|burn||Burn any copy you find of this book, it is horrific.|
|mock||This book is awful. Don't read this book and mock anyone you see reading this book.|
|don't||Don't read this book.|
|desert||If you're on a desert island and are bored out of your mind, this book is okay to read.|
|fan||If you're a fan of this author / genre, this book is worth reading.|
|worth||This book is interesting, fun, entertaining, and thus worth reading. I would hand this book to a friend who asked for a _____ type book.|
|strongly||I strongly recommend this book|
|amazing||OMG, this book is amazing and/or life-changing, let me buy you a copy.|
Oh, I enjoyed this book so much. Again, I need to keep notes on why I pick up books, this one may have been on some Book Riot recommendation list, I don't know. It was, however, a zombie book (sorta, but not quite), and we know how much I enjoy a good zombie book.
And no, this one wasn't quite a zombie book in the "brains... braaaaaaaaaaaains" sort of zombie book, but it was sort, in that the Wanderers are a group of people who leave their house with no apparent reason, and start walking. From the East Coast to the West Coast, gathering up more individuals as they walk, their loved ones fluttering around them like insects, trying to help even as the zombies with their single focus on no-one knows what keep walking.
This book gets a lot of things right: AI progress, outbreaks and epidemics, society's breakdown, power manipulation, and human deception. It introduces a number of technologies in a non Hollywood-OMG-we-are-all-going-to-die sort of way, but rather in a here's-how-it-is-let's-deal-with-it sort of way, which I can appreciate.
The only downside to the book is that a number of cultural fuckeries (black men in America and racial discrimination, women in science and tech and gender discrimination, dominance and cultural manipulation) are described in passing, as a gnat buzzing around, rather than the Good Ole Boy network f'ing shutting down the black man, regardless of his doctorate, degree, experience, and ability to save them. I can't say that one could actually incorporate the topics in any more meaningful way, though, and I appreciate their being mentioned at least.
For the most part, the book is engaging and fast-paced. Literally one short section of a chapter made me think, "UGH," the rest was "wheeeee!" Strongly recommended!
“Way it works is this: You go in, and you can talk to it, ask it questions. It won’t answer in words, but rather, with green pulses or red pulses to indicate yes or no, respectively. It can also answer with images and data, but it won’t communicate with you the same way you communicate with it.” “That does not seem like an exact science.” “Benji, even an exact science is not an exact science—surely you know that above others.”
Seriously, who designs an interface where you can ask only yes / no questions? Yes, there are nuances to the language, but you can work through those with a limited vocabulary. Honestly, this is one of the very few WTF parts of this book, where I was pulled out and thought, "That doesn't make sense."
That, she said with almost zero confidence. She made that prediction only out of hope, and hope she knew had like, zero basis in reality.
“That’s not—no, that’s not what happened to him. We don’t know what happened to him.” “That instills us with little confidence,” French snapped. Benji offered both hands in a placating gesture. “That is how science and medicine are practiced best, though—we are best when we admit our ignorance up front, and then attempt to fill the darkness of not-knowing with the light of information and knowledge.”
He relied on his faith in the numbers. Numbers did not lie. Oh, you could lie using numbers (to which Benji could personally attest), but the numbers themselves were inert, unbiased, and pure.
The future wasn’t Newsweek. It was fucking YouTube. And that sucked. Because YouTube—the whole damn internet—was the antithesis of Garlin Gardens. It wasn’t fun and whimsical. Dreams were not made on the internet; they were killed there. By mean, nasty little shits who were all looking to one-up each other. Like crayfish in a bucket, all trying to climb over one another to get to the top.
Politics, despite what some believed, was not morality, nor reflective of it.
“It looks like the end of the world out there. I don’t think you can dodge the end of the world.”
“Hola, chica,” Shana said, going for a fist-bump and blowing it up after, then moving in for the hug.
Love this. Totally how I fistbump, too.
“I try not to worry about anything until I need to. Because honestly, what’s the point.”
“Screw that. I worry about everything constantly.”
“That sounds awful.”
“It sounds smart, is what it is.”
“If you say so.”
Worry about everything, maybe not.
Consider bad outcomes, absolutely.
“Before anyone asks,” Vargas said, “I don’t have any new information for you about your friends and family members.” Anger ran through Shana. People were supposed to have answers. Experts were supposed to know shit. And they didn’t know anything.
Shana knew this angst over the fact life is super unfair, wah, was hyper-fucking-cliché of her, but it was what it was, and she felt what she felt. Things, she thought, were supposed to be better than they were.
The moment they made one slip-up, that would give Homeland Security an opening to take over the whole show. They were already itching for it. What if they considered these people a threat? Benji could not imagine he lived in a country that would up and execute these people. Still… History had too many cruel examples of this very thing happening. Worse was: Would people even flinch? Would Americans quietly look away? Or would they rise up in defense of the flock?
Well, giving ICE shit happening now, we know which way this one would go.
This, he decided, was a problem for Future Benji.
Death was a tragedy. But death was also a data point.
That marked her as either someone who had a lot of untapped courage—there was that word again, echoing the conversation with Arav—or someone who cared little for herself or her own life. (He wondered idly, How often do those two things intertwine?)
I bought this book a couple years ago at Powells, from the bargin bin. The version was a new translation, from around 1994, and had wordings and phrases that really worked for this "modern reader." As with One Hundred Years of Solitude, it was a book I needed to read. Much past that, I am unsure why I picked it up, or why I read it at this point.
As with One Hundred Years, one should not read the introductions. This book's introduction, "oh look at me, I am so learned about this book and this author, let me discuss the most essential plot point before you have even started the book," (YEARGH!) also gave away too much.
While I know this book is often assigned in high school, I'm completely certain that I understood more having read the book as an adult, than I could have possibly understood as a teenager. The main character is nineteen, twenty, so reading it without life experiences could possibly allow an emotional connection to Paul, the narrator, but not knowing the horrors of war (as most American high schoolers do not), nor having the larger world perspective, nor understanding of the cycles of history, leads me to believe that the book will read as just a story rather than a fictionalized telling of Remarque's WW1 experiences.
There's a part of the book where the main character's company is deployed to the front, and need to walk to the actual front. They are walking single file through a forest when the line is ambushed, and the soldiers scatter. The telling of the scene is so rich that one is taken to the French forest, one can feel the thumping of the artillery on the front, smell the decay of the forest floor, feel the night air and the darkness of a world before plentiful light and never night. The described sounds of the company and the gut reactions to the ping ping of the shots downing the guy in front of the narrator send chills and terror in a visceral way that I believe most people don't experience these days: how can they when they've grown up on first person shooter and infinite light and connectedness?
The book is incredibly powerful. I'd argue that Fives and Twenty Fives is a similar retelling of a different war with a different outcome, with the same shit situation: that the boots on the ground are experiencing the worst, and that none of the rest of us fully understand, or could understand. Those experiences break most, and destroy even those who bend.
Strongly recommend reading this book as an adult. I will buy you a copy, a nice copy even.
On the right-hand edge of the field they have built a huge latrine block, a good solid building with a roof. But that is only for new recruits, who haven't yet learned to get the best they can out of everything. We want something a bit better. And scattered all around are small individual thunderboxes with precisely the same function. They are square, clean, made of solid wood, closed in, and with a really comfortable seat. There are handles on the sides so that they can be carried about.
I can still remember how embarrassed we were at the beginning, when we were recruits in the barracks and had to use the communal latrines. There are no doors, so that twenty men had to sit side by side as if they were on a train. That way they could all be seen at a glance - soliders, of course, have to be under supervision at all times.
Out here in the open air the whole business is a real pleasure. I can't undertand why it was that we always used to skirt round these things so nervously - after all, it is just as natural as eating or drinking. And perhaps it wouldn't need to be mentioned at all if it didn't play such a signifcant part in our lives, and if it hadn't been new to us - the other man had long since got used to it.
For the others, for the older men, the war is an interruption, and they can think beyond the end of it. But we were caught up by the war, and we can't see how things will turn out.
We had an hour of saluting practice this afternoon because Tjaden gave a major a sloppy salute. Kat can't get over this. "Watch out, lads," he says, "we'll lose the war because we are too good at saluting."
For me, the front is as sinister as a whirlpool. Even when you are a long way away from its centre, out in the calm waters, you can still feel its suction pulling you towards it, slowly, inexorably, meeting little resistance.
With the first rumble of shellfire, one part of our being hurls itself back a thousand years. An animal instinct awakens in us, and it directs and protects us. It is not conscious, it is far quicker, far more accurate and far more reliable than conscious thought. You can't explain it.
French rockets shoot up, the ones with silk parachutes that open in the air and let them drift down really slowly. They light up everything as clear as day, and their brightness even reaches across to us, so that we can see our shadows stark against the ground. The lights hang in the sky for minutes at a time before they burn out. New ones shoot up at once, everywhere, and there are still the green, red and blue stars.
Searchlights begin to sweep the black sky. They skim across it like huge blackboard pointers, tapering down at the bottom. One of them pauses, shaking a little. At once another is beside it, they cross and there is a black, winged insect trapped and trying to escape: an airman. He wavers, is dazzled, and falls.
He notices his helmet and puts it on his head. Slowly he comes to himself. Then suddenly he blushes scarlet and his face has a look of embarrassment. Cautiously he puts his hand to his rear end and gives me an agonized look. I understand at once: the barrage scared the shit out of him. That wasn't the precise reason that I put his helmet where I did - but all the same I comfort him. 'No shame in that, plenty of soldiers before you have filled their pants when they came under fire for the first time. Go behind that bush, chuck your underpants away, and that's that -"
The screaming goes on and on. It can't be men, they couldn't scream that horribly.
"Wounded horses," says Kat.
I have never heard a horse scream and I can hardly believe it There is a whole world of pain in that sound, creation itself under torture, a wild and horrifying agony.
"Albert, what would you do if all of a sudden it was peacetime?"
"There's no such thing as peacetime," replies Albert curtly.
Mulller persists. "yes, but if ... what would you do?"
"I'd bugger off out of it," grumbles Kropp.
"Course. And then what?"
"Get blind drunk," says Albert.
"Don't talk rubbish, I'm being serious - "
"Me, too," says Albert, "what else would there be to do?"
"Christ almightly," says Haie, and his expression softens, "the first thing I'd do is pick myself some strapping great bint, know what I mean, some big bouncy kitchen wench with plenty to get your hands around, then straight into bed and no messing! Think about it! Proper feather-beds with sprung mattresses. I tell you, lads, I wouldn't put my trousers back on for a week!"
Silence all around. The image is just too fantastic. It sends tremors right across the skin.
All at once everything seems to me to be pointless and desperate.
Kropp takes it further along the same line, "It will be just as difficult for all of us. I wonder whether the people back at home don't worry about it themselves occassionally? Two years of rifle fire and hand-grenades - you can't just take it all off like a pair of socks aftewards - "
Albert puts it into words. "The war has ruined us for everything."
He is right. We're no longer young men. We've lost any desire to conquer the world. We are refugees. We are fleeing from ourslves. From our lives. We were eighteen years old, and we had just begun to love the world and to love being in it, but we had to shoot at it. The first shell to land went straight for our hearts.
We are like children who have been abandoned and we are as experienced as old men, we are coarse, unhappy and superficial - I think that we are lost.
A few years ago we would really have despised ourselves. Now we are pretty well content. You can get used to anything - even being in the trenches.
This habit of getting used to things is the reason that we seem to forget so quickly.
Because one thing has become clear to me: you can cope with all the horror as long as you simply duck thinking about it - but it will kill you if you try to come to terms with it.
We want to go on living at any price, and therefore we can't burden ourselves with emotions that might be all very nice to have in peacetime, but out of place here.
We have never been a very demonstrative family - poor people who have to work hard and cope with problems very rarely are. They can't really understand that sort of thing either, and they don't like contsant going on about things that are perfectly obvious.
War is another cause of death, like cancer or tuberculosis or influenza or dysentery. The fatalities are just much more numerous, and more horrible.
But we are thin and starving. Our food is so bad and full of so much ersatz stuff that it makes us ill. The factory owners in Germany have grown rich, while dysentery racks our guts.
... they [the stories] are honest, and they call a spade a spade, because there really is a lot of fraud, injustice and petty nastiness in the army.
Leer groans and props himself on his arms, but he bleeds to death very quickly and no one can help him. After a few minutes he sinks down like a rubber tyre when the air escapes. What use is it to him now that he was so good at mathematics at school?
To my recollection, I have not read an Agatha Christie mystery before this one. Given she was a prolific writer, knowing which of her books to read, which are better than the rest, is a worthwhile endeavor. Fortunately, others have read all of Christie's books, and I can use their wisdom to curate my reading list.
This book tops many of Christie's must-read books lists. It is the highest rated Poirot books, and the highest rated Christie mystery book, so, rather than skipping to the end, I started at the top.
And read this one.
I had the advantage of not having read this book before and not having seen the movie. I loved the ending. Well, not the ending ending, but the big reveal. Wow, just wow. I suspect if I had read the other Poirot books, I would have recognized him when he was introduced. I didn't, so even that small reveal was fun for me.
Basic plot: small(-ish) town doctor receives a call in the middle of the night that a friend / patient / big name in town is dead, and rushes to find, yes, indeed, he is not only dead, but also obviously murdered. He then works with the local police and, when invited, Poirot to discover who the murderer. It could be any number of persons in the dead man's household, based on given testimonies, and wow, everyone has something to hide. Society and shame has a way of doing that to us.
The glimpses into a past society was fun, too.
While normally I'd say, "I strongly recommend one read an Agatha Christie mystery," regardless of which one, I agree with all those who have read many if not all of her books, this one is great. Strongly recommended.
“Do not disquiet yourself. It is not with me a habit. But you can figure to yourself, monsieur, that a man may work towards a certain object, may labour and toil to attain a certain kind of leisure and occupation, and then find that, after all, he yearns for the old busy days, and the old occupations that he thought himself so glad to leave?”
“Yes,” I said slowly. “I fancy that that is a common enough occurrence. I myself am perhaps an instance. A year ago I came into a legacy—enough to enable me to realize a dream. I have always wanted to travel, to see the world. Well, that was a year ago, as I said, and—I am still here.”
My little neighbour nodded. “The chains of habit. We work to attain an object, and the object gained, we find that what we miss is the daily toil."
“And anyway,” continued Miss Flora, “all this making a fuss about things because someone wore or used them seems to me all nonsense. They’re not wearing or using them now. That pen that George Eliot wrote The Mill on the Floss with—that sort of thing—well, it’s only just a pen after all. If you’re really keen on George Eliot, why not get The Mill on the Floss in a cheap edition and read it.”
Youth is very buoyant. Even the brutal murder of his friend and employer could not dim Geoffrey Raymond’s spirits for long.
Perhaps that is as it should be. I do not know. I have lost the quality of resilience long since myself.
She knows the value of being direct on certain occasions. Any hints would certainly have been wasted on Caroline.
“You see,” she explained, following directness with tact,
“Everyone has something to hide,” I quoted, smiling.
“You still believe that?”
“More than ever, my friend."
“Curiosity is not my besetting sin,” I remarked coldly. “I can exist comfortably without knowing exactly what my neighbours are doing and thinking.”
I should not like Caroline to know. She is fond of me, and then, too, she is proud…My death will be a grief to her, but grief passes….
Okay, everyone knows the movie.
Not everyone knows the movie was a book. The afterword in the book confirms this.
I had read recently about how Palahniuk's financial advisors had pretty much swindled him out of his earnings from this book ($6000 advance, according to the afterword!), and that, well, he had taken a startling Classical Stoic view on the whole thing. Maybe my purchasing of the book (twice, actually, to my surprise) will help in some small way.
So, this book.
The Narrator is living a typical American life, everything is normal, and he feels empty. He starts going to support groups to feel alive.
I loved the support groups so much, if people thought you were dying, they gave you their full attention. If this might be the last time they saw you, they really saw you. Everything else about their checkbook balance and radio songs and messy hair went out the window. You had their full attention. People listened instead of just waiting for their turn to speak. And when they spoke, they weren’t telling you a story. When the two of you talked, you were building something, and afterward you were both different than before.
Eventually he meets up with Tyler Durden, who is pretty much the asshole every guy wants permission to be. The narrator's life begins to unravel. Said narrator doesn't care much, because Tyler is there to carry him along.
I had seen the movie, I know how the story goes. I had the eight rules of fight club (all lowercase in the book, unlike the uppercase the media uses) memorized at one time. Having now read the book, I am impressed with how closely the movie is to the book. The more subtle details such as the single porn movie frame being spliced into a family movie translated into the movie really well, I can appreciate those details.
Pretty much anyone who is a fan of the movie should read the book. I can't say I'm a huge fan of Palahniuk's writing style, or even a minor one, so I'm unlikely to read another book of his any time soon, but this one was worth reading if you are a fan.
I just don’t want to die without a few scars, I say. It’s nothing anymore to have a beautiful stock body. You see those cars that are completely stock cherry, right out of a dealer’s showroom in 1955, I always think, what a waste.
It used to be enough that when I came home angry and knowing that my life wasn’t toeing my five-year plan, I could clean my condominium or detail my car. Someday I’d be dead without a scar and there would be a really nice condo and car. Really, really nice, until the dust settled or the next owner. Nothing is static.
Ever since college, I make friends. They get married. I lose friends. Fine.
"You know, the condom is the glass slipper of our generation. You slip it on when you meet a stranger. You dance all night, then you throw it away. The condom, I mean. Not the stranger.”
Marla tells me how in the wild you don’t see old animals because as soon as they age, animals die. If they get sick or slow down, something stronger kills them. Animals aren’t meant to get old. Marla lies down on her bed and undoes the tie on her bathrobe, and says our culture has made death something wrong. Old animals should be an unnatural exception. Freaks.
Cancer will be like that, I tell Marla. There will be mistakes, and maybe the point is not to forget the rest of yourself if one little part might go bad.
There are a lot of things we don’t want to know about the people we love.
By this time next week, each guy on the Assault Committee has to pick a fight where he won’t come out a hero. And not in fight club. This is harder than it sounds. A man on the street will do anything not to fight.
The goal was to teach each man in the project that he had the power to control history. We, each of us, can take control of the world.
"You have a class of young strong men and women, and they want to give their lives to something. Advertising has these people chasing cars and clothes they don’t need. Generations have been working in jobs they hate, just so they can buy what they don’t really need.
On a long enough time line, everyone’s survival rate drops to zero.
Book 8 in the Harry Hole series, which I read out of order, and have come to really like. I didn't like the initial Harry Hole book I read, which is a shame, because I now look forward to them.
So, the end of book 7 felt like a good conclusion for the Harry Hole series. He gets to live happily-ever-after, the fairy tale ending we all want (well, most of us, I guess). Thing is, said endings are rarely The End, and the shine can often wear off in the mundane. Except for when it doesn't. When you don't trust it. When you realize it can all come crashing down in a moment, because life is like that, it keeps going, it keeps changing, it keeps moving, and loss in the in the cards for everyone playing the game of life.
Also, Nesbo had a few more loose ends to wrap up, like, oh, IDK, the one who got away maybe?
Who comes back.
The story starts with a couple gruesome murders, and Harry saying, "Nope, I'm not on the force any more, I'm sober, I'm with the most amazing woman for me, I got this, go away." Except when you have a calling, you can fight it until you die, or give in and follow it.
So back in Harry goes.
When a storyline wraps up and you have another 20% of the book left, you will often realize that you're reading either George R.R. Martin or some Harry Hole book, and that what looks like a nicely wrapped gift ... isn't.
I enjoyed the book, it's worth reading. If you're a fan of Nesbo's Harry Hole books, keep reading. If you aren't yet a fan, start at book one and see if you like it before reading this one (and include the six between).
Unrelated, this was book 50 that I've read this year so far, and another square on my 2019 Goals Bingo! card. Yay!
"That was the experience they were buying when they employed her. For instance, you shouldn’t betray your ideals. Or those closest to you. Or your responsibilities and obligations. And, if you get it wrong, you apologise and try to get it right next time. It’s OK to make mistakes. But betrayal isn’t OK."
The second sort was waking up alone. That was characterised by an awareness that he was alone in bed, alone in life, alone in the world, and it could sometimes fill him with a sweet sensation of freedom, and at other times with a melancholy that could perhaps be called loneliness, but which was perhaps just a glimpse of what anyone’s life really is: a journey from the attachment of the umbilical cord to a death where we are finally separated from everything and everyone.
Happiness was like moving on thin ice, it was better to crack the ice and swim in cold water and freeze and struggle to get out than simply to wait until you plunged into it.
“Harry?” He could tell from the tone of her voice that she wasn’t going to give up.
“Don’t start with my name, please, you know it makes me nervous.”
Kinda like starting a sentence with "So....."
“OK. I suspect you of suggesting a dead woman because you assume I’ll think you’d find it less of a threat if it’s a woman I can’t spend the night with, in purely practical terms..."
“In that case, why don’t you just do it? Why not have a fling?”
“To start with, I don’t even know if my dream woman would say yes, and I’m no good at dealing with rejection. And secondly, because the bit about ‘no consequences’ doesn’t apply.”
Harry focused on the newspaper again. “You might leave me. Even if you don’t, you won’t look at me the same way anymore.”
“You could keep it secret.”
“I wouldn’t have the energy.”
“When you say you wouldn’t have the energy to keep an affair secret, do you mean ‘couldn’t keep up the pretence’?” Rakel asked.
“I mean ‘couldn’t be bothered.’ Keeping secrets is exhausting. And I’d feel guilty.” He turned the page. No more pages. “Having a guilty conscience is exhausting.”
“I feel that I’m trying to answer your questions as honestly as I can. But in order to do that, I need to think about them, and be realistic. If I were to follow my initial emotional instinct, I’d have said what I thought you wanted to hear. So here’s a warning. I’m not honest, I’m a slippery sod. My honesty now is merely a long-term investment in my own plausibility. Because there may come a day when I really need to lie, and then it might be handy if you think I’m honest.”
“Heredity. It’s like going to a fortune-teller and regretting it. As human beings, we tend not to like things we can’t avoid. Death, for instance.”
The most peculiar thing wasn’t that he’d become a teacher, but that he liked it. That he, like most people usually regarded as taciturn and introverted, felt less inhibited in front of a gathering of demanding students than when the guy at the only open checkout in the 7-Eleven put a packet of Camel Lights down on the counter and Harry thought about repeating his request for “Camels,” before noticing the restlessness of the queue behind him.
Wow, okay, this.
“Mm. Just because there are only a few of them doesn’t mean that they’re not right.”
“You yourself have said that if you can think of any form of deviancy, there’ll be someone out there who’s got it.”
“Oh yes, it’s all out there. Or will be. Our sexuality is all about what we’re capable of thinking and feeling. And that’s pretty much unlimited."
Harry remembered something he had once thought. That when he fell, when he pulled the cork from the bottle and took the first swig, it wasn’t the way he imagined, because that wasn’t the decisive moment. The decision had already been taken long before. And from that moment on, the only question was what the trigger would be. It was bound to come. At some point the bottle would be standing there in front of him. And it would have been waiting for him. And he for it. The rest was just opposite charges, magnetism, the inevitability of the laws of physics. Shit.
“Are you still dry, Harry?”
“As a Norwegian oil well, boss.”
“Hm. You do know that Norwegian oil wells aren’t dry, don’t you? They’ve just been shut down until the price of oil rises again.”
“That was the image I was trying to convey, yes.”
Hagen shook his head. “And there was me thinking that you’d get more mature with age.”
“Disappointing, isn’t it? We don’t get wiser, just older."
“Some detectives might regard it as—what’s the word I’m looking for?—challenging, to have such a big name from the past looking over their shoulder.”
