Thoughts on: The Life of Greece by Will Durant

When I first posted my goal of making Ancient Greece the focus of my studies this year, I someone cautioned me that it might be too much to deal with in such a short time.

It was only after getting a few hours into this book that I understood what she/he meant: itโ€™s impossible to take all this in within a year. It would take a decade to cover only one aspect of Greek civilization fully; lifetimes to cover it all! Ramming everything into my head was like trying to catching a waterfall with a bucket.

I changed my approach to the book and saw it as a buffet. I got a small taste of everything and noted down where I wanted to explore more.

Now Iโ€™m looking for further reading on:


๐Ÿ“– Pericles, โ€œthe most complete man Greece ever produced.โ€ Big words. I want to know more.

๐Ÿ“– Diogenes, he lived the cynic lifestyle to the fullest. Fascinating man! Did you know that there is a condition known as Diogenes Syndrome? Itโ€™s characterized by extreme self-neglect, social withdrawal and lack of shame.

๐Ÿ“– Sparta: The crazy strict and tough lifestyle intrigues me. Is David Goggins actually the last Spartan?

๐Ÿ“– Archimedes: โ€œDonโ€™t disturb my circles!โ€. From Levers, to Pi, to the formula for calculating the surface area of a sphere, but also: war machines! I need to know more about this genius.

๐Ÿ“– The March of the Ten Thousand: Durant calls it “one of the great adventures in human history”. ๐Ÿง


๐Ÿ“ Schliemann: A crazy archeologist, obsessed with The Iliad, and determined to uncover Troy. Which he did!


๐Ÿ’ญ ๐Ÿคทโ€โ™‚๏ธ Checking one book of the Reading List and you end up with an even longer list…


โš–๏ธ VERDICT:

โ€œGreek civilization is alive. it moves in every breath of mind that we breath. So much of it remains that none of us in one lifetime could absorb it all.โ€

As I reach the summary and conclusion of this book Iโ€™m in awe and my eyes tearing up in gratitude for this beautiful account of life in Greece.

4/5


Whose your favorite among the ancient Greeks? โ‰๏ธ๐Ÿค”

For more great Non Fiction– check out my Reading Lists

Mini Review – Our Oriental Heritage by Will Durant (Part 4) – The Far East

My longest book to date has reached its end, and this is just the 1st volume (out of 11) in the The Story of Civilization series by Will Durant. This last part focused on ancient China and Japan.

Was it worth it? We are talking about a 50 hour audiobook. Yes, I think so! Does the #sunkcostfallacy play a role in this answer? It probably does! Iโ€™ve suffered through a lot of dry talk about pottery and poetry to reach this point.


๐Ÿ“ The feet of girls at age 7 where compressed with tight bandages to prevent their further growth, so that the mature lady might walk with a mincing step erotically pleasing to the men.

In the prescence of a lady the word shoe was taboo.๐Ÿฆถ ๐Ÿ‘ 

๐Ÿ“ To know the โ€˜Daoโ€™ is to surpress ones knowledge. โ€œWe have to forget our theories and feel the facts.โ€

๐Ÿ“ Confucianism: โ€œOnly in Christianity and in Buddhism can we find again so heroic an effort to transmute into decency the natural brutality of men.โ€

๐Ÿ“ Chinese civilization in 2 words: Philosophy and Porcelain.

๐Ÿ“ โ€œBeards where small and always shaved, but seldom of the owner thereof.โ€ oh, I cannot but LOVE Will Durants prose and elegant summaries of the smallest aspects of civilization. ๐Ÿ˜‚

๐Ÿ“ Chinese writing: โ€œThe same character is read as different sounds and words in different localities.โ€ I remember seeing Chinese and Japanese students, who where unable to communicate verbally, communicate through written messages when I studied in Japan. ๐Ÿคฏ

๐Ÿ“ When the revolution raged they forgot the old sages words. โ€œHe who thinks the old embankments useless and destroys them is sure to suffer from the desolation caused by overflowing water.โ€


โญ๏ธ TAKEAWAY:

โ€œThe accumulation of wealth in the hands of the minority is no doubt a universal and apparently unfailing concomitant of civilization.โ€ We see this play out over and over again.

