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September NonRequired Reading List
Contemplify / NRR #70
To Generalize is to be an Idiot. To Particularize is the Alone Distinction of Merit.
— William Blake
The massive luminous presence of the ocean befits the absurdity of reality1.
The ocean is an endless parade. A rotating string of onlookers are enchanted by the spectacle. Organized by the ocean’s labor force, the energy is self-collected and rises to form waves that rush towards a distant strand. This raw elegance can move us2 to terror. The waves charge like wild aqua equines panting to leap over invisible hurdles. Yet they never make it. Tripping, they toss their unbridled selves tail over end in a flurry of foam and unmet desire. Breaking, crashing, and dispersing. Without embarrassment the ocean rebounds and recollects herself to process before new shores.
In this unmeasurable vastness, these crude collisions display a power that grinds new edges into creation. Shifting shorelines mimic nascent waves. Sand and water do not meet in stasis. They are absorbed in the rough and fleeting pageantry, masking the ache for something that lasts.
The ocean is a heavy drinker. She’ll tell you otherwise, but the empty cans tossed on shore each morning betray her. She hit the bottle pretty hard after high school when the moon, her unrequited love, moved so far away. An unbearable loss that birthed an endurable longing. Each night she tries to mute it by drowning it. When the ocean has her fill, she whistles across the surface to stretch her blue sequin gown taut to flatter the moon in her reflection.
Flirting with the moon is easy. She steals glances most nights and they do have much in common. Both are widely sought after muses. Countless poets have slung wishful words their ways3. Reverence for the unattainable is easy to come by. Wizened by poets, and ever the pursuer, the ocean recites Lorca until the moon blushes full. The cooly distant moon goads the ocean’s unquenchable thirst when full. But the moon is a rascal. The moon can only flash lust and mirror false consummation on the distant body of the ocean.
Like the stolid moon, the ocean plays in cold immersive darkness, but her depths are real and full of life. She weeps to endure.
This is the moment the onlookers recognize the difference between the two. Get yourself lucky, say the explorers, bear this position in real time. Glass your eyes. Cast your gaze upon the unreachable horizon, bowed by the density of longing covering a reflective vastness, barely able to hold the weight of this reality.
Kneel in this weeping sanctuary. Row out on splintered oars. Become forever unshored.
September NonRequired Reading List
How To Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy by Jenny Odell (Get it at the Public Library or Bookshop)
This book has tracked me. The title speaks to my sleepy side. I first read a chapter with my community of formation. And then a thoughtful op-ed sniffed at it. I gave in and picked it up. Jenny Odell charmed me immediately when she offered that this is actually a book of activism hidden under the cover of self-help book.
The attention economy is the bullseye that most cultural critics target with their dull-witted darts, Odell steps back to look at the whole dart board. The motivations that compel us to create, consciously or unconsciously, the connected culture that feeds our desires. There are plenty of critiques of the social norms of social media, tech companies, and a certain former President. What I appreciated most about Odell’s book was the positive inclinations towards communities of proximity, valuing work that maintains steady nourishment, and that the cost of examining others comes at the cost of self-reflection.
How To Do Nothing is for those who are in need of a playground of thought to exercise and experiment with how to cultivate their attention with care.
The Backyard Adventurer by Beau Miles (Get it at the Public Library or Bookshop)
Beau Miles has been a lot of things. Worldwide adventurer, filmmaker, university professor and so forth. In this current season he continues a bent paddle approach to life as a father, husband, and YouTuber.4 Over the pandemic I watched every single video put out by Beau Miles. He’s a true citizen. Beau Miles is an Australian filmmaker who captures his adventures with wit and a vulnerable respect to all that he encounters. The natural genius behind Miles is his commitment to turn the assumptions of YouTube egomania, extremism, and boorish celebrities into a medium of genuine inspiration in the backyard of his locale. I fancied myself a backyard adventurer not too long ago, and Miles resurrects that feeling in his jaunts. Miles records his attempts at human-powered commutes to work by foot and by kayak (a hearty 56 miles / 90 km) or when over the course of 24 hours he runs 1 mile at the top of each hour around his neighborhood while fixing a neighbor’s mailbox, picking up trash, and planting trees. This is just a smattering of his backyard adventures.
