Culture, educational, nonfiction, philosophy

12 Rules for Life

12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos by [Peterson, Jordan B.]

12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos, by Jordan B. Peterson. Published January, 2018. 409 pages.

I emphasized the page count in the book’s specifications because the length is very relevant to my thoughts on the book. Specifically, that it is too long and would have been a much better book had Mr. Peterson not taken readers along his long windy roads connecting Carl Jung, ancient motifs, religious themes and personal experiences to say what he could have said much more succinctly.

Brevity is the soul of wit, it’s been said, but it can also be the key to transmitting ideas which are more easily understood and widely accepted. It was impressive YouTube videos of Jordan Peterson, from lectures to media interviews to online Q and As, which first exposed me to his ideas. Most of them, as a commentator noted in my previous post, would be considered common sense to people in generations gone by. However, this is a new era, and people demand more than the simple “because I said so” or “because it’s right” to get on board with an idea, no matter how solid it’s validity has proven to be down through the ages.

Since this is true, I was thoroughly prepared to accept that an intellectual and psychologist offering rules for life that buck current cultural thought should include a fair amount of psychological jargon and even gobbledygook in his presentation. Still, 400 pages was 200 too many, and tiptoeing through the tulips of Peterson’s theories was often wearying, but I stuck it out. I stuck it out because I find his overarching ideas, if not all the details, to be of value. On to some of the 12 Rules, which were indicated by chapters.

Rules 1 and 2 were good rules, but those chapters were among the hardest for me to read. It’s hard for a woman who believes man was created in the image of God to read copious amounts of information on how we can learn to be so much more human by observing lobsters. There were also far too many pages of psychological minutiae in those chapters as well.

Nevertheless, the rules themselves are good. The first one was common sense that we all heard from our grandmas (stand up straight!), while the second should be common sense, but I applaud Peterson for saying it because few people, including me, do it (treat yourself as you would someone you are responsible for). I liked that he highlighted that most people get better medical care for their pets than they give themselves. I believe him.

For the sake of brevity, I’ll fill you in that you can find all 12 of the rules listed here (I have no affiliation with or further knowledge of this site and found the list via a Google search).

In his exposition of Rule 6 (get your house in order before trying to change the world), Peterson makes an astute observation that most anyone paying attention has also noted. Namely, that in the absence of religious beliefs and connections, people have attached religious devotion to all number of things, including atheism and social activism. It is this ingrained feature of the human heart which, I believe accounts for people’s tendency to get out there and change the world while their own world is a mess.

Pursuing meaning rather than expediency -Rule 7- was in my opinion the closest Peterson came to a semi-accurate understanding of Christian teaching. He is correct that when expediency and advantage are primary drivers behind the things we do, life is void of meaning and will plunge into despair at the first hint of suffering. And if there is one constant in life, it’s that we will all suffer. I appreciated that bit of wisdom which seems increasingly lost on so many.

All of the rules are useful, and had Peterson and his editor been more vicious and used more precision when it came to eliminating irrelevant information, this would have been a much better book. I am certain that no portions of the book were meant to be construed as stream of consciousness, but there were sections that felt that way as I read them. It could be that Peterson is such a smart man with so many ideas that parts of it were just over my head, but even if that were the case, it underscores my point.

When a college professor writes a book to help a generation of young people, and especially young men, tap into the antidote to chaos, a little simplicity goes a long way. Nevertheless, Peterson’s rules are good if unoriginal, and many of them are brand new information to this generation of young adults.

3.5 out of 5 stars.

 

 

 

 

 

Culture, nonfiction, tales from the local library

The ABCs of Adulthood

The ABCs of Adulthood: An Alphabet of Life Lessons, by Deborah Copaken. Hardcover, published in 2016. 72 pages.

While browsing the library’s shelves this morning (a very relaxing activity for me), I ran across this little book. Since I was momentarily between books and this one is extremely short, I grabbed it and read through it. It took all of twenty minutes.

This little book is exactly what it implies: an A to Z quick view list of little and not so little things the emerging adult might do well to remember. Put an emphasis on might, in my opinion, as some of the advice is downright awful.

