|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.|
This is Book 3 of The Chronicles of Narnia.
Okay, here's the first book of the Chronicles of Narnia series I don't have any recollection having read before. I have to say, when I was reading it, I kept wondering when the R.R. Martin moment was going to happen. When is the bad guy going to win.
This book gave me the epiphany (yes, I'm slow sometimes) that we read books as a way to believe that the good guys can win in the end, when life teaches us the bad guys nearly always win. Nearly always. The powerful are seldom toppled before they do horrific damage.
Anyway, the book. The Horse. He's a talking horse. He befriends a boy. They escape the horse's master, who was a powerful, violent, hateful warrior. They are guided by circumstance, which turns out not to be so arbitrary, into fulfilling a prophesy. Go, good guys, go!
Again, I tried to read it not for the story, but for the Christian allegory that it is supposed to be. There are elements of God helps those who help themselves, elements of Stoicism's do what you need to do without complaining, and elements of pure whimsy in the book.
I'm on a roll, so will continue reading the series. The books are contininuing to be quick, two hour or so reads, which makes them a good end-of-year series to finish.
“Why, it’s only a girl!” he exclaimed.
I really think the "only a girl" and "just like a girl" and the subtle and not so subtle remarks of Lewis that women and those of the female gender are somehow less of a person because of their gender is REALLY going to turn me off these archaic books.
"‘O my mistress, do not by any means destroy yourself, for if you live you may yet have good fortune but all the dead are dead alike.’"
A not-so-bad reason to keep living: it is irreversable.
People who know a lot of the same things can hardly help talking about them, and if you’re there you can hardly help feeling that you’re out of it.
Having been brought up by a hard, closefisted man like Arsheesh, he had a fixed habit of never telling grown-ups anything if he could help it: he thought they would always spoil or stop whatever you were trying to do.
Yah. Substitute "people in power" or "people who don't have your best interest at heart" or "people who haven't earned the right to know of your vulnerabilities" for "grown-ups" and you'll be accurate, too.
Shasta lay down beside it with his back against the cat and his face toward the Tombs, because if one is nervous there’s nothing like having your face toward the danger and having something warm and solid at your back.
“But I want her,” cried the Prince. “I must have her. I shall die if I do not get her—false, proud, black-hearted daughter of a dog that she is! I cannot sleep and my food has no savor and my eyes are darkened because of her beauty. I must have the barbarian queen.”
Okay, this is a common theme in a lot of the books I'm reading: being overwhelmed with desired that it blocks out all rational thought. This is a for-kids version, sure, but there are others. That longing can be overwhelming. There's a similar theme in The Beautiful and Damned, which is a considerable contrast to this book.
One of the drawbacks about adventures is that when you come to the most beautiful places you are often too anxious and hurried to appreciate them...
He had not yet learned that if you do one good deed your reward usually is to be set to do another and harder and better one.
You’re not quite the great Horse you had come to think, from living among poor dumb horses. Of course you were braver and cleverer than them. You could hardly help being that. It doesn’t follow that you’ll be anyone very special in Narnia. But as long as you know you’re nobody very special, you’ll be a very decent sort of Horse, on the whole, and taking one thing with another.
Seneca's quote comes to mind: “I judge you unfortunate because you have never lived through misfortune. You have passed through life without an opponent— no one can ever know what you are capable of, not even you.”
Shasta was dreadfully frightened. But it suddenly came into his head, “If you funk this, you’ll funk every battle all your life. Now or never.”
“Never taunt a man save when he is stronger than you: then, as you please.”
“For this is what it means to be a king: to be first in every desperate attack and last in every desperate retreat, and when there’s hunger in the land (as must be now and then in bad years) to wear finer clothes and laugh louder over a scantier meal than any man in your land.”
This is Book 2 of The Chronicles of Narnia.
Okay, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. This is the book that, if you know only one book in the Narnia series, this is the one you know. It is an allegory for the story of Christ, though, really, can be enjoyed as a children's tale, if you'd like.
If you have insomnia, this is TOTALLY the book to read between 2am and 5am. Zoom zoom.
I enjoyed the quick read, all of two hours or so. I had read this book before. I don't recall if I found the fight and war scenes as absurd the first time through, though. Peter, with no fighting experience, managed to kill the top wolf in Narnia with a sword the first time he holds the sword? Really? What level of divine intervention is this?
Again, I would have liked to have read this in a book club with a couple 10 year olds, to learn their perspective. I have this wish to read a lot of books in a book club with a bunch of 10 year olds, maybe younger. Their perspectives are so different, and, well, to be honest, so long ago for me that I believe they'd be fascinating again.
On to the next book, also known as the first of the books of the series that I know I haven't read!
Lucy grew very red in the face and tried to say something, though she hardly knew what she was trying to say, and burst into tears.
I TOTALLY understand this reaction to feeling powerless. When you are small and less strong than those around you, frustration expresses itself this way.
“Just like a girl,” said Edmund to himself, “sulking somewhere, and won’t accept an apology.”
Just like a boy, being an asshole.
Edmund did not like this arrangement at all but he dared not disobey;
See above, about power and helplessness.
He is our brother after all, even if he is rather a little beast.
Ah yes. Siblings. Some are wonderful, some are better out of your life. You don't choose your blood relatives, you do choose your family.
"For you also are not to be in the battle."
“Why, sir?” said Lucy. “I think — I don’t know — but I think I could be brave enough.”
"But battles are ugly when women fight."
To be clearer, all battles are ugly. Some are just harder than others.
And oh, how miserable he was! It didn’t look now as if the Witch intended to make him a King. All the things he had said to make himself believe that she was good and kind and that her side was really the right side sounded to him silly now.
God, I hope that all the Cheetoh supporters are feeling EXACTLY THE SAME WAY. You voted for him out of spite and look, things are getting worse for you. Good job.
People who have not been in Narnia sometimes think that a thing cannot be good and terrible at the same time.
And Aslan said nothing either to excuse Peter or to blame him but merely stood looking at him with his great unchanging eyes. And it seemed to all of them that there was nothing to be said.
Peter did not feel very brave; indeed, he felt he was going to be sick. But that made no difference to what he had to do.
“Are you ill, dear Aslan?” asked Susan.
“No,” said Aslan. “I am sad and lonely. Lay your hands on my mane so that I can feel you are there and let us walk like that.”
The comfort of human touch.
I hope no one who reads this book has been quite as miserable as Susan and Lucy were that night; but if you have been — if you’ve been up all night and cried till you have no more tears left in you — you will know that there comes in the end a sort of quietness. You feel as if nothing was ever going to happen again.
“Others also are at the point of death. Must more people die for Edmund?”
This is Book 1 of The Chronicles of Narnia.
Continuing my fixing-my-lack-of-classics-reading-as-a-teen non-prolbem, I started the Chronicles of Narnia. Except, I thought The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe was the first book, checked it out of the library, then was stunned when I read it was book two of the series.
Turns out, The Magician's Nephew was published after the Lion-Witch-Wardrobe book, but is, indeed, a prequel. Digory, the title character in The Magician's Nephew, is the batty uncle in the Lion-Witch-Wardrobe saga. Which explains why he seems to ... no, wait, wrong review.
I'm unsure if I have read this book before. I didn't think I had, but multiple parts of it were familiar, leading me to believe I had. I spent much of the book pondering the allegorical elements, teasing out the parallels between the story and the Bible. I found, however, that what enjoyed the most was pausing to reflect on the characters' motivations, including both character flaws and human traits. The aversion to loss is universal, especially of a loved one. People are motivated to do awful things, but can also be incentivized towards doing the right thing, both of which are present in the book.
The book is quick two hour read. I suspect most of these books in the series will be. In line with my policy of reading a series if I enjoy the first one, and don't stop until two bad ones in a row, no, wait, I'm reading the whole series, so on to the next one!
I enjoyed the book. I would have liked to have a 10 year old kid with me in a book club reading this book to hear her perspective.
And both felt that once the thing had been suggested, it would be feeble not to do it.
Cracking up with this. How many times has something disastrous happened because a person couldn't back down? Oh, I shouldn't NOT do this, since you suggested it.
"But of course you must understand that rules of that sort, however excellent they may be for little boys—and servants—and women—and even people in general, can’t possibly be expected to apply to profound students and great thinkers and sages. No, Digory. Men like me, who possess hidden wisdom, are freed from common rules just as we are cut off from common pleasures. Ours, my boy, is a high and lonely destiny."
And this is the "I'm better than you" attitude that is incredibly prevalent in human nature.
“All it means,” he said to himself, “is that he thinks he can do anything he likes to get anything he wants.”
And this is the typical response from everyone else to that attitude.
"You don’t understand. I am the great scholar, the magician, the adept, who is doing the experiment. Of course I need subjects to do it on. Bless my soul, you’ll be telling me next that I ought to have asked the guinea-pigs’ permission before I used them! No great wisdom can be reached without sacrifice. But the idea of my going myself is ridiculous. It’s like asking a general to fight as a common soldier. Supposing I got killed, what would become of my life’s work?"
This is pretty much how I believe every leader who is unwilling to either go into war or send his own child into war is. "I will send YOUR child, but not mine." "I will ask YOU to make the sacrifice I refuse to make."
"I hope, Digory, you are not given to showing the white feather."
I had to look this one up:
"A white feather has been a traditional symbol of cowardice, used and recognised especially within the British Army and in countries of the British Empire since the 18th century, especially by patriotic groups, including some early feminists, in order to shame men who were not soldiers. It also carries opposite meanings, however: in some cases of pacifism, and in the United States, of extraordinary bravery and excellence in combat marksmanship.
"This was the old banqueting hall where my great-grandfather bade seven hundred nobles to a feast and killed them all before they had drunk their fill. They had had rebellious thoughts."
Huh. George R.R. Martin wasn't the first person to think of butchering at a feast.
“It was my sister’s fault,” said the Queen. "She drove me to it."
Hate this. Blaming others for your own actions. Right.
"It had long been known to the great kings of our race that there was a word which, if spoken with the proper ceremonies, would destroy all living things except the one who spoke it."
Well, you know how it feels if you begin hoping for something that you want desperately badly; you almost fight against the hope because it is too good to be true; you’ve been disappointed so often before.
I know this well.
For what you see and hear depends a good deal on where you are standing: it also depends on what sort of person you are.
Now the trouble about trying to make yourself stupider than you really are is that you very often succeed.
Laughing! Yes. Welcome to the willful ignorance of the United States.
It was even better than yesterday, partly because everyone was feeling so fresh, and partly because the newly risen sun was at their backs and, of course, everything looks nicer when the light is behind you.
Unless you're taking a picture, then no one looks good.
“I don’t know that I care much about living on and on after everyone I know is dead. I’d rather live an ordinary time and die and go to Heaven.”
“Sleep,” he said. “Sleep and be separated for some few hours from all the torments you have devised for yourself.”
Things always work according to their nature. She has won her heart’s desire; she has unwearying strength and endless days like a goddess. But length of days with an evil heart is only length of misery and already she begins to know it. All get what they want; they do not always like it.”
And Digory could say nothing, for tears choked him and he gave up all hopes of saving his Mother’s life; but at the same time he knew that the Lion knew what would have happened, and that there might be things more terrible even than losing someone you love by death.
You’ll find they usually go on getting worse for some time; but when things once start going right they often go on getting better and better.
After about six weeks of this lovely life there came a long letter from Father in India, which had wonderful news in it. Old Great-Uncle Kirke had died and this meant, apparently, that Father was now very rich. He was going to retire and come home from India forever and ever.
Wonderful news? Someone f'ing died and it's wonderful news?
One person's tragedy is another person's blessing. The hardest thing about death is that life goes on.
I have had this book on my shelf for ages. Like, possibly decades, two of them. Given my desire to fill the holes in my childhood and teenage reading choices, I grabbed this one from the stack and started reading.
I have to say, while I did pick a hardback book, I picked a crappy printing of this book. I won't be keeping this particular copy.
As for the book, it was cute. It likely would have had more impact had I read it as a kid. I struggle to see how a spoiled kid, TWO of them no less, can become pleasant children if left to their own devices, given an outside to play with. Pondering that, maybe the problem is me, and kids would become pleasant with exercise and the like.
This book also included the obsessive love that seems to be pervading, in one format or another, many of the books I've read recently.
I'm glad I've read the book. I wasn't moved about it. It's classic literature, will likely stay that way. While many people ask if they'd prefer to be or befriend Mary or Colin, I have to say I'm more likely to hang with Dickon, the animal whisperer. I liked him best.
“what Dickon would think of thee?”
“He wouldn’t like me,” said Mary in her stiff, cold little way. “No one does.”
Martha looked reflective again. “How does tha’ like thysel’?” she inquired, really quite as if she were curious to know.
Mary hesitated a moment and thought it over. “Not at all—really,” she answered. “But I never thought of that before.”
“Mother said that to me once,” she said. “She was at her washtub an’ I was in a bad temper an’ talkin’ ill of folk, an’ she turns round on me an’ says: ‘Tha’ young vixen, tha’! There tha’ stands sayin’ tha’ doesn’t like this one an’ tha’ doesn’t like that one. How does tha’ like thysel’?’ It made me laugh an’ it brought me to my senses in a minute.”
And she ran into the middle of the room and, taking a handle in each hand, began to skip, and skip, and skip, while Mary turned in her chair to stare at her, and the queer faces in the old portraits seemed to stare at her, too, and wonder what on earth this common little cottager had the impudence to be doing under their very noses. But Martha did not even see them. The interest and curiosity in Mistress Mary’s face delighted her, and she went on skipping and counted as she skipped until she had reached a hundred. “I could skip longer than that,” she said when she stopped. “I’ve skipped as much as five hundred when I was twelve, but I wasn’t as fat then as I am now, an’ I was in practice.”
Because, yes, a kid who has never skipped before can suddenly skip like the wind.
“It looks nice,” she said. “Your mother is a kind woman. Do you think I could ever skip like that?”
“You just try it,” urged Martha, handing her the skipping-rope. “You can’t skip a hundred at first, but if you practice you’ll mount up."
“Do you want to live?” inquired Mary.
“No,” he answered, in a cross, tired fashion. “But I don’t want to die.
“Is the spring coming?” he said. “What is it like? You don’t see it in rooms if you are ill.”
“It is the sun shining on the rain and the rain falling on the sunshine, and things pushing up and working under the earth,” said Mary.
“She is my mother,” said Colin complainingly. “I don’t see why she died. Sometimes I hate her for doing it.”
“How queer!” said Mary.
“If she had lived I believe I should not have been ill always,” he grumbled. “I dare say I should have lived, too. And my father would not have hated to look at me. I dare say I should have had a strong back. Draw the curtain again.”
"Why is the curtain drawn over her?” He moved uncomfortably. “I made them do it,” he said. “Sometimes I don’t like to see her looking at me. She smiles too much when I am ill and miserable. Besides, she is mine and I don’t want everyone to see her.”
“Is Colin a hunchback?” Mary asked. “He didn’t look like one.”
“He isn’t yet,” said Martha. “But he began all wrong. Mother said that there was enough trouble and raging in th’ house to set any child wrong. They was afraid his back was weak an’ they’ve always been takin’ care of it—keepin’ him lyin’ down an’ not lettin’ him walk. Once they made him wear a brace but he fretted so he was downright ill. Then a big doctor came to see him an’ made them take it off. He talked to th’ other doctor quite rough—in a polite way. He said there’d been too much medicine and too much lettin’ him have his own way.”
We become what others expect us to become when we are children.
If we expect greatness, we'll more likely see it than if we expect nothing.
“Go on the moor! How could I? I am going to die.”
“How do you know?” said Mary unsympathetically. She didn’t like the way he had of talking about dying. She did not feel very sympathetic. She felt rather as if he almost boasted about it.
“Oh, I’ve heard it ever since I remember,” he answered crossly. “They are always whispering about it and thinking I don’t notice. They wish I would, too.”
Mistress Mary felt quite contrary. She pinched her lips together. “If they wished I would,” she said, “I wouldn’t. Who wishes you would?”
“Do you think he wants to die?” whispered Mary.
“No, but he wishes he’d never been born. Mother she says that’s th’ worst thing on earth for a child. Them as is not wanted scarce ever thrives."
Mary’s lips pinched themselves together. She was no more used to considering other people than Colin was and she saw no reason why an ill-tempered boy should interfere with the thing she liked best. She knew nothing about the pitifulness of people who had been ill and nervous and who did not know that they could control their tempers and need not make other people ill and nervous, too. When she had had a headache in India she had done her best to see that everybody else also had a headache or something quite as bad. And she felt she was quite right; but of course now she felt that Colin was quite wrong.
"Mother says as th’ two worst things as can happen to a child is never to have his own way—or always to have it. She doesn’t know which is th’ worst."
