Posts Tagged by Books
|May 13, 2013||Posted by Issa under Radical Self-Acceptance|
Care of the Soul
A Guide for Cultivating Depth and Sacredness in Everyday Life
by Thomas Moore
“Care of the soul begins with observance of the soul.”
This line stood out to me, since it’s something I have taught about in different situations. In Step One: Notice, I talked about noticing the cultural messages all around us. On another topic altogether, my acceptance of my fat body involved a lot of simply looking at it. Just looking and nothing else. I have frequently found that there is great value in simply paying attention to something, even if I don’t consciously change my actions. So it seems entirely right to me that Thomas Moore begins with suggesting that we simply observe the stirrings of our souls.
Another idea in chapter one that really spoke to me is the idea that we tend to strive for an idealized version of “normal”, when in fact our selves, our soul, resides specifically in the ways that we are different.
“…People often neglect their own natures and are tantalized by images of some ideal normality and health that may always be out of reach.”
“Individuality is born in the eccentricities and unexpected shadow tendencies of the soul, moreso than in normality and conformity.”
I am definitely “tantalized by images of some ideal normality and health”. I write a lot about being different and rejecting mainstream thought (The Fuck-It List comes to mind), but I have to constantly think about and write about these things because I feel the constant pull of conformity. I’m sometimes alarmed by how often I find myself doing things I don’t want to do because I think I’m supposed to do them. Trying to achieve normal is something that will always pull at me and something at which I will always fail.
Moore speaks in chapter one about not seeking to excise movements of the soul – symptoms, complaints, fears, and perversities that present themselves. He talks about speaking for these shadow aspects, moving towards them, going through them, embracing them, rather than curing them or seeking their opposite.
My greatest complaint is about my depression. I think about accepting it rather than trying to cure it through medication or through making some great life change after which I will magically no longer be depressed. I am tempted to think that if I “accept” it then I will no longer be depressed, but that’s not right. When Moore talks about “honoring” symptoms, I wonder if it is possible for me to both be depressed (miserable!) and also have a relatively peaceful acceptance about my feelings at the same time. I just don’t know.
- I’ve started off the comments with some questions. Jump in and reply or comment yourself on any thoughts you had from reading this chapter.
- Even if you aren’t reading the book, you are welcome to answer the discussion questions and topics as they arise.
- Comments are threaded. Reply to a specific comment by hitting the reply button underneath it. To allow for different conversations to develop at different rates, try not to reply to multiple comments in the same reply. Even if you want to reply to all the questions or comments, reply to them individually.
- You can still join in on the discussion of the introduction.
- We’ll discuss chapter two in the post on next Monday.
|May 6, 2013||Posted by Issa under Radical Self-Acceptance|
Thomas Moore is not the only author to catalog our psychological ailments, blame them on shifts in our culture, and then point a way out of the darkness, but he’s certainly the most poetic writer on the subject.
Over the next 13 weeks, I’ll be hosting a group discussion about this book, with a new post for a new chapter each Monday. If you can, there’s still time to find a copy and join us.
Even if you don’t read the book, you are welcome to answer the discussion questions and topics as they arise. As my friend Clove said, the interesting stuff is in the discussions. You don’t have to have read the book to jump in to the comments.
In the introduction, Moore calls loss of soul the great malady of the 20th century, encompassing an array of symptoms like feelings of emptiness, meaninglessness, disillusionment about relationships, a loss of values, and a yearning for personal fulfillment.
These sound immediately familiar to me, perhaps especially as a person diagnosed with depression. Indeed “vague depression” is on his list of “emotional complaints of our time”. My depression is at times frustratingly vague, making the all to common advice to “just snap out of it” dangerously alluring.
I assume that many of the people around me suffer from a similar list of symptoms, and I’m also willing to blame it on “our times”. I do also wonder if these feelings are more universal throughout time, “normal” if you will, and if associating them with a particular century is the same kind of attitude that leads all adults to think there’s something wrong with “kids these days”.
Moore says it is impossible to define the soul precisely. He rather uses examples of its presence: music and people with depth, good food, satisfying conversation, genuine friends, memorable and touching experiences, attachment, love, community, intimacy, fulfilling work, rewarding relationships, personal power, relief from symptoms. What a comforting list of desires that is, and how elusive some of them seem.
Care of the Soul is Moore’s take on a self-help book, although it aims to go a more philosophical and mythically inspired direction than most modern self-help books. The part that tempts me most is his idea that we distinguish between curing ourselves and caring for ourselves and that we stop thinking of common life issues as problems to be “solved”. He says:
As you read this book, it might be a good idea to abandon any ideas you have about living successfully and properly, and about understanding yourself. The human soul is not meant to be understood… What we want to do here is to re-imagine those things we think we already understand.
