Monday, October 26, 2009

Armegeddon in Retrospect, by Kurt Vonnegut

I thought I'd never say this again, but I just read a new Kurt Vonnegut book. Not only that, but I'm starting another one now.

Armageddon in Retrospect is a collection of writings about war and peace, some of which are previously unpublished. It starts out, after a great introduction by Mark Vonnegut, with a letter written by Pfc. K. Vonnegut, Jr. on April 29, 1945. The letter is probably his earliest attempt to put into writing the horrific experiences he had as a P.O.W. in Germany. Slaughterhouse-Five would be its culmination, years later.

If people were reasonable creatures, every veteran would be an antiwar activist, but alas, we aren't and they aren't. For that matter, if people were reasonable, we wouldn't need antiwar activists, would we. Here's what Vonnegut says about the movement to stop the Vietnam War: "We might as well have been throwing cream pies."

More later.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Why Good People Do Bad Things, by James Hollis, Ph.D.

I have to blog about this book because there is so much important information in it. But it's difficult to know what to say because there is so much important information.

Nice connection I never made before: There's a children's poem called "My Shadow" -- "I have a little shadow / That goes in and out with me / ..." I've known that by heart since early childhood. I knew Robert Louis Stevenson wrote it, and in a separate part of my brain I knew Stevenson wrote Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. But I never connected the two facts. Now they are filed away in the same folder. That Robert Louis Stevenson, he was really concerned about this issue of The Shadow.

According to James Hollis, who wrote this book, Why Good People Do Bad Things, the subconscious mind is the part of you that you don't know about; the Shadow is the part of you that you don't want to know about. And it's the answer to the question of why you don't always do what you know you should do, and you sometimes do what you know you shouldn't do.

Not only people have Shadows; institutions have them too, and even God can be perceived to have a dark side (for the full exposition on this idea, read Answer to Job, by Carl Jung.)

The solution to the problem of The Shadow is to confront it, to explore it, to accept its existence and pay attention to its influence in our lives.

As an old Eastern European story has it a village took pity on an elderly pensioner and, to give him a reason to live, appointed him to serve as sentinel at the entrance to the shtetl and wait for the arrival of the Messiah. After many hash seasons at his solitary post, he returned to the council and expressed a certain frustration over this project, whereupon he was told, 'But consider, it's steady work!' So, our ongoing effort to know the right thing, if it exists, and to do the right thing if we can, is steady work...-- p. 37
This is not some pop culture "self-help" book--but it certainly may be helpful, if it's read in that spirit. It's a good summary of Jungian theory and a well-organized exposition of the thoughts of an intelligent person who has been thinking about this subject for several decades.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Juliet, Naked by Nick Hornby

I just read this book yesterday. It's a lovely mixture of romance and realism, which explores communication and celebrity in the 21st century.

I've enjoyed all of Hornby's work. High Fidelity is on my "favorite movies" list. A Long Way Down was clever and touching.

Besides providing amusement, the book fueled my anglophilia with the very English vernacular spoken by several of the characters. Here are some phrases:

--winding me up
--taking the piss
--having me on
--a one-off
--fair enough
--talking rubbish

...and so on.

Reactivating Blog

I must say, this appears to be an extreme example of procrastination. I haven't added anything to this blog for nearly a year. Amazing. I will reactivate it by jettisoning all ambition, becoming entirely humble and creating short entries, once a week or more. That's the plan. Today's project, changing the quote at the top of the page. Where is that, again? I'm off to search for it.