In-Between Thoughts 7.1.19:

OH MY GOODNESS when I warmed up for my sumo deadlifts, EVERYTHING IN MY LEGS WAS POPPING. The oldz are slowly taking root in my body. At least it’s still able to deadlift like a boss.

Onto gym thoughts….

I read a fantastic book last week. The Righteous Mind by Jonathan Haidt. It’s meant to be a descriptive account of different moral matrices and approaches, all developed from a set of shared moral foundations. Aka, we all care about a set of moral concerns, but how we prioritize those is very different between and consistent within groups.

It’s one of those books that makes you look at the world differently and look at others more charitably. I just love it for that. Any book that does that is going to get a 5 star Goodreads rating from me. (BETTER THAN A GLOWING NY TIMES REVIEW, THAT IS.)

What I keep thinking about is how we are such deeply moral creatures. The human species is so fascinating, and questions of nature vs. nurture so difficult to answer. Then there’s the question of whether we even have free will! Ugh, my head…

I really believe 99% of us just want what’s good. We just want what’s right. We want the best in every situation.

Where we differ is in our acceptance or rejection of new or existing facts.

I think there needs to be another kind of moral reprobate, besides that of the sociopath/psychopath variety. I don’t know what to call it, but it’s someone who doesn’t care what information is out there, they just want their existing worldview to be confirmed.

Shouldn’t morality have a built-in reality feature? What is good or right only can be called that in context. Context can only be defined by reality. Reality is articulated in information, data, facts. If you reject facts in general, you cannot be considered truly moral. You are simply someone who wants their existing opinions verified, justified. That is not morality. That is myopia, narcissism.

And I am not lobbying this charge against any “side.” We all do this to a certain degree. If we didn’t, confirmation bias wouldn’t be a thing. Facts that confirm our opinions feel good! It’s like a shot of dopamine or something. There’s probably a study about that somewhere…

But morality asks not what feels good but what is good and what is right. Vaccinations don’t feel good, but they do good. Having hard, honest conversations about contentious relationship issues doesn’t feel good, but it does good.

It’s remarkable that our brains are the products of an evolutionary process that didn’t prioritize truth. It prioritized what was advantageous for survival. No wonder morality is still hotly debated. We kind of aren’t awesome at thinking in terms of reality. We think in terms of “should” really well — instinctively, actually. Thinking in terms of “is” is much harder when our brains really, really, really like one set of assumptions that could have nothing to do with “is.” Dislodging that preference and blindness is really hard. It takes an unusual commitment to what is real, true, demonstrable. It takes a deprioritizing of what we WANT to be true (aka, our existing opinions) in favor of prioritizing what is ACTUALLY true. That is where the best and most helpful morality will come from, regardless of which side we happen to be on.

OH MY GOODNESS when I warmed up for my sumo deadlifts, EVERYTHING IN MY LEGS WAS POPPING. The oldz are slowly taking root in my body. At least it's still able to deadlift like a boss. Onto gym thoughts.... I read a fantastic book last week. The Righteous Mind by Jonathan Haidt. It's meant to … Continue reading In-Between Thoughts 7.1.19:

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Best things I read in June 2019

This was a good reading month! I really got back into my groove and started getting my reading-legs back. Here are the best things I read in June 2019.

The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion by Jonathan Haidt. THIS BOOK. I cannot stop thinking about it. Haidt presents his theory of moral foundations, talks about how we are instinctive creatures who use reason to justify our instinctive thoughts, and how and why people of different religions and political leanings tend to react to moral situations. It has clarified so much of some of my own group situations, and I love how Haidt exhorts us to think more charitably about those we disagree with and try to understand them through this lens. It is a descriptive rather than normative book, so he leaves a lot for the reader to decide on his/her own. Seriously, it’s so good and so important. READ IT.

Aristotelian Ethical Ideas in the Novels of Jane Austen” by Amanda Marie Kubic. Jane Austen AND philosophy of ethics?! This is a slam dunk top choice. We even podcasted about it!

