Category Archives: Book related

Addiction & Living

Lately I came across a video from a previously run late night show Politically Incorrect with Bill Maher. I found it interesting what Slash said about drugs being deeply enmeshed in our society, that it’s everywhere. You can watch the conversation below, the comments from Slash about drugs being throughout society start around 2:50.

I also liked a line that Slash said Keith Richards once said, “I slept in a chandelier last night, but I still showed up on time.” Kind of an odd place to sleep, but it shows you have to be dedicated and be punctual in your work. People like others to be able to be counted on, to know they will keep their word and be there when they said they would be there. But that leads to some questions too.

Can you really truly be there, if you regularly do drugs or have a dependence on some kind of substance such that part of your mind is focused on getting your next drink or next fix? You’re looking forward to having the effects of the substance again once they have worn off, part of your mind (perhaps you could call it your egoic mind) is focused on covering up that suffering such that you have the effects again from the substance, no longer suffering withdrawal from the lack of effects. It’s difficult to be psychologically present with others if your mind is in a pattern of use, withdraw, need to use again. I would think that these different focuses take away from a sense of presence with people in the present moment, to use some of Eckhart Tolle’s terminology. It seems to me that it could take away from the strength of relationships because others inevitably come to realize you’re not truly “with them” when your mind is elsewhere with other goals than to truly connect with the people around you. Relationships are different in families with substance abuse and addiction, and it would totally make sense to me as to why this can be the case given what I’ve just stated. There is also the question of whether or not a person can function properly the next day or any time soon after mind altering substance use, whether or not they are punctual. Should they continue on with life as usual, or attempt to do so soon after substance abuse? Is it safe for surrounding people in their lives? Will being punctual pose dangers to other individuals or property in the event that the user is not fully present in the moment due to substance use?

In the above video clip as well, Slash mentions not having rock ‘n’ roll without drugs. That may be the case, but at the same time it’s interesting that in the first of 10 webcasts between Oprah and Eckhart Tolle about his book A New Earth, he indicates he tried acid one time and admits that his new awareness that he discusses in The Power of Now, and A New Earth, is much better than the experience he found with acid, even though there are similarities. The experience is more “violent” according to Tolle in comparing the acid trip to a natural trip into presence. He states that there is “no room for thinking anymore” as the acid trip magnifies the sense perceptions so strongly. Whereas in the perceptions Tolle describes naturally coming with the dissolving of the ego, they gradually come more clearly over time as opposed to violently and suddenly appearing. There seems to be a difference of force vs. allowing space for things to happen. You can jump right into the plot, or you can set the stage for the show to commence.

What are your thoughts? Would you say that substance use/addiction are ingrained in society? Is it best to try and take control of life? Is it helpful to try and set the stage for what you feel is right, and let things unfold?

Technology: Presence & Time

So I’ve been pondering what to write for a next post.  I was looking at other posts with the daily prompt about use of phones which caught my attention.  They are useful, but they can also control you if you let them because they ring off the hook and people can nowadays text you like there’s no tomorrow.  Texts can be simple like “Dinner’s ready” from a family member to another family member in a different room, or about getting together.  They can be more complicated telling a story of something that recently happened, though that could also be a phone call instead of a text since longer messages aren’t as often sent by text as far as I can tell in my minimal text experience.  It depends though, sometimes that is the case and sometimes it is not.  Either way, technology can take you away from the present moment and into another space, for one reason or another.

This brings me to another pondering, as I’ve recently read The Time Machine by H.G. Wells.  Now The Time Traveller within the book travels hundreds of thousands of years into the future.  He views completely different worlds that are nothing like that where we currently reside.  The social hierarchy of creatures is vastly different, being that it seems humans have evolved into two different species somewhat, at least it appears that the Time Traveller interprets these two species as being derived from humans if I read it correctly.  Some might consider such a long way off in the future to be a daring feat for someone to take when trying out a time machine, but is it that big of a deal?  Would it be better to jump 5, 10 or maybe 50 years into the future to see where things have evolved to before jumping elsewhere?  Would it be most useful to see yourself in the future or past when traveling time, or seeing beyond yourself and to look at the world itself?  I’m not sure I have all these answers, but I think it would intrigue me more to see where the world and humanity goes than to see exactly where i end up or where I’ve been.  Some days my opinion might differ, but I’m living in the moment right now as I create this post.

What are your thoughts?

Thoughts: Blogs, presence & Enjoying life

I have not posted much in the last couple of months.  It might, in part, be because I’ve found myself pondering things more deeply than necessary.  Then again, maybe it is necessary since people such as Socrates have said that there is value in examining life.  I’ve been questioning what goals I have for writing, if any.  I have also questioned whether such goals are overshadowed sometimes by the concept of having viewers of posts and attempting to post things others would want to see/read.