Beginning with the letter A for anger, which the author calls a useless emotion, to the letter Z for Zzzzs, to remind the reader the importance of getting enough sleep, Copaken offers a book written with her children in mind. Indeed, some of the advice is quite good.

Anger is often -if not always- useless, but everyone would do well to pause and reflect before acting out in blind rage. Advising her readers to keep in mind that having children (letter C) shouldn’t be an afterthought and that prime childbearing years have an expiration date is also a good reminder at a time when these decisions are often pushed off to the last and most risky minute as people chase other dreams.

Despite the good advice this book offers wih regard to health and getting on with forming a family, it undercuts it with dichotomous, destructive sex advice (letter S). The cognitive dissonance involved in telling young people that they should feel free to enjoy sex with any person  they like and are attracted to as often as they want, without guilt, but take care of their health and emotional well being is the kind of thing that makes this book worthless. If the last 60 years has taught us anything, it’s the danger and destructive fallout that comes of trivializing sex.

J was for Jung, which I found partiuclarly intriguing given that I am in the process of reviewing Jordan Peterson’s latest book. Peterson draws heavily on the psychological research and philosophy of Carl Jung, whom this author also strongly recommends young people read if they really want to learn how to think. I’ve only read a bit of Jung, but the intersectionality of his work with the present trend towards finding sanity and liberation from the cultural madness makes me a bit more curious about what he had to say. We’ll see.

If the worst advice was on sexuality, the best advice, particularly in this current culutral climate, was O for Offline. I’m sure no further explanation is required on that. There were in fact, several valauable bits of information that might not be glaringly obvious to a young person being launched into the adult world. Unfortunately, that same lack of experience makes the bad advice that much worse.

If  I was rating this one purely on the scale of my own belief system, I’d probably consider it below average. But I’ll give it an average grade since it does get some things right.

 2.5 out of 5 stars.

 

book clubs, books for women, Christian, nonfiction

Unglued

Unglued: Making Wise Choices in the Midst of Raw Emotions, by Lisa TerKeurst. Originally published in 2012. Paperback, 208 pages.

I actually read this book for the first time three years ago as a part of a book study with several other homeschool mothers. Included in the discussions was Lysa TerKeurst’s teaching videos to accompany blocks of chapters. The book was infinitely more insightful than the videos, and several of the women reading it agreed that the videos were pretty useless. Skip those if you run across them.

I’m reviewing the book because I stumbled upon it on the bookshelf while deciding which books to purge and make space for new books. Memories of my initial reaction to the book were positive. However, since I am notoriously on the lookout for the areas in my life which merit tweaking, leading to inevitable evolutions of thoughts on one thing or  another, I skimmed it again to see if I’d view it the same way after a second pass through.

Short answer: I still think it’s a pretty good book. It’s the only book by Lysa TerKeurst that I have ever read, and despite the recent controversies surrounding her life and ministry, I have to say that on the main, it’s a helpful book for women who need a little help redirecting their thoughts and reactions in a positive direction.

There was a lot of things in the book that I’d worked out on my own through prayer, in relationshipss and a bit of honest introspection, as should be the case with any earnest, God-fearing women, especially those raising families. However, since we have all at some point experienced the incredulity and truama of encounters with women that mirror high school escapades, Lysa TerKeurst’s book is not beyond being useful. There are some good reminders in it, even for me.

For example, there was this much needed bit of counsel in our culture where women have been taught that our feelings are no less than the be all, end all of everything that matters in our lives:

“Feelings are indicators, not dictators. They can indicate where your heart is in the moment, but that doesn’t mean they have the right to dictate your behavior and boss you around. You are more than the sum total of your feelings and perfectly capable of that little gift . . . called self-control.”

Or this bit, which I’m not sure I’m interpreting quite the way she meant since I didn’t re-read the book in its entirety:

“Sip the shame so you won’t have to guzzle the regret.”

Using “perfect” as my subjective understanding of all things relational and theological, it’s not a perfect book. The error would be in expecting any person to perfectly mirror my thoughts and beliefs on an issue. In my opinion, what this book does right outweighs what it does wrong, so I deem overall as a positive book.