“Not a problem—I always play with my cards on the table, sir.” Katrine gave a brief smile.
He turned and looked at her with one eyebrow raised. “Why do you ask that?” And she felt it now as she had back then, the way that look could hit her like an electric shock, the way he—a man who could be so reserved, so distant—could bulldoze everything else aside just by looking at you for a second, and demand—and get—all of your attention. In that one second there was only one man in the whole world.
Harry was running. Harry didn’t like running. Some people ran because they liked it. Haruki Murakami liked it. Harry liked Murakami’s books, apart from the one about running—he had given up on that one. Harry ran because he liked stopping. He liked having to run. He liked weight training: a more concrete pain that was limited by the performance of his muscles, rather than a desire to have more pain. That probably said something about the weakness of his character, his inclination to flee, to look for an end to the pain even before it had started.
“What’s your point?”
“That people are more scared than the likelihood of meeting a vampirist ought to make them. Because it’s all over the front pages of the newspapers, and because they’ve read that he drinks blood. But at the same time they light cigarettes that are pretty much certain to kill them.”
And then you had people—like Isabelle and he himself—who wanted absolutely everything: power, but without any suffocating obligations. Admiration and respect, but enough anonymity to be able to move freely. Family, to provide a stable framework and help their genes survive, but also free access to sex outside the four walls of the home. The apartment and the car. And solid shit.
Possibly because she was exhausted and nervous, possibly because the brain takes refuge in silly things when it ought to be concentrating on things that are overwhelming and terrifying.
“And you sound like you’re thinking about employing a thief.”
“I’ve never had anything against thieves with acceptable motives.”
She laughed. “In the end is somewhere between what’s dragging you down today, and the day when nothing can drag us down any more, Harry.”
Harry closed his eyes. Of course there was something to hope for, something to look forward to: the time that comes after what’s dragging you down today. The day when nothing can drag you down any more.
He sat down, took a sip of coffee. Gave her the time she needed, didn’t fill the silence with words that demanded answers.
The sender was email@example.com. No text, just an image. Presumably taken with a light-sensitive camera, seeing as she hadn’t noticed a flash. And probably a telephoto lens. In the foreground was the dog pissing on the cage, and there she was, in the middle of the cage, standing stiffly and staring like a wild animal. She’d been tricked. It wasn’t the vampirist who had called her.
“They often get angry and full of moral indignation at that age,” Steffens said. “They shift the blame for anything that goes wrong onto their father, and the man they once wanted to become suddenly represents everything they don’t want to become.”
“Are you speaking from experience?”
“Of course, we do that all the time.”
“Does it end up positive?”
“The joy of saving lives minus the despair at losing people you could have saved.”
“Yes, I saw the crucifix in your office. You believe in callings.”
“I think you do too, Hole. I’ve seen you. Maybe not a calling from God, but you still feel it all the same.”
Harry looked down at his cup. Steffens was right about the coffee being intriguingly bad. “Does that mean you don’t like your job?”
“I hate my job,” the senior consultant smiled. “If it had been up to me, I’d have chosen to be a concert pianist.”
“You’re a good pianist?”
“That’s the curse, isn’t it? When you’re not good at what you love, and good at something you hate.”
Harry nodded. “That’s the curse. We do jobs where we can be useful.”
“And the lie is that there’s a reward for someone who follows a calling.”
“Perhaps sometimes the work in itself is reward enough.”
“Only for the concert pianist who loves music, or the executioner who loves blood.”
“Maybe he didn’t hate it as much as he claimed.”
“How do you mean?”
Harry shrugged. “An alcoholic hates and curses drink because it ruins his life. But at the same time it is his life.”
“There are various answers to that,” Steffens said. “And one that’s true.”
“And that is?”
“That we don’t know.”
“Like you don’t know what’s wrong with her.”
“Hm. What do you know, really?”
“If you’re asking in general terms, we know quite a lot. But if people knew how much we don’t know, they’d be scared, Harry. Needlessly scared. So we try to keep quiet about that.”
“We say we’re in the repair business, but we’re actually in the consolation business.”
“So why are you telling me this, Steffens? Why aren’t you consoling me?”
“Because I’m pretty sure you know that consolation is an illusion."
"... detective you’re also selling something more than you say you are. You give people a feeling of comforting justice, of order and security. But there’s no perfect, objective truth, and no true justice."
“Do you know what made crime rates go down in the U.S.A. in the nineties?
Because crime rates didn’t just fall in New York, but right across the U.S.A. The answer is actually the more liberal abortion laws that were introduced in the 1970s.” Steffens leaned back in his chair and paused, as if to let Harry think it through for himself. “Single, dissolute women having sex with men who vanish the next morning, or at least as soon as they realise she’s pregnant. Pregnancies like that have been a conveyor belt producing criminal offspring for centuries. Children without fathers, without boundaries, without a mother with the money to give them an education or moral backbone or to teach them the ways of the Lord. These women would happily have taken their embryonic children’s lives if they hadn’t risked being punished for it. And then, in the 1970s, they got what they wanted. The U.S.A. harvested the fruits of the holocaust that was the result of liberal abortion laws fifteen, twenty years later.”
“I suppose that’s just the way it is,” Katrine said. “We start off having everything, and then lose it, piece by piece. Strength. Youth. Future. People we like…”
And just as he felt tears welling up, they were suppressed by rage. Of course we lose them, everyone we try to hold on to, the fates disdain us, make us small, pathetic. When we cry for people we’ve lost, it’s not out of sympathy, because of course we know that they’re free from pain at last. But still we cry. We cry because we’re alone again. We cry out of self-pity.
“And then it comes back. Doesn’t it?” She laughed again. “Nothing’s forever, life is by definition temporary and always changing. It’s horrible, but that’s also what makes it bearable.”
“This too shall pass.”
“Let’s hope so."
“I don’t know. I just know that when I’m walking on the wafer-thin ice of happiness, I’m terrified, so terrified that I wish it was over, that I was already in the water.”
"Admitting that we have doubts is taken as an admission of our own inadequacy, not an indication of the complexity of the mystery or the limitations of our profession."
“I remember some advice I was given when I first started working on cases, Harry. That if you want to survive, you have to learn when to let go.”
“I’m sure that’s good advice,” Harry said, lifting his coffee cup to his lips and looking up at Hagen. “If you think survival’s so bloody important.”
“You should never underestimate the first thing you think,” Harry said. “That’s usually based on more information than you’re actually aware of. And the simplest solution is often the right one.”
“Harry doesn’t like people, you see.”
“I do like people,” Harry said. “I just don’t like being with them. Particularly not when there’s a lot of them at the same time.”
It no longer irritated Steffens that people thought that cold was a thing, and didn’t understand that it was merely the absence of heat. Cold was the natural, dominant state. Heat the exception. The way murder and cruelty were natural, logical, and mercy an anomaly, a result of the human herd’s intricate way of promoting the survival of the species.
We feel first and reason afterwards. We see a man who doesn’t intervene to rescue his wife, and we feel contempt. Then along comes what we think is cold, objective reflection, but is actually us trying to find new information to justify what we felt initially.
He had let go so many times before. Had given in to pain, fear, a death wish. But he had also given in to a primitive, egocentric survival instinct that had shouted down any longing for a painless nothingness, sleep, darkness. And that was why he was here. Still here. And this time he wasn’t letting go.
I did not like this book.
I have previously like Cleave's writing, perhaps less than Mom does, but enjoyed it none-the-less. The first one I read of his, Trust No One, I really enjoyed. The second one less so. This one I actively dislike.
Because the main character is a sadistic murderer, and we hare supposed to feel sympathy for him because he got his ball crushed in a vise (yes, literally, I'm giving you a spoiler there) and he's being framed for a murder he didn't actually do. That is, one he didn't do. We're told to ignore the six murders and rapes he did do.
No. No no no. There is a lot of misery and pain surrounding those deaths (well, in the fictitious world there is, but there's enough around in the real world to be able to make the connection), and those are pretty hard to ignore with the basic premise of the whole plot.
Now, the social commentary part is a bit more interesting. Cleave weaves a tale of first impressions, how our prejudices blind us to reality, and how being able to see past our assumptions is crucial to surviving, even thriving, in this world.
That particular commentary, however, doesn't negate the horrid thought that we are to sympathize with an active and deliberate murderer.
Read Cleave's other books. Skip this one.
It was hanging over her heart when she drove her parents to the funeral home, sat down with the funeral director, and, over tea and coffee that nobody touched, shopped through coffin brochures, turning the glossy pages and trying to pick out something her dead brother would look good in. They had to do the same for the suit. Even death was fashion conscious.
The cemetery is an expanse of lush lawn broken up with cement markers and, at the moment, mostly deserted, except for a handful of people standing in front of gravestones, all of them with tragedies of their own.
How can it make sense that he should die at fifteen, almost sixteen? The other people planted in this location average sixty-two years old.
Back at the bathroom door I call out to her. “Come out or I’ll break your cat’s neck.” “Please, please don’t hurt her.”
It seems the only thing Mom has to live for is talking. And complaining. Luckily the two go hand in hand for her.
The fantasy wasn’t as good as the reality, and the reality was much messier, but it was an experience, and they say practice makes perfect.
Henry then went on to point out that if man was made in God’s image and man was doing nothing to help him, then God would be doing nothing too. If God came down to walk about the earth, Henry said, and saw him sitting there outside the parking building, begging for change and food, then God would look right through him and just walk on by. The same way everybody else did.
Strangely, it was Martin who suffered the least, because he didn’t understand he was dying. Even at the end he thought he was going to be getting better. Didn’t they all think that? Yes. Life was always going to get better.
I’m not actually sure where ideas come from, whether they’re just floating around out there in some dimension close to but not quite of this world, where our minds can reach out and pluck them, whether a series of firing synapses in our mind weigh up cold data into cold possibilities, or whether it comes down to a simple train of thought riding through Lucksville. Ideas come at any time, often when you’re not expecting them.
Sometimes it’s all I need. Other times it’s not enough. Can’t complain. Who’d listen?
The interesting thing about insanity is that Insanity is strictly a legal term, not a medical one. Patients like me are not insane—we just plead it if we’re caught. The reality is if we really were insane, we wouldn’t be trying to evade conviction—we’d be caught at the scene smeared in blood and peanut butter and singing Barry Manilow tunes.
“So why are you talking to me?” I ask. “I’ve got bills to pay.” Sure, that and the fact that money will always win out over fear, loyalty, truth, or whatever other bullshit shoves its way into a prostitute’s life.
“She threatens him, she even goes to the police, but at the end of the day her fear of him and her love for him prevent her from acting. This woman is a loser. You can’t understand how she could even have married a guy like that, let alone have his children. But you forget he’d been charming when she met him, the same way you were charming when you met your wife.”
I also know that domestic abuse isn’t about a man who is in love with his wife too much; it’s about a man who is in love with the ability to control her.
Do you know what it’s like, Joe, to know you’re absolutely right about something—I mean, beyond any doubt—but you can’t get somebody else to agree with you? It’s not that they don’t understand, or that they don’t want to. They’ve become so used to doing the wrong thing that there couldn’t possibly be another way.”
Her parents reminded her time and time again, but the problem when people remind you so often is that you start to ignore it. The words go in, but they don’t settle anywhere.
While I understand the bone-deep need to go home, home of our memories and melancholy don't exist. Okorafor conveys this in Binti: Home incredibly well, as Binti returns home and it just... isn't. Her family it torn between the joy of seeing her, and the rage at her ignoring the path they set out for her.
Which is pretty much the lesson one can take from the series so far: that we need to follow our own path, even as it is filled with stress and guilt and pain and disappointment.
Really liking the series so far, recommended, but be sure to have all three books before you start reading. The first two are fast reads, and you'll want to jump right into the third after finishing this one.
Plus, I didn’t want to turn back. Why don’t I ever want to do what I’m supposed to do?
I can relate to this.
I’d come all this way to go on my pilgrimage because I’d thought my body was trying to tell me something was wrong with it. I hadn’t wanted to admit it to myself, but I’d thought I’d broken myself because of the choices I’d made, because of my actions, because I’d left my home to go to Oomza Uni. Because of guilt.
Suddenly, I felt cold. Very very cold. With dismay. Deep down, I knew. From the moment my grandmother told me about the Zinariya, I’d known, really. Change was constant. Change was my destiny. Growth.
“Oh, they know, someone in those clans knows enough to build toxic ideas against us right into their cultures. That’s really why we are so outcast, untouchable to them."
Why did the Seven allow this to happen? Yet, drowning in the waters of death gave me new life. Not drowning in it, carried by it.
“You did not succeed your father. No man will marry you. Selfish girl. Failed girl.” I was supposed to be these things in order to be. I had not taken my place within the collective. This had left me feeling exposed and foundationless, even as I pursued my dreams.
I looked at my hands, wanting to bring them to my face and inhale the scent of the otjize covering them. I wanted to go home. I wanted to chase crabs near the lake until the sun set and then turn around to look at the Root and admire the glow of the bioluminescent plants that grew near the roof. I wanted to argue with my sisters in the living room. I wanted to walk into the village square with my best friend Dele to
I wanted to sit in my father’s shop and construct an astrolabe so sophisticated, my father would clap arthritis-free hands with delight. I wanted to play math games with my mother where sometimes she’d win and sometimes I’d win. I wanted to go home.
I wanted to go home, but I wanted to solve the edan more. Everything comes with a sacrifice.
I have had this book, and its two sequels, on my to-read list for a long while now. I recall seeing it on Martha and Chookie's door bench and commenting that I wanted to read it. Martha was enthusiastic about it, as was Sonja, resulting in my increased anticipation for reading it.
In Binti, we have the introduction of a girl / teen / young woman making a choice between what her society and family wants and expects her to be, and who she wants to become. She made a choice (decided to go to university), decided to start down the path to a life she chose, only to be sideswiped by circumstances so far outside of her control and history and experience that even her survival would be legend.
That the story takes place in outer space, that we have many many races as a stand-in for the human race in its prejudices and biases and faults and triumphs, makes the lessons slightly easier to digest for a younger person. That the story takes place in outer space makes it more delightful for an older reader.
The book is a fast read, maybe an hour. The shortness doesn't make it any less worthwhile. The book is definitely worth reading.
The shuttle began to move and I stared until I couldn’t see it anymore. “What am I doing?” I whispered.
My father didn’t believe in war. He said war was evil, but if it came he would revel in it like sand in a storm. Then he’d say a little prayer to the Seven to keep war away and then another prayer to seal his words.
Those women talked about me, the men probably did too. But none of them knew what I had, where I was going, who I was. Let them gossip and judge. Thankfully, they knew not to touch my hair again. I don’t like war either.
So me being the only one on the ship was not that surprising. However, just because something isn’t surprising doesn’t mean it’s easy to deal with.
Imagine what it meant to go there as one of that 5 percent; to be with others obsessed with knowledge, creation, and discovery.
But deep down inside me, I wanted . . . I needed it. I couldn’t help but act on it. The urge was so strong that it was mathematical.
I’d read that Meduse could not move through walls, but even I knew that just because information was in a book didn’t make it true.
I wanted to ask, “Why did you let this happen?” but that was blasphemy. You never ask why. It was not a question for you to ask.
They say that when faced with a fight you cannot win, you can never predict what you will do next. But I’d always known I’d fight until I was killed. It was an abomination to commit suicide or to give up your life. I was sure that I was ready.
The chefs on the ship fed these fish well and allowed them to grow strong and mate copiously. Then they lulled the fish into a sleep that the fish never woke from and slow cooked their flesh long enough for flavor and short enough to maintain texture.
I paused. “Like my mother always says, ‘we all wish for many things,’” I said,
The first thing I noticed was the smell and weight of the air when I walked off the ship. It smelled jungly, green, heavy with leaves. The air was full of water.
Several of the human professors looked at each other and chuckled. One of the large insectile people clicked its mandibles. I frowned, flaring my nostrils. It was the first time I’d received treatment similar to the way my people were treated on Earth by the Khoush. In a way, this set me at ease. People were people, everywhere. These professors were just like anyone else.
I really need to keep a list of where I find books and add them to my to-read pile. I have no idea where this one's recommendation originated, but it was on my list, on hold at the library, and dropped. So, I read it. As one does.
The book takes some reading to understand the world of the book. In this world, memories can be extracted into living, breathing, existing beings. Said extraction removes the memory from the person whose memory it is, the Source. The extracted memories survive as long as a memory would, except the one whose tale this book tells.
How glorious and wonderful would this process be? That one could remove a memory and never feel the pain or sorrow or loss associated with that pain. Extract the memory of the lost love and it can share its joy with those around her.
Except, we are who we are because of the memories. Trials and troubles and difficulties are f'ing hell when we go through them. They can break us. They can make us stronger. They shape who we become.
And that's rather the point of the book, I would say. A commentary or illustration about how removing a memory adversely affects the person, how so much of our lives are intertwined that every memory has an echo in other parts of us, and how this process would be actually be a very awful thing indeed.
Mem is a fast read. If you're a fan of Morrow's, or like subtly sorrowful books, this one is worth reading. Otherwise, try One Hundred Years of Solitude for the sorrowful reading.
The Professor’s answer was always the same: he was pleased that the technology was bringing relief and sometimes even amusement to the affluent classes, but he regretted the way his work remained financially inaccessible to others. The science of extraction had been developed to help people heal from painful memories, he reminded them, and the poor had as many as the wealthy.
The overwhelming majority of extractions continued to be exercises in purging, and few Sources retained their extracted memories as keepsakes. In truth, few Mems were of the happy sort, and their shelf life was expected to be relatively brief (or so the Bankers’ observations had seemed to prove).
And while she enjoyed a good memory presentation as much as anyone, she felt entirely convinced that her Mems could be different. They could be like me. Certainly the Professor impressed upon her the fact that he could make no such guarantee and that he was entirely unsure why Dolores Extract No. 1 showed no signs of expiration, but life had taught the woman that all things were possible, as long as you made clear your reasonable desire.
It was the first time I’d been lied to by a man, that I knew of, and I felt it must mean something.
What surprised me most was that while he was the one being dishonest, I somehow was the one made to feel small and uncertain.
I thought of my own parents and the secrets they’d agreed to keep from Dolores the moment they rushed her to the clinic, the things they vowed never to discuss after her extractions, though she’d never remember them now. It seemed a sacrifice any number of families would make, and I couldn’t imagine they would lament escaping the memory themselves. The grand charade was never just for the Source.
It wasn’t love or death and it was rarely betrayal that sent them there. While women came desiring any number of memories extracted and for a variety of reasons, it seemed that men had an almost singular experience with which they couldn’t make peace.
“Perhaps if the law were written more clearly, they wouldn’t be fractured in the first place.” “But even better if the procedure could be perfected.” I’d never felt such a rush of violent disagreement. It rolled up the length of my torso and burned my chest, as if more than a mere opinion. It was strong enough in fact that suppressing it took effort. “If people are imperfect enough to destroy their minds, perhaps they cannot perfect the procedure that allows them to do so.”
Ettie and I had agreed that when it was just she and I we needn’t coddle each other’s feelings the way men often did.
But more than that, the experience. What’s it like to know there’s something you’ll never remember?” She scoffed at her own question. “Silly!”
“In that case, it’s just cruel. Trapping one moment or feeling inside someone and then leaving them to expire when the feeling runs its course.”
This moment is the first of its kind in Montreal, and so is the dead man. On all sides of the accident, pedestrians, streetcar patrons, and motorists alike vacillate between hysteria and calm. There is no way to know which will become the standard response when automobile accidents become commonplace. But there is something else. An understanding that this is possible. It is possible to be killed by the most prized of possessions, to be destroyed by the greatest invention of our time. It is possible to die in the street no matter how you began the day. This is the first universal truth I have ever come by on my own and it multiplies like fire. Because if this is possible—if sudden death is no respecter of persons—so must every horrid thing be.
“It’s heartbreak food. Real girls eat dessert first thing in the morning when someone’s made us sore.” She sat down beside me. “I do, anyway.”
“Real people assume it must be lovely,” I explained between tiny bites. “That she must have written me lovely things.”
“But it’s not true of every mother and child, Mem or not. Scores of families are hideous, Elsie, they are.”
“But they aren’t. Dolores’s parents aren’t hideous. They’re just hers.”
“Why is memory this way? Why isn’t it content to hurt you once? Why must it remind you of all the times you’ve been hurt before?”
The Professor tossed his own head to the side as though casting off regard. “Oh, but how many of them care for anything but the welfare of the stockholders, and how many of them worry about anything but a return on their investments?!”
Standing between them, I felt a weakness threatening my knees and a hot pounding in my chest, unsure which one would overwhelm me first.
There’s a chance that I was angry, that I had been all along. Even when I thought that I was tired of fighting, perhaps I was exhausted by having to.
I have had this book on my shelf for a long time, easily five years. I'm pretty sure I bought the book on Matthew's recommendation after Matthew and I had talked about a conference all about play (presumably bringing play back into tech, instead of the pursuit of the fast out that so many startups have these days and have had for the last decade or so).
Reading the book, I found myself nodding and thinking, "Yeah, I know this," but really, I didn't know much of it. Much of it is common sense, some of it is actionable, all of the book is needed. Without play, work is difficult, motivation is low. When things are fun (interesting, enjoyable), motivation is high. The tasks can be hard, they can be time-consuming, but if they're fun, if there's play involved, they can be enjoyable.
I recommend this book to every parent and teacher and leader and follower, definitely worth reading.
Life without play is a grinding, mechanical existence organized around doing the things necessary for survival. Play is the stick that stirs the drink. It is the basis of all art, games, books, sports, movies, fashion, fun, and wonder—in short, the basis of what we think of as civilization. Play is the vital essence of life. It is what makes life lively.
Engineers are professional skeptics. To them, good things and useful ideas last, like laws of nature. Engineers build on the bedrock of established fact. They usually regard emotional components of a system as too vague to be useful.
PROPERTIES OF PLAY Apparently purposeless (done for its own sake) Voluntary Inherent attraction Freedom from time Diminished consciousness of self Improvisational potential Continuation desire
the first quality of play that sets it off from other activities is its apparent purposelessness. Play activities don’t seem to have any survival value. They don’t help in getting money or food. They are not done for their practical value. Play is done for its own sake. That’s why some people think of it as a waste of time. It is also voluntary—it is not obligatory or required by duty. Play also has inherent attraction. It’s fun. It makes you feel good. It provides psychological arousal (that’s how behavioral scientists say that something is exciting). It is a cure for boredom. Play provides freedom from time. When we are fully engaged in play, we lose a sense of the passage of time. We also experience diminished consciousness of self. We stop worrying about whether we look good or awkward, smart or stupid. We stop thinking about the fact that we are thinking. In imaginative play, we can even be a different self. We are fully in the moment, in the zone.
Another hallmark of play is that it has improvisational potential. We aren’t locked into a rigid way of doing things. We are open to serendipity, to chance. We are willing to include seemingly irrelevant elements into our play. The
We see things in a different way and have fresh insights.
Last, play provides a continuation desire. We desire to keep doing it, and the pleasure of the experience drives that desire. We find ways to keep it going. If something threatens to stop the fun, we improvise new rules or conditions so that the play doesn’t have to end. And when it is over, we want to do it again.
The things that most tie you down or constrain you—the need to be practical, to follow established rules, to please others, to make good use of time, all wrapped up in a self-conscious guilt—are eliminated. Play is its own reward, its own reason for being.
When anyone smiles at another person, they are reaching out, engaging in a play invitation as clear as a dog’s play bow.
Cats and other social mammals such as rats will, if seriously missing out on play, have an inability to clearly delineate friend from foe, miscue on social signaling, and either act excessively aggressive or retreat and not engage in more normal social patterns. In the give-and-take of mock combat, the cats are learning what Daniel Goleman calls emotional intelligence—the ability to perceive others’ emotional state, and to adopt an appropriate response.
