Who knew plant science could be so fascinating, or hold so many medical possibilities? Certainly not me!
“Conservation can’t happen in a vacuum. As long as humans are considered separate from – instead of part of – nature, such initiatives will likely be met with little success.” The Plant Hunter by Cassandra Leah Quave
Humans are not an invasive species. In fact, I’m not completely sure what would be an invasive species. Every species on this planet evolved right here along side of us in the grand scheme of things. We are all doing what comes naturally, improving on it, and continuing on our way.
For our species to continue, we need to start accepting the fact that we are part of things here, not a foreign invader. Yes, like every other species, at first it was survival of the fittest. We’ve gotten to this point in time and space by scrambling to the top. Now that we’re here, and we’ve evolved these big creative brains, let’s find ways to stabilize and make things easier.
She believes that, like other drugs that were first derived from plants, there are more out there. She wants to find and catalog the ones used by shamans and healers, investigate how they work, what they are made of, and find out if any of them can help us heal in new and innovative ways. She made ME excited about the possibilities and most science, especially medical, is beyond my understanding.
I really enjoyed reading The Plant Hunter. The author seems like a wonderfully talented and well-rounded person, and she shared her story in such a beautiful way, weaving the passion she has for her science all within the story of her life.
This is the way things should be presented. I have an adjusted viewpoint about science, university labs, medical care, plants, etc. because of the way she told it. This will be a book I pull off my shelf in the future and hand to a friend, maybe even a child. “Read this. It’ll show you another world of possibilities.”
I’m not just talking about the science she is so driven to search out and understand. I’m talking about the research and university life, grant writing, travel, parenting and relationship, all from a very intelligent woman with a prosthetic leg and foot. We all could learn a lot from her.
How do I even begin to tell you, to explain what goes on in my head? You’ll think I’m exaggerating, but I’m really not. It’s true. I have a very hard time remembering things. How does that relate to the book No-Nonsense Buddhism for Beginners? You’ll see.
I write things down a lot, lists of things I need to do, people I need to talk to. I make lists in retrospect as well, so that tomorrow I can look back and remember that I did that thing. I take screen shots of conversations and save them so that I don’t forget that someone loves me deeply. Playing cards with me is easy. You don’t ever need to worry about me seeing your cards. The moment I can’t see them anymore, I forget. Playing pinochle with my family was always hilarious because I have to put all my focus on remembering how many cards have been played. But that’s not really a big deal, right?
I know I’ve probably brought this up before but, there is a lot that I don’t remember about the books I’ve read shortly after I put them back on the shelf. I know I did read them because I wrote in the book. And there are some books that have stuck with me. I’ve read that I’m not alone there. Most people, when asked if they’ve read a certain book, can tell you yes or no, but then not be able to give the details about it. They just remember that they liked it or not. One of the reasons I write here is to put conscious effort into putting my thoughts in order and then keeping them to look back on. I remember more of what I talk about and/or explain than what I read.
What does that have to do with No-Nonsense Buddhism for Beginners?
I’ve been listening to Noah Rasheta’s podcast, Secular Buddhism, for several months. I like what he has to say. I feel like he explains the concepts in ways that are useful to me. But, in day-to-day interaction, I forget what I meant to remember. I keep trying to rewire the way I react to the world, remember that everything is connected, to take a breath and respond instead of reacting, to listen and watch the world around me, but I fail more often than not. It’s frustrating.
I bought his book because I thought having a physical book to flip through every day, instead of just listening once a week, would help cement the concepts into my mind so that I can use them. My goal is to read through it all once, and then go back and re-read each piece once a day, like a meditation practice.
Buddhist principles have helped my mental health tremendously this past year. I wish I had found it earlier in my life. It may have saved me a lot of heartache. This line is what keeps me on the path, “To be enlightened is to be liberated from our habitual reactivity, freed from our perceptions and ideas in order to see reality as it is without wanting it to be different.” That’s it! That’s what I want.
