Tag Archives: books

Give War and Peace a Chance

Read “War and Peace.” Pushing Tolstoy’s novel, what an out-of-date idea to tackle. Who is going to buy this viewpoint?

Reading is fun to me. But telling you that “War and Peace” is fun, may be a step too far. Yet I can’t let go of the belief that reading this book, and many other books, would benefit the humans I see in my community and on the Internet.

I know that respecting a dead (or living) white male writer is unpopular in and of itself. Even worse than reading his writings is probably pushing the more distasteful idea of reading substantively. I know people that shun reading any book. They cannot think of a more horrible activity.

The world runs fast, who has time to read more than a handful of words on a screen. Short, pithy remarks are as far as we go to research a subject. I noticed this years ago when I thought I could do away with my dictionary or thesaurus. I would look up a word online and find quick, simple, incomplete explanations of that word. My old three-volume dictionary went into so much more detail that it came from a different world. A world where an in-depth look at words and ideas mattered.

I started to love reading when I was quite young and the love of my life in third grade read Greek myths. I pursued his interests in reading in order to have him love me. The love of this boy did not last, but the love of reading stuck.

I read even more, because I did not trust my mother. She told me things that sounded false to my young mind. I wandered the shelves of libraries. That’s where I found “The Second Sex” and other feminist literature to teach me alternative views to my mother’s “something horrible happens to girls when they get older.” I discovered the horrible was only natural. I also discovered a feminist viewpoint that suggested that a man without a penis is preferable to a man with one. So I also learned to filter my reading.

The women in “War and Peace” are far more traditional and sentimental than any 1960s feminist. The woman’s place is in the home in Tolstoy’s book. That does not strip them of depth, passion, and ability. They grow and change as they learn more about the world and themselves at every turn in this tumultuous period in history.

Today I’m amazed to see young women around me that forsake promotions in the careers they have forged. They cut back on their hours or stop working for a few years and chose to stay home with their children. A more traditional and sentimental view of themselves than the past fifty years have been teaching them. A young woman doctor I know who graduated in the top 3% of her class, actually said that she won’t pursue a more demanding medical specialty because she doesn’t want the long workdays. She sees herself as the primary caregiver for any children she may have and sees this view as still being the way of the world. A practical and emotional draw to domestic life that has not been severed by modern goalposts.

A quick, tweet-length summary could never define any one character or scene in the book. You need nearly 1,700 pages to get a partial grip on the characters and the story. Rereading may be required. The century I find myself living in relentlessly reduces ideas into flat simplifications. If you can’t fit it into a blog or Facebook post, forget it.

One of the most remarkable bit of writing in “War and Peace,” is the near-death experience of Prince Andrew on the battlefield. Foreshadowing the modern times his world was entering, Prince Andrew became disillusioned with the great leaders he idealized and lost his belief that war brings glory. As I read this part, I felt as if a dreamlike, born-again atheism was let lose on the world as a valid and attractive alternative.

Tolstoy critizes the egos of Napoleon and Alexander. Both French and Russian leaders believe the world revolves around them. But just as the earth had been displaced as the center of the universe, so have the ruling classes. Napoleon and Alexander ultimately have little to do with the overall progress of war and peace. The lowliest member of the army has more to do with the final outcome of the chaos that is war than those on the highest rung of the social order. The military orders that come from the two great leaders are mostly senseless and impossible to carry out. Small unknowns on the battlefield make or break the outcome. The serf triumphs or dies from his own decisions and wins or loses the battle. Tolstoy died just before the Russian revolution and “War and Peace” anticipated the uprising.

Today’s power players in politics and personality must conquer the electronic media. Streaming video, audio, quick bites of words, work on fleeting emotions rather than a depth of thought. The hard work of reading substantive fiction retains what is the best in human.

I agree with George Eliot when she said, “Art is the nearest thing to life; it is a mode of amplifying experience and extending our contact with our fellow-men beyond the bounds of our personal lot.”

If you limit yourself to social media posts and the mesmerizing bells and whistles of sound and colors appearing across screens, than you are merely a consumer and the consumed. Beware of what you buy into, passive scrolling may be the new opiate of the people. Escape a new servitude; read, read, read.

