What I’m reading
Since I was young, I’ve felt that my books combined tell the story of my life, and they move with me as I move through the world. Here are some of my recent indulgences, and short reflections on them.
the flaw: Antonis Samarakis
I picked this up in a hostel in Athens, Greece on a recent trip. It was also chained to a few benches in the airport randomly.
Set in a time of The Regime, it explores the interactions between a number of individuals; The Manager, The Interrogator, and their suspect from the Cafe Sport. It is an easy and fun read that had me smiling often, but also reflecting on the identities we take on from society, that can be challenged by our endearing and enduring humanity (oh how flawed are we). It is also scary to imagine living in a society where we are guilty unless proving our unquestioning loyalty.
Lost Japan: ALex Kerr
I’ve had this in my library for a while now, and picked it up following the last book. Alex Kerr takes you through his own experiences and reflections on Japan’s cultural artefacts and traditions, and how they are placed in the modern context. The tea ceremony, calligraphy, theatre and dance, ancient shrines and monuments are all thoughtfully explored through a series of essays.
Zen features through-out as traditions are juxtaposed against the perils of modernisation, and a culture finding its place on the global stage. A must read for anyone curious of keen to travel to Japan.
The Book of Tea: Okakura Kakuzo
I knew tea had a central role in the ways of Japanese and Zen Buddhism, but didn’t appreciate it until reading this book. It unpacks the various nuances associated with tea in Japan; it’s history, the small symbolic practices that the western eye would just never notice in it’s haste. The cult of teaism is opened to the reader, (as is my thirst!) and the reminder that the present moment is one of infinite unfoldings, if only we slow and listen.
Apparently, this is the book that inspired Heidegger’s Being and Time, which is pretty cool. I will definitely read it again.
The Book: Alan Watts
This was the last book my colleague Natalie read before she passed away suddenly in 2018. I read this hoping to gain a glimpse of what she might have been thinking about moments before she died.
This is another book that will keep on giving with re-reads. I left months later still holding the notion that this idea of “I” is less an essence or thing, and more the sensing and experience of my surroundings and context. The punch in the ontological gut is that we are the universe experiencing itself, and in naming parts of the universe, we too easily forget that nothing can exist without all the other parts.
Frankenstein: Mary Shelley
In a time abuzz on artificial intelligence and obsessed with the possibilities of technology, the story of Dr Frankenstein and his creature is a timely reminder of how the distinct lines between us and our creations is blurred, as we shape and are reshaped by what we perceive as “other” and outside of ourselves.
I think the exploration of humanity, emotions, and what it takes to count as human, makes for great reflection on how we live our lives.
Check out Natalie Hardwicke’s recent paper exploring this further.