Thanksgiving week update and reading material

Might as well hop back on here to record a few of the titles of books I’ve been taking up time with lately.

First off, earlier in the month I listened to the audio format of Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations. What I found most interesting about that book was actually the biographical information about Aurelius in the epilogue. Beyond that, I found his version of stoicism quite foreign and unrealistic for imitation by someone with my personality type. Still, it was interesting to listen to.

Next up was a bit of an oddity that came my way by recommendation on James Altucher’s newsletter: Neil Strauss’ The Truth. Yep, that’s the same Neil Strauss who authored the popular PUA (pick-up artist) book The Game and several others along the same vein. Having not read any of his former material and not knowing anything about the man, this actually proved to be a very interesting audiobook to follow along with in which he describes his journey after cheating on a woman he actually loved and who loved him. Struck me as quite relevant to my own situation, which I continue to struggle with and try to come to terms with. Delving into the details herein will be a separate topic for another time.

Then I switched gears entirely after by chance coming back across the sermons of the Christian minister Joyce Meyer, having originally ran across her sermons on television during my teen years, then leaving her behind for many years during my 20s since her teachings came to feel too superficial. Her notion of that which we like to refer to as “God” and her brand of Christianity isn’t something I am able to accept in full, as to be expected from this long-time skeptical agnostic, but recently I realized I’ll look anywhere for answers and ideas that might prove fruitful, even if I must separate a bunch of chaff from the wheat in the process. So, I’ve listened to a number of her sermons over the last couple of weeks and then decided to download a couple of her audiobooks on Audible. The first I listened to is titled The Mind Connection and is read by Joyce. That one had a good bit of insight and I intend to listen to it again in the not-so-distant future. Her attention to the importance of self-control is what really draws me to her teachings currently, and, as stated already, I will take up time with information from any source if it can bear worthwhile fruit, regardless of religious undertones.

The second audiobook from Joyce Meyer that I listened to recently is titled The Battlefield of the Mind. That one I was less impressed with, partly because I couldn’t stand the voice of the narrator, partly because it focused on scriptures I’d already listened to her cover in several sermons and was sufficiently familiar with (though I’ve heard other interpretations, particularly those pertaining to the Israelites wandering in the desert, that I found more thought-provoking and deep). While I agree that there is a war on for our minds, my conception of what she refers to as “the devil” isn’t an external entity but rather an intrinsic part of us. Maybe I’ve studied too much on the teachings of the psychoanalyst Erich Fromm to turn back to accepting the clear-cut Christian dichotomy of “good vs. evil,” but I remain perplexed in this arena and unsatisfied with what most modern-day religious people (especially evangelicals) have to say on the matter. We are indeed fallible and ignorant beings capable (theoretically, at least) of transcending our condition throughout our lifetimes to some extent in service of what we consider a higher moral order, but how to go about that is the troubling question. Believing blindly in a Big Daddy in the sky does not resonate with me and hasn’t for nearly 20 years, much as I wish that weren’t the case since life would be so much easier otherwise.

I grew up listening to preachers that my Grandma watched on television every morning and am familiar with how they tend to put across and frame information and ideas, but it’s just too simplistic and black-and-white to do me much good. The realm of uncertainty is where I reside, and telling me that a critical, analytical mind should be eradicated is nearly the same as telling me not to exist. Such demands create more internal strife than they resolve. I feel at my core and have for many years that our conception of that which we call God must evolve and grow and graduate to the next level if it is to remain relevant, so this is why I remain open to listening to religious preachers occasionally while also keeping an open mind toward other means of understanding this life, melding together what at first might not even seem to be related in any way to see if perhaps they aren’t pointing in their own ways toward a similar overarching phenomenon.

All I have are a bunch of questions at this juncture, no answers.

Backing up a little bit, I forgot to mention another audiobook I listened to earlier in the month titled The Evolution of Everything: How New Ideas Emerge by Matt Ridley. Wasn’t impressed and didn’t complete it as of yet, having listened to about 2/3-3/4 of the book by now and returning to it in moments of boredom. This one proved especially irritating because it’s yet another snarky atheistic account no different from so many that have come before. If the author would simply focus on the subject matter at hand instead of inserting his condescension, I might’ve gotten more out of the book. But, as it stands, this book served as another example of why I typically avoid reading material from devout atheists with a chip on their shoulders. They wind up being no better than the very creationists they waste so much time trying to refute, providing childish examples and snide comments that don’t help illuminate much at all. Much as I wish that crowd would get beyond their fixation with feuding over what most of us out here understand to be historical errors in religious doctrines (which should be expected from people of those times, way back before the scientific revolution came into being, their comprehension of matters being far more localized and incapable of expanding much until new information came to light), over the years I’ve had to accept that these atheists must enjoy this trifling mud-slinging and egoistic competitions and likely will never adjust their thinking and move forward. So I moved on. Tired of wasting my time listening to the same thing again and again and again with no new insight provided (or worse, with the same unfounded claims put forth that can’t be granted the certainty they’re argued as having — or worse still, accompanied by political and social attitudes deemed to be “progressive” that aren’t treated skeptically in their own right).

Now, today I’ve returned to listening to the audio format of Richard Feyman’s The Pleasure of Finding Things Out, a compilation of his speeches and interviews over the years. This one is truly interesting for a variety of reasons, particularly in how comfortable Feyman was with accepting uncertainty in most areas of life. And I like how he was willing to critique the realms of sociology, psychology and education for their use of scientific methods and then claiming to be full-on scientific as a result, referring to their errors here as “psuedo-scientific.” Very much in agreement with him there that scientific integrity is eroding about as quickly as it came into being, and that will likely have major consequences in going forward, especially when students aren’t being taught to discern but rather to find ways to confirm that which their universities or corporate employers prefer and may profit from. Scary situation arising there, no doubt. And I’ve enjoyed listening to his stories about his father and how he introduced Richard to exploring life curiously and broadly, just as he was able to pass along to at least one of his own children.

The only print book I am currently reading at this time is Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers, and I am really loving it thus far. Engaging and enjoyable reading material that I look forward to sitting down and reading a few pages of when time permits. It’s about those who’ve become successful and how merit alone isn’t the only variable that matters.

Anyway, that’s what I’ve been up to lately. Time to finish up my laundry and play a game online before having dinner, jumping in the shower, and then heading back out to work this evening. Winter holidays are my busiest work periods. As a general update I could mention that I have kept the weight off, having lost 40 lbs. since April through exercising. And I had my hair cut to shoulder’s length a week or two back. And my former companion and I are still trying to figure out how to get along and consistently enjoy one another’s company without one or both of us going mad in the process. He did cook us a nice Thanksgiving meal last Sunday, knowing that I rarely have time to enjoy Thanksgiving on the actual holiday. That was very nice of him, all else aside. Been drinking less (by-and-large anyway) and still do not drink in my home anymore, not since spring. A friend purchased a fancy vaporizer for me as an early Christmas gift, so hopefully one of these days I’ll get the gumption to make the transition from smoking cigarettes to using it instead. For my health’s sake, after this summer officially having smoked for a full 20 years. What else? Needing to replace my computer one of these days and accept that XP Pro has unfortunately become an operating system of the past. Pondering on a volunteer opportunity today that seemed to call out to me when I learned of it from the public television channel this morning. Oh, and today is my Grandma’s birthday. She turned 75 years old. I am very grateful and thankful to have her in my life.

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