The High Cost of Education

(I started this post before doing a monthly reading list, of which I am tardy on this month. But I left this sitting in drafts. My goal over the next month is to complete every draft that I’ve started and get it published on the blog. What you’ll see is that I have a problem with spending money on books, I have a lack of space with which to house all of my books, and I have a lack of time with which to read all of my books. So, about the same as any other book-lover all over the world.)

I’ve paid for an education on credit. No, not the degrees that I’ve eared (though the debt I’ve accrued in earning those is substantial), but I specifically speak about my love of books, or bibliophilia. And what an education. I can’t help but peruse the stacks at Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million, or the countless used bookstores that I frequent. The musty smell, a fragrance that only holds a hint of the words of thousands-upon-thousands of women and men, just waiting to be re-released into the world.


So I stack books on shelves, on top of each other, on the floor. I try and read as many as I can, though I usually only finish one per week, though if it’s particularly gripping I’ll get through it in a little less time. The point I’m making, though, is that I find it difficult to leave a bookstore without some acquisition (or two or three, etc). My collection on philosophy, metaphysics, logic and esoterica is growing just over the past year (2017 – I was contemplating enrolling in a PhD Philosophy program, but have set that on the back burner for now).

I keep one bookshelf in my room, just to store the current interests. I’ve got books from Karl Ove Knausgaard, Alan Watts, Neil Gaiman, and Joseph Campbell. There are books on writing, time management, chakras, meditation, and philosophy. An entire shelf is made up of journals and notebooks – some blank, some partially written in, and others full of my scribblings. And every day, multiple times, I find myself just looking at the book shelf.

It may be impossible to read through everything I’ve purchased, but as John Waters said, “Nothing is more important than an unread library.”

Week’s Highlights

Some of the things that caught my interest this week.

  • Castlevania Anniversary Collection. A download for the Nintendo Switch, and I’ve only been playing a bit. But, Castlevania is much tougher than I remembered.
  • Mink the bear, a precocious donut-loving beat that just can’t stay away from Hanover, NH. We’re all hoping they can find a way to help her.
  • Additionally, how to help pangolins.
  • Why books don’t work. I’ve been wrestling with this one for the week. It makes a compelling argument for books as conveyors of facts being ineffective. Which, okay, perhaps books don’t make strong instruments of transferring facts. But ideas, books do transfer those well. You can come away from books without remembering all the facts, but you can recall ideas. Anyway, read if you’re interested.

Revisiting the catalyst

There was a moment, some three-and-a-half years ago, that started a chain of events still unravelling even now. I’ve often called Cameron’s The Artist’s Way my commencement down this road of self-discovery and change. To be fair, I’d always been inclined towards researching the spiritual and investigating possibility, but I was stuck. We all get stuck sometime.

Twice I’ve tried to work my way through The Artist’s Way. Once, three years ago, ended when I just didn’t have the will to continue with it. The second time, just under two years ago, I made it through ten weeks of work, but only half-heartedly.

There it sat, this book that I bought used and started investing my time into. I look at it from time to time, and consider revisiting it. Today I pulled it off the shelf, and while I’m not committing to it yet, it holds the possibility of more changes to come.

Walking a fine line

I’ve been thinking lately about the types of posts I make here. Some are little thoughts I have about this and that (theatre and performance, or books I’m reading/have read);  advice I’ve been given or came across; bits of motivation; very personal thoughts on loss and struggling; finance and investing; or even poetry. All these things are a hodgepodge of who I am and what I’m thinking right now.

Some of it may be interesting to someone. Many more may not find anything here. Others may not want to read each and every post I make, because who knows what I’ll be writing about on any given day.

I struggle with that – providing content (even content that no one may see) which goes back and forth from business to personal, and relevant to downright absurd. But, it’s who I am.

I started writing this blog because I’d kept a journal since 2015. Some times I’ve written daily. Right now I’m best at weekly in the journal, with other writing thrown in during the week. But it was entirely private, and no one was going to come across it. I may even pull a Dickens and have them all burnt before I go. Who knows…

So I put it up online, just another WordPress blog. And I’ve grown it a bit. I’ve grown a bit myself. Now it’s out there for anyone to see. Maybe no one will. But it’s out there.

What the reviewer sees

A book review is nothing more than emotional snapshot of how an author’s work speaks to the reviewer. 

Anyone can go through a book and mark syntax or grammatical errors. That is the purview of elementary educators. What we expect reviewers to do is to read a work and tell us whether the devices the author used worked for the reviewer. Do the analogies seem out of place? Is there too much ambiguity in story. Can the protagonist be understood adequately with the given backstory?

And these understandings of the author’s work is subjective on the part of the reviewer, and the subsequent review is then only useful to someone with similar taste and understanding as the reviewer has. 

Many things are more subjective than we consider, and we are often more opinion-based than we acknowledge. Remember that when making decisions.

Purpose

A podcast host said in a recent episode that I was listening to that “there are over one-hundred fifty-thousand books on Amazon about how to find your way in life.”

Are we truly that lost? I mean, granted, at times I feel as if I don’t know what the hell I’m doing. We all do. But, we’re it.

The bird doesn’t question what it means to be a bird. It doesn’t wonder as to the meaning of its flight. It just flies.

Man alone questions the nature of existence, and our place in the world.

That is our blessing. And our curse.

