I’d like to begin with gratitude this month. A friend who reads this newsletter commented that he would like to hear my ‘takeaways’ from the books I read. I am rededicating to that purpose.
I read two notable books this month with seemingly nothing in common. Enemies, A Love Story by Issac Beshevis Singer was a philosophical (and therefore, depressing) novel that followed the personal chaos of Holocaust survivors. After Hitler’s destruction, Herman and the women in his life move to New York. Surrounded by freedom, they struggle to live with purpose. The book challenged ideas of free will, personal responsibility, guilt, and hope.
Quotations to ponder:
“The Nazis forced me to do things for so long that I can’t do anything of my own free will anymore.”
“Man is his own betrayer.”
“They all preached some sort of morality but it did not have the power to help withstand temptation…one could believe…and still commit atrocities.”
Juxtaposed with this is Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies by Jim Collins and Jerry Porras. The two authors explore what makes companies ‘visionary’ (i.e. the qualities of longevity, financial success, and contribution to society). What I extracted from their work was the essential need for core values and core purpose. What do I believe in and why am I here? These two questions, which when clearly defined, lead to the perpetual visionary company, were virtually impossible to answer for Herman and countless others who managed to live beyond WW2.
A third work of impact was Lab Girl by Hope Jahren. I loved this book. It was simultaneously hilarious and heartbreaking. I could identify with her hopes and defeats. I appreciated her swag, the courageous uncovering of herself and of her work. She writes, “Each beginning is the end of a waiting. We are each given exactly one chance to be. Each of us is both impossible and inevitable. Each tree was first a seed that waited.”
What do you think? What contribution do you want to make to the world?
That said, check out Dar Williams singing “Go to the Woods.” I first saw Dar Williams in concert during my last semester of undergrad. She was fantastic in 2000 and still is! Relatedly, I was thankful to be invited back to speak at RINRI this past Thursday. The positivity and good works of the group are evident, and I highly recommend exploring ways to get involved – so that we can continue to ‘go to the woods’ and all the other places that nature has for us to behold.
Barbells (and shovels):
Lots of snow for everyone! Reaffirming the need for strong muscles to haul the white (or yellow) flakes. This energetic video from TED reminds us that exercise is not just for the body.
Peace and love, Kit