The Backyard Adventurer is a collection of these stories with the kind of details that remind that how you approach life is of equal importance to how you live it. Beau Miles is the friend who slaps your back, buys you a drink, and waxes poetic about the day he just had. May it inspire you to do the same.
Courting the Wild Twin by Martin Shaw (Get it at the Public Library or Bookshop)
My pal sent me an essay by mythologist Martin Shaw (read / listen here). The ancient quality of his roughshod poetics, tenor, and heavy doses of charisma drew me in. There was an unforced eccentricity to him you see in those who have skirted normalcy by taking a peek at mystery. This same pal sent me a link to Shaw’s book Courting the Wild Twin.5
In Courting the Wild Twin Shaw tells two Fairy Tales on the wild twin. In each we meet again the part of us (aka the wild twin) that we have shielded from the world so we can fit into pleated Dockers. The metaphorical romp through these stories brings the hearer to discovery. The wild twin beckons for your attention and you must romance your own twin with creative courage.
What can you learn from your wild twin? For starters the lessons of wildness and risk are needed in an era when scores of tragedies line up on newsfeeds to mock the limits of your compassion. Business as usual will create more of the same. The wild twin invites the unknown and reinforces threadbare courage. Draw your wild twin out from hiding and into a rowdy friendship.
Courting the Wild Twin is for those readers rousing for more and requiring a myth to shelter a larger narrative in the chaos of our world.
Season Three carries the scent of solitude. Thanks to the big souls of Red Pine, Paula, Huston, and Todd Davis. You can find the complete list here.
Here There Are Woods, Foxes (Season 3 trailer)
Arts & Articles
LEISURE RODEO BY SCOTT BALLEW (Leisurerodeo.com) Scott Ballew is a true blue songwriter with a distinctive warbling voice. He has a knack for a turn of phrase that etches philosophy into styrofoam. Songs of sorrows that buck it all to stare into the lyrical fire. Scott Ballew’s second album Leisure Rodeo is out now. You can hear my conversation with him after the release of his first album back in 2021.
PHOTO OF LIFETIME (Science Explorist) West Texas storm chaser Laura Rowe captured the picture of a lifetime.
WERNER HERZOG IS 80 AND LOVING IT (IndieWire) Auteur (did I get that right?) Werner Herzog is singular type of person. His creative path has been shelled by the usual obstacles but he soldiers on. I respect the tenacity of this octogenarian. Read this interview to gain perspective on his approach to fear, death, and legacy. Hint: he couldn’t care less.
CYNTHIA L. HAVEN ON RENE GIRARD, CZESLAW MILOSZ, AND JOSEPH BRODSKY (EP. 157) (Conversations with Tyler) The podcast host is economist Tyler Cowen. No one interviews like him; sharp, specific, and smart questions. I was smitten by recent guest Cynthia L. Haven, a scholar on Girard, Milosz, and Brodsky. Haven keeps peeling open the conversation back beyond the intellect foundation to peck at groupthink, conformity, and mimetic desire. Her call for a renewal of the humanities at the end was the icing. I sought out her book, An Invisible Rope immediately after listening to this conversation.
May the ocean’s longing
fortify your own.
Kneel in this weeping sanctuary.
Row out on splintered oars.
Become forever unshored.
Rowing under the rascal moon,
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Like a ceaseless table grace before a Happy Meal.
Shorelines are the meeting grounds of the valorous, wonderstruck, and the foreboding watchers of the ocean’s processions. The brave are drawn out, sandblasted explorers who risk their fortune to fine tune ways of channelling this momentum. Curious onlookers stand reverently in the sand, hands pocketed. The gutless offer strained thoughts and prayers through coffee-stained smiles.
It is a little known truth that these poets sustained life-threatening paper cuts from fingers rapidly bounding through weathered thesauruses in search of serrated words to exact the beauty they behold.
If you read this month’s previous recommendation this should come to you as a shocker.
Available in audio or in text, but if you have heard the cadence of Shaw’s voice, you will end up going for the audio.