Foundation triology by Isaac Asimov. I may have given this a three-star rating at first, but I’m constantly rethinking that. The novels have stuck with me. I think I’ll end up giving it a 4-star. Psychology… politics… sociology… philosophy…. it’s an exciting mix, even if these elements are not always treated as fully or richly as I’d hoped. The trilogy is certainly ambitious, exciting, and fresh enough for me to recommend widely.

SPQR by Mary Beard. A fantastic history of ancient Rome. I am shocked by how little I know about history, about history that has directly led to the opportunities and life I have today. Good grief. This was an engaging and lively writing of Rome’s first millennium. Definitely worth taking up some brain space.

Ira Glass on what successful people won’t tell you about failure, from JamesClear.com. This is the article that set me free to make some changes in my life, and to our podcast. SO GOOD. So helpful.

Shaped by Stories, a new podcast by Diane Neu on the children’s books that shaped her guests’ early lives. For her inaugural episode, she interviews one of my dearest friends from graduate school, Dr. Zan Cammack, and I even got to be interviewed for episode 2! I’m so excited for this podcast and to hear about all the wonderful books people loved as youngins. Listen, rate, subscribe, enjoy.

The Bread Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum. I am SO excited to learn how to bake all kinds of bread, and to develop my instincts about dough at all its different stages! It is such a mysterious world to me, and I need more carby deliciousness in my life. So, here we go. I’ve skimmed this book and look forward to diving into several recipes over the next few months.

Good Bones” by Maggie Smith. Wrenching.

What would you highly recommend from your June reads?

https://jamesclear.com/ira-glass-failure This was a good reading month! I really got back into my groove and started getting my reading-legs back. Here are the best things I read in June 2019. The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion by Jonathan Haidt. THIS BOOK. I cannot stop thinking about it. Haidt presents … Continue reading Best things I read in June 2019

Deserving honesty

Honesty is a huge bug-a-bear for me. (Is that the expression? Whatever. If it wasn’t before, it is now.) I struggle with honesty, for several reasons.

I don’t want to make people feel bad.

I don’t like being wrong.

I’m often wrong and people are harsh and judgmental about those who are wrong.

I don’t like putting myself in a vulnerable position for no good reason.

While I am firmly in the cliche camp that “honesty is (generally) the best policy” and think that, even though there do exist good and moral reasons to lie, honesty should be our default, I think the kind of honesty that is “best policy” is wholly dependent on each situation. I think there is a sliding scale of how much honesty is best, and even what kind of honest is best.

I’d go so far as to say that honesty in its pure form, as we tend to think of it, is not a virtue. (Aristotle’s virtuous mean, son!!) If I’m going to commit to that statement, I also have to admit that lying, either directly or by omission, is not purely a vice. And I don’t even need to invoke the “Should you lie to hide Jews from the Nazis?” question, because OF COURSE YOU SHOULD HOW IS THAT EVEN A QUESTION FOR THE LOVE OF PETE. For Pete’s sake.

I think that honesty should be considered with its consequences in mind. There are different consequences that should be weighed appropriately:

  • How will this revelation affect my relationship with this person?
  • How will my perfect honesty affect my job security?
  • Is this a moral issue or an issue of interpersonal consideration?
  • Will this accomplish something good, something I want, or both?
  • Even if it does hurt my relationships, is it still the right thing to do?
  • What Good will my full honesty accomplish? Is that the highest Good in this situation?

There are many answers to the above questions that would make perfect honesty wholly inappropriate, maladaptive, and harmful. I find this rather amusingly basic, because it reflects reality. We are rarely as honest as we claim to be in a normative sense. When speaking in broad generalities, we always proclaim that yes! Honesty is best and liars suck. But we lie all the time. We hide or obfuscate the truth in order to preserve our relationships, our jobs, and our general social standing. And this is good!

I can be a very judgmental person, because I can be a very insecure person. I would hate to be perfectly and openly honest about my judgments, because they so often need correcting. Part of the reason perfect honesty is not what I would ever prescribe is because I am and we are so rarely right. At least, we are so rarely perfectly right. Most of our honest opinions about others are based on woefully incomplete information, such that we should probably put more effort into refraining from forming opinions so that we then don’t have to put as much effort into refraining from expressing bad opinions. It’s not good or right to be perfectly honest about many of our thoughts, because we could end up hurting someone unnecessarily, for all the wrong reasons. (Hence why I tend towards building people up as a policy — it really does help me see them in a more truthful and real way. Everyone deserves compassion.)

