Culture, Els' Rabbit Trails, joys of reading, Uncategorized

How well do you incorporate the ideas you read?

I am preparing to pre-order Cal Newport’s soon to be released Digital Minimalism. I don’t know for sure that there will be a whole lot inside that I haven’t considered at one point or another, but I like what he has to offer, and I like the idea of all of these considerations packaged into one book.

I’ve run the gamut as it relates to managing technology as a part of my life, going from way too much of it, to fasts of varying lengths, and everything in between. Even having reached what I think is a fairly balanced way of doing things (I’ll get to that in a minute), I still want to read his book.

Reading books which encourage me in the areas where I need or want to maintain improvement is vital for me. I can easily find myself getting overwhelmed or distracted by the stuff of life in ways that tempt me to resort to unhealthy or less productive ways of getting things done. By that I mean running in circles, feeling stressed, and demanding that everyone else join me in my madness so that “we get this stuff done already!” It’s a strategy, and I use that word loosely, which produces the exact opposite of what I want to accomplish.

Inspired in part by Hearth’s recent review of the book Boundaries, I thought a discussion of how books impact any changes we make might be interesting.  I’ll get the ball rolling by recounting a few of the ways books I’ve read have helped me make changes.

  • The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: I still struggle with this one occasionally, for reasons I explored in my original review.  I do purge quite regularly however, and the post-Christmas purge is underway right now. Usually, our -younger- children balk when I start discarding their things. However, inspired by their older sisters, who have been rather captivated my Marie Kondo’s broadcast version of her books, they’ve caught the purging bug as well. They did this without me standing over them to supervise like a drill sergeant:

konmari1

konmari2

 

  • Deep Work: I just realized that I never reviewed this book. Obviously, I’ve been influenced by the work of Cal Newport, and one of the biggest takeaways from his writing is the damaging effects of social media, particularly via use of smartphones:

“Once your brain has become accustomed to on-demand distraction, Nass discovered, it’s hard to shake the addiction even when you want to concentrate. To put this more concretely: If every moment of potential boredom in your life—say, having to wait five minutes in line or sit alone in a restaurant until a friend arrives—is relieved with a quick glance at your smartphone, then your brain has likely been rewired to a point where, like the “mental wrecks” in Nass’s research, it’s not ready for deep work—even if you regularly schedule time to practice this concentration.”

The biggest change I made to help improve my attention (scientists suspect humans are down to a highly debatable 8 seconds) and ability to be distracted is removing certain apps and notifications from my phone. After deleting Instagram and WordPress, relegating them to laptop use only (unless I am uploading content), I dramatically reduced my use of technology without having to do anything else. There is still -as always in life- some room for improvement, but I’m satisfied with the changes and the resulting uptick in productive use of my time both in work and at leisure.

  • Keto Clarity: I have never been able -for various reasons- to jump into the ketogenic lifestyle with both feet and never look back, mainly because I love fruit and baking, in that order. In fact if it wasn’t for the horror I felt at the idea of never eating apples in the fall or peaches, pears, or mangoes in the summer, I might have stuck in out. Alas, I am a tropical gal and I love my tropical fruits. I have however, once and for all accepted the reality of ditching grains from my diet. I dropped the ball over the holidays of course. In the two weeks since the new year began, the difference in my skin, eyes, sleep and appetite since cutting grains and processed sugar is -as usual- remarkable. I suppose It Starts With Food should be included here as well.
  • The Power of a Praying Wife: I used this is two ways. The first was referring it to a dear wife who could use some targeted direction in praying for a husband at a difficult time. Doing that was a good refresher for me of topics I could use to pray for my own husband. Given that he is in a transitory period right now, it was a great reminder for me.
  • Life Together and The Benedict Option: These are both books which, in different ways, highlight the importance of engaged, intimate, Christian community and how it enhances our lives. In our individualistic, increasing atomized and dysfunctional culture, these are important principles for Christians to remember.

How does your reading translate into life action or change? Does you reading translate into life action or change?

 

 

 

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22 thoughts on “How well do you incorporate the ideas you read?”

  1. Does you reading translate into life action or change?

    Exciting post. Answer: Yes, yes, and yes. Comments:

    1. I’m amazed how I can read a book and get nothing from it then a few years later reread it and it’s suddenly life-changing. Nobody can explain a book to somebody in a different “place”. Or even if the IQ gap is too wide (how many can even read Aquinas or Aristotle or even St. Paul with any understanding (most simply lack the literary IQ to translate the language/culture. That’s OK because we can pick and choose to match our current status.

