Weird going from a quiet book about Quakerism to this crazy masterpiece full of unseemly bodily functions, completely unwarranted panic, and dark hila...moreWeird going from a quiet book about Quakerism to this crazy masterpiece full of unseemly bodily functions, completely unwarranted panic, and dark hilarity. As a certified, insurance-card-carrying member of the hypochondriac club, Weingarten’s irreverent approach to life and death (and every failure, disease, malfunction in between) made me laugh so hard my stomach began to hurt and I couldn’t breathe. Which, in turn, made me worry that said stomach ache and shortness of breath could be my brain/skin/lung cancer or cirrhosis or axillary hyperhidrosis acting up. I immediately contacted my doctor, as any responsible human being would, but apparently severe laugh-induced discomfort is not “emergency” enough to warrant a call to her cell phone at 11:30pm. Outrageous.
Regardless, this book is a gem. It’s full of awesomely exaggerated and misleading reflections on all things physical health— and sickness. A lighthearted twist on an often difficult and irritating phenomenon generally referred to as “completely-neurotic-costly-ridiculous-worry.” I believe that’s in the DSM. (less)
Not my favorite of Rashid's books, but stunning nonetheless. I don't actually think he's capable of writing a bad book. I know nothing about Aikido, t...moreNot my favorite of Rashid's books, but stunning nonetheless. I don't actually think he's capable of writing a bad book. I know nothing about Aikido, though, and was a bit distracted by the incorporation of that particular component. Not that I'm against the practice-- in fact I should probably sign myself up for a class or two based on the apparent benefits-- but I'm pretty damn ignorant about the subject and, quite frankly, have never given much thought to martial arts in general aside from a very strange and morbid fascination with MMA cage-fighting (the principles of which I really don't think apply to horsemanship quite as comfortably as Aikido).
Despite my occasional mental wanderings, there were many pieces in here that are, as always with Rashid's books, quite helpful in everyday life and work with horses. Common themes resurfaced with different stories and examples: breathing, mindfulness, pressure/release, distance, respect, creativity... An overall excellent reminder to get in touch with that elusive inner calm and throw out as much heart and soul as we expect in return, even if that means looking ridiculous and making mistakes. Life is messy-- suit up. (less)
There’s a right time for every book, and the time was right for this one. A light, quick read, but refreshing and remarkably insightful. Despite my pr...moreThere’s a right time for every book, and the time was right for this one. A light, quick read, but refreshing and remarkably insightful. Despite my professed atheism, I’ve come to realize that I may actually be a Quaker at heart. *Gasp!*
Even in the absence of belief in any kind of traditional god, though, Quakerism makes sense in the context of my own understanding of existence through the lens of karma, connectedness to others and to the world, and the fundamental importance of doing good.
Quakerism is admirably accepting of challenges and darkness, but plants its roots firmly in the knowledge that challenge leads to growth and, when the time is right, “the way will open.” Because there is darkness, there is light, and we can choose (and, I would argue, have a responsibility) to continually contribute what goodness we have to offer in the ways that we have to offer it.
I am drawn to every aspect of this religion— although I am less inclined to call it religion than a clear and meaningful way of life. I am in awe of Quakerism’s simplicity, compassion, egalitarian values and focus on social justice, and its simultaneous appreciation for both individual growth/revelation and the wellbeing of the whole. Because, in the end, who are we without others? And what is the purpose of existence if not positive contribution to something outside of ourselves?
This whole Quaker business reminds me of the incredibly wise (and unfortunately stolen and partially spoiled by Madonna) African proverb: “I am because we are.” That statement, reflected in the practice of Quakerism, just about sums up all my beliefs about this life and our purpose here.
Perfect timing, Book Gods (atheism be damned). I needed that.(less)
For something I was expecting to be an easy-read and palate cleanser (yes, I’m moping over Outlander), this book was surprisingly complex and interest...moreFor something I was expecting to be an easy-read and palate cleanser (yes, I’m moping over Outlander), this book was surprisingly complex and interesting.
Horse racing doesn’t sit right with me. To me, the sport screams horse-as-machine; it goes fast when we jump in the saddle, goes faster still when we throttle toward the finish line, and suffers in silence as its health and well-being become dismissed as non-issues in the eyes of the consumer (owner, trainer, jockey, etc.). Shattered bone? Colic? Laminitis? Might as well be engine failure or a broken alternator. If it can’t continue running, just trade the bugger it in. The only thing missing is a lifetime warranty!
I’m a cynic, yes, but am I wrong? Am I the only one disgusted by this?
There are two sides to every story, though. Duly noted. The more compassionate side of racing (yes, apparently it does exist) should be known and understood as well as its cruel counterpart. Which is why I liked this book.
Scanlon does a phenomenal job exploring, understanding, and documenting both sides of horse racing. One side of racing shows us unfathomable cruelty, human selfishness, unbridled ego, racism, classism, and greed. Did I mention all seven deadly sins? Because I meant to. They’re all there, I’m sure. And animal cruelty should be listed as an eighth deadly sin.