Then there are truths about us, and how and when we reveal deep, personal, vulnerable truths about ourselves. Again, that is wholly dependent on the situation — in this case, the relationship. I am much more free and also much more obligated to be fully honest with my husband about my desires, needs, wants, feelings, past, and self than with anyone else. This is because I trust him more than I trust anyone else, and because we are literally building a life together. He needs to know how I am affected by things in order for us to build a happy life, and he deserves to know who he is in relationship with. I do not owe, nor do I get the same benefit from, this level of honesty with coworkers, strangers, even friends. A certain level of honesty is required for productivity, intimacy, and any kind of relationship, of course, but the depth of honesty required is wholly dependent on the nature of the situation itself. And frankly? Not everyone deserves it.

Does this mean I advocate lying? To be honest (ha), yeah. Sometimes our honesty needs to be earned, and not everyone deserves our honesty. Some people don’t deserve our honest judgments because they are better people than our insecurities recognize, and some people don’t deserve our self-revelations because they haven’t earned our trust. Sometimes lying is the best policy. Don’t @ me.

I really do think one of the best things we can develop in ourselves is a determination to be intentional and careful about the kind of honest we are in each situation, making our honesty tailored to what is deserved — deserved from us, deserved of us, and deserved by us. Calling honesty a blanket, perfect virtue does a disservice to ourselves and others.

Perhaps the only thing I’m ever perfectly honest about. I FREAKING LOVE BIG BOOKS.

Honesty is a huge bug-a-bear for me. (Is that the expression? Whatever. If it wasn't before, it is now.) I struggle with honesty, for several reasons. I don't want to make people feel bad. I don't like being wrong. I'm often wrong and people are harsh and judgmental about those who are wrong. I don't … Continue reading Deserving honesty

In defense of shame

I hold a rather controversial opinion. I think shame is good.

Seriously. I like shame. I mean, I don’t enjoy –like shame, but I appreciate-like shame. I like what it does when working rightly. And I believe it can work rightly.

This is not a popular opinion. Shame is mostly seen as a negative emotion, as an essentially harmful emotion. I truly do understand this position, and even agree with many parts of, these arguments. When shame operates wrongly, it absolutely leads to a multitude of harms, pains, and unnecessary suffering.

Iga the Night Furry judges you. Be shamed.

However, I think it’s worth picking shame apart a little, to identify what elements are actually working in our general definition of shame, to see where it actually fails us and where it can be useful, productive, even healthy.

First of all, it’s important to distinguish shame from its oft-correlate: guilt. As I see it, guilt is the bad feeling over something we’ve done. Its object (what we feel about) is the act we performed. We feel guilty about having done, said, or thought something. The emotion of guilt is pointed towards an act we are (or feel) responsible for.

By contrast, shame is the bad feeling over who we are. Its object (what we feel about) is the person who did something harmful. In other words, the object of shame is us. In shame, we don’t just feel bad about what we did; we feel bad about who we are.

Traditionally, the Western conception of shame is that it is the bad feeling that accompanies the belief that who we are deep down is unworthy of love and belonging.

I think this conception wrongly conflates two things and as such, in an otherwise good effort to excise the harmful bits, threatens to throw the baby out with the bath water.

The harmful part of shame isn’t that it is a negative estimation of ourselves. The wrong, harmful part of shame is something not necessary to it: the oft-accompanying fear that because of who we are, we are unworthy or unlovable. Shame is bad when our clear-eyed self-assessment of who we are is accompanied by the fear that we are worthless.

When not accompanied by that pernicious fear, shame is good! I think shame is an important tool in our introspection, self-assessment, and self-improvement. Sometimes our acts are not one-off “out of character” events. Sometimes our actions are very real expressions of who we are. When we acknowledge that who we are is not wholly lovable, that who we are is not perfect, that we are imperfect, hurting, limited creatures who need to work on improving ourselves (not just our actions), I think shame has a useful, healthy place. A right shame is simply that which acknowledges that part of who I am, some aspect of my stable character, is harmful and needs correcting.