Iโ€™m still green but now I at least have a slight understanding of Confucianism and rudimentary understanding of the Chinese and Japanese culture and history.

3/5

Which books is the longest book you read? ๐Ÿค”

Check out my READING LISTS for more great reads!

Thoughts on: โ€œMartin Lutherโ€ by Eric Metaxas

Luther rejected the practices of the Roman Catholic Church and the practice of selling indulgences (get out-of-jail-free cards for purgatory, basically.) in particular. Thereby he started the era known to us as the Reformation.


Letโ€™s jump right into the notes:

๐Ÿ“ He was about to become a law student when he got trapped in a lighting storm. Praying for his life he uttered: โ€œIch will ein Munk werdenโ€ (โ€œI will become a monkโ€). The storm calmed and it was so.

๐Ÿ“ 1476 the market for indulgences where expanded beyond the living. Now you could pay for the sins of the dead too!

๐Ÿ“ Luther heroically posting his truths on the wooden church door in Wittenberg is fiction made in hindsight. What Luther actually posted was an invitation to debate….which no one attended.

๐Ÿ“ Two things fueled the Reformation: the printing press and Luther writing in German (instead of Latin). Lutherโ€™s writing spread like wildfire which was unintentional. It was as if a hastily written email to a friend was accidentally forwarded to a major news corporation.

๐Ÿ“ โ€œA simple layman armed with scripture is to be believed above a Pope or council without it.โ€

๐Ÿ“ โ€œThis life is the shithouse compared to the glories of heavenโ€ – Luther ๐Ÿ˜Ž

๐Ÿ“ FUNNY STORY: A nobleman asked if he could buy indulgences for a future sin and a preacher named Tetzel said he could. When the peacher was about to leave town the nobleman robbed and beat him up and left with the comment: โ€œthis was the future sin I had in mind!โ€. ๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚


Overall solid, VERY solid book. I enjoyed it far more than I ever thought I would. Also it felt good to fill another gap in my history education; the Reformation.


What biographies have you planned for this year? ๐Ÿค”

I would like to do another political leader (a president or Churchill) or a Nietzsche bio ๐Ÿ’ช๐Ÿป

4/5

Check out my Reading Lists for more great reads!

Mini Review – Our Oriental Heritage by Will Durant (Part 3) – India and itโ€™s Neighbors

Iโ€™m 35 hours (50 in total) into this beast of a book and itโ€™s a good time for another mini review. This part tackles the history of India and itโ€™s a good one!


๐Ÿ“Gandhi: โ€œWhat the eyes are for the outer world, fasts are for the inner.โ€ I have never fasted. Have you? Maybe this will be my next experiment. ๐Ÿงช

๐Ÿ“ Itโ€™s hard to overestimate the importance and impact and the cast system on India. I want to read more about it. ๐Ÿค“

๐Ÿ“ The dominating fact in India is heat, Durant argues. โ˜€๏ธ โ€œIt weakened the youth and shortened them. It also gave way to the most quiet of religions and philosophyโ€. โ€œThe only relief of this heat is to sit still and do nothing and desire nothingโ€…โ€When the monsoon fails to blow, India starves, and dreams of Nirvana.โ€ ๐Ÿง๐Ÿค”

๐Ÿ“ Mohenjo-daro was as old as the civilizations of Egypt and Mesopotamia.

๐Ÿ“ โ€œIn the whole world, said Schopenhauer, there is no study so beneficial and so elevating as the of the Upanishads. Itโ€™s been the solace of my life. It will be the solice of my deathโ€. This Schopenhauer guy show up a lot in the Laws of Human Nature too. I need to read his work.

๐Ÿ“ โ€Unlike most saints, Buddha had a sense of humor and knew that metaphysic without laughter is immodestyโ€.

๐Ÿ“ The oldest and ever reoccurring theme of Hindu thought: โ€œindividual separateness is an illusion.โ€ โ€œAll life is oneโ€.


โญ๏ธTAKEAWAY: โ€œNothing should more deeply shameful to the modern student than the recency and Inadequacy of his acquaintance with India.โ€ ๐Ÿ™‹โ€โ™‚๏ธ๐Ÿคฆโ€โ™‚๏ธ ๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡ณ. Ive been quite oblivious, but reading this is a part of the cure. I also want to read more about the cast system, Brahmins and maybe even take a closer look at the Upanishads. Let me know if you have book recommendations?

