Have you noticed that the title for this branch of the blog keeps morphing? That’s because, although I’m always reading something, sometimes it’s the same as the week before. And, sometimes something I’ve watched or listened to is what is really making me think. So here’s to opening our eyes and perking up our ears.
Two books are in rotation right now.
The Starfish and the Spideris the first. This is a book about organizations and how they are put together – not a typical genre for me. A year or so ago, I was at the Center for Creative Leadership in Greensboro, North Carolina. I saw this book in the bookstore there and loved the title so much that I decided to give it a try. You can tell it’s not my normal cup of tea since its taken me a year or more to get to it. Anyway, the gist is that most organizations are spiders, meaning there is someone or some set of someones at the center. If something happens to that center, the organization cannot survive. Starfish organizations, in contrast, have no central leader and therefore regenerate if an arm is lopped off. The authors’ contention is that Starfish organizations create situations in which everyone in the organization feels more invested because it is everyone’s job to keep the organization running and healthy. It’s an interesting idea. I’ll keep you posted.
Next, I’ve started Peter Hessler’s new book, The Buried. I love Hessler’s writing and have written about it elsewhere on this blog. I first read him when I began going to China in 2008. His rise as a writer was tied to his time living in China and he has been sort of a cultural translator for newbie China watchers every since. I love his writing because he combines his own life experiences and current circumstances as he seeks to understand a foreign culture. In addition, he points out the ways in which language reflects something central to the culture or land in question. Here’s an example from the new book that is focused on Egypt during the Arab spring.
He describes two different words that ancient Egyptians used to describe different types of time beginning on page 10 of The Buried:
Ancient Egyptians had words for two different types of time: djet and neheh. These words cannot be translated into English, and it may be impossible for them to be grasped by the modern mind. IN our world, times is a straight line, and one event leads to another; the accumulation of these events, and the actions of he people who matter, are what make history. But for ancient Egyptians,, time was not linear, and events were suspect. They were oddities, distractions that interrupted the world’s natural order…
Nehehis the time of cycles…Djet, on the other hand is time without motion. When a king dies he passes into djetwhich is the time of the gods…
Then he goes on to quote an Egyptologist who relates these two types of time to the physical landscape, the cycles of the Nile river valley versus the endless dessert. It is beautiful and mysterious and thought provoking all at once.
A few weeks ago, I decided that even though I have a parking place on campus, I really don’t need to use it every day and therefore I should walk. The climate situation is so dire. I know one person walking to work a couple of days a week is not going to solve it, but I have been looking for little habits I could either change or incorporate in support of saving the planet…
So, on my morning walks, I’ve been listening to Master Classes. Here’s the link to this service. https://www.masterclass.com It costs something, but before you write it off, think about all the things you waste money on. You can choose master classes from a series of interesting people. They might be on cooking or investing or conservation. Most of my choices have been about writing. For the last week or so, I’ve been listening to Judy Blume talk about her writing process. And before that I listened to Anna Wintour talk about leadership. Both have been fun and interesting and given me plenty to think about. They are set up as videos that you might watch. But I never do that. I think it would be boring and I could never sit still for it. But it’s perfect for a morning and evening walk.
Finally, on Friday, I got to hear Nikole Hannah-Jones, the journalist who envisioned the 1619 series, speak on campus. Here’s her website. https://nikolehannahjones.com She was receiving a distinguished alumnae award the next day. Really terrific to hear her in person. If you’ve not read or listened to the 1619 podcast, start immediately. And, before your write it off, at least give it a try. The quote of the day from Jones was this, “To love something does not mean you are never critical of it.” She was referring to America. And I so agree. We do our children, our friends, and our spouses no favors when we don’t expect the best of them. Why would we feel any differently about our country?
That’s it for now. Let me know what’s perking up your ears or opening your eyes this week.