I worry that a too-complete rejection of shame will lead us to fail to take our faulty selves and our character flaws seriously. Just relying on guilt, or our bad acts, could lead us simply to commit to doing something differently. Sometimes the solution requires us being something different. Shame, I think, is an important part of our perfecting, in its right place, time, and application.

I 100% agree with those who say shame, if it involves the fearful belief that we are unworthy and unlovable, is harmful. That is a belief and a fear that we can confidently reject, and that we can try to help our lived ones reject. No one is wholly unlovable. No one is wholly unworthy. Some actions deserve more serious personal or social consequences than others, but that is not an indictment against anyone’s humanity or essential deservingness of compassion and humane treatment. I truly believe everyone deserves love and compassion, no matter what they’ve done or who they are.

And yet, no one is perfect. No one is all virtue and no vice. Thus shame, if separated from fear, has a place.

So that’s my small defense of shame. My attempt to rehabilitate shame, if you will. (For the Western consciousness, that is. Other much smarter people than me have pointed out that shame operates and is perceived differently in collectivist cultures.) Fear is the real pernicious beast in our general conception of the damage of shame, and it is that fear that we should target and reject. An appropriate acknowledgement of the person we are and the parts of our self and character that need correcting? That is part and parcel of a healthy self-assessment and something we should work to foster in ourselves and in others.

I hold a rather controversial opinion. I think shame is good. Seriously. I like shame. I mean, I don't enjoy -like shame, but I appreciate-like shame. I like what it does when working rightly. And I believe it can work rightly. This is not a popular opinion. Shame is mostly seen as a negative emotion, … Continue reading In defense of shame

At the Moment 6.12.19 – Summer Lovin’

It feels so good to be easing into summer. It’s one of our last full summers in Hawaii, so I want to make the most of it. Lots of hiking, SUPing, beaching, and rosé. I think it’s all doable. And I’m currently weighted-lunging to … make my legs worthless for doing any of the above. EXCEPT FOR ROSÉ. Huh. Maybe I am a secret, unintentional wine genius…

Anyhoodle, to gym thoughts we go…

1. I’ve always been pretty independent. I don’t need a large group of friends, I always knew I’d rather be single rather than marry… well, most everyone except Chris. (My Chris or Chris Evans — I’m not TOO picky.) But after our recent trip to visit family and long-time friends and then coming back to such a socially cold environment, I finally realized how deeply my wellbeing is tied to family and friend ties. We need to live closer to people we love. Sorry, England and Switzerland. I’ll just have to visit rather than live in you like I had planned.

2. I’ve been doing A LOT of thinking about what I want my husband’s and my life to look like. I am examining many of my specific goals and am detaching from them in a big way. It was scary at first, but once I realized my biggest desire is to be happy, it felt freeing. Less and less am I making my happiness depend on specifics and more and more on generalities. Those generalities are also becoming a lot less about externals and more and more about myself: my attitudes, my beliefs, my choices. It’s dissolving some big knots in my heart. That feels good.

I’m becoming more Stoic than I intended.

3. We are doing a small podcast rebrand and I’m pretty excited! I’m nervous because it could end up feeling too much like AND NOW HERE’S WAY MORE JANA THAN YOU EVER WANTED. But I think Diane will be good about editing it to make it less obnoxious than that.

4. Chris and I are planning a Big Island trip in about 2 months and I am so excited!! He has never seen it, and he needs to. It’s a magical place. So different from Oahu.

5. I’m getting bored with my gym routine. I need to mix it up somehow. Maybe add in some HIIT at the end or create some HIIT/light weights circuit workouts. Any suggestions?

6. This year is supposed to be a bad one for hurricanes. Every season will be bad from now on, I think. Climate change is a b*tch. I guess now is the time to load up on canned soups and other pantry items just in case. And now that we get to stay in our place another year (yay!!!) we can actually store stuff without dreading packing it up and moving it to some other tiny apartment with no storage. #notcomplaining #sortofcomplaining

7. I’m thinking a lot about socially toxic environments. I have many thoughts that I’m sure I’ll want to write out in a more thorough manner, but the big one I’m thinking now is that socially toxicity is driven by selfishness. Narcissism. Myopia. Insufficient compassion. A general focus on the self above all others — pursuit of one’s well-being at the expense of others. Fixing this in people is not easy (we are certainly wired for selfishness), but I do believe it is doable. How do we foster selflessness in systems and in larger communal spaces? I’m beginning to think appropriate shaming is a useful tool. Maintaining one’s image and the respect of one’s peers is a powerful motivator.

