JLMOP // ΤΟ ΧΑΜΕΝΟ ΝΗΣΙ

Το χαμένο νησί

Το χαμένο νησί by M. Karagatsis
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Ευχαριστώ τη Μαριλένα που μου δάνεισε Το χαμένο νησί. Ήταν η πρώτη μου επαφή με τον Καραγάτση.

Περισσότερο απόλαυσα τις πιο πεζές αφηγηματικές στιγμές του βιβλίου, οι οποίες από μόνες τους είχαν κάτι το αλλόκοτο, και λιγότερο τις μερικές φορές ντελιριακές (αν και ενδιαφέρουσες λογοτεχνικά) εσωτερικές αναζητήσεις του πρωταγωνιστή. Κι αυτό γιατί, παρ’ ότι βρήκα τον αντι-ηρωικό του ρόλο και το ότι εξέφραζε την εσωτερική Σκιά που λίγοι μας δείχνουμε αρκετά ελκυστικό, περισσότερο με μάγεψε το πόσο παράξενη και γλυκιά κόλαση ήταν η Τήλος και οι κάτοικοι της. Οι σκέψεις, τα κίνητρα και τα συναισθήματα του Γερόλυμου ήταν δευτερεύουσας σημασίας και μερικές φορές μου αποσπούσαν την προσοχή από αυτό για το οποίο ήθελα να μάθω κατιτίς παραπάνω.

Έχοντας ακούσει ότι αυτό είναι το πιο φανταστικοστραφές και φευγαλέο βιβλίο του Καραγάτση, έχω περιέργεια να διαβάσω κάποια στιγμή και άλλα του, ξεκινώντας από τη Μεγάλη Χίμαιρα ή Το 10.

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JLMOP // THE GIFTS OF IMPERFECTION

The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You're Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are

The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are by Brené Brown
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

First approach: Once again, my review could just be delicious quotes taken straight from this little gem — it’d be easy, straightforward, powerful and much better than anything I could write myself, probably. I just might come back at some point and add some of them.

I’m not giving it 5 stars because I thought the layout and ‘guideposts’ idea was kind of messy and didn’t lend itself to a single, strong point, to the extent I’m not sure what the book was about. I felt the title was misleading in this respect (it’s not exactly about imperfection), and was a bit all over the place. But I’m the kind of person who can live and enjoy going all over the place. Let’s just say it wasn’t as memorable as it could have been?

I’ll check my Kindle notes and come back.

25/01/2018 EDIT: I can’t believe it. I stuck to my word. Go me!

My emphasis.

“Until we can receive with an open heart, we are never really giving with an open heart. When we attach judgment to receiving help, we knowingly or unknowingly attach judgment to giving help.

“One of the biggest surprises in this research was learning that fitting in and belonging are not the same thing, and, in fact, fitting in gets in the way of belonging. Fitting in is about assessing a situation and becoming who you need to be to be accepted. Belonging, on the other hand, doesn’t require us to change who we are; it requires us to be who we are.

“Shame Resilience 101 Here are the first three things that you need to know about shame: We all have it. Shame is universal and one of the most primitive human emotions that we experience. The only people who don’t experience shame lack the capacity for empathy and human connection. We’re all afraid to talk about shame. The less we talk about shame, the more control it has over our lives. Shame is basically the fear of being unlovable—it’s the total opposite of owning our story and feeling worthy. In fact, the definition of shame that I developed from my research is: Shame is the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging.1″

It’s not so much the act of authenticity that challenges the status quo—I think of it as the audacity of authenticity. Most of us have shame triggers around being perceived as self-indulgent or self-focused. We don’t want our authenticity to be perceived as selfish or narcissistic. When I first started mindfully practicing authenticity and worthiness, I felt like every day was a walk through a gauntlet of gremlins. Their voices can be loud and unrelenting.”

“’Who do you think you are to put your thoughts/art/ideas/ beliefs/writing out in the world?’”

“Perfectionism is self-destructive simply because there is no such thing as perfect. Perfection is an unattainable goal. Additionally, perfectionism is more about perception—we want to be perceived as perfect.

“Get Deliberate: A good friend of mine heard this wonderful intention-setting reminder during a Twelve Step meeting. I love it! It’s called the vowel check: AEIOUY. A = Have I been Abstinent today? (However you define that—I find it a little more challenging when it comes to things like food, work, and the computer.) E = Have I Exercised today? I = What have I done for myself today? O = What have I done for Others today? U = Am I holding on to Unexpressed emotions today? Y = Yeah! What is something good that’s happened today?”

