When we're dreaming, daydreaming, meditating, or even immersed in a good book, we experience a reality that has nothing toBodies are ... interesting.
When we're dreaming, daydreaming, meditating, or even immersed in a good book, we experience a reality that has nothing to do with our physical bodies.
You’ve flown in a dream, right? It’s such a delicious experience, in large part because when you’re in a dream, flying, you’re totally unshackled from your physical body, from the physical laws (gravity!) that are otherwise an inescapable consequence of being “in” a body.
Even in normal, everyday states of consciousness we tend to think of ourselves as separate from our bodies. We live in our heads so much of the time. Our bodies run themselves automatically. What’s my spleen doing right now? I have no fricking idea. The textbooks say I have once, so I suppose I do, and I suppose it’s chugging along doing its spleeny stuff. But whatever that is, it’s completely alien to my subjective experience.
And yet we also can't shake the fact that our "not body" selves and our body selves are intermingled. If I'm in pain, it affects "me" in a completely subjective way. It’s like living with a roommate who happens to have an over-large and in-your-face interpersonal style. If you’re roommate’s happy, life is soooo much easier. On the other hand, when your roommate’s cranky, look out. You’re going to have a bad day.
I’ve been noodling on these kinds of thoughts for a long time. I have one of those stick-in-your-head memories from when I was a kid: I came in from playing outside and looked down at my arms and thought, “oh wow, I’m an animal!” It felt revelatory and a bit thrilling. And it set a kind of base point for how I’d think about my body for the rest of my life, which evolved finally into a kind of bargain or partnership. I try to be at least as kind to my body as I’d be to any other pet. I try to understand it. I try to give it what it needs and to not get overly frustrated with it, which can be hard when things go wrong and I can’t figure out what it needs to feel better.
Given that understanding my body is so important, it’s no surprise that I gravitate toward thinkers like Mark Sisson, who advocate that we open the lens a bit when it comes to thinking about diet, exercise, and lifestyle.
It’s easy to forget, sometimes, that our current eating and lifestyle habits are really, really new. Even two hundred years ago, we weren’t eating seed oils, or vast amounts of refined sugar. We weren’t staying up way past sundown staring at artificially-lit screens. Most of us were more active.
Go back a bit further (20,000 years, say – which is a blink of the eye, evolutionarily speaking) and our diets were a mix of game and/or ”heritage” livestock (including organs); fruit (but only in season and it was typically smaller and less sweet); and foraged leaves and roots. That we ate unwashed.
It’s not that we can’t survive if we deviate from this framework. Obviously, we can. We can survive quite a while on a diet of cake and cola. But if we want to keep our bodies content, it makes sense to emulate, as much as possible, the conditions they’re adapted to biologically.
I’ve been reading Marks’ blog (Mark’s Daily Apple) for many years, now. I’m a fan because he is so careful to ground his thinking in science; he has a strong point of view yet is never dogmatic. The fact is, there’s a lot we still don’t know about how the body works. We often have to make educated guesses, and Mark’s comfortable letting us know when he’s doing so.
This is all a roundabout way of explaining why this book deserves 5 stars. If you’re interested in forging a decent working relationship with your body, you can’t go wrong studying Sisson’s work.
I bought this particular book when it came out last fall, and today I’m 10 days in to the recommended 6-week Keto regimen.
The book presents its subject matter clearly, as you’d expect if you follow Mark’s blog posts. The recipes are well-done and the results are delicious.
My transition to keto was fairly easy, since I’ve been on a primal/paleo diet for years.
Adopting primal/paleo did wonders for my relationship with my body.
I can already see that Keto is an exciting new tool.
Ten days, and the pain and stiffness in my fingers that has been creeping in as I age has suddenly begun to recede.
A Suitable Boy reminded me, in many ways, of Anna Karenina. Again you have as a central figure a woman under pressure to conform to restraining socialA Suitable Boy reminded me, in many ways, of Anna Karenina. Again you have as a central figure a woman under pressure to conform to restraining social convention (in this case, the custom of arranged marriage). Again, you have a writer who uses his heroine’s predicament as a lens through which to examine the choices of other individuals connected to her through a network of family and their associated social circles. “A Suitable Boy” is also as rich with details about 1950s India as Anna Karenina is with details about 19th century Russia, its path winding freely into contemporary politics and religious ceremonies, through both urban and rural settings.
But where Anna Karenina’s story ends tragically, Lata Mehra’s does not.
This is a very long book (1400 pages) but the subject matter warrants it. Highly recommended. ...more
In his essay "Tree and Leaf," JRR Tolkien observes (with great regret) that the Victorians trivialized the whole notion of "Fäirie."
Fairies and elvesIn his essay "Tree and Leaf," JRR Tolkien observes (with great regret) that the Victorians trivialized the whole notion of "Fäirie."
Fairies and elves were turned into mild, safe little characters, "flower-fairies and fluttering sprites with antennae that I so disliked as a child, and which my children in their turn detested." And as a literary category, fairy stories were relegated to the nursery room: "in recent times, fairie-stories have usually been written or 'adapted' for children."
Tolkien did not view this as a positive development, to put it mildly. "Fairy-stories banished in this way, cut off from a full adult art, would in the end be ruined," he wrote. "Indeed, in so far as they have been so banished, they have been ruined."
Well: had Tolkien cracked open "Seneca Indian Myths," he'd have been as delighted as I am to find story after story gloriously un-ruined.
By way of background, these stories were collected by Curtin on behalf of the Smithsonian in 1883; the volume was originally published in 1922.