There’s also that thought that things I post should simply come from me.  They should just be what I’m drawn to write about as my daily life progresses.  I can get lost in the logistics of how frequently to post, what to post that will be of interest to people to read, whether there’s anything at all of value in even writing anything and where does all this fit in as far as where I want to go in life.  Then there are the days where I wonder if I have any clue of what I want or where I want to go, which only eats up time that can be used to get there of course.

All of this aside, a lot of what I ponder these days is related to nature vs. materialism you might say.  When I use the word “materialism” I am thinking of things like fortune and fame; popularity and riches.  It would be great to have that few grand available to buy this or that which would seemingly make my life easier such as a wheelchair accessible van as I need a wheelchair for mobility.  I could go many more places much faster if I had such a vehicle.  I can perfectly well get around the local community, given the mass transit that is available.  But, like most things, it has its limitations.  It has pros and cons.  Time to travel takes longer usually, especially if used to get from one city to another.  It’s easy enough to get in and out of a normal car and have someone put the wheelchair in the trunk though so it’s not totally necessary for either of the above options when traveling between cities.  All that’s needed is someone with said car to be able to make it happen.

Focusing back on the writing of blog posts, though, I guess by nature I would mean the nature of human interaction or communication of ideas.  The materialism aspect would be more on the numbers of viewers, the amount of comments and popularity overall of the blog.  Communication is more of a goal for me from the start, as opposed to who views the blog or how much exposure it gets.  That being said, a conversation requires multiple people and/or points of view which means a certain amount of exposure is required in order to achieve these people and points of view.

Then one day, not overly long ago, a book I received for Christmas last year and lent out to a friend from school was returned to me.  That book F**k it by John C Parkins, which I remember feeling a lot lighter during and after reading it, made life seem a lot simpler.  The concept behind the words in said book is to take life easy and not worry about things so much.  It’s a lot more than that, as the book covers various things from God and anarchy, to relationships, to work among other things.

It’s as simple as saying “F**k it” and leaving the stress and worry in favor of peace, easing the mind and allowing things to be as they are.  The reality is that you cannot change the past, and you cannot predict the future to be any certain way 100%.  The future is bound to be slightly, or completely, different than you anticipate but the one thing that you can count on is that it will be interesting!  Maybe it’s best, then, to just go with the flow to see what comes in the NOW.  Maybe it’s best to see all life’s jewels as they come rather than waiting for something else all the time.  That something else might never come, and you might miss out on another thing that was right under your nose and disappeared without a moment’s notice.  If you don’t stop to smell the roses while they’re there, and you’re too busy collecting as many as possible to have the biggest and best collection, you may not get to ever experience the amazing aroma.  You may also not truly notice the beauty before you, until it starts wilting and withering away.

Denialism & Colonization

A concept that I first formally learned about through reading Michael Specter’s book Denialism is the idea of setting aside reality, to push forward with your own agenda, or avoid a reality which is perhaps less acceptable to ones self.  Specter tends to apply this concept to science and technology, where it relates to the medical field and drugs/medicine themselves.  He touches on such things as vaccines vs. autism, homeopathy and going organic compared to non-organic foods and the like, as well as the scientific study of drugs such as Vioxx and their results vs. the reality which companies and such looking to sell the drug were interested in seeing.  Somewhat of a political aspect of denialism is also shown in the book, particularly around AIDS/HIV and Africa.  I found it to be an intriguing book!  It has sparked some thoughts in my mind as to things I could write.  Therefore, I may write further about the book in another post if I see fit, but I thought applying the general concept to a trilogy written by Kim Stanley Robinson, the books Red Mars, Green Mars, and Blue Mars would be appropriate.

The Mars trilogy takes the human population from planet Earth and sees it colonize the planet Mars over a couple of centuries, starting around the 21st century.  It sees us through growing troubles on the planet earth, while mostly focusing on the development of things on the (initially) Red planet.  The main characters seen throughout the three books live on Mars and go through the normal issues which we see in our everyday life such as conflicts of various natures and relationships growing and conflicting.  The thing that interested me most was that they are also speaking of various perspectives; from political, scientific, economic, and religious/philosophical, among others that affect the overall outlook of the new Martian civilization.

As with probably just about anything, there is a form of denialism which takes place in the trilogy.  In fact, one could say that this denialism that comes to my mind at the moment, is what caused troubles on earth to worsen; if not begin.  It is that of corporations looking out for themselves with little or no thought of the environment, its plants, nor animals, nor its people which as a whole were ultimately responsible for creating them out of nothingness in the initial stages of industrialization.

