animals, nature…they don’t attempt to change the course of things other than to stay alive and procreate as best they can. They’re just in the world. Us humans, we can use our creative brains to manipulate the world, for better or worse.

“Stars, spattered out through lifeless night from end to end, like jewels scattered in a dead king’s grave, tease, torment my wits toward meaningful patterns that do not exist.”

The human mind is geared to see and recognize patterns, even where there are none. We create a mythology about whatever we don’t understand and make meaning when we can’t discover one.

“I understood that the world was nothing: a mechanical chaos of casual, brute enmity on which we stupidly impose our hopes and fears.”

It still is and always will be. It sounds so damn depressing. Sometimes I want to believe in a fairy tale, but something about harsh reality is so…I don’t know. Maybe it’s like a train wreck. We want to look away and not know but our eyes refuse to obey.

“Hrothgar, who’d begun hardly stronger than the others, began to outstrip the rest. He’d worked out a theory about what fighting was for, and now he no longer fought with his six closest neighbors. He’d shown them the strength of his organization, and now, instead of making war on them, he sent men to them every three months or so, with heavy wagons and back-slings, to gather their tribute to his greatness.”

This is one of the things the Grendel hates most and something we continue to allow “government” to do in our collective names all over the world.

“They sense that, of course, from time to time; have uneasy feelings that all they live by is nonsense.

That’s where the Shaper saves them. Provides an illusion of reality – puts together all their facts with a gluey whine of connectedness.”

Mythology in a nutshell. Hey! Let me out! How did I get in here?!

“Except in the life of a hero, the whole world’s meaningless. The hero sees values beyond what is possible. That’s the nature of a hero. It kills him, of course, ultimately. But it makes the whole struggle of humanity worthwhile.” I nodded in the darkness. “And breaks up the boredom,” I said.

Each of us is hero in our own little corner of the universe, right? But we’re just doing what makes us happy and content, easing our own or other’s suffering. We wouldn’t do it if it didn’t serve us somehow in the world that we live in. It sounds so ugly, I know, but it’s honest. It’s also why we create and watch superhero movies!

“Shall I call the tree tyrannical, since where it stands nothing survives but itself and its high-borne guests? Condemn it because it sends down stifling darkness, sucks the life from grass, and whitens the sapling leaf for trifling, fluttering friends?”

Those damn trees! Everything in nature strives to stay alive and procreate, including humans. And there are ALL kinds of humans. Some are more aggressive than others, some live well in groups, some…don’t. Know each kind, respect their right to be here and create your own boundaries to thrive.


There’s more coming tomorrow! Aren’t you excited?! I know, it’s a harsh one, but we only know the highs if we accept and trudge through the lows, right? I wrote about this book when I started reading it back in March. Click back to Grendel by John Gardner to read it!

Where Did Our Words for Love Go?

words for love quote from book on a desert background

“The first step to take is to become aware that love is an art, just as living is an art; if we want to learn how to love we must proceed in the same way we have to proceed if we want to learn any other art, say music, painting, carpentry, or the art of medicine or engineering.”

The Art of Loving by Erich Fromm

Let me start by saying, as I did in my monthly “What in the World is She Reading” newsletter, that I got so much out of this little book and I’m still processing it. I don’t necessarily agree with everything he says. Some of it was a bit to “far out” for me. But, wow, there was a lot of usable material here. I know…I promised only to post a few pieces per book but this one is going to be hard to narrow down. I took so many notes!

Do you consider love something you work at doing well?

Or is it something that you “fall into” and passionately experience?

Fromm believes they are two different things and I think I agree. There is that immediate attraction to another human that is based on hormones, pheromones, and instinct. And then there is the higher cerebral order that humans are capable of, that of actively loving people. I think we confuse the two, and debase or idolize one or the other, on a regular basis.

Like Fromm, I believe we should be putting more of our energy into cultivating the art of love.

What’s crazy is that we have to define what we mean by “love” since we don’t have separate words for different kinds. Why is that? Why do we lump so many different ideas into one word and then expect everyone around us to know what we’re talking about? Doesn’t that create chaos?

I say to my children, my husband, by friend, the kid that makes my sandwich just right, “I love you!” That’s crazy. What happened? Where did our words go?

If you’d like to read more of my thoughts on the book, “The Art of Loving,” check out the following links.
We Cannot Give What We Do Not Have
Learning to Concentrate by Being Alone
How to Parent by Respecting the Individual
Can More Faith in Yourself Lead to More Faith in Others?

You can find “The Art of Loving” by Erich Fromm at Thriftbooks.com.