“Without exception, every person I interviewed who described living a joyful life or who described themselves as joyful, actively practiced gratitude and attributed their joyfulness to their gratitude practice. Both joy and gratitude were described as spiritual practices that were bound to a belief in human interconnectedness and a power greater than us. People were quick to point out the differences between happiness and joy as the difference between a human emotion that’s connected to circumstances and a spiritual way of engaging with the world that’s connected to practicing gratitude.”

“When I’m really scared or unsure, I need something right away to calm my cravings for certainty. For me, the Serenity Prayer does the trick. God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. Amen!

“The Hopi Indians have a saying, ‘To watch us dance is to hear our hearts speak.’ I know how much courage it takes to let people hear our hearts speak, but life is way too precious to spend it pretending like we’re super-cool and totally in control when we could be laughing, singing, and dancing.

“Wholehearted living is about engaging in our lives from a place of worthiness. It’s about cultivating the courage, compassion, and connection to wake up in the morning and think, No matter what gets done and how much is left undone, I am enough. It’s going to bed at night thinking, Yes, I am imperfect and vulnerable and sometimes afraid, but that doesn’t change the truth that I am also brave and worthy of love and belonging.

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JLMOP // THE PRESENT

The Present

The Present by Michael Smith
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Divine love = attention + compassion.

This little e-book is supposed to be telling the ‘truth’, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. It kept hammering on that what I was holding in my hands (or listening to an artificial voice narrating through my earbuds) was humanity’s quintessential distilled wisdom and what we would need to take our 600 million (sic) years of evolution to the next level. Only this way were we to leave the animal mind behind and become spiritual beings!

What I think I got from The Present:

-when we die we re-incarnate as the closest member of our bloodline.
-if we’ve been given the truth in our lifetime and we squander it by not paying attention, be go back to being cyanobacteria in the Marianna Trench eating sulfates from underwater geysers thousands of meters below the surface of the ocean and then we have to evolve all over again from the beginning.
-everything is balanced. If you’re rich, beautiful and lucky in this life, you’re going to be unattractive, poor and and born a cripple in the next. Why? Because… physics and the law of action and reaction! It only makes sense that whatever’s true for particles, celestial bodies and energy should hold for immaterial spirits that re-incarnate and defy every single law of physics as we know them today. Apart from quantum mechanics of course! 😉
-the Beatles were prophets and if you listen to their music with an open heart you can also learn the truth from there.
-heaven is just a techno-utopia.
-40,000 years ago, Homo Sapiens didn’t know how to light a fire. Wait, what?! This is so wrong, I don’t know where to start. As if this wasn’t a hot mess already!

OK, enough cherry-picking. For a book that tries to drive the point that it holds the ultimate truth, it sure mixes up its science, its rational thinking and its talking out of its behind. The writer couldn’t decide if he was going to be a prophet and just be a channeler to the divine or if he was just going to be looking at the facts. No, don’t you go all rational high and mighty on me and then in the next sentence start talking about re-incarnation as if it’s self-evident.

Sigh… it had some good points, some honestly well-put concepts, and the message that the present is all we have, as well as the first sentence I’ve quoted at the top of the review, is a spiritual takeaway as great as any. But I can’t take any book that in all honesty tells you that you should only read it and no others for the rest of your life seriously.

This is like Conversations with God gone wrong. Check it out if you want to see some good material squandered by pompous and misguided writing.

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JLMOP // WHAT I TALK ABOUT WHEN I TALK ABOUT RUNNING

What I Talk About When I Talk About Running

What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’ve been running for several years now. The frequency of my outings has gone up and down, but I’ve tried to never let go of this habit, never abandon this one activity that saves me from couch potato-, or rather, desk tomato-dom.

Nevertheless, despite the running theme (pun unintended), it is not what kept me with this autobiographical work; Mr. Murakami inspired me with his diligence, with his single-minded dedication and his authentic and honest story. As usual, it’s his way of looking at the world, his zen-like point of view and his way of putting it into words – humble, romantic and unpretentious – more so than the content of his writing that tuck me along the most. The man could be writing about his days cleaning glasses and wiping bars in his 20s and I would still find it interesting and inspiring, I’m sure. He’s a true stoic.

