The sounds of my thoughts

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I’ve just finished reading the Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner. Certainly a challenging read but I found myself quite gripped to it none the less.

When I read stories about all the troubles of different family members throughout their lifespans, I sometimes find this quite depressing. Especially if these stories span over more than just one generation. Obviously as is the case with this book, this depends a lot on the plot of the novel…  The main theme of this one was about the falling of the Compson family into disrepair and how each family member is screwed up in their own way. But generally I just find these stories a bit too easy to be taken literally. This ‘type’ of novel probably has a genre but quite often it seems that classic novels have this cynical edge. After finishing a book like this, it paints a picture of a lifetime of jealousy, hatred, betrayal and guilt to look forward to in our futures. Books like these make it all to easy to see how your life might turn out just like it, too. Maybe it’s just that the authors have done a fantastic job of writing the novel to make it seem super realistic! But when I end the book it leaves me with an unsatisfying feeling of ‘huh, will my life be over so quickly too? With such nasty grudges that last 50 years?’. Real cheery thoughts. Perhaps this is why I find myself reading non-fiction a lot more often now!

I’m thinking of starting to write a novel. I have this amazing vision of publishing this dark, philosophical book that everyone can’t put down which wins numerous awards and everyone is like ‘wow, what a fantastic book – why didn’t I think of that first’? And then I think, ‘but what would I write it on?’. And that’s where I usually stop, because I can’t even get started. If anyone’s paying attention, this actually sounds a lot like my pursuit for the perfect ‘dream’ job. I have a vision of a dream job/career. However, because I haven’t even realized what it is yet I have come to a stop and haven’t actually progressed any further. As great as it is to think about (and even go so far as writing about) finding this elusive dream life, if you’re not actually doing anything to bring yourself closer to finding what your passions are (you’ve only had a limited range of experiences – what else is out there?) you’re never going to land ‘it’. (Translation: instead of sitting on your bum getting overwhelmed by choice, just go for it; it’ll probably work out in the end!) Without being too much of a negative nelly, I’m starting to see a theme here: I’m slowly realizing that these dream jobs, book ideas, business ideas, etc. just don’t exist…*)

*Note: I am by no means saying you can’t be ecstatically happy in your job. I’m just thinking instead of figuring out your dream job (good luck, ha!) and then going out and looking for it, it’s probably better to just throw yourself out there and realize that with every decision you make and experience you have, you’ll probably be coming closer to your ‘dream’ job. Because that’s what life is. Just winging it. Right?

Maybe I’m just really indecisive and hate the idea of settling in a single job or career, even if it is the dream one!

So, after returning from a bit of a diversion.. I’m taking my own advice and applying it to writing a novel: I’m going to just start writing a novel and see what plops out. There. That was easy.

I was potentially inspired to write this post by reading A. J. Kessler’s article ‘showing up’. I love A.J.’s blog and find the articles very interesting and thought provoking. Take a look! http://www.ajkesslerblog.com/showing-up/

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The Old Flame and the Sea

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Over the past week or two I’ve been tormenting myself about what I should write about in a new blog post. I have been here a month now and feel like I have come full circle – I have passed the initial excitement of a new adventure (with a slew of overwhelming ideas); I have passed the phase of regret (the wondering of the ‘what-could-have-been’s if I had stayed in my past job and place); and I have passed the phase of being overwhelmed (and of being a bit down in the dumps because of too many choices and of feeling like I have come to a stand-still).

As daft as it sounds I feel like I have cleansed myself of the turmoil that’s been going on over the past month and I’m ready to start fresh in my new city. There, it only took 4 weeks!