... had stared when he first saw Mary; but this was a stare of wonder and delight. The truth was that in spite of all he had heard he had not in the least understood what this boy would be like and that his fox and his crow and his squirrels and his lamb were so near to him and his friendliness that they seemed almost to be part of himself. Colin had never talked to a boy in his life and he was so overwhelmed by his own pleasure and curiosity that he did not even think of speaking.
But Dickon did not feel the least shy or awkward. He had not felt embarrassed because the crow had not known his language and had only stared and had not spoken to him the first time they met. Creatures were always like that until they found out about you.
“He’d be at home in Buckingham Palace or at the bottom of a coal mine,” he said. “And yet it’s not impudence, either. He’s just fine, is that lad.”
One of the strange things about living in the world is that it is only now and then one is quite sure one is going to live forever and ever and ever.
He liked the mysteriousness of it and did his best, but in the midst of excited enjoyment it is rather difficult never to laugh above a whisper.
“Lots o’ fools,” said Ben. “Th’ world’s full o’ jackasses brayin’ an’ they never bray nowt but lies. What did tha’ shut thysel’ up for?”
“Well,” he said, “you see something did come of it. She used the wrong Magic until she made him beat her. If she’d used the right Magic and had said something nice perhaps he wouldn’t have got as drunk as a lord and perhaps—perhaps he might have bought her a new bonnet.”
“Th’ best thing about lecturin’,” said Ben, “is that a chap can get up an’ say aught he pleases an’ no other chap can answer him back. I wouldn’t be agen’ lecturin’ a bit mysel’ sometimes.”
In each century since the beginning of the world wonderful things have been discovered. In the last century more amazing things were found out than in any century before. In this new century hundreds of things still more astounding will be brought to light. At first people refuse to believe that a strange new thing can be done, then they begin to hope it can be done, then they see it can be done—then it is done and all the world wonders why it was not done centuries ago.
One of the new things people began to find out in the last century was that thoughts—just mere thoughts—are as powerful as electric batteries—as good for one as sunlight is, or as bad for one as poison. To let a sad thought or a bad one get into your mind is as dangerous as letting a scarlet fever germ get into your body. If you let it stay there after it has got in you may never get over it as long as you live.
When he traveled about, darkness so brooded over him that the sight of him was a wrong done to other people because it was as if he poisoned the air about him with gloom.
I picked up this book from a Book Riot list of the two books I keep going back to when things get rough. Well, things have been rough, so I picked it up.
What I wasn't expecting was a book of essays, which tells me, hey, I'm growing, I'm expanding. I am delighted by the essays, mostly because Scaachi is great at writing, writing meaningfully, and writing humourously (oh, the number of times I laughed out loud were too many to count!). While I can't relate to a number of parts of her story (the being Indian in Canada part, or the being the victim of subtle racism part, in particular), the part of being a woman online and being a woman in tech, and having the world rage at you, and loving your parents even as you rage at them, well, those parts I could relate to.
Turns out, Scaachi caused an uproar on twitter when she asked for books from non-white, non-male authors. Wait, what? I suspect she was the topic of the day on twitter, because there is one every f'ing day, but I was off twitter when she uproared, and well, missed it. I'm sorta sorry I did, as I would have nodded, then +1'd, and tweeted at her "I understand." Likely wouldn't have done much, but sometimes you need the "I'm with you" and the +1 to balance out the negative in your world.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I recommend it.
No one finds anything in France except bread and pretension, and frankly, both of those are in my lap right now.
Nothing bad can happen to you if you’re with your mom. Your mom can stop a bullet from lodging in your heart. She can prop you up when you can’t. Your mom is your blood and bone before your body even knows how to make any.
Nothing, it seems, scares you into perpetual fear quite like becoming one of the oldest in your bloodline.
When you leave the protective wing of your family for the first time, it takes a while before you learn that the only person now tasked with taking care of you is you.
Being afraid of the world, of unknown beasts, only makes you feel alone. Sometimes you just need to get on the plane and hope nothing bad happens.
But it wasn’t real fear because I was with my mom. Nothing bad happens when you’re with your mom.
It was embarrassing to be mistaken for a boy. Not a girl with masculine tendencies, not a girl rejecting traditional gender roles, but a boy.
As someone who is very, very frequently mistaken for a boy, I'm used to it by now.
And so her life would be (and is) different than mine, because her race is a footnote instead of the title.
“Why not?” I worried here, because I want her to like it there, or at least to be indifferent about it the way you get to be indifferent about a home when you don’t realize you’ll miss it one day.
Do not talk to me about how you love the “colours” of an Indian wedding—the main colours come from blood and shit, not necessarily respectively.
Teenage girls of all creeds and colours so often think their bodies are too big, or too small, or too misshapen to be acceptable—we are conditioned to hate ourselves and the ways we’re built. So it’s surprising when you try to wedge your pancake breasts into a decade-old chiffon top, your arms unable to bend back down, your soft biceps straining the tensile strength of a factory stitching, only to learn that your teenage body was, in fact, fine, it was just fine. (For all you know, despite your current physical hang-ups, it might still be.)
I tried to not get too wrapped up in the process—what is, physically or morally, wrong with being of a certain size? Where do I get off feeling sorry for myself based on an arbitrary metric that I already know to be bullshit?—but when a shopkeeper looks at your frame and shakes his head solemnly, it’s hard not to take it personally.
Home, somehow, is always the last place you left, and never the place you’re in.
Arguing over traditions that have been in place forever is so consuming that neither of us even began to try.
Most people use Twitter to drain their brains of the things you can’t say in public, the minor irritations of existence, passive aggression so sharp that if you acted it out at your office you would immediately be fired.
People ask me how I handle this. “Doesn’t it wear you down?” one friend asked after I showed her my Twitter mentions, filling with men calling me a cunt or a whore or threatening to detach my limbs and toss me into a dumpster. It doesn’t—or, rather, it didn’t—for the same reason that you’re not supposed to be afraid of non-poisonous spiders. They’re more afraid of you, and they’re only displaying a panic response when their legs freak out and they start running around your walls in circles. Why waste my finite fear and rage on what is, ultimately, something my cat can trap and eat out of her little pink paws?
After a year or so of mocking them, I started asking, directly, what happened to them. Sometimes I’d just apologize preemptively for what was so obviously a personal destruction they were trying to soothe.
Or they just hate women. They hate brown women who do not fit a stereotype they’re comfortable with, but frankly, they hate those women too. Sometimes there isn’t logic. Sometimes they just think I’m a cunt.
It is taxing to consider the circumstances that can take an unmarked human canvas and make it rage-filled and petty and lost. It’s not fun to have sympathy for the people who are trying to hurt you. But their actions can sometimes make sense: what’s easier than trying to get better is trying to break something else down. It gives credence to your power, a power you might not always feel.
These men who harass women online were all owed something very simple at one time—respect, love, affection, the basic decency of living upwards and not curling inwards, a humane education—and someone, along the line, failed them.
It changes you, when you see someone similar to you, doing the thing you might want to do yourself.
We are deeply afraid of making marginalized voices stronger, because we think it makes privileged ones that much weaker.
And when that message comes from a non-white non-male person themselves, someone young enough to not yet have any inherent gravitas and—this part is important—just enough privilege to be powerful, that’s when they target you.
Years ago, when another writer accused me of fabricating sources in my work, I went to Jordan, devastated and furious. “The thing to remember about him,” he said, “is that he’s nobody. Nobody at all. Fuck that guy in the ear.”
Jordan is, in all the best ways, the opposite of me: he is incredibly calm, methodical, patient, and he can wait a full five minutes between a thought forming in his head and hurtling its way out of his mouth.
I laughed at this one. I laughed at a lot of Scaachi's writing.
“There is no cowardice in removing yourself from a wildly unhealthy and unwinnable situation,” he said when I told him about my Twitter account burning down before my eyes.
No, I was right the first time: there is no bottom. You just sink and sink and sink until the force of your fall pulls the skin clean off your bones.
Above all, I like bothering people. I like being present in spaces where I am not welcome because you do not deserve to feel comfortable just because you’re racist or sexist or small-minded.
I can understand this.
Most didn’t have much to say at all, because when you die, a shocking few will be sad.
No one cares more about your successes and your foibles than you.
I was dumb enough to want a hug from a machine.
I understand this. Wow, I understand so much of these essays.
What they say to me online is the purest distillation of the rage they feel — statements that would get them fired or arrested in real life but get them a moderate fan base or begrudging attention online.
(I wouldn’t, like, go to yoga, but I’d talk about it. If I’ve learned anything from white women, it’s that the best kind of yoga is the kind you talk about fucking constantly.)
Alcohol is the great equalizer. Alcohol makes you brave. Alcohol makes you beautiful. Alcohol makes you fall in love.
When I was a teenager, the world told me that a girl is responsible for her own body if she’s raped or assaulted when she’s drunk: that’s her fault, it’s on her to not get so drunk she stops being fun and starts being a liability.
Women can’t be fun all the time, can’t drink without consequence. Frankly, few people can, but who feels the consequences of their otherwise harmless actions quite like women?
After you shoot out into the world and build a community, and people leave, you feel the loneliest you’ve ever been in your life.
I had been angry for myself for such a long time that I forgot to be sad for him.
The first time I was roofied,
Okay, this had me sitting back and going, "Uh." The FIRST time?
And yet, being surveilled with the intention of assault or rape is practically mundane, it happens so often. It’s such an ingrained part of the female experience that it doesn’t register as unusual. The danger of it, then, is in its routine, in how normalized it is for a woman to feel monitored, so much so that she might not know she’s in trouble until that invisible line is crossed from “typical patriarchy” to “you should run.”
There was shame in having to admit that you had a little moustache when all the white girls at school didn’t even get wispy hairs on the backs of their thighs.
There’s something so carnal about pulling little parts of your body off or out of yourself.
It’s rarely you who decides there’s something wrong with you; instead, you get your cues from someone who is the right combination of bored, cruel, and insecure about themselves to begin with.
It’s easier to rebel against hair norms if you’re a woman generally unburdened by them in the first place.
But of course, the secret to Indian hair is merely to be Indian.
Do I just get it waxed like a strawberry blond might, and hope that it doesn’t look like I walked into a controlled fire, labia first?
Laughing. So. Hard.
It’s a quintessential encapsulation of running after an unattainable goal: we turned this basic fact about our bodies into something ugly.
But the only way to do better, to have better, is to lose pieces of what was.
It’s been so long, it’s so far now, the only thing you can do is remember it as perfect.
“Falling in love” sounds so passive, but it did feel unintentional, like tripping into a pit that happened to be filled with downy gold.
I don’t like changing my personal status quo even when my status quo isn’t comfortable.
It wasn’t fair, but it was predictable.
Few things get less complicated as you age, but your family, that at least should become easier. You should eventually make peace with everyone, with their decisions and their quirks.
We talked about my work or his crushing ennui or about how the biggest tree in the backyard rotted and he had to get it taken out or how Raisin started to yell “HOW RUDE” anytime someone did something she didn’t care for.
Papa’s sun is the brightest, so when he decides to set, it makes for some very long, cold winters.
Once, while in the car together, he half stated, half muttered, apropos of nothing, “You live, you create things, you become a footnote in history. That’s what happens when you get old. It’s a trage—IT’S A TRAGEDY.”
I get angry at toaster ovens (TERRIBLE FOR POP TARTS), and irate when people don’t follow my advice.
Or at least I need to believe in his ability to let things go when they are ultimately out of his control, because otherwise we’re both just alone, spinning separately when we’re supposed to be in this together.
I continue my reading of the children classics by checking this one out of the library, as I didn't believe this is a book I'm going to want to keep, and reading it. Which is what happened.
I read the book. I enjoyed the book for the most part, though my reading of the book was completely and totally colored by my childhood watching of the Little House On The Prarie series. Laura was totally Gilbert as I read. I found this realization a bit disappointing, as I prefer to have my own impressions of the characters when reading.
Again, as with Anne of Green Gables, I am surprised that I am surprised the book is as dense in classic Stoicism as it is. Was fascinating to read all of it.
The blinding hatred of Native Americans in the book threw me off more than a little. Even as the Ingalls build their homestead on Indian land, both historically and by treaty, they complain about the Indians invading their home. Gee, look, you're f'ing stealing theirs completely. I was annoyed by that part.
I enjoyed the book for the most part. I'm a bit intrigued by the idea of the lost skills demonstrated by Pa in the book, but I'm not reading any more in the series, I didn't enjoy them that much. This book itself is book three in the series, so I already skipped a bunch.
Checking another classic off my fill-in-the-gaps reading goal.
Pa said he wouldn’t have done such a thing to Jack, not for a million dollars. If he’d known how that creek would rise when they were in midstream, he would never have let Jack try to swim it. “But that can’t be helped now,” he said.
Pa kept pouring more hot water into the tub in which Ma’s foot was soaking. Her foot was red from the heat and the puffed ankle began to turn purple. Ma took her foot out of the water and bound strips of rag tightly around and around the ankle.
“I can manage,” she said.
She could not get her shoe on. But she tied more rags around her foot, and she hobbled on it. She got supper as usual, only a little more slowly. But Pa said she could not help to build the house until her ankle was well.
I read with interest the previous recommendations for a sprained / crushed ankle. Used to be, heat was the solution. Now, it is very much RICE: rest, ice, compression, and elevation. They had the compression right, but not the ice part.
When Carrie felt the beads on her neck, she grabbed at them. She was so little that she did not know any better than to break the string. So Ma untied it, and she put the beads away until Carrie should be old enough to wear them. And often after that Laura thought of those pretty beads and she was still naughty enough to want her beads for herself.
Okay, the little one can't play with them, so let's put them away so that no one can play with them. What a crock.
Worse, to make a little girl feel bad for wanting something.
Laura was not really crying. She was too big to cry. Only one tear ran out of each eye and her throat choked up, but that was not crying. She hid her face against Ma and hung on to her tight. She was so glad the fire had not hurt Ma.
Even the 10 year olds are Stoics!
“We could get along all right, if I didn’t,” said Pa. “There’s no need of running to town all the time, for every little thing. I have smoked better tobacco than that stuff Scott raised back in Indiana, but it will do. I’ll raise some next summer and pay him back. I wish I hadn’t borrowed those nails from Edwards.”
“You did borrow them, Charles,” Ma replied. “And as for the tobacco, you don’t like borrowing any more than I do. We need more quinine. I’ve been sparing with the cornmeal, but it’s almost gone and so is the sugar. You could find a bee - tree, but there’s no cornmeal tree to be found, so far as I know, and we’ll raise no corn till next year. A little salt pork would taste good, too, after all this wild game. And, Charles, I’d like to write to the folks in Wisconsin. If you mail a letter now, they can write this winter, and then we can hear from them next spring.”
No sense wishing for things or that your actions were different, they are what they are, deal with it. Every interaction in this book oozes the classic stop-complaining-and-do-what-needs-be-doing attitude. I wish people were more like this today.
So, Anne of Green Gables takes place on Prince Edward Island. I did not realize this when I started reading it, in my continuing journey to fill in the gaps in my childhood reading. I spent too much time reading Voltaire and not enough time reading Nancy Drew, apparently.
Anyway, if you ask a Canadian, "Hey, did you know Anne of Green Gables happens in Canada?" you will not only watch a Canadian laugh until his sides ache, you'll also be asked in return, "Hey, did you know George Washington was the first president of the United States?" True story. I asked Jonathan.
My first impression of the book?
Holy crap, does Anne talk a lot. I understand how Matthew would become endeared to her, as he didn't speak much and was fascinated by Anne. I could also understand anyone would would ask Anne to just shut the f--- up. I don't know that I would have been able to stand how much she talks in real life.
Of course, maybe I could have. There's something attractive about a dynamic, outgoing, care-free, focused woman.
The second impression I had about the book is just how much Classic Stoicism pervades this book. Every other paragraph contains a comment or action that is completely and totally "no sense in complaining, do what needs to be done." Why, oh why, don't we have that attitude now? Why oh why has this ability to do the work been lost in our times?
I enjoyed the book. I won't be continuing the series, as there are a large number of other books I'd rather read next, but I am glad I have read this one. This book is worth reading.
Mrs. Rachel felt that she had received a severe mental jolt. She thought in exclamation points.
There’s never anybody to be had but those stupid, half-grown little French boys; and as soon as you do get one broke into your ways and taught something he’s up and off to the lobster canneries or the States. At first Matthew suggested getting a Home boy. But I said ‘no’ flat to that. ‘They may be all right — I’m not saying they’re not — but no London street Arabs for me,’ I said. ‘Give me a native born at least. There’ll be a risk, no matter who we get. But I’ll feel easier in my mind and sleep sounder at nights if we get a born Canadian.’
"Home Boy" What an odd phrasing. When I went to look it up, however, the original said, "getting a Barnado Boy."
