Novels, Science, History, Econ and Absolute Randomness

  • How to Change your Mind (Michael Pollan): “The journeys have shown me what the Buddhists try to tell us, but I have never really understood, that there is much more to consciousness than the ego, as we would see if it just would shut up; and that it’s disillusion or transcendence is nothing to fear, in fact, it is a pre-requisite for making any spiritual progress. But the ego, that inner neurotic who insists on running the mental show is wily and doesn’t like relinquishing its power without a struggle, deeming itself indispensable, it will battle against its diminishment whether in advance or in the middle of the journey, I suspect that’s what mine was up to all through the sleepless nights that preceded each of my trips, striving to convince me that I was risking everything when really all I was putting at risk was its sovereignty. When Huxley speaks of the minds reducing valve, the faculty that eliminates as much of the world from our conscious awareness as it lets in, he is talking about the ego, that stingy vigilant security guard that admits only the narrowest bandwidth of reality, a measly trickle of the kind of consciousness which will help us to stay alive. It’s really good at performing all those activities that natural selection values – getting ahead, getting liked and loved, getting fed, getting laid, keeping us on task it is a ferocious editor of anything that might distract us from the work at hand, whether that means regulating our access to memories and strong emotions from within or news of the world without. What of the world it does admit, it tends to objectify, for the ego wants to reserve the gifts of subjectivity to itself, that’s why it fails to see that there is a whole world of souls and spirits out there, by which I mean subjectivities other than our own. It was only when the voice of my ego was quieted by psilocybin that I was able to sense that the plants in my garden had a spirit too. In the words of RM Bucke, a 19th century Canadian psychiatrist and mystic – I saw that the universe is not composed of dead matter but is on the contrary a living presence.”

The Possible EGO: In neuroscience, the default mode network (DMN), also default network, or default state network, is a large-scale brain network primarily composed of the medial prefrontal cortex, posterior cingulate cortex/precuneus and angular gyrus. It is best known for being active when a person is not focused on the outside world and the brain is at wakeful rest, such as during daydreaming and mind-wandering. It can also be active during detailed thoughts related to external task performance. Other times that the DMN is active include when the individual is thinking about others, thinking about themselves, remembering the past, and planning for the future.

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  • A Land so Strange: The Epic Journey of Cabeza de Vaca (Andres Resendez): “Over the course of his journeys, Cabeza de Vaca had found that America’s bounty consisted not only of gold and silver, but also of land and good people. Together, Europeans and Native Americans could make the New World yield spiritual as well as material wealth. Such a proposition would appear woefully idealistic and impracticable, but when coming from one of the ‘children of the sun’, the Crown might find it worth considering. The Royal treasurer understood the fears and hopes of the natives better than any other Spaniard, and perhaps had already talked to them about such a grandiose alliance.”
  • The Monkey Wrench Gang (Edward Abbey): “All this fantastic effort – giant machines, road networks, strip mines, conveyor belts, pipelines, slurry lines, loading towers, railway and electric train, hundred-million-dollar coal-burning power plant; ten thousand miles of high-tension towers and high-voltage power lines; the devastation of the landscape, the destruction of Indian homes and Indian grazing lands, Indian shrines and Indian burial grounds; the poisoning of the last big clean-air reservoir in the forty-eight contiguous United States, the exhaustion of precious water supplies – all that ball-breaking labor and all the backbreaking expense and all that heartbreaking insult to land and sky and human heart, for what? All that for what? Why, to light the lamps of Phoenix suburbs not yet built, to run the air conditioners of San Diego and Los Angeles, to illuminate shopping-center parking lots at two in the morning.”
  • Lands of Lost Borders (Kate Harris): “Departure is simple: you step out the door, onto your bike, into the wind of your life. What’s hard is not looking back, not measuring gain or loss by lapsed time, or aching legs, or the leering mile markers of ambition. You are on your way when you decipher the pounding of rain as Morse code for making progress. You are getting closer when you recognize doubt as the heaviest burden on your bike and toss it aside, for when it comes to exploring, any direction will do. You have finally arrived when you realize that persistent creak you’ve been hearing all this time is not your wheels, not your mind, but the sound of the planet turning.”