Read and open a narrative with the author, with yourself and the cumulative ideas already pinging around in your brain. Do not be force-fed gruel. Allow unknown worlds into your brain. Challenge your interpretation, go off on a tangent. Add to your experience, don’t just replicate them. Build upon ideas.

The Internet periodically publishes articles calling for the closure of libraries. The argument is that libraries are archaic, expensive, and unnecessary since the Internet is a superior source of information. I believe the real rebels of the future will be found in the libraries and bookstores where the reading selection is more haphazard and not media-driven. Used bookstores are especially of value, unusual and out-of-print books lurk about there. If everything can be found on a computer, who needs books, buildings, or librarians? But how would you know what is being filtered out of the information found on the screen?

Who needs arms and legs and a way to experience the outside world? (I know I’m missing out on a database eternity.) Why keep your music in a box connected to your head and miss out on listening to all the other music out there? Including the sight and sound of birds, the wind, the insects, the turning of a page.

Advertisements

Launch Defense Mechanism

One-word Prompt: Launch

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/launch/


Gaming addiction

“A word made flesh is seldom”

Flesh on paper — Saved

Lofty Aspirations

Daily Prompt: Lofty

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/lofty/


Know me like a book

Open the paper treasure

Immortality.

 

Is God Natural?

DAILY PROMPT
Doubters Alert
What commonly accepted truth (or “truth”) do you think is wrong, or at least seriously doubt? Why?

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_prompt/doubters-alert/

_______________________________________________________

A walk among nature proves the existence of God. How can you look at the beauty of a tree and doubt the existence of God? Believers espouse that the natural world screams out the fact that only a Creator could lay out a plan so perfect and beautiful. Peek out a window to witness the truth.

I’m a city girl that has no great love of untamed nature. But I do love the little bit of nature in my backyard. If anyone reads my blog, they know that I love the birds and cultivate them with birdseed, nectar, and a clean birdbath. I would rather gaze at the few annuals I plant in my yard than get daily deliveries of fresh flowers from a florist. I don’t care for insects in my house, but I do enjoy viewing their buzzy, crawly activities outside.

Nature has beauty. It does not prove the existence of God.

For this lack of belief, I blame modern times. As a medieval human, I’m sure no doubts would exist in my brain. In particular, I blame two modern strains of thought: existentialism and science fiction.

The play by Sartre, No Exit, squelches any ideas of a cut-and-dried heaven and hell. Perception is changeable, not subject to finite rules.

Earth is our sanctuary. In science fiction, one can find vastly different worlds that suit other life forms or machine forms perfectly well, but are a torment to our eyes. Likewise, our earth can be one huge horror movie to some Others in this universe.

Biting into the apple of modern times puts an end to certainty. I can’t un-see or un-think this point of view. What I love, proves nothing. In turn this tinges everything with sadness. I would prefer a kinder point of view.

China Travel in Four Days

China is evil according to some of the news reports in America. I’m skeptical since agendas abound.

What I do know is that I found another author to read and he is Chinese: Cixin Liu, the award-winning author of The Three Body Trilogy. I just finished the second of the series, “The Dark Forest” and look forward to the translation of the last book in his series next year.

A book on the philosophy of Confucius is the only other book I remember reading from China.

I may have missed the author’s intentions, but here is some stuff I found interesting in his books so far:

History and evolution of communist forces in China. I started reading up on some of the incidents he mentioned.

Technology holds a positive place in the future of mankind. A different spin on the debate between environmentalists and industry. When technology is held hostage by an alien force, the world may be doomed.

Spirituality has a place. Many of the characters in his books are atheists and they wish they had the ability to believe in something. A piece of the puzzle eludes them even if it is only a comforting piece.

Love lends a hand in solving problems for some of the lead characters.

The humanities, the arts clarify reality. They are a useful tool even in a high-tech world.

A frequent refrain in “The Dark Forest” is, “If I destroy you, what business is it of yours?” Despite the harshness, it is something to contemplate. Historical, societal, and personal concerns alter the meaning of this idea.