Summer Time, and the Books are Easy

July 2018

Books Bought:

  • Principles – Ray Dalio
  • England and Other Stories – Graham Swift
  • The Silver Dream – Michael Reaves & Mallory Reaves
  • The Complete Cold Mountain: Poems of the Legendary Hermit Hanshan – Translated by Kazuaki Tanahashi & Peter Levitt
  • Tribe of Mentors – Timothy Ferriss

Books Read:

  • Later Essays – Susan Sontag (unfinished)
  • The Collected Letters of Alan Watts – Edited by Joan Watts & Anne Watts (unfinished)
  • You Are a Badass – Jen Sincero
  • Homeland – R.A. Salvatore
  • Exile – R.A. Salvatore
  • The Power of Now – Eckart Tolle (unfinished)
  • The Complete Cold Mountain: Poems of the Legendary Hermit Hanshan – Translated by Kazuaki Tanahashi & Peter Levitt (unfinished)
  • Tribe of Mentors – Timothy Ferriss (unfinished)
  • Achieving Excellence in Fund Raising – Hank Rosso (unfinished)
  • Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity – David Allen (unfinished)

Well here it is. I hope it was worth a few days’ waiting.

Some things continually crept up as the month played out. Ira Glass’s quote on beginning an artistic endeavor:

“Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.”

Aside from this quote, other recurring elements included: a need to escape to the outdoors – including a trip to an REI Co-op. I had never been. Seeing all three Hotel Transylvania films (and a musical based of Adam Sandler’s 80s extravaganza The Wedding Singer).

Also Dr. Brene Brown, Simon Sinek, and David Allen.

In restructuring my days, I’ve found increased time for reading – actually scheduling in at least an hour of reading daily (with few exceptions). At night I was putting a chapter in (at least) of R.A. Salvatore’s Drizzt Do’Urden saga. The first three books were loaned to me by a friend of mine. We had had an open discussion on Urban Fantasy following my finishing of Arena last month (or the month before).

Another odd thing about me – when I walk into someone’s house, I am drawn to their books. The more books on a shelf, the more intrigued I am by what’s there. I know that I’m not alone in this interest, but it’s also apparent that many people I spend time with don’t have that compulsion. I could literally spend minutes to hours staring at collections of books.

So, when I entered my friend’s house, I found reason to linger in the room with the book shelves, housing Salvatore, Gaiman, Tolkien, and other notable fantasy and science fiction writers. He wholly recommended the Drizzt series, and I told him I’d give it a try.

Homeland was a slow start. I had committed to reading it, but it was a little bit of a drag at first. (Similar to the drag I experienced reading Tolle’s The Power of Now, but I’ll get to that later.)

The origin story of Drizzt Do’Urden began on his birth night, and showed the conniving and cunning nature of the dark elves – of which Drizzt is a noble born son. But as the story progresses, we learn that Drizzt is more kind; more empathetic. That he doesn’t share the bloodlust or the vanity of his kin. And he begins to hate his surroundings more and more, until (and this leads to Exile), he finds refuge without his city. This too proves trying, and with an undead assassin on his tale, he needs all the help he can get.

All in all, Drizzt is a very well-written character, and I received an email from Barnes & Noble stating the new Drizzt trilogy is to start releasing in September. I’ll be reading more of this adventure in the coming months.

Two remanded books purchased this month – England and Silver Dream. I’m still trying to hone in on the short story format, England being just that, but haven’t been able to ready my mind to read a short story collection. Several have been purchased in the past year, including a collection from The Paris Review. I just came across it while boxing some stuff up to take to storage.

I’m currently preparing to move, with all intention of getting into my new place next month, or by October at the latest. We’ll see how all of that plays out, and whether it affects my reading time.

Silver Dream had Neil Gaiman’s name on the top – it seems that he helped with the story of the original book (this one being a sequel). I suppose I’ll have to read the original. So, it goes in a box to move to the next house.

In my spiritual reconciliation, I often find myself quoting the likes of Julia Cameron, Pedram Shojai, and now even Jen Sincero. So as my girlfriend and I were watching the third Hotel Transylvania, there was a scene where Johnny (pictured above), speaks in a very zen way about the flow of the universe. She looks over to me and says, “Look. It’s you.”

In fact, it was indeed a very me thing to say. I’ve been speaking for two years on the essence of flow in the universe, and how our ability to connect to that Source energy allows us the freedom and ability to achieve our goals and desires.

All this to say, I thought Johnny would make a very good featured image for this post. And thus there he is. My animated self. (I’ve also backpacked in Europe twice over the last 30 months, and am planning a Costa Rica trip later this year.)

Spiritually, July didn’t offer me much I suppose. Really, since starting work at the theatre, it seems that much of my free-thinking time is devoted to nonprofit strategies. I’ve broken out the Rosso, a primer on philanthropy, and one that I had to read parts of during my master’s program at SCAD.

I know that I’ve lost track of books as well, and occasionally I’ll come across one that I’ve either read, or purchased, and forgot to add.

I love poetry, and I’m fascinated my Buddhism as well as Asian mysticism. Cold Mountain was a Shambhala publication, and I just had to buy it. I’ve read very little of it so far – again, nonprofits seem to be inhabiting the bulk of my reading capacity – but it’s there on my desk for me to peruse at my leisure.

With all that said, I think that is likely the best representation of reading for last month. Was there more? Maybe. Was it anything I want to talk about? Meh.

I recommend the Drizzt books, as well as Jen Sincero. Tolle’s Power of Now is something that, though beneficial, it’s better to knock it out in one sitting, at least I think. I’ve now started and stopped at least a dozen times. Everything else will need more focus for August.