“How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives – Annie Dillard”

  • The Devils (Fyodor Dostoevsky): “If you want to overcome the whole world, overcome yourself”
  • Sapiens (Yuval Noah Harari): There are 6 species of humans that lived around the same time. Homo Erectus (2 mill – 30,000), Homo Neanderthalensis (300,000 to 30,000), Homo Luzonensis (700,000 to 50,000), Homo Denisova (200,000 to 50,000), Homo Sapiens (300,000 to now …), Homo Floresiensis (800,000 to 50,000). Homo Sapiens got ahead because of their ability to communicate through storytellig, create and believe in myths and create larger groups that could believe in the same thing. Most great mammals across the world dissapeared around the same time that Homo Sapiens arrived to their whereabouts.
  • El Leopardo (Jo Nesbo): “… y penso en lo vulnerable que era todo, en lo rápido que cambiaban las cosas, y en cuántas cosas podían destruirse en cuestión de segundos. En que eso era la vida: un proceso de destrucción, una descomposición de algo que, en el punto de partida, es perfecto. Lo único que le otorgaba un poco de tensión era si la destrucción sería repentina o lenta. Era una idea triste. Pero el la tenía por cierta.”
  • The Dharma Bums (Jack Kerouac): “… I’ve been reading Whitman, know what he says, Cheer up slaves, and horrify foreign despots, he means that’s the attitude for the Bard, the Zen Lunacy bard of old desert paths, see the whole thing is a wolrd full of rucksack wanderers, Dharma Bums refusing to subscribe to the general demand that they consume production and therefore have to work the for the privilege of consuming, all that crap they didn’t really want anyway such as refrigerators, TV sets, cars, at least new fancy cars, certain hair oils and deodorants and general junk you finally always see a week later in the garbage anyway, all of them imprisoned in a system of work, produce, consume, work, produce, consume, I see a vision of a great rucksack revolution thousands or even millions of young Americans wandering around with rucksacks, going up to mountains to pray, making children laugh and old men glad, making young girls happy and old girls happier, all of ‘em Zen Lunatics who go about writing poems that happen to appear in their heads for no reason and also by being kind and also by strange unexpected acts keep giving visions of eternal freedom to everybody and to all living creatures, that’s what I like about you Goldbook and Smith, you two guys from the East Coast which I thought was dead … ” – “We though the West Coast was dead!”

“To live truly free is to explore without comparing” – DLB. Baja Road Trip 2020-2021

  • On the Road (Jack Kerouac): “Cause the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn burn burn like fabulous yellow Roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue center light pop and everyone goes Ahhhh!”

“I woke up as the sun was reddening and that was the one distinct moment in my life, the strangest moment of all, when I didn’t know who I was, I was far away from home, haunted and tired with travel, in a cheap hotel room I had never seen, hearing the hiss of steam outside and the creek of the old wood of the hotel and footsteps upstairs and all the sad sounds and I looked at the cracked high ceiling and I didn’t really know who I was for about 15 strange seconds. I wasn’t scared, I was just someone else, some stranger, and my whole life was a haunted life, the life of a ghost. I was halfway across America at the dividing line between the east of my youth and the west of my future and maybe that’s what happened right there and then, during the strange red afternoon.”

  • 1421 The Year China Discovered America (Gavin Menzies): “The revelation that Vasco da Gama was not the first to sail to India round the Cape of Good Hope, that Christopher Columbus did not discover America, that Magellan was not the first to circumnavigate the world, and that Australia was surveyed three centuries before captain Cook and Antarctica four centuries before the first European attempt may come as a dissapointent, even a shock, to the champions of those brave and skillful explorers, but the Kangnido, Pizzigano, Piri Reis, Jean Rotz, Cantino and Waldseemuller chars are indisputably genuine. They contain information that can only have come from cartographers aboard the pioneer Chinese fleets”. Further evidence: Chinese chickens, corn maize in south east Asia, Chinese camellia roses, Amaranth, wrecks, porcelain and lacquer boxes, Lienzo de Jucutacato (Uruapan), Yu Thuch Chih, The Ilustrated Record of Strange Countries, last but not least, Zheng He.
  • The Wizard and the Prophet (Charles C. Mann): “It would be foolish to expect anything else. To avoid destroying itself, the human race would have to do something deeply unatural, something no other species has ever done or could ever do: constrain its own growth (at least in some ways). Brown tree sankes in Guam, water hyacinth in African rivers, rabbits in Australia, Burmese pythons in Florida – all these succesful species have overrun their environments, heedlessly wiping out other creatures. Not one has voluntarily turned back. When the zebra mussles in the Hudson river began to run out of food, they did not stop reproducing. When fire ants relentlessly expand their range, no inner voices warn them to consider their future. Why should we expect Homo sapiens to fence itself in?”

The Struggle for Existence: In a petri dish Georgii Gause dripped five Paramecium caudatum or Stylonychia mytilus, single celled protozoans, on petri dishes with oatmeal. At the beginning the number of protozoans grows slowly, and the graph line slowly ascends to the right. But then the line hits an inflection point, and suddenly rockets upward — a frenzy of growth. The mad rise continues until the organism begins to run out of food, at which time there is a second inflection point, and the growth levels off again as protozoa begin to die. Eventually the line descends and the population falls towards zero. Populations grow at a terrific rate; they take over large areas, engulfing their environment as if no force opposed them. Then they hit a barrier. They drown in their own wasters. They starve from lack of food. Something figures out how to eat them.