I’m a highly habitual person. I build up habits to keep order in my mind and make the world around me safe. Sometimes the habits aren’t helpful. I try to reassess my habits on a regular basis. I sit down with my notebook and write out my day, the things I do, and ask myself, “Is this serving me?” That’s easy to do with things like housework, exercise, and learning. But emotional habits are a whole other ballgame. Those are well engrained, and I’ve had a rough time changing them, no matter how badly I want to.
It’s like learning new eating habits. I start a new diet, get into it, really feel like I’m getting somewhere, and then BAM, a bad day, a party, a holiday, and I’m right back on the track of a poor diet filled with empty calories, loads of carbs, and plenty of alcohol. My body thanks me by feeling terrible, which makes me crave more “comfort” food, and I spiral down into “you suck” mode.
I have some pretty piss-poor relational habits that need to be resolved if I’m going to live well the next forty years. I’m trying so hard to change those habits in positive ways, but I keep forgetting the damn principles. Just like the game, when the cards are hidden from view, I have no idea what I’m supposed to do. I need reminders.
A few weeks ago, I was getting gas in town and across the island I saw a guy with a Buddhist mala prayer bead bracelet on. A light went on. The prayer beads are a reminder, each bead connects to the other to make a whole, just like we each connect to each other. They can also be a focus, moving along the chain and taking a breath, saying a mantra, or thinking a name, until you come back to the beginning.
Today, I ordered a set of wooden prayer beads. I’m hoping they’ll serve as a physical reminder that I’m changing. When I see them, I’ll remember my meditation, and (hopefully) pause to think a bit.
I’m about halfway through No-Nonsense Buddhism for Beginners already. I think keeping it close-by and ready for me to meditate on a page or two will help me build up these new habits. I’ll keep the beads with me as well and maybe, over time, my brain will connect the peace of what I read, my mediation, and the beads will serve to bring me back when I start to get lost.
I’ve written about my Buddhism journey many times before. Check out Zen Blogging: Writing to Learn? It’s one of my favorites. It’s also one that I have recently went back to and thought, “Wait…what? I’ve had this thought before?!” …sigh…
“In this book I have tried to build on both Adam Smith and Charles Darwin: to interpret society as the product of a long history of what the philosopher Dan Dennett calls ‘bubble-up’ evolution through natural selection among cultural rather than genetic variations, and as an emergent order generated by an invisible hand of individual transactions, not the product of top-down determinism.”
“Futurology always ends up telling you more about your own time than about the future.”
The Rational Optimist by Matt Ridley
This book is so full of legitimate reasons to be optimistic about the future that it’s hard to quote from, hard to pull out one piece and attempt to get you excited about reading it. But I want you to read it. It’s still (10 years after publication) what we need to hear as we continue to pull each other down across the internet.
Politicians, activists, scientists, and media producers have always been telling us that the world is getting worse. If they told you that everything was great, we are right on track, and not to worry, it would seem that we need fewer laws, lower taxes, and fewer politicians. And they aren’t doing it intentionally or because they are evil. They do it because optimism doesn’t sell, pessimism is what keeps them employed. It’s the same reason the new soap company tells you that your old soap is causing you problems and theirs is going to solve all those problems you didn’t know you had.
The book does not deny that things can be improved. It’s rational optimism, not putting on rose colored glasses. It doesn’t deny climate change or science. It doesn’t claim that the world is so damn rosy that we can just sit back and enjoy the ride. His claim is that things are getting better and will continue to do so IF we can keep communicating ideas between each other and have the freedom to work together in amazing ways.
This morning I read in the August issue of Reason magazine, “When things are worse, or perceived as worse, people grow less tolerant, less empathetic, less open to compromise, and they offer each other less leeway. A sense of scarcity or impending scarcity fosters a zero-sum mindset.”