Apparently this horse racing beast has a soft(er) underbelly. Frequently out of sight, behind the curtains, in “the backstretch,” as they say, are genuine human beings connecting with living, breathing, beautifully honest animals.
And this incredible book highlights the groom, the hardest and least appreciated team member who is forced to hang on for dear life to the lowest rung of the horse racing ladder. The camera rarely strays from the winner’s circle to the stables where the real work (and the real compassion) gets done, day in and day out, and day in again.
There are other reasons, I think, particularly when Secretariat was running in the 70’s, that made integration between the haves and the have nots (race & class) an almost impossible political feat. During this time, owners, trainers, jockeys were rich and white. Grooms and other lower-rung workers, however, were (with few exceptions) black and poor as all get out.
Interesting that today the situation hasn't changed much. Only one small change, really. The owners, trainers, jockeys are still white, but the grooms are, with few exceptions, poor white women and poor hispanics.
[INSERT ASTUTE POLITICAL DECONSTRUCTION AND ANALYSIS OF INTERSECTIONS BETWEEN RACE, GENDER, CLASS, POWER, AND PRIVILEGE HERE]
I’ll spare you my own deconstruction, but I’m serious when I say check in with yourself here. Who does horse racing benefit? Who works hardest? Who gets respect and reward, and why? How is life (human and horse) treated? What are the values of the sport?
And finally, do these values mirror your own?
Chew on that, nerdy book friends, feminists, and fellow horse lovers! This book, apparently, hits a hot topic for everyone! (less)
The Outlander books are literally my favorite series of all time. And I have a love-hate relationship with them the likes of which I’ve never experien...moreThe Outlander books are literally my favorite series of all time. And I have a love-hate relationship with them the likes of which I’ve never experienced before. The reading I absolutely adore— I am obsessed and enthralled and 110% unavailable to anyone or anything requiring my attention while I’m burning through pages. But closing that back cover is literary heartbreak. As much as I love the story, I loathe the finishing.
And, thus, I’m thrown unwillingly and unhappily back into my period of mourning for my adventure-romance-time-traveling companions. Tomorrow morning will greet me with a sleepy yawn, a nice stretch, and then BAM! — book hangover. Who knows how long it’ll last this time; the last seven Outlander endings left me soulless and desolate for days on end. And, kick me when I’m down, the 9th book isn’t even a spark in Gabaldon’s eye yet! I could die and never know the end, heaven forbid.
Hysterics aside, I’ll state the obvious: the book was good. Check out my seven previous Outlander reviews if you want all the ridiculous squealing and swooning— and a bit of critique every now and then.
And then read these books because they are a.maz.ing. Yes, I added grammatically incorrect punctuation marks to emphasize my enthusiasm. And also because I’m a rebel… or something.
Just a little FYI to top it all off, the TV show is officially airing on Starz now (you’re welcome!). That said, no bibliophile of good repute would watch a show without first having the REAL story from which to criticize the re-making. Am I right?? (less)
After marathon-reading a bunch of Mark Rashid’s books (the next one up is in the mail as we speak, by the way), I’ve come to the conclusion that this...moreAfter marathon-reading a bunch of Mark Rashid’s books (the next one up is in the mail as we speak, by the way), I’ve come to the conclusion that this man is the epitome of everything I want to be as an equestrian— and probably as a human being, as well. Calm, soft, thoughtful, creative, humble, self-aware and aware of others…
Rashid has a respect for the life around him that is uniquely genuine and commendable. No one is perfect, of course, (including Mark Rashid) but it is my belief that the closest we come to perfection is being ever-mindful of our weaknesses and actively working toward growing into a better version of ourselves. If there is even a smidgeon of truth in these memoirs, Rashid is quite an impressive illustration of self-awareness and lifelong growth.
The process of being a good human and, in this case a good horseman, never ends, and as a mentor of mine once said, there is no arrival time. The piece that matters is doing it, showing up; trying once, trying again, and trying each time after that until either your life or your passion has gone.(less)
The more Mark Rashid I read, the more I like Mark Rashid. He’s one of those genuine, gentle people who makes you want to find your calm and your quiet...moreThe more Mark Rashid I read, the more I like Mark Rashid. He’s one of those genuine, gentle people who makes you want to find your calm and your quiet. And despite the fact that he’s exceptional at what he does, thanks to an incredible mentor of his own, he writes with an admirable and rare (particularly in the horse world) sense of humility. Genuine? Gentle? Humble? No wonder he’s so successful with his equine companions!
Much like his other books, this is a zen and soulful kind of read. It’s simple and flows easy, but it’s wonderfully deep and philosophical in message. While intentionally avoiding the feel of a more sterile, step-by-step horse training handbook, Rashid’s narratives and stories contain soft-spoken advice and practical tricks to use in everyday life pulled from his own learning experiences.
Highly recommended. Good for people, good for horses. Win-win(less)
It’s official. I think I’ve read all there is to read about this FLDS business. At least without having enough information about the little community...moreIt’s official. I think I’ve read all there is to read about this FLDS business. At least without having enough information about the little community to write a dissertation on the topic. Now it’s down to slightly different versions of essentially the same memoir. The weird part (and quite unfortunate part for those of you who read these little book blurbs) is that I’m still fascinated.