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  • Other Minds – The Octopus, the Sea and the Deep Origins of Consciousness (Peter Godfrey Smith): “The mind evolved in the sea. Water made it possible, all the early stages took place in water – the origin of life, the birth of animals, the evolution of nervous systems and brains, and the appearance of complex bodies that make brains worth having. The first ventures on to land probably took place not long after the history charted in the first few chapters, certainly by 420 million years ago, perhaps earlier. But the early history of animals is the history of life in the sea, when animals did crawl on to dry land they took the sea with them, all the basic activities of life occur in water filled cells bounded by membranes, tiny containers whose insides are remnants of the sea. I said in chapter one that meeting an octopus is in many ways the closest we are likely to get to meeting an intelligent alien, yet it’s not really an alien, the earth and its oceans made us both.”
  • Artemis (Andy Weir): “It’s all part of the life-cycle of an economy. First it’s lawless capitalism until that starts to impede growth. Next comes regulation, law enforcement, and taxes. After that: public benefits and entitlements. Then, finally, over-expenditure and collapse. Wait. Collapse? Yes, collapse. An economy is a living thing. It’s born full of vitality and dies once it’s rigid and worn out. Then, through necessity, people break into smaller economic groups and the cycle begins anew, but with more economies. Baby economies, like Artemis is right now.”
  • Parable of the Sower (Octavia Butler): “I was looking for God, I said. I wasn’t looking for mythology or mysticism or magic. I didn’t know whether there was a god to find, but I wanted to know. God would have to be a power that could not be defied by anyone or anything.Change. Change, yes, But it’s not a god. It’s not a person or an intelligence or even a thing. It’s just … I don’t know. An idea.I smiled. Was that such a terrible criticism? It’s a truth, I said. Change is ongoing. Everything changes in some way—size, position, composition, frequency, velocity, thinking, whatever. Every living thing, every bit of matter, all the energy in the universe changes in some way. I don’t claim that everything changes in every way, but everything changes in some way. Harry, coming in dripping from the sea heard this last, sort of like saying God is the Second Law of Thermodynamics, he said grinning.”
  • The Old Man Who Read Love Stories (Luis Sepulveda): “Opposite him, something moved in the air, in the foliage, over the surface of the still water, right at the bottom of the river. Something which seemed to have many shapes and at the same time to feed on them all. It constantly changed, and didn’t let his drugged eyes focus on a single one. Now it was a macaw, then it became a great catfish leaping open-mouthed and swallowing the moon, and as it fell back in the water it did so with the savagery of a bone-cruncher coming down on a man. That something lacked a precise, definable shape, but whatever it form it took, its eyes always remained bright yellow, shining. It’s your own death disguising itself so as to take you by surprise. ‘If it’s doing that, it’s because your time to leave hasn’t yet come. Hunt it out’, came the order from the Shuar witch doctor massaging his terrified body with handfuls of cold ash.”
  • The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (Douglas Adams): “It is an important and popular fact that things are not always what they seem. For instance, on the planet Earth, man had always assumed that he was more intelligent than dolphins because he had achieved so much – the wheel, New York, wars and so on – whilst all the dolphins had ever done was muck about in the water having a good time. But conversely, the dolphins had always believed that they were far more intelligent than man – for precisely the same reasons. Curiously enough, the dolphins had long known of the impending destruction of the planet Earth and had made many attempts to alert mankind of the danger; but most of their communications were misinterpreted as amusing attempts to punch footballs or whistle for tidbits, so they eventually gave up and left the Earth by their own means shortly before the Vogons arrived. The last ever dolphin message was misinterpreted as a surprisingly sophisticated attempt to do a double-backwards somersault through a hoop whilst whistling the “Star Spangled Banner”, but in fact the message was this: So long and thanks for all the fish.”
  • A Confederacy of Dunces (John Kennedy Toole): ” Ignatius pulled his flannel nightshirt up and looked at his bloated stomach. He often bloated while lying in bed in the morning contemplating the unfortunate turn that events had taken since the Reformation. Doris Day and Greyhound Scenic cruisers, whenever they came to mind, created an even more rapid expansion of his central region. But since the attempted arrest and the accident, he had been bloating for almost no reason at all, his pyloric valve snapping shut indiscriminately and filling his stomach with trapped gas, gas which had character and being and resented its confinement. He wondered whether his pyloric valve might be trying, Cassandra like, to tell him something. As a medievalist Ignatius believed in the rota Fortunae, or wheel of fortune, a central concept in De Consolatione Philosophiae, the philosophical work which had laid the foundation for medieval thought. Boethius, the late Roman who had written the Consolatione while unjustly imprisoned by the emperor, had said that a blind goddess spins us on a wheel, that our luck comes in cycles. Was the ludicrous attempt to arrest him the beginning of a bad cycle? Was his wheel rapidly spinning downward? The accident was also a bad sign. Ignatius was worried. For all his philosophy, Boethius had still been tortured and killed. Then Ignatius’s valve closed again, and he rolled over on his left side to press the valve open. “Oh, Fortuna, blind, heedless goddess, I am strapped to your wheel,” Ignatius belched. “Do not crush me beneath your spokes. Raise me on high, divinity.” “
  • Circe (Madeline Miller): “There are oracles scattered across our lands. Shrines where pristesses breath sacred fumes and speak the truths they find in them. “Know Your Self” is carved above their doors, but I had been a stranger to myself, turned to stone for no reason I could name. Daedulus had told me a story once about the Lords of Crete who used to hire him to enlarge their houses, he would arrive with his tools, begin taking down the walls, pulling up the floors, but whenever he found some problem underneath that must first be fixed, they frowned. “That was not in the agreement”. “Of course not”, he said, “it has been hidden in the foundation. But look, there it is, plain as day, see the cracked beam, see the beetles eating the floor, see how the stone is sinking into the swamp”. That only made the lords angrier. “It was fine until you dug it up. We will not pay. Close it up. Put plaster over. If it has stood this long, it will stand longer.” So he would seal that fault up and the next season the house would fall down. Then they would come to him demanding back their money. “I told them”, he said to me. “I told them, and told them. When there is rot in the walls there is only one remedy”. The purple bruise at my throat was turning green at its edges, I pressed it. Felt a splintered ache. Tear down, I thought. Tear down and build again.”
  • The Song of Achilles (Madeline Miller): “His eyes opened. “Name one hero who was happy”. I considered. Heracles went mad and killed his family. Theseus lost his bride and father; Jason’s children and new wife were murdered by his Medea; Bellerophon killed the Chimera but was crippled by the fall from Pegasus’ back. “You can’t”. He was sitting up now, leaning forward. “I can’t”. “I know. They never let you be famous and happy”. He lifted an eyebrow.”I’ll tell you a secret”. “Tell me”. I loved it when he was like this. “I’m going to be the first”. He took my palm and held it to his. “Swear it”. “Why me?”. “Because you’re the reason. Swear it”. “I swear it”. He echoed. We sat like that a moment, hands touching. He grinned. “I feel like I could eat the world raw”.”
  • The Forty Rules of Love (Elif Shafak): “Little by little, one turns forty, fifty, and sixty and, with each major decade, feels more complete. You need to keep walking though there’s no place to arrive at. The universe is turning, constantly and relentlessly, and so are the earth and the moon, but it is nothing other than a secret embedded within us human beings that makes it all move. With that knowledge we dervishes will dance our way through love and heartbreak even if no one understands what we are doing. We will dance in the middle of a brawl or a major war, all the same. We will dance in our hurt and grief, with joy and elation, alone and together, as slow and fast as the flow of water. We will dance in our blood. There is a perfect harmony and subtle balance in all that is and was in the universe. The dots change constantly and replace one another, but the circle remains intact. Rule number thirty-nine: While the parts change, the whole always remains the same. For every thief who departs this world, a new one is born. And every decent person who passes away is replaced by a new one. In this way not only does nothing remain the same but also nothing ever really changes.”