The firefly refrain: it is everywhere in the book and thought by different characters. I just love the symbolism.

A spaceship named Natural Selection. What a fun, not too subtle reference. All the names of the earth spaceships are interesting to note.

Cixin’s description of nanotechnology, space stairs, and the potential immensity of a photon brings me a bit closer to getting these scientific concepts into my unscientific mind.

I find it harder to separate fact from fiction in the real world. Statistics lie and so does the mutable Internet. I trust well-written, solidly researched books instead. If nothing else, good fiction and non-fiction books start a conversation in my head. Unravel with a book.

Snow in the Summer

DAILY PROMPT
That Stings!
Franz Kafka said, “we ought to read only books that bite and sting us.” What’s the last thing you read that bit and stung you?

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_prompt/that-stings/

_______________________________________________________

That last book was “Snow” by Orhan Pamuk. His books give me a glimpse into a land and culture that I am blind to and gives me inklings of understanding.

“Snow” explores the author’s country of Turkey. His land has been and is at the crossroads of the east and west where a complex pull of secular and religious ideologies struggle for power.

The whole book had a scorpion effect on me, but I remember a particular bite and sting in Chapter 32, “I Have Two Souls Inside My Body.”

In this chapter Ka,the main character, writes a poem that speaks of a “. . . sadness of a city forgotten by the outside world and banished from history.” He imagines that he is in a Hollywood movie, the image of the earth spinning pans in, the camera moves closer until you see only one country — Turkey — with its surrounding seas, Istanbul, trees. and laundry, until the film stops at Ka’s own bedroom window.

I received a bit of a jolt when the camera settled in on a location several thousand of miles away from my personal view of the same Hollywood movie. My earth stops spinning on the Great Lakes, Detroit, a Ford motor plant, a birdbath. This may be my American egocentrism at work here, but it is probably a natural vision most people go to in their minds.

I love to read books that take me out of my skin and for a second puts me in another’s place. To me this is better than physical travel. Travel may take you to tourist spots and remove you from controversial images or people. Your mind can take you more places. I prefer Dickinson’s room to Melville’s open seas.

Stepping Away From the Abyss

DAILY PROMPT
On the Edge
We all have things we need to do to keep an even keel — blogging, exercising, reading, cooking. What’s yours?

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_prompt/on-the-edge/


I will share some things I do that keep me from going off the edge.

Number one must be exercising. Yoga helps my arthritis and calms my mind. The weight work I do must keep my bone density as strong as it is even at my old age. It also keeps the old arms from flapping too much in the wind. Elliptical machines keep my heart pumping without stressing out the knees. I enjoy watching the plants, animals, and people go by from my bicycle. Going out in the flower and vegetable garden is calming and surprisingly a good workout. Gardening makes me sore in ways that my other activity doesn’t.

A close second is reading. If I only sat and read (tempting at times) I would be depressed. Between contemplating my navel with philosophy and contemplating the infinite universe along with the minuscule particles of physics, I’m sure I would run off screaming at some point. For a necessary easy-going escape, I love my mystery novels and historical fiction. A bad reality or just a boring one can be solved by a book. By reading books written by people very different than myself, I can empathize and get away from myself. I felt like a pile of bricks fell on my head when I read the last page of “Things Fall Apart” by Chinua Achebe. I think that is the way the book should have hit me.

Writing must be third. Writing things out helps me learn. People tell me to stop taking notes and just look and listen. I’m not wired that way. The act of writing and rewriting allows me to understand new concepts. Writing  is also my therapy to work through bad memories and new stresses. It can modify my thoughts and opinions, maybe for the better. Writing makes me think through ideas and conclusions can change. Writing (and reading) has allowed me to feel that “Cleaving in My Mind” that Emily Dickinson expressed in her poetry. I totally enjoy that.

Tutoring in a literacy program, I would place fourth on my list. It keeps me doing something useful and keeps me from becoming too self-absorbed. Another good reason to get up every morning. I want to share not just the practical aspects of reading and writing with another person, but also the sheer joy. A world without books, paper and pens is in itself too sad to think about.

Gotta go, plants to trim, weeds to pull. Moving farther from the edge.