Religions practice, particularly cult culture, is incredibly interesting. Not only is it difficult to imagine that these communities function as utterly isolated sub-sections of our own society, but also that enough people have escaped and generously offered us bits of their world and knowledge so that we can begin to understand. Bit by bit, we put the puzzle together and learn how the master manipulators and evil geniuses of the world manage to brainwash entire populations, scam our enormous national and state governments, and commit heinous crimes with barely the bat of an eyelid from the criminal justice system.
And, for anyone who’s as nerdy about public administration and political science as I am, the complexity of managing this type of phenomenon in a country with such a strong belief in freedom is mind-boggling. Our systems are not set up to effectively or efficiently respond to the institutionalized abuse and neglect of hundreds of children, for instance. Or the impossible task of sorting out welfare benefits for a family with 15 wives and 70 children. And what about the pre-meditated and terrifyingly destructive brainwashing of thousands upon thousands of “consenting” adults? Who, by the way, are not really consenting as they have been given no choice.
The FLDS culture is the ultimate legal and constitutional nightmare. And we’ve been ignoring it, thus letting it become thoroughly corrupt and increasingly out of control, for almost two centuries. How on earth do you even begin to remedy that? Which traditions are protected by “religious freedom” and which are simply criminal and subject to outside intervention? What is the first step (or any of the subsequent steps for that matter) in charging, arresting, and prosecuting hundreds, possibly thousands, of individuals simultaneously?
I’ve never had a quiet mind. Since the day I was born, my brain has been over-analyzing, over-thinking, over-stimulated, over-worked (mostly as a cons...moreI’ve never had a quiet mind. Since the day I was born, my brain has been over-analyzing, over-thinking, over-stimulated, over-worked (mostly as a consequence of my own silly choices). And in that constant racing, it’s been easy to forget the importance of being still.
I find that I need books like this (and folks like Mark Rashid) to remind me to hush occasionally, and to simply be present in the moment. This is an especially important reminder when working with horses; often the quieter you are, the more space you create for connection. Quiet leaves room for clear and creative thought, conscious communication, and honest attention to the powerful details that are instantly overlooked in the race toward meaningless goals and the implementation of technique.
Being soft yet direct and earning the trust of those who rely almost solely on consistency takes practice and serious commitment. It’s a skill that is not often come by or valued in our frantic and over-caffeinated world. But, when it comes down to it, there’s truly nothing more valuable if you’re looking to develop a partnership based on respect and understanding with a 1,200 pound being who speaks a foreign, yet much more natural and soulful language.
Become a passive leader, Rashid suggests. Speak with your body and your actions, lead by example. Most importantly, leave all the harshness and mindlessness of everyday life at the barn door. Make room for quiet.
Who knows, maybe if I practice enough, I’ll learn to let go of harshness and mindlessness altogether. A happy thought, if you ask me. I can’t think of a single reason to hold onto such destruction. (less)
Shifting gears a bit with this one, from the appalling abuses of the Fundamentalist Latter Day Saints (FLDS) to the appalling abuses of Scientology. N...moreShifting gears a bit with this one, from the appalling abuses of the Fundamentalist Latter Day Saints (FLDS) to the appalling abuses of Scientology. Not that much of a shift, I suppose, but a shift nonetheless!
Despite major philosophical and practical differences, both FLDS and Scientology demonstrate cult definitions to a tee. Cults, as opposed to other more socially acceptable religious organizations, are typically characterized by relatively small groups of people who have been strategically isolated from others, coerced and brainwashed, and micromanaged to the point of complete incapacitation by leaders (typically “representing” various religious figures) who demand excessive devotion and submission of individual will in exchange for salvation, ultimate contentment, or similar grandiose purposes.
While FLDS leaders seem to inflict significantly more extreme trauma upon individual survivors (institutionalized rape, underage marriage, physical abuse, neglect, etc.), Scientologist leaders also leave their mark, as Hill points out, with practices involving extensive child labor, strategic separation of families, intimidation techniques, and physical/financial manipulation. And, to give credit where credit is due, Scientology is WAY more famous than the FLDS; I mean, they have Tom Cruise and John Travolta toting the line! How could NOT be Ultimate Truth?!
Regardless of the techniques used, the goal of cult leaders is 100% the same: power and control. Ensuring complete power and control over individuals ensures money and status, primarily through leeching off lower-level believers who have little-to-no capacity to change their circumstances, even if they so desired (which is uncommon, as brainwashing is typically quite thorough and cult principles fundamentally internalized over time). Often, the majority of believers live in squalor and fear while the leaders they worship are enjoying a luxurious existence, showered with riches stolen in the name of religious salvation.
Convenient for these “prophets,” is it not?
Overall, this memoir was fairly insightful and paints a basic, Cult 101-esque picture of modern-day Scientology. My only legitimate complaint is with the many grammatical and spelling errors, which may not be of concern to most (normal) people. I, on the other hand, would like to have a word with the person who calls herself Jenna Hill’s editor!(less)