4 Books, 6 quotes: January 2018 Reading

So it’s only January but I’ve already read four books. Those holiday flight hours meant I was always either going to be catching up on anime (which I did☛ “Garden of Words” — somehow anime is the only medium in which I can consistently enjoy, let alone tolerate, melancholic undertones), or reading some books on my reading list.

So here are the latest books that I’ve completed this month. You can see some of my recent reading here and here.

As a reminder these are not book reviews, rather just sharing some cool experts from various books — maybe just lots of LOLs on the metro, or a light bulb switched on in my head. Or for fiction, maybe I’ve just the wittiest thing I’d read since the previous witty thing.

Four books for today: One about myths; then a book about death that’s legitimately laugh out funny !!; moving on to some nerding out on one of my favorite topics (astrophysics and astronomy); a book that directly connects spirituality to society, politics and business; and finally a book about money because when you’re north of 30, you have these existential periods where you’re just dwelling on whether you’re a fuck up or not.

Here goes: [Book passages quoted in italics, the rest is my commentary]

Smoke Gets in Your Eyes: And Other Lessons from the Crematory

1. This book is equally a meditation on death, and a stand-up comedy routine about death.For example, in this reaction to working on a corpse that’s been ‘around for a month, the humor about the morbid subject matter is by design:

“Gross” is such a simple word, with simple connotations. Padma was more like a creature from a horror film, cast in the lead role of “Resurrected Voodoo Witch.” The mere act of looking at her body lying in the cardboard cremation container caused internal fits of “Oh my God. Holy — what is — what am I doing here? What is this shit? Why?”

2. Easy to forget how sanitized we are to death today:

What is most surprising about this story is not that an eight-year-old witnessed a death, but that it took her eight whole years to do so. A child who had never seen a death would have been unheard-of only a hundred years ago. North America is built on death. When the first European settlers arrived, all they did was die. If it wasn’t starvation, the freezing cold, or battles with the Native people, it was influenza, diphtheria, dysentery, or smallpox that did them in. At the end of the first three years of the Jamestown settlement in Virginia, 440 of the original 500 settlers were dead. Children, especially, died all the time. If you were a mother with five children, you were lucky to have two of them live past the age of ten.

The Elegant Universe: Superstrings, Hidden Dimensions, and the Quest for the Ultimate Theory

3. So according to string theory, everything is made of strings at unimaginably miniscule sub-atomic sizes. So it’s been observed that properties of each elementary particle are determined by the vibrational patterns of those tiny strings:

This perspective differs sharply from that espoused by physicists before the discovery of string theory; in the earlier perspective the differences among the fundamental particles were explained by saying that, in effect, each particle species was “cut from a different fabric.” Although each particle was viewed as elementary, the kind of “stuff” each embodied was thought to be different. Electron “stuff,” for example, had negative electric charge, while neutrino “stuff” had no electric charge. String theory alters this picture radically by declaring that the “stuff” of all matter and all forces is the same. Each elementary particle is composed of a single string — that is, each particle is a single string — and all strings are absolutely identical. Differences between the particles arise because their respective strings undergo different resonant vibrational patterns. What appear to be different elementary particles are actually different “notes” on a fundamental string.

The universe — being composed of an enormous number of these vibrating strings — is akin to a cosmic symphony.

Power vs Force: The Hidden Determinants of Human Behavior

Hawkins suggests that individuals (and by extension society) exist on a logarithmic scale of consciousness, with shame at the bottom and enlightenment of the top.

4. On being unapologetic about this “woo-woo” new age stuff, because according to Hawkins, science is on his side:

Nonlinear dynamics has verified that there really is no chaos in the universe; the appearance of disorder is merely a function of the limits of perception. This came as a disturbing revelation to left-brain people, but seemed self-evident to right-brain people. Creative people merely write, paint, sculpt, or design what they already see within their own minds. We do not dance from logic, we dance from feeling patterns.

5. On addiction:

A “high” is any state of consciousness above one’s customary level of awareness. Therefore, to a person who lives in Fear, moving up to Courage is a “high.” To people who live in hopeless Apathy, Anger is a “high” (for example, rioters in third-world ghettoes)….The most sublime experience of all is the state of Infinite Peace at level 600, so exquisite that it belies all attempts at description…the balance of nature dictates that to artificially acquire that state without having earned it creates a debt, and the negative imbalance results in negative consequences. The cost of such stolen pleasure is the desperation of addiction, and finally, both the addict and society pay a price.

The Smartest Investment Book You’ll Ever Read

I read this because it was recommended in a talk by Ramit Sethi, who for me is the best authority on finances for normal, regular people. I found this to be an accessible approach to stocks, especially in this bitcoin environment.

6. The main message is to avoid “hot takes” on stocks, and that nobody takes better care of your money than you.

Investing with the goal of beating the markets is an ill-defined art, not a science. It is characterized by lack of risk measurement. It is akin to financial astrology. It is, in many ways, the equivalent of gambling at a casino….Being a Hyperactive Investor fuels this psychological attraction. The fact that Hyperactive Brokers and Advisors can produce intermittent “winners” reinforces this instinct, just like the sound of coins hitting the tray at slot machine.

Have you read any of these books? What did you think? What are you reading recently?