Friday, April 26, 2024

Wisdom from "Useless" books

Folks who wish to read up on my financial insights will need to wait a while as I'm having multiple headaches trying to maintain my business, so I'm thinking about my finances a lot. It's just not something I can arrange neatly into a blog article at the moment, I might actually be in crisis mode. 

At the moment, I'm gradually tilting my reading into less practical territory. As I spend hours on a bus to teach evening classes in faraway lands, my reading speed has increased quite a bit, and I have to moderate the pace at which I read the helpful programming, finance, and law stuff I tend to be more obsessed with. Of late, I think that I'm getting some applicable "wisdom dividends" from the stuff I'm reading, so I'm sharing them here. 

a) The Way Home by Ben Katt

The first unusual book I read is The Way Home by Ben Katt. It's not easy to empathise with the author because I find his life very rabak. Imagine spending your entire life serving a Christian ministry, then having a mid-life crisis after experiencing the bigotry of your faith and feeling envious of peers who actually earn more because they built conventional corporate careers. The solution to this mid-life is worse, involving spiritual guides and vision quests and communing with a Jaguar spirit animal. Stuff worse than an RPG splatbook about D&D druids. 

Surprisingly, the book broke my creative impasse, as I've run out of ideas to sell my course on operating and tuning your own robot advisors. Ben Katt's idea is to reimagine himself as a protagonist in his mid-life crisis hero journey, and I thought I could do the same in a future review. To do that I need to take a much closer look at Joseph Campbell's Hero of a Thousand Faces

If this does not turn my business around, it should put me in good stead when markets recover much later. 

b) It's Okay not to look for the Meaning of Life by Jikisai Minami

This is another unusual read which I was only willing to pay for because my son won some awards last year, and I brought up his Popular vouchers from him in exchange for fiat. 

The author is a Zen monk, but I thought he was a troll like me. The book starts out quite nihilistic, as he dismisses the need to have any meaning in life and then proceeds to argue that it's okay not to have hopes and dreams. ( And it's all well reasoned stuff )

Eventually, I warmed up to him as he shared some insights I couldn't get in Western works. 

His best idea builds on the theory that there is some kind of relationship that is neither friendship nor family. This is someone you can talk to about your personal problems for hours on end without violating personal boundaries or exacerbating existing tensions. A shrink cannot do this because therapy is expensive and based on the hour, and only rich people would hire a lawyer to do this.

This is where a religious figure can play the role. but the best part of the book warns against the religious figures we meet in our daily lives. A good spiritual advisor will not interrupt your questions, will not claim that they understand you, will not talk about money ( thus ruling me out ) and will not brag. Also avoid anyone who claims to want you to "become one with the universe".

 I devoured the book in two hours and I find Zen Buddhism refreshingly down to earth and kinda brutal in a kind sort of way.

c) A Travel Guide to the Middle Ages by Anthony Bale

So I got lucky with two "useless" books, I'm just sharing my next one which I have yet to finish. Some guy decided to piece together historical travelogues to imagine what a travel guide in Europe during the Middle Ages was like. 

I think it's a safe bet that I will enjoy this because it features Constantinople, which I visited last year. 

At the very least, it can become a useful sourcebook for my RPG hobby.

Something has to give to allow me to engage in more reads. I have already reduced my personal engagements due to the sheer volume of work that I fully intend to intensify all the way to 2025. 

The only casualty I have so far is that I'm reducing the amount of binge-watching. I'm just watching Frieren because my son has developed quite a liking for it.

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