Reading notes #16

Times to keep my mouth shut

“What’s there to complain about? People’s misbehavior? But take into consideration:

  • that rational beings exist for one another;

  • that doing what’s right sometimes requires patience;

  • that no one does the wrong thing deliberately;

  • and the number of people who have feuded and envied and fought and died and been buried.

…and keep your mouth shut.”

—Marcus Aurelius

We don’t need more words after that quote. Marcus, you summed it up so well. That’s why so many people love your Meditations. So pithy. So stinging, but self-directed. So insightful. So quotable.

Obviously I’m going to give you more words even though we don’t really need any.

“‘Tell me, Tool, what dominates your thoughts?'
The Imass shrugged before replying.
'I think of futility, Adjunct.'
'Do all Imass think about futility?'
'No. Few think at all.'
'Why is that?'
The Imass leaned his head to one side and regarded her.
'Because Adjunct, it is futile.”

―Steven Erikson

I’ve been working my way through Gardens of the Moon by Steven Erikson for a while now. Usually fiction doesn’t take me this long. And the book is good, but I started it at a not-so-good time… distracted, stressed, busy. Normally that’s the ideal time to start an engrossing work of fiction (can we say escapism? Yes we can) but in this case, there was a bit too much paying attention required: names, histories, peoples, wars, hierarchies, etc.

My brain wasn’t up to it.

I read half and put it aside and read The Rook by Daniel O’Malley instead. A much lighter read, if by “lighter” you mean full of gore and fights with monsters and malevolent flesh-knitting magic and a bit of torture.

Also, a prophesying waterfowl that knows when to keep its mouth, I mean beak, shut:

“This duck tells me nothing!”

Now I’m back to Erikson, enjoying the last half. It’s #81 on this list which is a great list to reference for good sci-fi/fantasy books if you’re into things like books and sci-fi and fantasy and lists. I sure am.

“Ambition is not a dirty word. Piss on compromise. Go for the throat.”

In nonfiction reading, it’s mostly rereading (should that word be hyphenated?) and

s l o w l y

reading Antifragile by Nassim Nicholas Taleb, which contains—besides the book itself—a glossary, two appendices, an afterthoughts section with graphs and tables, and a 24-page bibliography.

Anyway, it’s great and I expect to finish it in a decade or so.

Also I have an advance uncorrected proof which I picked up for $1 somewhere and I hope the final edition left this gem of a sentence alone:

“We just don’t want to just survive uncertainty, just about make it.”

It’s comforting to see that this very smart person also overuses adverbs.

This bit is particularly relevant given the events and reactions-to-events of the last few years:

“…modern culture has been increasingly building blindness to the mysterious, the impenetrable, what Nietzsche called the Dionysian, in life.

In short, the fragilista (medical, economic, social planner) is one who makes you engage in policies and actions, all artificial, in which the benefits are small and visible, and the side effects potentially severe and invisible.”

You can interpret that however you want.

I purposely don’t write about politics or discuss politics online (and rarely in person) and if you think that’s cowardly, I don’t mind.

Here’s a quote from a current reread which sums up my reasoning:

“There is no way out of the circle of blame but to stop blaming. Yet, be prepared. If you would step off the wheel of suffering, you may find that you aren’t very popular. Those who don’t join the world’s game of projection are the very first to be attacked. Anyone who would acknowledge his own fear without projecting it threatens the world’s game.”

—Paul Ferrini

I find it highly improbable to impossible to have any sort of meaningful discussion about politics and/or current cultural issues without joining a circle of blame, overtly or inadvertently.

Maybe one day I’ll be mature enough to pull it off.

Till then, I’ll stick to books and feelings and keep my mouth shut on lots of other stuff and bear whatever assumptions are made about me based on that choice. The cool thing about assumptions is that we are responsible only for our own.

🔗  Okay okay okay that’s enough for now. If you want more words about words, here’s a practical philosophy reading list from Ryan Holiday. But maybe that weight that you carry ain’t necessary. You could take a nap instead. Or go for a walk. That’s what I’m doing next.