With chapters on everything from being cognizant of our reactions and what they mean to the awful tendency to project our thoughts, feelings and insecurities onto others without any real supporting evidence, Lysa TerKeurst did a decent job with this one.

 

3.5 out of 5 stars.

I’ve changing the rating system going forward because I think using 5 stars as the highest benchmark with 1 star as the lowest is a better gauge than letter grades.

 

 

 

 

 

children's books, Culture, tales from the local library

Feminist Baby: The Sequel

A while back, gripped by incredulity, I mentioned this book which I ran across while in Barnes and Noble, the Feminist Baby.

Because I was incredulous, it never occurred to me that such a silly book as Feminist Baby could evolve into a series of note, but apparently, it has. My incredulity is more symptomatic of how out of touch I am. This lately occurs more often than I realized, but I digress.

Feminist Baby is back, and finding her voice, no less:

Feminist Baby Finds Her Voice!

Feminist Baby is learning to talk
She says what she thinks and it totally rocks!
Feminist Babies stand up tall
“Equal rights and toys for all!”

Let’s disregard for the moment my sincere and well known problems with the ideology of feminism as a whole. This increase in political “literature” for toddlers combined with feminist “fashion” for toddlers (yes I’ve seen it in the flesh), raises a larger question for me, and it’s this:

With so many things in the larger culture encroaching on the innocence and wonder of childhood, why would anyone choose to read this to their toddler in lieu of real, living books which highlight wonder and beauty? How are children served by political indoctrination as early as possible?  In whose universe does a bull horn toting, equal rights clamoring baby belong aside the likes of:

Cover image - Goodnight Moon

Image result for the very hungry caterpillar

Image result for The Snowy Day

Image result for Madeline

Image result for If You Give a Mouse a Cookie

It doesn’t.

There will be time to infuse our kids with our political thoughts and ideologies. They’ll pick most of it by osmosis anyway. There’s no need to infect them with adult cares before they can even understand what they mean.

Real books never get old and they speak to us, young and old alike, across the generations.

Nonsense is only good for a fixed point in time, such as this nonsensical Feminist Baby series.

 

 

American history, nonfiction

Barracoon: The Story of the Last Black Cargo.

Image result for barracoon cover image

Barracoon: The Story of the Last Black Cargo, by Zora Neale Hurston. Published May 8, 2018. Hardcover, 208 pages

A long buried work, Barracoon is a newly published book which was originally penned in 1931 by Zora Neale Hurston. It documents the story of Cudjo Lewis, the last known survivor of the last known slave ship to bring African slaves to America, mostly in his own words. A barrcoon is what they called the barracks that captured Africans lived in as they waited to be chosen by buyers and loaded onto ships headed for America.

Lewis’ existence was not Hurston’s discovery. He was known to many of the cultural anthropologists of that era who studied the lives of the African slaves and their descendants, but Hurston was the rare anthropological researcher who spent extensive amounts of time with him. She had in-depth conversations with him in Plateau, Alabama. Plateau was originally known as Africatown as it was founded by newly freed slaves who worked together and saved to buy a plot of land on which they could live as free people.

When Hurston initially approached Lewis (whose African name was Kassoula), he was reserved and rebuffed her attempts to connect with him. Nevertheless she persisted and on one of her visits, she did two things which, undoubtedly intersected with catching Lewis in a jovial mood, opened the door to their friendship and his sharing his story with her. She came bearing the gifts of peaches and watermelon, and she called him by his African name.

Beginning with the life of his family and tribe, Lewis recounted all that he could remember about his way of life in Africa, the tribal war which resulted in his capture and enslavement, touched on his life as a slave, and on his life and losses once he was set free in 1865, after 5 years and 6 months of enslavement.

One of the first things to note about Lewis, and the other 129 captives who arrived on American shores with him in 1859, was that his capture from his African homeland took place 50 years after the United States how outlawed the capture and transport of new slaves from the African continent. However much like whiskey in during prohibition and the war on drugs which persists to this day, there were then as now, smugglers who continued to run “contraband” from Africa to the U.S.