Our primary need is to survive from one day to the next. The strongest drives are for food and sleep. When we are in peril, play will disappear. But studies show that if they are well fed, safe, and rested, all mammals will play spontaneously.
We are rewarded for behavior that conforms to the dictates of the biological drives and punished for behavior that goes against them. We feel pain when we don’t eat, and great pleasure when we are finally able to chow down (as the saying goes, “Hunger is the best sauce”). A great night’s sleep, especially after a string of sleepless nights, is one of the most satisfying, free pleasures available.
In an individual who is well-adjusted and safe, play very likely continues to prompt continued neurogenesis throughout our long lives. For example, studies of early dementia suggest that physical play forestalls mental decline by stimulating neurogenesis.
Runner’s World magazine once divided runners into four types: the exerciser, the competitor, the enthusiast, and the socializer. The exerciser is someone who runs primarily to lose weight, to stay in shape, to improve cardiovascular fitness. The competitor runs to improve race time, to beat others, to make a PB (personal best). Enthusiasts run to experience the joy of the day, to feel their muscles working and the air on their face. For the socializer, running is primarily an activity to bring people together for talking, which is the real fun. All four types are certainly running, but the internal experience can be very different. The truth is that the enthusiast and the socializer are most likely to be engaged in pure play—pursuing the activity for the joy it brings (and you could say that for the socializer the source of joy is the talking, not the running itself). The other two may be running mostly in pursuit of goals—perhaps fast times or fitness—that can take away the joy from the experience and add stress to their lives. If exercisers or competitors feel lousy when they don’t meet certain expectations they have for themselves, what they are doing is not really play.
Sometimes running is play, and sometimes it is not.
Play is a state of mind, rather than an activity.
Watching sports, sitcoms, Oprah, or an excellent drama on TV is usually a type of play, as is reading a novel. Think about how you feel walking out of a really good movie, bringing your mind back again to the everyday world but retaining a changed perspective. One critic remembers walking out of Lawrence of Arabia and feeling that the sunlight looked different. This sense of coming back to the world shows that the movie was indeed play. So is reliving its scenes in your mind later. Hobbies like model airplane building, kite flying, or sewing are most often play.
When Roger took me through his laboratory he was like a kid as he described his experiments. Here was the biggest, most expensive sandbox he had ever played with, all set up to let him discover wonderful new things. I still remember his glee when he told me about his latest work:
When we stop playing, we start dying.
She said that I had convinced her that play is important, and said she worried about her kids, ten and twelve years old, getting enough time to play but still studying and working enough that they would be successful in life. We spoke about the nature of success, and she realized that what she was really talking about was teaching them how to become responsible adults who have a playful approach to life, who enjoy life, and have work that excites them.
Imagination is perhaps the most powerful human ability. It allows us to create simulated realities that we can explore without giving up access to the real world.
a close examination of adult stream of consciousness demonstrates that the pretend-real process is a lifelong aspect of human thought. We continually make up story lines in our heads to keep the past, present, and future in context.
Even in our society, grandparents are often the ones who have the time to really listen to children. Parents are often busy trying to mold a child into what they think he or she ought to be. Perhaps grandparents are the ones who see us for what we really are and help us grow into that.
All of the patterns that induce states of play are present and remain important for growth, flexibility, and learning. Unfortunately, we often forget this or choose not to focus on play’s necessity under intense pressure to succeed. No Child Left Behind is a perfect example. While it is an admirable (and even necessary) goal to make sure that all children attain a certain minimal level of education, the result has often been a system in which students are provided a rote, skills-and-drills approach to education and “nonessential” subjects like art and music are cut.
In a sense, they are being prepared for twentieth-century work, assembly-line work, in which workers don’t have to be creative or smart—they just have to be able to put their assigned bolt in the assigned hole.
Without play, Panksepp suggests, optimal learning, normal social functioning, self-control, and other executive functions may not mature properly.
This research has led him to propose a connection between a lack of rough-and-tumble play and ADHD. In fact, based on their findings that “abundant access to rough-and-tumble play” reduces the inappropriate hyperplayfulness and impulsivity of rats with frontal lobe damage, he and his colleagues propose that a regimen of social, boisterous play might be one way to help children with mild to moderate ADHD control impulsivity
Some may cheapen these methods by saying that these teachers are just entertaining students, but what is wrong with that? As long as the lessons are learned as well or better than they would be with other methods. Play isn’t the enemy of learning, it’s learning’s partner.
As we grow older, we are taught that learning should be serious, that subjects are complicated. These serious subjects take serious study, we are told, and play only trivializes them.
Sometimes the best way to get the feel of a complicated subject is to just play with it.
That’s why kids often learn computer systems faster than adults—they aren’t afraid to just try stuff out and see what works, whereas adults worry that they will do something wrong. Kids don’t fear doing something wrong. If they do, they learn from it and do it differently next time.
Authentic play comes from deep down inside us. It’s not formed or motivated solely by others. Real play interacts with and involves the outside world, but it fundamentally expresses the needs and desires of the player.
All evidence indicates that the greatest rewards of play come when it arises naturally from within.
It used to be that self-organized play was all kids did. Most adults over the age of forty-five will likely have memories of exploring on their own, through puddles and fields or on city streets.
Parents and educators, corporate leaders, and others need to become convinced by the evidence that long-term life skills and a rewarding sense of fulfillment—and yes, performance—are more the by-product of play-related activities than forced performance.
True mastery over a lifetime comes from one’s internal play compass. When parents and teachers push too hard to get kids to perform, children do not experience feelings of competence and do not create from within their own sense of mastery.
sports can be a potent training for a playful life during the teen years. Sports provide a ready peer group, united in a common goal. Sports teach how to struggle against adversity, even when the odds seem insurmountable. Adult-organized sports don’t have to be antiplay when they are done right.
Athletics provide feedback about one’s own physical talents, and what it feels like to participate, win, lose, and be fair.
William Bowen, a former president of Princeton University, once did a large statistical study to determine if the special preferences that athletes got on college admissions (lower SAT score cutoff, extra financial aid) were unfair. Bowen was surprised to find that, as a group, the athletes actually did better financially after college than other students, a fact he attributed to the drive and energy that sports cultivate.
the opposite of play is not work—the opposite of play is depression.
Our inherent need for variety and challenge can be buried by an overwhelming sense of responsibility. Over the long haul, when these spice-of-life elements are missing, what is left is a dulled soul.
We need newness of play, its sense of flow, and being in the moment. We need the sense of discovery and liveliness that it provides. We also need the purpose of work, the economic stability it offers, the sense that we are doing service for others, that we are needed and integrated into our world. And most of us need also to feel competent.
Play is nature’s greatest tool for creating new neural networks and for reconciling cognitive difficulties.
When we play, dilemmas and challenges will naturally filter through the unconscious mind and work themselves out.
As with many things in life, often the problem is not the problem, the problem is how you react to the problem.
The paradox is that a little distance from a problem, a sense of perspective, a realization that it really matters little in the end if people choose Huggies over Pampers for their kids, can be one of the most important factors in success.
The beauty of sports is that it embraces the paradox of seriousness and play.
Sometimes the play may be a friendly competition between teams. Or it can be a very private sort of play-game that the rest of us never see—a personal competition, for instance, to see how fast we can write a memo, or how many things we can check off our to-do list that day.
Work matters, but we often allow day-to-day events at work to give us more anxiety than they are worth.
Getting oneself into a play state, however, masks the urgent purposefulness and associated anxiety of work, increasing efficiency and productivity.
Creative people can be simultaneously hardworking and goof-offs. They can have a laser focus on a task, but keep the wide view that lets them see how something fits into the big picture.
Creative people can escape into the imagination, but also are firmly grounded in reality. Creative ideas are often those that bring together ideas from different domains or fields.
Creative people know the rules of the game, but they are open to improvisation and serendipity.
Much of play takes place in an imaginative world, but is also firmly grounded in reality. In fact, play promotes mixing fantasy and reality.
As Isaac Asimov said, “The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not ‘Eureka!’ but ‘That’s funny . . .’ ”
We can get pretty far through sheer will-power, and some people have prodigious powers of perfectionism, self-denial, and suffering. Ultimately, though, people cannot succeed in rising to the highest levels of their field if they don’t enjoy what they are doing, if they don’t make time for play.
Without some sense of fun or play, people usually can’t make themselves stick to any discipline long enough to master it.
Every athlete I have ever met often feels that they just don’t want to start that workout. But when they do, the reason they love what they are doing comes back to them pretty quickly.
A crisis of some sort is not uncommon for successful people at midlife, but the age for this midlife meltdown has started coming earlier and earlier.
they too suffer the same crisis of the soul that comes from pouring every moment of your time and every ounce of your being into others’ expectations.
I have experienced too many cold and hostile reactions to play when people listen to a full rendition of its nature and importance, and they slowly realize that they have lived a life deprived of spontaneous play. They are struck by the fact that what love they’ve had in their lives was conditional and based on their performance. To fully realize this in one sitting as an adult can be overwhelming—too much to bear. The reaction is often an intense (but unconscious) defensiveness, a denial that the fullness of one’s life has been wasted. The resulting emotion is usually anger at the deliverer of the message.
Joy is our birthright, and is intrinsic to our essential design.
To really regain play in your life you will need to take a journey back into the past to help create avenues for play that work for you in the present. This can be done through a complete play history, or it can be done by simply sitting and remembering (and often visualizing) something you did in the past that gave you the sense of unfettered pleasure, of time suspended, of total involvement, of wanting to do this thing again and again.
Remember how that made you feel? Remember and feel that emotion and hold on to it, because that is what’s going to save you. The memory of that emotion is going to be the life raft that keeps you from drowning. It can be the rope that lifts you out of your play-deficient well.
Barbara loved her husband and naturally wanted to spend recreational time with him, but she realized that her husband’s heart play was never going to be hers.
Those who played together, stayed together. Those who didn’t either split or, worse yet, simply endured an unhappy and dysfunctional relationship.
Humans use play signals, too. When we greet each other, we smile and look at the other person with “soft” eyes—looking directly but not staring. We might also raise the eyebrows or lift the chin quickly in greeting.
These are an invitation to the other to mirror our expressions, to engage in a ritual bonding with the promise that we will progress to an emotional bonding. And the spirits of safety and trust are communicated nonverbally.
People trying not to look threatening will make no eye contact, will stare at a spot on the wall or some object, trying to look busy and inconspicuous.
If we lived in a world without play, all public adult interactions would model those of subway sitters and elevator riders. It would be a pretty grim world to live in. What play signals do is invite a safe, emotional connection, if even for an instant.
Really making emotional contact with people, inviting an emotional closeness either in a casual situation or long-term relationship, requires that we open ourselves to them. It requires that we not put up defensive walls and that we accept others for who they are. Then we can invite others to engage in play.
She has students pair off about two feet apart and look at each other for three solid minutes. A lot of people find this really uncomfortable.
It’s very personal. But the teacher urges people to get over themselves, to stop thinking about how they look and feel, and instead to think about the other person.
Teasing, as I’ve noted before, is a common way to probe the boundaries of a relationship and address power issues. In general, men engage in teasing more than women, and the teasing can seem rough to someone who is not used to it.
This reminds me of heckling in ultimate, the more heckling a team did, the closer the team members were. You can't heckle an outsider, it's just abuse and assholery if you do. Heckling a teammate, that's a sign of support, a message of, "Hey, yeah, you messed up, but we believe in you, so keep going."
I so miss the camaraderie of ultimate and Doyle's heckling.
The boundaries for such heckling are normally general cultural norms, but body language during the encounter usually primes the teaser to keep it up, or back off.
Jokes, when they contain unrealistic exaggeration, can allow us to safely address real fears without making them seem like accusations.
Without the various forms of social play we would find it very hard to live together. Society would either lock up like an overheated engine, or we would have to evolve a rigid, highly organized social structure like that of ants or bees. Play is the lubrication that allows human society to work and individuals to be close to each other.
Take play out of the mix and, like a climb in the oxygen-poor “death zone” of Mount Everest, the relationship becomes a survival endurance contest. Without play skills, the repertoire to deal with inevitable stresses is narrowed. Even if loyalty, responsibility, duty, and steadfastness remain, without playfulness there will be insufficient vitality left over to keep the relationship buoyant and satisfying.
Play also accentuates attraction.
The arts are indicators of emotional intelligence, but they also produce emotional intelligence. They help us grow and adapt.
A strong play drive is unspoken evidence of fitness to reproduce.
Romantic love, that is to say, the “deeply in love” form of love, is a super-strong force. The idealization and rapture of romantic love has addictive qualities that are similar to drug addiction.
Without play, romantic love naturally tends to drift into territoriality, possessiveness, dominance, or aggression. The emotion of romantic love is to feel totally in sync with the lover, but when lovers go out of sync the fall can be hard.
While being in love is intensely pleasurable, it can also be so intense that it is painful.
Studies have shown that being love-sick can cause actual physical sickness.
Stepping out of a normal routine, finding novelty, being open to serendipity, enjoying the unexpected, embracing a little risk, and finding pleasure in the heightened vividness of life. These are all qualities of a state of play.
In order to keep things hot, people have to keep growing, keep exploring new territory in themselves and each other. In short, they have to play.
Adult play is not much different. The competitive urge may make us want to dominate the competition in the short term, but if this happens all the time the game gets boring.
The natural urge to find balance in play is also the reason that people root for the underdog and against teams that win all the time.
When someone is domineering, aggressive, or violent, they are not engaged in true play, no matter what they are doing.
There is an agreement that participants be “good sports” who can shake hands and respect each other after the contest is decided. The desire for fair play probably runs very deep in our genes.
Adults who are healthy and psychologically well balanced will enjoy playing, but after a while they will grow tired of whatever game they are playing and do something else. People who are using the games to escape some other psychic pain, however, will not stop playing.
In life, it’s often not clear if you are “winning” or “losing.” Gaming offers a very controlled world in which victory and defeat can be clear and unambiguous.
On the whole, three-dimensional physical and social play is a “better” form of play, just as a balanced diet is better than one full of sugar hits.
incorporate play earlier and more consistently in my professional life, and to set clear boundaries about working too hard.
A “mean” girl who operates by psychological intimidation and exclusion is the equivalent of a boy bully, both of which interrupt the flow of play.
In both cases, I think that we adults are too quick to step in to stop such play. We see the potential for small hurts, hear the squeals and grunts that sound to us like loss of control, and we force the wrestlers to stop. We feel uncomfortable with the gossipy talk and we reflexively step in to make sure that kids are being fair. By doing so, we stop kids from learning on their own and from each other.
Teasing varies by culture and individual temperament, but some form exists everywhere, especially when people are emotionally close.
teasing allows people to go to the edge and just beyond, saying things that may or may not be hurtful if said straight out, offering all parties an escape if they have gone too far. Such teasing is a learned-through-play social skill, with culturally understood boundaries. If the intent is to enlighten or just have fun, teasing and joke-making are great elements of social bonding. If the underlying motive is to put down or humiliate the recipient, it’s not healthy.
Play, by its very nature, is a little anarchic. It is about stepping outside of normal life and breaking normal patterns. It is about bending rules of thought, action, and behavior.
Some people use this quality of play as cover for sadistic or cruel treatment of others. “Hey,” they might say if others object, “you can’t take a little playful hassling? What’s wrong with you?” This is not a dark side of play, because it is not play. It’s an attack under a false flag. It is an attempt to dominate, demean, or control while hiding behind the bulwark of our cultural assumptions about play being non-threatening.
Adults may joke about something that’s a little too personal. But when our interactions are based on a foundation of caring, these hurts are corrected and avoided in the future. Bending rules and pushing through limits should happen within the realm of play. They aren’t the dark side of play—they are the essence of play.
When sports and games are played as they should be played, organized for the fun of it, kids learn that cheating is wrong and that playing the game the best you can is the thing that matters
ONE OF THE HARDEST things to teach kids is how to make it past difficulty or perceived boredom to find the fun.
Here are some initial questions: When have you felt free to do and be what you choose? Is that a part of your life now? If not, why not? What do you feel stands in the way of your achieving some times of personal freedom? Are you now able to feel that what engages you most fully is almost effortless? If not, can you recall when you were able to experience such times? Describe. Imagine settings that allow that sort of engagement. Search your memory for those times in your life when you have been at your very best. (These are usually authentic play times, and give clues as to where to go for current play experiences.) What have been the impediments to play in your life? How and why did some kinds of play disappear from your repertoire? Have you discovered ways of reinitiating lost play that work for you now in your life? Are you able to imagine and feel that the things you most desire and enjoy are really the things that you ought to have? Why so, or why not? How free are you now as you play with your spouse or your family? Or do you treat them as an extension of a dutiful responsibility?
The world is full of humor, irony, joy, and objects available for aesthetic appreciation. The trick is allowing yourself to open up to those influences, to see humor in virtually all situations.
You have to give yourself permission to improvise, to mimic, to take on a long-hidden identity. Let your body respond to lessons learned from nature but long suppressed. You can’t be truly open to spontaneity if you don’t feel comfortable testing novel ways of expressing yourself, pushed along by the pleasure of the action. Play is exploration, which means that you will be going places where you haven’t been before.
“It sucks being a beginner again,” he told me. “But unless you are willing to do that, unless you can let yourself feel okay about going through the awkward stage, you can’t grow.
One of the quickest ways to jump-start play is to do something physical. Just move.
We are alive when we are physically moving.
Fear and play cannot go together. Take a look at your environment and look at where you are unsafe.
Recognize if your body is tight or tense in certain situations.
developmentally we all need “secret spaces” in which we can be safely alone and give ourselves over to needed fantasies if we are to adapt to a challenging world. Find your own secret space.
Practice play. Understand what type of player you are and find ways to engage in your play.
Okay, this is book twenty eight of the year that I've read. It is also, the 27th non-fiction book I've read, sticking with my January non-fiction month for much longer than anticipated.
The problemm with reading only non-fiction, however, is that often you stop having stories. Depending on the book, you can go hours and hours and hours with dry facts that, while true (hence, unlike the idiot in the power position believes, non-fiction and not "alternate"), lack an engaging story. Drawdown is a fascinating catalog of technologies we need to use and develop and encourage, yes, but the book was slow going in its lack of story.
Shadow Divers, however, didn't lack for a story. The book is a recount of the 1991 discovery of a previously unknown U-boat off the coast of New Jersey, and the divers' journey to positively identifying it. I enjoyed the book a lot, with a few very strong parts that pulled me out of the story.
About half way through the book, I started looking up the various protagonists on the Intarwebs™. Bill Nagle's Wikipedia page links off to the U-869 Wikipedia page, which references that PBS NOVA episode "Hitler's Lost Sub" which I started watching. And then became momentarily confused, as the story I was reading in Shadow Divers wasn't the story I was hearing on the NOVA episode.
Okay, what up?
Further along in the book, Robert Kurson starts telling the tale from the perspective of those who died on U-869, and that's when I was fully pulled out of the story.
The men spoke briefly before wishing each other a good night. “At least,” Guschewski thought as he closed his door, “this fellow seems bright, capable, and friendly. At least Horenburg seems like a gentleman.”
Guschewski lived, and was interviewed for the book, a fact we find out at the end of the book, but parts like:
They knew this man to be their commander—they could see a nobility in his posture, a certainty in the slowness of his breaths, a strength in his face’s Teutonic angles.
are still absurd. Non-fiction can't really tell you this with any accuracy when the "they" died sixty years before.
I still very much enjoyed this book. It was a great read, takes about eight hours or so to read, but reads like an adventure, so it doesn't feel that long.
There were a lot of impossible places to go when the world was as big as Chatterton and Nagle saw it, but for God’s sake you had to try. You were required to try. What were you doing alive, these men thought, if you didn’t go and try?
A good diver reveals himself in the way he gears up.
Inside is where the bridge equipment lies—the telegraph, helm, and binnacles that gave the ship direction.
A diver who spends time inside a wreck will screw the “viz”; it’s just a matter of how soon and how badly.
Yet a curious truth pertains to these perils: rarely does the problem itself kill the diver. Rather, the diver’s response to the problem—his panic—likely determines whether he lives or dies.
A great diver learns to stand down his emotions. At the moment he becomes lost or blinded or tangled or trapped, that instant when millions of years of evolution demand fight or flight and narcosis carves order from his brain, he dials down his fear and contracts into the moment until his breathing slows and his narcosis lightens and his reason returns. In this way he overcomes his humanness and becomes something else. In this way, liberated from instincts, he becomes a freak of nature.
An ordinary diver will sometimes rush to extricate himself from trouble so that no other diver will witness his predicament. A disciplined diver is willing to risk such embarrassment in exchange for his life.
On a deep-wreck dive, no one is ever truly safe until he is back on the deck of the dive boat.
A few days later, Chatterton decided to take a trip. Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry was the permanent home of U-505, a type IXC U-boat captured by the Allies off Africa in 1944. The submarine had been kept in pristine condition and was open to the public.
She told them that after the war, her father had hobbled on crutches across America to visit the families of every man who had perished under his command because it was the right thing to do, that he needed to tell them in person that he appreciated their sons.
Everyone had an opinion, and John listened to all of them. But the more John absorbed these viewpoints, the more he suspected that these people didn’t really know. It was not that he doubted their conviction; in fact, he admired their passion and felt invigorated by the era. But he asked himself about the lives of the people behind the opinions, and the more he asked, the more he became convinced that few of them had ever gone out and looked for themselves.
“One more thing,” Mouse said. “A lot of the stuff you do out there, you’re going to have to live with all the way down the line. You’ll have to make decisions out there. When that happens, you have to ask yourself, ‘Where do I want to be in ten years, twenty years? How will I want to feel about this decision when I’m an old man?’ That’s the question for making important decisions.”
With each moment, Chatterton’s vision narrowed and the jungle sounds compressed, until the only impressions in his world were his own heaving breaths and pounding heart.
He could not imagine turning away from the first thing in his life at which he had been special, the thing at which he might be great.
As he neared the end of his six-month field obligation, he had come to believe these things: —If an undertaking was easy, someone else already would have done it. —If you follow in another’s footsteps, you miss the problems really worth solving. —Excellence is born of preparation, dedication, focus, and tenacity; compromise on any of these and you become average. —Every so often, life presents a great moment of decision, an intersection at which a man must decide to stop or go; a person lives with these decisions forever. —Examine everything; not all is as it seems or as people tell you. —It is easiest to live with a decision if it is based on an earnest sense of right and wrong. —The guy who gets killed is often the guy who got nervous. The guy who doesn’t care anymore, who has said, “I’m already dead—the fact that I live or die is irrelevant and the only thing that matters is the accounting I give of myself,” is the most formidable force in the world. —The worst possible decision is to give up.
in the water, self-contained, a man could be what he was meant to be, and when that happened it was impossible to be lost.
At home, Kohler allowed Richie to assemble and disassemble his tank and regulator—he believed in making his three children feel comfortable with mechanical equipment, to make them unafraid to touch things.
It had been a year since he had seen the dead woman in the water, but Richie had never stopped wondering how people could be left in the water when they had loved ones at home who needed to know where they were.
Richie’s father was right: always swing while the other guy is telling you how he’s going to kick your ass.
“We sank two U-boats,” Weidenfeld said. “But we never got credit for either of them.” “I’ve read about those incidents,” Chatterton said. “You guys believe the navy didn’t want to credit civilians.” “That’s right,” Weidenfeld said. “The navy didn’t want to acknowledge it because it would have terrified the public to think that average civilians were needed to fight the U-boats, and that the U-boats were coming so close to our shores.
