Erikson was a freudian psychoanalist and wrote this book in 1965 when he could interview many of the principal participants of a 1918 lockout and striErikson was a freudian psychoanalist and wrote this book in 1965 when he could interview many of the principal participants of a 1918 lockout and strike of textile workers. Erikson had already written about the early life of Martin Luther and wanted this book to focus on the middle years of a great world leader. As a freudian, Erikson looked for the roots of motivation in earlier life experiences, so it is a very personal journey that makes me wonder if there is really any use in revealing such personal triumphs and tragedies. Gandhi had always been the apple of his father's eye. When an adolescent he stole a small piece of gold to use the proceeds to pay a debt for his brother. When he told his father of this "sin", instead of being punished, Gandhi's complete honesty brought tears to his father's eye. Erikson places great weight on the fact that Gandhi left his dying father's bedside to sleep with his young wife whom he married at age 13. Despite spending many days nursing his father, his dad ended up dying in the arms of Gandhi's uncle while Gandhi spent the night with his young wife. Gandhi supposedly experienced such waves of guilt from this event that he eventually adopted an almost maternal concern for all the oppressed. He came to feel that overcoming personal temptation was bound up with overcoming the control and might of external oppressors. Though not certain if I'm with Erikson on this insight, it is interesting to ponder what might be a necessary if not sufficient condition for successful conflict resolution.
It was fascinating to learn about Gandhi's early battles in South Africa amongst the Indian diaspora. After going to England to study to become a successful barrister, Gandhi eventually set aside his barrister's robe to organize nonviolent resistance to a tax on Indian immigrants who had worked long enough to serve the terms of their indentured servitude. He organized Indians in South Africa to work in ambulances during the Boer War between the British and the Afrikaners. He returned to India very much transformed from his early aspiration of being a lawyer and householder. He formed an ashram and eventually participated in a textile strike for a 35% rise in wages. Later on he led a fight to end the salt tax. Eventually the goal of the struggle became nothing less than independence from British rule. In every battle, the turn of events had unintended consequences, such as horrible violence perpetrated by the police or by fringe elements not directly won over to the Mahatma's pledge of nonviolence.
The book describes many of the social and personal conflicts in Gandhi's life, with climactic focus on a textile strike in 1918. Gandhi's method required close contact with both sides of the conflict. He practiced and taught something called Satyagraha which meant that the oppressed side should make sure of the justness of their cause and then be willing to commit to it "even unto death". Rather than villifying the oppressor, the goal was to act in such a way that the public and oppressor's consciences would be touched by the sacrifice of the oppressed. Gandhi would often resort to the tactic of fasting to force the mill owners or government to come to terms. The choice of a realizable goal and profound sensitivity towards the current zeitgeist was essential for the successful outcome of struggle through strictly nonviolent means. When a follower asked him whether fasting would be useful in another struggle, Gandhi replied by asking the friend to send him ten reasons why fasting would lead to a reasonable outcome. Gandhi promised to sign-off on the ten reasons without even reading them. The friend thought it through and found another way to forward the fight without fasting.
My "companion book" (I always like to choose one!) to "Gandhi's Truth" is "Revolution in Cuba" by H.L. Mathews. How similar and yet distinct are Gandhi's Satyagraha and Guevara's "patria o muerte - venceremos!" ("country or death - we shall overcome!")? A first order contrast is that Guevara took up struggles against dictators with so much blood on their hands that they were beyond the pale of human solicitude. Gandhi always held out hope that the oppressor would see that compromise was in their own best interest. Through direct experience with the Boer War in South Africa and distant observation of the Great War "to end all wars", Gandhi nurtured high hope that the British empire was on the wane and that it would be possible to help the oppressor loosen his grip through nonviolent means. Che and Fidel as well as Ho Chi Minh had a younger more virulent opponent in the rise of american imperialism in the years following WW II. Despite these differences, the dance of conflict and resolution is between members of what we think of as "humanity". If we are to survive as a civilization, there must be some means of learning to live together, without shedding blood and by sharing resources in a way which is fair to all, both the living and those yet to be born....more
I was attracted to this biography of Joshua Slocum because I loved the fictional Pat O'Brien series about sailing ships during the Napoleonic wars. JoI was attracted to this biography of Joshua Slocum because I loved the fictional Pat O'Brien series about sailing ships during the Napoleonic wars. Joshua Slocum was a merchant captain during the last half of the 19th century. He sailed with his wife and kids aboard, for the most part. The climax is the first solo trip around the world starting in 1893. His life was often controversial, rarely boring....more
I gained understanding about comedians of the past half century. A lot of it was self serving, but some of the stories were genuinely funny and a fewI gained understanding about comedians of the past half century. A lot of it was self serving, but some of the stories were genuinely funny and a few were touching. ...more
Although they spent years living within the antarctic circle, not one crew member was lost. Some of the descriptions of discussions, injuries, and neuAlthough they spent years living within the antarctic circle, not one crew member was lost. Some of the descriptions of discussions, injuries, and neurotic behavior seemed like it must be made up. Apparently, on top of all the suffering, many crew members kept detailed logs. Then I discovered that the ship's doctor Alexander Macklin worked tirelessly with the author to create a sense of "I was there"....more