Going back to the initial Venn Diagram from my 1st post, I wanted to quickly capture some of the things I have realized I enjoy (i.e. when given unlimited free time and resources, here’s what I would do):

  • exploring the outdoors, traveling
  • keeping fit, eating well
  • reading books, particularly ‘classic’ novels
  • seeing something new (either a place, a film or a person)
  • studying / summarizing / note taking
  • project work / planning
  • plants, animal, nature
  • cats (yes, this deserves its own line. I would be more than happy to be a crazy old cat lady)

Let’s call the above points Section 1 – What I Love. Having had the chance to explore my free time and after being realistic with myself, it wasn’t too hard to come up with the above. I think this is a good starting point. Reminder of the diagram:

I’ll be moving into the city at the end of this week, the day after Thanksgiving and will start looking for volunteering opportunities. Will keep you posted!

This morning I just finished reading another book, The Old Man and the Sea. (Thank you Jan Hřebíček for the picture below).

Old Man, Jan Hřebíček - TPLmag

It’s a very short read, but interesting. Although the main story is of an old man overcoming and eventually capturing and killing a huge Marlin fish, interestingly a lot of people believe the novel is about man’s struggle within nature, rather than against it. I’m going to take this as an interesting life tip from the book – life is a struggle within the environment, not against it. Struggling against someone or something will lead to an unhealthy amount of narcissism and I think this will only alienate yourself from those around you and separate yourself from the world as you try to fight against it. Rather, as an animal in the world, we don’t have the power to conquer. We barely understand it and are still very much a part of the rat race and so cannot ever think to struggle against the world and win. This includes struggling against other humans. But regardless of this ‘kill or be killed’ attitude, Hemingway still notes that a “man can be destroyed but not defeated”. This is the key – we can always struggle to gain pride and honor. Pride is natural to us. No matter what our hurdles, we (as man) will always have that small but mighty flame of instinct inside of us, which will keep us fighting for our pride.

It depends on what you take pride in (and consider important) that will help us lead the most fulfilled life. Once we figure out what gives us pride, it will be easy to kindle the fire.

Some other books I’ve just finished:

  • Great Expectations, Charles Dickens
  • Frankenstein, Mary Shelley

These were both excellent reads and I hope to write a post more dedicated to them in the future. They have very interesting and relevant themes:

  • class and the money debate – do you need money to value the most important things in life? Is what you value actually lying in front of you all along? Pip’s final realization in the book is that loyalty, affection and inner personal values are so much more critical in life that class or wealth. Why is it we strive to be successful (which we normally read as ‘earning a lot’?) and have a high social status? Social status is not connected one’s true character. The novel has a strong theme of self improvement too which rings a lot of bells for me. Perhaps my ‘expectations’ of the future are too ‘great’, too.
  • nature or nurture – if we were all given the same experiences, or at least given the full picture, wouldn’t the world be a better place? Is it already too late for me to become say, a genius, or do we all have that ability in us? This was touched upon in the Freakonomics book too – do what parents do to help their child in growing up really matter all that much? Studies show that parents who take their children regularly to museums or children that regularly watch tv unfortunately don’t affect the child’s school test scores, positively or negatively… (Of course, this opens a whole kettle of fish as to how important school test scores are as a measure of intelligence but I suppose it is one of the few quantitative measures the authors had).

 

Days of Meliorism

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I’ve just finished reading the book “Freakonomics” by Levitt and Dubner. It made for a very readable book and certainly means to shock you into looking at the world differently (legalized abortions caused a decline in crime, 15-25 years later?)

I liked the book a lot, but I would have enjoyed a better ending. The authors do mention that the book has no overarching thread and I suppose this is the notion they’re trying to convey. They develop questions from real-world cases, linking two topics that seem disparate, but underneath, show similar traits of human nature. Their concept is that economics is a theory of looking at the world; you are an economist if you posses the analytical tools to go beyond the obvious, beyond the media and look at cause and effect, not just correlation, no matter how controversial these may be. The book ends with that feeling – a world-wind tour of various topics, which are perhaps more similar than you think. It is open-ended: are there any other topics out there that share the same traits?