It feels so good to be easing into summer. It's one of our last full summers in Hawaii, so I want to make the most of it. Lots of hiking, SUPing, beaching, and rosé. I think it's all doable. And I'm currently weighted-lunging to ... make my legs worthless for doing any of the above. … Continue reading At the Moment 6.12.19 – Summer Lovin’

Summer 2019 Plan

I love planning. LOVE. IT. Planning things gets me out of my sometimes-TOO-present head space, gets me excited about possibilities, and makes me feel really productive and efficient. I could plan all day!

But of course, every plan needs to have follow-through to make it a good plan. Still working on that part. Ahem.

I have a long beautiful summer stretched out before me. I’m working full-time, but no school means my weekends are my own (God bless it). I want to make the most out of my summer, in part because we are entering into our last few years in Hawaii. Our time in Hawaii is limited, and while it’s been unrelentingly difficult in some ways, it’s also been a source of great joy and exploration. And I still don’t feel like we’ve explored all we could. I want to take advantage of this wonderful opportunity to live in paradise, to have the opportunities of paradise available to me every single weekend, every holiday, every free evening.

So here’s a plan I made so as not to lose sight of the things I need to get done, the things I want to get done, and the things I will be so happy I didn’t forget to do once September (and the end to our time in Hawaii) rolls around.

  • Relearn French. This is for the schoolin’. I have a workbook to go through, so I’m going to spend Saturday mornings studying at my favorite local coffee shop. Wait. Do some people just never study at all once school ends?!
I’m so basic.
  • Plan out our podcast episodes for the upcoming semester. I have a feeling I will be SLAMMED again this next semester, and I want to give myself as much time and space to focus on school as I can. I want to do well. (Last semester did not feel very good.) Diane and I also have some exciting ideas for the podcast, and I want to make sure I give myself enough time to prep episodes so they are actually good!
  • Start writing little bits of a second book. I have a short little book in mind (four chapters) that I’ve been noodling on for six months. I’d like to start getting thoughts down on paper, but with no pressure to produce anything polished. That’s future me’s task.
I found this in my MIL’s living room! My heart swelled. And yes, I realize I put the spine title on upside down. #lessonslearnedforthenextbook
  • Discover a new awesome beach. We haven’t done much exploring lately. I’d like to do more of that.
It’s hard to look for a new beach when we’ve already found perfection in Waimanalo Bay Beach. Nonetheless, we will soldier on.
  • Hike Crouching Lion. A Hawaii Living bucket list hike for me! Thinking next weekend, even…
  • Visit the Big Island with my SIL and BIL. We have a tentative trip planned (YAY MORE PLANNING!), and I want to make sure we actually do it. Chris has never seen the Big Island, and he needs to go. The two of us definitely need and deserve a Hawaii staycation on another island, and my in-laws are a blast.
Mauna Kea from the plane. If you squint, you can see the telescopes!!
  • Learn a Chopin piece and a Debussy piece from scratch. Chris gave me two gorgeous piano books for my birthday, and I want to learn something new-to-me from each. I have my list of finalists for the pieces, so now to narrow down and devote 20 minutes of practice per day per piece. Perhaps while dinner cooks (or while the hubs makes dinner??!). Perhaps over a glass of rose. ROSE, DID YOU SAY…
  • Find my favorite rose. WHY DID I LIST THE MOST IMPORTANT ITEM LAST. My listing priorities are whack.
This was a strong (rim shot!) rose out of the gate. I may have already accomplished this goal.

What is on your summer list??