Curiouser and curiouser.
If you had asked my advice in the matter — which you didn’t do, Marilla — I’d have said for mercy’s sake not to think of such a thing, that’s what.”
And as for the risk, there’s risks in pretty near everything a body does in this world. There’s risks in people’s having children of their own if it comes to that — they don’t always turn out well.
"I asked her to go into the ladies’ waiting room, but she informed me gravely that she preferred to stay outside. ‘There was more scope for imagination,’ she said. She’s a case, I should say.”
"But I just went to work and imagined that I had on the most beautiful pale blue silk dress — because when you are imagining you might as well imagine something worth while — and a big hat all flowers and nodding plumes, and a gold watch, and kid gloves and boots."
"She said I must have asked her a thousand already. I suppose I had, too, but how you going to find out about things if you don’t ask questions?"
"Isn’t it splendid to think of all the things there are to find out about? It just makes me feel glad to be alive — it’s such an interesting world. It wouldn’t be half so interesting if we know all about everything, would it?"
"Dreams don’t often come true, do they? Wouldn’t it be nice if they did?"
“I suppose — we could hardly be expected to keep her.”
“I should say not. What good would she be to us?”
“We might be some good to her,” said Matthew suddenly and unexpectedly.
"I’m not in the depths of despair this morning. I never can be in the morning. Isn’t it a splendid thing that there are mornings? But I feel very sad.
But the worst of imagining things is that the time comes when you have to stop and that hurts.”
"All sorts of mornings are interesting, don’t you think? You don’t know what’s going to happen through the day, and there’s so much scope for imagination."
"It’s all very well to read about sorrows and imagine yourself living through them heroically, but it’s not so nice when you really come to have them, is it?”
"There is no use in loving things if you have to be torn from them, is there? And it’s so hard to keep from loving things, isn’t it?"
“I’ve made up my mind to enjoy this drive. It’s been my experience that you can nearly always enjoy things if you make up your mind firmly that you will. Of course, you must make it up firmly."
"I’ve never brought up a child, especially a girl, and I dare say I’ll make a terrible mess of it. But I’ll do my best."
"And I’m afraid I’ll never be able to think out another one as good. Somehow, things never are so good when they’re thought out a second time. Have you ever noticed that?”
Mrs. Rachel was not often sick and had a well-defined contempt for people who were; but grippe, she asserted, was like no other illness on earth and could only be interpreted as one of the special visitations of Providence.
"Everyone else is a baby, but I am strong." Everyone's a hypocrite.
Where was the wholesome punishment upon which she, Marilla, had plumed herself? Anne had turned it into a species of positive pleasure. Good Mrs. Lynde, not being overburdened with perception, did not see this. She only perceived that Anne had made a very thorough apology and all resentment vanished from her kindly, if somewhat officious, heart.
“But I’d rather look ridiculous when everybody else does than plain and sensible all by myself,” persisted Anne mournfully.
“Oh, yes; and I answered a lot of questions. Miss Rogerson asked ever so many. I don’t think it was fair for her to do all the asking. There were lots I wanted to ask her, but I didn’t like to because I didn’t think she was a kindred spirit.
"Now, don’t be looking I told-you-so, Matthew. That’s bad enough in a woman, but it isn’t to be endured in a man. I’m perfectly willing to own up that I’m glad I consented to keep the child and that I’m getting fond of her, but don’t you rub it in, Matthew Cuthbert.”
“Oh, Marilla, looking forward to things is half the pleasure of them,” exclaimed Anne. “You mayn’t get the things themselves; but nothing can prevent you from having the fun of looking forward to them. Mrs. Lynde says, ‘Blessed are they who expect nothing for they shall not be disappointed.’ But I think it would be worse to expect nothing than to be disappointed.”
"She was leaning out to pick water lilies and if Mr. Andrews hadn’t caught her by her sash just in the nick of time she’d fallen in and prob’ly been drowned. I wish it had been me. It would have been such a romantic experience to have been nearly drowned. It would be such a thrilling tale to tell."
No, that would be a horrible tale to tell, that of the drowned. Though bad experiences do make good stories.
“WHAT a splendid day!” said Anne, drawing a long breath. “Isn’t it good just to be alive on a day like this? I pity the people who aren’t born yet for missing it. They may have good days, of course, but they can never have this one. And it’s splendider still to have such a lovely way to go to school by, isn’t it?”
"He told his mother — his mother, mind you — that you were the smartest girl in school. That’s better than being good looking.”
“No, it isn’t,” said Anne, feminine to the core."
“I’d rather be pretty than clever."
Mr. Phillips stalked down the aisle and laid his hand heavily on Anne’s shoulder. “Anne Shirley, what does this mean?” he said angrily. Anne returned no answer. It was asking too much of flesh and blood to expect her to tell before the whole school that she had been called “carrots.” Gilbert it was who spoke up stoutly. “It was my fault Mr. Phillips. I teased her.” Mr. Phillips paid no heed to Gilbert.
Of course, it is the girl's fault. Always the girl's fault. No one ever believes the girl, EVEN WHEN THE BOY SAYS HE DID IT.
Anne stood there the rest of the afternoon with that legend above her. She did not cry or hang her head. Anger was still too hot in her heart for that and it sustained her amid all her agony of humiliation.
“You mustn’t mind Gilbert making fun of your hair,” she said soothingly. “Why, he makes fun of all the girls. He laughs at mine because it’s so black."
WAIT. NO. Just because he's an ass to everyone doesn't mean the behaviour shoudl be condoned. He should stop making fun of everyone's hair.
Mr. Phillips’s brief reforming energy was over; he didn’t want the bother of punishing a dozen pupils; but it was necessary to do something to save his word, so he looked about for a scapegoat and found it in Anne, who had dropped into her seat, gasping for breath, with a forgotten lily wreath hanging askew over one ear and giving her a particularly rakish and disheveled appearance. “Anne Shirley, since you seem to be so fond of the boys’ company we shall indulge your taste for it this afternoon,” he said sarcastically. “Take those flowers out of your hair and sit with Gilbert Blythe.”
The other boys snickered. Diana, turning pale with pity, plucked the wreath from Anne’s hair and squeezed her hand. Anne stared at the master as if turned to stone.
“Did you hear what I said, Anne?” queried Mr. Phillips sternly.
“Yes, sir,” said Anne slowly “but I didn’t suppose you really meant it.”
“I assure you I did” — still with the sarcastic inflection which all the children, and Anne especially, hated. It flicked on the raw. “Obey me at once.”
For a moment Anne looked as if she meant to disobey. Then, realizing that there was no help for it, she rose haughtily, stepped across the aisle, sat down beside Gilbert Blythe,
So, the boys all do the same thing as the girl, BUT THE GIRL IS PUNISHED.
In case you're wondering, this happened to me a lot growing up as a kid. I did the same things my older brother did, but I was punished for the actions, and his behaviour was explained as "oh, boys will be boys!"
Fucking hate the double standard crap.
"She had a fearful headache all day yesterday. Mrs. Barry is so indignant. She will never believe but what I did it on purpose.”
“I should think she would better punish Diana for being so greedy as to drink three glassfuls of anything,” said Marilla shortly.
Mrs. Barry was a woman of strong prejudices and dislikes, and her anger was of the cold, sullen sort which is always hardest to overcome.
The rivalry between them was soon apparent; it was entirely good natured on Gilbert’s side; but it is much to be feared that the same thing cannot be said of Anne, who had certainly an unpraiseworthy tenacity for holding grudges. She was as intense in her hatreds as in her loves. She would not stoop to admit that she meant to rival Gilbert in schoolwork, because that would have been to acknowledge his existence which Anne persistently ignored; but the rivalry was there and honors fluctuated between them.
I feel I understand this Anne character.
Mr. Phillips might not be a very good teacher; but a pupil so inflexibly determined on learning as Anne was could hardly escape making progress under any kind of teacher.
Mrs. Lynde says Canada is going to the dogs the way things are being run at Ottawa and that it’s an awful warning to the electors. She says if women were allowed to vote we would soon see a blessed change.
I giggled at this.
It’s all very well to say resist temptation, but it’s ever so much easier to resist it if you can’t get the key.
You must just imagine my relief, doctor, because I can’t express it in words. You know there are some things that cannot be expressed in words.”
“Yes, I know,” nodded the doctor. He looked at Anne as if he were thinking some things about her that couldn’t be expressed in words.
“Oh, Matthew, isn’t it a wonderful morning? The world looks like something God had just imagined for His own pleasure, doesn’t it? Those trees look as if I could blow them away with a breath — pouf! I’m so glad I live in a world where there are white frosts, aren’t you?"
"But I hate to stay home, for Gil — some of the others will get head of the class, and it’s so hard to get up again — although of course the harder it is the more satisfaction you have when you do get up, haven’t you?”
“I think you ought to let Anne go,” repeated Matthew firmly. Argument was not his strong point, but holding fast to his opinion certainly was. Marilla gave a gasp of helplessness and took refuge in silence.
Spring had come once more to Green Gables — the beautiful capricious, reluctant Canadian spring, lingering along through April and May in a succession of sweet, fresh, chilly days, with pink sunsets and miracles of resurrection and growth.
“Oh, Marilla, how can you be so cruel?” sobbed Anne. “What would you feel like if a white thing did snatch me up and carry me off?”
“I’ll risk it,” said Marilla unfeelingly. “You know I always mean what I say. I’ll cure you of imagining ghosts into places. March, now.”
"I do feel dreadfully sad, Marilla. But one can’t feel quite in the depths of despair with two months’ vacation before them, can they, Marilla?
"I’m very glad they’ve called Mr. Allan. I liked him because his sermon was interesting and he prayed as if he meant it and not just as if he did it because he was in the habit of it."
"Mrs. Allan said we ought always to try to influence other people for good. She talked so nice about everything. I never knew before that religion was such a cheerful thing. I always thought it was kind of melancholy, but Mrs. Allan’s isn’t, and I’d like to be a Christian if I could be one like her. I wouldn’t want to be one like Mr. Superintendent Bell.”
“It’s very naughty of you to speak so about Mr. Bell,” said Marilla severely. “Mr. Bell is a real good man.”
“Oh, of course he’s good,” agreed Anne, “but he doesn’t seem to get any comfort out of it.
“Yes; but cakes have such a terrible habit of turning out bad just when you especially want them to be good,” sighed Anne,
“Can I fix the table with ferns and wild roses?”
“I think that’s all nonsense,” sniffed Marilla. “In my opinion it’s the eatables that matter and not flummery decorations.”
“Mrs. Barry had her table decorated,” said Anne, who was not entirely guiltless of the wisdom of the serpent, “and the minister paid her an elegant compliment. He said it was a feast for the eye as well as the palate.”
“Marilla, isn’t it nice to think that tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it yet?”
“I’ll warrant you’ll make plenty in it,” said Marilla. “I never saw your beat for making mistakes, Anne.”
“Yes, and well I know it,” admitted Anne mournfully. “But have you ever noticed one encouraging thing about me, Marilla? I never make the same mistake twice.”
“I don’t know as that’s much benefit when you’re always making new ones.”
“Oh, don’t you see, Marilla? There must be a limit to the mistakes one person can make, and when I get to the end of them, then I’ll be through with them. That’s a very comforting thought.”
God I hope so. I keep making them, too.
For Anne to take things calmly would have been to change her nature. All “spirit and fire and dew,” as she was, the pleasures and pains of life came to her with trebled intensity. Marilla felt this and was vaguely troubled over it, realizing that the ups and downs of existence would probably bear hardly on this impulsive soul and not sufficiently understanding that the equally great capacity for delight might more than compensate. Therefore Marilla conceived it to be her duty to drill Anne into a tranquil uniformity of disposition as impossible and alien to her as to a dancing sunbeam in one of the brook shallows.
Daring was the fashionable amusement among the Avonlea small fry just then. It had begun among the boys, but soon spread to the girls, and all the silly things that were done in Avonlea that summer because the doers thereof were “dared” to do them would fill a book by themselves.
In his arms he carried Anne, whose head lay limply against his shoulder. At that moment Marilla had a revelation. In the sudden stab of fear that pierced her very heart she realized what Anne had come to mean to her. She would have admitted that she liked Anne — nay, that she was very fond of Anne. But now she knew as she hurried wildly down the slope that Anne was dearer to her than anything else on earth.
Those two were the best of friends and Matthew thanked his stars many a time and oft that he had nothing to do with bringing her up. That was Marilla’s exclusive duty; if it had been his he would have been worried over frequent conflicts between inclination and said duty. As it was, he was free to, “spoil Anne” — Marilla’s phrasing — as much as he liked. But it was not such a bad arrangement after all; a little “appreciation” sometimes does quite as much good as all the conscientious “bringing up” in the world.
Folks that has brought up children know that there’s no hard and fast method in the world that’ll suit every child. But them as never have think it’s all as plain and easy as Rule of Three — just set your three terms down so fashion, and the sum’ll work out correct. But flesh and blood don’t come under the head of arithmetic and that’s where Marilla Cuthbert makes her mistake. I suppose she’s trying to cultivate a spirit of humility in Anne by dressing her as she does; but it’s more likely to cultivate envy and discontent.
"It’s at times like this I’m sorry I’m not a model little girl; and I always resolve that I will be in future. But somehow it’s hard to carry out your resolutions when irresistible temptations come. Still, I really will make an extra effort after this.”
“She’s a bright child, Matthew. And she looked real nice too. I’ve been kind of opposed to this concert scheme, but I suppose there’s no real harm in it after all. Anyhow, I was proud of Anne tonight, although I’m not going to tell her so.” “Well now, I was proud of her and I did tell her so ‘fore she went upstairs,” said Matthew.
“I won’t mind writing that composition when its time comes,” sighed Diana. “I can manage to write about the woods, but the one we’re to hand in Monday is terrible. The idea of Miss Stacy telling us to write a story out of our own heads!”
“Why, it’s as easy as wink,” said Anne.
“It’s easy for you because you have an imagination,” retorted Diana, “but what would you do if you had been born without one? I suppose you have your composition all done?” Anne nodded, trying hard not to look virtuously complacent and failing miserably.
"All the girls do pretty well. Ruby Gillis is rather sentimental. She puts too much lovemaking into her stories and you know too much is worse than too little. Jane never puts any because she says it makes her feel so silly when she had to read it out loud. Jane’s stories are extremely sensible. Then Diana puts too many murders into hers. She says most of the time she doesn’t know what to do with the people so she kills them off to get rid of them. I mostly always have to tell them what to write about, but that isn’t hard for I’ve millions of ideas.”
“I think this story-writing business is the foolishest yet,” scoffed Marilla. “You’ll get a pack of nonsense into your heads and waste time that should be put on your lessons. Reading stories is bad enough but writing them is worse.”
“But we’re so careful to put a moral into them all, Marilla,” explained Anne. “I insist upon that. All the good people are rewarded and all the bad ones are suitably punished.
“Yes, it’s green,” moaned Anne. “I thought nothing could be as bad as red hair. But now I know it’s ten times worse to have green hair. Oh, Marilla, you little know how utterly wretched I am.”
“I little know how you got into this fix, but I mean to find out,” said Marilla. “Come right down to the kitchen — it’s too cold up here — and tell me just what you’ve done. I’ve been expecting something queer for some time. You haven’t got into any scrape for over two months, and I was sure another one was due. Now, then, what did you do to your hair?”
Marilla had done her work thoroughly and it had been necessary to shingle the hair as closely as possible. The result was not becoming, to state the case as mildly as may be. Anne promptly turned her glass to the wall. “I’ll never, never look at myself again until my hair grows,” she exclaimed passionately. Then she suddenly righted the glass. “Yes, I will, too. I’d do penance for being wicked that way. I’ll look at myself every time I come to my room and see how ugly I am.
Yeah. I understand the sentiment, even if I can't feel the sentiment. Shave the head so that not having hair doesn't bother you, that's my belief.
I prayed, Mrs. Allan, most earnestly, but I didn’t shut my eyes to pray, for I knew the only way God could save me was to let the flat float close enough to one of the bridge piles for me to climb up on it.
It was proper to pray, but I had to do my part by watching out and right well I knew.
God helps those who help themselves. The praying doesn't do crap without the action to follow it up.
It’s always wrong to do anything you can’t tell the minister’s wife. It’s as good as an extra conscience to have a minister’s wife for your friend.
"That’s the worst of growing up, and I’m beginning to realize it. The things you wanted so much when you were a child don’t seem half so wonderful to you when you get them.”
I didn’t mind promising not to read any more like it, but it was agonizing to give back that book without knowing how it turned out.
It’s really wonderful, Marilla, what you can do when you’re truly anxious to please a certain person.”
But we can’t have things perfect in this imperfect world, as Mrs. Lynde says. Mrs. Lynde isn’t exactly a comforting person sometimes, but there’s no doubt she says a great many very true things.
