Keeping Our Perspective: 2021, A Reading Life
I remind my readers that there’s a LOT of practical, informative, and “how-to”, guidance in my fully-searchable1500 blog pages and 450 blog articles.
This post and my prior post on “Our Recommitment to Excellence” are written during a short “vacation” which for me includes listening to”audiobooks”, reading, and buying my year’s worth of new books. So, this is NOT a “how-to” post.
It is a time to relax and to think. I guess I am not destined to be “an influencer”, in the sense of having thousands of followers, but I have tried to change my profession and my world with my writing. So, as always, feel free to share this and any of my posts.
I assure you that the books listed and pictured here will not waste your time or your money. I refer you to other reading lists and sources sprinkled throughout my blog. I even included my views on “religiosity” and my “history of the world”. Just search for “reading”.
For the last five years, I have been nearly obsessed with the curiosities of human cognition and the bizzarities created by the rise of Donald Trump and the pseudo-conservative radical right and the media industry that has morphed into existence.
That obsession is tied to my lifetime quest to figure out “What’s it all about?” and “Where do we go from here?” I have devoted thousands of hours reading science fiction, history, biography, science, philosophy, and technology.
I have been aware of human beings’ ability to believe that which is neither verifiable nor true ever since I I informed my cousin Karen (I was six and she was seven) that I was sure there was no Santa Claus! I counted the chimneys in Wheeling’s Edgewood subdivision and knew he was a fake. Karen got a spanking for telling me, but I was the one who told her that I knew.
Ten years later, it was not easy to stay firmly seated in my pew seat during a Methodist Youth Fellowship prayer service when our speaker, a “Christian Athlete”, invited us all to the alter to be “saved” by a personal (supernatural) Jesus. It isn’t that I don’t believe in God, but unless you have thought about this long, and hard, and critically, it is unlikely I believe in your God.
My thinking has come into focus by reading and listening to several sources. They are:
- One of the “Great Courses” published by the “The Teaching Company”, which I just began: “History of the Ancient Worlds: A Global Perspective by Prof. Gregory S. Aldrete: https://www.audible.com/pd?asin=B00DJUK74W&source_code=ASSORAP0511160006
- Another real “gem” is 3 lectures by the Great scientist Richard P. Feynman, “The Meaning of it All”, who reminded us of the details of the scientific method. Anyone who does not understand the scientific method is living in a world of anecdote and conjecture. https://www.audible.com/pd?asin=B002V1OKRA&source_code=ASSORAP0511160006
- When they are followed correctly, the methods of science lead to more truth, certainty, and accuracy than anything else ever devised by humankind.
- Another source is “1491, New Revelations of The Americas before Columbus”, by Charles Mann.
- It always helps to challenge what we think we know from another perspective, in this case, the perspective is from the early inhabitants of The Americas.
- A third book is “Noise: A Flaw in Human Judgment” by Daniel Kahneman, Olivier Sobony, and Cass Sunstein, a successor to Kahneman’s “Thinking Fast and Slow”, which is a classic on the process that human beings use to reach conclusions. These conclusions are often flawed.
- “Noise” tries to explore the difficulties of understanding a world with vast sources of information, so much of it pure “noise”.
- Of course, I have learned much from Kurt Anderson’s “Fantasyland: How America Went Haywire” and his “Evil Geniuses: The Unmaking of America” and many of the revelatory books written by Donald Trump’s niece, by his real estate manager, and his advisors. Together, they reveal a flawed and evil “savant” who awoke the dark side of America.
- With luck, I can supplement this paragraph with a short account of a book signing by Kurt Anderson in Kent. Ct. which I hope to attend Saturday night.
- Gordon S. Woods’ book, “Friends Divided, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson”, promises to give concise and insightful summaries of the lives of these two great Founding Fathers and the country that these Men of the Enlightenment helped to create.
- And, I have just scratched the surface of “Spinoza’s Ethics”, translated by George Elliott (the pseudonym for Marian Evans, 19th Century female author and thinker ). Spinoza’s brilliant insights got him in trouble as “the Great Heretic”, but he conceived of a modern God, much more wondrous than the traditional anthropomorphic, spiteful, manipulative God that has been used so often to judge and humble mankind.
- Don’t forget “The Double Helix” by James Watson, winner of the Nobel Prize with Frances Crick: https://www.audible.com/pd?asin=B0058OQ1AQ&source_code=ASSORAP0511160006
- As we listened to his course today, Professor Aldrete provided “perspective” as we contemplate our current troubled era:
- He points out of the last 7000 years or so, 80-90% of all human beings lived one kind of life.
- They did not know how to read or write.
- They lived in a rural setting, usually a farm.
- Nearly half of all children died in childhood, which meant that women needed to average at least five children or the population decreased.
- These people rarely traveled more than 20 miles from home.
- They knew nothing of science, and I realized that they didn’t know they lived on a planet, that orbited the sun or of disease, medicine, or of course philosophy, history, or biology.
- IF a person survived to age 20, they were lucky to live another 20 years, on a near-starvation diet, to bury at least two of their children.
- Occasionally, men with swords would arrive and steal their crops or things of value, whether by theft or taxation, it didn’t matter to them.
- He talked of two great explorers, German and British, who discovered massive stone columns and blocks and determined them be related to the people who created Stonehenge. Wrong! They were Roman olive oil presses! But, not living in a culture that had olives, they got it wrong, wrong!
- So, what’s my point? Only that life is short, and it is hard to gain a full perspective. You can’t do it by doing one thing, regardless of whether it is brain surgery, factory work, advanced physics, English literature, or fine cuisine.
- I think the only way you to is is thinking deep AND broad, taking it all in and thinking it over carefully.
- So I share with you the books I acquired this summer, and an old favorite that I was reminded of by a Facebook Photo by my son of the rocky Maine Coast.
- Work hard, but step back, think, and absorb as much of as you can, so you can share and learn as much as you can. It is an adventure we get to take but once!
A Gift from My Son and Daughter In Law
Cinca, our new friend.
This post was written by Burton Hunter