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What would CS Lewis Say? + How to Read More Books + My Embarrassed Mother

What would CS Lewis Say? + How to Read More Books + My Embarrassed Mother

Good Morning from Prince Edward Island,

Great to be with you and thank you for your time today. 

Kettle on? Let's cuppa.

Last week’s blog touched on stress, as it seems top of mind these days not just for me but also for others. 

At the beginning of 2020, I had made a goal to read 20 books. It might seem like a low number to some, but I needed to state an amount to challenge myself to get it done. I have always wanted to read more books. I was doing well until the virus thing kicked into high gear and grabbed us all by the nose and throat. Hence, I stalled at number 7 in early March. 

This week was the time to invite my habits to the table and have a chat.

"Sometimes we are blessed with being able to choose the time, and the arena, and the manner of our revolution, but more usually we must do battle where we are standing." ~Audre Lorde

A friend sent me this yesterday. 

What might CS Lewis say of our new COVID situation? 

Here’s what he said in 1948 about the mental shift required by living with the threat of the atomic bomb:

In one way we think a great deal too much of the atomic bomb. “How are we to live in an atomic age?” I am tempted to reply: “Why, as you would have lived in the sixteenth century when the plague visited London almost every year, or as you would have lived in a Viking age when raiders from Scandinavia might land and cut your throat any night; or indeed, as you are already living in an age of cancer, an age of syphilis, an age of paralysis, an age of air raids, an age of railway accidents, an age of motor accidents.” In other words, do not let us begin by exaggerating the novelty of our situation. Believe me, dear sir or madam, you and all whom you love were already sentenced to death before the atomic bomb was invented: and quite a high percentage of us were going to die in unpleasant ways. We had, indeed, one very great advantage over our ancestors—anesthetics, but we have that still. It is perfectly ridiculous to go about whimpering and drawing long faces because the scientists have added one more chance of painful and premature death to a world which already bristled with such chances and in which death itself was not a chance at all, but a certainty. This is the first point to be made: and the first action to be taken is to pull ourselves together. If we are all going to be destroyed by an atomic bomb, let that bomb when it comes find us doing sensible and human things— praying, working, teaching, reading, listening to music, bathing the children, playing tennis, chatting to our friends over a pint and a game of darts—not huddled together like frightened sheep and thinking about bombs. They may break our bodies (a microbe can do that), but they need not dominate our minds. — “On Living in an Atomic Age” (1948) in Present Concerns: Journalistic Essays 

Two days ago, I set out to journal something I learn each day. Today is young, but I have been consistent so far with two days on the books sort of speak. 

I feel it is time to get back to the challenge and read more books, time to focus on learning and growing through these times.  What about you? Have your habits changed?  

"Hearts are the strongest when they beat in response to noble ideals."                  ~ Ralph Bunche

I realize a lot of my stress comes from information overload, and I had to figure out how to be more proactive versus reactive to media. There are pros and cons to all the information floating into my life; it is up to me to discern what is helpful and which is hurtful. 

I read While Everyone is Distracted by Social Media, Successful People Down on an Underrated Skill, by Michael Simmons.

“One of the most important distinctions we can make when it comes to learning how to learn is distinguishing between incremental knowledge and breakthrough knowledge. Once you know what you’re really looking for, it’s easier to find it.

Incremental knowledge further confirms what we already know to be true. It is reading yet another book on marketing, when we’ve already read twenty. It is an interesting tidbit that temporarily entertains, but is quickly forgotten.

Breakthrough knowledge, on the other hand, challenges our fundamental beliefs about how the world works or introduces a new lens through which to see the world. It sticks with us.

Identifying potential breakthrough knowledge is actually fairly easy. There is a question that I ask myself before I consume any media that works as an incredible filter. I simply ask:

Does this have the potential to fundamentally change my life?

This question helps me avoid mindlessly consuming content because it has a good title, shows up in my newsfeed, and just sounds sort of interesting.

Learning is a journey, a discovery of new knowledge, not a destination.

It’s an enjoyable lifelong process — a self-directed and self-paced journey of discovery. Understanding any topic, idea, or new mindset requires not only keen observation but more fundamentally sustained curiosity.”

It was after reading the article that my brain seemed free again to aspire for better. 

I found reading the article to help me form a the simple question to ask myself, a way to assist me with clarity and decision making. 

 “Reading this, does it have the potential to change my life for the better? 

I flipped it around as well and ask myself while writing. 

"Writing this, does it have the potential to change someone's life for the better?"

It is time to get the book challenge completed.

I went about sourcing articles on how to read more books and found a beneficial article called How to read more Books by Christian Jarrett.

Here are the key points from the article. 

  • Spend time thinking about why you want to read more books. The more motivation you have, the more likely you are to succeed. Start out reading books you enjoy, and don’t be afraid to quit books you don’t like.
  • Lay the groundwork for your new reading habit by making books salient in the physical and digital environments you encounter daily.
  • Set modest goals, at least at first. Aim to read just a little each day.
  • Look at your daily routines and your existing habits. Consider where you could build in a new habit of book reading, in effect piggybacking on your existing habits. The more specific you can be, the more likely you are to succeed.
  • Try as hard as you can to always read whenever you are in that situation, time or place. Eventually, you will form a new effortless reading habit.
  • Track your progress by recognizing every day that you managed to read, rather than by ticking off completed books. After two weeks, you should start to feel that your new habit is deepening.
  • Consider whether your social world supports book reading. You could try joining a book group (see the Links and Books section below) to chat with like-minded readers.
  • Cultivate your identity as an avid reader of books. Write a sentence outlining the kind of person you want to be, and think about how book reading will serve that aim.