Ruby says she will only teach for two years after she gets through, and then she intends to be married. Jane says she will devote her whole life to teaching, and never, never marry, because you are paid a salary for teaching, but a husband won’t pay you anything, and growls if you ask for a share in the egg and butter money. I expect Jane speaks from mournful experience, for Mrs. Lynde says that her father is a perfect old crank, and meaner than second skimmings.
"But mostly when I’m with Mrs. Lynde I feel desperately wicked and as if I wanted to go and do the very thing she tells me I oughtn’t to do. I feel irresistibly tempted to do it. Now, what do you think is the reason I feel like that? Do you think it’s because I’m really bad and unregenerate?”
“If you are I guess I am too, Anne, for Rachel often has that very effect on me. I sometimes think she’d have more of an influence for good, as you say yourself, if she didn’t keep nagging people to do right. There should have been a special commandment against nagging."
“It’s nicer to think dear, pretty thoughts and keep them in one’s heart, like treasures. I don’t like to have them laughed at or wondered over."
“No, I wasn’t crying over your piece,” said Marilla, who would have scorned to be betrayed into such weakness by any poetry stuff.
Boys were to her, when she thought about them at all, merely possible good comrades. If she and Gilbert had been friends she would not have cared how many other friends he had nor with whom he walked. She had a genius for friendship; girl friends she had in plenty; but she had a vague consciousness that masculine friendship might also be a good thing to round out one’s conceptions of companionship and furnish broader standpoints of judgment and comparison.
"I’ve done my best and I begin to understand what is meant by the ‘joy of the strife.’ Next to trying and winning, the best thing is trying and failing."
For we pay a price for everything we get or take in this world; and although ambitions are well worth having, they are not to be cheaply won, but exact their dues of work and self-denial, anxiety and discouragement.
“There — there — don’t cry so, dearie. It can’t bring him back. It — it — isn’t right to cry so. I knew that today, but I couldn’t help it then. He’d always been such a good, kind brother to me — but God knows best.”
“Oh, just let me cry, Marilla,” sobbed Anne. “The tears don’t hurt me like that ache did. Stay here for a little while with me and keep your arm round me — so. I couldn’t have Diana stay, she’s good and kind and sweet — but it’s not her sorrow — she’s outside of it and she couldn’t come close enough to my heart to help me. It’s our sorrow — yours and mine. Oh, Marilla, what will we do without him?”
“We’ve got each other, Anne. I don’t know what I’d do if you weren’t here — if you’d never come. Oh, Anne, I know I’ve been kind of strict and harsh with you maybe — but you mustn’t think I didn’t love you as well as Matthew did, for all that. I want to tell you now when I can. It’s never been easy for me to say things out of my heart, but at times like this it’s easier. I love you as dear as if you were my own flesh and blood and you’ve been my joy and comfort ever since you came to Green Gables.”
Anne, new to grief, thought it almost sad that it could be so — that they could go on in the old way without Matthew. She felt something like shame and remorse when she discovered that the sunrises behind the firs and the pale pink buds opening in the garden gave her the old inrush of gladness when she saw them - that life still called to her with many insistent voices.
Hardest thing about death is that life goes on.
“Josie is a Pye,” said Marilla sharply, “so she can’t help being disagreeable. I suppose people of that kind serve some useful purpose in society, but I must say I don’t know what it is any more than I know the use of thistles. Is Josie going to teach?”
For reasons I haven't quite figured out, I decided not long ago to fill in the gaps in my young adult life's reading choices, and read a number of "classic" children's (young adult these days) books. Since I had a travel day today, and finished up the other book I was reading, and not wanting to read any of my already started books, I picked up Bridge to Terabithia.
And finished it today, too. Go me.
This isn't an unknown book for people of a certain age. The author's son was able to make it into a movie, which increased its exposure. The book is banned from many schools because, for some reason that is completely incomprehensible to me, some parents believe hiding death from a kid is a Good Thing™. Of note, it is NOT a Good Thing™. It is actively a Bad Thing™. Death is a part of life, and accepting that sooner than later makes the life part of this cycle a better experience, more sweeter, more cherished, more worthy.
Reading this book, I knew one of the two main kids died. I wasn't sure which one, nor was I sure of the circumstances. That the story is based (broad strokes) on the author's son's childhood experience makes this story more sad. When should a parent ever outlive her child? Okay, if the child is evil, fine, yes. Exceptional case.
As I knew the climax of the plot, I wasn't overwhelmed when it happened. That, and I was heading to an event with a lot of people I don't know, meant my desire not to cry unabashedly was stronger. I didn't cry, but I did feel that loss, and that numbness after the loss.
A book worth reading at some point in a person's life. Unsure when would be a good time, to be honest.
The parents being as good as they can be, but not perfect, was consistent with with the previous book, which made it a two book trend, amusing me somewhat. What? people aren't perfect? And we hear them yelling at their kids? Huh. Real Life™
Quotes from the book:
His straw-colored hair flapped hard against his forehead, and his arms and legs flew out every which way. He had never learned to run properly, but he was long-legged for a ten year-old, and no one had more grit than he.
Because grit was important, even back in the 1970s.
Miss Edmunds would play her guitar and let the kids take turns on the autoharp, the triangles, cymbals, tambourines, and bongo drum. Lord, could they ever make a racket!
Okay, I'm laughing now, because I remember the autoharp, triangles, and making a racket in music class.
All the teachers hated Fridays. And a lot of the kids pretended to. But Jess knew what fakes they were. Sniffing "hippie" and "peacenik" even though the Vietnam War was over and it was supposed to be OK again to like peace, the kids would make fun of Miss Edmunds' lack of lipstick or the cut of her jeans.
Okay to like peace. What a f'd up world we live in that peace wouldn't be okay to like.
She punched him in the shoulder. "Let's go out and find some giants or walking dead to fight. I'm sick of Janice Avery."
OMG I had no idea that "Walking Dead" was a phrase that's forty some years old!
He helped May Belle wrap her wretched little gifts and even sang "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town" with her and Joyce Ann. Then Joyce Ann cried because they had no fireplace and Santa wouldn't be able to find the way, and suddenly he felt sorry for her going to Millsburg Plaza and seeing all those things and hoping that some guy in a red suit would give her all her dreams.
The longing of a little kid, that longing that never goes away.
"That whole Jesus thing is really interesting, isn't it?"
"What d'you mean?"
"All those people wanting to kill him when he hadn't done anything to hurt them." She hesitated. "It's really kind of a beautiful story-like Abraham Lincoln or Socrates -- or Aslan."
And yet another testiment to the horror in human nature.
He wondered what it would be like to have a mother whose stories were inside her head instead of marching across the television screen all day long.
A commentary on television from the 1970s, imagine what it would be like to have a life that wasn't about consuming but about producing. It is quite wonderful, tbh.
You think it's so great to die and make everyone cry and carry on. Well, it ain't.
Leslie had died, and Jess was angry at her.
He, Jess, was the only one who really cared for Leslie. But Leslie had failed him. She went and died just when he needed her the most. She went and left him. She went swinging on that rope just to show him that she was no coward. So there, Jess Aarons. She was probably somewhere fight now laughing at him. Making fun of him like he was Mrs. Myers. She had tricked him. She had made him leave his old self behind and come into her world, and then before he was really at home in it but too late to go back, she had left him stranded there like an astronaut wandering about on the moon. Alone.
And this is where I did allow myself to cry a bit.
"Everybody gets seared sometimes, May Belle. You don't have to be ashamed." He saw a flash of Leslie's eyes as she was going in to the girls' room to see Janice Avery. "Everybody gets scared."
She looked at him in disbelief. "But you weren't scared."
"Lord, May Belle, I was shaking like Jello."
"You're just saying that."
Sometimes like the Barbie doll you need to give people something that's for them, not just something that makes you feel good giving it.
Okay, I have had a copy of this book in my to-read pile since about six months after it was published. For those of you who have access to the internet, you can figure out I have had this book since around November of 2003. Bharat handed me his copy, I still have his copy. I still feel guilty about having his copy, as he is one of those friends who dropped out of my life and I haven't spoken with except for an awkward moment at an ultimate game four years ago except that I don't think I actually spoke to him, I just took a picture of him and his girlfriend before I even knew he was divorced.
Yeah, I read it.
This is the third book I've read recently that has an autistic protagonist. The first book was entertaining (the sequel less so, as it dealt with people in power abusing it). The second one (-ish) was about autistic people in adult situations, but everything works out.
This book was about an autistic teen, but portrays the difficulties of those around an autistic person actually dealing with said autistic person. A mother who can't hug her son. A father doing his best. And a teenager driving everyone around him batshit mad, angry, frustrated. Yes, they still love him, of course his parents love him, but dealing with an autistic person is not an easy task, and this book made me incredibly uncomfortable with the clarity of that experience. We want to believe that parents of autistic kids are angels, but they are human like everyone else. This book gives the reader a glimpse of how hard their lives can be.
Mom liked the book. Pretty sure she recommends it. I think I do, but am kinda iffy on it. For entertainment, no. For perspective, yes.
Now to get the book back to Bharat.
When this book dropped, I pinged Mom to let her know the next Reacher book was out. I'm not sure if she's still reading the Reacher books, but I am (just not watching the movies what a HORRIBLE casting, Cruise? MF so f'ing wrong, let me list the ways: not 6'5" even in lifts, not built like a line backer, not charismatic enough, too much hair, and did I mention not 6'5" built like a f'ing truck?).
I was surprised at how much I enjoyed this one. Half way through I pinged Mom to let her know that even if she had stopped reading the Reacher books, this was a good one worth reading. Because it is. It didn't have the obvious plot holes, it didn't give a bunch of stuff away, you aren't saying LOOK RIGHT OVER THERE, the action moves along, and Child got many of the elements of addiction just right.
Getting hit was a rare event for Reacher. And he intended to keep it rare. Not just vanity. Getting hit was inefficient. It degraded future performance.
“How frequently do you move around?”
“Do you think that’s a fitting way for a West Pointer to live?”
“I think it’s perfectly fitting.”
“In what sense?”
“We fought for freedom. This is what freedom looks like.”
“That’s all we’ve got. You think she went back there?”
“Depends,” Reacher said. “For some people, home is the first place they go. For others, it’s the last. What was she like?”
"She was pretty close to outstanding, without ever quite getting there. Never in the top five, always in the top ten. That kind of person."
Teddy Roosevelt, Reacher supposed, not Franklin. The great naturalist, except for when he was shooting things like tigers and elephants. People were complicated.
“You took a risk coming here.”
“Getting up in the morning is a risk. Anything could happen.”
"She never said what she was doing. They could go three months without talking.”
“Is that usual for twins?”
“Twins are siblings, same as anyone else.”
He propped himself on the pillow and watched his reflection in the mirror on the opposite wall. A distant figure. One of those days. Not just a military thing. Plenty of other professions felt the same way. Sometimes you woke up, and you knew for sure, from history and experience and weary intuition, that the brand new day would bring nothing good at all.
“I’m on the inside looking out. I can’t see myself. Sometimes I forget.”
“What did the shrinks say?”
“What would the 110th say?”
“Deal with it,” Reacher said. “It happened. It can’t un-happen. Most folks aren’t going to like it. Deep down humans haven’t been modern very long. But some won’t care. You’ll find them.”
Okay, I'm pretty sure this book came from some Book Riot list. I'm also pretty sure that if I'm ever going to conquer my reading list, I should stop looking at the Book Riot website. No, what am I saying, that won't help either.
I read this book quickly. It has Stephen-King-scare-the-crap-out-of-me moments in it. Totally scared myself awake to keep reading it moments.
The book is a mystery / horror book, with elements of the Ring movie in it. It draws on a Japanese legend that I had to look up, and was like, "Oh, of course there are a kabillion of these stories I don't know." I wouldn't recommend this book to my mom, who doesn't really like the suspenseful type of books, but I would recommend it to anyone who likes the gripping books of early King.
There's a follow-up book by the same author. I'm inclined to buy it, I enjoyed this one enough to warrant it. I have, however, Mount Books, and will likely read from there for a while.
We do not go gentle, as your poet encourages, into that good night.
Page 1 · Location 57
Talking about ghosts, love the reference.
... but when the image does not repeat itself soon, he begins to think and then to argue and then to dismiss, the way people do when they are seeking explanations for things that cannot be explained.
Page 4 · Location 90
When the dead are young and have once known love, they bring no malice.
Page 8 · Location 134
Collars are as much a form of slavery whether they encircle necks or wrists, whether they are as heavy as lead or as light as a ropestring.
Page 12 · Location 166
The previous owners left nothing of themselves here: no happiness, no grief, no pain. It is the best anyone can wish for in a place to stay.
Page 16 · Location 220
The great writer Motojirou-san said it best: ‘Sakura no ki no shita ni wa shitai ga umatte iru.’ - Dead bodies lie under the cherry tree.
Page 53 · Location 654
There is a thrill in relishing the suffering of strangers, and they hide their interest with worried faces.
Page 62 · Location 749
Ashes fall to ashes, and dust falls to dust whether bodies are buried with full honors underneath the earth or thrown onto the wayside and left to rot. Funerals seem less about comforting the souls of these dearly departed than about comforting the people they leave behind.
Page 111 · Location 1298
Yep. Hand the ghost a copy of Smoke Gets In Your Eyes.
Few people attend the cremation services. Few people in this part of the world knew the woman, and few are willing to look into those flames and be reminded of their own fragility.
Page 111 · Location 1302
But I have often found that people are strange because they have something most others lack.
Page 170 · Location 2003
"... But I don’t know what to do. I never asked to be a part of this.”
Page 171 · Location 2007
Few people have been asked to be a part of most not good things in their lives.
This is the final book in the Demon Cycle, and I enjoyed it.
It was longer than I expected it to be, but I had fair warning that it was going to be long, perhaps too many words. For the record, as wordy as Brett is, he doesn't compare to Rowling and her wordiness. Let's be clear, though, there was a lot of the book that could have been left out.
Told in the style of many different story lines all interweaving, cough Wheel of Time cough, cough Song of Ice and Fire cough, there were a couple story lines that just didn't add to the story. Ashia and Abban? "He still has a part to play." What part? There was no part. That entire storyline could have been dropped from the book, shortening the book by 17% (I made up that number), and increasing the reader's enjoyment by 11% (made that one up, too).
The part I found the most fascinating about the book, however, was my reactions to Renna. I did NOT want the hero of the story to be the uneducated, hick-in-the-derogatory-way, reckless, female character. I didn't want that AT ALL. There were no repercussions for her continually bad choices. Things "worked out." Yes, fiction, yes, good for her, yes, go Brett for making the woman the hero, but why did I have this reaction? That why is a fascinating topic for me to explore.
I liked this book more than the previous one. I'm annoyed a bit at the ending, but we all saw it coming, so I didn't end up throwing the book across the room which is good. Still. Not a fan of the ending.
If I were recommending these books, I'd suggest read the first book. If you're a HUGE fan, keep reading, otherwise, enjoy that you enjoyed the first book.
"None could prove they’d taken you to bed, but folk don’t need proof to whisper.”
“They never have,” Leesha said.
He considered himself above reproach and was offended by her mistrust.
Briar was Briar, and that wasn’t going to change. The path that made him who he was could not be unwalked.
How... stunningly stoic.
"Write our own destinies, Leesh, long as we got the stones to do it.”
“Don’t think anything will,” Arlen said. “Belief is stubborn as a rock demon.”
Arlen looked at him, incredulous. “Taught me yourself Deliverers don’t exist.”
“I taught no such thing,” Ragen said. “I said when humanity needed them, great generals rose to lead us. Their existence is documented, Arlen. It’s a fact. The Creator didn’t come down from Heaven to confirm it then, and I don’t expect He will now, but that doesn’t change the fact that our whole world has shifted because Arlen Bales had a stubborn streak.”
“How you gonna cry over someone you barely knew?” Renna asked.
“Oh, sister,” Shanvah said sadly. “Tears are never hard to find. Tell me of the son of Jessum.”
"... A portion of infinity remains infinite.”
She ran to him, weeping with joy, and he returned the embrace as she threw her arms around him. For a moment, he allowed himself to forget his purpose, to be her son one last time, safe in his mother’s arms.
I understand this, even as an adult these many years, the safety one can feel in one's mother's arms.
Jardir scowled. “I was a fool to leave Hasik alive. Every time I have shown him mercy, I have regretted it.”
“Mercy should never be cause for regret,” Inevera said.
Her aura was as bright as any Jardir had seen short of the Par’chin and his jiwah, but… clean. Unburdened by compromise, failure, or shame.
Can you imagine? An aura unburdened?
“How long ago was that?” Arlen asked.
Norine shrugged. “Fifty years, give or take.”
“Long time to carry a grudge,” Arlen said.