As the U.S. and Britain tightened Atlantic patrols, it became harder and harder for transatlantic slave ship captains to do business, but where there is a will to make money, there’s a way. And the will was strong on the part of some African tribal chiefs to continue to fill their coffers by selling Africans captured from rival tribes into slavery. According to Lewis, the situation had degenerated to the point that the richest, strongest tribal king had begun to invent reasons to make war against other tribes based on nonsense specifically for the purpose of capturing the tribe’s young, strongest men and women to be sold to Americans as slaves.

This was exactly what happened to his tribe two years before the start of the Civil War which officially ended chattel slavery in the U.S. As far as the historians of that time were able to surmise, Cudjo (Kassoula) Lewis’ ship, the Clotilda, was the last known ship to transport Africans from Africa to the U.S. mainland in the autumn of 1859.

This book is a touching, engaging, and informative read. As is often the case with books written in dialect, it took me a couple of chapters to latch on to the language and develop, internal rhythm and follow along fully with Cudjo as he told the story of his life and trials he endured both on Africa and in America. The lack of freedom and humanity he suffered at the hands of those who bought and enslaved him seem to just barely rival his pain at being sold by his own people and the disdain he and the other late African arrivals experienced from the slaves who had been in America for generations or who had been born here. His tales of love, loss, faith and forgiveness are equal parts touching and heartrending.

Barracoon is a quick read. It is 208 pages, but the last 90 of those pages are appendices and historical notes. I read the entire thing –including the historical notes because there is much in them that interests me- but Cudjo Lewis’ story was, even making concessions for the dialect, a fast-paced recounting of everything he was able to remember about his trying life.

I highly recommend Barracoon, regardless of your race or creed, as Mr. Lewis’ history is as much American history as Washington crossing the Delaware.

Grade: A

Edited to add Content advisory: Mr. Lewis’ story of the tribal war and his resulting captivity is particularly violent and brutal. Other than that, I can’t think of content that might be unusually jarring and certainly nothing offensive.

Els' Rabbit Trails

El’s Rabbit Trails: Fun Friday post

Those of you who have been reading my quiet little blog since its inception may notice that I changed the title from El’s Reading Room to Reading in Between the Life. I made the change after a whole week without reading anything longer than a blog post or magazine article because life. Life stuff crowded out my time to read.  Sometimes you have to put down the book and gaze at the things and people in front of you.

I rarely go a week without reading at least half a book, but over the past seven months, there have been several book-free weeks as our family journeyed through hard things: some big, some small, and others monumental. You know; the kinds of things that no one posts pictures of on social media, but that we all go through.

Our family vacation this past week was one of the best vacations we’ve ever had, and I suspect it was so enjoyable and refreshing because we all needed it so very much. There are few places I’d wager that are more beautiful than the landscapes you’ll find on the Georgia-Tennessee border, so I thought I’d wrap up this week with some stunning views before I delve back into a couple of bookreviews next week. First up, mountain streams with water so clear I couldn’t help but stop to dip my toes in:

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But of course, to get to a couple of those places, we had to hike a little. Up:

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Up:

 

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That’s my man up there in a cave I was too scared to climb up into.

 

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I didn’t take this picture. Too scared, remember?

 

But the climb is worth it:

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Whoever said jogging around on suburban sidewalks works you out never hiked in the mountains before:

 

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What you don’t see is my husband at the opposite end of the bridge bouncing to freak me out or my daughter annoying me by taking my picture in the first place.

We’re back now, back to the reality of life, laundry, business, and best of all, books!

Have a great weekend.

 

 

 

 

 

the business of books

Will Barnes and Noble Actually Fail?

Krysta continues her discussion on the possibility of Amazon eventually signing the death warrant of Barnes and Noble.

I’ve been giving this more thought and while my Barnes and Noble experiences haven’t always been stellar, there is value in having actual, physical bookstores in areas that wouldn’t have any but for Barnes and Noble. I am blessed to be in an area where I have options other than Barnes and Noble, but not everyone does.

I don’t want to absolve Barnes and Noble of any responsibility for their own demise but as a logical consistency, I should shop much less at Amazon for the same reasons I try to avoid Walmart.

Still mulling this thing over, but it’s worth considering what types of business practices we want to support with our dollars.