The more we believe what they say instead of evaluating our own experience (through their lens not our own), the angrier and more distrustful we are of the people around us, which creates the negative experiences we read about and then gets amplified on social media because we just have to warn the others. It’s a spiral downward.
I loved this book because he doesn’t claim to have the answers. He doesn’t even claim that everything will work out for the best in the end. What he does say is that we should be aware that this world is changing so rapidly, no one can clearly predict what will happen and what we should do about it now. In the past, freedom and less control are what seem to get us where we want to be with the fewest casualties, maybe we should try staying on that track.
And there are rational reasons for optimism, despite what the news and the politicians are saying. I can see that in my own life, without ever opening my computer or watching the news. My life is much easier and richer than my parents’ was, and my children are already better off than I was at their age. Watching them find jobs and housing this past year was FAR easier than when I was doing it. Your field of search is unlimited. You can search, interview, and apply for an apartment, all online from a thousand miles away.
Don’t know how to do something? Google it and you’ll find a step-by-step video from a hundred different people or a free online class. Want to visit a place? Whip out your phone, read reviews, make reservation, all while you’re driving following directions that tell you where the traffic is lighter. Want to skip the crowds? Order online, have things delivered, or look at an app that tells you how crowded a restaurant or park is in real time.
And there’s not just optimism in our personal lives. The whole world is getting better, and he shares all the statistics to prove it. We feed more people, live in cleaner environments, and live healthier, longer lives. And richer we get, the more we have to share and help others get where we are.
It all starts with the freedom to trade, the building of technology, and trust. The more we see the positives, the happier we all are, and the more we start to trust and help each other.
So…yeah, this was a great book. I’m glad I read it again. Have you read The Rational Optimist? You should! If each of us started to have a slightly better outlook about the future of humanity, just think how much good we could do!
The perfect plan for your life is no hard and fast plan at all. Vonnegut is right here…
“The truth is, we know so little about life, we don’t really know what the good news is and what the bad news is.”
A Man without a country by kurt vonnegut
Time travel and multiple dimensions, is a common discussion around here. It always has been. There have been heated debates that usually end with one person throwing up their hands and walking away. There was one just yesterday!
It’s never a matter of who’s thinking is right or whether or not you will disappear if you go back in time and accidently kill your grandparent that gets us riled up. Those debates are common. It’s more of a fundamental thing.
Are there, or are there not, multiple dimensions? And if there are, how can there physically be more than one of the same person? Where are these places? Are they places at all, these alternate timelines? Which leads me to think that if there are multiple dimensions, doesn’t that mean there is no physical reality? Is the whole universe just in our collective imagination?
And therein lies the rub: Is there actually no physical reality in the way we think there is? Maybe death is simply the passing between one reality and the next. Why lament its coming? Why be so selfish in struggling to keep the ones you love from experiencing their next reality? Let go.
Vonnegut is right here. We know so little. How can we possibly know that the death of that person is good news or bad news in our future or theirs?
And the same holds true for any moment of change in our lives. If we had chosen X instead of Y, would our lives have been different? Yes. Better? We can’t know. Best to live in the reality we are experiencing whether it is physical or not.
We can’t stand in the now forever. It’s like standing still in a river and thinking you’ve stopped it from flowing.
With each moment there are choices to make that will have an effect on the world around us. And we can’t really know the outcome of any of those choices before we make them. We just make our best guess and go with it.
No regrets. No looking back. No, “What if I had chosen…?” because we can’t know. Even if we could jump into another timeline and see, I assume we’d still have to come back to the one we are from. Otherwise, wouldn’t we just be pushing that consciousness out of its reality? That doesn’t seem nice.
I don’t know, but it’s fun to think about, at least to me it is.
Roll the dice. See what happens. And adjust your thinking. The less we insist on a specific outcome, the better and easier our lives will be.
Sounds defeatist. Just take your lumps. You can’t affect outcomes. That’s not what I mean at all. I mean, make an educated choice, do your best, and enjoy what you get from that. You just don’t know what the future holds.