“Every true love and friendship is a story of unexpected transformation. If we are the same person before and after we loved, that means we haven’t loved enough.”

  • Las Intermitencias de la Muerte (Jose Saramago): “La mujer esta vestida de esta manera diferente, con pantalones y chaqueta de cuero, con certeza es otra persona, le dice el violenchista al corazon, pero este, que tiene mejores ojos, te dice que abras los tuyos, que es ella, y ahora mira a ver como te vas a portar.”
  • The Count of Montecristo (Alexandre Dumas): “As for you, Maxmilien, here is the secret of my conduct toward you: there is neither happiness nor unhappiness in this world; there is only the comparison of one state with another. Only a man who has felt ultimate despair is capable of feeling ultimate bliss. It is necessary to have wished for death, Maximilien, in order to know how good it is to live. Live, then, and be happy, beloved children of my heart, and never forget that, until the day God deigns to reveal the future to man, the sum of all human wisdom will be contained in these two words: Wait and Hope. Your friend, Edmond Dantes. Count of Montecristo.”

“Thou shalt tear out the teeth of the dragon and trample the lions underfoot, thus saith the Lord.”

Psalm 91:13

Note: The book ends on the 5th of October. Edmond sets himself free from his revenge, wealth, and emotional ties on the 5th of October – as he sails away with Haydee. Crazy. Providence, come to me!

  • The Voyage of the Cormorant (Christian Beamish): “To see friends after even such a short time of solitude was such a wonderful feeling, to remember that I was known in the world, particularly after the trials of night winds and bees, long crossings and strange people, leavened by meeting the kind ones too. And always only the sea under me, always this tenuous relationship that was only as good as the changing conditions allowed.”

