What I’ve Read

Time frame…?

Books Bought:

  • Plato: Complete Works – Edited by John M. Cooper
  • NORTH: Finding Place in Alaska – Julie Decker, editor
  • Raven Steals the Light – Bill Reid & Robert Bringhurst
  • Travels in Alaska – John Muir
  • Nature Writing – John Muir (Library of America edition)
  • 100 Tough Questions for Japan – Itasaka Gen

Books Read:

  • Tools of Titans – Tim Ferriss (unfinished)
  • Wilderness Essays – John Muir (unfinished)
  • How to Watch a Movie – David Thomson (unfinished)
  • On National Parks – John Muir (unfinished)
  • Lycanthia; or The Children of Wolves  – Tanith Lee (unfinished)
  • The Brief, Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao – Junot Diaz
  • The Eye Never Sleeps: Striking to the Heart of Zen – Dennis Genpo Merzel
  • Emerson: Essays and Lectures – Ralph Waldo Emerson (unfinished)
  • The Name of the Rose – Umberto Eco

Well, who knows. It seems like April was the last time I wrote about my book purchases and reading. So… Here’s a list. It is probably incomplete. I look at a lot of books.

During the months of May-July, my work was highly demanding. But not the real work. Just the work for a paycheck. And the pay wasn’t even that good. Sometimes it’s about trying things – picking them up, seeing if you like them. If not, you put it down and walk away.

Highlights – Alaska was the big one. I purchased two books in Alaska: Raven and NORTH. The latter was published by collaboration with the Anchorage Museum and University of Washington Press. It includes works of art in the museum collection and essays about the Last Frontier.

To say that I was moved by Alaska would be an understatement. It was magnificent, and I cannot wait to go back.

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I like to pick up books when I travel. They’re not the lightest souvenir, but I’ve always had a connection with books. In Ireland, I purchased a used copy of On the Road. In Germany, a Lutheran hymnal. While in Prague, I got a handmade notebook.

Raven Steals the Light is a collection of Native myths from the Haida people. The Raven is a trickster, and a spirit, and a god. “The Raven, who of course existed at that time, because he had always existed and always would…” It recounts many native tales of the beginnings of things, and reasons for things.

I had a lot of false starts with books. Oscar Wao, for one. I tried, but couldn’t quite bring myself to read it. Same with Emerson. Same with Lycanthia. With Muir and Thomson. I just could not bring myself to read much.

Partly I think it’s owed to my having a lot on my mind. Hence I’ve been reworking my routines. I have now been reading each night before bed, settling into Name of the Rose for about 30-45 minutes a night. Sometimes less, if I’m really tired. Umberto Eco is interesting. I remember trying to read this book shortly after graduating high school, while sitting in a wing backed cushioned chair at Barnes & Noble. I didn’t get all that far into it.

It throws you Latin, and Italian, and maybe a splattering of French. Monastic terms I’m only vaguely familiar with, and some that I’ve never heard. Under all of that though, there is mystery and intrigue. A young monk has died mysteriously. If suicide, how did the window close behind him? If murder, is the assailant man (and thereby monk?), or something infernal? The Sherlockian monk William of Baskerville will use all his reasoning to get to the bottom of it.

It led me to discover the Italian mini-series, so I’m trying to find somewhere to watch that – with subtitles, preferably.

I added the two Muir books to my collection – I had been reading some essays by him before going to Alaska. I hope to finish at least one collection of his this year. Also the writings of Plato. I found this book used, and the fact that it was edited by Edith Hamilton caught my attention. I had done some myth research two years, reading over Hamilton as well as Joseph Campbell, and I wanted to see what sort of commentary was included in this book. I haven’t gotten around to opening it though.

I did just pop open Tools of Titans. I had picked it up on sale in December, and was just reading about Ferriss’s compulsion to record data.

I’m a compulsive note-taker. To wit, I have recorded nearly every workout since age 18 or so. Roughly 8 feet of shelf space in my home is occupied by spine upon spine of notebook upon notebook. That, mind you, is one subject. It extend to dozens. Some people would call this OCD, and many would consider it a manic wild goose chase. I view it simply: It is the collection of my life’s recipes.

I too take many notes, and have amassed a pile of notebooks. Not like Ferriss – not to that extent – but I’ve been jotting things down since I was in high school, and I’ve got notebooks with varying degrees of use on my shelves, in the garage, and in storage. If I had my way, this is what my house would look like:

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Maybe my next house…

On the road

“…and I shambled after as I’ve been doing all my life after people who interest me, because the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a common place thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow Roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue center light pop and everybody goes, “Awww!”

Jack Kerouac

About seven years ago I wrote this quote in one of my journals. I was reading On the Road, and it stood out – both for the way it was written, and what was behind the words.

I’ve often found myself in the company of madness. The amazing personalities that can eclipse any other in a room. From time to time, I’ve had my own followers as well, for I have had my own share of burning.

There’s a time to rest, and a time to rocket skyward. Which time are you in now?

Sitting. Still.

I’ve been practicing my meditation more these past two weeks. My time has been less pressing, at least until I start my next job.  I’ve carved out a little corner with a Buddha, a hamsa, and a zafu cushion.

Some of the guided meditations I’ve used come from the app Insight Timer. I’ve also purchased meditations from the CDM Spiritual Center. The latter was recommended to me from a spiritual healer I had been introduced to back in 2016.

In my meditation, and in my journaling, I’ve been exploring the fact that many of us suffer duality in our lives. The masks we wear for outer acceptance, and the true self that lies somewhere deeper.

The Zen poem Hsin Hsin Ming states:
Faith mind are not two
Nondual faith mind

I suppose I take it to mean that both mind and reality can easily be split in two (or more) parts, if we allow it to. But everything is one whole, and in accepting that oneness, we release that perception of future desires, or past regrets, and live entirely in the moment.

It’s the doing of that which is a bit difficult…

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.”

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.

Journaling

First things first. I love journals. Have since at least 1990. I had just turned 7, and what I had asked for from my dad was a notebook/journal. I know this because I still have it. (Somewhere, possibly in storage. I swear I’ve seen it recently…) It is a faded green color, with an image of rough seas. A sail boat rides the swells. I can’t recall what the style of the picture is named, but you’d know it if you saw it.

From that point on, I’ve always written stuff. Nothing coherent. A few short stories, maybe a hundred or so poems. But, I jot notes down all the time. Song lyrics. Words I want to know more about, or topics. Quotes that inspire, motivate, or enlighten me.

I heard that Charles Dickens burned his notebooks and letters annually. I wonder what is lost or gained when we let go of those thoughts written down for later investigation.

On frequency

“Frequency makes starting easier. Getting started is always a challenge. It’s hard to start a project from scratch, and it’s also hard each time you re-enter a project after a break. By working every day, you keep your momentum going. You never have time to feel detached from the process. You never forget your place, and you never need to waste time reviewing your work to get back up to speed or reminding yourself what you’ve already done. Because your project is fresh in your mind, it’s easy to pick up where you left off.” – Gretchen Rubin

Where I find myself after every time that I take a break from writing. Blog, journal, whatever. One project I was excited to work on this year was a book on film craft, and I’m six months overdue on the projects I had planned.

I think it’s a common struggle for creatives – the real world difficulties that creep up. And, scope creep. Of life. Saying yes to projects that may hold a small level of interest, but should be said no to so that focus can be given to the truly meaningful tasks.

I’ve improved my “No” skills, but still not to the point that I need them to be. And as long as I fill my time with those “yes” things, I’ll reduce the time I have available for frequency.