Corporations, in the trilogy, become larger bodies called “transnationals” or “transnats” and they are less focused on a democratic way of operation and more on making bigger and bigger gains; the goal being to compete to see who might become the biggest and ultimately be able to control the interplanetary market.  There are buyouts of smaller companies in the process to become bigger and better.  They have their own intentions for development on Mars, along with all those perspectives coming from the initial 100 people who first arrived on the planet.  The transnats become metanats who want to take control of what goes on within the Mars civilization.  I remember that some of the discussion amongst the first 100 was around different concepts and was intrigued that Buddhist concepts were referred to in discussing the fate of the mars civilization that would be built.

A Buddhist outlook is much different from that of the corporate cultures in the novels.  It is one where living in harmony is of utmost importance to strive toward as opposed to focusing upon the ego and desire.  A Buddhist outlook or philosophy tends to shy away from sins such as gluttony and greed.  So there is a big contrast in the novel between what some of the first colonizers of Mars had in mind for the planet and what could potentially come to said planet depending on which voices reign in the end.  I don’t want to give away too much of the story line in this post, so as not to spoil things for potential readers as to what comes of either the Earth or of the planet Mars.

But there is also much focus in the book on scientific development and just how development of Mars should take place.  Some believe in the more natural approach whereby living off the land is best, others have thoughts around wanting to play around with the planet’s atmosphere and land in order to have the planet mimic that of Earth’s geography in a sense.  Both of these seem like they could make sense, but one is more or less playing God and looking to be in control, and the other is going with the flow of things.  Clearly, people do not have full control though, as in the Mars Trilogy, right from the get-go things happen that are not planned or anticipated at all.  Life is a mystery.  You never know how things will unfold.

Personality: a look at Susan Cain’s “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a world that Can’t stop Talking”

The book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a world that Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain is filled with a variety of research about introversion vs. extroversion, different applications of these in the real world, and implications for societal situations based on this information of what is known about the personality types. Cain’s writing comes around the idea that there is an ideal way for a person to be in our society that is primarily extroverted more than introverted. She argues that there is, indeed, a valuable place for introverts within society; and does so very well I would say! There are a few themes I noted as I was reading the book that jumped out at me:

  • Shyness vs. introversion: The two are different ideas, but can easily be misconstrued as one in the same. It is possible for both to exist at once, but shyness involves more of a fear whereas introversion is simply becoming overwhelmed by stimulation thus seeming shy in social situations. This distinction helps me understand myself better and how I am in social situations.  The perceived pressure to be more extroverted in public can cause me to feel more shy because I get the idea that others might want me to be something that I naturally am not; an extrovert.  In a talk that is recorded in a video on TED.com’s website she gives an interesting example from her own life that demonstrates her own introversion. I wouldn’t be surprised if it could be misunderstood as shyness though

    Also in this video, she discusses how it is growing more common for classrooms to be designed such that they are in groups or “pods” whereas they used to be more often in rows. My experience is a combination of these things, based on teachers’ decisions. Often in elementary school there would be changes in the organization of the classroom once in awhile. Sometimes there would be grouped desks, other times there would be rows. In high school, I remember more rows with the occasional “pod” setup occurred as well. The group design ended up being a bit too much for some of the quiet or “shy” individuals at times, as there was sometimes more of an overstimulation of these individuals who value time by themselves or with one or two close friends. Maybe this happened by coincidence, or maybe the teachers that allowed for both types of interaction had some understanding of personalities and the types of situations appropriate for the differing personalities of individuals.
  • Introvert-Extrovert relationships: They say opposites attract, but can they work together in the long run when it comes to the introversion and extroversion personality types?  You can read more about this subject in the book, but the way it was written drew my attention and caused me to think of relationships I see and how the two parts of these relationships interact along with the issues they face.  It might seem straightforward once you start to consider it, but you don’t necessarily consider it unless someone brings it to your attention.
  • Nature vs. Nurture:  The idea of whether the personality traits are related to nature or nurture is an interesting topic. Some might argue that personality traits are inborn whereas others might argue that the environment that surrounds a child affects that child’s personality development. I wonder if my own personality would differ if I had circumstances different from those which I have grown up with regularly. Perhaps if I had different differences from others I would be a completely unique individual from the unique individual I am today.
  • Persona/Identity/masks:  Public personas, masks, and identities are all things which interest me and are more or less connected. I had this realization a few years ago that life really isn’t (or does not have to be) as serious as it seems to be at times. Upon strolling through the halls at a postsecondary school I was attending at the time, I observed people and their behavior. Somehow through this observation, I had this realization that it isn’t necessary or realistic to take life completely and utterly serious a lot of the time. There are times that it is serious, and you at least have to respect that certain moments are serious for others if you don’t feel they are serious for yourself.But to get back on point here, I saw this posted on twitter the other day which really rang true to me, while also connecting with my thoughts about Quiet.