I’ve started off the comments here with some questions. Please jump in and reply or comment yourself on any thoughts you had from reading the introduction.
We’ll discuss chapter one in the post on next Monday.
|April 24, 2013||Posted by Issa under Radical Self-Acceptance|
Care of the Soul by Thomas Moore is a book that I used to read frequently when I was trying to create a spiritual practice for myself out of the mess and muck that is religion. I hate religion. I hate imaginary deities and anti-humanity dogma. But there are positive things I can imagine religion or “spirituality” providing, and a struggled to invent something that would provide those things.
My culture is lacking in ways to talk about matters of the soul. I can submit myself to religion. I can commit myself to psychiatry. Or I can wall myself in with facts and data and pretend that the mysteries of the soul are but data-sets yet uncovered.
22 years after I abandoned Christianity, I’m still looking for better options.
Thomas Moore writes from the perspective of both religion and psychiatry, using the language of both while remaining slightly outside of and critical of both. Many of his books are concerned with soul – or the stuff of ourselves that lies outside dogma and diagnosis.
An Amazon review says:
Care of the Soul is considered to be one of the best primers for soul work ever written. Thomas Moore, an internationally renowned theologian and former Catholic monk, offers a philosophy for living that involves accepting our humanity rather than struggling to transcend it. By nurturing the soul in everyday life, Moore shows how to cultivate dignity, peace, and depth of character.
As I search for what it might mean to be radically self-accepting of my mental states, I’m thinking it’s time for me to read Care of the Soul again.
I’m going to post here about my thoughts as I read. Is anyone interested in doing a more formal book club style reading along with me? I’d set a start date to give everyone time to get the book, figure out an appropriate pace to go, and set a posting schedule for discussions of the sections.
Check out the book on Amazon, see if it interests you, and let me know if you want to participate.
|November 22, 2012||Posted by Issa under Homesteading|
The Lost Arts of Hearth & Home, The Happy Luddite’s Guide to Domestic Self-Sufficiency by Ken Albala and Rosanna Nafziger sounded right up my alley! Hearth, home, luddite, domestic, self-sufficiency… The title hits a bunch of my buttons. I accepted a free copy to review thinking I was just the right person to review this kind of book.
The authors explain that the content is going to follow an old-fashioned feel, too. You won’t find complicated instructions on how to do something just so. You won’t find detailed recipes. What they promise to show you is a way to discover new possibilities and trust your own discovered processes instead of the proclamations of expert instructors.
I love books. As much as I love my glowing screens, too, I really love to hold a book in my hand. Lost Arts is a comfortable package, an old-school book. There’s no dust jacket, no fancy image on the front, just an old-fashioned look and feel. If you’re a book person, this is a bonus.
That all sounds great to me. Let’s go!
And… then splat. I didn’t like the book at all. I had hoped to be inspired, but it fell really flat. Over half the book is kitchen/food related. I’d rather have a real cookbook or instructional book for that stuff. Gardening gets a mere 5 pages. Sewing, quilt making, and rug braiding get some attention, but these aren’t new ideas. The writing and the presentation aren’t very flashy, so they can’t really inspire me to try an new project, and yet they aren’t informational enough to actually teach me anything.
I suppose as much as I like books, they aren’t right for every topic. I do enjoy reading blogs and following Pinterest boards that get me inspired for different projects. And then when I’m ready to actually do, I want real instructions.
These authors also assert that what they’re doing isn’t homesteading. They aren’t raising animals or planting crops, for instance. Oh! Maybe that’s where I should have realized that my interest wasn’t going to last. I suppose it’s cute that they share the idea of hammering a ring out of a silver quarter or how to make a broom. But these kinds of tasks seem like novelties rather than the big picture of self-sufficiency.
What other books would you recommend to someone looking to be more self-sufficient?
|October 18, 2012||Posted by Issa under Counter/Culture|
Diary of a Submissive: A Modern True Tale of Sexual Awakening by Sohpie Morgan is billed as “the real thing” compared to Fifty Shades of Grey. Where Fifty Shades was fiction, Diary of a Submissive claims to be true. Where Fifty Shades was a poor example of responsible BDSM, Diary is supposed to contain respectable practitioners. Where Fifty Shades showed abysmal writing skills, Diary is written by someone with the ability to construct a competent sentence.
Oh yeah. And where Fifty Shades of Grey turned me on and had me squirming in my seat, Diary of a Submissive was so boring I had trouble even finishing it.