“Hard feelings only get heavier with the years,” Jeph said. “Till the weight of it breaks you, and you snap.”
“You listen to me, Jeph Young,” Arlen said. “As your brother and your elder. Ent no such thing as a Deliverer. That’s work every man and woman’s got to do for themselves. Can’t count on someone to save you from the demons. Learn to save yourself—and others, when you can.”
“All have our low moments,” Arlen said. “Things we carry even when folk around us forget, or never knew.”
“Had every right to carry a grudge,” Jeph said.
“Ay, maybe, but grudges never made anyone a better man,” Arlen said.
“Mistakes are easy to see, when you look back.”
Amon was no more receptive than the station officers. “Harden’s Grove has stood for a hundred years, Ragen. We’re not going to abandon everything we’ve built over some demon attacks a week’s ride to the south.”
Okay, this is a complete logic fallacy. "It hasn't happened, so it won't happen." Hand the man a copy of The Black Swan, please.
“Perhaps I will try.” She reached for a stalk and took a bite. The herb was bitter, but so were many things in life.
“My master used to say Everam draws power from our courage. Will is the one gift we can give to aid Him in His never-ending battle against Nie. Everam guides us, but the choice to be fearless or a coward, to fight or flee,” Ashia reached out, touching his chest, “this comes from within.”
“’Sides.” The Par’chin shook his head. “Startin’ to think it don’t matter if Everam’s in the sky or in your imagination. It’s a voice that tells you to act right, and that’s more than most folk have.”
Nonetheless, the Krasians to her left made her nervous. Favah was not one to wear trousers or sit atop a horse. She was carried across the Hollow on a palanquin borne by six muscular eunuchs in Sharum black, their wrists and ankles bound in golden shackles. The men ran in perfect unison, easily keeping pace with the horses. None was breathing hard as they set the palanquin down and opened the curtains for the ancient dama’ting. The six slaves were a gesture of defiance from Favah, a reminder that she would not be bullied, even if she had agreed to Leesha’s terms. There is no slavery in the Hollow, Favah had been told, but she paraded the men before the Hollowers, daring a confrontation. Leesha knew better than to take the bait. The men, mutilated and conditioned by the dama’ting, did not wish for freedom. Indeed, their auras sang with pride. In addition to their mistress’ weight, the men carried spears and shields of warded glass, and Creator only knew how many other weapons about their person. If Leesha or anyone else tried to free them, there would be blood.
Conditioning from childhood is hard to break. Ask me about Jesus being the son of God, and I'll explain.
“Too good, yet never good enough. I’ve made my peace with it, but it never stops stinging.”
Erny shook his head. “I love her, Leesha. Always have, always will. There’s never been another woman in the world to me. I’m not going anywhere. Not from this bench, not from this marriage. We said our vows…”
“But only you keep them,” Leesha said.
Erny looked at her. “Is that the only time we should keep our promises, Leesha? When others do? I taught you better than that.”
“I answered your every question truthfully, Explorer. Blame yourself if you did not ask enough. I am your prisoner, not your friend.”
“Demons don’t have friends,” Renna growled.
“And we’re stronger for it.” Shanjat eyed Jardir. “No wasted sentiment leading to foolish action.”
“There is always choice, Renna am’Bales,” Inevera said. “It is the ultimate power, what makes the infinite futures finite. But Everam guides us to the right ones, like pieces on the board.” Renna rolled her eyes but said no more.
“Never in my adult life have I been without your counsel,” Jardir said. “I did not realize how much I had come to depend on it.”
“Is that your way of saying you miss me?”
“It is my way of saying I am afraid, jiwah. And that when you are near, I am less so.”
“A Sharum must always be ready to die, mistress,” Micha said. “We keep thoughts of it close to remember to always be prepared, to keep our spirits pure. To know that life is a fleeting gift of Everam, and death comes for us all. Inevera, when the lonely path opens to me, I will walk it without looking back.”
Thamos’ words came to her. There are times a leader must remain firm, even when they are in the wrong. Leesha hadn’t agreed at the time, but she saw the wisdom in it now.
Even the palm weeps, when the storm washes over it, Enkido once told her. The tears of Everam’s spear sisters are all the more precious for how seldom they fall.
This is book 1 of The Themis Files
This book was on my Amazon Wish List from a year or so ago. It was on some reading list I had read, likely a book riot list, but not on my immediate to-read stack. Sagan had it on our road trip, which is when I started reading it. I didn't finish it on the trip, so kept it to finish later. And, today was later.
I enjoyed this book. It is told in the piece-together reports from different people, told in an interview style, as popularized by World War Z. The characters were written well enough for me to "GRRRRRR!" at a couple, which is great. The ending was a surprise, but likely shouldn't have been given this is book one of a (planned) three book series.
I'll read the next book when it comes out.
"Most people don't really have a purpose, a sense of purpose anyway, beyond their immediate surroundings. They're important to their family, but it doesn't go much beyond that. Everyone is replaceable at work. Friendships come and go.
Part 3: 3: Headhunting File No. 120
"Love makes people do some crazy things."
Part 3: 3: Headhunting File No. 120
"One thing is certain. You are a survivor, Doctor Hans. You are definitely not one to throw away your life, your family, and your career, for something as petty as principles."
File No. 121
"They're bluffing. You know that."
"So are we. Bluffing doesn't mean what it used to. No one wants an all out war, and everyone knows it. Both sides know the other side doesn't want to fight so we push each other against the wall, a tiny bit further every time. It's all about saving face, but basically we're playing chicken, and both sides think they can do whatever they want because the other guy will never use its nuclear arsenal. It probably won't be today, but someday, someday, one of us is going to be terribly wrong."
File No. 129
"I never understand the merits of proportional response."
"I'm not sure there are any. It's just what we call human nature for people with too much firepower in their hands."
File No. 129
"I can understand your desire to distance yourself from this decision, given the current state of affairs, but you did make a choice. That choice will not cease to be yours because a lot of people might die as a result."
File No. 129
"Your an asshole, you know that? Isn't that a bit arbitrary?"
"Of course it is. Most things are."
File No. 129
"What he did, however horrifying, doesn't have to negate every other day of his life."
File No. 141
"What did you do then?"
"Nothin'. Our other boat stopped. We waited. Submarines are slow, clumsy things. A lot of what we do is just sit and wait. We're good at that."
File No. 143
"They told me she'd be courtmartialed. She must have been right, about her orders, I mean."
"I thought you said she would be ..."
"They also made it very clear to me that none of this ever happened. I don't think they'll put anyone on trial for something that didn't happen."
"Are you always this cynical? You seem to doubt a lot of what you were told."
"It's all cockamamie, if you ask me. Military intelligence. They'd come up with these really farfetched stories, and just because we don't ask questions they think we're actually buying it. They forget they're talking to people who were trained not to ask questions. If it were up to me, I'd rather they just didn't tell me anything. It's less insulting than to be lied to."
File No. 143
"People often confuse leadership with managerial skills. I agree with their assessment. You certainly have the ability to inspire people. Minutae on the other hand might not be your forte."
File No. 229
"It's one thing to risk your own life. It's fairly easy to rationalize the deaths of strangers. To shoulder the death of a friend, someone you know, that's a completely different thing."
File No. 229
"I feel numb... After something this intense, everything else just... things that would have you up in arms before now seem so utterly trivial. Nothing really matters. You start to ignore little things because they're little things. You compromise, you rationalize. Soon you look at yourself in the mirror and you don't recognize the person staring back at you. But, you know, I'm alive, I'm okay. I wake up every day and I get out of bed thinking today might be just a bit better than yesterday. Most of the time it is."
File No. 229
"Most of their days are never going to change, no matter what. I suppose that's why people are disenchanted with politics. They expect whoever they elect to change their lives."
File No. 233
"... My deepest wish is for this discovery to redefine alterity for all of us."
"The concept of otherness. What I am is very much a function of what I am not. If the other is the Muslim world, then I am the Judeo-Christian world. If the other is from thousands of light years away, I am simply human. Redefined alterity and you erase boundaries."
File No. 233
"It pains me to say it, but I have always been thoroughly bewildered by North Korea. They cannot be threatened, as they feel themselves superior to the one making the threat. They cannot be reasoned with, and most importantly, they are one hundred percent convinced of their righteousness, so they cannot be bought. Meglomaniacs with delusions of granduer are notoriously difficult to handle, but how generations could follow one another is beyond me."
File No. 233
"If you fall love with someone, there is a good chance the person won't love you back. Hatred, though, is usually mutual. If you despise someone, it's pretty much a given they're also not your biggest fan."
File No. 250
"... I guess what I'm saying is, it's easier to be just one more soldier in a giant army than being the whole army by yourself."
"It does not matter if you are all alone or one in an army of thousands. You have a choice. You have always had a choice. You should be grateful to be in a position to make it when the stakes are so clear. They rarely are."
"I'm not sure I understand."
"You are in control of a formidable weapon, but one that is designed for close combat. This means that you will always see whomever you choose to kill. That is a clear choice. Destroying a bridge in a night incursion is a much harder decision to make, you just never took the time to think about it. Removing it could prevent enemy reinforcements from reaching the front line, that bridge could also be the only escape route for civilians. How many people will you save? How many will you send to their deaths? That is a complicated decision to make."
File No. 250
"I will say one more thing before you go. Stop worrying so much. Are you doing your best?"
"I fear my best may not be enough."
"Then you should come to peace with whatever comes. All you can do is try your best."
File No. 255
Whoa. Another non-fiction book. It's like my goal to finish all my started books is demonstrating I'm not a big fan of non-fiction books, post-school.
This book describes the exposure and investigation of the Stuxnet computer virus. Because the book is describing the virus, and its subsequent children, parents, and cousins, it has to give some background of the world as it existed when the virus was released. This particular form of story-telling, the form of chronological progression, makes the first part of this book slooooooooooooow. Rob warned me when he handed me the book, told me to keep going, it'll get better. The fact that I started this book in December of 2015, and am only now finishing it, testifies somewhat to how slow I found the beginning of the book.
The middle of the book, however, and the end, those went much faster. Around chapter eight or so, the story line picks up and becomes interesting and engaging.
If you have a good library and interest in this book, I recommend starting out with the audiobook version, to get through the first part, then switch to reading. The whole story is politically and technically fascinating.
That there are people who believe in making the computing world safe for the rest of us, despite some of the bad guys being on our own team, helps me sleep better at night. Not well, but better. That the world described in the book still exists and that we have Cheetoh instead of Obama is a terrifying prospect.
In amassing zero-day exploits for the government to use in attacks, instead of passing the information about holes to vendors to be fixed, the government has put critical-infrastructure owners and computer users in the United States at risk of attack from criminal hackers, corporate spies, and foreign intelligence agencies who no doubt will discover and use the same vulnerabilities for their own operations.
But it’s a government model that relies on keeping everyone vulnerable so that a targeted few can be attacked — the equivalent of withholding a vaccination from an entire population so that a select few can be infected with a virus.
Dagan was known to favor assassination as a political weapon.
Bencsáth’s heart was pounding as he clicked Send to e-mail the report. “I was really excited,” he says. “You throw down something from the hill, and you don’t know what type of avalanche there will be [ as a result ].”
On one, he’d circled the URL of a website he’d visited that contained the letters “en/us” — proof that the US government was watching his computer, he ...
Okay, I laughed out loud at this one. en/us is a designation to display a web page with US English, instead of say, Canadian English or UK English (you know, that color versus colour thing).
Another correspondent, a female cookbook author, sent Chien a few e-mails via Hushmail — an anonymous encrypted e-mail service used by activists and criminals to hide their identity.
I have to wonder why the "female" part of the author's identity had to be explicitly stated. Because male cookbook authors aren't technically clueless? Something about the balls make male cooks more technically sophisticated than women cooks?
A nuclear-armed Iran, he said, would be “a grave threat” to peace not just in the Middle East, but around the world. 37 He promised that under his leadership all options would remain on the table to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons. Although in essence this meant a military option as well, Obama, like Bush, wanted to avoid a military engagement at all costs.
"Avoid a military engagement at all costs."
This isn't something I think I hear nearly enough. The cost of war is incredible. It destroys people, the victors and the defeated. Everyone but the arms dealers who don't see the results of their product are damaged in some way.
But don't tell my dead brother that. He thinks violence solves all problems.
“Together with the international community, the United States acknowledges your right to peaceful nuclear energy — we insist only that you adhere to the same responsibilities that apply to other nations,” he said. “We are familiar with your grievances from the past — we have our own grievances as well, but we are prepared to move forward. We know what you’re against; now tell us what you’re for.”
“Faced with an extended hand,” Obama said, “Iran’s leaders have shown only a clenched fist.”
US military and intelligence agencies had been penetrating foreign systems in Iran and elsewhere, building stockpiles of digital weapons, and ushering in a new age of warfare, all without public discussion about the rules of engagement for conducting such attacks or the consequences of doing so.
Of all the nations that have a cyberwarfare program, however, the United States and Israel are the only ones known to have unleashed a destructive cyberweapon against another sovereign nation — a nation with whom it was not at war. In doing so, it lost the moral high ground from which to criticize other nations for doing the same and set a dangerous precedent for legitimizing the use of digital attacks to further political or national security goals.
Civil War general Robert E. Lee said famously that it was a good thing war was so terrible, “otherwise we should grow too fond of it.” The horrors and costs of war encourage countries to choose diplomacy over battle, but when cyberattacks eliminate many of these costs and consequences, and the perpetrators can remain anonymous, it becomes much more tempting to launch a digital attack than engage in rounds of diplomacy that might never produce results.
The targets most in danger from a digital attack in the United States are not just military systems but civilian ones — transportation, communication, and financial networks; food manufacturing and chemical plants; gas pipelines, water, and electric utilities; even uranium enrichment plants. 13
Any future use of digital weapons will likely be as an enhancement to conventional battle, not as a replacement for it. Critics of digital doomsayers also point to the fact that no catastrophic attack has occurred to date as evidence that the warnings are overblown. But others argue that no passenger jets had been flown into skyscrapers, either, before 9 / 11.
“For cyber deterrence to work,” Cartwright said in 2012, “you have to believe a few things : One, that we have the intent; two, that we have the capability; and three, that we practice — and people know that we practice.”
But while deterrence of this sort might work for some nations — as long as they believe an attack could be attributed to them — irrational actors, such as rogue states and terrorist groups, aren’t deterred by the same things that deter others.
Though one can argue that the 9 / 11 attacks required at least as much planning and coordination as a destructive cyberattack would require, a well-planned digital assault — even a physically destructive one — would likely never match the visual impact or frightening emotional effect that jets flying into the Twin Towers had.
Richard Clarke, former cybersecurity czar under the Bush administration and a member of the panel, later explained the rationale for highlighting the use of zero days in their report. “If the US government finds a zero-day vulnerability, its first obligation is to tell the American people so that they can patch it, not to run off [ and use it ] to break into the Beijing telephone system,” he said at a security conference. “The first obligation of government is to defend.” 40
Under the new policy, any time the NSA discovers a major flaw in software, it must disclose the vulnerability to vendors and others so the flaw can be patched. But the policy falls far short of what the review board had recommended and contains loopholes. 43 It applies only to flaws discovered by the NSA, without mentioning ones found by government contractors, and any flaw that has “a clear national security or law enforcement” use can still be kept secret by the government and exploited. The review board had said exploits should be used only on a temporary basis and only for “high priority intelligence collection” before being disclosed.
Then in 2012, the president signed a secret directive establishing some policies for computer network attacks, the details of which we know about only because Edward Snowden leaked the classified document. 50 Under the directive, the use of a cyberweapon outside a declaration of war requires presidential approval, but in times of war, military leaders have advance approval to take quick action at their discretion.
The presidential directive addresses only the military’s use of digital operations, however. A list of exceptions in the document excludes intelligence agencies like the NSA and CIA from it, as well as law enforcement agencies like the FBI and Secret Service.
Really now, the previous book I read cured me of my current non-fiction streak (of five books! wow!). I really needed a good, fun read to put the enjoyment back in my obsessive daily reading. I had little surprise that Johnson's Longmire would do the trick.
I enjoyed the book. I read a few reviews of the book where the readers were complaining about the cliff-hanger at the end. It didn't bother me. There were two intertwined plots happening in the book, one from 1972 on the Western Star, a train, and the other in contemporary time, which was a continuation of the previous arch-nemesis Longmire books. The first plot's mystery was clever, with a few good misdirections. That Longmire knew more than the reader is fine. The modern-time plot is fine, nothing terribly surprising.
There were fewer hit-you-in-the-gut quotable lines in this book, which is also fine. I enjoyed the book. I'll keep reading the Longmire series. The TV series? Garbage, not watching that any more, as it ruins the book Longmire.
“I can reconcile my devotion to the law and the knowledge that a lawful course can sometimes be immoral.”