“How wholly infused with God is this one big word of love that we call the world”

John Muir

  • Death’s End (Cixin Liu): “Child, I recognize you. Jason said to Cheng Xi. You were the Swordholder. I’m sure you and your people came here for some important mission, but you must keep your cool. We can’t avoid the apocalypse, so we must enjoy the present.”
  • The Dark Forest (Cixin Liu): “The real universe is just that black. The universe is a dark forest. Every civilization is an armed hunter stalking through the trees like a ghost, gently pushing aside branches that block the path and trying to tread without pushing aside branches that block the path and trying to tread without sound. Even breathing is done with care. The hunter has to be careful, because everywhere in the forest are stealthy hunters like him. If he finds other life – another hunter, an angel or a demon, a delicate infant or a tottering old man, a fairy or a demigod – there’s only one thing he can do: open fire and eliminate them. In this forest, hell is other people. An eternal threat that any life that exposes its own existence will be swiftly wiped out. This is the picture of cosmic civilization. It’s the explanation for the Fermi Paradox.”
  • The Three-Body Problem (Cixin Liu): “The kind of civilization you yearn for once existed on Trisolaris too. They had free, democratic societies, and they left behind rich cultural legacies. You know barely anything about them. Most details have sealed away and forbidden from view. But in all the cycles of Trisolarian civilization, this type of civilization was the weakest and most short-lived. A modes Chaotic Era disaster was enough to extinguish them. Look again at the Earth civilization that you wish to save. A society born and bred in the eternal spring of a beautiful hothouse would not be able to survive even a million Trisolarian hours if it were transplanted here.”
  • Swell. A Sailing’s Surfer’s Voyage of Awakening (Liz Clark): “I’ve fallen countless times, only to rise again, cloaked in new strength, and determined to find my way to a mental horizon of unlimted potential again. I have wrinkles around my eyes and sunspots splotch my skin, but I feel beautiful. I still have little money in the bank. I only own three pairs of shoes, all of my clothing can fit in one duffel bag, and I still flush my toilet with a hand pump – but I feel rich. I have spent the most energetic years of my life testing my physical, mental, and emotional capacities in pursuit of a dream. I have do it on a blank canvas, in a variety of backdrops, and with more time than most. We all deserve this kind of chance to spread our wings and learn to fly.  I have proven to myself , that with plenty of hard work, choosing love will never lead to lack. It takes courage, but once the decision is made, doors open that seemed forever shut. Walking through them feels hopeful, exhilarating, and full or purpose. I am not the best sailor or the best surfer, or the most credentialed at anything, but chasing my dream has taught me that fulfillment and self-love don’t come from being “the best”. They come from pursuing our passions and connecting to our own spirits, communities, and world. Being the best, or richest, or strongest, or sexiest – without feeling connected – doesn’t sound heavenly at all. The times I’ve stepped on people to reach the top, the view was chilling and lonely. Connection brings me the most joy. It is communion in a wink from a resting tern a thousand miles from land, and comfort in a shared laughter that transcends language barriers. It is the gratitude felt for a tree that offers shade, and high-five with a stranger in the lineup. It’s noticing the signs and going with my gut, feeling Swell in perfet trim or making it out of a deep tube. A momentary meeting of eyes that needs no words. The first bite of a hard-earned meal. A transcendent moment of meditation. It is feeling sorry for the barnacle that must be scraped off the rudder, long-distance video calls with my sister, and earning Amelia’s trust. It’s picking up a kid who’s fallen down with the gentleness of his own mother, and the dignity that follows small victories in self-improvement. These are moments that make me feel close to the Great Spirit that unites us all. Bugs and beauty queens, immigrants and indigenous, rich and poor, furry and scaled; we are all struggling, striving, loving, and breathing on this green-and-blue ship flying through space- each with a purpose that combines to form the incomprehensibly beautiful mandala of our collective meaning. Feeling closer to every being that struggles in the coarser, chillier, riper, naked more startling layers of existence has made the whole planet feel like home. I stop occasionally to pick up scattered chip bags, plastic forks, and empty bottles along the shore, as the sun touches down on the horizon. It doesn’t matter that it isn’t my trash; it’s my Earth. And that’s the beauty of Oneness: Love has no borders.”
  • The Enchantress of Florence (Salman Rushdie): “It was important not to offend against the laws of magic. If a woman left you it was because someone else cast a stronger enchantment than yours, or else because your marriage was cursed in such a way that it cut ties of love between husband and wife. Why did So- and so rather than such and such enjoy success in his business? Because he visited the right enchanter. There was a thing in the emperor that rebelled against all this flummery, for was it not that kind of infantilization of the self to give up one’s power of agency and believe that such power resided outside oneself rather than within? This was also his objection to God, that his existence deprived human beings of the right to form ethical structures by themselves.  But magic was all around and would not be denied, and it would be a rash ruler who pooh-poohed it. Religion could be rethought, re-examined, remade, perhaps even discarded; magic was impervious to such assaults. This, finally, was why the story of Qara Koz had so easily possessed the imaginatino of the people of Sikri (and Florence). She had taken her magic, “their magic”, into other worlds, worlds with their own occultism, and her sorcery had proved more potent than theirs. Her sorcery. Which not even he, the emperor, could resist.”
  • Midnight’s Children (Salman Rushdie)
  • The Zanzibar Chest (Aidan Hartley): “When the pictures were shown in Addis Ababa, it helped the tide of the revolution that toppled the medieval dictatorship of Emperor Haile Selassie. Back on the plains of Bati Dad sat down by himself. “The camps lie broken down on hill and plain, /skulls, bones and horns remain”, he wrote. “No shouts, no songs of fighting, or of love, /But from the bare thorn tree above, /So sadly calls the mourning dove”, “… Was this your ravaged land, /The work of God, or was it Man’s own hand? For me this just about sums up what happened all over Africa in the twentieth century”. An amazing book of a reporter traveling, living and telling the story of Africa in the 80s, 90s, and 2000s. Live traveling and reporting through the region.
  • Surfing with Sartre (Aaron James): “Our task then is to describe what the surfer knows, implicitly, in knowing  how to be adaptively attuned, in a life organized around its distinctive value. We begin in Sartre’s existential predicament. Freedom, in his view, is willful self-determination, a laborious project of self-creation in the face of absurd options. The first step is to give up such willful controlling, which only makes it harder to get into the flow. Freedom, for the surfer, isn’t radical self determination but a kind of achievement, in adaptive attunement. It’s a way of being efficacious without control, precisely by giving up any need for it. Neither then is the surfer akin to the Stoic, who controls his mind in order to maintain a steady tranquility and detachment. Surfers are deeply attached to a life of surfing, and not so cautious about loving without reservation, despite its risks. Betting one’s happiness on nature’s caprice does bring certain frustrations. Yet life is not so terrible, even for the occasionally bummed surfer, who must then play guitar or do philosophy while waiting for waves. The challenge is just to keep faith, giving up any need for control, even over one’s mental state, so as to settle into a more flowing way of being efficacious through the ebbs and flows of nature’s rhythms.” … “So being is freedom, which is work. To be is to be at work, the work of constantly constructing a self. I am constant project of making and remaking myself in my projected image. As Sartre says “Freedom is precisely the nothingness which is made-to-be at the heart of man and which forces human reality to make itself instead of to be”. But why the “instead”? Can’t a person be, while doing and being simultaneously? It is possible. Doing surfing. Being in the flow of the wave…”