    We can become as someone who seems to be extroverted, regardless of how introverted we are, if a situation calls for it or vice versa. To take things at face value, and judge the surface, does not do it any justice because you don’t really know more than the mask or covering if you’re just coming into a first contact or even if you’ve encountered it multiple times but from afar. The average citizen cannot claim to truly know any celebrity who they really have not even spoken to at all. You can take what leaks or is consciously placed out into the public by said person and interpret it as you will, but you cannot say you truly know that individual as a result of your interpretation. You have to be willing to admit that there is a possibility that you may be eventually proven to be wrong.Just because you know things about a stereotype that seems to fit who a person is by looking at them from the outside does not mean you truly know and understand who they are inside and out. People don’t necessarily conform to any particular stereotype. A stereotype is a common group of characteristics that can be associated with people who fit somewhat under a certain label (like introverts are shy and/or quiet, extroverts are more outgoing and sociable everyone would probably agree). On the topic of conformity, I found the following tweet by Deepak Chopra intriguing:

    When you can predict a person fully by looking at them on the surface, the individual is less interesting or intriguing because you already feel you know them. It’s more mediocre because it’s expected and understood. When one does not conform, there’s more that is left a mystery to be discovered. There’s more to that individual for others to try and figure out, or simply marvel at over time. It keeps life more interesting and perhaps even entertaining.Susan Cain has demonstrated that personality is one thing, but it is entirely possible to consciously improve upon weak parts of your personality to be able to accomplish things that otherwise might have been unthinkable. She speaks, in the video I posted earlier, about her “year of speaking dangerously” whereby she knew what would be coming with regard to having her book out in the open. She knew that the task of publicizing and promoting the book was going to involve a lot more stimulation in the social arena. This meant she purposely went about practicing public speaking and such to improve her abilities and comfort levels in this area. It goes to show that if you put your mind to something, you can make it happen. Susan Cain’s book is a New York Times Best Seller still, after months of being out for the public to read.

  • Reward Sensitivity:  We all have some instinct toward looking at possible rewards for certain things, such as the lottery.  As of this writing, the Lottomax in Canada’s jackpot is up to $50 million, with 14 possible maxmillion prizes also available for the Friday, August 24, 2012 draw, which means there’s a lot of possible winnings.  Someone who has a high level of reward sensitivity might jump at the chance of possibly earning all of that money, and go for it without thinking of the likelihood of having the cost of the lottery tickets amount to nothing afterward.  Someone with a lower reward sensitivity might stop and consider their financial situation and whether that cost for the tickets could be better spent elsewhere with the risk that is involved in the small chances of big earnings.  It’s true that you cannot win if you don’t buy a ticket, but you can buy $50 million dollars worth of tickets over the years, and still not win even close to $50 million as well.  I’m generally the type that would decide to do without that ticket in favor of saving a few dollars here and there which eventually adds up, than to hope for the big jack pot.  The jackpot does have a certain sense of allure to it though.

One thing that I did not encounter in this book, which seems to be a topic that would fit quite well is personality traits and people with differences (or disabilities, to use a word more commonly used).  Depending on your variation of “differences” you might require some level of assistance which in turn means a certain level of social interaction is necessary to direct and receive said level of assistance.  I would wonder if this dependence on assistance might kind of force people with differences to develop more extroverted skills in order to achieve what they need.  Certainly, Susan would say that people do sometimes wish, or have to, develop skills in areas that their personality does not tend to naturally want to operate.  Her “year of speaking dangerously” speaks for itself, going outside of your comfort zone has its perks because you grow as a person.  You might be able to accomplish things you never thought possible by doing so.  She definitely provides plenty of food for thought, to further the “Quiet Revolution.”

Perhaps Susan sheds some light on the reason I have felt the desire to start a blog. Writing a blog allows me to be within my own head. It allows me to put ideas out there, and to let other people choose to either react to them or not as they please. I can also interact with readers through email or through comments they post on the blog which allows me to interact at my own speed with the text on the screen rather than the more direct human-to-human contact.

