Of love, books, and love of books

“Perhaps there is some secret sort of homing instinct in books that brings them to their perfect readers. How delightful if that were true.”

“The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society” by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows is the eighth book I’ve finished this year. Just 52 more go.

So happy Ellen saw this book when we went to Booksale. Such a beautiful book filled with wonderful characters! Can you believe we got it for just Php50? 😃

Embracing imperfection

“The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are” by Brené Brown is the seventh book I’ve finished this year. Just 53 more to go.

Here’s an excerpt.

“The new cultural belief that everything should be fun, fast, and easy is inconsistent with hopeful thinking. It also sets us up for hopelessness. When we experience something that is difficult and requires significant time and effort, we are quick to think, This is supposed to be easy; it’s not worth the effort, or, This should be easier: it’s only hard and slow because I’m not good at it. Hopeful self-talk sounds more like, This is tough, but I can do it.”

Read this book on Scribd.

Why atheists and agnostics should steal from religion

“Religion for Atheists: A Non-Believer’s Guide to the Uses of Religion” by Alain de Botton is the sixth book I’ve finished this year. Just 54 more to go.

Here’s an excerpt.

“The signal danger of life in a godless society is that it lacks reminders of the transcendent and therefore leaves us unprepared for disappointment and eventual annihilation. When God is dead, human beings—much to their detriment—are at risk of taking psychological centre stage. They imagine themselves to be commanders of their own destinies, they trample upon nature, forget the rhythms of the earth, deny death and shy away from valuing and honouring all that slips through their grasp, until at last they must collide catastrophically with the sharp edges of reality. Our secular world is lacking in the sorts of rituals that might put us gently in our place.”

As a former atheist and former philosophy major, this book by the Swiss-born British philosopher De Botton enlightened and entertained me on different levels. Though an atheist, De Botton acknowledges that religion does certain things well and addresses important human needs that are being neglected by secular society. By understanding what makes religions successful, he aims to replicate religious methods and benefits in a secular setting.

De Botton readily admits that his suggestion that atheists and agnostics should steal ideas from religion will probably offend believers and non-believers alike. Still, I gained a lot of valuable insights from the book and a better appreciation of the three religions it focuses on—Christianity, Judaism, and Buddhism.

Check it out if you’re willing to keep an open mind.

When Martin Luther King Jr. was an ‘extremist’

Those who support the status quo will always dismiss the people fighting for change as extremists or criminals. The truth is that the majority of decent people will not go out of their way to fight for what’s right, but will settle for what’s convenient.

Whether it’s activists fighting for civil rights, women’s rights, LGBT rights, or the climate, it’s always been the minority starting an unpopular movement that threatens the majority. The people who don’t want change will always find a reason to criticize those who do.

Here’s an excerpt from the Time article.

“The civil rights movement was deeply unpopular at the time. Most Americans thought it was going too far and movement activists were being too extreme. Some thought its goals were wrong; others that activists were going about it the wrong way—and most white Americans were happy with the status quo as it was. And so they criticized, monitored, demonized and at times criminalized those who challenged the way things were, making dissent very costly. Most modern tributes and understandings of the movement paper over the decades when activists like Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks and scores of their comrades were criticized by fellow citizens and targeted as ‘un-American,’ not just by Southern politicians but by the federal government.”

‘Parasite’ makes history at SAG Awards

History made! Congratulations, “Parasite”!

Here’s an excerpt from the Deadline article.

Parasite might have pulled off the biggest surprise of the night Sunday, taking home the SAG Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture, beating out Bombshell, The Irishman, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, and Jojo Rabbit. This is the first time a foreign-language film has won in this category.

I was finally able to watch “Parasite” yesteday. Intense and insane. What a weird yet wonderful movie! I was so happy that it made history!

I know it’s a long shot, but I sure hope “Parasite” will win the Oscar for Best Picture.

Of religions and blind men

Every religion, whether it’s Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, and so on, is like the blind men trying to describe the elephant by touching it. And of course one of the blind men happens to be the atheist shouting, “There is no elephant!”

Me? I don’t care what your religion is, or whether you have one. I think it’s crazy to fight and kill each other because you think you alone know the absolute truth and want to force others to believe as you do.

It’s human conceit to think that this tiny speck of a world is the center of the cosmos, that any book written here could be the one, true holy scripture, and that humanity is the chosen species in the entire universe.

Me? I just have faith that the elephant exists.

How cults attract followers

On the use of the word “cult”:

“It’s a value judgment more than it is a functional word. Every prophet of every major religion can be considered a charismatic leader. In fact, the biggest joke in religious studies is that ‘cult plus time equals religion.'” – Reza Aslan, author, “Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth”

Watched the short documentary “Cults Explained” on Netflix. It’s pretty chilling to hear the accounts of survivors of different cults—including someone from the Peoples Temple cult of the infamous Jonestown massacre that claimed the lives of 918 people.


‘Invisible Planets’ and the worlds of Chinese science fiction

“Across the great cities of the world, wandering old people had begun to appear. All of them had the same features: extreme old age, long white hair and beards, long white robes. At first, before the white robe, white beard, and white hair got dirty, they looked like a bunch of snowmen. The wanderers did not appear to belong to any particular race, as though all ethnicities were mixed in them. They had no documents to prove their citizenship or identity and could not explain their own history.

“All they could do was to gently repeat, in heavily accented versions of various local languages, the same words to all passersby:

“‘We are God. Please, considering that we created this world, would you give us a bit of food?'” – Liu Cixin, “Taking Care of God”

“Invisible Planets: Contemporary Chinese Science Fiction in Translation” edited and translated by Ken Liu is the fifth book I’ve finished this year. Just 55 more to go.

This is an excellent collection of thirteen stories and three essays that made me appreciate Chinese science fiction even more.

Read this book on Scribd.

Shenzhen is cyberpunk

Fantastic “Shenzhen 2045” YouTube music video by Extra Terra that shows Shenzhen and Chongqing are already living in the future.

Would love to go back to Shenzhen one day.

My wife Ellen and I went to Shenzhen way back in 1999 as part of a day tour from Hong Kong. The city was still mostly bare and it was just shortly after the Hong Kong handover.

Obviously, I had no idea back then that it would become China’s Silicon Valley.