“You think of all the traveled lands,
the images and tattered strands
of all the women you could not hold

And suddenly you realize: there’s nothing else
You rise to your feet, and before you appear
the fear and form and empty prayer
of the absence of another year.”

Rainer Maria Rilke

  • The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck (Mark Manson): “Some examples of good, healthy  values: honesty, innovation, vulnerability, standing for oneself, standing-up for others, self-respect, curiosity, clarity, humility, creativity. Some examples of bad, unhealthy values: dominance through manipulation or violence, indiscriminate fucking, feeling good all the time, always being the center of attention, not being alone, being liked by everybody, being rich for the sake of being rich, sacrificing small animals to the pagan gods. You’ll notice that good healthy values are achieved internally. Something like creativity or humility can be experienced right now. You simply have to orient your mind in a certain way to experience it. These values are immediate and controllable and engage you with the world as it is rather than how you with it were. Bad values are generally reliant on external events – flying in a private jet, being told you’re right all the time, owning a house in the Bahamas, eating a cannoli while getting blown by three strippers. Bad values, while sometimes fun or pleasurable, lie outside of your control and often require socially destructive or superstitious means to achieve. Values are about prioritization. Everybody would love a good cannoli or a house in the Bahamas. The question is your priorities. What are the values that you prioritize above everything else, and that therefore influence your decision-making more than anything else?”
  • Narcissus and Goldmund (Herman Hesse): “It was shameless how life made fun of one; it was a joke, a cause for weeping! Either one lived and let one’s senses play, drank full at the primitive mother’s breast – which brought great bliss but was no protection against death; then one lived like a mushroom in the forest, colorful today and rotten tomorrow. Or else one put up a defense, imprisoned oneself for work and tried to build a monument to the fleeting passage of life – then one renounced life, was nothing but a tool; one enlisted in the service of that which endured, but one dried up in the process and lost one’s freedom, scope, lust for life. That’s what had happened to Master Niklaus. Ach,life made sense only if one achieved both, only if it was not split by this brittle alternative! To create, without sacrificing one’s senses for it. To live, without renouncing the nobility of creating. Was that impossible?”.
  • Steppenwolf (Herman Hesse): “There is, in fact, no way back either to the wolf or to the child. From the very start there is no innocence and no singleness. Every created thing, even the simplest, is already guilty, already multiple. It has been thrown into the muddy stream of being and may never more swim back again to its source. The way back to innocence, to the uncreated and to God leads on, not back, not back to the wolf or to the child, but ever further into sin, ever deeper into human life. Nor will suicide really solve your problem, unhappy Steppenwolf. You will, instead, embark on the longer and wearier and harder road of life. You will have to multiply many times your two-fold being and complicate your complexities further. instead of narrowing your world and simplifying your soul, you will have to absorb more and more of the world and at last take all of it up in your painfully expanded soul, if you are ever to find peace. This is the road that Buddha, and every great man has gone, whether consciously or not, insofar as fortune favored his quest. All births mean separation from the All, the confinement within limitation, the separation from God, the pangs of being born every anew. The return into the All, the dissolution of painful individuation, the reunion with God means the expansion of the soul until it is able once more to embrace the All”.
  • Siddhartha (Herman Hesse): “Wondrous indeed was my life, so he thought, wondrous detours it has taken. As a boy, I had only to do with gods and offerings. As a youth, I had only to do with asceticism, with thinking and meditation, was searching for Brahman, worshipped the eternal in the Atman. But as a young man, I followed the penitents,  lived in the forest, suffered of heat and frost, learned to hunger, taught my body to become dead. Wonderfully, soon afterwards, insight came towards me in the form of the great Buddha’s teachings, I felt the knowledge of the oneness of the form of the great Buddha’s teachings, I felt the knowledge of the oneness of the world circling in me like my own blood. But I also had to leave Buddha and the great knowledge. I went and learned the art of love with Kamala, learned trading with Kamaswami, piled up money, wasted money, learned to love my stomach, learned to please my senses. I had to spend many years losing my spirit, to unlearn thinking again, to forget