Books (so many!)
The Transfer Agreement:The dramatic Zionist rescue of the Jews from the Third Reich to Jewish Palestine by Edwin Black was a mind bending journey into the past. It chronicles the years of Hitler’s rise to power, the subsequent turmoil of German Jews, the global effort to intervene, and the pact Nazi Germany made with Zionists to transfer German Jews to British mandate Palestine. I was blown away by the historical reframing of the boycott movement and by the certainty of many actors who convinced themselves of their own rightness. The text is a reminder that very little in this world is completely right or wrong, and we would do well to seek to understand as much of the situation as possible before claiming the moral high ground. Dense, nuanced, fantastic.
Out of the Earth: Civilization and the life of soil by Daniel Hillel was another example of how humans have the ability to construct narratives based on what “should have been” as opposed to what was. Hillel explores the dirty history of dirt and challenges the way we have romanticized past cultures’ use of resources. There were three quotations that I want to remember:
“We live in an age and culture that is very sensitive to human rights, but does not grant equal weight to human responsibilities. We insist on our prerogatives, and neglect our obligations.” (19)
“Technology that is not based on understanding its own consequences, and in not re-examined continuously in the light of growing and deepening science, is ever in danger of becoming self-defeating.” (107) [To see a current iteration of this principle, check out the frightening article Cute Authoritarianism. It’s a riveting read of how we are being manipulated through technology.]
“The clever are adept at extricating themselves from situations that the wise would have avoided from the onset…[which leads to a common criticism of economists who] know the price of everything but the value of nothing.” (269-270)
The third book I attempted was good for a few chapters but started to get redundant. Portnoy’s Complaint by Philip Roth was a hilarious look into the life of a neurotic young man as he monologues to his psychiatrist about his dysfunctional childhood. Alexander Portnoy complains about his guilt inducing mother, his constipated father, and his invisible sister. I loved the first 150 pages, but after the prostitute in Italy, I lost interest. How many times can one blame one’s mother?
I’ve been listening to a lot of bossa nova this month. Aguas de Marco is a great one to get your day started.
Spring break is almost here and the race to achieve that “bikini bod” is on. But rather than promote rapid weight loss for the sake of meeting some arbitrary deadline, I’m going to recommend being consistently active doing things you enjoy (and then watching what happens to your body). It’s amazing how your outlook shifts due to adrenaline and endorphins. Pay attention to how much more frequently you smile and what kinds of choices you make after spending more time doing what you love. I started sprinting again, and I’m going horseback riding in a couple of weeks. It feels good to move in new ways. Which activities are you going to pursue?
Peace and love, Kit