Sunday, August 24, 2008

A little history of the World

One reason I decided to give up working a regular job was the hope that I would have time to read a lot more. (There were many reasons, but this was a contributor.) On days when I am at home, I am managing to read about 4-5 hours a day.

Of course, this amount of reading is grossly inadequate. It is inadequate because my mountain of ignorance is made up of huge boulder-sized gaps in my knowledge.

No one seems to be mentioning this, but one side effect of traveling is that it serves to cast my ignorance into sharp, sharp relief. Every country and city I visit reminds me of how little of history and general knowledge I know. I go to Egypt and realize that I have only juvenile knowledge of their 3000 year civilization; in Mongolia I realize that I know hardly anything of the conquests of the great Genghis Khan; and every country seems to have Nobel laureates I haven’t even heard of, catchy folk songs I haven’t ever listened to. The list is endless.

One small candle of flame against this huge darkness is the book I am now reading. It is called ‘A Little History of The World’ by E.H. Gombrich. It was written in 1935, when the author was just 26 years old. The English version came out fairly recently. In under 300 pages and 40 chapters he manages to succinctly cover the entire history of the world. Since Gombrich’s publisher intended it for children, the book is immensely accessible.

Here’s what Patricia Schroeder says about the book: "Imagine the full story of human habitation on our planet being told in such flowing prose that you want to read it out loud. If you can't imagine that, read A Little History of the World and experience it!"

Check it out.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Leisure Class on both ends

There is a seductive quote in Jon Krakauer's book 'Eiger Dreams.' (That book is, in my opinion, just as readable as his very well-known Into Thin Air.)
A guy, who just lives to ski and rock-climb claims that
"At either end of the economic spectrum lies a leisure class"
The idea of people enjoying leisure (rich in time) even while being on the financially-poor end of the spectrum fascinated me. I remember mentioning this sentiment to SR, a close friend and a colleague of mine at the time.
"Ram, this sounds very cool but is not true, man" he insisted. He was probably right in his pragmatism.

But even now, after all these years, I wonder if there isn't something to that quote after all.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Me? That can't possibly apply to me. Or can it?

Sunday Neurosis

Victory Frankl (author of Man's Search for Meaning, creator of logotherapy) is thought to have coined the term Sunday Neurosis referring to a form of depression resulting from an awareness in some people of the emptiness of their lives once the working week is over.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Where does the time go?

Now that I have not worked for over a month, this has been the longest break I've had since the summer I finished my Bachelor's degree and headed for grad school 18 years ago.

In the month that I didn't work, my wife and I have been on the road for well over 3 weeks, traveling around. The travel has been pretty hectic, even though we are attempting to slow it down some. (We've never stayed in the same city or hotel for more than 2 nights in a row.) Therefore, it still doesn't feel like a real break.

The lesson for me has been that there isn't as much free time lying around as one would imagine. And that I have to consciously plan activities into my days if I don't want the time to be simply frittered away.