    2. “Life changing” is not rhetorical. My entire life, my faith, and daily activity have completely changed from reading alone. When I compare my prior life to today, I shudder how terrible it all was, how grateful I am for the internet, & how much I distaste how I was raised, how much hope/excitement today has…from books…from the internet.

    3. Ideas mean nothing to me if they do not lead to action. Results. The brains of living organisms evolved so they could move. Plants don’t have brains because they don’t move (I just re-read this in a book called “Gut”).

    I struggle to list books I found life-changing because of #1 above. May important books for me generally suck but hold the seeds for growth. For example, I read Keto Clarity and The Benedict Option with great excitement yet found both pretty lame (I know the authors pretty well due to interviews/podcasts/other books) and find the ideas interesting. Both books were good reflection books to help me formulate my own ideas (even though I strongly disagree with the authors at times).

    Liked by 1 person

  2. @smkoseki:
    I’m amazed how I can read a book and get nothing from it then a few years later reread it and it’s suddenly life-changing.

    This is ABSOLUTELY true!

    “Life changing” is not rhetorical. My entire life, my faith, and daily activity have completely changed from reading alone. When I compare my prior life to today, I shudder how terrible it all was, how grateful I am for the internet, & how much I distaste how I was raised, how much hope/excitement today has…from books…from the internet.

    Hmmm. I’ll need to give that some thought. I’ve learned a lot from the Internet to be sure. I’ve also been stung by it so my feelings are mixed, but taken together it’s been more helpful than harmful I suppose, for the very reasons you outlined. Despite some serious hardships in my growing up years, there is a lot about my formative years that I wish desperately I could recreate for my kids but we just don’t live in a time where that’s possible anymore without a lot of from scratch work that I simply cannot do alone.

    I read a lot growing up but during the teen years most of it was garbage; garbage that I have to take responsibility for choosing. Nothing besides the Bible changed me for the better.

    For example, I read Keto Clarity and The Benedict Option with great excitement yet found both pretty lame (I know the authors pretty well due to interviews/podcasts/other books) and find the ideas interesting. Both books were good reflection books to help me formulate my own ideas (even though I strongly disagree with the authors at times).

    My thoughts align closely with yours in this regard. It wasn’t so much that I found earth shattering revelations. But I was moved to think about what the over arching ideas are that I can begin to incorporate in my life and the life of our family to change things for the better.

    Thanks for the insightful comments, sir!

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  3. Yes. This is why I re-read books. Sometimes I glean something from the billionth read-through of a favorite work that sheds light on something that I’m working through or that I observe in those around me.

    Big ones… 5 Love Languages. This actually was first a sermon on tape that my fav aunt sent me shortly after I was married, which I followed up with the book post-haste. I’m seriously not joking that I would spend hours writing my husband poems when he just wanted me to go to the hardware store for him… Huge lightbulb moment. Yeah, easy reading and at this point somewhat trite. So what? It made an impact.

    The works of CS Lewis, especially Weight of Glory. Bondage Breaker. Sacred Marriage. The Encyclopedia of Country Living. Color Your Style.

    Very little fiction affects me this way. Okay, I’ll amend that – at this point in my life, fiction is for fun. When I was a teenager, it influenced me way too much.

    And now I’m writing … maybe someday someone will say that I affected them like that?

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  4. Big ones… 5 Love Languages. This actually was first a sermon on tape that my fav aunt sent me shortly after I was married, which I followed up with the book post-haste. I’m seriously not joking that I would spend hours writing my husband poems when he just wanted me to go to the hardware store for him… Huge lightbulb moment.

    Yes! Still, after many years, I occasionally read where Christians pooh-pooh this book and I can only surmise that there is no possible way they read it with an open mind. No possible way.

    It was revolutionary for me as well. I like to hear words of affirmation so I was making the mistake of projecting that onto my husband, who is big on physical affection* and acts of service. You can be obedient to the letter of Scriptural law and still miss things like this which make your mate feel loved.

    I think a mistake many Christians make is deciding that if we declare that a thing is good, then we’re supplanting Scripture. How silly is that? Or, that everyone who reads the book is reading it to identify their own love language and brow beat their husbandspouse. Anyone who does that is using it wrong. People misuse tools all the time. Doesn’t make the tool evil. That’s the exact opposite of what the book is for, and was the farthest thing from my mind when I picked it up.