The product placements were hilarious! Still, there were a few saving graces, most after the release from being stuck. I can't believe they made a movThe product placements were hilarious! Still, there were a few saving graces, most after the release from being stuck. I can't believe they made a movie of this....more
Very easy reading compared to the nonfiction I usually get into. Every page is so well crafted. Perhaps it is just nostalgia for this aging hippie, buVery easy reading compared to the nonfiction I usually get into. Every page is so well crafted. Perhaps it is just nostalgia for this aging hippie, but the first part of the book shows the benefits of sacrifice for those who commit to the life of the artist. I loved the insight that St. Bernadette was called to sainthood which is so much more significant than merely wanting it. For one summer, I hitchhiked around the country with the girl who was to become my wife. I can relate to how being homeless was part of a cosmic adventure during the 60's when the older generation could think of nothing better to do than thin our ranks through pointless war. It was liberating to be truly redundant. The only way up was to determine your worth in your own terms. This is the story of the roll of the dice of Patti Smith and Robert Maplethorp in the artist subculture of Brooklyn and Manhattan. Lots of interesting characters and idols walk through these pages, most of whom I never heard of. Nevertheless I found the book educational and inspiring. ...more
I loved this book. There were many unsettling passages, but documenting the categorization phase of our understanding of life on earth is one of the rI loved this book. There were many unsettling passages, but documenting the categorization phase of our understanding of life on earth is one of the reasons I can't get enough of natural history museums.
Something I learned from this book was that pre-Darwinian collectors tended to find one or a few examples of each species because the prevailing theory was that creation was recent, and Noah's flood was even more so. Once Darwin and Wallace presented the theory of natural selection, it was realized that variations existed from island to island and around each bend in the river, something which primitive hunters had never lost touch with.
Something I rediscovered from this book had to do with Carroll and Lear's nonsense verse. In his twenties, Alfred Wallace had spent a few years collecting butterflies and other species in South America. When he finally set sail for home, the small ship he was on caught fire. The lifeboats were in such bad shape that the cook was ordered to bring cork from the galley to help patch them. Though eventually saved, the leaky lifeboats may have inspired "The Jumblies":
"Their heads were green, and their hands were blue, and they went to sea in a sieve."
I have reconnected with that wonderful Nonesuch album!...more
**spoiler alert** I recently read a great book: Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, A Man Who Would Cure the World
It is about a**spoiler alert** I recently read a great book: Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, A Man Who Would Cure the World
It is about an American doctor in Haiti. The stories of his youth and upbringing will make you chortle. His dad was simply amazing, making his family live in a Bluebird bus. His daughters called him "The Warden". I think Paul Farmer is younger than me but he has achieved much more, albeit it in what most would consider lost causes. He has set up effective clinics in Haiti where he spends a lot of time hiking into the mountains to visit his patients to get first hand knowledge of their living conditions. On these long trips, he makes many discoveries. One discovery was about a dam built with foreign assistance. It flooded fertile farmland and provided power only for the wealthy in Port Au Prince. The people ended up with no where to live but on the steep sides of the bank and can paradoxically get water only with great difficulty. He has learned to understand that the prejudices and superstitions held by his patients really do have a function in coping with hard living conditions. He loves his patients and tries hard to be in sympathy with their points of view. Farmer and his organization went on to work with the UN to launch programs to treat drug resistant strains of TB. It turned out the drug prices were artificially high even though the patents had run out. Nobody cared enough to check, even though there is great danger that resistant strains of TB could move out of prisons and barrios into "safe" havens of the middle class. Making a difference always requires sacrifice and rejection of the status quo. If you read this, prepare to feel uncomfortable with some of your creature comforts and priorities. Then decide what you will do to make some positive changes in the world. This book will change you, maybe by opening your eyes, perhaps even by opening your heart....more
I found this book to be extremely engrossing. I didn't know that John Muir was considered one of Ralph Waldo Emerson's men. The author, Donald WorsterI found this book to be extremely engrossing. I didn't know that John Muir was considered one of Ralph Waldo Emerson's men. The author, Donald Worster, has a good grasp on the delicate balance between appealing to the people to break out of the rat race to appreciate natural wonders and appealing to the powerful such as Theodore Roosevelt and the railroad magnate, Harriman. John Muir's life was an amazing force that helped establish national parks and monuments all over the western US. He was unafraid to wax poetic to inspire his countrymen to do the right thing. He was in the right place at the right time. It was lovely to read how the views of Darwin transformed his Calvanist views. It was heart breaking to see how the forces of "progress" stacked up against him in the failed attempt to keep Yosemites twin, the Hetch Hetchy valley, from falling under the developer's hammer. (Couldn't they have built that dam closer to SF?)
