2017. Sorry I’m still talking about it.
But what I really want to talk about in terms of 2017 is that I read a lot of books. Thirty-five, in fact, which is the most I’ve ever read in a year and I’d like to congratulate myself.
Sorry if it sounds like I’m bragging but, I don’t know if you remember but last year was a pretty bad year. It was bad on a macro level and a micro level which makes sense because collective consciousness influences the individual and now here we are, all a mess. But the point is that, even when I look back at last year and think about how shitty it was, I tell myself, at least I read thirty-five books. (I encourage you to find and cling to whatever your own version of thirty-five-books-a-year is.)
All of those books together kind of changed my life in a way that a sum of unrelated voices has never done before, and now, with 2018 well underway and also looking not so great so far, I’m trying to not forget what I learned.
Deep Survival, Sapians, Sex at Dawn:
“Here is why we are tormented in the aftermath of trauma: because we have a frog and a rat in our brain. But that is also one reason we have a sixth sense. The frog and the rat are always watching out for us.”
I think, now, about the frog and the rat in my brain. I am trying to make them my friends. These books reminded me that there is animal in me and while that is often seen as a bad thing, there is much to be gained from understanding that the animal inside me is just trying to help keep me, and all of humankind, alive.
The Ends of the World:
This book presented the theory that impending global warming represents the greatest threat to humanity that we will ever see. And that if we manage to survive it, we will likely go on to live beyond the limits of planet Earth. In reference to future humans: “They will know that before them lie, not the millions of years in which we measure the eras of geology, nor the billions of years which span the past lives of the stars, but years to be counted literally in trillions…. But for all that, they may envy us, basking in the bright afterglow of Creation; for we knew the universe when it was young.”
I like thinking of all of us as young, and the world as young. And that most of history hasn’t happened yet.
The Divided Mind, Cure: the Power of Mind over Body, Empathy Exams:
Leslie Jamison writes about a man competing in an ultra-marathon: “This is benevolence as surprise, evidence of a grace beyond the self that has, of course, come from the self–the same self that loaded the fanny pack hours before, whose role has been obscured by bone-weary delusion. So it goes. One morning a man blows a conch shell, and two days later–still answering the call of that conch, another man finds all he needs strapped to his own body, where he can neither expect nor explain it.”
I thought that we understood sickness and health. But actually we have no idea. We are mysteries. But being a mystery is a comfort to me because if there is a vast gap in our knowledge then there is hope of filling it.
So here’s to 2018. Read the news sometimes. But read books all of the time. And may the frog and the rat be ever at your side.