    So thank you for mentioning that, because it totally helped me in lasting ways. My husband never read it, but somewhere along the way (probably just more time with God making him more attentive), he picked up on my LL too.

    It is also translatable to parenthood and close friendships, not just marriage.

    Okay, I’ll amend that – at this point in my life, fiction is for fun. When I was a teenager, it influenced me way too much.

    Ditto.

    * Physical affection is not an exact equivalent to frequent intimacy. You can be pretty well matched in that department (and we are) and still have different needs when it comes to physical affection in general.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. H: 5 Love Languages
    Besides over-communication, what other ideas are in this book? I never read it and am considering. Regarding “trite”, some of my biggest impact books for me are fundamentally wrong so I can’t recommend them but I have no replacements for these complete life-changers and have to remain silent.

    H: The works of CS Lewis, Weight of Glory. Bondage Breaker. Sacred Marriage.
    Any quick thoughts here?

    H: Color Your Style.:
    How does this book compare with Color Me Beautiful?

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  6. Love-languages: The reason you read this book is to get it through your head that the way YOU like to be treated is not necessarily the way the people around you like to be treated. So, to use my life as an example: I thought that doing the errands once/wk was efficient. “Service” doesn’t make me feel warm and squishy. Thankful, certainly. But loved? Nah. My husband thought that my lack of running by the XYZ store after work was unloving. This caused needless conflict that understanding our differences immediately erased. There are five languages: Service, words, gifts, time, touch. Which relate to you, which to your lovely wife? Figure it out. Start using as appropriate. Watch the joy. (Can also be used on friends, other family members, etc. Treating folks right is always a good thing).

    Weight of Glory: Big takeaway – “we are all on the way to being immortal horrors or immortal splendors. You don’t interact with mortals, take your interactions with others seriously”. Bondage Breaker – just lots of little stuff that puts holes in the spiritual armor. I do it as a spiritual inventory. Confession for Prots? Sacred Marriage: Your marriage is a reflection of God, not just “convenient”. Major commitment, even when things get hard. Highly recommend. (That one is not an easy read).

    Color Your Style: Goes into the colors very personally in depth. I find some useful, some I toss out with the dishwater. But using my eye colors to determine colors that I find energizing/soothing/powerful? Yes. And it helps to narrow those down. If you want to see the work I did with that, I put it on a pinboard here: https://www.pinterest.com/hearthrose/analysis-me/ CMB is more to identify your season and gives you some basic classic style/body tips.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. BTW my problem with Dreher’s book was while he hand-waved about Benedict XVI’s “creative minorities” he didn’t look realistically at it. We are now a post-Christian culture, and this is among the self-described Christians themselves. For example, just saw how 2018 was the lowest US fertility rate since 1971. One hell of a long decline. And this TFR includes massive importing of foreigners (who have higher birth rates). Basically, it’s very grim at the root, not just the branches, yet Dreher is worried abut liberal sentiments? This is how a people dies off.

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  8. @ hearth:

    It just occurs to me that I don’t think I’ve read Weight of Glory in its entirety. huh. Gotta do that.

    More on the 5LL more smk:

    Basically, while we are all human, we all have different preferences, personalities and sometimes backgrounds. Because of that the things that make us feel loved may be different from the things that make those around us feel loved. While some people feel appreciated and valued when you take time out to sit and talk with them (quality time, and I have a dear friend like that), others feel values when you help them accomplish tasks or make their mission easier in some way (acts of service). Other people feel loved when hugged (physical touch) and still others are wowed when you give them a gift that was tailor made for them, even if it’s cheap (gifts). Still others feel loved when you affirm their work and effort with words of encouragement (affirmation).

    The golden rule is to treat others the way you want to be treated, so this aligns with the Christian walk, when approached selflessly, of course. You don’t really need to book, honestly. There is so much online that hits the gist of it:

    https://cratedwithlove.com/five-love-languages-meaning/

    re: Dreher

    It seems that Benedict’s idea was pretty solid, although I missed Dreher’s hand-waving about it. I am pretty recent reader of his. Some even claimed he walked back much of his more separatist notions in the book. I don’t really know.

    I do agree with you however, that Christians refusing to reproduce any more than is comveneient is a very real crisis that no one seems aware of or alarmed enough about to address.