Have you read this book? If so, leave me a comment. I’d love to hear what you think.


“Four Reasons a Newsletter is Better Than a Social Media Feed”
Bypass the social media algorithms and sign up for my weekly newsletter. Each week will give you a rundown of my favorites posts, podcasts, and few funnies. Read what you want, when you want, without getting sucked into the endless scroll mode!

“Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds”

It’s my second time reading about the extraordinary popular delusions of men. Seems like now would be a good time to dive in again.

Book cover of "extraordinary popular delusions" on a desert background.

Something pulled my attention back to this book this morning as I took my walk around the neighborhood. I pulled it off my shelf when I got home and found that the last time I read it was 2012. I had bought the book at a used bookshop in Big Bear, California. And inside there’s another name, “Bob Baker, Freson, CA, April 1996.”

Who else has read this particular copy?

Opening to the forward and reading a few pages at the bookshelf, I was reminded why I loved the book so much and decided it should be my immediate next read. First published in 1841, it’s amazing to find how little humanity changes as a whole.

There is so much one could delve into with this book, so many similar theme and reactions in our own time, but I’ll leave that to greater minds than mine. I underlined and made a lot of notes in this book, but when I went back through the book to write about it, the post just kept coming out too negative and it made me unhappy to dwell on it too deeply. The big takeaway? People in large numbers are wildly unpredictable, crazy, and willing to take you along with them by force if necessary.

Instead, I’ll share with you a few of my favorite quotes. These are the ones that made me laugh or think, “Ah, humanity…you are so, so nuts!”

“His own wife was ill-favoured and ill-natured; Dee’s was comely and agreeable; and he longed to make an exchange of partners without exciting the jealousy or shocking the morality of Dee.”

Who wouldn’t want to make and exchange? And besides maybe that ill-natured woman would be a real match for someone else!

“Men, in striving to gain too much, do not always overreach themselves; if they cannot arrive at the inaccessible mountain-top, they may perhaps get half-way towards it, and pick up some scraps of wisdom and knowledge on the road.”

Striving toward any goal, whether we make it or not, at least gets us somewhere. Unless you’re striving to walk on water and can’t swim. That can’t be good. Or striving to stop some people dying from one thing, but end up killing off a lot more with the prevention or cure. That would suck, but we’d still learn something, right?

“Every age has its peculiar folly; some scheme, project, or phantasy into which it plunges, spurred on either by the love of gain, the necessity of excitement, or the mere force of imitation. Failing these, it has some madness, to which it is goaded by political or religious causes, or both combined.”

Every age. Even this one.

You can find “Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds” at Thirftbooks if you’d like to read it yourself. Have you read this book? I’d love to hear your comments!


“Four Reasons a Newsletter is Better Than a Social Media Feed”
Bypass the social media algorithms and sign up for my weekly newsletter. Each week will give you a rundown of my favorites posts, podcasts, and few funnies. Read what you want, when you want, without getting sucked into the endless scroll mode!

Has Someone Changed The Message?

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This picture made me think, but probably not in the direction you imagine.

It immediately brought me back to the movie. Rowdy Roddy taking off the glasses, staring incredulously, and then putting them back on. It’s a family favorite here and has become code for “Are you seeing what I’m seeing?” I love the movie because it fictionizes common human behavior, groupthink or “community.”

I personally don’t think any group is trying to deliberately control the people, but I do believe there are in individuals who want the power to move things in the way they believe is best for everyone. The trouble is there is no “what’s best for everyone.” What is best for everyone is simply allowing people to the freedom to take care of themselves without infringing on the people around them. Just about everyone can agree with that. The trouble comes up when we try to define how. The devil is in the details, as they say.

I liked seeing this movie reference on Instagram because it highlighted something I had just started to notice all over social media and news outlets. These were the words we were passing back and forth to each other the past month, but recently something has changed. This week some are beginning to say something else. Has one of our cue cards changed?

Humans are such community-minded beings. We have evolved in ways to help us fit in and work together. When something changes we generally all adapt and do the same until one person questions it and then some follow that person until there are enough behind him that more feel safe and then we all do what he suggests until someone else questions it.

It reminds me of that “People Are Sheep” video going around a while back where people were in a waiting room, instructed to all stand at a sound. Then when a new person came in they saw it and did it too, not knowing why. I didn’t take it as a negative. It’s just what our instincts tell us to do.

What is it that does that? Are there some people that want to follow and stay with the group, some that are more likely to see something others don’t, and some that simply don’t want to be a part of the group?

Sometimes it does feel exactly like subliminal messages are being sent to the community.

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