The biggest problem for me was the diary-like, journalistic style. The story was very much “this happened, then this other thing happened, then that happened”. Not enough show, way too much tell. I couldn’t get into the characters, fall into the scenes, or care what happened next. There was no plot, no arch, no motion.
The subtitle contains “tale of sexual awakening”, but there wasn’t anything as dramatic as an awakening. The author found out some turn ons, then found out some more. That’s not the same thing as an awakening.
Morgan makes an effort to assure us that there’s nothing damaging lurking in her childhood, and maybe that’s the problem. Not every person or character is interesting enough to justify a book. Some characters are whole and wholesome, and that makes for a happy life but not necessarily an interesting book.
For many people, the constant graphic BDSM scenes are enough to carry them through the book. For them, that’s the interesting part. But, as a person with some BDSM experience I need some more drama. That you like to be caned on the weekend and called a slut doesn’t do it for me. I know enough to know that caning isn’t really my thing and slut is practically an endearment in my crowd.
The one thing I appreciated was that the author wasn’t constantly defining terms. I felt trusted as a reader to figure out what things meant for myself or google them if I needed some help. Constant definition would have taken the book into cheesier 101 territory, and I was glad that it didn’t go there.
Over the next few weeks, I’ll be participating in some discussions inspired by this book over at BlogHer where you’re welcome to jump in if you like.
And of course, find your copy of the book here!
|October 8, 2012||Posted by Issa under Parenting|
When I was offered a free copy of Fed Up with Frenzy for review, I jumped at the chance. Slow parenting? Escaping the fast-moving world? Yes, that sounds just right to me. This is a book I definitely wanted to review for you guys. I don’t know if any helicopter parenting, over-scheduled types are reading me, but if you are, I wanted this chance to encourage you to slow down. And if you’re already a slower type like me, I figured this book would provide some always needed encouragement and support.
All that being said, I expected to be a little bored when it came to actually reading the book. I don’t really need an entire book extolling the virtues of slowing down. Sounds kind of dry. Would it be great to learn some supporting science and interesting to hear some on-point personal stories? Sure. But I’m already convinced, so why bother?
Imagine my delight on discovering that that’s not what this book is at all!
Fed Up with Frenzy: Slow Parenting in a Fast-Moving World by Susan Sachs Lipman has an introductory chapter with the personal story and bullet points and some science. And then the rest of the book tosses the facts aside and is instead a delightful recipe book for how to actually go about making this slower life you dream of.
Instead of answering the question of “Why should we slow down?” to which most of us are already acutely aware of our own answers, here you will find answers to the question, “What is slowing down made of?”
If you are looking for ways to slow down with your children or add to your already slow repertoire, this book is packed with gazillions of ideas. Learn to make things that go – trains, boats, planes, kites – from materials you already have. Find the instructions for invisible ink and making your own bubble solution. Run a lemonade stand. Go camping in your backyard. Sing songs and play games. You’ll find slow crafts, slow kitchen ideas, and slow gardening, plus simple ways to enjoy nature and the passing seasons.
Whether you are just learning to slow down or are searching for new ideas to fill your slow days, and no matter how old your kids are, you will find some neat ideas in this charming little how-to for enjoying a slower paced life.
Check out Fed Up with Frenzy for yourself, and find your own way out of the fast lane.
|September 3, 2012||Posted by Issa under Parenting|
A couple of weeks ago on the Unconditional Parenting (UP) discussion group that I moderate, the terrible dangers of cell phones on kids was brought up. One parent mentioned that parents these days felt pressured to give young kids cell phones. I said I didn’t feel pressured about it. Rather, I’m looking forward to Dylan having his own cell phone! I love my technology and don’t fear it in Dylan’s life. Other parents see things quite differently.
Shortly after that conversation, I received an offer to get a free copy of the book Raising Generation Tech by Jim Taylor, PhD so I could do this review. Dr Taylor has written several other books, including Your Children Are Listening: Nine Messages They Need to Hear from You, and as a parenting and psychology expert he blogs for popular websites and appears on news shows. On the heels of that UP discussion, and as Dylan gets more and more interested in the technology around him, Raising Generation Tech popped up at just the right time!
Right off the bat, Dr Taylor makes a distinction between authentic popular culture and synthetic popular culture. I was resistant to this distinction because I don’t want to just reject current popular culture because it’s current and I’m increasingly not. Isn’t it a cliche that parents are always worried about “kids these days”? You can find texts from centuries past moaning about the perils of popular culture. I hate to fall into that trap. On the other hand, Dr Taylor makes the case that because of our fast-pace, broadcast-to-millions technology what we think of as popular culture is not really “popular” but instead comes to us from a limited number of materialistic, capitalistic companies. “Popular culture” these days is advertising. It’s important to pay attention to what we’re being sold. Some of the potentially alarming things that Dr Taylor mentions don’t concern me at all. Kids listing god/heaven last on a list of important things? I approve! On the other hand, the sexualization of very young children is a big concern of mine.