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  9. Heart, reading your comments; considered reply soon.

    Elsp, closer to your thesis: USA men gained 30# since 1960 (while TFR fell 3.65 to 1.87). But both metrics show a cultural malaise that cannot be fixed using Derher’s word salad. In fact, Dreher’s jet-set lifestyle/TFR/BMI/diet are fair indicators how it all ends for his tribe (whimper, not bang). Meanwhile results like Osborn’s over 30 years (https://www.drbrettosborn.com/sites/default/files/GetSerious.pdf) cannot easily be dismissed.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. @ smkoseki:

    Thanks for the link. I look forward to reading this and sharing it with my husband as well.

    He just got a pretty big career bump but it’s also more desky than his previous job so I have been wondering what we could do to make sure that doesn’t turn into a detriment fitness wise. maybe Dr. Osborn’s book (which I’d never heard of before) might be helpful!

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  11. Heart, I struggle with the 5L book concept (or similar) because I just don’t accept the standard American view of “love” (esp. the female version!). To me, love is experienced as work, achievement, suffering, growth (e.g. the crucifix is the greatest love story ever told, and any attempt to water this down just offends me). To wit: Gorky Park has a powerful passage of the protagonist running his hand over his lover’s facial deformity she got being tortured; to the protagonist (a sworn enemy of the State) this mark is love personified. So my Q: knowing I give no credit to other kinds of love is this book worth reading for me (or will I just get angry)?

    Elsp: Osborn believes health 80-90% diet. Also there is little physical labor that replicates human “carry animal” function (most of farming-style labor is not conducive to historical hunter-gatherer health, which is what we evolved for over millions of years. So basically, only free weights work. So an office job with weightlifting (with a sit-stand desk) is better for health than most ritual physical labor (which just wears one down without delivering health). Myself, I’ve found this to be both counter-intuitive and empirically true over the years, and to be even more powerful for women then men.

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  12. SMK: I think it might annoy you usefully. The author discusses how agape love involves caring for those around us in the ways that they need to be cared for. In addition to the 5 languages, he spends a LOT of time talking about how Christian spouses are obligated to take care of each other’s emotional needs in our obligation to love one another. This isn’t a big deal for me – I always *wanted* to make my husband feel loved and cherished. I just didn’t know HOW. I still don’t click with “I went to the store and he’s happy” “he thinks it’s a big deal that I brought him coffee to his desk” but hey. Knowing makes me able to do those things, and that makes him feel loved and THAT is my aim.

    It will take maybe two hours of your life. Unlike Els, because I think you DO need the “why should I bother”, I’d read it. I’m sure you can find it at a thrift store or borrow it from someone – you don’t need to put money in.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. @ SMK:

    I was skeptical. of 5LL at first also. For similar reasons. Love is, as you say, action. What I learned I would have eventually figured out eventually. But me, being a person who doesn’t particularly NEED a lot of physical touch to feel connected (maybe it would help to view it as connection rather than love), needed to learn what ACTIONS to take to love my husband.

    Love is about self-sacrifice as you noted. Christ gave up His throne in glory, wrapped Himself in frail flesh, took on what was unnatural to Himself, for us. What I learned was how to do what is unnatural to me as an act of love.

    But I can see how it might annoy you though.

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  14. My take is that I think (humbly of course, ha ha) that I do pretty well at selecting things that I’ll apply. Hopefully that reflects discernment. :^)

    A great example of this is “five love languages”. There is one level where I welcome its teaching for the reasons Hearthie notes. It’s good to be aware that not everybody thinks as you do in this regard. On the flip side, when I went to a conference with Smalley as a speaker, I remember wondering how on earth he ever managed to stay married with the mistakes he told us about.

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  15. One other thing I remember vaguely–it’s been over 20 years since I went to that conference–is that somehow it struck me that his rhetoric could reasonably be interpreted to favoring one love language over another. Obviously not the conclusion that Hearthie comes to, so hopefully I’m being a bit unfair about the matter.

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  16. @ smk:

    My husband does have a sit/stand desk. He stands at it at least half the day. And also, his company provides a full gym -and showers- in the building he works in.

    Those are both welcome opportunities for him to stay healthy and fit.

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  17. Probably his speech is preferential. It’s hard to be convincingly be even-handed between favorites and things you just don’t get with body language etc. Easier in text.

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