“You want to know what I learned in Vietnam? I learned that if you’re lucky, I mean really lucky, you find the one thing you want in life and then you go after it; you give up everything else because all the rest of that stuff really doesn’t matter.”
“Then what should I do?” He dropped the remains of his unsatisfactory sandwich into a brown paper bag and wiped the corner of his mouth with a folded paper towel.
“The hardest thing in the world—nothing. The wheels of justice grind slow but exceedingly fine.”
“You may not always win the war, Walt, but it’s good to know you fought the battle.”
“Trees teach us patience, but grass teaches us persistence.”
“And what did grapes teach you?”
“Wine, which assists with both.”
“Where you headed, and what are you gonna do?” I stood there for a moment and then forcefully placed the star in his hand, before walking away.
“Nowhere and nothing.”
He called after me. “Well, there ain’t no hurry about nowhere and nothing—they’re always out there waitin’.”
“In my limited experience with politicians, I have learned that you do not have to be right all the time, but that it is absolutely essential to never appear wrong.”
“Was he a good guy?” I leaned against the side of her truck and studied her.
I glanced back at Vic and Henry, leaning on the fender of the rental car parked just behind Pamela’s trailer. “Yep, he was one of the best.”
“My mother hardly ever talked about him.”
“Sometimes that’s the way people deal with the pain of losing a loved one.”
“Would you like to call her?” Vic pointed at the utility. “There’s a phone with a cord but it is nonrotary—do you need me to push the buttons for you?”
They filed out after giving me hard looks, but I’d had hard looks thrown at me before and had found they bounced off pretty easily.
I remembered my father telling me that you knew you were a man when everything went bad and suddenly all eyes were on you for help.
I’d found that few people give up the chance to explain themselves, no matter what the reason or environs.
“Most people go through their lives doin’ whatever it is that comes along, but every once in a while we stumble onto what it is we’re supposed to do.”
This book is awful.
As far as I can tell, anyone who really likes this book, who reads it crtically and tries to follow up with the data presented, is suffering from the Murray Gell-Mann amnesia effect. I can't explain why so many people like and even recommend this book otherwise.
It is full of wild, unsupported statements, blatant lies, and far-fetched predictions. After having recently read The Black Swan, I'm even more disgusted by this book and Ridley's predictions and arguments for everything is great.
The main take aways from this book:
1. Specialization encouraged innovation.
2. Relatively easy commerce is the road to a better future.
3. Because we haven't run out of finite resources yet, we won't run out of finite resources.
Yeah, that last one was more than a little surprising to me, too. Yet, chapter after chapter, this is the underlying message he brings.
Here's the ad hominem attack, just to get it out of the way: Ridley appears to suck as a scientific editor and an economist. Based on his work history, he lost a lot of money because he was unable to accurately assess risks. Based on this book, he doesn't understand how good science works, where you have a hypothesis, you find reproducable evidence to support your hypothesis, you look for evidence that refutes your hypothesis, then you conclude with a working theory. Instead, Ridley likes the Gladwell approach to sounding scientific: make claims using stories as support. As Ben commented, the plural of anecdote is not data.
That out of the way, the way that Ridley either fails to provide a citation for his statement, hides his citations making them difficult to verify, or cites works that don't provide data for review makes even the statements that I want to believe suspect.
I disliked this book so much. It is the first book I've finished that I rate "burn" since I published my book reviews scale. So, why did I finish it? I was hoping that because this book was so highly recommended, it would redeem itself in the end. It did not.
Burn every copy you find.
Extracted parts of the book with my commentary. Too long for this page.
Okay, this book is one that I believe every person should read. If you want to read this book, and you don't have access to the book from your library, in paper, digital, or audiobook format, and I know you some way, I will loan you my copy or buy you a copy. If you
arewere my older brother, I will express ship this book to you, as I believe you would benefit greatly from this book.
Taleb talks about how statistics lie, but specifically how events so far outside of the normal, or our experience, cannot be predicted. He talks about how the Black Swan events, those rare experiences that can't be predicted, demonstrate how
And he goes into a number of logic fallacies that everyone should know, but really most people don't. He shows how even when we think we're aware of them, we often aren't. Which really means we're human. And fallable.
One of the features of this book that I found annoying was the self-references to "this book." I'm not a fan of the "In this book, I am going to describe" style of writing, or the "hey, I'm going to mention this thing, but not talk about it until later" way of introducing related topics. It's how this book is written, and while I find it annoying, once I accepted it (after the second occurance), it was fine.
Again, strongly recommend, let me buy you a copy of, this book.
The central idea of this book concerns our blindness with respect to randomness, particularly the large deviations: Why do we, scientists or nonscientists, hotshots or regular Joes, tend to see the pennies instead of the dollars? Why do we keep focusing on the minutiae, not the possible significant large events, in spite of the obvious evidence of their huge influence?
See? Even before the prologue is fully underway, we have "this book." I am giggling at it already.
Isn’t it strange to see an event happening precisely because it was not supposed to happen?
Think about the “secret recipe” to making a killing in the restaurant business. If it were known and obvious, then someone next door would have already come up with the idea and it would have become generic.
Taleb is talking about how we justify things looking backward, a hindsight fallacy of sources.
Consider the Indian Ocean tsunami of December 2004. Had it been expected, it would not have caused the damage it did— the areas affected would have been less populated, an early warning system would have been put in place. What you know cannot really hurt you.
What is surprising is not the magnitude of our forecast errors, but our absence of awareness of it. This is all the more worrisome when we engage in deadly conflicts: wars are fundamentally unpredictable (and we do not know it).
And BOOM. This.
We will see that, contrary to social-science wisdom, almost no discovery, no technologies of note, came from design and planning— they were just Black Swans. The strategy for the discoverers and entrepreneurs is to rely less on top-down planning and focus on maximum tinkering and recognizing opportunities when they present themselves.
Who gets rewarded, the central banker who avoids a recession or the one who comes to “correct” his predecessors’ faults and happens to be there during some economic recovery? Who is more valuable, the politician who avoids a war or the one who starts a new one (and is lucky enough to win)?
This question is illustrative of a fundamental problem of incentives. One isn't incentivized to prevent ills, one is incentivized to fix them.
What I call Platonicity, after the ideas (and personality) of the philosopher Plato, is our tendency to mistake the map for the territory, to focus on pure and well-defined “forms,” whether objects, like triangles, or social notions, like utopias (societies built according to some blueprint of what “makes sense”), even nationalities. When these ideas and crisp constructs inhabit our minds, we privilege them over other less elegant objects, those with messier and less tractable structures (an idea that I will elaborate progressively throughout this book).
Note that I am not relying in this book on the beastly method of collecting selective “corroborating evidence.” For reasons I explain in Chapter 5, I call this overload of examples naïve empiricism— successions of anecdotes selected to fit a story do not constitute evidence. Anyone looking for confirmation will find enough of it to deceive himself— and no doubt his peers.* The Black Swan idea is based on the structure of randomness in empirical reality.
O. M. G. A book NOT in Gladwell's style? SIGN. ME. UP.
Also, likely part of the reason I like this book so much. It doesn't rely on anecdotes to prove things. It uses stories to move the book along and tie different elements together, but not as "proof" of things.
The writer Umberto Eco belongs to that small class of scholars who are encyclopedic, insightful, and nondull. He is the owner of a large personal library (containing thirty thousand books), and separates visitors into two categories: those who react with “Wow! Signore professore dottore Eco, what a library you have! How many of these books have you read?” and the others— a very small minority— who get the point that a private library is not an ego-boosting appendage but a research tool. Read books are far less valuable than unread ones. The library should contain as much of what you do not know as your financial means, mortgage rates, and the currently tight real-estate market allow you to put there. You will accumulate more knowledge and more books as you grow older, and the growing number of unread books on the shelves will look at you menacingly. Indeed, the more you know, the larger the rows of unread books. Let us call this collection of unread books an antilibrary.
Um... yes, that's what I'm building.
We thus managed to live in peace for more than a millennium almost devoid of bloodshed: our last true problem was the later troublemaking crusaders, not the Moslem Arabs. The Arabs, who seemed interested only in warfare (and poetry) and, later, the Ottoman Turks, who seemed only concerned with warfare (and pleasure), left to us the uninteresting pursuit of commerce and the less dangerous one of scholarship (like the translation of Aramaic and Greek texts).
I recall being at the center of the riot, and feeling a huge satisfaction upon my capture while my friends were scared of both prison and their parents. We frightened the government so much that we were granted amnesty.
Had I concealed my participation in the riot (as many friends did) and been discovered, instead of being openly defiant, I am certain that I would have been treated as a black sheep. It is one thing to be cosmetically defiant of authority by wearing unconventional clothes— what social scientists and economists call “cheap signaling”— and another to prove willingness to translate belief into action.
It may be that the invention of gunfire and powerful weapons turned what, in the age of the sword, would have been just tense conditions into a spiral of uncontrollable tit-for-tat warfare.
This duration blindness in the middle-aged exile is quite a widespread disease. Later, when I decided to avoid the exile’s obsession with his roots (exiles’ roots penetrate their personalities a bit too deeply), I studied exile literature precisely to avoid the traps of a consuming and obsessive nostalgia. These exiles seemed to have become prisoners of their memory of idyllic origin— they sat together with other prisoners of the past and spoke about the old country, and ate their traditional food while some of their folk music played in the background. They continuously ran counterfactuals in their minds, generating alternative scenarios that could have happened and prevented these historical ruptures, such as “if the Shah had not named this incompetent man as prime minister, we would still be there.” It was as if the historical rupture had a specific cause, and that the catastrophe could have been averted by removing that specific cause. So I pumped every displaced person I could find for information on their behavior during exile. Almost all act in the same way.
I felt closer to my roots during times of trouble and experienced the urge to come back and show support to those left behind who were often demoralized by the departures— and envious of the fair-weather friends who could seek economic and personal safety only to return for vacations during these occasional lulls in the conflict. I was unable to work or read when I was outside Lebanon while people were dying, but, paradoxically, I was less concerned by the events and able to pursue my intellectual interests guilt-free when I was inside Lebanon.
Categorizing is necessary for humans, but it becomes pathological when the category is seen as definitive, preventing people from considering the fuzziness of boundaries, let alone revising their categories.
The problem of overcausation does not lie with the journalist, but with the public. Nobody would pay one dollar to buy a series of abstract statistics reminiscent of a boring college lecture. We want to be told stories, and there is nothing wrong with that— except that we should check more thoroughly whether the story provides consequential distortions of reality.
We learn from repetition — at the expense of events that have not happened before. Events that are nonrepeatable are ignored before their occurrence, and overestimated after (for a while). After a Black Swan, such as September 11, 2001, people expect it to recur when in fact the odds of that happening have arguably been lowered. We like to think about specific and known Black Swans when in fact the very nature of randomness lies in its abstraction.
Update: this is what is happening to my older brother. CLEAR TEXT BOOK CASE.
We are often told that we humans have an optimistic bent, and that it is supposed to be good for us. This argument appears to justify general risk taking as a positive enterprise, and one that is glorified in the common culture. Hey, look, our ancestors took the challenges— while you, NNT, are encouraging us to do nothing (I am not). We have enough evidence to confirm that, indeed, we humans are an extremely lucky species, and that we got the genes of the risk takers. The foolish risk takers, that is. In fact, the Casanovas who survived.
The reference point argument is as follows: do not compute odds from the vantage point of the winning gambler (or the lucky Casanova, or the endlessly bouncing back New York City, or the invincible Carthage), but from all those who started in the cohort.
I wish people would understand this about statistics and luck and experiments. You can't look at only success, you have to look at failures, too.
We have to accept the fuzziness of the familiar “because” no matter how queasy it makes us feel (and it does makes us queasy to remove the analgesic illusion of causality). I repeat that we are explanation-seeking animals who tend to think that everything has an identifiable cause and grab the most apparent one as the explanation. Yet there may not be a visible because; to the contrary, frequently there is nothing, not even a spectrum of possible explanations. But silent evidence masks this fact. Whenever our survival is in play, the very notion of because is severely weakened. The condition of survival drowns all possible explanations.
And it is why we have Black Swans and never learn from their occurrence, because the ones that did not happen were too abstract.
We love the tangible, the confirmation, the palpable, the real, the visible, the concrete, the known, the seen, the vivid, the visual, the social, the embedded, the emotionally laden, the salient, the stereotypical, the moving, the theatrical, the romanced, the cosmetic, the official, the scholarly-sounding verbiage (b******t), the pompous Gaussian economist, the mathematicized crap, the pomp, the Académie Française, Harvard Business School, the Nobel Prize, dark business suits with white shirts and Ferragamo ties, the moving discourse, and the lurid. Most of all we favor the narrated.
Alas, we are not manufactured, in our current edition of the human race, to understand abstract matters— we need context. Randomness and uncertainty are abstractions. We respect what has happened, ignoring what could have happened. In other words, we are naturally shallow and superficial— and we do not know it. This is not a psychological problem; it comes from the main property of information. The dark side of the moon is harder to see; beaming light on it costs energy. In the same way, beaming light on the unseen is costly in both computational and mental effort.
First, we are demonstrably arrogant about what we think we know. We certainly know a lot, but we have a built-in tendency to think that we know a little bit more than we actually do, enough of that little bit to occasionally get into serious trouble. We shall see how you can verify, even measure, such arrogance in your own living room.
I remind the reader that I am not testing how much people know, but assessing the difference between what people actually know and how much they think they know.
The simple test above suggests the presence of an ingrained tendency in humans to underestimate outliers— or Black Swans. Left to our own devices, we tend to think that what happens every decade in fact only happens once every century, and, furthermore, that we know what’s going on.
.. additional knowledge of the minutiae of daily business can be useless, even actually toxic, ...
Show two groups of people a blurry image of a fire hydrant, blurry enough for them not to recognize what it is. For one group, increase the resolution slowly, in ten steps. For the second, do it faster, in five steps. Stop at a point where both groups have been presented an identical image and ask each of them to identify what they see. The members of the group that saw fewer intermediate steps are likely to recognize the hydrant much faster. Moral? The more information you give someone, the more hypotheses they will formulate along the way, and the worse off they will be. They see more random noise and mistake it for information.
Our forecast errors have traditionally been enormous, and there may be no reasons for us to believe that we are suddenly in a more privileged position to see into the future compared to our blind predecessors. Forecasting by bureaucrats tends to be used for anxiety relief rather than for adequate policy making.
Even if you agree with a given forecast, you have to worry about the real possibility of significant divergence from it.
We build toys. Some of those toys change the world.
What we call here soft historical sciences are narrative dependent studies. Popper’s central argument is that in order to predict historical events you need to predict technological innovation, itself fundamentally unpredictable. “Fundamentally” unpredictable? I will explain what he means using a modern framework. Consider the following property of knowledge: If you expect that you will know tomorrow with certainty that your boyfriend has been cheating on you all this time, then you know today with certainty that your boyfriend is cheating on you and will take action today, say, by grabbing a pair of scissors and angrily cutting all his Ferragamo ties in half. You won’t tell yourself, This is what I will figure out tomorrow, but today is different so I will ignore the information and have a pleasant dinner. This point can be generalized to all forms of knowledge. There is actually a law in statistics called the law of iterated expectations, which I outline here in its strong form: if I expect to expect something at some date in the future, then I already expect that something at present.
To me utopia is an epistemocracy, a society in which anyone of rank is an epistemocrat, and where epistemocrats manage to be elected. It would be a society governed from the basis of the awareness of ignorance, not knowledge. Alas, one cannot assert authority by accepting one’s own fallibility. Simply, people need to be blinded by knowledge— we are made to follow leaders who can gather people together because the advantages of being in groups trump the disadvantages of being alone. It has been more profitable for us to bind together in the wrong direction than to be alone in the right one.
But if you are dealing with aggregates, where magnitudes do matter, such as income, your wealth, return on a portfolio, or book sales, then you will have a problem and get the wrong distribution if you use the Gaussian, as it does not belong there. One single number can disrupt all your averages; one single loss can eradicate a century of profits.
We have moved from a simple bet to something completely abstract. We have moved from observations into the realm of mathematics. In mathematics things have a purity to them.
Likewise, the Gaussian bell curve is set so that 68.2 percent of the observations fall between minus one and plus one standard deviations away from the average. I repeat: do not even try to understand whether standard deviation is average deviation— it is not, and a large (too large) number of people using the word standard deviation do not understand this point. Standard deviation is just a number that you scale things to, a matter of mere correspondence if phenomena were Gaussian.
Recall our discussions in Chapter 14 on preferential attachment and cumulative advantage. Both theories assert that winning today makes you more likely to win in the future. Therefore, probabilities are dependent on history, and the first central assumption leading to the Gaussian bell curve fails in reality. In games, of course, past winnings are not supposed to translate into an increased probability of future gains— but not so in real life, which is why I worry about teaching probability from games. But when winning leads to more winning, you are far more likely to see forty wins in a row than with a proto-Gaussian.