The main take-away I got from this one has obviously less to do with running, and more to do with writing, which according to Murakami-san requires a similar skill set. “Talent, focus and endurance” is what, according to him, makes a novelist. As someone who wishes to write more in my life, I feel as if this man and his suchness has a lot to teach me about trusting myself, my goals and who I really am and allowing it to shine through…

“As I’ve gotten older, though, I’ve gradually come to the realization that this kind of pain and hurt [of being criticised] is a necessary part of life. If you think about it, it’s precisely because people are different from others that they’re able to create their own independent selves.

Take me as an example. It’s precisely my ability to detect some aspects of a scene that other people can’t, to feel differently than others and choose words that differ from theirs, that’s allowed me to write stories that are mine alone. And because of this we have the extraordinary situation in which quite a few people read what I’ve written.

So the fact that I’m me and no one else is one of my greatest assets. Emotional hurt is the price a person has to pay in order to be independent…”

What is this emotional hurt? Is it worth the price?

“I don’t think most people would like my personality. There might be a few–very few, I would imagine–who are impressed by it, but only rarely would anyone like it. Who in the world could possibly have warm feelings, or something like them, for a person who doesn’t compromise, who instead, whenever a problem crops up, locks himself away alone in a closet?

But is it ever possible for a professional writer to be liked by people? I have no idea. Maybe somewhere in the world it is. It’s hard to generalize. For me, at least, I’ve written novels over many years, I just can’t picture someone liking me on a personal level. Being disliked by someone, hated and despised, somehow seems more natural. Not that I’m relieved when that happens. Even I’m not happy when someone dislikes me.”

And here’s the solution – or one solution:

“Even when I ran my bar I followed the same policy. A lot of customers came to the bar. If one in ten enjoyed the place and said he’d come again, that was enough. If one out of ten was a repeat customer, then the business would survive. To put it another way, it didn’t matter if nine out of ten didn’t like my bar.

This realization lifted a weight off my shoulders. Still, I had to make sure that the one person who did like the place really liked it. In order to make sure he did, I had to make my philosophy and stance clear-cut, and patiently maintain that stance no matter what. This is what I learned through running a business.”

Thank you Mr. Murakami for motivating me to take the next step.

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JLMOP // Ο ΙΠΠΟΤΗΣ ΜΕ ΤΗ ΣΚΟΥΡΙΑΣΜΕΝΗ ΠΑΝΟΠΛΙΑ

Ο ιππότης με τη σκουριασμένη πανοπλία

Ο ιππότης με τη σκουριασμένη πανοπλία by Robert Fisher
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Δεν μου άρεσε πραγματικά για περίπου τους ίδιους λόγους που δεν μου αρέσει ο Paolo Coelho. Ενώ είναι «παραμύθι για μικρούς και μεγάλους», ξεκάθαρα προορίζεται για ενήλικες: τα παιδιά δεν έχουν τα προβλήματα που έχει ο πρωταγωνιστής ιππότης, γιατί είναι στη φάση που τα κόμπλεξ τους είναι ακόμα στη φάση της γέννησης. Γι’ αυτό η παιδική απλοϊκότητα στην ιστορία γινόταν εκνευριστική – θα προτιμούσα αντί για αυτό το παραμύθι να είχα κάτι πιο δοκιμιακό με τα ίδια μηνύματα και να μην διάβαζα κάτι το οποίο ήταν σαν Disney με Alan Watts και, ξέρω ‘γώ, τον Μικρό Πρίγκιπα (για τον οποίο στα 5 χρόνια που έχουν περάσει από τότε που διάβασα το βιβλίο δεν έχει συμβεί κάτι για να αλλάξει την φλογερή αντιπάθεια που του τρέφω).

Μου άρεσε πάντως ο Μέρλιν. Αν μίλαγε μόνο ο Μέρλιν το βιβλίο θα ήταν σαφώς καλύτερο.

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JLMOP // ΤΟ ΝΟΥΜΕΡΟ 31328

Το νούμερο 31328

Το νούμερο 31328 by Ilias Venezis
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Πρωτοδιάβασα για αυτό το βιβλίο από το Αϊβαλί του Soloúp, το οποίο και μου κίνησε την περιέργεια με την απόδοση σε κόμικς μερικών από τις σκηνές του.

Είναι μια ωμή αποτύπωση μιας περιόδου ακριβώς μετά την Μικρασιατική Καταστροφή και πριν την ανταλλαγή πληθυσμών, ενός μίσους που κανείς μας δεν μπορεί καν να φανταστεί στις μέρες του «ανθρωπισμού» στις οποίες ζούμε ότι είναι δυνατό. Οι περιγραφές του Βενέζη θα μπορούσαν να ανήκουν σε κάποια ταινία ή σειρά με ακραία βία και δημιουργικό πορνό βασανισμού, όπως είναι το Game of Thrones ή άλλα πιο ακραία που εγώ δεν ξέρω, όμως αυτά τα πράγματα συνέβησαν, και συνέβησαν σε χιλιάδες, εκατομμύρια κόσμο. Πάντα το έλεγα ότι το Game of Thrones μου αρέσει γιατί, κατά κάποιον τρόπο, μου φέρνει μπρος μου την ιστορία της ανθρωπότητας.

Πόσοι Βενέζηδες όμως ήταν αγράμματοι ή δεν έγιναν συγγραφείς και οι εμπειρίες τους δεν έγιναν ποτέ «το νούμερο 24290» ή πολύ απλά πέθαναν κάπου στην πορεία και δεν επέζησαν ώστε να μας πουν την ιστορία τους; Ίσως καλύτερα έτσι: πόσων ανθρώπων, εποχών και γενεών τον πόνο μπορούμε να αντέξουμε σε μια ζωή;

Βάζω στο «νούμερο 31328» 3 αστεράκια όχι γιατί δεν με ενδιαφέρει προφανώς το θέμα ή επειδή πιστεύω ότι δεν είναι σημαντικό βιβλίο, απλά η γλώσσα του ειδικά, η οποία ήταν γεμάτη μικρασιάτικες, άγνωστες για μένα λέξεις, το μετέτρεψε στα μάτια μου σε κάτι λίγο πιο μακρινό από εμένα απ’ ότι θα ήθελα – από μαρτυρία σε ιστορία κι απο ιστορία στο αποστασιοποιημένο της πρωτογενούς πηγής.

Και, ίσως απλώς προτιμώ -γούστα είναι αυτά- τα βιβλία που πατάνε σε πρωτογενείς πηγές και τις αναπτύσουν – π.χ. στο Αϊβαλί έβαλα 5 αστεράκια, γιατί πιστεύω ότι μιλάει πιο άμεσα στον σημερινό αναγνώστη και λέει περισσότερα απ’ ό,τι ο Βενέζης από μόνος του.

Τι θα σκέφτοταν άραγε αν κάποιος του έλεγε ότι το 2017 κάποιος θα διάβαζε το βιβλίο του δανεισμένο από τη βιβλιοθήκη της Νέας Σμύρνης; Θα χαιρόταν άραγε; Θα το πίστευε; Θα του έδινε ενέργεια και πίστη; Ή πολύ απλά όταν «τὸ μὲν πνεῦμα πρόθυμον, ἡ δὲ σὰρξ ἀσθενής» εστί, λίγα μπορούν να γίνουν;

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JLMOP // HOMO DEUS: A BRIEF HISTORY OF TOMORROW

Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow

Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow by Yuval Noah Harari
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The book’s conclusion:

‘The world is changing faster than ever before, and we are flooded by impossible amounts of data, of ideas, of promises and of threats. Humans relinquish authority to the free market, to crowd wisdom and to external algorithms partly because they cannot deal with the deluge of data. In the past, censorship worked by blocking the flow of information. In the twenty-first century, censorship works by flooding people with irrelevant information. People just don’t know what to pay attention to, and they often spend their time investigating and debating side issues. In ancient times having power meant having access to data. Today having power means knowing what to ignore. So considering everything that is happening in our chaotic world, what should we focus on?

If we think in terms of months, we had probably better focus on immediate problems such as the turmoil in the Middle East, the refugee crisis in Europe and the slowing of the Chinese economy. If we think in terms of decades, then global warming, growing inequality and the disruption of the job market loom large. Yet if we take the really grand view of life, all other problems and developments are overshadowed by three interlinked processes:

1. Science is converging in an all-encompassing dogma, which says that organisms are algorithms and life is data processing.
2. Intelligence is decoupling from consciousness.
3. Non-conscious but highly intelligent algorithms may soon know us better than we know ourselves.

These three processes raise three key questions, which I hope will stick in your mind long after you have finished this book:

1. Are organisms really just algorithms, and is life really just data processing?
2. What’s more valuable – intelligence or consciousness?
3. What will happen to society, politics and daily life when non-conscious but highly intelligent algorithms know us better than we know ourselves?

I read the book Homo Deus is the sequel of, Sapiens, in audiobook form last year. It kept me eloquent, rational company in my first months in the Greek Army, an organisation that likes to think it possesses those qualities in abundance, but is frightfully misguided. I liked Sapiens a lot, but I think my inability to take notes diminished my enjoyment and what I truly got from it in the end. So I decided to properly read the sequel by holding it in my hands and taking notes as I went through it.

Even though I like underlining my books, I have to admit that I rarely go back to actually reading the parts that stood out for me. However, that is precisely what I did now, just before writing this review. I thought it would help me write a more accurate representation of how I feel about it, but the only feeling I’m noticing at the moment is my powerlessness to convey the sheer sense of awe Mr. Harari has impressed on me. Hm, perhaps that description is pretty accurate in the end!

Mr. Harari has brought together consciousness science, religion, informatics, ethics and more, to write a revealing, interconnected history of all these fields and paint a convincing picture of what could be the true challenges humanity will face in the 21st century. All the while, his writing is incredibly lucid, easy to understand and follow, and extremely quotable.

I was actually tempted, as I have done for some of my other reviews in the past, to fill this one with whole passages on amazing, perspective-shifting facts about the world today and leave it that, but it was just too difficult to choose and make it seem as coherent as Mr. Harari has woven his book together to be.

This is obviously a very intelligent man, but what I found most interesting about his writing is that, despite his extremely rational way of thinking, he wasn’t afraid to write about spirituality, consciousness and religion.

Even if I don’t agree with some of his conclusions or fundamentals, such as the inexistence of an immaterial component of consciousness, or a soul, I can appreciate how he writes rationally about the topic within the given materialist paradigm without ever turning into a dogmatic academic – he even admits, on the book’s acknowledgements, that he would have never had the clarity of mind to write this book without having practiced Vipassana meditation for more than fifteen years.

Even if I also disagree with him about our chances of having the raw resources or the social cohesion in the future to meaningfully reach for the revolutions that will give us human godhood, I can only say that this is an open-minded, clear-headed, spiritual intellectual, and Gods know we need more of his type. Also, he raises some of the strongest points against animal cruelty I have yet to see, which counts for a whole lot as far as I’m concerned.

This is a book for the reader who’s thirsty for meaning and ready for contemporary intelligent insights into our chaotic world; insights that convincingly connect history with the present to create predictions and guidelines for life in the 21st century.

Reading this right after The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight just feels so right.

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JLMOP // THE LAST HOURS OF ANCIENT SUNLIGHT

The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight: The Fate of the World and What We Can Do Before It's Too LateThe Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight: The Fate of the World and What We Can Do Before It’s Too Late by Thom Hartmann
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I found out about this book through Conversation with God 3 which I “read” in audiobook form. It was recommended as a really important book to read by the words of God him/herself through the writer Neale Donald Walsch (I’m fully aware of how corny this sounds but I just don’t care because Conversation with God is just so amazingly good) and just by hearing the utterance of the title I knew it would be something special.

Then, one year later, I found out my father’s wife actually had it. It was sitting half-read in her bookcase in Aegina for more than a decade. I promptly borrowed it from her, complete with underlined passages with “!!” jotted down on the sides.

This book basically says that everything around us, especially life forms and organic matter, is literally sunlight – energy that comes to Earth from the our precious sun and is stored in varying densities in the form of plants, animals and yes, humans: we’re made out of sunlight (link to an excerpt from the book that discusses this part in beautiful detail). So what is ancient sunlight? Condensed, conserved sunlight in finite amounts that had been trapped in the ground for millions of years: oil and fossil fuels.

The last hours of ancient sunlight is our time. It’s the period in humanity’s lifecycle when we realize as a species that the whole foundation of our great modern civilization is based on a limited resource; that everything we’re so proud of can be attributed to a very sudden rise in available energy, directly comparable to the “extra food” that leads to a population boom of bacteria in a petri dish or in yesterday’s pasta, or of cats in an environment were humans deposit up to 50% of our food production in specially designed vessels.

This is basically what it boils down to:

Ancient sunlight and other sources of cheap energy have fueled our expansion. Soon we’re going to run out, and our population will dwindle to a number which won’t need extra food, or ancient sunlight, in order to be sustainable. But of course there’s a long, painful way to go until that day comes, and no-one can guarantee that a sustainable population of humans will actually exceed zero.