The books goes into traditional yogic practices (hardcore stuff.๐Ÿ˜จ), the life of the Buddha, and the story of Buddhism and Hinduism and a short biography about Gandhi. And you know me by know; I LOVE that stuff!

4/5

What are you reading this week?

Also read part 1 and part 2 in this review series. Plus find other awesome books here!

Are You Taking Part in the Reoccurring Ancient Pattern of Judging the Younger Generation?

When we get into midlife we tend to start judging the younger generation.

โ€œWhen we judge in this way, we are not aware that we are reacting according to a pattern that has existed for at least 3000 years. There is an inscription in a Babylonian clay tablet that dated from around 1000 BC that reads, โ€œTodayโ€™s youth is rotten, evil, godless and lazy. It will never be what youth used to be, and it will never be able to preserve our culture.โ€โ€Robert Greene, The Laws of Human Nature, Chapter: Seize the Historical Moment.)

Something is bubbling under the surface. Maybe there is repressed envy of their youthful energy or mourning of the loss of our own? ๐Ÿ˜‰

What are your resentments towards the younger(or older) generation of today? ๐Ÿค”

Anyway, Look out for my reviews of The Laws of Human Nature and Give People Money later this week!

Thoughts on: Endurance – Alfred Lansing

A testament to what humans will endure when put to the test. It’s amazing how Shackleton and his men overcame one terrible obstacle after another without losing hope. Hats off to the captain and the crew. My main takeaway is the leadership style of captain Shackleton. Leading by example and not standing above any task. Never accepting special treatment because of his rank by his men.

4/5

Find other amazing reads in my reading lists!

Mini Review – Our Oriental Heritage by Will Durant (Part 2) – The Near East

The second part of this tome (1200+ pages) is focused on the Ancient civilizations of the Near East; Egypt, Persia, Babylonia, Judea etc..

๐Ÿ“ โ€œIt is in the nature of an empire to disintegrate soon, for the energy that created it disappears from those who inherits it.โ€

๐Ÿ“ Persia was founded by a stoic people, but within a century it was destroyed by people binge-drinking and eating all day; โ€œspending their geniuses on sauces and desertsโ€ ๐Ÿฐ. What state is our current civilization in? ๐Ÿค”

๐Ÿ“ Egypt: โ€œMachinery was rare because muscle was cheap.โ€

๐Ÿ“ The hanging gardens of Babylon was considered considered one of the Wonders of the World. Legend has it that Nebuchadnezzar II had it build for his wife who was not used to the desert and longed for her lush homeland.

๐Ÿ“ There where thousands of Gods. With time minor deities merged and became mere aspects of major ones.

๐Ÿ“ In Judean prophets talked about the need to be moral rebirth. Jeremaya asked for circumcision of spirit as well as the flesh in his strange phrase: โ€œCircumstance yourself to the lord, take away the foreskins of your heart.โ€ ๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚

โญ๏ธ TAKEAWAY:

One theme that stood out to me is how civilizations raise from hard labour and sacrifice, just so that future generation can have it go down the toilet by forgetting these hardships and fall victim to hedonism. ๐Ÿ’ฉ ๐Ÿšฝ

โญ๏ธ TAKEAWAY 2:

The accounts of the religious believes in the different civilizations fascinates me to no end. How similar their stories are to ours and how much we still can find intact or reshaped in todayโ€™s religions.

โš–๏ธ VERDICT:

Now we get into the meat of the book and it has taken on another rhythm. I have mixed feelings about this second part of book. Itโ€™s is still brilliant but itโ€™s getting hard to retain the information. The problem might lie in the way the book is structured, using the same template to describe each civilization, one after the other, making it overwhelming.

Check out Part 1 for more in this review series.

What are you reading these days? ๐Ÿค”

Instagram Photo credit: @cinefile_25 , @eruchdah

Find other amazing reads in my reading lists!

Mini Review – Our Oriental Heritage by Will Durant (Part 1)

Photo credit: @eruchdah

Why should you know history? It tells you how we got where we are today. Why we believe what we believe, why we do what we do. By learning about the past you can also avoid repeating itโ€™s mistakes โ€”- and itโ€™s f***ing fascinating!