Below is one of the biggest quotes from the book:

Morality, it could be argued, represents the way that people would like the world to work – whereas economics represents how it actually does work

I’d recommend for you to take a dabble in the book if you haven’t done so already. The authors also have some interesting podcasts too: http://freakonomics.com/2014/11/06/should-the-u-s-merge-with-mexico-a-new-freakonomics-radio-podcast/ [Not sure if I’m allowed to link to the website.. but hey, there’s nothing better than the sharing of information]

I’m nearing the end of my second full week here and I am scratching around to think about what I have achieved, learnt and accomplished throughout the past 7 days. I’m beginning to think it’s a dangerous way of thinking though, because it’s likely to lead into a downward spiral of feeling like I have under-achieved, not traveled enough, not read enough and to start a flurry of panic around the upcoming months of numerous unplanned days.

Throughout the day, one may experience a flooding of great ideas in an unexpected spasm of brain activity. But after 5 minutes of feeling like you can conquer the world and solve all its problems, this unfortunately tends to fizzle out and will lead to “becoming one with the sofa” for the next several hours. 5 minutes of inspiration, 5 hours of laziness. Why is that? I suppose it is somewhat natural – as an animal our body wishes to conserve energy and so we end up lying on the sofa for hours in a mode of hibernation. This is so that we have the means to attack and escape from enemies or threats when they come (watch out for that crazy cat that comes to attack you with its talons!!!). Lying down and choosing not to be active is nature’s way of being efficient. Thanks, body.

Anyway, I think the best way of considering it is to look forward. Looking ahead brings opportunity, new ideas, a fresh perspective, a chance to learn more rather than a chance to reflect on how little we know. The glass is half full, right team?

To link into my previous post, and to try to get the most out of my days, I would like to initiate a new personal daily target: every morning, write a list of 3 things I want to achieve during the day. So, for today:

  1. write a new blog post [boom]
  2. post pictures online
  3. finally write back to my friend

By looking forward and thinking about what I can gain from these things, hopefully they will compel my inner instincts to understand that going out there and doing is a type of evolution, to better my species and to increase my exposure of my genes my body is so desperate to spread. Ha, OK, a little weird. Also, writing an email to a friend is hardly breaking any natural selection barriers, but hey, my glass now appears a little more full.

Word for the day:

MELIORISM: the belief that the world will get better

Day #1 – the best of times, the worst

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It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way. . .

Well, so begins my blog of being ‘in-between jobs’.

I have browsed facebook, updated the theme of this blog page at least 4 times, played around with my music, deleted some emails and checked facebook again for that ubiquitous “new stories” pop-up.

Not only am I in-between jobs but technically, I’m also in-between countries as well. I am currently embarking on a new chapter of my new life in the big ol’ US of A. I have spent the majority of my 25 years in Scotland and the UK and have now come to live in America for the next couple of years. I now have some free time to travel and reflect on things so will bring you tales from here there and everywhere. I’m also halfway through reading an old musty copy of “A Tale of Two Cities”.

I’m writing this blog to explore myself a bit more and try to re-connect with myself before I start a new job (queue cliche-spew noises). Over the next couple of months (gotta wait for those papers…), I want to explore what it is that I want to do, that I feel I should do and also what it is that people perceive that you should do. The meaning of life anyone? These are all very different views in my opinion, and all lead to varying levels of happiness, depending on how you perceive yourself of course… I’d love to figure out that happy #win spot in the diagram below. Ehem, I’m sure everyone does. But how many people really think about it?

So, join me!  I love to learn new things. I love to eat new food. I love to be creative. I love to analyse. I love to travel and experience. I love to  push myself  in new challenges. I love to figure what it’s all about.

As a first step, I want to nail some things down which will hopefully become more structured in the next couple of days:

  1. Goals that I want to achieve in the next few months (marathon? write a book?) what do I want to improve about myself?
  2. Work on my timing and to become more efficient (I’ve already spent over half an hour doing this!) how do I want to structure this blog? how do I want to structure my day?
  3. Work out what I want to write about and why (reviews of books? music?) how can I use this blog for my advantage?

I’ll leave it there for now. Plenty of initial food for thought! Mmmm… food…

Ciao

Diagram of the sweet spot: