Currently Reading: Dumbocracy and Radical Acceptance

Those that follow me over at All Consuming know that I use the service to catalog some of the media I partake in. It will also show up in my shared items feed when I remember to note that I've watched a movie or read a book. I'm currently reading two books, one sent to me for free by its author and another lent to me by my girlfriend. The first is Dumbocracy: Adventures with the Loony Left, the Rabid Right, and other American Idiots by Marty Beckerman and the second is Radical Acceptance: Embracing Your Life with the Heart of a Buddha by Tara Brach.

Dumbocracy: Adventures with the Loony Left, the Rabid Right, and other American Idiots by Marty Beckerman

Beckerman, you'll remember, is the author of Generation S.L.U.T., a fictional novel of teenagers and sex in middle America, read at a time when sex wasn't a part of my life. Having three years of experience, now, I know a little bit about how complicated that can make life, yet in the book love did not inform many of the decisions and actions taken by the characters. In his non-fictional account of spending time with extreme liberal and extreme conservative forces in the United States, it's clear a chapter or two in that he exposes discrepancies between what those forces propose and the methods they use to enact what they propose. Based on a little bit of interaction with both Beckerman himself and reading interviews and his other writings, he projects a high intensity that calls into question his belief that he speaks for the political centre. This, keeping in mind, after only having read a tiny portion of the book so far.

Radical Acceptance: Embracing Your Life with the Heart of a Buddha by Tara Brach

Radical Acceptance, on the other hand, picks up for me where Buddhism Plain & Simple by Steve Hagen leaves off. In Hagen's book, we get a sense of what Buddhism is, where Tara Brach relates Buddhism to our daily, psychological life. Karen, who lent me the book, recognized I was struggling with the way I was dealing with some strong emotions in the last few months during this, the current episode of my life which people close to me are familiar with. While Dr. Brach's prescription—such as it is prescription—has much for me to in turn struggle with in understanding, putting some of them into practice, particularly the acknowledging and naming of emotions when they are particularly strong, has improved my mental state over its previous state. Some concepts and approaches to explaining them fall short of my full grasping, as I resonate with some of it and outright reject—more like fail to let myself grasp—other parts. More full sentence than two-word phrase, "nothing endures", from Hagen's book, resonated so much with me when I read it that it became a tagline for this website. While the brain fully understands it, the heart needs some convincing. It's with Radical Acceptance, having read half-through, that I've found ways to deal with some of the changes up until the 30th year of existing on this planet that I refused to believe are could happen in my life.

Just, you know, shrug it off
Could we all be that chill and remain reverent?
Karen reviews How to Cook Your Life
Relating Buddhism to cooking, she watched the movie in the newly refurbished Ridge Theatre as part of the Vancouver International Film Festival.

Two Late Podcast Pickups

I've stopped listening to none of the podcasts listed in earlier installment of my monthly podcast subscriptions list, but did add two early this month just in time for this month's rundown:

  • A Buddhist Podcast (podcast feed), but so far haven't listened to any of the episodes. If you know of any complimentary (or better) podcasts, please add a link to them in the comments. I'm looking for light fare, since all I've read on the subject is Buddhism Plain & Simple by Steve Hagen.
  • AP Radio (podcast feed) by The Aesthetic Poetic, a group blog written by Vancouverites Matthew Nelson, Douglas Haddow, Kristen Dyck, William Campbell, and Alex Munro. Favourite episode so far: hiphop butters, with, except for an out-of-place RJD2, very Pete Rock-esque productions throughout.

This Is the Year I Read Books and Review Them

Up until about 2003 or 2004, I read up to 20 books a year, mostly on my way to work on the bus or in my copious free time not working, since my job was less than half-time. Since working full-time and on salary—meaning no set start or quitting time—priority given to dead tree editions of pretty much any written text went to reading digital ink in the form of weblogs and the delicious articles they link to.

Already this year I've read three books: The Presidency of Gerald R. Ford by John Robert Greene, [Amazon], Buddhism Plain & Simple by Steve Hagen, and most recently, Social Acupuncture: A Guide to Suicide, Performance, and Utopia by Darren O'Donnell. I am currently working my way through Wikinomics: How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything by Don Tapscott and Anthony D. Williams, and have purchased Dreaming In Code: Two Dozen Programmers, Three Years, 4,732 Bugs, and One Quest for Transcendent Software by Scott Rosenberg, which sits patiently on my coffee table.

All the books have reasons why I either read them or bought them: the book about Gerald Ford because he had recently died; the Buddhism book partly on the recommendation of Web Worker Daily but also partly because my girlfriend is a practicing Buddhist (I was reading the book as a Valentine's Day gift to her, but I was afraid she was on to me when she published that); Social Acupuncture on Karen's recommendation; and Wikinomics because Will Pate attended the Wikinomics book launch in Toronto and made note that some consider Tapscott to not be a citizen of the community he writes about. Will calls him a translator and diplomat, but popularizer might be a better term. at about the same time as the Internet, and therefore. He has it right, and those that don't yet understand it or know how to benefit from it, particuarly in the business sense, are the target audience, not people like me who live it. (I bought Dreaming in Code because I have a weak tie to one of the book's protagonists, Ted Leung.)

I intend to write and publish reviews of all books mentioned, but as you can tell I'm already two books behind with a third book soon added to the queue. But this is the year I read book and review them. For now, though, that's a window into what I'm reading and thinking about these days.

A Very Humanist Statement

quinn: “I think that “attention is infinite” statement needs a little more unpacking. I do think it is infinite in the sense that it is within everyone’s grasp, in principle, to pay attention to as many topics and areas of life as do exist. This is an extension, for me, from the Buddhist idea that everyone has the capacity to reflect on their actions, to make their lives meaningful in ways that are ethical, and to make changes in themselves that enable them to choose a life that they have reason to value. So “attention is infinite” is actually a very humanist statement, in that I think the patterns of human behaviour, whether this be in relation to the greater environment, equals, superiors, subordinates, can all be subjected to mindfulness, contemplation, and aligned with longer-term commitments to sustainability and happiness.”

Public Money For Religious Studies?

Ryan Overbey on the distinction between teaching religion and teaching about religion: “It makes perfect sense to give an atheist money to study theology, right? It's not like the atheist who studies Augustine will end up joining the priesthood. But what about giving money to an evangelical to study theology, when there is a clear intent to start a ministry? A tougher nut to crack. Then there are those of us in Religious Studies- should we get public money? Sure, we teach about religion. We don't teach religion. But what of the legions of Tibetan Buddhist scholars who, in order to gain access to texts and methods of reading those texts, actually join Tibetan Buddhist orders? Would you give public money for Robert Thurman to teach Buddhism at your university?”