This book, then, is split into three parts:

1. The part where it tells the story of exactly how deep in the shit we are.

2. The part where it makes the distinction between our Younger Culture, which has existed ever since civilization created scarcity and vice versa, and Older Cultures, whose existence was/is based on sustainability and “making decisions with the well-being of up to seven future generations in mind”.

3. The part where he goes over what’s actually possible to do “before it’s too late” if we want to change things. Spoiler alert: it’s not solar power, it’s not a revolution, and it’s not colonizing Mars.

The first part is the one with the “!!” marked by Vasso on the sides of the pages. It was shocking, worrying and depressing, but it was incredibly concise – presented in a way that made me feel hopeful just by the fact that there was someone out there who had written about these things so clearly. So lovingly. It felt like warm sunlight shining over me. It also felt like I was standing waist-deep in industrial waste, but at least it was a clear, beautiful day…

The second part, which went on anthropological and historical forays, was also amazingly done. Sometimes it did feel as if it was romanticizing the “noble savage” concept a bit too much, grouping together whole bunches of tribes and peoples like it did, but the premise actually made sense, so perhaps I was seeing a “noble savage” caricature just because I was expecting to see one. Older Cultures were just masters of sustainability and had been around for much, much longer than the Younger Cultures that destroyed them – it’s just a matter of fact.

Some may be quick to point out that that is how evolution and “Darwinism” works and that our greedy, unsustainable Younger Culture has actually “won” by annihilating all that was weaker than itself… but, pray tell, do cancer cells or tumors “win” at the game of evolution by spreading to a different organ of their host’s body?

The third part, where Mr. Hartmann went on “what we can do before it’s too late”… This book’s first edition was first published in 1997. Perhaps there was still some hope left back then that the culture could change before the point of “too late” had been crossed.

Alas, one look around you is enough to see that, whatever the point of no return used to be, we’re way past it now. True, the point of no return has this nasty habit of also changing like a moving goalpost, and “too late” (for what, I wonder?) tends to always be around one decade into the future. Still, it would be far from unreasonable to think that perhaps it never was anything but “too late” – in fact, the only useful question I can think of regarding this topic is what we do with the knowledge that it’s too late. Right now, the most popular way of handling it is depression and indifference, but once we stop grieving over the loss of our feelings of entitlement to perpetual abundance, or that growth is something self-evident and unquestionably good (a painstakingly constructed illusion at any rate), then we might start moving in interesting and creative directions.

That said, if we’re going to look into survival, we better return to the Old Culture way of looking at sustainability: making sure that not only we or our children have everything we need to live a happy, fulfilled life, but also that our descendants 7 generations down the line will have the “luxury” of choosing a fulfilled life over a terrible one. What that would constitute is a difficult discussion, but that’s precisely the point: it shouldn’t be.

My only qualm with the third part is that it goes into American politics and tries to hammer across the point of just how bad the Republicans are. It seemed to presuppose that the reader was American and I found that this detracted from the still-fresh quality of the rest of the book.

That is probably though my only qualm with The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight. Mr. Hartmann displayed through this work his unique and enviable talent of writing clearly while being scientific and citing sources, but without being restrained by science by refusing to talk about things outside of it. He used this talent to write an amazing book that just might help you change your life, and hopefully, by extension, the future of humanity. God from CwG was right: it really is a very important book.

The afterword by Neale Donald Walsch starts with this phrase:
You have just read one of the most important books you will ever read in your life. And because you have gotten this far in this extraordinary book, you are one of the Crucial Ones. You are one of the people who will play a key role in co-creating our future on this planet. You may not have thought of yourself in that role, but if you’ve gotten this far in this book, you’ve been given it.

Yes. You should read it.

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JLMOP // ΠΩΣ ΝΑ ΕΙΣΑΙ ΚΑΛΟΣ

Πώς Να Είσαι ΚαλόςΠώς Να Είσαι Καλός by Nick Hornby
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Δανεισμένο απ’ τη Μαριλού αφού είδαμε μαζί το High Fidelity.

