Monday, September 12, 2016

Reading list and recent thoughts

I haven't been posting much because it doesn't feel like I do very much, not much worth writing about at least. Sitting around my house in Villeurbanne streaming my way through all 7 seasons of The Mentalist doesn't provide much fodder for thoughtful reflection. However, I've been on somewhat of a reading kick lately, so I decided to put my latest musings out there. This is partly so I can hold myself accountable, but it might also trigger curiosity in one of you, which would be neat.

My handsome-yet-formulaic muse

The books I've read recently:

Fringe-ology by Steve Volk: This was written by a journalist who goes out in search of the "truth" behind ideas on the fringe - UFOs, ghosts, near death experiences, lucid dreaming, etc. He skewers both believers and skeptics, arguing that the people on both sides of these phenomena engage in emotionally-driven arguments, which at best ignore, and at worst purposefully conceal, the existing evidence. I like his approach very much; he's open-minded but demands some kind of evidence, whether "explainable" or not. Now, I know that lucid dreaming is real, because I've done it. I haven't had personal experiences with the other topics though, so his even-handed treatment was intellectually satisfying, and the writing is high quality. I highly recommend this book if you are at all curious about "out-there"/paranormal/unexplained ideas and events. I blasted through it in a few days; a thoroughly enjoyable read.

The Chaos Protocols by Gordon White: Most of you will shake your heads at this one, and that's fine. It's written by a blogger who lives in London, and it covers two topics: 1) how to perform magic spells and make otherworldly connections in order to improve your life, and 2) the economic downfall currently in progress vis-à-vis unsustainable debt loads, the shrinking middle class, and technologically-driven changes to the global economy. The half of the book that is an economic treatise is clearly his own worldview, and he makes a decent argument for it, although I loathe the James Altucher references. The magic itself I haven't tried yet; when I do, I'll be sure to let you know the results! Regardless of the efficacity of the magic, I found his ideas thought-provoking, and if nothing else, allowing myself to see the world and my place in it through a different lens was an interesting and useful exercise. Mr. White's blog, too, looks like a rabbit hole I could happily fall into for months.

How to be Creative by Malcolm Hughes: This is a tiny (and cheap) e-book, with just 5 chapters, or "steps," to help you become more creative. Is it a vast oversimplification of how to trigger creativity? Yes, of course. But I wasn't looking for a different version of The Artist's Way - I wanted a quick and dirty reminder that I could pick up and read in a couple hours. Did it fit the bill? Yup. For $2.99 I feel satisfied.

So, having read these books in the past month or so, a few themes have arisen:

First, the importance of meditation. I've heard over and over, from so many different sources, that meditation is good for you. Even WebMD has an article about the health benefits meditation provides. But both Mr. Volk and Mr. White heartily recommended meditating, so I decided that if it can help me lucid dream AND do magic, it's worth starting a meditation practice. Since you get what you measure, I downloaded a free app called Logster, so that I can keep track of my meditation; specifically, how many minutes per day I meditate.  I'm hoping to keep myself on track by doing this. My goal for now is 10 minutes/day, eventually getting up to 20 minutes/day. 

Is it ironic that I got this graphic from Business Insider?
Second, the importance of doing. I'm sure that sounds basic to a lot of people, but I have a tendency to read and study and think about things without ever getting into the meat of trying things. What's the point of learning if you don't act on what you've learned? (Assuming you think it's worth acting on, of course.) In other words, I procrastinate too much, and I'm trying to be less lazy. A worthy personal goal, wouldn't you agree? Hence the meditation - putting into practice what I've been reading about.

Third, the interplay between the conscious and subconscious mind. I'm going to do more reading on this because one of the topics in Fringe-ology that I found really fascinating was the idea of Consciousness. What is it, and where does it come from? Is it the result of a series of electrical impulses in the brain? Or does it arise from something deeper than that? I'm also fascinated with the idea of the subconscious mind, and the potential it holds. I want to lucid dream so I can interact with my subconscious, and if possible, I want to tap into its creative power.

Finally, human psychology in general. What makes people tick? This is the influence of my latest binge watching; Mr. Jane makes me want to know more about people's motives. It's also the case that I'm someone who considers herself a writer, at least on some level, yet I don't feel that I understand people well, which makes for poor character development in my fiction as well as less effective personal communication in my own life.

I have the following books queued up on my kindle for the next phase of research:
Lucid Dreaming: A Beginner's Guide to Becoming Conscious in Your Dreams by Charley Morley (I've read this book once before, but I'm hoping to glean new insight out of it now)

And in between reading, meditation sessions, and episodes of The Mentalist, I'm hoping to come up with a great idea for a book. Please feel free to leave a comment and share your experience with any of these topics, since I'm always interested in hearing other people's stories!


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