He could not tolerate the idea of this diver stealing the visibility in a gold mine of artifacts under the pretext of shooting video. A mystery U-boat full of china and the guy is shooting video!
Chatterton began to insist but stopped himself when he looked into Chris’s widened eyes. In them, he saw only fear and knowing—the kind of knowing that occurs when one’s fate is certain and moments away.
But the lesson was stark and by now familiar: written history was fallible. Sloppy and erroneous assessments had been rushed into the official record, only to be presumed accurate by historians, who then published elegant reference works echoing the mistakes.
Along the way, each marveled at how easy it was to get an incomplete picture of the world if one relied solely on experts, and how important it would be to further rely on oneself.
But it took no more than these words for even a U-boat veteran like Guschewski to think, “There is great courage and competence in this man. You do not go against this voice. You do not go against this man.”
Seated with Neuerburg were his first officer, twenty-one-year-old Siegfried Brandt, and his chief engineer, thirty-year-old Ludwig Kessler.
Guschewski was stunned. He admired commanders who followed strict military protocol. But he had also prayed that U-869 would be led by a man with a heart.
During visits, he told Friedhelm that he believed the Nazis to be authoring the downfall of Germany. Friedhelm recoiled at the public nature of his expression. “Are you crazy talking like that in the open?” he asked Helmuth whenever such conversations unfolded. “People are listening everywhere! What you are saying is very dangerous!”
In 1943, Neuerburg and others were offered a choice: they could remain with the naval air arm or join the U-boats. Those who stayed with the air force would go into combat immediately; those who transferred to submarines might spend a year or more in training before going to battle. Neuerburg was father to a two-year-old son and a one-year-old daughter. He chose the U-boats, though he harbored no illusions about their safety.
Zinten’s Nazi Party members continued to harass Otto and Elise over their church worship and their refusal to join the party,
One of them began crying, then another, then all of them. “What is wrong?” Gila asked, rushing to Nedel’s side and taking his hand. For a moment, the men could do nothing but cry. Nedel said nothing. Finally, one of the other men spoke. “None of us is coming back,” he said.
Time and again during their research, they had been astonished to discover that historians had been mistaken, books fallible, experts wrong.
The fantasy always felt good for a minute, but it always ended with Chatterton thinking, “When things are easy a person doesn’t really learn about himself. It’s what a person does at the moment of his greatest struggle that shows him who he really is. Some people never get that moment. The U-Who is my moment. What I do now is what I am.”
Then spring began to dab warmth into the air and Marks said it would be a shame if a man turned his back on his passion.
Whatever satisfaction he might derive from delivering an answer to the crewmen’s families and to history would be smothered by his helpless proximity to a drowning friend.
There might be, he thought, one scenario worse than watching his friend die in the wreck, and as Sunday drew near he knew that worst scenario to be allowing his friend to die while he stayed home and waited for the news.
“U-boats are my avocation,” he said. “Perhaps it would be boring if I were to earn money from it. It’s the detective’s way of treating these matters that moves me. Once you find out history is wrong, once you start investigating it and, with some luck, correcting it, that is satisfaction enough.”
I did not know what this book was about when I started reading it, which could have been why it was as powerful to me. I hope that commenting on it does not lessen its power when you read this book, because I STRONGLY recommend this book, and will buy you a copy if you'll read it.
Consider the U.S. Government and the Constitution which dictates how it interacts, grows, and is stopped. It has its checks and balances with its power, and, for the most part, can keep itself reined in (no, not really, but as far as governments go, its the worse we have expect for all others).
What the Founding Fathers did not anticipate in the Constitution was that the government would not be the most powerful entity in the country.
Lo and behold, our times.
The U.S. Government is not the most powerful organization in the country, and such status is causing problems.
The anti-trust (nee anti-monopoly) legislation of yore, the stuff that might have been covered in U.S. History class if you took a twentieth century history class, was the government's attempt to rein in the private power that was threatening to dethrone the U.S. Government. Said legislation works only if it is enforced, and since the Bush Jr Era (quelle surprise), it has not been.
This book is a history of the anti-trust work, its origins, its failings, and its hope.
I strongly recommend everyone to read it. Wu has done a great job of explaining the problem, providing solutions, and giving hope, in as much as one can have in a surveillance capitalistic world.
[I]n enacting and repeatedly fortifying the antitrust laws the United States made a critical, indeed Constitutional choice in industrial and national policy. After a period of intense national debate, including a presidential election in 1912 where economic policy was a central issue, the nation rejected a monopolized economy and chose repeatedly over the decades to preserve its tradition of an open and competitive market. The goal of antitrust law must be understood as respecting that choice.
Over the twentieth century, nations that failed to control private power and attend to the economic needs of their citizens faced the rise of strongmen who promised their citizens a more immediate deliverance from economic woes. The rise of a paramount leader of government who partners with monopolized industry has an indelible association with fascism and authoritarianism. It is true that antitrust alone will not cure the curse of bigness or eliminate the excesses of private power. But it strikes at the root, and getting the engines of the law restarted is an important part of dealing with a problem that has reached Constitutional dimensions.
In its American form, the Trust Movement envisioned an economy with every sector run by a single, almighty monopoly, fashioned out of hundreds of smaller firms, unfettered by competitors or government restraint. In short: pure economic autocracy.
For the American tradition had, to that point, been defined by resistance to centralized power and monopoly. The American Revolution itself was in large part sparked by the abuses of Crown monopolies. The original Boston Tea Party was, after all, really an anti-monopoly protest.
As Hofstadter writes: “From its colonial beginnings through most of the nineteenth century, [America] was overwhelmingly a nation of farmers and small-town entrepreneurs—ambitious, mobile, optimistic, speculative, anti-authoritarian, egalitarian, and competitive. As time went on, Americans came to take it for granted that property would be widely diffused, that economic and political power would be decentralized.”
As such, the movement posed a new challenge for a Constitution that was committed to limited and separate powers, and never contemplated the rise of private power as great as any of the branches of government, and able to corrupt governmental operations to suit its ends.
Louis Brandeis, the advocate, reformer, and Supreme Court Justice, has been done a particular kind of disservice. He is still known as a great jurist; his writings on the First Amendment and privacy are exalted. But what Brandeis really cared about was the economic conditions under which life is lived, and the effects of the economy on one’s character and on the nation’s soul.
Brandeisian economic vision. It envisions a vigorous, healthy economy, a skepticism of the self-serving rhetoric projecting the romance of big business or the inevitability of monopoly, and, above all, a sensitivity to human ends. Brandeis took matters like bigness and concentration as inseparable from the very nature of democracy, and the conditions under which its citizens would live. They determined what kind of country we would live in and what kind of environment that country would provide for its citizens.
As the Commission wrote, the consolidation campaign had “meant the reckless and scandalous expenditure of money; it meant the attempt to control public opinion; corruption of government; the attempt to pervert the political and economic instincts of the people in insolent defiance of law.” The
That view had important implications for what the nation and its laws should look like. A worthy nation was one that served as cauldron for character and self-development, one that “compels us to strive for the development of the individual.” Importantly, Brandeis didn’t think that such personal growth was something that just happened: He believed that it required the right conditions. As he said: “The ‘right to life’ guaranteed by our Constitution” should be understood as “the right to live, and not merely to exist. In order to live men must have the opportunity of developing their faculties; and they must live under conditions in which their faculties may develop naturally and healthily.”
A good country and a good economy, therefore, would be one that provided to everybody sufficient liberties and adequate support to live meaningful, fulfilling lives. He thought the American founders had understood this, that “[ t] hey valued liberty both as an end, and as a means. They believed liberty to be the secret of happiness, and courage to be the secret of liberty.” Hence a worthy nation should protect men and women from any forces, public or private, that might stifle the opportunities for thriving and life.
But it also meant freedom from industrial domination, exploitation, or so much economic insecurity that one could not really live without fear of unemployment and poverty. “Men are not free,” he wrote, “if dependent industrially on the arbitrary will of another.” Economic security was a foundation on which one could really be free in a meaningful sense—hence the importance of steady but not oppressive work, of education, time and space for leisure, parks, libraries, and other institutions.
We like to speak of freedoms in the abstract, but for most people, a sense of autonomy is more influenced by private forces and economic structure than by government. For many if not most people, the conditions of work determine how much of life is lived—such basic matters as the length of hours worked, the threat of being fired, harassment or mistreatment by a boss, and for some jobs, questions as fundamental as personal safety or access to a bathroom. Beyond work, our daily lives are shaped profoundly by economic matters like rent, access to transportation or groceries, and health insurance, even more so than any abstract freedoms. That is why Brandeis saw real freedom as freedom from both public and private coercion.*
He grew to detest the growing American culture of overwork, whether self-inflicted, as in the private lawyer’s case, or more menacingly, in the growing class of large firms who worked their employees past the limits of human endurance.
Instead what Brandeis really believed was that business could be a high calling and that a good career was one that created the conditions for human thriving. He thought for most people, a truly successful career consisted in developing a skill or a craft, or building a good business, and practicing as best one could, while aspiring to live by high principles in both personal and business affairs.
If he had a unifying principle, politically and economically, it is what we have said: that concentrated power in any form is dangerous, that institutions should be built to human scale, and society should pursue human ends. Every institution, public and private, runs the risks of taking on a life of its own, putting its own interests above those of the humans it was supposedly created to serve.
To Roosevelt, economic policy did not form an exception to popular rule, and he viewed the seizure of economic policy by Wall Street and trust management as a serious corruption of the democratic system. He also understood, as we should today, that ignoring economic misery and refusing to give the public what they wanted would drive a demand for more extreme solutions, like Marxist or anarchist revolution.
He added that the “trusts are the creatures of the State, and the State not only has the right to control them, but it is in duty bound to control them wherever need of such control is shown.”
Harlan read the Sherman Act as a literal ban on trusts, which, as he would later say, presented the danger of a “slavery that would result from aggregations of capital in the hands of a few individuals and corporations.”
As Roosevelt later reflected, “it was imperative to teach the masters of the biggest corporations in the land that they were not, and would not be permitted to regard themselves as, above the law.”
As Justice William Douglas would later put it, “power that controls the economy should be in the hands of elected representatives of the people, not in the hands of an industrial oligarchy.”
Hence, antitrust law was serving as a new kind of limit: a check on private power, by preventing the growth of monopoly corporations into something that might transcend the power of elected government to control. His pursuit of this goal makes it fair to call Roosevelt the pioneer of political antitrust.
But the broad tenor of antitrust enforcement—the broader goals of enforcement—should be animated by a concern that too much concentrated economic power will translate into too much political power, and thereby threaten the Constitutional structure.
At some level the point is obvious: Private economic power is a rival to the power of elected governments, and firms may also seek to control politics for their own purposes.
In a representative democracy, lawmaking is supposed to roughly match what the majority wants. If that is unclear or disputed, then we might expect or hope they’d reflect the interests of the “swing” voter—that is, the middle-of-the-road man or woman. But research shows that, for the vast majority of policy matters, that isn’t how things work at all.
large majorities don’t get what they want on many issues. Instead, they consistently lose out to small, closely-knit groups with discrete interests around which they organize—of which the “industry association” is the best example.
Olson’s memorable conclusion is that the small and organized will dominate the large and disorganized.
In 2003, the industry invested $ 116 million in convincing Congress to ban America’s largest federal-run insurance program, Medicare, from negotiating for lower drug prices. That $ 116 million was, to be sure, a major investment. However, the enactment of the negotiation ban has benefited the industry (and cost consumers) an estimated $ 90 billion per year. As an investment, it returns some 77,500 percent, and is a gift that keeps on giving.
A Princeton and Northwestern group in 2014 tested various theories of politics and concluded that a theory of “biased pluralism” best explained outcomes—that the public policies “tend to tilt toward the wishes of corporations and business and professional associations.”
The more concentrated the industry, the more corrupted we can expect the political process to be. Here, by corrupted, we mean a political system that does not serve its stated goals—service of the public’s interests—but instead favors a few groups at the expense of the general public.
Roosevelt’s point: Concentrated private power can serve as a threat to the Constitutional design, and the enforcement of the antitrust law can provide a final check on private power.
For example, as a firm adds more and more employees, it needs to add more managers, and ever-more complex systems of internal control, which tend, at some point, to begin making the firm less efficient. Managers in larger firms may start to yield to the temptations of seeking their own personal enrichment and power as opposed to the interests of the firm.
It was during the postwar years, over the 1950s and 1960s, that strong antitrust laws became most clearly identified as part of a functional democracy, and in that sense reached the fullest extent of their power, influence, and political support. Reflecting
Hitler’s rise and exercise of power were facilitated by the German Republic’s tolerance of monopolies in key industries, including the Krupp armaments company, Siemens railroad and infrastructure, and, most of all, the I.G. Farben chemical cartel.
That conclusion came from the observation that the main German monopolists, over the 1930s, threw their weight behind the Nazi regime when it lacked support among other key groups, and that each ultimately became deeply allied with and enmeshed in the German war effort.
As Senator Estes Kefauver put it: I think we must decide very quickly what sort of country we want to live in. The present trend of great corporations to increase their economic power is the antithesis of meritorious competitive development … Through monopolistic mergers the people are losing power to direct their own economic welfare. When they lose the power to direct their economic welfare they also lose the means to direct their political future.
He then turned to antitrust’s relationship to democracy. I am not an alarmist, but the history of what has taken place in other nations where mergers and concentrations have placed economic control in the hands of a very few people is too clear to pass over easily. A point is eventually reached, and we are rapidly reaching that point in this country, where the public steps in to take over when concentration and monopoly gain too much power. The taking over by the public through its government always follows one or two methods and has one or two political results. It either results in a Fascist state or the nationalization of industries and thereafter a Socialist or Communist state.
Like Thurman Arnold, Estes Kefauver, and other Americans, the Ordoliberals believed that the true origins of Nazi totalitarianism were the concentrations of economic power that began under Bismarck. In this sense, the European competition law was entwined, from the beginning, to the commitment to democracy and human freedom.
Since at least Adam Smith’s day, economists have favored competition and condemned monopoly.
Sherman had much broader concerns as well. He wanted antitrust law to fight “inequality of condition, of wealth, and opportunity” and feared that the trusts created “a kingly prerogative, inconsistent with our form of government.”
antitrust represented a democratic choice of economic structure and a check on the political and economic power of the monopolies.
As Learned Hand had written, “It is possible, because of its indirect social or moral effect, to prefer a system of small producers, each dependent for his success upon his own skill and character, to one in which the great mass of those engaged must accept the direction of a few. These considerations … prove to have been in fact [the law’s] purposes.”
In Alcoa, Hand articulated a better repudiation of monopoly than Brandeis himself had ever managed, writing that a “possession of unchallenged economic power deadens initiative, discourages thrift, and depresses energy; that immunity from competition is a narcotic, and rivalry is a stimulant, to industrial progress; that the spur of constant stress is necessary to counteract an inevitable disposition to let well enough alone.” Congress, said Hand, had chosen to “prefer a system of small producers, each dependent for his success upon his own skill and character, to one in which the great mass of those engaged must accept the direction of a few.”
One of the real triggers for the Justice Department, however, was signs that AT& T was also resistant even to government control.
But Bell managed to subvert or undermine many of these policies, thwarting the introduction of competition, running roughshod over the FCC. As in Theodore Roosevelt’s time, the idea of a monopolist that considered itself above government control compelled the Justice Department to action.
Robbing banks is economically irrational, given security guards and meager returns; ergo bank robbing does not happen; ergo there is no need for the criminal law. Exaggerated only slightly, this premise has been at the core of Bork-Chicago antitrust for more than thirty years.
First and most importantly, IBM dropped its practice of bundling (or tying) its software with hardware. That is broadly understood, even by IBM’s own people, to have kickstarted the birth of an independent software industry.
If the effect of the litigation was to prevent IBM from killing its main emergent challengers, the IBM case was not expensive, but incredibly cheap.
AT& T, for example, ruled its industry for decades, destroying myriad would-be challengers, with the tacit or sometimes active assistance of government. Having waited for several decades, are society and the economy supposed to wait for several more? This line of argument ignores the idea that deliberate investments in building barriers to entry can be effective, and it is often utterly rational for the monopolist to make such investments.
We can see that it is to the George W. Bush era that we owe our present economic state, as the administration dismantled most of the checks on industry concentration.
Cable was also freed to charge monopoly prices, and happily raised monthly prices at some eight times the rate of inflation. During a period of historically low inflation, it managed to raise its prices by an impressive 8 percent per year. Bills that were once in the $ 30–40 range rose over $ 100, and as much as $ 200 per month.
When a dominant firm buys its a nascent challenger, alarm bells are supposed to ring. Yet both American and European regulators found themselves unable to find anything wrong with the takeover.
It takes many years of training to reach conclusions this absurd. A teenager could have told you that Facebook and Instagram were competitors—after all, teenagers were the ones who were switching platforms.
When Facebook spies on competitors, or summons a firm to a meeting just to figure out how to copy it more accurately, or discourages funding of competitors, a line is crossed.
Anti-Merger Act of 1950,
As the Supreme Court put it, the law sought to erect “a barrier to what Congress saw was the rising tide of economic concentration” and therefore provided “authority for arresting mergers at a time when the trend to a lessening of competition in a line of commerce was still in its incipiency.” For “Congress saw the process of concentration in American business as a dynamic force” and it wanted to give the government and courts “the power to brake this force at its outset and before it gathered momentum.”
Breakups and the blocking of mergers (also known as “structural relief”) are at the historic core of the antitrust program, and should not be shied away from unduly. Breakups, done right, have clear effects. They can completely realign an industry’s incentives, and can, at their best, transform a stagnant industry into a dynamic one.
There is an unfortunate tendency within enforcement agencies to portray breakups and dissolutions as off the table or only for extremely rare cases. There is no legal reason for that presumption: Indeed, the original practice favored dissolution as the default remedy—implied in the very word “antitrust.”
Too much of the resistance to dissolution comes from taking too seriously the legal fiction of corporate personhood.
But reintroducing competition into the social media space, perhaps even quality competition, measured by matters like greater protection of privacy, could mean a lot to the public.
The simplest way to break the power of Facebook is breaking up Facebook.
The prerequisite would be persistent dominance of at least ten years or longer, suggesting that a market remedy is not forthcoming, and proof that the existing industry structure lacked convincing competitive or public justifications, and that market forces would be unlikely to remedy the situation by themselves. In
The “protection of competition” test is focused on protection of a process, as opposed to the maximization of a value. It is based on the premise that the legal system often does better trying to protect a process than the far more ambitious goal of maximizing an abstract value like welfare or wealth.
Here, as just one typical example, is Representative Dick Thompson Morgan in 1914: “the one thing we wish to maintain, and retain and sustain, is competition. We want to destroy monopoly and restore and maintain competition.”
Or as it said in the 1950s, “The heart of our national economic policy long has been faith in the value of competition.… ‘Congress was dealing with competition, which it sought to protect, and monopoly, which it sought to prevent.’”
The English Magna Carta, the Constitution of the United States, and other foundational laws of democracies around the world were all created with the idea that power should be limited—that it should be distributed, decentralized, checked, and balanced, so that no person or institution could enjoy unaccountable influence. Yet this vision has always had a major loophole. Written as a reaction to government tyranny, it did not contemplate the possibility of a concentrated private power that might come to rival the public’s, of businesspeople with more influence than government officials, and of an artificial creature of law, the corporation, that would grow to have political protection exceeding that of actual humans.
Okay, this is one of those books you wish did not need to exist.
Sadly, it does exist, it does need to exist. Happily, it is funny, in a "I'm not crying, you're crying!" sort of way.
The book is satire on women and their role in the workplace. It touches on many of the stereotypes of men and women in the workplace, and their interactions, and human nature, and the absurdity of all of our biases.
The mocking tone of the book could be off-putting, but it's funny for the most part, except for the parts where the humor is TOO REAL, and you cry instead.
It's a fun read, if you're in the right mindset. If you're a guy, yeaaaaaaaaah, this is really how things are for the rest of us.
When describing your accomplishments, you need to strike a balance between tooting your own horn and hiding your horn behind the shed. This is difficult because if you don’t take enough credit you won’t seem qualified, but if you take too much credit you’ll seem arrogant. Good luck with that.
However, sometimes when women say the exact same thing a man says it’s interpreted in a completely different way. It’s enough to make you want to cry (which as a man means you’re sensitive and as a woman means you’re hysterical).
Tone policing is an insidious way for people to disregard what you are saying by adjusting the focus to how you’re saying it.
Authenticity is less about being the real you and more about finding someone successful to look up to and being that person instead.
Sexual harassment in the workplace is a serious offense and will not be tolerated, except in cases where the harasser was clearly joking and you need to relax.
You may go through different stages of being more successful than likeable or more likeable than successful or neither likeable nor successful. But one day you’ll wake up and you won’t care about being either and that’s the day you’ll be the most successful and most likeable person, at least to yourself.
Make sure your product is something your potential investors could personally see themselves using, or else they won’t be able to see any value in it whatsoever. Even though women are half of the population, remember, anything targeting them is considered a niche market.
DAILY APOLOGY ￼ checklist ￼ I’M SORRY FOR . . . ￼ Responding too late ￼ Responding too early ￼ Having my headphones on ￼ Being interrupted ￼ Staring at the bagels ￼ Speaking too softly ￼ Speaking at all ￼ Tripping on a rock (to the rock) ￼ Sharing too much ￼ Not sharing enough ￼ Enjoying food too much ￼ Asking a question ￼ Being misled ￼ Not liking my food ￼ Wanting something different ￼ Someone taking my seat ￼ Saying I’m sorry ￼ Asking to be paid ￼ Being bumped into ￼ Sitting in this chair ￼ Taking up space ￼ Needing help ￼ Offering to help ￼ My shoes being loud ￼ Going too fast ￼ Going too slow ￼ Swallowing too loudly ￼ Knowing what I’m doing ￼ Someone else’s mistake ￼ Being proud of myself ￼ Sharing my thoughts ￼ Being successful
So how do you be successful without hurting men’s feelings? You don’t. You be successful whether men’s feelings are hurt or not, because really that’s up to them, not you.
Okay, this book took me a while to finish. I started it, read about 40%, then put it down and read Originals, Lying, and Coping Skills, before being able to pick this one back up and finish it. Not that the book is a bad book, it's a very, very good book, one that should be required reading for every American citizen, especially the climate change deniers.
Drawdown is a catalog of 100 technologies that would significantly behoove us as a society to encourage, implement, and embrace. If we were to embrace all of the technologies listed, 99% of them would result in profits, and 1% wouldn't. We could do all of them.
But we won't.
Because we don't care, until we do. And often when we do, it's because we are in crisis mode, not because we were forward-thinking.
I think the best way to read this book is with a group of friends, going through a chapter or two a week, sitting around discussing each one, and then implementing a few. Or as a student, reading a chapter / technology a (school) day, and discussing with the class. The latter has the students done within a school year, and they know enough maybe to be inspired to implement some of the strategies. Or as a work group reading and discussing a couple technologies a week, including how encourage or engineer the use, done in a year with two a week.
Reading solo isn't really the way.
When I listen to Sagan's friends talk about all the doom and gloom with climate change, and the sense of hopelessness coming from some of them, I want to hand them this book, suggest they pick 3, and get to work. Change doesn't just happen, people make change happen. That means all of us.
The solutions about farms, soil, restoring lands and forests, women, wind, and water turbines were the most interesting to me.
I strongly recommend this book for its information. I don't recommend trying to read it all in one go.
I didn't go through these quotes, so many are formatted poorly or not at all.
We can never survive in the long-term by despoiling nature; we have literally reached the ends of the earth.