Being on the receiving end of angry insults is not that bad; you can get quickly used to it and focus on what is not said. Pit traders are trained to handle angry rants. If you work in the chaotic pits, someone in a particularly bad mood from losing money might start cursing at you until he injures his vocal cords, then forget about it and, an hour later, invite you to his Christmas party. So you become numb to insults, particularly if you teach yourself to imagine that the person uttering them is a variant of a noisy ape with little personal control. Just keep your composure, smile, focus on analyzing the speaker not the message, and you’ll win the argument. An ad hominem attack against an intellectual, not against an idea, is highly flattering. It indicates that the person does not have anything intelligent to say about your message.
The only comment I found unacceptable was, “You are right; we need you to remind us of the weakness of these methods, but you cannot throw the baby out with the bath water,” meaning that I needed to accept their reductive Gaussian distribution while also accepting that large deviations could occur— they didn’t realize the incompatibility of the two approaches. It was as if one could be half dead. Not one of these users of portfolio theory in twenty years of debates, explained how they could accept the Gaussian framework as well as large deviations. Not one.
Along the way I saw enough of the confirmation error to make Karl Popper stand up with rage. People would find data in which there were no jumps or extreme events, and show me a “proof” that one could use the Gaussian.
The entire statistical business confused absence of proof with proof of absence.
Furthermore, people did not understand the elementary asymmetry involved: you need one single observation to reject the Gaussian, but millions of observations will not fully confirm the validity of its application. Why? Because the Gaussian bell curve disallows large deviations, but tools of Extremistan, the alternative, do not disallow long quiet stretches.
Now, elegant mathematics has this property: it is perfectly right, not 99 percent so. This property appeals to mechanistic minds who do not want to deal with ambiguities. Unfortunately you have to cheat somewhere to make the world fit perfect mathematics; and you have to fudge your assumptions somewhere.
This is where you learn from the minds of military people and those who have responsibilities in security. They do not care about “perfect” ludic reasoning; they want realistic ecological assumptions. In the end, they care about lives.
I am most often irritated by those who attack the bishop but somehow fall for the securities analyst— those who exercise their skepticism against religion but not against economists, social scientists, and phony statisticians. Using the confirmation bias, these people will tell you that religion was horrible for mankind by counting deaths from the Inquisition and various religious wars. But they will not show you how many people were killed by nationalism, social science, and political theory under Stalinism or during the Vietnam War. Even priests don’t go to bishops when they feel ill: their first stop is the doctor’s.
Half the time I hate Black Swans, the other half I love them. I like the randomness that produces the texture of life, the positive accidents, the success of Apelles the painter, the potential gifts you do not have to pay for. Few understand the beauty in the story of Apelles; in fact, most people exercise their error avoidance by repressing the Apelles in them.
I worry less about small failures, more about large, potentially terminal ones.
I worry less about advertised and sensational risks, more about the more vicious hidden ones. I worry less about terrorism than about diabetes, less about matters people usually worry about because they are obvious worries, and more about matters that lie outside our consciousness and common discourse
I worry less about embarrassment than about missing an opportunity.
Snub your destiny. I have taught myself to resist running to keep on schedule. This may seem a very small piece of advice, but it registered. In refusing to run to catch trains, I have felt the true value of elegance and aesthetics in behavior, a sense of being in control of my time, my schedule, and my life. Missing a train is only painful if you run after it! Likewise, not matching the idea of success others expect from you is only painful if that’s what you are seeking.
You stand above the rat race and the pecking order, not outside of it, if you do so by choice.
Quitting a high-paying position, if it is your decision, will seem a better payoff than the utility of the money involved (this may seem crazy, but I’ve tried it and it works). This is the first step toward the stoic’s throwing a four-letter word at fate. You have far more control over your life if you decide on your criterion by yourself.
Mother Nature has given us some defense mechanisms: as in Aesop’s fable, one of these is our ability to consider that the grapes we cannot (or did not) reach are sour. But an aggressively stoic prior disdain and rejection of the grapes is even more rewarding. Be aggressive; be the one to resign, if you have the guts.
It is more difficult to be a loser in a game you set up yourself. In Black Swan terms, this means that you are exposed to the improbable only if you let it control you. You always control what you do; so make this your end.
I really don't know where I heard of this book, or why I picked it up. I bought it in ebook format and made it through maybe 20 pages before I put it down, walked down to Powells, and bought a hardback copy of the book. This is the way I read books now: ebook from the library if I can, tree book if I can't, purchased ebook if neither of those. If I like the book, if it is a book I want to loan out, have on my bookshelf, or reread, I will buy it in paper format. If I want to keep it forever (for a short definition of "forever"), I will buy a hardback version. I knew in the first 20 pages, I wanted this one in hardback.
It did not disappoint.
This book is about finding what is essential in your life, and committing to only that, rejecting the parts that do not help you on your journey to what you find essential. Saying no is hard. Defining that is essential is hard. Having a good life is hard. This book helps in that journey. This book gives you permission, if you need it, to discard all the parts of your life holding you back, not helping, not worth your limited time.
I can't say I'm following all of the advice in the book, nor can I say all the advice or rah-rah-rah stories in the book are relevant to everyone or anyone. I found the book inspiring and life-changing. Let me buy you a copy.
The wisdom of life consists in the elimination of non-essentials. —Lin Yutang
One reason is that in our society we are punished for good behavior (saying no) and rewarded for bad behavior (saying yes). The former is often awkward in the moment, and the latter is often celebrated in the moment.
It is not just information overload; it is opinion overload.
This requires, not just haphazardly saying no, but purposefully, deliberately, and strategically eliminating the nonessentials, and not just getting rid of the obvious time wasters, but cutting out some really good opportunities as well.
As Peter Drucker said, “People are effective because they say ‘no,’ because they say, ‘this isn’t for me.’ ”
To eliminate nonessentials means saying no to someone. Often. It means pushing against social expectations. To do it well takes courage and compassion. So eliminating the nonessentials isn’t just about mental discipline. It’s about the emotional discipline necessary to say no to social pressure.
What if we stopped being oversold the value of having more and being undersold the value of having less?
To harness the courage we need to get on the right path, it pays to reflect on how short life really is and what we want to accomplish in the little time we have left. As poet Mary Oliver wrote: “Tell me, what is it you plan to do / with your one wild and precious life?”
Part I: Essence: What is the core mind-set of an Essentialist?
There are three deeply entrenched assumptions we must conquer to live the way of the Essentialist: “I have to,” “It’s all important,” and “I can do both.” Like mythological sirens, these assumptions are as dangerous as they are seductive. They draw us in and drown us in shallow waters.
To embrace the essence of Essentialism requires we replace these false assumptions with three core truths: “I choose to,” “Only a few things really matter,” and “I can do anything but not everything.” These simple truths awaken us from our nonessential stupor. They free us to pursue what really matters. They enable us to live at our highest level of contribution.
“If you could do only one thing with your life right now, what would you do?”
We often think of choice as a thing. But a choice is not a thing. Our options may be things, but a choice—a choice is an action. It is not just something we have but something we do.
Have you ever felt stuck because you believed you did not really have a choice? Have you ever felt the stress that comes from simultaneously holding two contradictory beliefs: “I can’t do this” and “I have to do this”? Have you ever given up your power to choose bit by bit until you allowed yourself to blindly follow a path prescribed by another person?
I’ll be the first to admit that choices are hard. By definition they involve saying no to something or several somethings, and that can feel like a loss.
William James once wrote, “My first act of free will shall be to believe in free will.”
Most people have heard of the “Pareto Principle,” the idea, introduced as far back as the 1790s by Vilfredo Pareto, that 20 percent of our efforts produce 80 percent of results.
As John Maxwell has written, “You cannot overestimate the unimportance of practically everything.”
It was an example of his Essentialist thinking at work when he said: “You have to look at every opportunity and say, ‘Well, no … I’m sorry. We’re not going to do a thousand different things that really won’t contribute much to the end result we are trying to achieve.’ ”
In the simplest terms, straddling means keeping your existing strategy intact while simultaneously also trying to adopt the strategy of a competitor.
The reality is, saying yes to any opportunity by definition requires saying no to several others.
“We value passion, innovation, execution, and leadership.” One of several problems with the list is, Who doesn’t value these things? Another problem is that this tells employees nothing about what the company values most. It says nothing about what choices employees should be making when these values are at odds.
To say they value equally everyone they interact with leaves management with no clear guidance on what to do when faced with trade-offs between the people they serve.
Unlike most corporate mission statements, the Credo actually lists the constituents of the company in priority order. Customers are first; shareholders are last.
As painful as they can sometimes be, trade-offs represent a significant opportunity. By forcing us to weigh both options and strategically select
the best one for us, we significantly increase our chance of achieving the outcome we want.
Essentialists see trade-offs as an inherent part of life, not as an inherently negative part of life. Instead of asking, “What do I have to give up?” they ask, “What do I want to go big on?” The cumulative impact of this small change in thinking can be profound.
Part II: Explore: How can we discern the trivial many from the vital few?
Essentialists spend as much time as possible exploring, listening, debating, questioning, and thinking. But their exploration is not an end in itself. The purpose of the exploration is to discern the vital few from the trivial many.
In this space he is able to think about the essential questions: what the company will look like in three to five years; what’s the best way to improve an already popular product or address an unmet customer need; how to widen a competitive advantage or close a competitive gap. He also uses the space he creates to recharge himself emotionally. This allows him to shift between problem-solving mode and the coaching mode expected of him as a leader.
“In that instant,” Ephron recalls, “I realized that journalism was not just about regurgitating the facts but about figuring out the point. It wasn’t enough to know the who, what, when, and where; you had to understand what it meant. And why it mattered.”
anyone. The best journalists do not simply relay information. Their value is in discovering what really matters to people.
Being a journalist of your own life will force you to stop hyper-focusing on all the minor details and see the bigger picture.
The best journalists, as Friedman shared later with me, listen for what others do not hear.
I also suggest that once every ninety days or so you take an hour to read your journal entries from that period.
Capture the headline. Look for the lead in your day, your week, your life. Small, incremental changes are hard to see in the moment but over time can have a huge cumulative effect.
Play, which I would define as anything we do simply for the joy of doing rather than as a means to an end—
Stuart Brown, the founder of the National Institute for Play, has studied what are called the play histories. “Play,” he says, “leads to brain plasticity, adaptability, and creativity.” As he succinctly puts it, “Nothing fires up the brain like play.”
First, play broadens the range of options available to us. It helps us to see possibilities we otherwise wouldn’t have seen and make connections we would otherwise not have made.
Play stimulates the parts of the brain involved in both careful, logical reasoning and carefree, unbound exploration.
In his book, Brown includes a primer to help readers reconnect with play. He suggests that readers mine their past
7. Play: Embrace the Wisdom of Your Inner Child >Page 90
Here’s a simple, systematic process you can use to apply selective criteria to opportunities that come your way. First, write down the opportunity. Second, write down a list of three “minimum criteria” the options would need to “pass” in order to be considered. Third, write down a list of three ideal or “extreme criteria” the options would need to “pass” in order to be considered. By definition, if the opportunity doesn’t pass the first set of criteria, the answer is obviously no. But if it also doesn’t pass two of your three extreme criteria, the answer is still no.
Instead, why not conduct an advanced search and ask three questions: “What am I deeply passionate about?” and “What taps my talent?” and “What meets a significant need in the world?”
Ask the more essential question that will inform every future decision you will ever make: “If we could be truly excellent at only one thing, what would it be?”
Have you ever felt a tension between what you felt was right and what someone was pressuring you to do? Have you ever felt the conflict between your internal conviction and an external action? Have you ever said yes when you meant no simply to avoid conflict or friction? Have you ever felt too scared or timid to turn down an invitation or request from a boss, colleague, friend, neighbor, or family member for fear of disappointing them?
If you have, you’re not alone. Navigating these moments with courage and grace is one of the most important skills to master in becoming an Essentialist—and one of the hardest.
So why is it so hard in the moment to dare to choose what is essential over what is nonessential? One simple answer is we are unclear about what is essential. When this happens we become defenseless. On the other hand, when we have strong internal clarity it is almost as if we have a force field protecting us from the nonessentials coming at us from all directions. With Rosa it was her deep moral clarity that gave her unusual courage of conviction.
You can apply zero-based budgeting to your own endeavors. Instead of trying to budget your time on the basis of existing commitments, assume that all bets are off. All previous commitments are gone. Then begin from scratch, asking which you would add today. You can do this with everything from the financial obligations you have to projects you are committed to, even relationships you are in. Every use of time, energy, or resources has to justify itself anew. If it no longer fits, eliminate it altogether.
By quietly eliminating or at least scaling back an activity for a few days or weeks you might be able to assess whether it is really making a difference or whether no one really cares.
Becoming an editor in our lives also includes knowing when to show restraint. One way we can do this is by editing our tendency to step in. When we are added onto an e-mail thread, for example, we can resist our usual temptation to be the first to reply all. When sitting in a meeting, we can resist the urge to add our two cents. We can wait. We can observe. We can see how things develop. Doing less is not just a powerful Essentialist strategy, it’s a powerful editorial one as well.
The question is this: What is the “slowest hiker” in your job or your life? What is the obstacle that is keeping you back from achieving what really matters to you? By systematically identifying and removing this “constraint” you’ll be able to significantly reduce the friction keeping you from executing what is essential.
I, unfortunately, left this book in my reading pile too long, and Moazam bought himself another copy. Or maybe fortunately, because I now have my own copy.
The book is the tale of Iyer's adventure in Japan to learn about Zen Buddhism "from the inside" while living in a monastery, along with his meeting Sachiko and their subsequent friendship. It is also about seeing a world the way you wish it to be, innocent and unmarred by pain, instead of grounded in a perhaps ugly reality.
Iyer's writing evokes the mood of his surroundings, of his experience, of the world around him, in a way that pulls the reader in. One can almost smell the cherry blossoms, feel the weight of the air heavy with water before the rain, the sounds of the city sleeping but not quite, the silence of the monastery, the disquiet energy of his companions seeking quiet in a place it can't be found.
I enjoyed the book. It wasn't a book I would have chosen for myself, which makes it a good choice by Moazam.
Many of them, he said, had wearied of the worldly aspects of the monastic life - the politicking, the emphasis on sheer willpower, the need for subservience, the stress on hierarchy: all the quallities, in short, that could make temples seem just like any other affluent, rule-bound Japanese company.
"I remember this one Zen teacher told me, soon after I arrived, that the appeal of Zen to many foreigners was like a mountain wrapped in mist. Much of what hte Westerners saw was ust the beautiful mist; but as soon as they began really doing Zen, they found that its essence was the mountain: hard rock."
Jizō, he explained, was the patron saint of children and of travelers (very apt, I thought, since very child is a born adventurer and every traveler a born-again child).
So perhaps these magazines, with their secular cult of the virgin, served only to encourage sex in the head, catering to that famously sentimental Japanese Romanticism that perfers the idea of a thing, its memory or promise, to the thing itself.
The monk wrote about his frissons of pleasur when passing an unknown woman on a night of moon viewing, and the protocol of making love; how "lamplight makes a beautiful face seem even more beautiful," and "beautiful hair, of all things in a woman, is most likely to catch a man's eye." Most unexpected of all, at least to me, were the priest's anxious obsessiveness with appearances ("A man should be trained in such a way that no woman will ever laugh at him"), and his strongly worded snipes about lower-class men and other "insufferable" or "disagreeable" types ("It is unattractive when people get in a society which is not their habitual one").
There was, I thought, a metaphor in this one: one could not plan epiphanies any more than one could plan surprise visits from one's friends.
All festivals, of course, aer acts of collective myth-making, chances for a nation to advertise its idealized image of itself.
Besides, the pairing of Western men and EAstern women was as natural as the partnership of sun and moon. Everyone falls in love with what he cannot begin to understand. And the other man's heart is always greener.
The Japanese were famous, I knew, for their delight in lacrimae rerum and for finding beauty mostly in sadness; indeed it was often noted that their word for "love" and their word for "grief" are homonyms - and almost synonyms too - in a culture that seems to love grief, of the wistful kind, and to grieve for love.
Foreigners meant freedom in a land where freedom itself was largely foreign.
Making our way towards the port, we looked out at the ocean liners, black in the chromium light, and sitting down on a log, the wind blustering all about us, we fell into our usual patter, she telling me how America was the land of the free, I telling her how much of what I saw in America was loneliness.
Encouraging people to realize their potential was an especially dangerous occupation in a country that taught them to fulfill their duty instead.