I love planning. LOVE. IT. Planning things gets me out of my sometimes-TOO-present head space, gets me excited about possibilities, and makes me feel really productive and efficient. I could plan all day! But of course, every plan needs to have follow-through to make it a good plan. Still working on that part. Ahem. I … Continue reading Summer 2019 Plan

The pain of hope

WHY IS HOPE AT TIMES SO REFRESHING AND AT TIMES SO BRUTALLY PAINFUL. WHAT IS UP WITH THAT.

Psychologist Erik Erikson (creative naming, Erikson elders) has argued that instilling hope in our children is one of the most important tasks of a parent. Hope is affiliated with security, confidence, and a good sense of self. One study argues for hope as an indicator of psychological strength (and thus a component of well-being) in adolescents.

It seems that hope is valuable for youth and in our youth. Great?

I find sunrises so hopeful and lovely. The bastards.

I wonder how that holds into adulthood. It seems like the effect should be the same, but lately I’ve found that practicing hope is exhausting and the times it pops up unintentionally seem always to be followed by a painful jolt of the reminder that “um, this will end badly because it HAS ALWAYS ended badly.”

Is hope a virtue? Is it an emotion?* Is it both? When thinking about hope as an optimistic view towards the achievement of our goals, it seems it can function as both. It can be something we intentionally do (“I choose to believe this goal is still possible for me”) and also can be a rather instinctive feeling that motivates us to continue working towards that goal.

But what happens when hope keeps us focused on a goal that… maybe we shouldn’t be focused on? That is, in all or in our particular reality, too far out of reach? And how do we know when a goal is attainable, and thus we should “put on” hope in order to power through to the achievable (good) goal, and how do we know when it’s time to “abandon hope” because the goal it’s been pushing us towards is unrealistic, or no longer serves our highest well-being?

Aka, how do we know when hope is being an A+ wingman or just an asshole?

I guess like all things, hope is best measured against what we know of the goal itself. If what we are trying to achieve or what we want to happen proves itself to us time and again that it is unrealistic (some people will always be untrustworthy; some situations cannot be transcended in the ways we wish they could), hope can be more damaging than good. It can be painful, and can even keep us bound to something painful for far longer than is necessary or healthy.

If the goal is still good and attainable and desirable, then hope is a good thing. Virtuous hope must take into account its particular situation and charge or retreat accordingly.

(Sometimes I really think Aristotle’s Golden Mean is the zenith of virtue ethics. We peaked early.)

If you can’t tell, I’m facing some possible redirecting of my goals and pursuits in life. It’s unnerving, and it makes my relationship with hope complicated. Sometimes I get angry when I feel hope welling up — “WE’VE BEEN HERE BEFORE AND WE KNOW HOW THIS TURNS OUT. WHY ARE YOU STILL PRETENDING OTHERWISE.” At other times, I feel relief when I feel hope welling up — we have no way of knowing how the future will turn out, so hope is a reminder that the way I see it playing out in my head is not the guaranteed or only way things could turn out.

Maybe the “solution” to the pain of hope has less to do with evaluating the attainability of my goals and more to do with learning to hold my specific goals more lightly in my hands. To keep specific goals from meaning too much to my overall judgment of the goodness of my life and self.

Maybe what I need to do is find better ways to value myself and my life and thus redefine the purpose of my goals — specific achievements intended to, but not indispensable to, increase of my well-being. Simply put, maybe I should realize that my goal is not “to get a PhD,” or “to get a promotion,” or “to have kids,” but simply “to be happy.” Because that’s really what I’m aiming for. All those goals are things I want because I think they will make me happy. So perhaps if I can hold those specific, external goals more lightly, seeing them as “possibly but not certainly making me happier” and being willing to redirect my efforts when something shows it will not do that larger thing.

Maybe my hope should simply be tied to the fact that I know I can contribute to my own happiness, that I am the biggest contributor to my own happiness. Maybe the Stoics are right and I should focus mostly on understanding and regulating my own attitudes and internal states, since that’s all I can “control” anyway. That’s a huge adjustment, and one that will probably show itself to be needed in many new ways big and small as my internalized, subconscious goals reveal themselves. The up-welling of hope is a good indication that I have made some goal important to me, and at least I can take that opportunity to understand myself better and evaluate (and perhaps change) the goals I have internalized as being crucial to my value and well-being. Those opportunities are always worth taking advantage of.