Cliché. I know. But these things seem to hold true most times. That’s why they are cliché. That bad outcome could end up being the best thing that ever happened to you. Or you’ll just die and move on to the next reality, or nothingness. Nothing to get all worked up over.
Love & Friendship by Allan Bloom called to me from the top shelf of my TBR pile. It’s just the kind of book I need right now, a long and intellectual treatise type of book on sex and relationships.
Snug in the middle of a stack of books far over my head, I didn’t have the patience to go get a step ladder to reach it. Instead, I stood on my tippy toes and pulled a few books off the stack with my fingers outstretched while my husband watched from his office chair.
I could hear his thoughts as I struggled, “Should I get up and help her? No…let’s see what happens.”
I didn’t drop them, not even a single one. So, there! I thought I would. Several times the thought of pausing a moment and getting some kind of help did cross my mind. But what can I say? I’m childish and impatient in most things, so I kept reaching and pulling books down a couple at a time until I got to the book I wanted.
This one is going to be fun. I read Allan Bloom’s Closing of the American Mind, at the beginning of our homeschool career fifteen years ago. Seeing the author’s name is what made me grab this one out of the free book pile back in December and add it to my TBR shelf to read this year.
Looking for a new book to read this week, my eye was immediately drawn to Love & Friendship because it’s a subject I’ve been agonizing a lot over the past couple of years. The past few weeks of having an empty nest have brought it even more to the forefront of my mind.
Once I had the book in my hand, I flipped it over for a bit more information. Is this the book I need to read right now?
“Allan Bloom argues that we live in a world where love and friendship are withering away. Science and moralism have reduced eros to sex. Individualism and egalitarianism have turned romantic relationships into contractual matters. Images of sexuality surround us, but we are unable to deal with the hopes and risks of intimacy.”
Yep. That sounds exactly what I need to be reading right now.
I read the introduction this morning and realize this will be a slower read than usual. My competitive spirit made me hesitate for a moment. If I read this, I may not read anything else this month. My number of books/pages will go down.
Screw statistics! This is where I need to be.
“Isolation, a sense of lack of profound contact with other human beings, seems to be the disease of our time.”
This was published in 1993, ladies and gentleman. Thirty years later, are we any closer to a solution or are we moving further from the sense of intimate community we once created to help us move out of the world of animals?
I’m looking forward to reading this in depth, but I’m also worried that it will depress me further to dwell on how far away from the ideal we have traveled. I’ve spent my adult life attempting to create a better world (in my home and personal relationships) for the people around me. I continue to try to make that circle a little larger, a little more intimate and emotionally close. Is anyone else out there making these efforts?
“Wild Mind” looks to be a Zen book about writing! …swoons… We should be living the same way this author tells us how to find our writing inside of us and let it out for others to experience.
Pulled this down from the overflowing TBR stack yesterday morning and was immediately sucked in. How does a book find just the person that needs it? That’s what I want to know! Wow!
From the very first pages of the book…
“The mind is raw, full of energy, alive and hungry. It does not think in the way we were brought up to think – well-mannered, congenial.”
“When you are done with it, you know the author better. That’s all a reader really wants…”
Strange…isn’t that why author’s write? To explain themselves, their thinking, their desires, to you and to themselves as well. To share another point of view in the world, in the hopes of connecting with another human.
When you read, is that what you get from the article, essay, or novel?
When you write, do you find yourself thinking more clearly about who you are and what you want out of this life?
I’m looking forward to reading this. The chapters are short and there are “Try this:” pages to work through. I think I’ll take my time reading and work on creating some new habits.
I’ve never read anything by Natalie Goldberg. I didn’t go looking for this book. I just saw a book about writing with the word “wild mind” on the cover and was pulled to it. I listen to those voices that speak quietly to my heart now more than I ever have. I’m only fifteen pages into this book and I’m glad I did!