the oneness. Isn’t it just as if I had turned slowly on a long detour from a main into a child, from a thinker into a childlike person? And yet, this path has been very good; and yet, the bird in my chest has not died. But what a path has this been! I had to pass through so much stupidity, through so much vices, through so many errors, through so much disgust and disappointments and woe, just to become a child again and to be able to start over. But it was right so, my heard says “Yes” to it, my eyes smile to it. I’ve had to experience despair, I’ve had to sink down to the most foolish one of all thoughts, to the thought of suicide, in order to be able to experience divine grace, to hear Om again, to be able to sleep properly and awake properly again. I had to become a fool, to find Atman in me again. I had to sin, to be able to live again. Where else might my path lead me to go? It is foolish, this path, it moves in loops, perhaps it is going around in a circle. Let it go as it likes, I want to take it. Wonderfully, he felt joy rolling live waves in his chest”
  • Rules for Radicals (Saul D. Alinsky)
  • The Art of Happiness (Dalai Lama and Howard C. Cutler)
  • Being the Change (Peter Kalmus)
  • Mating in Captivity (Esther Perel): “Love enjoys everything about you; desire needs mystery. Love likes to shrink the distance that exists between me and you, while desire is energized by it. If intimacy grows through repetition and familiarity, eroticism is numbed by repetition. It thrives on the mysterious, the novel, and the unexpected. Love is about having; desire is about wanting. An expression of longing, desire requires ongoing elusiveness. It is less concerned with where it has already been that passionate about where it can still go. But too often couples settle into the comforts of love, they cease to fan the flame of desire. They forget that fire needs air”.
  • Uncivilization (Paul Kingsnorth and Dougald Hine): “This, then, is Uncivilised writing. Human, inhuman, stoic and entirely natural. Humble, questioning, suspicious of the big idea and the easy answer. Walking the boundaries and reopening old conversations. Apart but engaged, its practitioners always willing to get their hands dirty; aware, in fact, that dirt is essential; that keyboards should be tapped by those with soil under their fingernails and wilderness in their heads.”
  • Resistance, Rebellion and Death (Albert Camus): “No, choosing freedom today does not mean ceasing to be a profiteer of the Soviet regime and becoming a profiteer of the bourgeois regime. For that would amount, instead, to choosing slavery twice, and as a final condemnation, choosing it twice for others. Choosing freedom is not, as we are told, choosing against injustice. On the other hand, freedom is chosen today in relation to those who are everywhere suffering and fighting, and this is the only freedom that counts. It is chosen at the same time as justice, and, to tell the truth, henceforth we cannot choose one without the other. If someone takes away your bread, he suppresses your freedom at the same time. But if someone takes away your freedom, you may be sure that your bread is threatened, for it depends no longer on you and your struggle but on the whim of a master. The oppressed want to be liberated not only from their hunger but also from their masters. They are well aware that they will be effectively freed of hunger only when they hold their masters, all their masters, at bay”.
  • Mexico Negro (Francisco Martin Moreno
  • Barbarian Days. A Surfing Life (William Finegan)
  • Indignation (Philip Roth)
  • The Plot Against America (Philip Roth)
  • Foundation (Isaac Asimov)
  • Forward the Foundation (Isaac Asimov)
  • La Caverna (Jose Saramago)
  • Collected Fictions (Jorge Luis Borges)
  • Thinking Fast and Slow (Daniel Kahneman)
  • Misbehaving (Richard H. Thaler).
  • Small is Beautiful. Economics as if People Mattered (E.F Schumacher)
  • Drive. The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us (Daniel H. Pink)
  • Degrowth. A Vocabulary for a New Era (Giorgos Kallis)
  • Predictibly Irrational (Dan Ariely)
  • Nudge. Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth and Happiness (Richard H. Thaler)
  • Let my people go surfing (Yvon Chouinard)
  • The responsible company (Yvon Chouinard and Vincent Stanley)
  • Platform Revolution (Geoffrey G. Parker)
  • Zero to One (Peter Thiel)
  • Without their Permission. How the 21st Century Will be Made, Not Managed (Alexis Ohanian)
  • How to Win Friends and Influence People (Dale Carnegie)
  • Failing in the Field. What we can learn when field research goes wrong (Dean Karlan)
  • The Lean Startup (Eric Ried)
  • The Ascent of Money (Niall Ferguson)
  • Economics Unmasked (Philip B. Smith & Manfred Max Neef)
  • Marx’s Ecology (John Bellamy Foster)
  • The Bridge at the Edge of the World. Capitalism, the Environment and Crossing from Crisis to Sustainability (James Gustave Speth)
  • The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind (William Kamkwamba)
  • The Wildness Within. Remembering David Brower:

“If there is something you can do,
Or dream you can, begin it.
Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it.”

  • Breve Historia de Centroamerica (Hector Perez Brignoli)
  • Sparking a Worldwide Energy Revolution (Kolya Abramsky)
  • Historia de la America Central (Jose Milla)
  • Here I Am. The Story of Tim Hetherington, War Photographer (Alan Huffman)
  • Cadillac Desert. The American West and its Dissapearing Water (Marc Reisner)
  • El Cartel Negro (Ana Lilia Perez)
  • Water Follies. Groundwater Pumping and the Fate of Americas Freshwaters (Robert Glennon)
  • The Conquest of Nature (David Blackbourn)
  • Pale Blue Dot (Carl Sagan): “The alternatives seem worse than cruel: They are ineffective. Many of the dangers we face indeed arise from science and technology – but, more fundamentally because we have become powerful without becoming commensurately wise. The world-alternating powers that technology has delivered into our hands now require a degree of consideration and foresight that has never before been asked of us. Science cuts two ways, of course; it’s products can be used for both good and evil. But there’s no turning back from science. The solutions may well require more of us than just a technological fix. Many will have to become scientifically literate. We may have to change institutions and behavior. But our problems, whatever their origin, cannot be solved apart from science. The technologies that threaten us and the circumvention of those threats both issue from the same front. They are racing neck and neck. “
  • Factfulness. Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About the World and Why Things Are Better Than You Think (Hans Rosling): “Could everyone have a fact-based worldview one day? Big change is always difficult to imagine. But it is definitely possible, and I think it will happen, for two simple reasons. First: a fact-based worldview is more useful for navigating life, just like an accurate GPS is more useful for finding your way in the city. Second, and probably more important: a fact-based worldview is more comfortable. It creates less stress and hopelessness than the dramatic worldview, simply because the dramatic one is so negative and terrifying. When we have a fact-based worldview, we can see that the world is not as bad as it seems – and we can see what we have to do to keep making it better”. Factfulness rules of thumb: 1. Gap: Look for the majority, 2. Negativity: Expect bad news, 3. Straight Line: Lines might bed, 4. Fear: Calculate the risks, 5. Size: Get things in proportion, 6. Generalization: Question your categories, 7. Destiny: Slow change is till change, 8. Single: Get a tool box, 9. Blame: Resist pointing your finger, 10. Urgency: Take small steps.
    • Reality Mining. Using Big Data to Engineer a Better World (Nathan Eagle and Kate Greene)
      • Emotional Intelligence: Resilience (Harvard Business Review): “Resilient people, they posit, posses three characteristics: a staunch acceptance of reality; a deep belief, often buttressed by strongly held values that life is meaningful; and an uncanny ability to improvise. You can bounce back from hardship with just one or two of these qualities, but you will only be truly resilient with all three”

“The key to resilience is trying really hard, then stopping, recovering, and then trying again. This conclusion is based on biology. Homeostasis is a fundamental biological concept describing the ability of the brain to continuously restore and sustain well being”

Random But Good

      • The 4-Hour Workweek (Timothy Ferriss)
      • Meme Wars. The Creative Destruction of Neoclassical Economics (Kalle Lasn Adbusters)