*Thinking of C.R. Snyder’s cognitive model of hope (1994). He defines emotions as mental and bodily expressions of our belief in how a situation or person affects our ability to meet our desired goals.

WHY IS HOPE AT TIMES SO REFRESHING AND AT TIMES SO BRUTALLY PAINFUL. WHAT IS UP WITH THAT. Psychologist Erik Erikson (creative naming, Erikson elders) has argued that instilling hope in our children is one of the most important tasks of a parent. Hope is affiliated with security, confidence, and a good sense of self. … Continue reading The pain of hope

The best things I read in May

I know, I know… another reading listicle. If I were more on top of reading things, I could space these out more. Alas.

May was a good month! I was able to read for fun for half of it, and finish some good stuff. So without further ado, let’s dive in.

For your to-read pile:

Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion by David Hume. Look. You’re just going to have to be ok with the fact that Hume is going to show up on my “recommended reads” list for, like, the next forevers. This book is amazing. It’s a series of dialogues representing three different views on religion. Hume’s brilliant skeptical arguments shine here, even though the conclusion is anything but concrete. All believers and skeptics should read this and take seriously his charges. He may not be right about them all, but they are excellent points to make.

The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams. Ok, real talk: this book is everything to me. It’s the inspiration for my book, makes me cry every time, and just contains so much beauty and truth about the human experience that I find it almost overwhelming. This will forever be one of my favorite books. To me, it is perfect and Real.

Inside Out: Emotional Theory Comes Alive by Evan Puschak. I know, I know: THIS ISN’T A READ. It’s a watch. But it’s fantastic. If you like the movie, you’ll enjoy Puschak’s analysis of its theoretical underpinnings. Enjoy nerding out a little over the delightfulness of Pixar.

The best fan fic theory on GoT. Period.

Speaking of Game of Thrones (and a finale I just have so many feels and thinks about), here’s a fantastic Twitter thread on why the last few seasons have felt so different from previous seasons. I can’t stop thinking about it. Does Martin truly have the narrative chops to reign in a pantsing story, in a way satisfactory to loyal fans? I’m actually not sure. And I’m not sure there’s a way to conclude the series without resorting to plotting. Anyhoodle, Breaking Bad is now officially the best show ever DON’T @ ME WITH RIDICULOUS OPINIONS TO THE CONTRARY BECAUSE YOU ARE JUST WRONG.

So there you have it. My best reading and thinking bits of the last month. Let me know if you check out any of the above!

I know, I know... another reading listicle. If I were more on top of reading things, I could space these out more. Alas. May was a good month! I was able to read for fun for half of it, and finish some good stuff. So without further ado, let's dive in. For your to-read pile: … Continue reading The best things I read in May

April books-I-started-and-still-need-to-finish (you have to finish books to have favorites)

Just in time to still be in May! Oof, and now I need to start corralling my May reads. BLARGH. Anyway, as much as I have enjoyed starting a habit of sharing my “favorite reads” lists per month with y’all, April was filled with articles and half-read books. My “reading” shelf on Goodreads is waaaaay too long, even considering the number of books I tend to read at any given time.

HEY. I have varying interests and prefer to be in the mood for every particular book I pick up, when I have the luxury of doing so. SUE ME.

So in lieu of a “favorite things I read in April” list, I give you: the “Books I started in April and still need to finish” list.

A Treatise of Human Nature by David Hume. In our Hume class, we skipped the last book in Dialogues to read his Enquiry on morals. (Book III dealt with morals, but apparently not as well.) I’d like to read Book III now, especially now that I have some experience with his moral philosophy, and see how Hume developed his ideas further in the Enquiry.

A Progress of Sentiments by Annette Baier. A book on Hume! Fresh! Baier emphasizes Hume’s deeply literary approach to philosophy and tries to tease out a sort of narrative theme in Dialogues. I remained a touch skeptical after the first half of her book, but again — I need to read the rest to really get what she’s on about. My professor says this book should be considered a classic, so I think I’m the one needing adjusting.