The buildup of greenhouse gases we experience today occurred in the absence of human understanding; our ancestors were innocent of the damage they were doing. That can tempt us to believe that global warming is something that is happening to us—that we are victims of a fate that was determined by actions that precede us. If we change the preposition, and consider that global warming is happening for us—an atmospheric transformation that inspires us to change and reimagine everything we make and do—we begin to live in a different world.
Confucius wrote that calling things by their proper name is the beginning of wisdom.
I remember my economics professor asking for a definition of Gresham’s law and how I rattled off the answer mechanically. He looked at me—none too pleased, though the answer was correct—and said, now explain it to your grandmother. That was much more difficult. The answer I gave the professor would have made no sense to her. It was lingo.
In November 2016, the White House released its strategy for achieving deep decarbonization by mid-century. From our perspective, decarbonization is a word that describes the problem, not the goal: we decarbonized the earth by removing carbon in the form of combusted coal, gas, and oil, as well as through deforestation and poor farming practices, and releasing it into the atmosphere.
Another impediment to wind power is inequitable government subsidies. The International Monetary Fund estimates that the fossil fuel industry received more than $ 5.3 trillion in direct and indirect subsidies in 2015; that is $ 10 million a minute, or about 6.5 percent of global GDP. Indirect fossil fuel subsidies include health costs due to air pollution, environmental damage, congestion, and global warming—none of which are factors with wind turbines.
Outsize subsidies make fossil fuels look less expensive, obscuring wind power’s cost competitiveness, and they give fossil fuels an incumbent advantage, making investment more attractive.
Critics in Congress disparage wind power because it is subsidized, implying that the federal government is pouring money down a hole. Coal is a freeloader when it comes to the costs borne by society for environmental impacts.
Wind power uses 98 to 99 percent less water than fossil fuel–generated electricity. Coal, gas, and nuclear power require massive amounts of water for cooling, withdrawing more water than agriculture—22 trillion to 62 trillion gallons per year.
Who else besides the fossil fuel and nuclear power industries can take trillions of gallons of water in the United States and not pay for it?
The soft costs of financing, acquisition, permitting, and installation can be half the cost of a rooftop system and have not seen the same dip as panels themselves. That is part of the reason rooftop solar is more expensive than its utility-scale kin.
With producer and user as one, energy gets democratized.
Unlike PV panels and wind turbines, CSP makes heat before it makes electricity, and the former is much easier and more efficient to store. Indeed, heat can be stored twenty to one hundred times more cheaply than electricity.
Human beings have long used mirrors to start fires. The Chinese, Greeks, and Romans all developed “burning mirrors”—curved mirrors that could concentrate the sun’s rays onto an object, causing it to combust. Three thousand years ago, solar igniters were mass-produced in Bronze Age China. They’re how the ancient Greeks lit the Olympic flame. In the sixteenth century, Leonardo da Vinci designed a giant parabolic mirror to boil water for industry and to warm swimming pools. Like so many technologies, using mirrors to harness the sun’s energy has been lost and found repeatedly, enchanting experimentalists and tinkerers through the ages—and once again today. •
In the United States, a majority of the more than 115 biomass electricity generation plants under construction or in the permitting process plan on burning wood as fuel. Proponents state that these plants will be powered by branches and treetops left over from commercial logging operations, but these claims do not stand up to scrutiny. In the states of Washington, Vermont, Massachusetts, Wisconsin, and New York, the amount of slash generated by logging operations falls far short of the amount needed to feed the proposed biomass burners. In Ohio and North Carolina, utilities have been more forthright and admit that biomass electricity generation means cutting and burning trees. The trees will grow back, but over decades—a lengthy and uncertain lag time to achieve carbon neutrality. When biomass energy relies on trees, it is not a true solution.
Nuclear is a regrets solution, and regrets have already occurred at Chernobyl, Three Mile Island, Rocky Flats, Kyshtym, Browns Ferry, Idaho Falls, Mihama, Lucens, Fukushima Daiichi, Tokaimura, Marcoule, Windscale, Bohunice, and Church Rock. Regrets
U.S. coal-fired or nuclear power plants are about 34 percent efficient in terms of producing electricity, which means two-thirds of the energy goes up the flue and heats the sky. All told, the U.S. power-generation sector throws away an amount of heat equivalent to the entire energy budget of Japan.
Since that time, policies have compelled local authorities to identify opportunities for energy-efficient heat production, helped to move power generation from centralized plants to a decentralized network, and incentivized the use of cogeneration generally, and renewable-based systems particularly, through tax policy.
The United States has long lagged behind Europe on cogeneration, in part because of pushback from utilities—notoriously so twenty years ago, when CHP plans at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology were challenged by the local utility.
There are four methods used by industry to convert waste to energy: incineration, gasification, pyrolysis, and plasma.
One study conducted in the 1980s of a New Jersey incinerator showed the following results: If 2,250 tons of trash were incinerated daily, the annual emissions would be 5 tons of lead, 17 tons of mercury, 580 pounds of cadmium, 2,248 tons of nitrous oxide, 853 tons of sulfur dioxide, 777 tons of hydrogen chloride, 87 tons of sulfuric acid, 18 tons of fluorides, and 98 tons of particulate matter small enough to lodge permanently in the lungs.
Waste-to-energy continues to evoke strong feelings. Its champions point to the land spared from dumps and to a cleaner-burning source of power. One ton of waste can generate as much electricity as one-third of a ton of coal. But opponents continue to decry pollution, however trace, as well as high capital costs and potential for perverse effects on recycling or composting. Because incineration is often cheaper than those alternatives, it can win out with municipalities when it comes to cost. Data shows high recycling rates tend to go hand in hand with high rates of waste-to-energy use, but some argue recycling could be higher in the absence of burning trash. These are among the reasons that construction of new plants in the United States has been at a near standstill for many years, despite evolution in incineration technology.
Truly renewable resources, like solar and wind, cannot be depleted.
Waste is certainly a repeatable resource at this point, but that is only because we generate so very much.
Zero waste is a growing movement that wants to go upstream, not down, in order to change the nature of waste and the ways in which society recaptures its value. It is saying, in essence, that material flows in society can imitate what we see in forests and grasslands where there truly is no waste that is not feedstock for some other form of life.
Plant-based diets have had no shortage of notable champions, long before omnivore Michael Pollan famously simplified the conundrum of eating: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”
The case for a plant-rich diet is robust. That said, bringing about profound dietary change is not simple because eating is profoundly personal and cultural.
In 2013, $ 53 billion went to livestock subsidies in the thirty-five countries affiliated with the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development alone.
Financial disincentives, government targets for reducing the amount of beef consumed, and campaigns that liken meat eating to tobacco use—in tandem with shifting social norms around meat consumption and healthy diets—may effectively conspire to make meat less desirable.
Plant-based diets also open opportunities to preserve land that might otherwise go into livestock production and to engage current agricultural land in other, carbon-sequestering uses.
Around the world, farmers are walking away from lands that were once cultivated or grazed because those lands have been “farmed out.” Agricultural practices depleted fertility, eroded soil, caused compaction, drained groundwater, or created salinity by over-irrigation. Because the lands no longer generate sufficient income, they are abandoned.
These abandoned lands are not lying fallow; they are forgotten.
Bringing abandoned lands back into productive use can also turn them into carbon sinks.
Restoration can mean the return of native vegetation, the establishment of tree plantations, or the introduction of regenerative farming methods.
One of the great miracles of life on this planet is the creation of food. The alchemy human beings do with seed, sun, soil, and water produces figs and fava beans, pearl onions and okra. It can include raising animals for their flesh or yield and transforming raw ingredients into chutney or cake or capellini. For more than a third of the world’s labor force, the production of food is the source of their livelihoods, and all people are sustained by consuming it.
Yet a third of the food raised or prepared does not make it from farm or factory to fork.
In too many places, kitchen efficiency has become a lost art.
Basic laws of supply and demand also play a role. If a crop is unprofitable to harvest, it will be left in the field. And if a product is too expensive for consumers to purchase, it will idle in the storeroom. As ever, economics matter. Regardless of the reason, the outcome is much the same. Producing uneaten food squanders a whole host of resources—seeds, water, energy, land, fertilizer, hours of labor, financial capital—and generates greenhouse gases at every stage—including methane when organic matter lands in the global rubbish bin.
National goals and policies can encourage widespread change. In 2015, the United States set a food-waste target, aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals. The same year, France passed a law forbidding supermarkets from trashing unsold food and requiring that they pass it on to charities or animal feed or composting companies instead.
Of course, from an emissions perspective, the most effective efforts are those that avert waste, rather than finding better uses for it after the fact.
IMPACT: After taking into account the adoption of plant-rich diets, if 50 percent of food waste is reduced by 2050, avoided emissions could be equal to 26.2 gigatons of carbon dioxide. Reducing waste also avoids the deforestation for additional farmland, preventing 44.4 gigatons of additional emissions. We used forecasts of regional waste estimates from farm to household. This data shows that up to 35 percent food in high-income economies is thrown out by consumers; in low-income economies, however, relatively little is wasted at the household level.
Though cookstoves may seem simple, taking them from concept to reality is as much an art as cooking itself. Family dynamics, from finances to education to gender roles, affect decisions about stoves, which must meet a suite of needs.
Locally attuned, human-centered designs are most likely to win hearts and minds and shift prevailing habits—and, most important, majority share of cooking time.
The two oldest Sanskrit epic poems, The Ramayana and The Mahabharata, contain illustrations of a precursor to the home garden called Ashok Vatika.
Because they generate food security, nourishment, and income, on top of ecological benefits, home gardens have been dubbed “the epitome of sustainability” by agroforestry expert P. K. Nair.
Whether the crop being grown is coffee, cacao, fruit, vegetables, herbs, fuel, or plant remedies, the benefits of multistrata agroforestry are clear. It is well suited to steep slopes and degraded croplands, places where other cultivation might struggle.
Moreover, because the livestock yield on a silvopasture plot is higher (as explored below), it may curtail the need for additional pasture space and thus help avoid deforestation and subsequent carbon emissions. Some studies show that ruminants can better digest silvopastoral forage, emitting lower amounts of methane in the process.
From a financial and risk perspective, silvopasture is useful for its diversification. Livestock, trees, and any additional forestry products, such as nuts, fruit, mushrooms, and maple syrup, all come of age and generate income on different time horizons—some more regularly and short-term, some at much longer intervals. Because the land is diversely productive, farmers are better insulated from financial risk due to weather events.
The integrated, symbiotic system of silvopasture proves to be more resilient for both animals and trees. In a typical treeless pasture, livestock may suffer from extreme heat, cutting winds, and mediocre forage. But silvopasture provides distributed shade and wind protection, as well as rich food.
factors. These systems are more expensive to establish, requiring higher up-front costs in addition to the necessary technical expertise.
Fellow farmers are often more trusted than technical or scientific experts, while a successful test plot—perhaps on a rancher’s own land—is the most convincing case of all.
Therein lies the climatic win-win of silvopasture: As it averts further greenhouse emissions from one of the world’s most polluting sectors, it also protects against changes that are now inevitable. •
Tell me: How did it come to pass that virtue—a quality that for most of history has generally been deemed, well, a virtue—became a mark of liberal softheadedness? How peculiar, that doing the right thing by the environment—buying the hybrid, eating like a locavore—should now set you up for the Ed Begley Jr. treatment.
The single greatest lesson the garden teaches is that our relationship to the planet need not be zero-sum, and that as long as the sun still shines and people still can plan and plant, think and do, we can, if we bother to try, find ways to provide for ourselves without diminishing the world. • Excerpted and adapted with permission from Michael Pollan’s essay “Why Bother?” in the New York Times, April 20, 2008.
Regenerative agricultural practices restore degraded land. They include no tillage, diverse cover crops, on-farm fertility (no external nutrient sources required), no or minimal pesticides or synthetic fertilizers, and multiple crop rotations, all of which can be augmented by managed grazing. The purpose of regenerative agriculture is to continually improve and regenerate the health of the soil by restoring its carbon content, which in turn improves plant health, nutrition, and productivity.
When converted to sugars with help from the sun, carbon produces plants and food. It feeds humankind, and, through the use of regenerative agriculture, it feeds the life of the soil.
Increasing carbon means increasing the life of the soil. When carbon is stored in soil organic matter, microbial life proliferates, soil texture improves, roots go deeper, worms drag organic matter down their holes and make rich castings of nitrogen, nutrient uptake is enhanced, water retention increases several fold (creating drought tolerance or flood insurance), nourished plants are more pest resistant, and fertility compounds to the point where little or no fertilizers are necessary. This ability to become independent of fertilizers relies upon cover crops. Each additional percent of carbon in the soil is considered equivalent to $ 300 to $ 600 of fertilizer stored beneath.
A normal cover crop might be vetch, white clover, or rye, or a combination of them at one time.
The possibilities include legumes such as spring peas, clover, vetch, cowpeas, alfalfa, mung beans, lentils, fava beans, sainfoin, and sunn hemp; and brassicas such as kale, mustard, radish, turnips, and collards. Then there are broadleaves such as sunflower, sesame, and chicory; and grasses such as black oats, rye, fescue, teff, brome, and sorghum. Each plant brings distinct additions to the soil, from shading out weeds to fixing nitrogen and making phosphorus, zinc, or calcium bioavailable.
Regenerative farmers are creating crop insurance through diversification, which prevents pockets of infestation by pests and fungi. Along with rotation, there is intercropping, in which leguminous companion crops of alfalfa or beans are grown with corn to provide fertility.
Evidence points to a new wisdom: The world cannot be fed unless the soil is fed.
Regenerative agriculture is not the absence of chemicals. It is the presence of observable science—a practice that aligns agriculture with natural principles. It restores, revitalizes, and reinstates healthy agricultural ecosystems.
Most nitrogen fertilizers are “hot,” chemically destroying organic matter in the soil.
Nitrous oxide, created from nitrate fertilizers by soil bacteria, is 298 times more powerful than carbon dioxide in its atmospheric warming effect.
Effective nutrient management is summarized by the four Rs: right source, right time, right place, and right rate.
Research into how producers make decisions has found that farmers are likely to apply more fertilizer than necessary and prioritize information they receive from fertilizer dealers—even with the knowledge that reducing their rate could lower emissions.
Since nitrogen-fertilizer pollution of water bodies is usually considered nonpoint source pollution (i.e., it cannot be easily linked to a single source), regulations are difficult to create and enforce.
That being said, continual application of chemical fertilizers results in loss of fertility, water infiltration, and loss of productivity over time. These impacts can cause farmers to increase fertilization in hopes it will compensate for the overall loss of soil health, which is in actuality a downward spiral.
There are two ways to farm. Industrial agriculture sows a single crop over large areas. Regenerative practices such as tree intercropping use diversity to improve soil health and productivity and align with biological principles. Lower inputs, healthier crops, and higher yields are the outcome.
To top it off, tree intercropping is beautiful—chili peppers and coffee, coconut and marigolds, walnuts and corn, citrus and eggplant, olives and barley, teak and taro, oak and lavender, wild cherry and sunflower, hazel and roses. Triple-cropping is common in tropical areas, with coconut, banana, and ginger grown together. The possible combinations are endless.
Though land is “lost” to trees in the alley-cropping system, the increased yield—without chemical inputs—more than makes up for the loss.
Other variations of intercropping include strip cropping, boundary systems, shade systems, forest farming, forest gardening, mycoforestry, silvopasture, and pasture cropping. Tree intercropping reinforces the idea that human well-being does not depend on an agricultural system that is extractive and hostile to living organisms.
When farmers till their fields to destroy weeds and fold in fertilizer, water in the freshly turned soil evaporates. Soil itself can be blown or washed away and carbon held within it released into the atmosphere. Though intended to prepare a field to be productive, tilling can actually make it nutrient poor and less life giving.
In part, conservation agriculture is already widespread because farmers can adopt it with relative ease and speed and realize a range of benefits. Water retention makes fields more drought resistant or reduces the need for irrigation. Nutrient retention leads to increased fertility and can lower fertilizer inputs.
The oldest surviving work of Latin prose, De Agricultura, by Cato the Elder, includes guidance on compost—deemed a must for farmers.
Nearly half of the solid waste produced around the world is organic or biodegradable, meaning it can be decomposed over a few weeks or months.
Composting processes avert methane emissions with proper aeration. Without it, the emissions benefits of composting shrink.
In ancient Amazonian society, virtually all waste was organic. The disposal method of choice for kitchen crumbs, fish bones, livestock manure, broken pottery, and the like was to bury and burn. Wastes were baked without exposure to air beneath a layer of soil. This process, known as pyrolysis, produced a charcoal soil amendment rich in carbon. The result was terra preta, literally “black earth” in Portuguese.
The pyrolysis process for producing biochar is from the Greek pyro for “fire” and lysis for “separating.” It is the slow baking of biomass in the near or total absence of oxygen. The preferred method is gasification, a higher-temperature pyrolysis that results in more completely carbonized biomass. Biochar is commonly made from waste material ranging from peanut shells to rice straw to wood scraps. As it is heated, gas and oil separate from carbon-rich solids. The output is twofold: fuels that can be used for energy (perhaps for fueling pyrolysis itself) and biochar for soil amendment. Depending on the speed of baking, the ratio of fuel to char can shift. The slower the burn, the more biochar. Pyrolysis is unusual in its versatility. Large, polished industrial systems can produce it, and it can be made in small makeshift kilns.
Theoretically, experts argue, biochar could sequester billions of tons of carbon dioxide every year, in addition to averting emissions from organic waste.
Africa abounds with staple tree crops: baobab, mafura, argan, mongongo, marula, dika, monkey orange, moringa, safou, and more.
Today, 89 percent of cultivated land, about 3 billion acres, is devoted to annuals. Of the remaining land in perennial crops, 116 million acres are used for perennial staple crops.
Called “flood” or “basin” irrigation, they rely on submerging fields and remain the most common approaches in many parts of the world.
Surface and groundwater resources are better protected by lowering demand for water use.
The agricultural industry has long argued that the only way we can feed humanity is through the use of chemical fertilizers, pesticides, and, more recently, genetically modified seeds. The conventional wisdom is that biological or organic agricultural methods are incapable of feeding the world—mere specialty practices for smaller farmers that are impractical given the world’s food needs.
As Montgomery and Biklé show, the science was incomplete because the role of soil life was unknown at that time. Agronomists and soil scientists of the nineteenth and most of the twentieth century had no inkling of what microbial populations were doing in the soil. In the absence of this knowledge, the chemical fertilizer theory of agricultural productivity was untouchable because it did sustain and increase yields, particularly on degraded soils.
Herbivores cluster to protect themselves and their young from predators; they munch perennial and annual grasses to the crown; they disturb the soil with their hooves, intermixing their urine and feces; and they move on and do not return for a full year. Herbivores such as cattle, sheep, goats, elk, moose, and deer are ruminants, mammals that ferment cellulose in their digestive systems and break it down with methane-emitting microbes. Ruminants cocreated the world’s great grasslands, from the pampas in Argentina to the mammoth steppe in Siberia. Put those animals inside a fence, and it is a whole different story.
involves a transitional period from one regime to another. It requires weaning farms off pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, and fertilizers. All of these are conclusions agricultural corporations are unlikely to study and fund. The empirical results achieved by long-term adherents describe a two-to three-year period for the transition—about the same length of time as most of the studies that question the results shown by proponents.
Farmers who use managed grazing report that perennial streams that once went dry have returned. On farms with intensive one-to two-day rotations, the capacity to stock cattle on the land increased by 200 to 300 percent. Native grasses reestablished themselves, crowding out weeds. Not having to sow pastures saved time and diesel fuel. Tillage of pastureland stopped as well, conserving fuel and equipment expenses. The behavior of cattle changed. Rather than lollygagging around a stubbly, overgrazed pasture, they moved quickly and in the process ate weeds (which farmers are discovering are protein rich), thus reducing or eliminating the need for weed control.
The results seem to improve when grazing is rapid and intense and rest periods are longer. The protein and sugars of the grasses improve, and the more carbon sugars that are fed to the microbes in the soil, the greater the growth in mycorrhizal fungi, which secrete a sticky substance called glomalin. The organic rich soils are clumped together in small granules by the glomalin, which creates crumbly soil with empty spaces in which water can flow. Practitioners report that their soils can soak up eight, ten, and fourteen inches of rain per hour, whereas before the hardened soils would pond and erode with a mere inch of rain.
He describes the change in his agricultural practices best: “When I was farming conventionally, I’d wake up and decide what I was going to kill today. Now I wake up and decide what I am going to help live.” And he is equally clear where change will come from: “You’re not going to change Washington [D.C.]. Consumers are the driving force.” •
Even though they farm as capably and efficiently as men, inequality in assets, inputs, and support means women produce less on the same amount of land.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), if all women smallholders receive equal access to productive resources, their farm yields will rise by 20 to 30 percent, total agricultural output in low-income countries will increase by 2.5 to 4 percent, and the number of undernourished people in the world will drop by 12 to 17 percent. One hundred million to 150 million people will no longer be hungry.
Just 10 to 20 percent of landholders are women, and within that group, insecure land rights are a persistent challenge.
Bina Agarwal, a professor at the University of Manchester and the author of A Field of One’s Own, captures the range of measures needed: Recognize and affirm women as farmers rather than farm helpers—a perception that undermines them from the start. Increase women’s access to land and secure clear, independent tenure—not mediated through and controlled by men. Improve women’s access to the training and resources they lack, provided with their specific needs in mind—microcredit in particular. Focus research and development on crops women cultivate and farming systems they use. Foster institutional innovation and collective approaches designed for women smallholders, such as group farming efforts. Agarwal’s last tenet is powerful. When women take part in cooperatives
As with all smallholder farmers, diversity in cultivation helps annual yields to be more resilient and successful over time.
Countries that have higher levels of gender equality have higher average cereal yields; high levels of inequality correlate with the opposite outcome.
When women earn more, they reinvest 90 percent of the money they make into education, health, and nutrition for their families and communities, compared to 30 to 40 percent for men.
Girls’ education, it turns out, has a dramatic bearing on global warming. Women with more years of education have fewer, healthier children and actively manage their reproductive health.
Education also equips women to face the most dramatic climatic changes. A 2013 study found that educating girls “is the single most important social and economic factor associated with a reduction in vulnerability to natural disasters.” The single most important. It is a conclusion drawn from examining the experiences of 125 countries since 1980 and echoes other analyses. Educated girls and women have a better capacity to cope with shocks from natural disasters and extreme weather events and are therefore less likely to be injured, displaced, or killed when one strikes. This decreased vulnerability also extends to their children, families, and the elderly.
The encyclopedic book What Works in Girls’ Education maps out seven areas of interconnected interventions: Make school affordable. For example, provide family stipends for keeping girls in school. Help girls overcome health barriers. For example, offer deworming treatments. Reduce the time and distance to get to school. For example, provide girls with bikes. Make schools more girl-friendly. For example, offer child-care programs for young mothers. Improve school quality. For example, invest in more and better teachers. Increase community engagement. For example, train community education activists. Sustain girls’ education during emergencies. For example, establish schools in refugee camps.
According to the Urban Land Institute, in more compact developments ripe for walking, people drive 20 to 40 percent less. Urban planner and author Jeff Speck writes, “The pedestrian is an extremely fragile species, the canary in the coal mine of urban livability. Under the right conditions, this creature thrives and multiplies.” Speck’s “general theory of walkability” outlines four criteria that must be met for people to opt to walk. A journey on foot must be useful, helping an individual meet some need in daily life. It must feel safe, including protection from cars and other hazards. It must be comfortable, attracting walkers to what Speck calls “outdoor living rooms.” And it must be interesting, with beauty, liveliness, and variety all around. In other words, walkable trips are not simply those with a manageable distance from point A to point B, perhaps a ten-to fifteen-minute journey on foot. They have “walk appeal,” thanks to a density of fellow walkers, a mix of land and real estate uses, and key design elements that create compelling environments for people on foot.
