2017 in books

In January, I started my year in the footsteps of Siddhartha who chooses to leave home and follow a path of experiential learning rather than what is expected of him. In February, I let myself be swept up in the sardonic romance Glimpses of the Moon, only to find a glimpse of hope in a Man’s Search for Meaning while in a Holocaust concentration camp. I turned back to another Wharton romance called  Summer that ended even more ironically and sad than the former, yet was fully rejuvenated by the debut novel of one of my favorite author’s only this time a Man Walks Into a Room, not into a Holocaust, and without his memory. That physiologically trying story led me to explore The Book of Joy and the Dali Lama’s idea of how one can best nourish lasting happiness in a changing world. Of course, I immediately juxtaposed those ideals by contemplating a life lived in One Hundred Years of Solitude. That was a magical roller-coaster of family drama and time warps, so I fell back on my faithful Wharton only to have a dreadful time getting through the dramas of The Buccaneers, American girls entering into a British aristocratic life through messy marriages. This put me in such a state, I illegally borrowed a totally different genre and found solace in the Fevre Dream vampire world created by the author destined to write the Game of Thrones series. A new release by my formerly mentioned favorite author also featured a storyline like a fevered dream in a Forest Dark, so next I started the adolescent fantasy series Eragon to brighten my darkening view of humanity with its spit-fire adventure like Harry Potter tale turned Lord of the Rings. Then I hitchhiked around the continental US with Jack and The Dharma Bums only to wind up with A Long Way Down in my hands, a surprisingly humorous and compassionate take on the dark subject of suicide attempts on New Year’s Eve.

That takes me full circle. I will end the year two books away from completing my 2017 challenge to read 17 books in one year. I just finished the second book of Eragon’s dragon fantasy series Eldest, while I trying not to pick up the third because I still have two novels I’ve been meandering through for a while now: Walden and the musings of a free man and his self-proclaiming, self-sustaining lifestyle and the spiritual reminder The Power of Now to guide me towards spiritual enlightenment and away from wondering what books I’ll be reading this next year…

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Shifting into Curiosity

We can put our whole heart into whatever we do;
but if we freeze our attitude into for or against,
we’re setting ourselves up for stress.  Instead, we
could just go forward with curiosity, wondering
       where this experiment will lead.  This kind
of open-ended inquisitiveness captures the
spirit of enthusiasm, or heroic perseverance.
~ Pema Chödrön

Experiments

Life is just one big experiment and so are all our efforts and great intentions to impact our world for good.  If the solutions to problems-personal and global-were known, they wouldn’t be problems now.

Even though this logic seems rather obvious, it’s strange how so many people keep applying old methods and old thinking to these issues, even as they keep failing.  It seems we’d rather keep exhausting ourselves with failure than change our minds and admit that new ideas are needed.

Truthfully, we don’t have the faintest idea what to do.

Yet this is not an admission of defeat, it’s an invitation to experiment.

Instead of exhausting ourselves with doing the same thing only faster and with more vehemence, we could shift into curiosity.

Curiosity is a very compelling space-open, rich, friendly.  We’re willing to be surprised rather than having to get it right.  We’re interested in others’ perspectives, intrigued by differences, stimulated by new thoughts.

Curiosity is a very pleasant place to dwell.  Relaxing even.  And most certainly fruitful.

All it requires is letting go of certainty and admitting we don’t know what we are doing.

Let the experiments begin.

~from the book Perseverance by Margaret J. Wheatley:

 

Inspiration above shared by PCV George

A Learning Space

The more that you read, the more things you will know

The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go!

When I arrived, the “library” space looked as if it was being used for storage – thousands of old books and textbooks, papers, broken shelves and other equipment all packed inside the dusty room; my counterpart told me that for years it was a sanctuary from the sun or rain for older middle school students who wanted to take a nap during lunch.

The first step was organizing all the books – students helped me to stack and shelve books – I made it a race or a contest to see who could make the highest pile to increase productivity and so they thought the  overwhelming work was fun.

Then we came on the weekend to paint:

I applied to 3 book donation companies and 2 of them (One Book One Week and Darien Book Aid) sent a box to the school with an assortment of used English books. The Kindergartners were the first to visit the new books:

The library is a transformed place where my counterpart Kru Doll can hold class with the 1st-3rd graders and all students can come at lunch to play games, color, browse books (yet, not quite read) and relax in the safe place.

There is still a lot more work to do to help these kids to learn a second language; even so, I am proud of our efforts that have created fun and safe learning environment.