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To Be Touched by Everything I’ve Found

One obvious problem with long drives is that it eats into reading time. You can solve this with audio books, of course, but then what of podcasts? As a heavy consumer of both, what do you choose? And this is where time becomes our enemy.

Long drives require epic podcast episodes, and there’s nothing more epic than Hardcore History with Dan Carlin. For the last year I’ve been saving long stretches of travel to complete Supernova of the East, which is like all of Carlin’s podcasts: devastating edge of your seat listening. You want a little perspective as you crawl along in traffic over the Tappan Zee Bridge? Listen to the details of the Battle of Okinawa as Carlin spins his magic.

What do you do when you’ve finished a series like Supernova of the East and you need to step back into the better side of humanity? Music helps. Lately I’ve been mixing classic rock and what today is known as “Americana” music (personally, I just call it music). Specifically, diving into old Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young tunes and new Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit compilations. Looking for poetry set to music? You can’t go wrong with either. As a lover of words piled together just so, Isbell does to your brain cells what a complex Cabernet does to your taste buds.

The best I can do
Is to let myself trust that you know
Who’ll be strong enough to carry your heart

– Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit, Letting You Go

When you get to a hotel room in some remote place and you’ve caught up on all those emails and administrative work, what next? Drink? Watch television? Or dive back into the books that have tapping you on the shoulder for attention? There’s a place for every form of entertainment, but in most of my travels the hotel television never gets turned on. But the Kindle app does.

After some consistent prodding by a friend of mine, I’m finally finishing Sapiens by Yusef Noah Harari. I know, what took me so long? Honestly it just kept slipping down the pile as other books jumped ahead. Regrettable, but life is about tradeoffs. What we choose to dance with in our brief time makes all the difference in how we see the world. Now that I’ve almost wrapped it up, I see what all the fuss is about.

“Even today, with all our advanced technologies, more than 90 per cent of the calories that feed humanity come from the handful of plants that our ancestors domesticated between 9500 and 3500 BC – wheat, rice, maize (called ‘corn’ in the US), potatoes, millet and barley. No noteworthy plant or animal has been domesticated in the last 2,000 years. If our minds are those of hunter-gatherers, our cuisine is that of ancient farmers.” – Yusef Noah Harari, Sapiens

Speaking of that stack of books, I put aside a couple of other books to focus on completing Sapiens. One in particular, The Blind Watchmaker, is a heavier lift than Sapiens, but compliments it well. I’ve referenced it before in the blog, and look forward to moving it to the virtual “done” pile. Combined, these two books have shaken my perspective of the world and how we got here.

“If you have a mental picture of X and you find it implausible that the human eye could have arisen directly from it, this simply means that you have chosen the wrong X.” – Richard Dawkins, The Blind Watchmaker

Inevitably I need to sprinkle in page-turner fiction, poetry and sharp left turn material to shake off reality until I can catch my breath again. Journey to Ixtlan by Carlos Castaneda was a definite left turn for me, an interesting read that got me thinking about mysticism and craving more time in the desert Southwest.

“You can do better. There is one simple thing wrong with you—you think you have plenty of time.” – Carlos Castaneda, Journey to Ixtlan

The Sea in You: Twenty Poems of Requited and Unrequited Love by David Whyte is a lovely collection of poems by one of our living masters. Whyte stirs words together with the best of them and catches my imagination with his alchemy. I’ll surely spend more time with Whyte in this blog in the near future.

“be weathered by what comes to you, like the way you
have travelled from so far away to be here, once
and now as solid and as here and as willing
to be touched as everything you have found.”
– David Whyte, The Sea in You: Twenty Poems of Requited and Unrequited Love

We collect bits of wisdom and memorable nuggets in our consumption. Does this make us better conversationalists or a faster draw on Jeopardy? Most likely, but there’s something more to it than that. To revisit the old cliche, we are the average of the five people we spend the most time with. What we consume either amplifies our biases or challenges them. I choose to be challenged, and find myself slowly stretching and building a better mind, with greater perspective, through what I listen to, watch and read.

In short, to be touched by everything I’ve found.

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