As I mentioned a couple weeks ago, I’ve been exceptionally busy with a new project at work, and a third child in the house, to boot, but my brain is slowly reemerging into the harsh light of bloggery. Granted, I’ve been staying quite active on Twitter (@eb4eliza), but it’s not as satisfying as doing longer-form writing on my blog.
Alas, while I won’t be publishing my long-awaited promissory posts from the past few months this weekend, I decided to post some words and thoughts that caught my eye in a new reading campaign I’ve begun.
It’s a “one book a day” reading project, inspired by Tai Lopez, but I don’t actually finish a whole book every single day. The main thing is that I’m forcing myself to suppress my usual habits of marking up numerous passages and brooding over most pages of a book. Instead, I get highly familiar with the contents, index, introduction, pertinent reviews, and then run through the text very quickly, marking only passages that I might like to peruse later. Last night, for example, I finished the introduction by Stuart Ewen to Edward Bernays’s Crystallizing Public Opinion and then ambled through the next 150 pages as I fell asleep, finishing the remaining 15 pages at breakfast this morning.
Granted, Lopez’s reading strategy is, by his own admission, geared mainly to self-help, business, and psychology books, and he admits that novels and more academic books admit of a slower reading pace. Even so, I’ve found this new reading approach very effective even for academic works. For instance, a couple weeks ago I read James A. Herrick’s Scientific Mythologies in the span of about 24 hours. The book is very well researched, and full of names and works that I did not know of, or had forgotten, but was organized well enough that I could read the introduction, opening and closing paragraphs of each chapter, and mark recurring themes or figures in the body of the text as I flew over it. I know from countless books in the last that even if I meticulously read every word and add my little pencil marks at every intellectual provocation, it would only be a matter of days before I had forgotten many of those details, and would need to return to the book for a refresher anyway. So, why not just do the “forgetting” as you read and then return to the book for a handful of major facts or personages that stuck out? As Lopez bluntly notes, most books only have a couple good ideas in them, but require a lot of verbal buttressing and padding to be marketable. Obviously, as I mentioned, this “flippant” attitude does not apply to serious theological and philosophical works, but life is too short to treat all books on a par. Besides, the satisfaction of “icing” one book after another as the weeks pass provides mental momentum, which also helps one to keep working through larger, deeper books.
In any case, here are some tidbits from my latest “readings”. More substantive posts are, God willing, on the way. I may be slow but I get there in the end. Stay tuned, kind reader.
- Environmental Stewardship in the Judeo-Christian Tradition, The Acton Institute (2007)
Interestingly, Judaism regards vegetarianism as an announcement that one is “a very good animal,” as opposed to simply human.
Industrialization as increasingly spiritual as opposed to merely material: information, service, and experience economy.
When man does not exercise dominion over nature, nature will exercise dominion over man, causing great suffering to humanity. [Ecologism is often a form of misanthropic abdication.]
Nature “achieves balance” when one portion of nature takes advantage of another one. Big fish eat smaller fish. Respecting nature entails that humans respect this harsh but deli ate balance, not try to moralistically defang it.
People are not a drain on terrestrial resources but the intelligent creators of new resources, protections, and potential for the common good and other ecosystems.
Market profitability is inherently interested in ecological sustainability. Economics and ecology are lexically and logically related.
“If pollution is the brother of affluence, concern about pollution is affluence’s child.”
Contrary to Paul Ehrlich’s “I = PAT” equation that pollution increases factorial lay as affluence does, pollution actually decreases as poverty lessens.
- Imagination First: Unlocking the Power of Possibility, Eric Liu and Scott Noppe-Brandon (2009)
Mark Roth, 2007, minute doses of poisonous gases to suspend animation in mice and then reanimate them
Learn to “routinize imagination”
Imagination –> Creativity (imagination applied) –> Innovation (novel creativity)
No such thing as an instant innovation; imagination comes first.
“A capacity for imagination cannot be outsourced.”
Golden triangle of inspiration, imagination, and innovation
“Hoard bits” — keep random thoughts and data together to mull over; gradually connections and insights will emerge
“body-swapping” — role play to experience problem from a new perspective
In discussions, don’t finish the story; leave space for the others/audience to fill things in.
Instead of just saying, “no,” learn to say, “yes, and…”
Observe how others observe. Experience a problem afresh by pitching it to newcomers/outsiders.
Treat problem-solving as a quest, rather than a mere desire for “results.”
“What kids have and what adults need is counterfactuals detached from goals.”
“Planning for surprise is not a method; it’s a mindset.”
Alex Osborn, 1948, Your Creative Power: learn to “maxify and minify” along the z-axis of a problem or scenario based on absolute possibilities and limitations; e.g. photographer Chris Jordan
“Will we always accomplish what we imagine? Of course not. But we will certainly never accomplish what we refuse to imagine.”
- How Capitalism Will Save Us, Steve Forbes and Elizabeth Ames (2009/2011)
[Useful for topical reference. Extremely well organized with common questions and explanations; like a capitalist mini-summa.]