The book makes me want to do two things: read John Muir's first book "The Mountains of California" written in 1894. I also need to get to Yosemite to take in it's primordial beauty for myself....more
I read the book as sort of "Where's Waldo?" exercise. My bet is that Osama Bin Laden is hanging out in Peshwar province, although Somalia, Yemen, or SI read the book as sort of "Where's Waldo?" exercise. My bet is that Osama Bin Laden is hanging out in Peshwar province, although Somalia, Yemen, or Saudi Arabia are all good bets.
I gave a low rating to the book because the analysis was so shallow. Yes, the bin Ladens are rich and like fast planes and cars. I get it. The men have multiple wives, so they tend to have huge families. Many have contributed to jihad in the 1980's when the Soviet Union fought the Taleban in Afghanistan. Does anyone believe that oil money is not going to similar goals today? Follow the money!
The author seemed too gullible, too unlikely to challenge those in power, whether in Saudi Arabia or the Bush administration. If his analysis was more penetrating, it would cut off the interviews. The end result is that the book felt like an echo chamber of the bin Laden and al Saud PR departments. As hard as it was to get through, it is probably still worth the effort, as long as you are prepared to put up with its limitations. I would have liked the book more if he had addresses the key questions like: "Why is Osama still at large?" "What are his current sources of finance and other forms of support?" "What are the ties between western oil companies and OPEC?"
This book is an attempt to cope with deep, unrelenting sorrow that comes from loss of soul mates. Through no fault of her own, Joan had a very bad yeaThis book is an attempt to cope with deep, unrelenting sorrow that comes from loss of soul mates. Through no fault of her own, Joan had a very bad year there. She shares insights about grief and methods of avoiding the vortex of despair that sometimes confronts us. I hope I will not be as hard on myself if I am faced with such loss. She made me feel for all the parents who have had to bury a child. One life lesson is to do everything possible to give sick loved ones the time to recover. Don't let impatience on anyone's part cause you to increase their risk when a day or a month will give them the time to become stable again. If the worse comes to pass, there is no turning back the clock, and there is no controlling your emotions that replay your role in events. That replay function is a survival mechanism we inherit from our cave-dwelling and tree-clinging ancestors, but it can be as painful as hell nevertheless. You have to use every trick in this book and more to learn life's lessons without giving in to despair. We are survivors, so most of us will find a way to carry on with the memory of all that is good about our lost loved ones in the forefront of our consciousness.
The book will dig up your own feelings of loss over a beloved pet or person. View the book as part of the hard work of growing up and learning to take the good with the bad. As Joan's husband told their daughter, "It all evens out."
Read this when you're feeling strong, and then go and give all your loved ones a hug....more
I chose this to listen to while driving six hours. My family always loves to listen to books about dogs and veterinary medicine medicine, so this is aI chose this to listen to while driving six hours. My family always loves to listen to books about dogs and veterinary medicine medicine, so this is a popular genre for our car trips. Veterinary books deal with medical problems without the same level stress and drama we attach to human health issues. I was pleasantly surprised to discover the depth of feeling that people have for their pets, and how a compassionate doctor can help them make good decisions about treatment. The author borrows a page from the "24" series by describing one day in the life of surgical veterinarian. Through flashbacks he is able to convey the sensibility of "the new kid on the block" to complement the views of a veteran of many decisions and interventions....more
This book helped me make decisions that gave me the patience to weather many tests and consultations that led to the discover of my coronary artery diThis book helped me make decisions that gave me the patience to weather many tests and consultations that led to the discover of my coronary artery disease before I got a heart attack. Doctors are people too. They are trying to make a living and doing the best they can. Don't hate them because the prescribe expensive drugs or inconclusive tests. You need to work with them and force them to communicate their thinking. Always ask why a test is being administered. When a diagnosis is made, always ask: 1) What else could be the problem? What other body parts are near the region where I am experiencing symptoms? 2) Is there anything that doesn't fit? 3) Could I have more than one ailment? When looking for a thinking doctor, look for 1) Communication 2) Critical reasoning: the doctor should explain the thought processes that generated the diagnosis 3) Compassion: respect for the patient's values and spiritual needs. When diagnosing, (not only doctors do this!), avoid the pitfalls of 1) Availability: the tendency to judge the likelihood of an event by the ease with which relevant examples come to mind. 2) Confirmation Bias: confirming what you expect to find by selectively accepting or ignoring information. 3) Anchoring: a shortcut in thinking where a person firmly latches on to a single possibility without considering multiple possibilities. This may be driven by a wish for a certain outcome. 4) Affectation error: selectively surveying the data driven by the expectation that your original diagnosis is correct. 5) Attribution: be wary of "going with your gut" when you have strong emotions about a person, either positive or negative. ...more