Not only do our life choices have an effect on the rest of our existence, they ripple out to the lives around us and down their timelines as well. But that doesn’t mean there are always clear “right” and “wrong” choices at the moment we’re making them. We can’t possibly know what all the results will be for all our options and which ones will lead us the “right” way, so we do the best we can with what we have and keep on living and loving.
“There are generations yet unborn, whose very lives will be shifted and shaped by the moves you make and the actions you take…tonight. And tomorrow. And tomorrow night. And the next day. And the next.”
The Noticer by Andy Andrews
Maybe we should limit ourselves to what will do us, and those around us, the most good in the moment we are in when we are considering our life choices.
I made a note at this line, “The Butterfly Effect.” Remember that movie? I think I’d like to watch it again. I remember the concept but not the details, the plot eludes me other than tiny ripples make large differences in the distant future.
I remember thinking about it when my kids were very little and becoming overwhelmed with the idea that what I do now, while they are so young, every day, can have lasting effects on their lives and their own families lives in the future. At the time I was feeling so not ready for the family situation I thought I had wanted. I remember walking home from the park pushing a stroller, my husband walking with his daughter a few paces behind, wanting out.
What have I done? My choices are going to destroy more lives, ruin more people’s futures. My family will be disappointed. My husband will lose what he thought was the love of his life. And my sons…another couple of children brought into this world and then abandoned. I literally wanted to run away, not divorce and reorganize, just run away from all of it. It was a rough time.
Luckily, I got some help and decided to stick around and see what happened. Today, I’m glad I did, but in all honesty, it wasn’t always so. It was touch and go for a while. Some days and weeks were better than others. And I still have bad days from time to time. But that’s all beside the point.
My decision to stay in the relationship, to raise my children with my husband, led me right where I am right now. It was one decision that led to another and one that will affect everyone around me forever. If I had decided to do the opposite, or chose and entirely different option, I can’t know what would have happened, unless we invent some way of seeing alternate timelines.
And that doesn’t necessarily mean I made a correct or best choice either. Life is good right now, but it could always be better. It’s good for me, but maybe it would have been better for my stepdaughter if I had left. My husband could have met someone else that would have made a better parent to her than I did. Who knows? All I’m saying is that every decision you make, everything that accidentally happens, every stroke of fate, leads you to another that gets you where you are now.
I became overwhelmed back then because I was trying to make “the right” choices to create “the right” future. But there is no “right.” There is only the moment we are in, with the information we have, and the people that are there now.
At some point in my life, I decided to stop worrying about making the “right” decision and started thinking about how I could make life nicer for the people around me in that moment, including myself. I stopped nagging about things I wanted done and did them myself. I stopped complaining about other people’s choices and focused on my own. It was only the beginning and I don’t even remember where that idea came from, what book, website, movie, or conversation led me to stop and think.
Inspiration to change comes from everywhere at every moment. As I walk through the store, drive down the freeway, or post on the internet, I try to remember that I’m influencing the world around me. I want to send positives out into the world, but sometimes the negatives influence others to do good things too. I’m not going to worry about any other timeline but the one I’m in and that branches out from what I’m doing right now, the best I have isn’t always that great, but it is what is and I can’t change that.
I picked up “The Philosophy of Peace” by John Somerville to read next. I wanted to end the month on a non-fiction note and decided this title had a nice positive ring to it. Since this book was picked up out of the pile of books I adopted from a friend, I really have nothing else to go on other than the title, so I did a quick search of the “interwebs” before I started to read it and found very little other than the book for sale across the web. Strange.
From the book itself, I see it has a copywrite of 1949. The dedication says,
So far so good, I suppose. We haven’t had another thing called a World War since, but we have been constantly at war all over the world, so there’s that.
There’s an inscription inside as well, and you know how much I love that.
I love this. Where are Mr. & Mrs. Martin Haisler and Edward W. Gray now? Why did he give this book to them? The book was published in 1949. What was it like in Hollywood, Florida then? What did they do for a living? How old were they?