The beauty of the stories is that Curtin transcribed them, rather than interpreted or re-told them. He didn't Westernize them; he most certainly didn't try to turn them into nursery tales.
If you're at all a fan of fairy tales, you're probably aware that older versions of our familiar European tales are often bloody and violent -- more Stephen King than Disney. You'll find that same matter-of-fact brutality in this collection. People chop each other up, cannibalize unsuspecting victims, wager and lose their lives in magical games. Reading them, you peer into a time when people lived closer to the idea of death than we're accustomed to, today, with our sanitized health care and the hands-off way we manage the dying.
The stories are also shot through with magic -- with the fantastical. The characters are all "people" but only a handful could be considered human: most are animals, or natural phenomena (Meteor, Whirlwind), or mythical figures and monsters (the Stone Coats, Flying Heads, Ancient Bear, Half of Anything). Yet they talk like people and behave in many ways like people--so to read these stories is to partake, however imperfectly, in the notion that all things in the world are living ... that consciousness is not exclusive to human beings.
How marvelous is that?
And -- maybe best of all -- the stories' structure has more in common with the convoluted, surreal world of dreams than what we people acclimatized to Western literature recognize as fictional narrative. There are lessons in these stories: punishments and rewards. But the stories are apt to take strange twists along the way. The story Okteondon and His Uncle, for example, begins with Okteondon (Root) as a boy. He lies down at the foot of an elm tree and becomes encased by the trees roots, where he lives until he's a grown man, fed and watered by his uncle. Then, just when you think this is what the story is "about," Okteondon breaks free (tipping the tree over) and begins a fresh adventure -- a heroic quest to defeat a Maneater who has captured his brother, sister, and uncle.
I first discovered this collection many years ago, when I was in college. It was at the time out of print. I was so pleased when I learned that Dover republished it in 2001. It is truly a treasure; this is one of my most prized books.
That said, there doesn't seem to be a lot of information about the collection online.
Not only that, the bits about Curtin that have found their way onto the interwebs gives us some interesting things to chew on: specifically, via Curtin's Wikipedia entry, the man is accused of butchering his translations of Polish novels. The entry quotes H.B. Segel, writing in 1965, as saying that Curtin mistranslated the Polish novelist Henryk Sienkiewicz due to "carelessness, uncritical reliance on dictionaries, and ignorance of Polish idiom, culture, history and language."
Eek. That's pretty brutal stuff, and one can't help but wonder if Curtin's work with the Seneca stories could be tainted by the same weaknesses. According to the 3-page "Note" prefacing "Seneca Indian Myths," for instance, Curtin learned the Seneca language in four months (!). Is four months really enough for any man -- no matter how intelligent -- to master a foreign language, particularly one with completely different linguistic roots, sufficiently enough to faithfully translate 500 pages' worth of oral folklore?
On the other hand, another collection of Seneca stories, titled "Seneca Fiction, Legends and Myths" and gathered at about the same time, was published under the names of Curtin and J.N.B. Hewitt -- and Hewitt's credentials in this area are a given. He was a Tuscarora (the 6th Iroquois nation), was also employed by the Smithsonian Institution's Bureau of Ethnology, and made many contributions to collecting and preserving information about Iroquois culture and customs.
One could *perhaps* assume that if Curtin were running around botching Seneca translations, Hewitt wouldn't have let his own work be in any way associated with the man.
Interesting questions though, aren't they?
And by the way, if you really want your mind blown, hunt down a copy of Hewitt's two-volume Iroquois Cosmology. I promise you: it's no nursery rhyme...
I recommend "Seneca Indian Myths" to anyone interested in Folklore, Native American Culture, the history of New York State -- or "real" fairy stories ;) ...more
This book has been around "forever," and by "forever" I mean I read my dad's copy when I was a kid. It appears to be out of print today, but it was wiThis book has been around "forever," and by "forever" I mean I read my dad's copy when I was a kid. It appears to be out of print today, but it was widely published, so it's fairly easy to pick up second hand copies.
I loved it when I read it as a kid. I still love it today.
The stories range from the humorous (there are three laugh-out-loud pieces by James Thurber) to wistful rememberances (e.g. "Some Sunnybank Dogs," by Albert Payson Terhune).
The writing itself is first-rate: this book, in fact, was my first introduction to a number of major literary figures: DH Lawrence, Thomas Mann, Anatole France.
It would be hard to list my top five favorites, but I can easily name my #1: "The Dark Gentleman" by Gladys Bronwyn Stern. It's more a novella (74 pages in my edition of the collection), it is beautifully written, and without giving away too much, it's a love story (sort of) told from the POV of five dogs who live on an English estate with their Legs -- i.e. their humans.
I read it over and over as a kid, and it still gives me pleasure to read it today.
I highly recommend this book to dog lovers of all ages, as well as anyone who appreciates terrific writing. ...more
I had the pleasure of reading an advance copy of this novel, and I thoroughly enjoyed it -- in fact, more than once I stayed up past my bedtime becausI had the pleasure of reading an advance copy of this novel, and I thoroughly enjoyed it -- in fact, more than once I stayed up past my bedtime because I couldn’t make myself put the book down!
Harris simply knows the craft. Her characters are well-drawn, she does a great job plotting, and best of all she has taken a vampire book and used it to tackle truly universal themes about love and deception.
I learned about this book a year or two ago when I was writing a case study on the Guernsey school system; they described it as their island's masterpI learned about this book a year or two ago when I was writing a case study on the Guernsey school system; they described it as their island's masterpiece novel.
They weren't exaggerating. I found this book to be a beautifully realized piece of literary fiction. Highly recommended. ...more