What does that look like? It is the opposite of sprawl. Homes, cafés, parks, shops, and offices are intermingled at a density that makes them reachable by foot. Sidewalks are wide and protected from motorized traffic whizzing by. Walkways are well lit at night, tree-lined and shaded during the day (vital in hot, humid climates). They connect effectively to one another and perhaps lead to entirely car-free areas. Points of interest across the road, tracks, or waterway are accessible by way of safe and direct pedestrian crossings constructed at regular intervals. At street level, buildings feel abuzz with life, fostering a sense of safety. Beauty invites people outside. Perambulation can easily be combined with cycling or mass transit, with good connectivity between these different modes of mobility. Many such improvements can be achieved at a fraction of the cost of other transportation infrastructure. Walkability also enhances the use, and thus cost-effectiveness, of public transit systems.
Similarly, Copenhagen’s infrastructure investments have made cycling easy and fast. They include innovations such as the “green wave”—traffic lights along main roads synchronized to the pace of bike commuters, so they can maintain their cruising speed for long stretches. Currently, the city is investing in a responsive traffic light system that aims to cut travel time by 10 percent for bicycles and 5 to 20 percent for buses, making both modes more appealing. At the same time, infrastructure for cars is becoming less accommodating, as with the gradual removal of parking spaces.
As Dutch history reminds us, all cities were once bike cities, before we began shaping and reshaping them for the almighty automobile.
Cycling also raises concerns about safety, reasonably so, but a clear correlation exists between high cycling rates, more cycling infrastructure, and reduced risk of fatalities.
Not only do cool roofs reduce heat taken on by buildings, driving down energy use for cooling, they also reduce the temperature in cities. Recent studies have shown that the capacity of cool roofs to relieve the urban heat island effect is more pronounced during heat waves, when heat islands are particularly intense, sometimes deadly. The growth of cities continues, so making them cleaner, more livable, and better for well-being is essential.
Glass windows were a Roman invention, placed in public baths, important buildings, and homes of great wealth. Although quite opaque, Roman glass was a big step forward from animal hides, cloth, or wood for shutting out the elements.
Density is a defining characteristic of cities. Compact urban spaces allow us to move about on foot and by bicycle, intermingle people and ideas, and create rich cultural mosaics. That density can also enable efficient heating and cooling of a city’s buildings.
Copenhagen’s ongoing shift in fuel sources highlights a major advantage of DHC: Once a distribution network is in place, what powers it can morph and evolve. Coal can give way to geothermal, solar water heating, or sustainable biomass. A city’s wasted heat—from industrial facilities to data centers to in-household wastewater—can be captured and repurposed.
Landfill methane can be tapped for capture and use as a fairly clean energy source for generating electricity or heat, rather than leaking into the air or being dispersed as waste. The climate benefit is twofold: prevent landfill emissions and displace coal, oil, or natural gas that might otherwise be used.
Most landfill content is organic matter: food scraps, yard trimmings, junk wood, wastepaper. At first, aerobic bacteria decompose those materials, but as layers of garbage get compacted and covered—and ultimately sealed beneath a landfill cap—oxygen is depleted. In its absence, anaerobic bacteria take over, and decomposition produces biogas, a roughly equal blend of carbon dioxide and methane accompanied by a smattering of other gases. Carbon dioxide would be part of nature’s cycles, but the methane is anthropogenic, created because we dump organic waste into sanitary landfills.
The amount of methane produced varies from landfill to landfill, as does the amount that can be captured. The more contained the site, the easier and more effective capture can be.
The power of insulation is taken to the extreme with Passivhaus, or Passive House in English, a rigorous building method and standard created in Germany in the early 1990s and intensely focused on saving energy—by as much as 90 percent over conventional comparisons. This approach zealously focuses on creating an airtight envelope for a building, to separate inside from outside below, above, and around all sides. The result is a structure so hermetically sealed that warm air cannot leak out when snow is on the ground and cool air cannot escape when the dog days arrive.
To realize the massive financial and emissions savings that are possible, a building-by-building approach to the world’s 1.6 trillion square feet of building stock (99 percent of which is not green) is probably not the way to go. The Rocky Mountain Institute is piloting a more industrialized strategy in Chicago: Limit the scope of retrofitting to a set of highly effective, broadly applicable measures; pursue additional measures on the basis of impeccable analysis; and undertake multiple buildings simultaneously to gain economies of scale.
Water is heavy. Pumping it from source to treatment plant to storage and distribution requires enormous amounts of energy. In fact, electricity is the major cost driver of processing and distributing water within cities, underlying the sums on water bills.
Utilities use the phrase “non-revenue water” to describe the gap between what goes in and what ultimately comes out the tap.
To borrow a description from the New York Times: “A steady, moderately low level of pressure is best—just as [with blood flow] in the human body.” Too much pressure and water looks for ways to escape; too little and water lines can suck in liquids and contaminants that surround them. Water utilities face a quest for pressure that is “just right.”
Even under conditions of first-rate pressure management, leaks can and will happen. The torrential bursts that cut off service and submerge streets are not actually the worst from a waste perspective: They demand attention and immediate remediation. The bigger problem is with smaller, long-running leaks that are less detectable.
The issue of water loss exists around the world. In the United States, an estimated one-sixth of distributed water escapes the system.
Buildings are complex systems in the guise of static structures.
Energy courses through them—in heating and air-conditioning systems, electrical wiring, water heating, lighting, information and communications systems, security and access systems, fire alarms, elevators, appliances, and indirectly through plumbing.
Primary forests contain 300 billion tons of carbon yet they are still being logged, sometimes under the guise of harvest being “sustainable.” Research shows that once an intact primary forest begins to be cut, even under sustainable forest-management systems, it leads to biological degradation.
A 2015 estimate of the world’s tree population: three trillion. That count is substantially higher than previously thought, but more than 15 billion trees are cut down each year. Since humans began farming, the number of trees on earth has fallen by 46 percent. (Today, forests cover 15.4 million square miles of the earth’s surface—or roughly 30 percent of its land area.)
The benefits of forest conservation are many and various: nontimber products (bush meat, wild food, forage and fodder); erosion control; free pollination and pest and mosquito control provided by birds, bats, and bees; and other ecosystem services.
An effective agenda to save the forests requires a collective understanding of ecology, the danger posed by global warming, political will, local buy-in, and noncorrupt governance.
Without question, the Amazon is the greatest single natural resource in the world. Rainforests are being cut down at a rate that will eliminate them in forty years.
It is difficult to estimate what it would “cost” to save it all, but estimates place it at about 4 percent of the $ 1.2 trillion the world spends on weapons every year.
As awareness grows about the role blue carbon plays in curbing (or contributing to) climate change, it is also becoming apparent that wetlands are critical to coping with its impacts. Sea level rise due to melting ice and thermal expansion and increased storm activity threaten coastal communities, and shoreline ecosystems are vital protection from battering waves and rushing waters. That is especially true as man-made barriers—levees, dams, embankments—prove increasingly inadequate. The shielding and buffering function of wetlands makes it even more crucial to ensure that they are healthy today and resilient for the future.
The optimal scenario, of course, is to safeguard coastal wetlands before they can be damaged and keep a lid on the carbon they contain.
Bamboo is not a plant that needs encouragement.
You can sit by timber bamboo in the spring and watch it grow more than one inch an hour. Bamboo reaches its full height in one growing season, at which time it can be harvested for pulp or allowed to grow to maturity over four to eight years. After being cut, bamboo re-sprouts and grows again.
The Western aid and development model for addressing poverty has been dismantled by both Africans and many studies, yet it persists. In Mark’s work, people are growing three things: trees, crops, and wisdom. Foreign aid, sacks of genetically modified corn, and handouts come and go, but if we are to successfully address global warming, we should learn to trust the capacity of people everywhere to understand the consequences and imagine place-based solutions on a collaborative basis, and not force solutions upon them, however well intentioned.
“The great thing about agro-forestry is that it’s free. They stop seeing trees as weeds and start seeing them as assets.” But only if they’re not penalized for doing so.
Peat is a thick, mucky, waterlogged substance made up of dead and decomposing plant matter. It develops over hundreds, even thousands of years, as a soupy mix of wetland moss, grass, and other vegetation slowly decays beneath a living layer of flora in the near absence of oxygen. That acidic, anaerobic environment has preserved human remains, so-called “bog bodies” from the Iron Age and earlier. Given enough time, pressure, and heat, peat would become coal.
Today, though these unique ecosystems cover just 3 percent of the earth’s land area, they are second only to oceans in the amount of carbon they store—twice that held by the world’s forests, at an estimated five hundred to six hundred gigatons.
It can take thousands of years to build up peat, but a matter of only a few to release its greenhouse cache once it is degraded.
Indigenous communities are among those most dramatically impacted by climate change, despite contributing the least to its causes. They are particularly vulnerable to the negative effects of environmental change because of their land-based livelihoods, histories of colonization, and social marginalization.
Preventing loss of forest is always better than trying to bring forest back and cure razed land. Because a restored forest never fully recovers its original biodiversity, structure, and complexity, and because it takes decades to sequester the amount of carbon lost in one fell swoop of deforestation, restoration is no replacement for protection. •
The Miyawaki method calls for dozens of native tree species and other indigenous flora to be planted close together, often on degraded land devoid of organic matter. As these saplings grow, natural selection plays out and a richly biodiverse, resilient forest results. Miyawaki’s forests are completely self-sustaining after the first two years, when weeding and watering are required, and mature in just ten to twenty years—rather than the centuries nature requires to regrow a forest.
Shubhendu Sharma’s company Afforestt is developing an open-source methodology to enable anyone to create forest ecosystems on any patch of land. In an area the size of six parking spaces, a three-hundred-tree forest can come to life—for the cost of an iPhone.
Because afforestation is a multidecade endeavor, what properly enables it are provisions for up-front costs, developing markets for forest products, and ensuring clear land rights in order to maintain continuity between planting and eventual harvest.
Mass transit is one manifestation of the public square, in which people of many stripes encounter and share space with one another. As Adam Gopnik put it in The New Yorker, “A train is a small society, headed somewhere more or less on time, more or less together, more or less sharing the same window, with a common view and a singular destination”—a unique civic experience, as well as a means of conveyance.
The appeal of cars is strong and culturally entrenched in many places (less so among younger generations), and shifting habits is difficult, especially if behavior change requires more effort, more time, or more money.
Public transportation is most successful where it is not just viable but efficient and attractive. One key piece is making the use of multiple modes more seamless, such as a single card to pay for metro, bus, bike share, and rideshare, or a single smartphone app to plan trips that use more than one.
Roman concrete was used in creating the magnificent Pantheon temple in Rome. Completed in 128 AD, it is famed for its five-thousand-ton, 142-foot dome made of unreinforced concrete—still the world’s largest almost two thousand years later. If it had been built with today’s concrete, the Pantheon would have crumbled before the fall of Rome, three hundred years after its dedication. Roman concrete contained an aggregate of sand and rock just like its modern kin, but it was bound together with lime, salt water, and ash called pozzolana, from a particular volcano. Blending volcanic dust into the mixture of opus caementicium even enabled underwater construction.
Today, concrete dominates the world’s construction materials and can be found in almost all infrastructure. Its basic recipe is simple: sand, crushed rock, water, and cement, all combined and hardened. Cement—a gray powder of lime, silica, aluminum, and iron—acts as the binder, coating and gluing the sand and rock together and enabling the remarkable stonelike material that results after curing. Cement is also employed in mortar and in building products such as pavers and roof tiles. Its use continues to grow—significantly faster than population—making cement one of the most used substances in the world by mass, second only to water.
bio-based plastics may or may not be biodegradable. Polyethylene (PE) shopping bags made from sugarcane or corn are not. But bioplastics such as polylactic acid (PLA), like you might find in a disposable cup, and polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHA), which can be used for sutures, are both bio based and biodegradable under the right conditions. (PLA degrades only at high temperatures, not in the ocean or home compost bins.)
If current trends continue, plastic will outweigh fish in the world’s oceans by 2050.
Perhaps the biggest problem facing bioplastics is that they are not conventional plastic. Bioplastics cannot be composted unless separated from other plastics, and few will compost in the garden bin. They require high heat to be broken down or special chemical recycling. If bioplastics are intermixed with conventional plastics, conventional recycled plastic is contaminated, rendering it unstable, brittle, and unusable.
Using water at home—to shower, do laundry, soak plants—consumes energy. It takes energy to clean and transport water, to heat it if need be, and to handle wastewater after use. Hot water is responsible for a quarter of residential energy use worldwide.
Reducing average shower time to five minutes, washing only full loads of clothes, and flushing three times less per household per day can each reduce water use by 7 to 8 percent.
The impacts of climate change are compounding population pressures. During droughts, for example, demand for irrigation goes up, while quality and quantity of supply declines.
Nuclear and fossil fuel plants use enormous quantities of water for cooling—nearly half of all withdrawals in the United States. A single kilowatt-hour of electricity can have twenty-five invisible gallons associated with it.
The industry calls this a renewable fuel, but that stretches the meaning of the concept. The process is heavily dependent on diesel, oil, gasoline, electricity, and subsidies. When fully calculated, corn-based ethanol produces slightly more energy than was required to produce it. If you add emissions from land use, groundwater depletion, loss of biodiversity, and the impacts of nitrogen fertilizers, the benefit to the atmosphere is debatable. Corn’s highest and best use is as staple food for people who are hungry, not as ethanol powering an SUV.
How cars are owned and utilized today could not be any less efficient. About 96 percent are privately owned; Americans spend $ 2 trillion per year on car ownership; and cars are used 4 percent of the time. The contemporary car is not a driving machine but a parking machine for which 700 million parking spaces have been built—
The greatest impediment may be how powerfully embedded the desire to possess one’s own car is. Privately owned, traditional automobiles are likely the most meaningful competitors for AVs, both culturally and functionally. They are symbols of personal freedom—not just in the United States—and displacing them will be no small task for the four-wheeled robots of tomorrow.
It may require a generational shift in attitude. People without a car at home may feel marooned or trapped.
On the other side, a time could come when people are banned from driving because in a world of self-directed, connected vehicles, individual drivers are a danger to everyone else.
Drivers not wanted: taxi, Uber, UPS, FedEx, bus, truck, and town car. Also eliminated: insurance agents, auto salesmen, credit managers, insurance claims adjusters, bank lending, and traffic reporters on the news. What goes the way of the cassette tape: steering wheels, odometers, gas pedals, gas stations, AAA, and the many outlets for individuals to service their own cars, from body shops to car washes. Good riddance to: road rage, crashes, 90 percent or more of all injuries and auto-related deaths, driving tests, getting lost, car dealers, tickets, traffic cops, and traffic jams.
Actual miles traveled could go up, not down. The reason is simple: When the cost of a service or object goes down, consumption invariably increases. Automated bookable cars at one’s door could see individuals moving farther away from the city, especially if they can work within the car rather than drive.
The urban landscape could morph into people-oriented areas, with broader sidewalks, narrower streets, more trees and plants, voluminous bike lanes, and parking lots converted to parks. The emphasis will shift from transport to community.
Fundamentally, LBC is not about leading, but about living. Buildings can function more like a forest, generating a net surplus of positives in function and form and exhaling value into the world. Buildings, in other words, can do more than simply be less bad.
The Imperatives Limits to growth. Only build on a previously developed site, not on or adjacent to virgin land. Urban agriculture. A living building must have the capacity to grow and store food, based on its floor area ratio. Habitat exchange. For each acre of development, an acre of habitat must be set aside in perpetuity. Human-powered living. A living building must contribute to a walkable, bikeable, pedestrian-friendly community. Net positive water. Rainwater capture and recycling must exceed usage. Net positive energy. At least 105 percent of energy used must come from on-site renewables. Civilized environment. A living building must have operable windows for fresh air, daylight, and views. Healthy interior environment. A living building must have impeccably clean and refreshed air. Biophilic environment. Design must include elements that nurture the human and nature connection. Red List. A living building must contain no toxic materials or chemicals, per the LBC Red List. Embodied carbon footprint. Carbon embodied in construction must be offset. Responsible industry. All timber must be Forest Stewardship Council certified or come from salvage or the building site itself. Living economy sourcing. Acquisition of materials and services must support local economies. Net positive waste. Construction must divert 90 to 100 percent of waste by weight. Human scale and humane places. The project must meet special specifications to orient toward humans rather than cars. Universal access to nature and place. Infrastructure must be equally accessible to all, and fresh air, sunlight, and natural waterways must be available. Equitable investment. A half percent of investment dollars must be donated to charity. JUST organization. At least one entity involved must be a certified JUST organization, indicating transparent and socially just business operations. Beauty and spirit. Public art and design features must be incorporated to elevate and delight the spirit. Inspiration and education. A project must engage in educating children and citizens. •
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For example, how and why do Amazonian rainforests create clouds even in the dry season? It turns out that ten percent of the Amazon’s annual rainfall is absorbed by the shallow roots of certain scattered shrubs, then pushed downward through taproots deep into the soil bank. When the rainless months come, the taproots lift up the water and pump it out into the shallow roots, distributing it to the whole of the forest. Many species of plants throughout the world perform this hydraulic “lift,” watering a multitude of plants under the forest canopy.
The more stressful the environment, the more likely you are to see plants working together to ensure mutual survival.
Simard’s work was among the first to prove that fungi branch out from the roots of a single tree to connect dozens of trees and shrubs and herbs—not only to their relatives but also to entirely different species. The “Wood Wide Web,” as Simard calls it, is an underground Internet through which water, carbon, nitrogen, phosphorus, and defense compounds are exchanged. When a pest troubles one tree, its alarm chemicals travel via fungi to the other members of the network, giving them time to beef up their defenses.
However, placing too high an emphasis on the individual can lead to people feeling so personally responsible that they become overwhelmed by the enormity of the task at hand. Norwegian psychologist and economist Per Espen Stoknes has described how individuals respond to being besieged with science that describes climate change in the language of threat and doom. Fear arises and becomes intertwined with guilt, resulting in passivity, apathy, and denial. To be effective, we require and deserve a conversation that includes possibility and opportunity, not repetitive emphasis on our undoing.
Individuals cannot prevent the torching of Indonesia rainforests by corrupt palm oil corporations or put an end to the bleaching and coral die-off of the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. Individuals cannot stave off the acidification of the world’s oceans or foil the onslaught of commercials dedicated to fomenting desire and materialism. Individuals cannot halt the lucrative subsidies granted to fossil fuel companies. Individuals cannot prevent the deliberate suppression and demonization of climate science and scientists by anonymous wealthy donors.
What individuals can do is become a movement. As McKibben writes: “Movements are what take five or ten percent of people and make them decisive—because in a world where apathy rules, five or ten percent is an enormous number.”
The economic data we have collected shows clearly that the expense of the problems in the world now exceeds the cost of the solutions. To put it another way, the profit that can be achieved by instituting regenerative solutions is greater than the monetary gains generated by causing the problem or conducting business-as-usual. For instance, the most profitable and productive method of farming is regenerative agriculture. In the electric power generation industry, more people in the U.S. as of 2016 are employed by the solar industry than by gas, coal, and oil combined. Restoration creates more jobs than despoliation. We can just as easily have an economy that is based on healing the future rather than stealing it.
This book was recommended as a Kickstarter project on a XOXO channel, and was delivered much earlier than general availability. I read it in one sitting, then immediately handed it to Jonathan, and said, "You should read this book."
I am so glad this book exists.
I don't believe I have anxieties at the level that people who self-describe themselves as anxious have anxiety. I would argue that I am decidedly not anxious about most things and about much of life. With that said, I had recently read The Anxiety Toolkit, and this book, so clearly something is triggering me to pick up these books and read them. And I am glad I did, because while I have coping skills, there's no reason not to continue to improve them, work on them, and (the best part) add new ones.
I suspect that when I meet Harper, she and I are going to bond over the Sailor Mouth™ style of speaking, as this book is full of f---s and f---ing and damns and many more in your face cussing. While it might have been intended as "Real Talk," it is a little overwhelming sometimes in the book. If you can read through the f--ks and the rest of it, and get to the coping skills, hooboy, yes, this book is gooooooood.
If you have anxiety, get this book. If you don't consider your coping skills to be ninja-esque, buy this book. If you can't afford a copy, let me buy you a copy, this book is that good. I am glad this book exists.
Needing coping skills is not a sign of weakness or mental illness. It means you are a normal human being navigation a truly abnormal culture.
- There are no such things as wrong responses, only adaptive ones.
- What you have survived as wired your body to proceed with extreme caution, on a unconscious level at all times. This is called staying fucking alive and safe.
- ... You are not crazy; you have adapted to the environment around you with the only information you had at the time... your previous circumstances.
You are absolutely accountable for your actions, no matter what bullshit has been foisted upon you. You may not have been the one who bought the ticket, but it now officially both your circus and your monkey.
Psychologically, triggers are events, sensations, images, memories, etc., that facilitate the re-experiencing of any event that overwhelmed our ability to cope. (For those of you playing the home game, yes, that is a quick and dirty definition of trauma.)
Being triggered means you are literally reliving a traumatic event in your body and mind and are not functioning in the present moment or dealing with your present experience.
Despite the Navy's expertise in selecting candidates that are physically up to the task, the dropout rate for individuals attending SEAL school is really damn high (like 75% high). After years of this, the Navy commissioned psychologists to figure out what was different about the 25% that succeeded. And they found, unsurprising, that it was a form of mental ability, not physical ability. There were four essential abilities that were later termed "The Four Pillars of Mental Toughness..."
Pillar One: Very Short Term and Very Specific Goal Setting
Navy SEALS who focused on getting through the training activity at hand rather than the course overall were far more successful in finishing the entire program.
Pillar Two: Positive Mental Visualization
This means mentally watching yourself successfully complete the task you set out to accomplish or endure the bullshit you need to endure.
Pillar Three: Positive Self-Talk
Remind yourself this ain't no than comparied to everything else you 've been through. And hell, your suvival rate thus far is 100% so the odds are in your favor, rock star.
Pillar Four: Managing Self Arousal
Managing our cortisol and adrenaline production is a huge part of coping in general.... Breathing techniques are a big part of that, ...
Are you bumped up against an unsolvable problem? Maybe it's the problem itself, not your inability to find a solution.
Anyone who has laid down on the floor from the sheer weight of the awfulness of life can tell you that grief and loss are very real, physical things... and the reason we can't measure them is because they're far too large for any scale.
We have a mechanism of communication about everything we think, feel, say, and do. Creation is hte sharing of that voice. You can paint a canvas, knit a scarf, play a song, plat a tree, or bake a cake. You can write and write and write. On your website, your Facebook, or the back of a napkin at a coffee shop. Creation in the face of destruction doesn't mitigate the loss, but it does help us take back power when we feel completely out of control. e=You are alowed your voice in the world..
My mom used to make gentle fun of my brother. "Bless his heart, he still thinks he can change the world." My response? "Well, those are the people who usually do." Nothing ever go changed by sitting around, hoping that people come to their senses and make better choices. Nobody has gained rights by sitting around patiently waiting for someone to notice that they were getting fucked over.
Things change when we change them. Or, at the very least, we empower ourselves to fucking try. I don't know about your, but I'm not about to sit by and do nothing when the world is on fire. I'll find a bucket of water. Or spit on it if that's all I got.
This book came onto my radar from one of the books I've read in the last month or so, referenced in some way, I don't recall how. It was available at the library, so I borrowed it, and read it.
This book is a short, intense, and powerful read. Half of the book is the essay, the second half is an interview with Harris and his influencer professor, Ron Howard and a question-answer format exploration and reader challenges about not lying.