A Yogacara Buddhist Theory of Metaphor by Roy Tzohar. I had good intentions to read this for a paper I wrote for my Buddhism class, and those intentions were not fulfilled. Tragic. I’m honestly really looking forward to reading this, as I love metaphor and love analyzing language. It will be fascinating to read about it in the context of a specific and still relatively unfamiliar-to-me Buddhist school of thought.

Nagarjuna’s Middle Way by Mark Siderits. I read many bits of this, but not all. I get a little annoyed with the “middle way” school of thought (it tends to devolve into nothingness and just wishy washy clever avoidance of committing to anything), but it’s interesting in the hands of a brilliant thinker like Nagarjuna.

Paving the Great Way: Vasubandhu’s Unifying Buddhist Philosophy by Jonathan C. Gold. I don’t have much to say about this book. I’m not terribly into it so far, but again — it was assigned for class, and Vasubandhu is a brilliant thinker. I owe it to him and to the field of Buddhist philosophy in general to give it a spin.

Self no Self? edited by Mark Siderits (this is from last year, so I NEED TO FINISH THIS SELECTION OF ESSAYS ALREADY. IT IS MAKING ME CRANKY TO SEE IT ON MY “READING” LIST EVERY DAY OF EVERY WEEK OF EVERY MONTH)

Oh, and I also need to relearn French. I ordered a work book from Amazon, so now I have something to do with my Saturday mornings! I don’t do “down time” all that well. This will be a very learn-y summer and I’m excited.

Just in time to still be in May! Oof, and now I need to start corralling my May reads. BLARGH. Anyway, as much as I have enjoyed starting a habit of sharing my "favorite reads" lists per month with y'all, April was filled with articles and half-read books. My "reading" shelf on Goodreads is waaaaay … Continue reading April books-I-started-and-still-need-to-finish (you have to finish books to have favorites)

AOV updates: once more, with feeling

Well, Season 4: Emotions has come to an end. What an emotional journey it has been. Diane had to remind me to talk about some happy emotions and not just the sad ones, so… apparently I’m a bit of a downer. She is the Joy to my Sadness!

Accurate.

Anyway, here’s what you missed if you haven’t subscribed here or here (um, what is stopping you?!):

Interested in a little feminist philosopher rumble in the jungle? Have we got the goods for you. We also talk about rather dark emotions — grief and depression — but we try to keep it as light as possible.

Interested in hearing a discussion that was supposed to be about love and fear, but ended up mostly just being about love (because LOVE!)? We have you covered. Just skip through the first five minutes if tales of MEGLADON SPIDERS give you the heebie jeebies. Diane, our thoughts are with you. I will never ever ever visit your home.

How about a little philosophy vs. psychology?? It’s kind of the sweet spot for where my interests lie, so I was into it. We talk about resentment and empathy, two emotions I am VERY familiar with (LIKE EVERY DAY OF MY LIFE), so it felt a little soul-bare-y. Also… we have a minor love fest for Keanu Reeves, because it’s Keanu.

Finally, if you can handle a whole episode of JUST ME (don’t worry, it’s only 10 minutes), take a listen to our Interlude that wraps up the season with a little motivating pep talk about not letting others make you feel bad about your emotional life. Feel your truth. Let that feeling lead you to a greater understanding of your truth. Modify your truth when needed. Boom.

And because I’ve been a busy beaver, here are some other updates and resources:

  • I’ve made some new additions to our AOV Podcast blog. New posts, new reading suggestions, new videos on the theoretical underpinnings of Pixar movies. Get it.
  • My Recorded page for (less consistent, but earnest) updates and an accessible list for perusing episodes and themes.
  • I’m trying to be better about posting to our podcast Twitter account: @aovpodcast. Give me a shout if you read or listen so we can follow you!
  • Not mine, but something I found: a cool list of “Deep Experience” novels on Goodreads. Some great reads here, many with a deep and complex emotional component. Fitting.

Thanks for listening, thanks for reading, thanks for being awesome. Lots of love to you all!

Well, Season 4: Emotions has come to an end. What an emotional journey it has been. Diane had to remind me to talk about some happy emotions and not just the sad ones, so... apparently I'm a bit of a downer. She is the Joy to my Sadness! Accurate. Anyway, here's what you missed if … Continue reading AOV updates: once more, with feeling