This book is ambitious in scope, the series (11 volumes) even more so; trying to summarize the history of civilization itself. This first book alone is 1184 pages. One of many reason to make break this book down to several micro reviews!

My focus for this year will be Ancient Greece, but first I want to read up on the history leading up to it.

The first part of the book talks about the economical, political, mental and moral elements needed for the establishment of civilization.


๐Ÿ“ โ€œI do not have to think. I have plenty of meatโ€. Not planning for more than today in primitive life had its advantages. When planning for the future you pave the way for property and greed.

๐Ÿ“ Communism appears most commonly in the beginning of civilization. In times of dearth. Fear of starvation fuses the individual into the group. The dream Communism lurks in every modern society as a memory of a simpler and more equal life. โ€œWe remember its equality but forget the poverty!โ€

๐Ÿ“ About taxes: โ€œIt was better to pay bribe to one magnificent robber than to bribe them all.โ€

๐Ÿ“ Women not bearing children are shamed by men in societies that rely on high birth rates to compensate for high death rates.

๐Ÿ“ In primitive society delay between desire and fulfillment is not very long and therefore there is not need to idealize passion.

๐Ÿ“ โ€œWhere food is dear, life is cheap.โ€

๐Ÿ“ In simple days, men married for cheap labour and regular meals.

๐Ÿ“ Is it good to be a virgin or not upon marriage? What is shameful is totally dictated by culture.

๐Ÿ“ โ€œCivilization is not imperishable. It must be required anew by each generation.โ€

๐Ÿ“ โ€œMagic becomes science.โ€ Magicians needed to give the supernatural a push by using natural means. Stuff that works for real.. ๐Ÿ‘ฉโ€๐Ÿ”ฌ

Photo credit: @cinefile_25


Iโ€™m excited to be a student of history again. The world I see everyday makes more and more sense after each chapter I read. ๐Ÿ‘จโ€๐ŸŽ“

5/5

Thoughts on: โ€œAt the Existentialists Cafรฉโ€ by Sarah Bakewell

Time for a small break from the Top- 10 countdown before it reaches its crescendo. ๐Ÿ˜Ž

โ€”โ€”

This became my first encounter with the modern existentialists thanks to a recommendation by @inside_brians_brain . In this book we get to know Sartre and de Beauvoir primarily – but also Camus, Heidegger, Merleau Ponty to name a few! And we are taken on a journey where we get to familiarize with their concerns about being human, freedom and above all; authenticity.

โ€”โ€”

๐Ÿ“ Remnants of existentialist ideas in modern culture: โ€œThe vague longing for a more โ€œrealโ€ way of living leads some people for example to sign up for weekend retreats in which their smartphones are taken away, like toys from children, so that they can spend two days walking in the country landscape and reconnect to each other and their forgotten selfs.โ€ Did I mention that I wished for a โ€œsilent retreatโ€ for Christmas?! ๐Ÿคฃ

โ€”โ€”โ€”

๐Ÿ“ Phenomenology:

A philosophy of describing reality in detail, exactly how itโ€™s experienced in the moment. An example of phenomenology in action would be wine tasting.

โ€”โ€”โ€”

๐Ÿ“ Sartre wrote a lot. Averaging 20 pages a day during his lifetime.

โ€”โ€”โ€”

๐Ÿ“ Sartre gave money away as fast as it came – and books after he read them. The only things he kept was his pipe and his pen. โ€Nothing was to be kept in place of the money. Just memories.โ€

โ€”โ€”โ€”

๐Ÿ“ About the pre-war rise of the nazis: โ€Sometimes the most educated people where the least inclined to take the nazis seriously, dismissing them as too absurd to last.โ€

โ€”โ€”โ€”

The books is complex and so are the persons it portrays. It was slow to hone me in – but now Iโ€™m excited to learn more! Iโ€™m already committing to further studies of the existentialists and to embrace the density of existence, itโ€™s anxiety and contingencies.

โ€”โ€”-

4/5

“At the Existentialists Cafรฉ” by Sarah Bakewell

Photo credit: @punkass_bookjockeys on Instagram

Check out myย reading listsย for more great books!