Weird experience of the day: halfway through a yoga class, my brain just shut down and was like "nope, no more." It's been a busy week, and I've definitely suffered fatigue from overwork before, but what really made this one stand out was the separation between physical and mental. I know my body pretty well, and it was tired but could have gone on for some time; mentally, though, I was just noping right the hell out. So child's pose it was for a few minutes; afterward I went home and bailed on evening plans so I could spend the rest of the day napping and otherwise recharging. (Brian, dear man that he is, brought me pie from the locally- and justifiably-renowned Bang Bang Pie shop. Pie is excellent for recharging one's spoons.)
So that's my excuse for why this is late. :) On to the reading!What I've just finished reading
Nothing, I'm afraid. Which seems extra surprising given that I took last week off from the spa for tattoo healing - you'd think that'd be prime reading time. But what with splitting my attentions between three books, and all the other stuff - private clients, prep work for the new yoga job, anxiety about starting said job in April - that's been taking up my mental space, I haven't finished anything this week.What I'm currently readingThe Black Count
, by Tom Reiss. Having garnered many accolades for turning around the Army of the Alps and singlehandedly conquering space that was thought unconquerable, General Dumas has been reassigned to the Army of Italy, which has until recently been in similar straits. A similarly talented general of a very recognizable name is in charge of another division, and has made great progress in driving out the Austrians - and even greater progress in squandering the goodwill this has generated amongst the Italians by eschewing the complicated logistics of supply lines in favor of plundering the countryside. Dumas, a man of honor, does not wish to directly challenge his colleague Buonaparte; he nonetheless has taken to countermanding the worst of the abuses where he sees them, and notifying the other general using the time-honored tactic of "I'm sure you couldn't have known what your men are up to, but..." With the clarity of historical hindsight, I suspect we're beginning to see where his downfall will stem from. (Also, if Lin-Manuel Miranda wants to write another multiethnic historical musical, this would be an excellent source - I suspect Dumas and Napoleon could easily fit in the Hamilton/Burr dichotomy of man of honor/man of opportunity.)all about love
, by bell hooks. This week's chapter was on greed, the way in which our culture's lionization of it prevents us from expressing and experiencing love, and the way we attempt (unsuccessfully) to use it to fulfill our longing for connection. Again, lots that I agreed with. This passage in particular jumped out at me, especially given current events:
Our prisons are full of people whose crimes were motivated by greed, usually the lust for money. While this lust is the natural response of anyone who has totally embraced the values of consumerism, when these individuals harm others in their pursuit of wealth we are encouraged to see their behavior as aberrant. We are all encouraged to believe they are not like us, yet studies show that many people are willing to lie to gain monetary advantage.
It's often struck me as odd that we punish behavior that's a natural extension of our expressed social values. Stories like The Wolf of Wall Street
demonstrate the paradox nicely -- Jordan Belfort was so admired for his wealth, despite the fact that he made it by cheating people out of their income, so that even a hatchet job by the press only made job seekers come hounding for a chance to work with him.
As with most philosophy books, there are parts where the author generalizes; she paints a picture of the sixties, for instance, as a golden time of radical action and hope for change. Which is perhaps true so far as it goes, but it also elides the very real uncertainty and fear that pervaded those years, something that Mad Men
does an excellent job demonstrating. Yes, change was (and still is) needed, but change always brings discomfort, which gives rise to backlash movements - something that we seem to be experiencing at an elevated pace lately. In this way, the book feels firmly set in the economically prosperous nineties, and not just because the worst thing hooks seems to be able to say about the President is that he lied to the American public about an affair.
There's one other passage I want to quote. I don't really have anything to say about it, but it haunts me.
When I interviewed popular rap artist Lil' Kim, I found it fascinating that she had no interest in love. While she spoke articulately about the lack of love in her life, the topic that most galvanized her attention was making money. I came away from our discussion awed by the reality that a young black female from a broken home, with less than a high school education, could struggle against all manner of barriers and accumulate material riches yet be without hope that she could overcome the barriers blocking her from knowing how to give and receive love.Meditations From The Mat
, by Rolf Gates. I feel like I've been dissing on Gates' philosophy a lot, so I wanted to post a quote I really liked. For instance, this one, discussing tapas
, the niyama governing spiritual discipline: "We will have good days and bad days, days when the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak, and days when the opposite is the case. Years of consistent practice are not built on rigid self-discipline; they are built on the desire to know more." This dovetails nicely with something I've been ruminating on for a while now; we all talk about how we want to eat better and exercise more, but "wanting to be healthier" clearly isn't a strong enough motivator to overcome the lack of desire (and, not to get sidetracked into a discussion of privilege, but also the lack of opportunity) to eat well and move more. Finding a form of exercise you genuinely enjoy is a good first step, as is figuring out healthier foods that you like; even better, however, is realizing how much better you
feel when you're employing these practices, and giving yourself permission to be that happier person - which requires compassion for your flaws and mistakes as well as curiosity about what more you can do.
Of course, Gates then goes on to talk about how he attended a talk by a disabled and socially underprivileged person who had a spiritual awakening while in prison, and proceeds to completely skip over any of the details of the man's experience and simply go on about how inspiring it was and how universal the themes of his journey, which feels more than a little...dehumanizing and exploitative? Maybe I'm reading too much into a single paragraph. Or maybe I'm afraid that in my love of pattern-seeking and big-picture stuff I sometimes do the same thing.What I plan to read next
Still TBD - I suspect I'm going to continue to be busy with these for a while. But watch this space...