Do you want an inspiring read?
Background to this edition – Unlike most years, I have started a number of books in the category of ‘self development', but failed to finish them, probably because they did not really inspire me. I also think I might have chosen them thinking I ‘should' read them as a client or someone had recommended them, but in truth they did not really grab my attention from the outset. So I won't be recommending them! But there have been a couple of books that I have read that have challenged and intrigued me and I thought I would share them with you, along with a couple of other books which fascinated me.
‘How to be idle' by Tom Hodgkinson – When I was writing the June edition of Inspire on ‘Why are we all so busy?' (click here if you were too busy to read it at the time!) I remembered this book that quite a few people had recommended to me. It is a book that has intrigued me, educated me, as well as annoyed and frustrated me at times, but I do think it is well worth a read. The flyleaf says:
‘The key to a life of pleasure, freedom and guilt free lounging is in your hands.
Drawing on history, poetry, philosophy and personal experience, How to Be Idle is a spirited and joyful defence of laziness and good living. Bearing witness are such diverse defenders of loafing as Dr Johnson, Byron, Coleridge, Bertrand Russell, Oscar Wilde, Nietzsche and John Lennon.
With advice, information and reflection on such important matters as lying in, long lunches, the art of the nap and how to skive, How To Be Idle gives you all the inspiration you need to take it easy in a work-obsessed world.'
I couldn't have put it better myself. I found it fascinating how history, politics, religion and other social influences have resulted in the society that we have today. And I am a firm believer in long lunches and naps!
What annoyed me was the fact that Tom has the belief that anyone employed is a slave to their employer or the work itself. But there are many out there who love their work, and even the organisations that they work for.
If you think you have not got time to be idle then this is definitely the book for you! If you want to be idle occasionally but feel guilty then this book will help you.
The Idler No 42: Smash the System – There are many books in the Idler series (just to show that idling doesn't mean you aren't productive!), and this is the most recent. It is a collection of essays by various people, which again will both inspire and challenge you. I particularly liked the one On Silence by Yahia Lababidi, summed up in the following paragraph:
‘It is, in silence, that things patiently unfurl, open up and trust us with their secrets, or reveal their hidden natures – be they shy ideas or creatures, daybreak, or a work of art. In this fundamental and seemingly privileged state, what seems to elude the world of words and sound may otherwise appear to dawn on us; perhaps since we are now in the position to overhear ourselves and tell ourselves that which we already know. Unsurprisingly, realisations and revelations are forged in this realm. Silence is, after all, the best response and conduit for our most profound experiences: awe, love, death.'
I've not read all the essays yet, and I am looking forward to dipping into it again on holiday this summer. If you want something to stimulate your thoughts, challenge your thinking, then take a look at this book.
‘Wheels Within Wheels' by Dervla Murphy – Having had my lounge decorated recently it was a good opportunity to sort out my books. There were many by favourite writers, which I probably first read 10 – 15 years ago, so I decided to re-read some old favourites. I started with the wonderful travel writer Dervla Murphy and this book about her childhood that led to her life travelling around the world by bike and other unconventional modes. Her books are entertaining and thought provoking. She is a wonderful storyteller and I had completely forgotten about her early life and how this shaped the person she was to become. She had an enquiring mind even as a young child. Her grandfather, when asked by the 10 year old Dervla ‘What is philosophy?' simply said:
‘It's the study of how to live contentedly and how to die peacefully.'
Her mother in trying to explain the prejudices which the young Dervla suddenly witnessed growing up in Ireland in the 1940's said this of bigotry:
“‘It's difficult,' she explained, ‘because bigotry is self-perpetuating.'… ‘Bigots are so sure they're right they don't even try to see any other point of view. But it's wrong to blame individuals for being bigoted – that's just another form of bigotry and sometimes it's worse because it's self-righteous while pretending not to be…..Just try to make them realise that such beliefs are unchristian and stupid. Then at least – even if they don't believe you – they'll be aware there's another point of view.'”
Also reading about her childhood in 1940's Ireland is a real insight to the history of the conflicts and troubles between England and Ireland via one family's experiences.
Dervla's early life was one filled with struggles between her duty towards and care of her disabled mother and her own needs and desires for her own life. It gives great insight into the woman she became and the travels that she had following such an unusual start in life.
I might have given the impression that this is a ‘heavy duty' book, when actually her writing and storytelling of her life is very readable and compelling. I am now looking forward to moving back to re-reading her tales of her travels. I read recently that Malcolm Gladwell said this about re-reading books:
‘Re-reading is much underrated. I've read The Spy Who Came In From The Cold once every five years since I was 15. I only started to understand it the third time.'
‘Dreams From My Father' by Barack Obama – This is a late edition to my list having only just read it on my week's holiday at a friend's house. I always find it interesting to take a look at friends' bookshelves and read something that I might have not bought myself. Barack Obama wrote this in 1995 after he was made the first black president of the Harvard Law Review, which drew a small amount of publicity and some publishers got in touch.
It is a wonderful book about his early years growing up in Hawaii; his time in Chicago organising grass root projects to assist poorer communities; and then his trip to Kenya to meet his father's side of the family and try to make sense of his roots. It reads like a story and it is a fascinating insight into the man who was to become President of the USA. I had to laugh when his father, long divorced from Barack's mother and back in Kenya, wrote sporadic letters with pieces of advice, one of which was: ‘Like water finding its level, you will arrive at a career that suits you'. Little did he know what was to become of his son!
It did get me thinking that if you were to devise selection criteria for recruiting a president and/or UK prime minister, you might well look for someone with his diverse experiences, his willingness to take on challenges as he did in Chicago for very little money and a lot of hard work. He has also struggled with understanding his background, his identity and is a very thoughtful person. I believe that a lot of politicians would not be selected if you were considering what is required to lead such a diverse population as you find in countries today.
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