I find sometimes when I consider the prospect of actually finding employment and searching out jobs that seem like something I could do or would want to do, I am drawn to look at what the job posting says for hours and for the income the job provides. To focus on the income is contrary to my inner feelings that money should not matter that much. So it can become somewhat of an internal battle. But as I discussed in my last post, there is a certain key to succeeding that involves continuing to pursue something, to never stop all together. I like the attitude evoked in Michael Jackson’s song “Unbreakable” when it comes to this concept of going for what you want—not let anything or anyone get in the way.

By creating a blog, not only am I fostering my introverted needs, but I am also achieving somewhat of the goal I have: freedom. I can post what I choose and when I choose. My plan is to post weekly, because having a plan and goals helps as a framework to making life most successful.

It’s funny; my siblings were the ones who—both in their own way—told me I should work on writing. I never tended to think they would know me all that well because I’m more of a quiet and reserved individual, but life never ceases to surprise me. Maybe some things, like my siblings who are both younger than me actually knowing me pretty well, should not surprise me that much because of the fact that there’s good evidence to support it. They’ve both grown up around me for around two decades, so they’ve had the chance to observe who I am and what I’m all about—and they’ve taken the opportunity to do so. It was my sister who showed me the video of Susan Cain on TED, and I realized I had bought the book she referred to and hadn’t yet started reading it. Seeing as my sister suggested I start a blog, and thought this video would interest me, it seemed fitting that I actually write a blog post surrounding this topic.

People, Differences & The Twelve

Books that inspire the mind, that provoke thought about life and human nature tend to draw my attention.  Such is the case with The Twelve by William Gladstone, which holds important that long talked about date of December 21, 2012.  What happens on that date?  You’ll have to either wait until the reality of the day hits (which will happen before you know it) or read the book to find out where the story leads!  There are some mixed reviews of the book that I’ve seen through Amazon.com.  I don’t consider the book to be a thriller that’s full of action and excitement, but liked it for its thought-provoking nature, and its ability to keep my attention and follow along with the plot.  It also gives an interesting portrait of human nature to ponder.

One of the reasons I felt inclined to write about this book is because it raises the topic of differences in human beings, a topic that I ponder fairly frequently.  Max, the protagonist, runs into some interesting circumstances resulting from his post-secondary studies.  He is provoked to question whether he’s got mental health issues, or not after even his own parents appear to side with the doctor who sees Max.  There is some history of mental health issues in his family, so Max is provoked to question if he may actually have something wrong with him.

I’m reminded of a phrase my father often says, “If you believe it, it’s true.”  I feel that this can apply to what I’m hoping to get at through this post.  If you hear things from others about yourself enough, you might just start to question whether they are true!  You might start believing that if a number of people around you are saying something, that maybe it’s got some smidgen of truth to it.  This could provoke you to start to change things about yourself for others, or totally change who you are.

There’s no reason to change who you are or what you’re all about by any means.  I find that environmental changes can have a better psychological effect!  If you’re having difficulty where you are in your life, maybe it has something to do with the environment you’re surrounded by rather than anything else.  I don’t mean that it is best to run from things in life to make everything better, if it sounds that way, because I think that things happen to us so we can build the endurance to handle challenges that will make us stronger.

But we can also learn when enough is enough and we’ve gained what we can from the experience already.  Max seems to have known that certain individuals in his life have to be there for a reason so he endures his search for the twelve individuals.  He keeps their contact information so he is able to be in touch with them when necessary with the knowledge that these individuals have some significance.  I’ve subconsciously known this in the past and made changes to my environment, leading to feeling more at ease and ultimately having a bit of a more positive outlook on life.  It is only upon reflection that I discovered it in a conscious way.  There’s no need to necessarily conform, just to find your niche and make life work for you through that niche.

Max tends to move around now and then for various opportunities.  What others try to do to him never stops him, it only causes him to change gears a little bit and reconsider what he keeps to himself and what he allows of himself to be public.  Changing his environment enables him to see the world and all; but it also enables him to make important discoveries about life, and about himself.

The big thing about Max is his capacity to endure regardless of what anyone says about or does to him in his life.  He always finds ways to do what he wants regardless of anyone else.  Sometimes someone comes to his rescue if he’s in danger.  If something doesn’t work, he moves on to try a different angle to attain the same goal such as earning a living.  If he felt he had to be somewhere else to get what he wants to achieve, he’d go elsewhere!  That reminds me of another phrase my father also says, “Never, ever give up!”  And it’s true, regardless of mental or physical differences: if you keep trying you’ll find a way to get what you need or want in life.

You can either post thoughts, reflections, criticisms and the like below, or email magnus.wendler@gmail.com