The moon, I recalled, was the one possession that even monks did not renounce. When he lost his house in a fire, the Zen poet Masahide wrote, he found occasion for new hope: he now enjoyed a better view of the rising moon.
And I remembered how the demon Mara, when he was trying to tempt the Buddha, having failed to bring him down with discontent or desire, unleashed his strongest weapon: love.
(When she asked her students to find three adjectives to describe themselves, a longtime foreign teacher told me, she had had to ban the use of "cheerful," or else every girl in class would use it.)
Besides, pretense could have its virtues. I thought back to the line in the Singer story "A Piece of Advice" I had read a few months before: "If you are not happy, act the happy man. Happiness will come later. If you are in despair, act as though you believe. Faith will come afterwards."
By the same token, a horse that imitates a champion thoroughbred may be classed as a thoroughbred, and the man who imitates Shun bleongs to Shun's company. A man who stuides wisdom, even insicncerly, should be called wise."
Partly, perhaps, she could only apprehend a foreigner - and romance - through the imported images she'd consumed, just as I could see her only through the keyhole of ancient Japanese love poems. But partly, too, I could see, with a pang, how keen she was to remove our lives from the everyday world, to lift them to some timeless, fairy-tale realm, immutable, impersishable, and immune from unhappy realities. Realism was reserved for what she did at home ...; our time was "dream time."
Sums up the book nicely.
I like this book. I have no idea where I found this book, but I would guess someone recommended it to me via BookRiot on some new release book list, because I've given up reading the classics for the moment, and going with whatever post-apocalyptic universe some author wants to provide.
And I got it.
The crazy part of this book was its setting in Edinburgh. I was in Edinburgh last month! I really like Edinburgh, and I keep hoping to find Troggie, three years later.
Anyway, it's lots of fun to be able to imagine the exact place where parts of the book are happening, even the part where "Yes, there were three strip clubs on the corner" and I stayed in a hotel all of 40 meters from that corner.
The story, oh boy, the story is great. The transformation of Ed, the main character, from the soft, modern man to the self-sufficient one at the end is the epitome of the hero's journey.
I enjoyed the book. I recommend it, it is worth reading if you like post-apocalyptic survival tales.
The line between any two points in your life is liable to be strange and unfathomable, a tangle of chance and tedium. But some points seem to have clearer connections, even ones that are far from each other, as if they have a direct line that bypasses the normal run of time.
I believe what I believe to make life less terrifying. That’s all beliefs are: stories we tell ourselves to stop being afraid. Beliefs have very little to do with the truth.
Don’t get me wrong—I loved my wife and I loved my kids, but that doesn’t mean to say I had to be happy about it.
We’re idiots. Creatures of denial who have learned not to be afraid of our closets. We need to see the monster in the room before we scream. The monster
I had made it very clear to Beth, very early in the proceedings, that I was the one who had to get up for work in the morning, that I was the one who needed my sleep, so no, I would most certainly not be helping with night feeds. I don’t think I’m the first man to have ever pulled this one. It’s a common enough shirk, one that conveniently ignores what work actually means for most men—i.e., comfy seats, tea and coffee,
cookies, nice food, adult conversation, the occasional pretty girl to ogle, the Internet, sealed toilet cubicles where you can catch a few winks without anyone noticing. Work. Not like being at home breastfeeding a newborn and entertaining a two-year-old all day.
I made it easy on myself, very easy. And that made it hard on Beth.
I have to keep telling myself not to look back so much. I’ll always regret not being a better father, a better husband, but I have to look forward or else I won’t get to the place I’m going, and I need beyond everything else to get there. The past is a foreign country, someone once said. They do things differently there. My past—everyone’s past—is now a different planet. It’s so different it almost makes no sense to remember it.
You want to know how long it takes for the fabric of society to break down? I’ll tell you. The same time it takes to kick a door down.
Ask anyone who has been in a crowd that becomes too strong, where bodies begin to crush you. Is your first instinct to lift others up, or to trample them down? That beast inside you, the one you think is tethered tightly to the post, the one you’ve tamed with art, love, prayer, meditation: it’s barely muzzled. The knot is weak. The post is brittle. All it takes is two words and a siren to cut it loose.
“Swap,” said Beth. She released Alice from her arms and lay her down against the damp pillow. We both stretched our numb legs as we stood up to change places. I passed Arthur across, and Beth released her right breast for him to suckle.
Doesn’t even know how his own house works… I sat back on the upturned box and switched off the flashlight. I watched the flame of the candle flicker in a breeze that could be either poisoning us or keeping us alive. I stared at a pipe that held either our salvation or our doom.
The world had designed me to be something. I was supposed to be a survival mechanism, a series of devices and instincts built, tested, and improved upon over billions of years. I was a sculpture of hydrogen, evolution’s cutting edge, a vessel of will, a self-adjusting, self-aware machine of infinite resource and potential. That was what the world had designed me to be. A survivor. A human being. A man.
To me, running was just showing off, a way for self-obsessed pricks to show how much more focused, disciplined, and healthy they were than you. How much more average they were than you—the subaverage gibbon who watched from a park bench with its prepacked lunch. Gyms were just as bad, except in gyms you had it coming at you from all angles: weight lifters out-lifting one another, cross-trainers quietly tapping up their speeds to match their neighbor’s, treadmillers pounding their feet to some nauseating soundtrack of their own puffed-up lives. Entire, windowless rooms crammed full of sweaty, unashamed, Lycra-clad peacockery.
Then I filled another, and another, before the flow finally began to stop, and I fell to my knees, sobbing in either relief or grief. I don’t know to this day which. There’s a fair chance I had been hoping for gas.
Behind us were the remains of the city center. Princes Street, Rose Street, George Street, Thistle Street, Queen Street, all now just black stumps and rubble. Cathedrals, churches, tenements, and houses, all gone.
If you’re reading this, then you’re probably in a better time and place than the one I’m in now. You probably didn’t witness the extent of the devastation. You probably don’t know how it feels to see that everything in your world has suddenly stopped, died, or vanished.
My own boundary was the size and shape of a small, stinking cellar for a little over two weeks after the strike.
Bryce laid down his glass. “Oh, I get it. I’m a big man, so I must be unfit?” “No, wait, that’s not what I…” He prodded one of his immense fingers in my direction. “I walk everywhere, sunshine. And I do a lot of shaggin’. What about you?”
“Knew it. Parents, you’re all the same. You’re all ‘I can’t do this, I can’t do that’ or ‘I can’t get my arse off the sofa; I’m tired’ or ‘My kids are so fuckin’ demanding, I don’t have time for anything else.’ Fuckin’ pathetic, the lot of youse. You chose to have the wee bastards.” He jabbed another finger at me and sat back in his seat. “You take your medicine!”
This, combined with a road that disappeared into the horizon, always made me think of driving through the midwestern states of America, despite the fact that I had never been.
“What about your wife?” I said.
“Died a few years back,” said Harvey.
“I’m sorry,” I said with that useless spasm we give to another’s grief.
“You don’t know what protection means,” she said. “You don’t know what not having protection means. You don’t know how important that is. That simple thing: to look after someone. To put yourself in front of someone. To say you’ll die for them and mean it. You don’t know what that means because all you do is look after yourself.”
Nothing came close to what Gloria had been through, so why had we found them so hard? Why was the process of bringing life into the world, even in a bubble of middle-class comfort, medicine, and relative safety, so fraught? Why did it take so much emotion? Why did this process keep perpetuating itself, generation after generation going through the same thing, time after time? Why did life bother?
I just felt the same mixture of confusion and inability to cope as always, only this time compressed into microseconds.
But it wasn’t an escape. It wasn’t a return to a simpler life; it was a version of a simpler life. A version that replaced cholera, dysentery, freezing winters, lost harvests, frequent stillbirths, domestic violence, incest with underfloor heating, solar panels, and plump trust funds. It was just another decoration: wallpaper, not a return. Perhaps I’m being unkind or just jealous. But
One day, two other boys and I found a pornographic magazine hidden in the seat. As young boys, there was no other option available to us but to read it.
I remember running, running everywhere without thought. And yet I don’t remember actually running. Not the effort of it. I remember lightness. I remember speed. I remember the earth seeming to bounce beneath me as if it were a giant balloon I could push away with my bare feet. I don’t remember stiff, slow limbs or tight lungs or the feeling of concrete pounding through my bones.
“Striding on,” he said. “You’re trying to pull the road under you, trying to turn the earth with your heels.”
Yeah. This is how I run. Dammit.
“The planet’s much bigger than you, son,” he said. “It’s not going to work.”
“Think of it this way: you’re turning a flat road into an uphill climb. You should be turning it into a descent. Look at my feet. They never go past my waist. They only take little steps. It’s like I’m falling—see, that’s all running is, controlled falling.”
“Losing dogs,” he said. “Hardest fuckin’ thing. My grandad died when I was twelve. I remember Mum telling me when I got in from school, and she might as well have been telling me what was for dinner. I didn’t give a shit, fuckin’ alcoholic old prick. Our dog died a year later, and I cried for a week. It’s hard.” He punched his chest. “Harder than losing a person.”
“We can’t run that far in that time, or I can’t at any rate. I’m just not capable.” He fixed me with his bright blue eyes.
“Ed,” he said. “You have no idea what you’re capable of.”
I felt an odd respite, cocooned from the road ahead, as if there were no more distance to go, that the journey itself was just in this small bubble. There was no longer any great expanse to endure.
I said nothing. Caught my breath. Carried on.
“Nothing. It’s all this nonsense going around your noggin. All the doom and the gloom and the guilt and woe. All the stuff that doesn’t really exist. That’s what brings you down.”
“I know what it’s like to miss someone, mate,” he said. “Burns you up inside. Makes you think bad things, feel bad things—guilt, fear, despair—like you could have done more or shouldn’t have done anything.”
“Keep talking,” he said, winking. “And keep running. Keeps the mind away from the dark places."
Sometimes I’d listen to the noise my feet made on the road and the noise my breathing made on top of it, and I’d make a word out of it, sing it all day. Becomes a bit like a mantra, very soothing, hypnotic.
“Clear your mind and things start working out for you,” he said. “You can’t run five hundred miles just by clearing your mind,” I spat. Harvey shrugged. “You can’t do it without it either.”
But don’t get into the habit of letting people tell you what to believe, son. That’ll get you into all sorts of strife. Hey, Ed?”
Harvey told me that the resistance I faced wasn’t something I could ever beat. The best I could hope for was to learn how to fight it daily, to parry and lunge and keep it at bay by learning about how it worked. Some days it would win, others it would lose.
I should learn not just how to fight it, he told me, but, like every enemy, how to love it.
“Entropy,” he said. “Entropy and decay. Everything turns to dust. Everything is constantly trying to return to the dust from which it came.” He frowned and picked up his tumbler. His face twisted into an attempt at a smile. “So why all the struggle?” he said.
I could taste it immediately, as if a door I’d never seen had been flung open onto a long, wide landscape of forest, earth, and ocean, tall stone pillars clawed with brine and weed, cold starry skies, ancient, candlelit rooms, deep eyes, short lives, and whispered promises. I felt as if somebody had filled my head with a thousand years of secret, guarded memories.
We think that language binds us, keeps us close, but sometimes I wonder how far apart we really are. We can make a million assumptions from the movement of an old man’s hand. Most of them are probably incorrect. All we have to go on is our own skewed window on the world. We’re like hermits living in the attics of big houses on lonely hills, watching one another with broken telescopes.
“Medicine, clean water, sanitation, midwifery, roads, transport, everything that pulled this world out of the dark ages and took the nasty, brutish, and short out of life.”
“I’m saying society has evolved, Ed. It’s not what it used to be for one very good reason: it was shit and people weren’t very good at staying alive. We got sick and died daily. Childbirth usually ended in death for the child, the mother, or both. Pain, filth, famine, and war were everywhere, and you were lucky to reach thirty without being stabbed, shot, tortured, decapitated, hung, drawn and quartered, burned at the stake, or thrown in a dungeon to rot.
We killed each other because we were starving and terrified most of the time.
Other people’s problems, even those of your friends, are a great and terrible distraction from your own.
The living would run through the dust of the dead, just as they always had done.
Hope became my drug.
“I heard this story once,” she said, zipping up her jacket and burrowing her hands into her pockets. “About how the future would turn out. The future back then, you know, not the future now. All the people who know how things work, the people with degrees who can make computers and toasters and that, they’d all live on the hills behind electric fences. Everyone else would live and die in shit.” She turned to us. “They wouldn’t need us anymore, you see. Wouldn’t need our money.”
“Didn’t think I was capable of it,” he said, lighting another cigarette. “Turns out you don’t have a clue what you’re capable of. Not a clue.”
I felt all that terrible love flood through me, but it was like an undercurrent to something else. Something…something old. Something that had been around too long. It was like…when those big, wet, unseeing eyes found mine and locked on for a second, it felt like something was saying, Is this it? Again? We’re doing this again, are we? Another child? Another life? Another turn of the wheel? Another struggle?”
Apathy arrives very quickly.
I stared into the fire and out at the others burning around the demolished town and thought about gravity, about how it holds everything, even things with no weight, like thoughts, dreams, love. Even flames struggle to escape it. Everything is weighed down. Everything is pushed down toward the sea. Everything is kept at bay.
Thoughts became intangible and disconnected. They were like explosions of ash. Each one that arrived lasted only moments before it fell away and disintegrated, as if nothing supported it, nothing held it together.
I know now it’s certainty itself I have a problem with. Certainty doesn’t feel like something we’re supposed to have.
It’s hard being a human. Most of the time we’re just blind idiots seeking joy in a world full of fear and pain. We have no idea what we’re doing, and on the rare occasions when we get things right, we’re just lucky. Our lives are filled with the humdrum: dust and noise with no meaning. And yet they contain moments that seem to mean something, something we can’t describe but want to. Those moments leave holes we want to fill. We want to name them, paint them, teach
We want God. We want this life to end, for the curtain to go up and a kind, loving face to smile down on us, a warm voice to call us through and explain everything to us. The hole is everything we don’t know and everything we suspect, and we need a truth to fill it.
Pain from the present. Pain from the past. Pain in the future. Suffering and regret with little hope to alleviate either of them.
“Do you know why people tell stories, Ed?” he said. He waited for me to speak, but I didn’t. He sniffed and went on. “Because the truth doesn’t really have any words of its own. They’re not enough, see? Stories work—good stories—because they make you feel something like how the truth would make you feel if you could hear it.” I closed my eyes, shivering a little at the
He stretched out his arm and laid a warm hand, full of goodness, onto my shoulder. I felt tears in my sick eyes at his touch. It disarmed me—not because I thought he was real, but because I knew the opposite. I was creating this. I was creating this thing of hope. It was already inside of me; it didn’t come from anywhere else.
How hard did this have to be? How hard to simply exist, to move, to twitch muscles, to think, hope, accept, move, love, and be loved.
“Anyway, just saying: I’ve seen a few things myself. I know how weird it can get. We’re not really supposed to be on our own, Ed, we’re not built for it. Spend too much time running away from reality and that’s exactly where you get.”
“When I was a boy my father told me that life was like being on a boat,” he said. “You can’t control the wind and you sure as hell can’t control the ocean. One day it’s calm and the next it’s a storm, and there’s nothing you can do about that. All you get is a tiller and a sail and the weather you find yourself in.”
“I think we like stories,” he said. “I think we like hearing that we’re just little boats lost at sea, all alone, fragile things at the mercy of some darkness we can’t fathom, but solid nonetheless—enclosed and separate. It makes sense to think of things being out there.”
“And things being in here. But just because it feels right, doesn’t make it true.”
“We’re all born screaming, Ed. The moment we pop out our throats open, and the same scream bursts out that always has. We see all the lights and faces and the shadows and the strange sounds, and we scream. Life screams, and we scream back at it. After a bit of time we learn to be quiet; we learn to muffle it. But life doesn’t stop. It just keeps screaming. All. The. Time.” He tapped his finger on the table three times and sat back. “I reckon it does you good to remind it that you can still scream back once in a while,” he said. “So that’s what I do. I wake up and tell the sun I’m still here. Still screaming.”
You don’t run thirty miles; you run a single step many times over. That’s all running is; that’s all anything is. If there’s somewhere you need to be, somewhere you need to get to, or if you need to change or move away from where or what you are, then that’s all it takes. A hundred thousand simple decisions, each one made correctly.
That other beast inside you, the one you rarely see? You have it tethered tight. It watches and waits while you mess up your life, fill your body with poison and muddy your mind with worry. For some it takes just one call to free it. For others it takes five hundred miles of agony.
We never stay constant, no matter what we promise; the world has its way of pulling you about the way it wants.
What do you love most about writing? I spend a lot of my time thinking and daydreaming, so writing means I get to do this for a living. It’s also a way of exorcising fears and neuroses. If I didn’t write, my head would be full.