I appreciate Dr Taylor’s attempt to not be alarmist about technology itself. Other books demonize the hardware, such as The Plug-In Drug, which argues that the evils of television are inherent in the machine. Instead, Dr Taylor talks about how it’s not the tech that’s the issue, it’s the particular relationship your child and your family develops with the technology. This can be difficult when parents and kids can view and approach tech so differently, but it’s important not to increase that rift by attacking the equipment itself. Dr Taylor promotes setting a good foundation for your kids’ use of technology.
Raising Generation Tech dives into the potential positive and negative effects that technology can have on kids’ self-identities, self-esteem, thinking, decision making, relationships, health, and more. Dr Taylor gives each aspect of kids’ lives a multi-faceted look and presents research to help fill out the picture of how technology and popular culture interacts with these different parts of life. Since these aspects rely on values and judgements, I suspect that most people will find some disagreement with Dr Taylor’s conclusions. I cringed every time he tossed around “obesity” in the health section, for instance. And I disagreed with much of what he said about what makes positive relationships, because I have experience with people with disabilities that make them less able to benefit from traditional, face-to-face relating.
That being said, it doesn’t matter if you agree with each thing in this book or even most of them. What matters is that this is an important topic worth exploring, and Raising Generation Tech does an excellent job of leading the way for that exploration. There are many practical tasks offered to help you think through your own values and the effects of technology on your kids, and you will come away from reading with a greater understanding of yourself, your kids, the world you are navigating together, and the technology you’re using to do it.
|June 4, 2012||Posted by Issa under Parenting, Radical Self-Acceptance|
Here are some facts:
There is NO evidence that eating too many cookies makes children fat.
There is NO evidence that eating fewer cookies will make fat children thinner.
Anyone who says otherwise is either ignorant or a liar.
Doctors, children’s book authors, and parents should all be informed about this, because anything else amounts to shaming children about their bodies. And that should never happen, even when the bodies in question are little teddy bears in story books.
|March 5, 2012||Posted by Issa under Uncategorized|
When Dylan was born, I found out about Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, an awesome program available to all children in our area. The program is simple: every month from birth to age five, the child receives a book in the mail. The program is open to kids of all incomes, and the books are tailored to the age of the child. Dylan has been getting a board book every month since he was born and will continue to get one book every month until he is five.
What an amazing program!
Dolly Parton started the Imagination Library in 1996 here in East Tennessee to help children love reading and be excited about books and to make sure that absolutely every child had books at home. Starting in 2000, the program expanded and is now available in any area that partners with the program.
Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library has mailed 40,000,000 books to children in the US, Canada, and UK. There are currently 1600 local communities involved and 700,000 children receiving books every single month.
If this program doesn’t operate in your area, they are ready and willing to get you started bringing it to your own community.
I like to keep my eye out for easy ways to give back to communities and programs that I think are particularly worthy. I recently got an email from my local library asking me to donate $12 to our Imagination Library program. With the donation matching available, my $12 donation provides books for a child for 1 year. Such an easy way to give! It’s a worthwhile program, quality books, and open to all children.
If you like to make charitable donations, I would love for you to give to this program. You could find the program in your area and give there, or you could just give to mine here in East Tennessee. Either way, your money goes to provide books for a child.
|December 29, 2011||Posted by Issa under Parenting|
In the bookstore the other day I ran across the children’s board book Being Safe:
Which contained this horrible bit of advice:
The whole “don’t talk to strangers” thing is completely silly. Everyone talks to strangers. When parents go out, we talk to store clerks, postal workers, waitstaff, etc. Kids are usually required by their parents to talk to strangers, too. They have to answer the doctor’s questions, for example, or say thank you to the bank teller for the lollipop. So which strangers are okay to talk to again?
Also, instilling a fear of “strangers” in children can actually make them less safe. For one thing, it restricts their experience in talking with and judging the people they meet. But more importantly, if a child is ever in serious trouble – is separated from a caregiver or is threatened by a “stranger” – who should ou reach out to for help? Probably another stranger! Fear of people leads to nothing except less enjoyment of the world and fewer options when in need.
Leave “don’t talk to strangers” behind. In fact, get busy talking to more strangers! There are a lot of awesome strangers out there with wonderful things to say.