A few blogs back, I had shared a powerful video of Valarie Kaur and subsequently in other blogs a quote or two of hers. I noticed that she recently published “See No Stranger - a memoir and manifesto of revolutionary love.” I purchased it and picked it up to read a bit late last night to just get a feel for it. I couldn’t put it down. 

It started...

THE BEGINNING, THERE WAS WONDER. OUT IN THE COUNTRY, FAR FROM city lights, the night air was clear enough to gaze into the long shimmering galaxy that stretched across the sky. I would stand in the field behind our house and talk to the stars like they were my friends, just like I talked to the cows over the fence or the horses across the road. Once, while playing in a stream, I saw a butterfly dancing over the water and put out my finger and asked it to come to me and the butterfly came. It perched on my finger for a long time, long enough for me to peer closer at its wings and praise it before it flew then, there was no question: The earth under me, away. Back the stars above me, the animals around me, were all part of me. And wonder was my first orientation to them all, the thing that connected me to them: You are a part of me I do not yet know.

25 pages later, I had to talk myself into going to bed. Can’t wait to pick it up and continue. 

Reading is one thing, playing with Millie is another. She does bring alot of joy into our home and she is now family. 

The Italian Truffle Hunter says it well. 

"The world would be a nicer place if everyone had the ability to love as unconditionally as a dog." ~ MK Clinton

Smiling is contagious; you can catch it like the flu.

When someone smiled at me today, I started smiling too.

I walked around the corner and someone saw my grin

And when he smiled, I realized I'd passed it on to him.

I thought about that smile. Then I realized its worth -

A single smile just like mine could travel round the earth.

So if you feel a smile begin, don't leave it undetected

Start an epidemic, quick, and get the world infected.

~Spike Milligan

I have been listening to the beautiful music of Kristjan Jarvi. 

New album Nordic Escapes sample listen here

I wish everyone a wonderful, peaceful, restful, and joy filled weekend. 

With Love from Prince Edward Island, 

Bruce & Millie, playing catch


When my son graduated from high school, he had to give a speech. He began by reading from his prepared text.

"I want to talk about my mother and the wonderful influence she has had on my life," he told the audience. "She is a shining example of parenthood, and I love her more than words could ever do justice."

At this point, he seemed to struggle for words. After a pause, he looked up with a sly grin and said, "Sorry, but it's really hard to read my mother's handwriting."

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Ann Kingery - October 29, 2020

I looooved the comment by the grandson — telling all within hearing distance how much he valued his mother… priceless! I might consider taking a cue from her (handwriting!)

Valarie LaBore - August 13, 2020

Wonderful thoughts by CS Lewis. It gives our year a bit of perspective.
I too love that photo of the two yellow chairs looking out on the misty water. It would bring peace to me.

Derinda Lyall - August 13, 2020

Thank you Bruce once again for your Thoughts. I am sure many of us feel the same way. I have managed 10 books so far and like to dabble in Poetry to put my thoughts on Paper. I am very interested in the Amish way of life and enjoy reading books on this topic. Love the view from those Chairs, so peaceful. We all need that special quiet sanctuary to go to. I am sure Millie keeps you smiling a lot.
Keep safe.

Susan Mayo - August 10, 2020

P.S. Sorry, the photo of you and Millie, playing catch, looks to me like a cow? 🐄 Out standing in its field.

Susan Mayo - August 10, 2020

The beautiful photo, with the two yellow chairs, at the beginning of this blog would be my view of choice outside my front window. In my dreams. I LOVE the view, and love the fact that I would be out there in a heart beat, with a cup of tea, and great book. Tea of choice, PEI Preserve Co End of Day, or Rooibos Red Chai. Book of choice, which I highly recommend, The Day The World Came To Town (9/11 in Gander, Newfoundland. By Jim Defede.) Second time reading this book! 😇

Lynne Powell - August 10, 2020

Like Murdock most of my reading is now on my ipad. Our libraries (at least in my county) are still closed to us. Recently they began a kind of touchless pickup of books, but so many are anxious to get a hard copy book it is taking long. Fortunately there a a number of sites & authors who give free ebooks! I have always read alot, but much more now since we must still lay low & wait til the pandemic (hopefully) ends. I do miss seeing my friends in person, & especially my family, but it is safer for all of us to keep our distance. Until then I meet new friends in the pages of a book, travel to places I’ve never been, occasional witness murder, assassinations, births, oh my, I am getting around. Dr. Seuss did tell us “Oh the Places You’ll Go!” and he was right!

judi karnis - August 9, 2020

i look forward to this email and really enjoy your blogs. always something interesting. good luck with your reading, i read daily and cannot count how many great books i’ve read since the first of the year. Stay safe and God Bless….

Murdock Morrison - August 9, 2020

Another interesting blog Bruce as reading is a passion that I enjoy every day and even though I love the hardcover , I have found that my IPad is now the road that I travel on lately. Wonderful quotes from so many authors especially CS Lewis as he wrote with such passion of the happenings in life during his time. I have read 9 books on my iPad and even though most of them are fictional, they keep my mind focused and absorbed. Have a great week. Murdock

Linda Quammen - August 8, 2020

Many worthwhile ideas in today’s blog. The Smile poem made me smile until I remembered that with our masks on people cannot see us smile. That made me sad until I realized that most people I meet are probably smiling under their masks. That’s the way I’ll try to think of each one now.

Marion Sawatzki - August 8, 2020

I love reading your blog. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and music. It’s always a pleasure to find my own thoughts expressed in your words and listen to great music which some of it I would have never found. All the best.

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