- Un-Jobbing: The Adult Liberation Handbook, Michael Fogler (1997)
[Learn to spend less so you have to earn less. Learn to collaborate and share locally. Follow your passion; the money will follow.]
- Scientific Mythologies: How Science and Science Fiction Forge New Religious Beliefs, James A. Herrick (2008)
[“Scientifiction”–the original term, coined by Hugo Gernsback (1884-1967)–has long shaped scientific priorities and inquiries, as well as indulged in an air of pseudoscientific authority. As the authority of Christianity, and the concept of Authority per se, has waned, scientific fantasies, fueled by more ancient ethno-pagan tendencies, have rushed in to fill the void. Herrick ends each chapter with a cautionary proviso about how these new mythologies diverge from Christianity and how they pose risks to human welfare. Francis Bacon, Francis Godwin, Johannes Kepler, Bernard de Bovier le Fontenelle, Louis-Sébastien Mercier, Emanuel Swedenborg, Kurd Lasswitz, Percival Lowell, Olaf Stapledon, of whom I’d not heard before, was a major pioneer in science fiction. Leon Poliakov’s book on the myth of the Aryan race sounds like a fascinating work to explore, not the least as far as it illuminates the sci-fi interest in higher racial beings, eugenics, and polygenism.]
Space as a new heaven
Star Trek as white pride saga; “interplanetary racists in saucers” (Herrick)
A lot of alien contact lore is just recycled Gnosticism in a technological key
“The universe is made of stories, not atoms.” — Muriel Rukeyser
- The Church of Christ: An Apologetic and Dogmatic Treatise, Rev. E. Sylvester Berry (1955)*
(As an interesting connection to Herrick’s book, it even discusses the alleged error of Pope Zacharias in repudiating the error that “other people” inhabited “another world”, such as is claimed in theories of subterranean non-human civilizations or alien-engineered polygenism.)
- Magisterial Authority, Fr. Chad Ripperger, Ph.D. (2014)
- The Binding Force of Tradition, Fr. Chad Ripperger, Ph.D. (2013)
- The Origenist Controversy: The Cultural Construction of an Early Christian Debate, Elizabeth A. Clark (1992)
I have wanted to read this work for about sixteen years. I lived overseas so long that I do not automatically think of making interlibrary loans. Plus, I prefer to own my own copies of academic works, if possible. Until recently, the out-of-print copies of this book were at least over $100, so I held off. Not long ago, however, Princeton reissued it as part of its print-on-demand “Legacy Library”. It is meticulously researched and Clark admits her biases up front. It’s a superb resource for getting familiar with Origen, Evagrius Ponticus, Epiphanius, Theophilus, Jerome, Augustine, Pelagius, Shenoute, and other related figures.
- Reincarnation: The Missing Link in Christianity, Elizabeth Clare Prophet (1997)
This book was given to me by my brother, who is “into” esoteric history and spirituality. It turned out to be much better researched that I had anticipated, but of course, Ms. Prophet has been in this game for decades. Despite her obvious familiarity with primary and secondary resources, the book suffers a number of logical and historical defects that render it more suppositional (or, as one sympathetic reviewer put it, “imaginative and provocative”) than probative. Worst of all, her discussion of Arianism and the patristics teaching on salvation is so bad that it almost 86’d my entire impression of the work. The sizable bibliography provides a number of works that I shall explore in due time.
- The Reign of Christ the King in Both Public and Private Life, Michael Davies (1992)
- The Orthodox Veneration of Mary the Birthgiver of God, St. John Maximovitch (?/1978)
A handy little book, the longest chapter of which is–you guessed it–a refutation of Papist errors about Mary, which–you guessed it again–centers on the dogma of the Immaculate Conception. Maximovitch certainly marshals important evidence in support of Orthodox objections but I was ultimately unimpressed with his logical fallacies. The most interesting part of the chapter was learning just how explicitly and vehemently opposed to the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception St. Bernard of Clairvaux was. Usually people make hay about the fact that St. Thomas Aquinas rejected the doctrine–which is only partially true–but it had never really registered with me that St. Bernard seems like an even more vocal and convinced critic of the doctrine.
- AA-1025: Memoirs of the Communist Infiltration into the Church, revealed by Marie Carré (1973/1991)
Admittedly fictionalized, I have found no evidence that refutes its historical basis. Even if Ms. Carré were completely fabricating the memoirs, their cogency and vividness rest in the fact that Communist infiltration was a real and pervasive tactic. This book should be read in conjunction with Bella Dodd’s School of Darkness, works on McCarthy and the Venona transcripts, and any honest study of how the Soviets undermined Russian Orthodoxy and Eastern European Catholicism.
- Crystallizing Public Opinion, Edward Bernays (1923/1951; 2011)
At the time it was groundbreaking but by now, for children of the mass-media age like myself, this work is pretty blasé. I think his 1928 book Propaganda will be a bit tangier.