Daily Prompt: Lofty
Know me like a book
Open the paper treasure
Daily Prompt: Lofty
Know me like a book
Open the paper treasure
What commonly accepted truth (or “truth”) do you think is wrong, or at least seriously doubt? Why?
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 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.
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?
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.
On the Edge
We all have things we need to do to keep an even keel — blogging, exercising, reading, cooking. What’s yours?
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.
I keep thinking about Andy Miller’s book “The Year of Reading Dangerously.” I started reading dangerously at a young age.
When I was eleven years old, I picked up an old paperback copy of “Fanny Hill, or Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure” in a used bookstore. This is an erotic novel published in 1748 that became a best seller even though its publication was illegal.
When I read it, I not only didn’t understand many of the words, I didn’t comprehend many of the concepts. A lady of pleasure: I only had a vague concept of what this possibly meant. The author, John Cleland, used tons of metaphors instead of direct prose when describing sex. It was difficult to decipher metaphors for things I was mostly clueless about.
I reread the book about ten years later with a much better understanding of what that pleasure was all about. I realized that commerce was involved along with the sensation.
At the age of twelve, I read “Soul on Ice” by Eldridge Cleaver. Eldridge was a black man in a Civil Rights era America that made him dangerously angry. He ended up jailed for rape. In his eyes, he rebelled against the white man’s law by raping white women. He exacted revenge for the the way some white men historically debased black women.
In high school, my English teacher began talking about appropriate and inappropriate books for children to read. He was all for anyone reading anything and everything.
I mentioned that I read “Soul on Ice” quite young. He said that this is proof that reading never harms a person.
Ah, but he did not know the depth of my wretchedness. I escaped my own personal hell by reading books, and Cleaver and Cleland were welcome reprieves. Would my teacher appreciate the comfort I found in depravity?
In the third grade, I fell in love with Nick Naroni. Nick had black hair, green eyes, and was actually a taller third-grader than I was. He also read Greek and Roman mythology or at least versions of those stores that could be found in a public elementary school library. So being in love as I was, I adopted his interests and also began reading mythology. Nick failed the fourth grade and I lost sight of him, but literature remains a passion of mine.
I just finished reading Andy Miller’s book “The Year of Reading Dangerously.” Last year I read “My Life in Middlemarch” by Rebecca Mead. Both of these authors reflect on how a book or books can affect a person’s life. What a goofball I am, I read about other people reading. Or so my husband thinks I am.
In Andy’s book sometimes you can’t make out where the books he writes about end and where his life begins. His book reading propels him through a sort of mid-life crisis. After many years where parenthood, the hectic pace of life and work interfere with his first love of reading, he becomes determined to make the time to read fifty great books (and two not so great). The books truly connect with his life.
One time, Nick did an oral report in class on mythology. He started asking questions about the ancient gods and I answered every one of his questions. As you know, I’d been reading. Then he asked a question about something that I didn’t read about: “Why is the month of January named after the god Janus?” Janus was a Roman god with two faces. The probable answer clicked in my head right away. “Because one face looks to the old year and the other to the new year,” I responded. All my correct answers surprised the teacher and Nick. I was so proud of myself. Decades later I’m still reliving my moment of glory!
Anyway, the books through my life are precious and have become part of my essence. Thanks Andy (and Nick) for providing me with a blog post topic. I’ve got stories about my book reading too.
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