Non-fiction books

You belong to Universe

mastery

I’m reading Mastery, the latest book from author Robert Greene (author of the classic book The 48 Laws of Power).  On page 42, Greene writes about Buckminster Fuller.  A depressed Fuller was on his way to commit suicide when he heard a voice from within himself that said:

“From now on you need never await temporal attestation to your thought.  You think the truth.  You do not have the right to eliminate yourself.  You do not belong to you.  You belong to Universe.  Your significance will remain forever obscure to you, but you may assume that you are fulfilling your role if you apply yourself to converting your experiences to the highest advantage of others.”

I am not sure what the first line means.  What is “temporal attestation”?  From the context, I guess it means that you do not have to wait around to see whether or not your thought is true; whatever you think right now is true, based on your experiences.  It may not be true in the sense that it may not correlate with reality, but it is still valid in and of itself.  If you gain new experiences, as you inevitably will, you are obligated to form new thoughts based on them, not to refuse them in the name of pride or fear.  That’s my Karl Popper-ish guess, at least; it may be something both deeper and simpler than that.

“You do not have the right to eliminate yourself.  You do not belong to you.  You belong to Universe.”  This certainly struck me.  There are people who have had powerful conversions after suicide attempts who also mention learning that their life is not their own to eliminate.  And certainly much of today’s political and spiritual misery probably arises from the idea that each man belongs only to himself, and not to “Universe” (or God as we might say).

While a man’s significance in this life may forever be obscure to him, I don’t think it will remain that way forever.  I believe part of the comfort and joy of Heaven, that feeling of being “at home”, comes from being able to see oneself fully, and to see the connection between oneself and the rest of existence.  However, I cannot confirm this.  (Yet.)

The “advantage” of others seems a subjective thing.  I can easily imagine someone wanting from me something I cannot or will not give, claiming it would be to his advantage, whether it be my money, my approval of something I cannot approve, my time, my agreement, or my indifference to his words and actions.  That is, you do not get to decide for others or for the Universe (God) what would be to your advantage; it is not merely the fulfillment of your latest natural desire, such as money or the adoration of others.  To know what would be to the “advantage” of others is the wisdom we ask the Universe for, in the name of and for the sake of the Universe.

Anyway, the main principle I take away from this is that I am not living my life for the sake of itself.  While working on my novel or any of my projects, it’s easy to get sidetracked daydreaming of fame and fortune, wanting a piece of the power that the “big names” in the entertainment industry have.  And, on the business side of things, that’s how the world encourages one to think.  Money and power are the validators, and the foundations for getting anything done.  But that’s not where the fulfillment in a project comes from.

It also makes me that much more interested in the life and works of good old Bucky.

By S P Hannifin, ago
Non-fiction books

A couple interesting books coming

Here are a couple non-fiction books I’m looking forward to this fall:

Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder
by Nassim Nicholas Taleb

antifragile

Taleb, author of Fooled by Randomness and The Black Swan (if you don’t have them, I order you to go buy them and read them now), finally has his new book ready.  Antifragile looks like it will continue Taleb’s variations on the theme of living among complex systems, this time perhaps attempting to answer the question: how can we use randomness (unpredictable chaotic systems) to make our lives better?  To make our lives stronger?  To make our systems non-fragile, that is, “antifragile”?  Looks like a very interesting book; I look forward to seeing what Taleb has to say on the subject.

Mastery
by Robert Greene

mastery

Greene, author of The 48 Laws of Power (if you don’t have it, I order you to go buy it and read it now), at long last returns to the bookstore bookshelves with a new book.  Amazon’s description reads:

What did Charles Darwin, middling schoolboy and underachieving second son, do to become one of the earliest and greatest naturalists the world has known? What were the similar choices made by Mozart and by Caesar Rodriguez, the U.S. Air Force’s last ace fighter pilot? In Mastery, Robert Greene’s fifth book, he mines the biographies of great historical figures for clues about gaining control over our own lives and destinies. Picking up where The 48 Laws of Power left off, Greene culls years of research and original interviews to blend historical anecdote and psychological insight, distilling the universal ingredients of the world’s masters.

There’s a [stupid] line in the film Good Will Hunting in which Will says something like: “Beethoven looked at a piano and could just play.”  Mastery of a craft can often seem like some inborn natural talent.  In fact, that’s where the word “talent” comes from.  But, as books like The Genius in All of Us (another book I highly recommend) and The Talent Code show, no one is just born with innate expertise; it all must be learned and practiced.  (Sometimes the experts themselves have trouble explaining how they do things, which perpetuates the myth that it’s just innate.  Even as I type here on a keyboard, I could not explain “how” I type; I just do, and my motions have become automatic with practice.  That doesn’t mean I was born with any innate abilities that lend themself to quick typing.)

Anyway, I’m hoping Mastery will not just be a variation on The Genius in All of Us.  But even if it is, I’d love to read it.  Definitely looking forward to this one.

By S P Hannifin, ago