Again, a short, intense, and powerful read. It is amazing, it could change your life if you listen. Maybe not as much as Harris' life was changed by his professor, but maybe as much.
I finished reading it, set it down, and felt a huge release. Did I really need someone far away to tell me to tell the truth, even down to stop telling the small white lies? I want to shrug and say, "I don't know, maybe," but the answer is yes, very clearly yes. Am I embarrassed by that? Yep, sure am! Am I finally listening to myself, too? Yep, sure am!
The book is a quick read, an essay book that I wouldn't have counted as a "book" last year in my book count. This year, if it's a book, it's a book, even if it's not what I historically have called "a real book." I bought myself a hardback copy of the book when I found the opportunity at a local bookstore, the book is that good and worth having. It is amazing, let me buy you a copy.
To lie is to intentionally mislead others when they expect honest communication.
People lie so that others will form beliefs that are not true. The more consequential the beliefs—that is, the more a person’s well-being demands a correct understanding of the world or of other people’s opinions—the more consequential the lie.
To speak truthfully is to accurately represent one’s beliefs. But candor offers no assurance that one’s beliefs about the world are true.
[T]ruthfulness require that one speak the whole truth, because communicating every fact on a given topic is almost never useful or even possible.
Honesty is a gift we can give to others. It is also a source of power and an engine of simplicity.
You can be honest and kind, because your purpose in telling the truth is not to offend people. You simply want them to have the information you have and would want to have if you were in their shoes.
Holding one’s tongue, or steering a conversation toward topics of relative safety, is not the same as lying (nor does it require that one deny the truth in the future).
Honesty can force any dysfunction in your life to the surface.
Lying is the lifeblood of addiction. If we have no recourse to lies, our lives can unravel only so far without others’ noticing.
Telling the truth can also reveal ways in which we want to grow but haven’t.
Doing something requires energy, and most morally salient actions are associated with conscious intent. Failing to do something can arise purely by circumstance and requires energy to rectify.
And although we imagine that we tell certain lies out of compassion for others, it is rarely difficult to spot the damage we do in the process.
A white lie is simply a denial of these realities. It is a refusal to offer honest guidance in a storm. Even on so touchy a subject, lying seems a clear failure of friendship.
In many circumstances in life, false encouragement can be very costly to another person.
False encouragement is a kind of theft: It steals time, energy, and motivation that a person could put toward some other purpose.
This is not to say that we are always correct in our judgments of other people. And honesty demands that we communicate any uncertainty we may feel about the relevance of our own opinions.
If the truth itself is painful to tell, often background truths are not—and these can be communicated as well, deepening the friendship.
[W]hen asked for an honest opinion, we do our friends no favors by pretending not to notice flaws in their work, especially when those who are not their friends are bound to notice the same flaws. Sparing others disappointment and embarrassment is a great kindness.
A commitment to honesty does not necessarily require that we disclose facts about ourselves that we would prefer to keep private.
The truth could well be “I’d rather not say.”
To agree to keep a secret is to assume a burden. At a minimum, one must remember what one is not supposed to talk about.
In those circumstances where we deem it obviously necessary to lie, we have generally determined that the person to be deceived is both dangerous and unreachable by any recourse to the truth. In other words, we have judged the prospects of establishing a genuine relationship with him to be nonexistent.
This is among the many corrosive effects of unjust laws: They tempt peaceful and (otherwise) honest people to lie so as to avoid being punished for behavior that is ethically blameless.
When you tell the truth, you have nothing to keep track of. The world itself becomes your memory, and if questions arise, you can always point others back to it.
Integrity consists of many things, but it generally requires us to avoid behavior that readily leads to shame or remorse.
To lie is to erect a boundary between the truth we are living and the perception others have of us. The temptation to do this is often born of an understanding that others will disapprove of our behavior. Often,
Big lies have led many people to reflexively distrust those in positions of authority.
We seem to be predisposed to remember statements as true even after they have been disconfirmed.
Familiarity breeds credence.
Justified government deception is a kind of ethical mirage: Just when you think you’re reaching it, the facts usually suggest otherwise.
The ethics of war and espionage are the ethics of emergency—and are, therefore, necessarily limited in scope.
Lying is, almost by definition, a refusal to cooperate with others. It condenses a lack of trust and trustworthiness into a single act. It is both a failure of understanding and an unwillingness to be understood. To lie is to recoil from relationship.
It seems that there are situations in which one must admit at the outset that one is not in the presence of an ethical intelligence that can be reasoned with.
If someone is trying to kill me, I’m going to use the minimum effective force necessary to stop him.
This one, I'm not so sure, and is a place of cognitive dissonance and moral dilemma for me. If someone is trying to kill me, and I do not use all effective force to stop him, he has the opportunity to try to kill me again. Surviving isn't a guaranteed better place to be. There's a scene in The Fall that sticks with me. In it, the murderer is raping a woman and her brother attempt to save her, but without an intention to kill the murderer, only to disable. As a result, the murderer recovers and kills them both. The circumstance is fictional. And yet, human nature.
But let’s face it, there are people who are up to no good in all kinds of ways. I’m not going to abet them in violating other people’s right to be left alone, and I’ll do whatever is necessary to avoid that.
That’s life. It doesn’t all have a Hollywood ending. There are lots of pluses and minuses. Ultimately, we all die, and the only question is, what have you done between the time you’re born and the time you die?
But we have to put a frame around the relevant facts of the present, and if a person hasn’t been perfectly ethical up until yesterday, he has to figure out how to live with the legacy of his misbehavior.
He could say, “We’ve never talked about this. Is this something you really want to talk about today?” This may be the time, whatever their beliefs about what happens after death. Or he could say, “Look, we’ve got a very short time together, and whatever we’ve done in the past, if it doesn’t bring us joy now, let’s leave it behind.”
Howard: I look at it another way: No matter how much time I’ve got left, I want to live a life that I have no regrets about.
Do you view your life in terms of relationships or transactions? If you’re bidding on eBay, truth isn’t an issue. That is a completely transactional situation. If I’m dealing with my mechanic on an ongoing basis, it’s not a transaction. It’s a relationship, and he will make judgments about me and about my reliability as a person. And I will make judgments about him, and these judgments will have long-term effects for both of us. This alters the prisoner’s dilemma: If you have a relationship with a person, you’re going to have different beliefs about the prospect of his selling you out than you would if he were just some guy the experimenters grabbed and put in the situation with you.
When your model of yourself in the world is at odds with how you actually are in the world, you are going to keep bumping into things.
That’s why I want a very strong system to deter maxim-breakers based on restitution. In other words, some of these things you do are imposing costs on everyone else. I’ve never been burglarized, but I’m paying the price for people who commit burglary, through insurance and other costs. If you engage in that sort of behavior, you ought to pay the overhead for it.
Insofar as it is possible, our justice system should oblige criminals to repay their debts to society rather than pointlessly suffer on account of them.
Children have fantasy lives so rich and combustible that rigging them with lies is like putting a propeller on a rocket.
[I]s the last child in class who still believes in Santa really grateful to have his first lesson in epistemology meted out by his fellow six-year-olds?
There is a tension between avoiding danger and resisting evil—and how we resolve it will depend on many factors.
A prison is perhaps the easiest place to see the power of bad incentives.
As someone who has sat for many print interviews, I can attest to the insidious way that one’s vanity and trust may work to one’s disadvantage.
Nevertheless, one must begin being truthful from wherever one happens to be in life.
given a sufficiently hostile environment, lying will be the least of one’s problems. If a person is likely to be killed for his beliefs, misrepresenting them would be an ethical means of self-defense.
This book is how to deal with anxiety, coping mechanisms and the like. Again, I have no idea how this ended up in my to-read pile, a problem I am becoming more anxious about fixing as I write that statement again.
The anxieties described in the beginning of this book are not anxieties I have. Public speaking in and of itself does not cause me to become a ball of anxious jelly. I know that my voice will crack and my throat will become dry when I first start talking in front of a crowd, but my heart doesn't race and I feel notice the voice and throat from outside of myself, not inside. Neither am I stuck by nerves about doing basic adult tasks or looking out for myself. I believe I have done a very good job at identifying my anxieties and addressing my anxieties.
As such, when I read this book, I wasn't overly enthusiastic about the techniques and suggestions in the book. I didn't relate to the "do you feel X?" questions in the beginning of each chapter. I am grateful for whatever place I am on the autism scale that allowed me to dodge those particular emotions.
I was thinking this was an interesting book, but not applicable in a meaningful way to me, until I read the chapter on rumination.
Hooboy. Hello, Kitt.
This is the chapter I paid attention to. This is the chapter that made the rest of the book worth reading.
And that's the thing, isn't it?
We all have different manifestations of our anxieties and different ways of processing anxiety. We all have different triggers and different soothing mechanisms. Some people have fantastic soothing mechanisms, others need help, guidance, and a direction.
Boyes comments early and frequently:
Like any book, take what you find useful from it and ignore the rest.
Which sums up my opinion of the book. It's worth reading if you have anxieties or want to hear about other people's coping mechanism. Drinking to numbness is not a valid solution, for example, it is abdication of responsibility to your own life and a crappy coping mechanism. This book lists other, better coping mechanisms. Worth a read if you need some.
Update: Read Faith Harper's Coping Skills first. It's a shorter and better read for those needing immediate coping skills. Come back to this one once the worst is over.
To better manage your anxiety, you don’t need to understand the average anxious person — you need to understand the multidimensional you.
People who are agreeable tend to prioritize getting along with others. They may not be willing to make waves when they can see problems with other people’s ideas or plans. In contrast, people who are naturally disagreeable may underestimate the importance of getting along with others and not invest enough in relationship building.
If you’re anxious and agreeable, you may find yourself overcommitting to things because you overestimate the potential negative consequences of saying no.
When people overfocus on anxiety for a long time, they tend to lose confidence in their capacity to be anything other than a walking ball of worry and rumination.
When anxiety becomes a major problem for someone, it’s usually because the person has become stuck in a self-perpetuating cycle where the things he or she does to reduce anxiety in the short term cause it to multiply in the long term.
Find the Goals Where Pursuing Them Is Worth Tolerating Anxiety
Goals Don’t Need to Be Giant to Be Important to You
When you’re thinking about goals, keep in mind that more ambitious goals aren’t “better” than less ambitious goals. Many people would rather visit 30 countries in a lifetime than 200.
Experiment: What’s one idiosyncratic goal that’s important to you?
However, there are some instances when anxiety causes people to restrict their goals.
People with shaky self-worth may hold back from setting ambitious goals because they worry that others will see them as too confident or full of themselves.
Your worry might be that you won’t get the alone time you need to feel balanced.
If you’re constantly thinking of new goals, there’s nothing wrong with that either. It suggests you’re hardwired with a high need for novelty and excitement.
Feeling happy is like feeling warm. It’s a state of being that feels good. It might sound counterintuitive but focusing directly on pursuing happiness isn’t always the best approach to increasing it. This parallels the idea that focusing on reducing anxiety isn’t always the best way to decrease it.
Self-esteem is composed of (1) a sense of self-worth and (2) a sense of being competent at things. 4 For example, sources of self-worth might involve loving and being loved by others; an ability to make other people feel comfortable and at ease; or positive contributions you make to society, your field, or your community. In contrast, a sense of competency might come from being good at computer tasks, being able to prepare a dinner party for 10, or paying your bills on time. Try coming up with three sources of self-worth and three things you’re competent at. Aim to recognize areas you’ve tended to underappreciate.
Whenever you’re feeling anxious, use this feeling as your cue to practice articulating your negative prediction and an alternative. Try prompting yourself to think of the best possible outcome, instead of just the worst.
When you change a habit, you don’t so much break a bad habit as build up and strengthen a new one.
If you’re currently stuck in pause mode, and have been for a while, taking some action is usually better than taking no action. When you can recognize the value of acting with uncertainty, you’ll help your brain start to interpret uncertainty as a positive or not-so-terrible state, rather than it causing your alarm bells to ring loudly.
Try to come up with three examples of your own. If coming up with three examples is intimidating, come up with just one example.
Nope. Go for 10.
the vast majority of failures aren’t catastrophes.
Many people underestimate their capacity to cope with trying something and not succeeding. Anxious people often worry about later regretting decisions and finding it hard to deal with the ensuing emotions.
Anxiety tends to make people think in dichotomous, either/ or terms. A common example is seeing success and failure as the only two potential end points, rather than seeing a zigzagging path toward success that is dotted with failures along the way.
1. Have you had any past experiences where you ended up succeeding after initial failure? List one. 2. Identify one area in which you have a fixed mindset. It should be a skill/ capacity you see as important to your success, where you see yourself as not as good as you’d like to be, and where you see that skill/ capacity as fixed. 3. Identify a new growth mindset that you’d like to strengthen.
Don’t make the mistake of thinking you need to wait for your thoughts to change before you try behavioral shifts. Mental and behavioral shifts go hand in hand. When you start making changes in your behavior (even subtle ones), you’ll notice that all kinds of thoughts, including your view of yourself, start to shift. Changing your behavior, without waiting for your thoughts to always shift first, is one of the best and fastest ways you can reduce your anxiety.
The best way to instantly feel less anxious is to slow your breathing. Try this whenever you feel physically overaroused due to anxiety, or when your thoughts are either racing or frozen. Slowing your breathing will automatically slow down your heart rate.
Here are some tips for slowing your breathing: 1. Before you try to slow your breathing, drop your shoulders. It’ll make it easier. Also, focus on breathing slowly rather than breathing deeply. 2. If you have an area of tension in your body, like your neck and shoulders are tight, imagine you’re breathing fresh new air into those areas. There’s nothing sciencey about this, but lots of people like this method.
Deciding when and where you’re going to do something will dramatically increase the likelihood you’ll follow through.
Intermittent reinforcement means sometimes getting rewarded but without being able to predict when you’ll score vs. when you’ll strike out. 5 Intermittent reinforcement results in behaviors being quickly acquired and creates behaviors that are very persistent—
The take-home message: Even if you achieve only intermittent reinforcement—that is, you experience success only sometimes—having some successes will make your behavior much more resilient, and you’ll be less likely to give up.
regularly interact with people who are already successfully doing what you want to do.
if you surround yourself with people who are already acting in the ways you need to act, this will likely rub off on you. You’ll be more likely to take action.
When an opportunity to act with uncertainty comes up, articulate the potential upsides of taking action:
Look for small ways to practice hesitating a little less than you usually would.
give yourself some criteria for making quicker decisions.
Believe it or not, psychologists have a term to describe people who like to think a lot. The trait is called need for cognition. It refers to people who enjoy effortful thinking and feel motivated to attempt to understand and make sense of things.
Ruminating can sometimes be a bit like daydreaming, in that people often get lost in rumination without realizing they’re doing it.
Experiment: Jot down a list of the different topics of rumination you’re prone to. Use the following ideas to brainstorm, or just fill in the blanks: Replaying conversations with people in power positions in your life. For example, replaying conversations, including email conversations, with [insert names of people] . Replaying memories of experiences of failure from the past. For example, . Thinking about ways in which you’re not as perfect as you’d like to be. For example, thinking you’re not as good at as you’d like. Thinking about things you should be doing to be more successful, such as . Thinking about whether you’re too much of a loser to ever have success and happiness. Replaying small errors you’ve made, such as . Thinking about the path not taken, such as .
when you’re ruminating: Don’t trust your memory. You might be ruminating about something fictional or at least magnified.
Experiment: Do you have any current rumination topics where memory bias might be playing a role?
Answer the following questions: 1. What’s your ruminating mind telling you? 2. What are the objective data telling you about whether your ruminative thoughts are likely to be correct?
3. Are you recalling feedback as harsher than it was or recalling blips in your performance as worse than they were?
However, because anxiety tends to make thinking negative, narrow, and rigid, it’s difficult to do creative problem solving when you’re feeling highly anxious.
Reducing self-criticism is a critical part of reducing rumination.
harsh self-criticism doesn’t help you move forward because it isn’t a very effective motivational tool,
Acknowledging the emotions you’re feeling (such as embarrassed, disappointed, upset) and then giving yourself compassion will lead to your making better choices than criticizing yourself will.
Identify a mistake or weakness that you want to focus on, and then write for three minutes using the following instructions: “Imagine that you are talking to yourself about this weakness (or mistake) from a compassionate and understanding perspective. What would you say?” Try this experiment
Try to notice when you get caught in should/ shouldn’t thinking traps, in which you criticize yourself just for feeling anxious.
Try this: Switch out any shoulds hidden in your self-talk and replace them with prefer. 7 For example, instead of saying “I should have achieved more by now” try “I would prefer to have achieved more by now.”
Doing something useful then further helps lift you out of rumination.
if you’re jumping to any negative conclusions about why the person hasn’t responded and try coming up with alternative explanations that are plausible.
Often you won’t find out the reasons for other people’s actions, which is part of why this type of rumination tends to be so futile.
Humans like to have explanations for why things happen. When we don’t have one, we tend to invent something. Sometimes the explanations involve personalizing. Personalizing is when you take something more personally than it was meant in reality.
you need to learn to tolerate that you’re not always going to know why people behave the way they do.
Recognize that if someone acts strangely, there’s a very high likelihood that the behavior has something to do with what’s happening for that person, rather than being about you, and you’re probably never going to know what the reason was.
Start with three minutes of one of the following practices, and increase the time you spend meditating by 30 seconds each day: Pay attention to the physical sensations of your breathing. Lie down and put your hand on your abdomen to feel the sensations of it rising as you breathe in and falling as you breathe out. Sit or lie down and listen to any sounds and the silence between sounds. Let sounds just come in and out of your awareness regardless of whether they’re relaxing sounds or not. Walk for three minutes and pay attention to what you see. Walk and pay attention to the feelings of air on your skin. Walk and pay attention to the physical sensations of your body moving. Do three minutes of open awareness, in which you pay attention to any sensations that show up. Pay attention to anything in the here and now, which could be sounds, your breathing, the sensations of your body making contact with your chair, or the sensations of your feet on the floor. Spend three minutes paying attention to any sensations of pain, tension, comfort, or relaxation in your body. You don’t need to try to change the sensations; just allow them to be what they are, and ebb and flow as they do.
When your thoughts drift away from what you’re supposed to be paying attention to, gently (and without self-criticism) bring them back. Expect to need to do this a lot. It’s a normal part of doing mindfulness meditation and doesn’t mean you’re doing it wrong. You’re likely to get
forward. To shift out of rumination and into problem-solving mode, concretely and realistically define what your best three to six options are.
Defining your options relieves some of the stress of rumination and helps you shift to effective problem solving. Keeping your list of options short will prevent you from running into choice-overload problems.
Experiment: Practice concretely defining your best three to six options for moving forward with a problem you’re currently ruminating or worrying about. Write brief bullet points, like in the example just given. You can use this method for all sorts of problems.
Imagery exposure is a technique in which you vividly recall a situation you’ve been ruminating about,
To start, recall all the sights and sounds of the past situation (or feared situation) in as much detail as you can. For
Deliberately keep the image in mind until your anxiety falls to half of where it started (or less). For example, if vividly recalling the situation triggers 8 out of 10 anxiety initially, hold the image in mind until your anxiety drops to about a level 4. Repeat the imagery exposure exercise at least once a day until you can bring the image to mind without it triggering more than about half of the peak anxiety you experienced the first time you tried imagery exposure.
If you’re ruminating because you’ve been putting off dealing with an issue, taking any level of action to address what you’ve been avoiding will usually help alleviate your rumination.
Move Ruminative Thinking Forward by Asking Questions
Ask questions as a way of unclogging stuck thinking. When you ask questions, you may get useful new information, or just the process of asking the questions may stimulate your own thinking. Sometimes even getting unhelpful responses can help you move forward, because they prompt you to define your problem differently. This often happens when someone misunderstands your question and gives an unhelpful, irrelevant response, but this makes you reformulate your question in a clearer form.
Thinking Shifts to Overcome Unhelpful Types of Perfectionism Anxiety-related thinking patterns can contribute to problems like prioritizing the wrong types of tasks, feeling burned out, and getting intensely frustrated when results aren’t coming as quickly or consistently as you’d like.
If you can shift your thinking from a performance focus to a mastery focus, you’ll become less fearful, more resilient, and more open to good, new ideas. Performance focus is when your highest priority is to show you can do something well now. Mastery focus is when you’re mostly concerned with advancing your skills.
A mastery focus can help you persist after setbacks.
Mastery goals will help you become less upset about individual instances of failure.
What’s your most important mastery goal right now? Complete this sentence: “My goal is to master the skills involved in
How would people with your mastery goal: 1. React to mistakes, setbacks, disappointments, and negative moods? 2. Prioritize which tasks they work on? What types of tasks would they deprioritize? 3. React when they’d sunk a lot of time into something and then realized a particular strategy or idea didn’t have the potential they’d hoped it would? 4. Ensure they were optimizing their learning and skill acquisition? 5. React when they felt anxious?
3. How would you talk to yourself differently if you had more acceptance of this? What would you say to yourself?
More Useful Pattern Anxiety/ frustration “I need to work harder” thinking error Spot the thinking trap Take a break Resume and maintain the behavioral goal I know works for me
Thoughts are just thoughts; the problem is that we accept thoughts as true, and confuse feelings with facts. Part of the reason this happens is memory bias: Your brain will tend to remember events from the past that match your current mood.
Therefore, regaining confidence is often just a matter of being patient and waiting for a negative or anxious mood to pass.
Excessive expectations plus anxiety get in the way of generating ideas.
Instead, try asking yourself: What do I know that’s relevant to solving my problem or helping me answer my question? How could I replicate something I’ve already done successfully, but with a twist? How could I combine two concepts that could be combined but aren’t usually? (Like croissants + donuts = cronuts) How could I take a successful method and replicate it with different ingredients? (Such as you notice the title of a viral blog post and copy the form of the title for a blog post you’re writing about a different topic.) Experiment: Try thinking of a successful method and how the method could be replicated but with different ingredients.
The following are some ways of making more willpower available to you: Reduce the number of tasks you attempt to get done each day to a very small number. Always identify what your most important task is, and make sure you get that single task done. You can group together your trivial tasks, like replying to emails or paying bills online, and count those as just one item. Refresh your available willpower by doing tasks slowly.
Slowing down in this way is considered a form of mindfulness practice.
Another way to refresh your willpower is by taking some slow breaths or doing any of the mindfulness practices
Know Your Warning Signs That You’ve Persisted Too Long
Define your overpersistence warning signs in objective and specific ways. This will make it harder to ignore them than if your definitions were fuzzy.
We all have recency bias, meaning recent memories tend to be the most salient.
Experiment with what it’s like to stop working while you’re in the zone and still enjoying a task rather than when you’re exhausted and frustrated.
A behavioral experiment you can try is delegating or outsourcing tasks you feel overwhelmed by.
To help you be less tempted to jump around, reduce your exposure to excessive information and alternatives.
questions. Write down one specific example of each.
Have you avoided seeking feedback early on only to later realize that earlier feedback would’ve saved you from continuing down the wrong track for so long? When? Have you avoided feedback only to later realize your fears of negative feedback were unjustified? How long did you worry unnecessarily? What was that like for you? Have you had times when your predictions of negative feedback came true, but it was a much milder experience than you’d anticipated? Have you had an experience where you realized that making the required changes was much easier than you thought, and you had endured extra worry for no reason? What cool opportunities have you opted out of because you didn’t want to expose yourself to even the possibility of negative feedback?
One of the reasons anxious people fear feedback is that they tend to judge their performance more harshly than others judge them.
Just like everyone has a vision blind spot, everyone has cognitive blind spots that can lead to making less than stellar choices.