If I could make a law, I’d say you have to write something in any book you read about who you are and why you are reading it or why you’re giving it. In fact, I’ve been giving books as gifts for years and from now on, instead of ordering them sent, I’m going to buy them, write a note inside and then send it personally. Time traveling again!
In search of more information about the book and author, I went directly to Wikipedia and they don’t have a page on this author. Amazon has the book listed under a used book seller with no details. The only thing I found was an obituary from the LA Times from 1994.
I’m sitting down with this, the day my youngest baby leaves the nest, with a cup of coffee and finding out what I can. Maybe it’s simply no longer relevant? That happens.
“The Secret Life of Dust” called to me from the pile every time I walked by. I told it I would read it soon, it was next in line, be patient. As soon as I finished my last book, I picked it up and put it on my desk. I could tell right away it was happy to be there.
What do I know about this book? Nothing really. I liked the cover. I assumed it was about science when I picked it up out of my friend’s donated library.
“From the Cosmos to the Kitchen Counter, the Big Consequences of Little Things”
Sounds intriguing, doesn’t it?
I sat down to add it to my reading journal and couldn’t decide what genre to put it under. Non-fiction, sure. But is it science, history, sociology? I looked it up on Goodreads but that didn’t help.
I love categories and counting things. How am I supposed to mark this?! I guess it’s just another lesson in not putting things in boxes. Life doesn’t work that way, I’m told. I’m reminded of it every time I try to put things in order, no matter what part of my life I’m working on.
Kitchen things are used in the garage. Education comes from everywhere. Family can be found in anyone. And meaning can be made of clouds…which are only there because of dust.
You see what my brain did there? Pretty clever, I think.
I started reading first thing this morning. And the first chapters are about space dust. Now I want desperately for someone to go out there “Star Trek” style and confirm humanity’s observations. What’s out there? Who’s out there? Is there another planet full of beings looking out in our direction and wondering, “What is that strange blue/green glow?”
“…the world is faced in fact with the problems mythologically represented in the Bible legend of the builders of the Tower of Babel, when the Lord so confused men’s tongues that they had to abandon the building of their secular city and scatter… Only there is no room today into which we might scatter away from each other; and just there, of course, is the rub and special problem of our age.”
“Myths to Live By” by Joseph Campbell
And, again, this was written fifty years ago, before the 24-hour news cycle, before the internet, before social media.
Is the art of communication lost?
Time and time again I wonder, with all the new ways to communicate, why do we still not understand each other? Lately it feels as though we aren’t even trying.
Words are tricky things. They don’t always mean the same thing to everyone. Even if we’re both speaking English, we come from different backgrounds, different context gives words different meanings. Throw in a translation from a different language, some emotional words, a few cultural references, and you have a mess.
Public discourse as a communication tool?
The internet is proving to be no place to communicate with other humans, especially in an open forum with a large group of strangers. You may as well stand on the floor of New York Stock Exchange and start asking questions.
Communication isn’t about simply speaking our minds, telling our side of the story, writing out our version of events, our wants and needs. It’s more about listening and asking questions. With so many people making noise, it’s hard to hear what’s being said, even when we get a chance to ask.
What about personal communication?
Admittedly, I’ve never been a good listener. I forget to ask questions. When I do remember, I’m often an impatient listener. I’m not hearing what’s being said and thinking about it, I’m listening for words that trigger my own thoughts and remembrances. I rarely walk away from a conversation knowing more about people than that they seemed to like my stories or not.
I want to do better. Something I’m currently reading is helping me with one simple idea: have compassion. Walking through this world remembering that everyone I see is a human being with the same basic wants and needs as I do: to be seen and heard.
We can’t work together until we can communicate effectively. And we can’t communicate effectively until we can have compassion for the people around us. That communication starts with one person stopping to listen, ask questions, and hear the human behind the words.