Doug Bruns

On My Mind

In Books, Life, Memoir, Reading, The Examined Life on February 15, 2013 at 6:00 am

A few odds & ends, things I’ve been contemplating recently:

I read about 50 books a year. I am 57. Let’s say I live another 30 years. That’s: 30 x 50 = 1500. Fifteen hundred books in front of me, given the assumptions. That’s a focus I need to get my head around.

* * *

There are 196 countries in the world. To the best of my recollection, I’ve been to about thirty-five of them. That’s about 18%. I would like more, but am satisfied. Fifty seems a nice round number, though. If wanderlust is your thing, you might want to check out The Art of Non-Conformity, Unconventional Strategies for Life, Work, and Travel. I met Chris, the unassuming force behind The Art of Non-Conformity, here in Portland a year or two ago as he was passing through on a book tour. He’s on country 193.

* * *

I’m a baby boomer. I was raised in a Mad Men world of: More, Bigger, Faster. That hasn’t worked out all that well. The future is: Less, Smaller, Slower. Not everyone agrees with my assessment and that’s fine. Eventually, however, more people rather than less must embrace the future mantra, Less, Smaller, Slower, or there will be no future to experience–or rather, no species to experience it. This is a hard thing and I worry we’ll not pull it off.  Wm. James:

“The world may be saved, on condition that its parts shall do their best. But shipwreck in detail, or even on the whole, is among the open possibilities.”

There is a blog I follow, Zen Habits, that might be of interest if you want to think more on a Less, Smaller, Slower lifestyle.

* * *

Alan Watts writes that the Zen mind is like a mirror: it reflects everything but absorbs nothing. This image has dogged me since I first encountered it. It seems much of what remains difficult, in politics, in business, in life, is the result of that which has been absorbed–what the Buddha called attachment. What is the cost-value ratio of that which we have “absorbed?”

* * *

Dostoyevsky wrote: “You must know that there is nothing higher and stronger and more wholesome and good for life in the future than some good memory, especially a memory of childhood, of home…” Our recent snow storm prompted memories of my fondest childhood experiences: towering snow drifts, King of the Hill battles atop snow mountains, bundled neighborhood friends. I said recently that, as a species, we have no calling to a natal stream, no return to a territory; yet, perhaps the territory of memory is our blessing-curse natal shadowland. There is comfort there, but like a strong drug, memory over-use is addictive and ultimately debilitating.

* * *

The world remains a wonderful–and wonderous–place. There is not so much effort required to make this observation, though it does not come freely. I subscribe to a modest discipline to maintain this perspective: “Develop your legitimate strangeness,” said poet, René Char. The world would rather we not take this course and remain with the herd. You know my thoughts on this.

Thanks for reading and your continued interest in “…the house I live in….”

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  1. Wow. A blog that you follow – That information strikes me similarly to when my therapist first shared with me that he has his own therapist; for just a moment you think among other things – maybe I need to be talking to that guy. I look forward to the day I will be reading you blog about how you have just 25 books left to read.

    • K ~ Your intuition is highly evolved, as you’ve repeatedly demonstrated. I do follow ZenHabits, which dumps into my RSS reader every morning. I don’t really follow The Art of Non-Conformity, but very much respect the fashion in which Chris has carved out a unique path in the world. The whole blogging thing is ridiculously circuitous.

      There are legions of bloggers “liking” other’s blogs so that that blogger will come back to their site and “like” them. I don’t have time for, nor interest, in that. It seems a silly thing. There are lots of posts: “How to build your blog traffic” and usually it involves going to other’s blogs and commenting and liking. I don’t see the sense in that either. That comes as no surprise to you, I’m sure. I get a handful of “likes” at the end of day and I am polite in my mid-western way and go to their page and try to say something rather than just hit a like button. It’s sort of the difference between dropping a holiday card in the mail and dropping a holiday card in the mail in which I’ve written a personal note. (And of course I don’t do either, just an example.) Not to be totally disparaging, there are some really terrific blogger/writers out there having fun and making connections and finding expression. I’m all for that. Just not my thing.

      I am resigned to this path and it rewards me in numerous ways. Principally, it is my workshop and here I can model and paint and sand and form until my project seems fitting to my vision. I don’t write for a “like” in other words. I’ve learned a lot in doing this and that is intrinsically rewarding. Robert Nozick said he wanted to have a well-constructed opinion about everything–now there is a goal. Secondly, I’ve connected with a handful of fellow thinkers and folks, people like yourself, and, being the occasionally isolated removed being that I am, find comfort in that.

      I fancy myself an essayist-writer not a blogger and the dynamic of that is hard to square in a world where bloggers “like” a page and expect to be liked in return. All that aside, there is some good stuff out there in the blogsphere. Perhaps a few good people put “the house” in that category. That’s the goal. But regardless, as you know, when a thing is important and you devote yourself to it, most often you fall short in your own eyes–but that’s a thing that keeps a hard-headed aimless roustabout coming back for more.

      Okay, as always, thanks for stopping by “the house” and chatting. We’ll have to break open the Maker’s next time. Let’s try to do that before they water down the recipe.
      d

  2. I have to clarify – I don’t want to read that u have only 25 books left, but until that time – or something like that. I think we’re on the same page – Ok thanks.

    • Thanks for that. I did a quick calculation and with only 25 books left I was crawling along in my, maybe, 86th year. Hope you stick with me though the decades. Hope I stick with ME through the decades! Can’t imagine…but then I can’t imagine being 57 either.

  3. Doug,
    Perhaps our human equivalent of the “natal stream” can pull us away from the shipwreck?
    Enjoyed today’s format. Hope to see it regularly.
    Best,
    Craig

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