Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Books Read: July

It seems I can only keep up with the books I'm reading on this blog. I do have more to say, about life, the universe, and everything, but getting it out of my head and onto the page doesn't seem to be happening. I think it's because I've been procrastinating on revising my writing sample (for the 3rd time). If I turn on the computer and open up a word processor I feel obliged to write a couple of hundred words about the raven paradox and I'm a little sick of the raven paradox right now.

About three weeks ago I realized that in my rush to apply to grad school (an open secret) I had given someone else control of my happiness. Not one particular person, but just handed it over to professors, grades, acceptance into grad programs and so on. I don't do well (and I expect most of us don't) when I'm not in charge of my own happiness. I've been there before. I've handed happiness over to school before, to co-workers, to relationships. It doesn't work and it makes me rebel. I think it's a part of the reason that I didn't do well in school before. One of the things that allowed me to go back to school has been that I am doing it for my own reasons and not to please anyone else (you're welcome to be pleased about it, but I'm not doing it for you).

So upon realizing that I had turned those reasons, responsibility for my happiness, over to someone else I stopped and reevaluated. I had to approach this like an ultra. In the middle of a race you will lose your motivation and not want to continue. It happens to everyone. The trick, for me, is to look around and remind myself that this is where I want to be, I am doing what I want to do, and even if it isn't fun, be in awe of it and what I can do. So that's what I'm doing now. I'm in awe of all the learning I've done and the papers I've written. I know I'm not done and maybe I'll change my mind about grad school, but for right now it's easy enough to act as though I'm going to do it (that includes revising that paper). This is where I want to be and what I want to do right now.

Maybe I lied about not being able to get this stuff typed up. Once again I haven't read as much as I thought I would. I think that's in part for the reasons listed above. But looking back I guess I have read a fair bit, most of it classic sci-fi, the comfort food of books.

Infinite Possibilities, Robert Heinlein.
This is a collection of three of Heinlein's “juvenile fiction” novellas. Tunnel in the Sky was so-so. Although it had a few good psychological elements towards the end it seemed to be a stream of consciousness Boy's Life meets Lord of the Flies. Time For the Stars was much better as it had a good hard sci-fi grounding and explored the twins paradox of special relativity with literal twins. Not his best, but fun. Citizen of the Galaxy was the last and strongest. Not super deep, but it brings up some good points about how blind we are to what goes on in other places and cultures and different sorts of freedom. Besides, any novella that subverts the happily-ever-after trope by means of stifling bureaucracy is okay by me.

Tao Te Ching, Lao-Tzu/Stephen Mitchell.
A good reminder that I don't know as much as I think I do.

The Nine Billion Names of God, Arthur C. Clarke.
A collection of Clarke's favorites of his own short stories. Most of these follow the sci-fi short story formula pretty closely. Find a curious scientific fact/theory, run with it for a while, twist ending. Good stuff anyway. Clarke's dark but goofy sense of humor along with a frontier aesthetic and humanist ethic underpin these stories. It makes me wonder what is really important: here and now, something greater, or nothing at all.

Apology, Plato.

A good reminder that I don't know as much as I think I do.