Δεν ξετρελάθηκα από τις ξεκάθαρα μεσοαστικές early ’00s βρετανικές ανησυχίες των πρωταγωνιστών – του πώς «πρέπει» το ένα και το άλλο ώστε να μπορούν να πουν ότι έχουν μια ευτυχισμένη οικογένεια. Όμως βρήκα τη σουρεαλιστική συνθήκη που έβαλε την πλοκή σε κίνηση διασκεδαστική – αναφέρομαι στο ότι ο σύζυγος της ιστορίας, από ειρωνικός, κυνικός, οργισμένος αρθρογράφος προσπάθησε να γίνει «άγιος» και τι τελικά κατάφερε – και τι τελικά σημαίνει στην κοινωνία σήμερα «να είσαι καλός», όπως αναρωτιέται και η πρωταγωνίστρια που έμμεσα ή άμεσα διάλεξε το επάγγελμα της ιατρού ορμούμενη από αυτή ακριβώς την διερώτηση.

Ήταν κάπως κλειστοφοβικό και μέσα στην απελπίσια, βέβαια, και πολλά ερωτήματ σχετικά με τους χαρακτήρες του – γιατί ο ΚαλάΝέα είχε τις δυνάμεις που είχε, ή γιατί η κόρη ήταν το απίστευτο κωλόπαιδο που ήταν – θα μείνουν αναγκαστικά αναπάντητα. Δεν θα χάσω τον ύπνο μου πάντως.

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JLMOP // EARTH ABIDES

Earth AbidesEarth Abides by George R. Stewart
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Here’s a quote from close to the start of the book – I find it so powerful, so detached yet timeless and all-encompassing, it could be the beginning of the introduction to the post-apocalypse manifesto. I’ll split it in three parts, scattered throughout this review.

*Stretched out between its rivers, the city will remain for a long time. Stone and brick, concrete and asphalt, glass–time deals gently with them. Water leaves black stains, moss shows green, a little grass springs up in the cracks. (That is only the surface.) …*

I discovered Earth Abides on what I think was this Reddit thread on great post-apocalyptic “rebuild the world” books – yes, I pick up book recommendations on Reddit. Only sometimes, okay?

Written in 1949, it was conceived during a time when people weren’t exactly discovering the threat of human extinction for the first time, but when the distinct possibility that it could come to pass was more prominent in the popular imagination than it ever had been before (that we know of). As such, I consider it one of the granddaddies of today’s post-apocalyptic fiction – a genre whose popularity has become reflective of our times in the same way puritan, sexless Victorian ethics once paved the way to timeless romantic novels.

* …A window-pane grows loose, vibrates, breaks in a gusty wind. Lightning strikes, loosening the tiles of a cornice. A wall leans, as footings yield in the long rains; after years have passed, it falls, scattering bricks across the street. Frost works, and in the March thaw some flakes of stone scale off. (It is all very slow.)…*

In Earth Abides, a rapidly-spreading deadly disease wipes out almost everyone on Earth (everyone in the continental US, at least). Our protagonist Ish survives only by what could be understood as coincidence. In the aftermath of the catastrophe, he discovers in fine practical as well as poetic detail all that was left behind, living off the utilities and commodities that would still keep running and existing for a short time without any input from man. Let’s say it involves a different sort of road trip across America.

He quickly discovers he is not alone, and what happens next is telling of where humankind came from and where it might soon be heading towards.

I found Earth Abides entertaining, thought-provoking and very poetic, in the sense that many parts of the book dealing with everyday things were looked at from a completely different perspective – all just by using unusual or, at least for us, outmoded manners of speech. I found that unexpectedly fulfilling. It seemed to capture perfectly the outlandishness as well as the perfect ordinariness of the situations and scenarios at hand.

On top of that, what surprised me was how fresh it all felt, how much of it could still have been written today, barring some very sexist, racist or discriminatory stripes that could be attributed to the writer just being a man of his era. If I were to be perfectly honest with you, even they were more fascinating to look at than offensive, like an old photograph depicting socially unacceptable things that were commonplace not so long ago. It’s interesting how many things seem to have changed, but maybe haven’t – including, of course, our interest in stories telling of our inevitable demise and virtual extinction. Virtual is the key word here, for: Men go and come, but Earth abides.

It’s a solemn and soothing feeling.

I’m giving it 4 stars because I thought it was a bit too long. It felt epic, sure, just a bit drawn out. I recommend it to all who like thinking about what the world would look like without us and the thought fills them with calm instead of terror.

* … The rain washes quietly through the gutters into the storm-drains, and if the storm-drains clog, the rain runs still through the gutters into the rivers. The snow piles deep in the long canyons, drifting at the street corners; no one disturbs it. In the spring, it too runs off through the gutters. As in the desert, a year is like an hour in the night; a century, like a day.*

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