Think about a specific scenario in which you fear negative feedback. If your fears came true: How would you go about making the required changes? How could you be self-accepting of your sensitivity to criticism? How could you talk to yourself gently about the emotions you’re feeling instead of criticizing yourself for feeling upset? How could you be patient with yourself while you’re having those feelings? What self-care would you do while you wait for your hurt and upset feelings to pass? (Yes, rewatching episodes of ’90s TV is a totally acceptable answer. 3) What personal support would you access to cope with your emotions? For example, you’d talk to a friend.
Anxiety can cause people to sometimes misinterpret feedback once they’ve received it. When people feel anxious, they tend to interpret ambiguous information (and lack of feedback) as negative.
You need to train yourself to consider the possibility that whatever has happened might not be personal. The second is recognizing that negative feedback does not necessarily mean the person doesn’t like you, doesn’t respect your capabilities, or doesn’t recognize your potential.
Anxiety (and stress) can make people more vulnerable to the hostility bias, a type of personalizing where you jump to the conclusion that other people have hostile intent.
The hostility bias often crops up in the workplace and in other group settings. For example, others offer you suggestions. You experience those suggestions as being attacked or nitpicked.
the best way to tackle the hostility bias in the moment is to slow your breathing to calm yourself physiologically, then use a behavioral strategy such as “canned responses” (see the next section).
You can prepare some verbal canned responses for times when you need to stall, without appearing defensive while you’re mentally processing feedback. Some examples: I think you’ve got a good point about ____. I’ll think about everything you’ve said. I need to process your feedback and mull it over. That’s an interesting way to look at it. Let me think about how I can incorporate your feedback. Let me think about how best to proceed from here. I’ll email you with some thoughts.
You can also have canned responses for when you feel embarrassed that a blind spot has been revealed. For example: I hadn’t thought of it like that. That’s really useful. Thanks for alerting me to that way of looking at it. That’s a great idea. I often come away from our conversations with a new perspective.
Acting as if you feel relaxed is one of the fastest ways to actually feel more calm. If you get an anxiety spike when you receive feedback or tend to feel defensive, try making your body language more open.
Drop your shoulders, lift your head, make gentle eye contact, and relax your hands. When you do this, your
When you ask people to give you feedback, ask for it in the form of a “poop sandwich.” The poop sandwich is feedback given in the following order—something you did well, a problem or learning edge, something else you did well. Try to give and receive feedback using this technique.
Sometimes anxious people need time to process a little bit of feedback before they’re open to receiving more.
Avoidance will eat you alive psychologically if you don’t work on it.
How avoidance coping manifests for you will depend on what your dominant response type is when you’re facing something you’d rather avoid. There are three possible responses: freezing, fleeing, or fighting.
By recognizing the gap between your values and your behavior, you can find the motivation to overcome your avoidance.
Guilt is psychologically healthy. Shame is not. The difference between guilt and shame is that guilt is about feeling bad about a behavior; shame is about feeling bad about who you are.
If you up your belief in your ability to cope with facing an upsetting reality, you’ll experience less desire to avoid.
Examples That’s Me (indicate with a ￼) All or nothing thinking / Rigid thinking / Unrelenting standards / Perfectionism You need to clean a whole room but don’t have the energy. You do nothing rather than clean one or two things in the room. You believe that everything needs to be done to an excellent level. If you can’t do something to an excellent level, you tend to avoid it completely. You set unrealistic productivity goals for how much you can get done. This causes you to avoid everything completely because you feel overwhelmed. Negative predictions You expect that if you try something you’ll fail. You put off asking for things because you think other people won’t be interested or expect they’ll say no (mind reading). You put off getting user feedback because you expect it will be negative / You avoid testing products with real customers. You overestimate how difficult or unpleasant a task will be. Underestimating your ability to cope You underestimate your ability to cope with boring, stressful, or anxiety-provoking tasks. Personalizing: personalizing your difficulty with a task rather than seeing the task itself as difficult, which gives you an excuse to avoid You think the reason you struggle with something is because you’re too stupid to figure it out rather than thinking it’s inherently challenging and has a learning curve. You think you’re the only one who has problems with something.
You make a list of all the situations and behaviors you avoid due to anxiety. You then assign a number to each item on your list based on how anxiety provoking you expect doing the avoided behavior would be. Use numbers from 0 (= not anxiety provoking at all) to 100 (= you would fear having an instant panic attack).
Aim to construct a list that has several avoided actions in each 10-point range.
Make a plan for how you can work through your hierarchy, starting at the bottom of the list. Where possible, repeat an avoided behavior several times before you move up to the next level.
During the 30 days, take as many opportunities as you can to be less avoidant than you usually would be.
As situations come up, focus on taking some action, even if you’re not certain what the absolute right action is.
Don’t be too all-or-nothing about overcoming avoidance coping. We all have only so much willpower available for dealing with things we’d prefer not to do.
When you’re avoiding something, try identifying the next action you need to take to move forward. Do that action.
After you’ve worked on a task you’ve been avoiding, allow yourself to enjoy the fruits of your labor by taking some time to relax.
assume that if you don’t plan when and where you’re going to do something, you’re probably not going to do it. If you avoid choosing when and where you’ll do a task, take that as a clue that you’re not committed to doing it.
Pick a smaller action for which you are willing to plan when and where you’ll do it.
Antiprocrastination strategies that can work well for a while can stop working. Accept that you’ll need to switch strategies in and out.
Some areas in which you can set up your life to fit your temperament are: Have the right level of busyness in your life.
Pick the physical activity level that’s right for you.
Having pleasurable activities to look forward to and enough physical activity will help protect you against depression. Have the right level of social contact in your life, and have routines that put this on autopilot.
Allow yourself the right amount of mental space to work up to doing something—enough time that you can do some mulling over the prospect of getting started but not so much time that it starts to feel like avoidance of getting started.
Have self-knowledge of what types of stress you find most difficult to process. Don’t voluntarily expose yourself to those types without considering alternatives.
It’s sometimes easy to forget other people’s emotional needs when you’re putting so much hard work into your own.
Also make sure that the first thing you say to your loved one when you reunite at the end of the day is something positive rather than complaining, whining, or handing out honey do’s
use feeling anxious, stuck, or overwhelmed as your cue to ask yourself whether any of your most common behavioral traps are the culprit.
Make sure you have a plan for an alternative action you can take when you notice yourself sucked into your most frequent behavioral traps.
Many of the anxious people I’ve met are prone to excessive responsibility taking. They really don’t like to let anyone down and typically work hard to avoid conflict or other people being potentially unhappy with them. And they usually have high standards for self-performance.
problem solving should generally involve concretely defining what the problem is, generating a short list of your best options for moving forward, picking something, and deciding when and where you’re going to implement that solution.
Being in thinking-only mode for long periods is comforting in the same way that overeating junk food for long periods is. It feels comfortable in the moment, but in the long term, you end up far from where you wanted to be.
Anxious people sometimes spend too much time and energy trying to change other people. Be aware if you’re doing this as a way of avoiding focusing on yourself and your own goals. Of course it’s easier to shift focus to what others could change rather than deal with the psychological work that’s sitting on your own plate.
It’s really important that you like who you are. Provided you’re not a serial killer, no one deserves the emotional pain of going through life not liking themselves
List your top five strengths as a person. Since you’re free to revise your list at any point (it’s yours after all), don’t get too perfectionistic about it. Once you have your list, identify a task you currently need to do. How could you apply one of your top five strengths to approach that task in a new way?
While in large need of self-soothing and anxiety reducing, I went to every paper store in Nottingham that I could map out within walking distance of where I was. One of the places was a bookstore at the top of a flight of winding stairs with walls plastered with lots of NO and DO NOT DO THIS THING OR THAT THING. The entrance was more than a little off-putting, but the store itself was full of lots of quirky books and design books that seemed right in line with my style. I saw many books that I owned, which was favorable to me.
The proprietor saw me soon after I walked in, and wandered over to talk with me. He offered the usual greetings, which I answered with my own greetings. I expected him to let me wander after the pleasantries, but he continued speaking. He kept talking about the book store and other things, then asked what I liked to read. I explained my current non-fiction kick, and he started handing me books as suggestions.
And kept handing me books.
I kept setting the books down where-ever I happened to be standing.
And turning around in clear social norms indicating that I wanted not to be talking.
He kept talking.
I really wanted him to stop talking, so that I could look at the books at my own speed. He didn't stop talking.
So, I listened to a couple of his suggestions, bought The Consolations of Philosophy, along with The Consolation of Philosophy, of which the former is a riff, and left.
I read Consolations this week.
The timing of it was great for me.
The book has six consolations: consolations for unpopularity, consolations for not having enough money, consolations for frustration, consolations for inadequacy, consolations for a broken heart, and consolations for difficulties. Each section has a philosopher featured, a short essay on his philosophy, and a section for, hey, things aren't so bad, here's what he thought and how it is relevant to your situation.
I enjoyed the book, I enjoyed the introduction to the new philosophers and descriptions of the ones I knew. Not sure I was particularly consoled per se, but I was entertained. Worth reading.
In conversations, my priority was to be liked, rather than to speak the truth.
Philosophy had supplied Socrates with convictions in which he had been able to have rational, as opposed to hysterical, confidence when faced with disapproval.
Every society has notions of what one should believe and how one should behave in order to avoid suspicion and unpopularity.
If we refrain from questioning the status quo, it is – aside from the weather and the size of our cities – primarily because we associate what is popular with what is right.
[W]hich suggests that we pick our friends not only because they are kind and enjoyable company, but also, perhaps more importantly, because they understand us for who we think we are.
Booksellers are the most valuable destination for the lonely, given the numbers of books that were written because authors couldn’t find anyone to talk to.
There are, so Montaigne implied, no legitimate reasons why books in the humanities should be difficult or boring; wisdom does not require a specialized vocabulary or syntax, nor does an audience benefit from being wearied.
Carefully used, boredom can be a valuable indicator of the merit of books.
But writing with simplicity requires courage, for there is a danger that one will be overlooked, dismissed as simpleminded by those with a tenacious belief that impassable prose is a hallmark of intelligence.
Yet in Montaigne’s schema of intelligence, what matters in a book is usefulness and appropriateness to life; it is less valuable to convey with precision what Plato wrote or Epicurus meant than to judge whether what they have said is interesting and could in the early hours help us over anxiety or loneliness. The responsibility of authors in the humanities is not to quasi-scientific accuracy, but to happiness and health.
It is tempting to quote authors when they express our very own thoughts but with a clarity and psychological accuracy we cannot match. They know us better than we know ourselves. What is shy and confused in us is succinctly and elegantly phrased in them,
It is striking how much more seriously we are likely to be taken after we have been dead a few centuries. Statements which might be acceptable when they issue from the quills of ancient authors are likely to attract ridicule when expressed by contemporaries. Critics are not inclined to bow before the grander pronouncements of those with whom they attended university.
We may take this in two ways: that no one is genuinely marvellous, but that only families and staff are close enough to discern the disappointing truth. Or that many people are interesting, but that if they are too close to us in age and place, we are likely not to take them too seriously, on account of a curious bias against what is at hand.
The philosopher might have offered unflattering explanations of why we fall in love, but there was consolation for rejection –the consolation of knowing that our pain is normal. We should not feel confused by the enormity of the upset that can ensue from only a few days of hope.
Love could not induce us to take on the burden of propagating the species without promising us the greatest happiness we could imagine. To be shocked at how deeply rejection hurts is to ignore what acceptance involves. We must never allow our suffering to be compounded by suggestions that there is something odd in suffering so deeply.
We should in time learn to forgive our rejectors.
In every clumsy attempt by one person to inform another that they need more space or time, that they are reluctant to commit or are afraid of intimacy, the rejector is striving to intellectualize an essentially unconscious negative verdict formulated by the will-to-life.
It is consoling, when love has let us down, to hear that happiness was never part of the plan. The darkest thinkers may, paradoxically, be the most cheering:
What we encounter in works of art and philosophy are objective versions of our own pains and struggles, evoked and defined in sound, language or image. Artists and philosophers not only show us what we have felt, they present our experiences more poignantly and intelligently than we have been able; they give shape to aspects of our lives that we recognize as our own, yet could never have understood so clearly on our own. They explain our condition to us, and thereby help us to be less lonely with, and confused by it.
The greatest works of art speak to us without knowing of us.
The most fulfilling human projects appeared inseparable from a degree of torment, the sources of our greatest joys lying awkwardly close to those of our greatest pains:
Why? Because no one is able to produce a great work of art without experience, nor achieve a worldly position immediately, nor be a great lover at the first attempt; and in the interval between initial failure and subsequent success, in the gap between who we wish one day to be and who we are at present, must come pain, anxiety, envy and humiliation. We suffer because we cannot spontaneously master the ingredients of fulfilment.
Christianity had, in Nietzsche’s account, emerged from the minds of timid slaves in the Roman Empire who had lacked the stomach to climb to the tops of mountains, and so had built themselves a philosophy claiming that their bases were delightful. Christians had wished to enjoy the real ingredients of fulfilment (a position in the world, sex, intellectual mastery, creativity) but did not have the courage to endure the difficulties these goods demanded. They had therefore fashioned a hypocritical creed denouncing what they wanted but were too weak to fight for while praising what they did not want but happened to have.
Okay, wow, I STRONGLY recommend this book for anyone who is naming a business or product. Like, don't expect to have a name in two days, do the work to figure out a good name, and yes, this book will help. I wish I had a product or company to name at this point, because this book is the way I'd find the name.
Watkins comments early in the book that her colleagues were concerned about her giving away her naming secrets by writing and publishing this book. Her response was something to the tune of, "Nah, I'll be fine, people don't want to do the work of finding the best name, I'm good," Which is totally believe.
Watkins gives step-by-step instructions on finding options and choosing them. For the record: I have fully sucked in naming my projects, by a lot. I now know it.
I originally borrowed this book from the library, but appreciated the content enough to go buy a copy from the book. I strongly recommend you do the same if you're naming a product. If you're not naming a product (or company), keep this on the back burner for when you do. You won't regret it.
clever ad headlines get noticed , get buzz , and get sales because they make strong emotional connections with consumers .
SMILE : The 5 Qualities of a Super - Sticky Name Suggestive — evokes something about your brand Meaningful — resonates with your audience Imagery — is visually evocative to aid in memory Legs — lends itself to a theme for extended mileage Emotional — moves people SCRATCH : The 7 Deadly Sins Spelling challenged — looks like a typo Copycat — is similar to competitors ’ names Restrictive — limits future growth Annoying — is forced or frustrates customers Tame — is flat , descriptive , uninspired Curse of Knowledge — makes sense only to insiders
Suggestive — Evokes Something about Your Brand A name can’t be expected to say everything , but it should suggest something about your brand .
These names , also known as portmanteaus , work well because they cleverly marry two words together , are intuitive to spell , and easy to pronounce .
Resonates with Your Audience It’s important to make sure your name is meaningful to potential customers , not just to you . Most of the time when people encounter your name , you won’t be there to explain it to them .
Do Not Name Your Company after yourself While it may evoke warm thoughts to your friends and family , your personal name is meaningless to your future customers .
Imagery — Visually Evocative to Aid in Memory
Legs — Lends Itself to a Theme for Extended Mileage To get the most out of your name , give it one that has legs . Strive for a theme with mileage you can build your brand around . Names with legs provide endless wordplay and verbal branding opportunities .
If you have a catchy name that makes people smile , you can slap it on merchandise that people will pay for because they love your name and want to show it off .
Emotional — Moves People A recent Fast Company article revealed that 50 percent of every buying decision is driven by emotion .
“ A name should make you smile instead of scratch your head . ”
SCRATCH is an acronym for the seven deal breakers . A good way to remember this : if it makes you scratch your head , scratch it off the list .
Spelling Challenged — Not Spelled like It Sounds If you have to spell your name out loud for people , Siri butchers it , or it looks like a typo , it’s a mistake .
Don’t Get Cute with Numbers While it may work for texting and clever license plates , embedding numbers in a brand name looks cutesy and unprofessional .
Test the Siri Theory The true test to see if a name is spelling challenged is to see and hear how voice recognition software spells it .
Copycat — Similar to a Competitor Hijacking another company’s original idea isn’t good for your business reputation or for building trust with your customers .
Restrictive — Locks You In , Limits Growth
Do Not Use the Same Name for Your Product and Company
Annoying — Forced , Frustrates Customers Annoying of course is subjective , but if you think about your
name from a customer’s point of view , you can avoid causing frustration if your name does not appear forced , random , or grammatically incorrect .
Clunky Coined Names If you invent a new word for your name , be careful that it doesn’t sound unnatural . Mashing two words together or mixing up a bunch of letters to form a new word rarely appears or sounds smooth .
Resist the Temptation to Be Mysterious
Tame — Flat , Descriptive , Uninspired If you want your name to stand out in a sea of sameness and get noticed — without a massive advertising budget — you can’t afford to be shy .
Curse of Knowledge — Only Insiders Get It No one is more of an expert on the company or product you are naming than you . But when communicating with potential customers who are unfamiliar with your world , insider knowledge can become a curse . We can’t unlearn what we know , so we find it extremely difficult to think like a newbie . We talk in acronyms , internal shorthand , code words , and
industry jargon — all of which sounds like a foreign language to outsiders . Don’t alienate potential customers .
Avoid Alphanumeric Brain - benders
Is Your Name in Urban Dictionary ? If your brand is targeted at teens or young adults , be sure to look up your name in Urban Dictionary ( urbandictionary.com ) before you give it the green light .
Hard to Pronounce — Not Obvious , Unapproachable
Avoid Acronyms Speaking of capital letters , FYI , people have ADD . You can expect them to remember only one name , not two .
Two Pronunciations Is Double Trouble Words that can be pronounced two different ways are also pronunciation pitfalls .
3 Strategies to Get a Good Domain Name for $ 9.95 Here are three simple strategies that will help you nab a domain name that people can spell , pronounce , and understand . Strategy # 1 : Add Another Word or Two
5 Silly Ideas to Steer Clear Of Here are some amateur mistakes to watch out for . Silly Idea # 1 : Spell It Creatively
Sil.ly Idea # 2 : Use an Obscure Domain Extension to Spell Your Name
Silly Idea # 3 : Use . org For a For - Profit Business
Silly Idea # 4 : Domain Name = Trademark Just because you own a domain name does not mean you own the trademark .
Silly Idea # 5 : Don’t Look before You Leap Before you pounce on a domain name , make sure the words mashed together don’t spell something unintentional , which is called a SLURL — a clever portmanteau of Slur + URL .
GOAL OF ASSIGNMENT What do you want to accomplish ?
IN A NUTSHELL Sum it up it in 140 characters or less .
BRAND POSITIONING How do you want your brand to be positioned in the marketplace ?
CONSUMER INSIGHTS Consumer insights reveal people’s behaviors , as opposed to preferences . For instance , when naming an herbal tea brand , it helps to think beyond what tea drinkers like about herbal tea ( e.g . , flavor , fragrance , health benefits ) and consider what circumstances lead them to enjoy their tea . It could be getting home after a long commute , relaxing with a book in their favorite chair , or sipping a cup before bedtime to help them get a restful sleep .
TARGET AUDIENCE Who are the customers you want to reach ?
COMPETITION List your competitors so you know what you are up against and to help you steer clear of similar names , which could pose trademark conflicts .
DESIRED BRAND EXPERIENCES The best names evoke a positive brand experience that makes a strong emotional connection , such as “ This tastes great , ” “ I will feel better , ” or “ This is fun ! ”
BRAND PERSONALITY The 5 – 12 adjectives that best describe the tone and personality of your brand . ( This exercise is much easier to do if you think of your brand as a person . )
WORDS TO EXPLORE List some words you may like to have in your new name .
THEMES / IDEAS TO AVOID Don’t even think of going here :
WORDS TO AVOID
List any words you would not like to have in your new name .
DOMAIN NAME MODIFIERS List modifier words that will help you secure a domain name , which may not be available as an exact match to your new name or may be out of your price range :
NAME STYLE LIKES & DISLIKES List 5 brand names that you collectively like the style of ( and why ) .
List 5 brand names that you collectively dislike the style of ( and why )
ACID TEST FOR USING THE NEW NAME Write how the new name would be used in a sentence .
ALSO GOOD TO KNOW List anything else you think would be important to the name development .
THE WARM - UP — LIST 12 WORD SPARKS
Mine the Online Goldmine
Open the Thesaurus Treasure Chest Begin your online brainstorming on a thesaurus website , where you can find a jackpot of synonyms and related words .
Supercharge Your Imagination with Images A picture says a thousand words . And many of those words can inspire awesome names , which is why I always do image searches to fuel my creativity .
Comb through Glossaries of Terms Every sport has its own lingo of fun words and phrases . You can find pages and pages of them online by searching for “ glossaries , ” “ lingo , ” “ vernacular , ” “ jargon , ” “ dictionaries , ” “ thesaurus , ” “ terms , ” “ words , ” or “ slang , ” which are essentially the same thing but will turn up different results in searches .
Dictionaries Have More Than Just Definitions
Sometimes Clichés Are Good
Go Googlestorming !
Movie Title Madness
Breeze through Some Book Titles
Tune into iTunes
12 Rules for Reviewing Your Names Rule 1 Have people initially review the list of names independently , as opposed to in a group .
Is it right ? which is much more objective and effective .
Rule 3 Refrain from negative comments .
Rule 4 Keep in mind that a name can’t say everything —
print out the list to review on paper instead of viewing it online . Read it multiple times , top to bottom and bottom to top . Give yourself a few days to let all the names sink in .
Rule 6 As tempting as it is , do not share your list with outsiders and ask for their opinions on SurveyMonkey .
A good way to review company names is to imagine each one on your caller ID , name badge , store sign , website , or business card . Imagine product names on the product , a sales sheet , or on the shelf .
Rule 8 Don’t be afraid to be different .
Rule 9 Refrain from looking up domain names this early in the process .
Rule 10 Each reviewer should select at least ten names from the list .
Rule 11 Don’t fall in love with any one name until after you have conducted trademark screens .
Rule 12 Have fun !
This is a cute, adorable, simple book that I'm pretty sure I didn't include in my list of books I've read because it is a 15 minute read and does it really qualify in my "Read 100 books this year" goal?
I mean, yes, by definition, it is a book, so yes. But it is a 15 minute read, if you linger, so does it?
This is a book of short bits of wisdom, delightfully illustrated with Venn Diagrams and Hagy's whimsical style.
You know how you have the "Oh the Places You'll Go" book that you give to every high school graduate?
Consider this book instead.
Yes, I am a fan of Jessica Hagy. I still think this book is worth reading. And gifting.
Dance. Talk. Build. Network. Play. Help. Create. It doesn’t matter what you do, as long as you’re doing it. Sitting around and complaining is not an acceptable form of “something,” in case you were wondering.
If it is unappetizing: Do not eat, date, or sign up for it. If the mere thought of it is depressing: Do not major in it, sit through it, or devote your life to it. If it is not important to you: Do not do it only because it is important to someone else.
A love ignored will wither and die.
You are not wrong to be unique. You not incorrect because you are different. You should not be sorry for being interesting.
The only way to exceed expectations is to ignore them—and do what needs doing instead.
Amazing is rare, if only because so few people reach for it. Risking the ordinary is the only way to get something extraordinary.
Acknowledge the roles coincidence, chance, systemic processes (and yes, maybe even luck), play in our world.
Don’t feel guilty for taking a shot at something. Don’t feel terrible for wanting something. Save the guilt for never giving yourself the chance to try.
If things are unsatisfactory: Document them. Change them. Few people ever bother with that second bit.
If you’ve got bad memories attached to places, things, and even people: Let them go. You will feel lighter almost immediately.
After all, it’s only an interesting backstory if you can get past it.