Courage in the face of ignorance
I throw myself into my workstation, bleary eyed, coffee sloshing around dangerously in my mug. Time to earn. Although really all I want to do is go back to bed. Maybe I’ll just blog for a bit, ease myself into my day…
Freyr, our German Shepherd puppy has an upset stomach. She thinks I don’t notice her eating Franklin and tortoise poo, and while I don’t know that‘s definitively the source of her gastronomical issues… I’m willing to hazard a guess.
In any event, the foul (so, so bad) concoction deposited liberally (in both volume and surface area) on our carpet around midnight involved almost an entire roll of paper towels… and a great deal of soapy water and scrubbing. Where-after I committed myself to get up every hour to take the beastie outside (where she would hopefully deposit her dark deeds).
Then I was up early boiling up a treatment of chicken breasts and rice for said creature so I’m seriously lacking in Zees. Especially the REM ones. Which I really like.
On the plus side, after a five week summer holiday the progenies went back to school today, for which I am insanely grateful. I was quickly (but not very quietly) reaching the end of my rope. To be fair, we added a kitten and a puppy into the mix during that time, because that’s what crazy people do, so really, some of that is on our/my poor decision making matrix. Having said that, kids after forty is basically permanent asthenia from now until you die.
Still, despite the fact that I’m off to a rocky start this morning, I’m excited to get back into a routine, now that I’ve foisted some of the responsibility of raising my sperm-ovum combo’s onto other people. (that maligned segment of society that we don’t remunerate very well, and never thank for their service)
I’ve also crossed off the next book on my… eh… thing.
I picked up a friend of ours at the airport last week. I was a little early and she’d checked luggage so I caffeinated myself and then perused the airport bookshop.
Airport bookshops are… well… under normal circumstances I’d rather pry a dead, maggot ridden mouse out of my German Shepherds maw (which I had to do earlier) than step foot in one of these establishments. They are universally awful places catering to a transitory proletariat bereft of taste. (does that sound condescending enough I wonder vaguely?) They never stock anything nuanced or genuinely cool. In my experience it can usually be summed up as Jack Reacher-esque fiction, crime, politics and kooky Christianity. And maybe ‘The monk who sold his Ferrari’ and fucking Mark Manson to round it off.
I offer up, as an excuse for my waywardness, that it was either that, perusing the luggage shop or staring at people queuing to get their polymerase chain reaction on. Cape Town international is not very exciting. (although they tout themselves as the best airport in Africa at every opportunity… which to be honest, does not reflect well on the rest of the continent)
This made me smile. But it also reminded me that I hadn’t finished Ryan Holidays latest. And so I added it as my next in queue.
I got side-tracked on my first attempt (about a month or two ago)… which happens fairly often to me, especially when books don’t grip me right off the bat. I blame Florence Nightingale, to which the first chapter pertains… which is quite a soft opening hand I thought. And while I don’t doubt the impressive curvature of her life, it was a quite a dull preamble overall.
I prefer my overtures more in the vein of ‘All in the valley of Death, Rode the six hundred’, as opposed to the aftermath and the ministrations thereof, which is all blood, guts, missing limbs and dead horses. I think the massive sausage fest in the previous books was starting to weigh in and likely needed to be addressed. Preferably right near the beginning. Also I guess there was an attempt to underscore ‘courage’ as something that’s not galloping towards the machine guns. Still, it felt weird and first hundred pages or so had no momentum.
The writers curse I suppose is that if you write something truly brilliant (The Obstacle is the Way is one of my all-time favorites), everything else you write from that point on-wards is always viewed through a lens colored by that work. I imagine bands have the same problem. ‘Well, it wasn’t as good as their last album’. The expectation is that everyone always needs to surpass themselves with their next.. whatever.
I’m obviously guilty of this type of thinking (although this is not a standard I hold myself to). I also made the mistake of following Ryan Holiday on social media… which…
Well, let me explain it like this. Robert Greene (also one of my favorite authors) and since Greene and Holiday are close (in friendship and similar in their style ) they make a good comparison. Robert Greene has almost zero social media presence and so I know next to nothing about his inane, normal everyday life. Which is actually a good thing. In any event, when I read something by Mr. Greene, it is untainted by my personal bias, and therefore much more enjoyable to me and I can elevate him to paragon-status in my mind. Mr. Holiday on the other hand has an aggressive social media policy… one I got sucked into for a while, which… well, it isn’t great.
So now I have this two-pronged problem in my brain whenever I read anything by Ryan Holiday. One is that I’m always comparing it back to ‘The Obstacle is the way’ and therefore ‘not-as-good’ and then secondly, I always have this niggling feeling that I’ve been had, a consumer in the stoicism cult, where the philosophy has been ‘commodified’ by the author and is now being zealously marketed and then sold to me piecemeal. Fix your life with stoicism and its associates, on sale now!
Courage is calling (fortune favors the brave1)is book one of a four book series about the virtues. Specifically the Greco-Roman ones, ie Courage, Prudence (or Wisdom), temperance and justice.
 vomit. The subtitle is so awful it actually hurts me a little bit.
That’s not to say its a bad book, I say, almost as an after thought, having slandered the author now for a bit. I wrote notes, highlighted some passages… learnt something new. Those are all ticks in the win column.
I still feel some disquiet though, something that bothers me about this book. Maybe its the broader (esoteric, ha ha) genre that I’m over. I don’t know. In any event 2/52.
I go outside and find a shrew clinging to the leaf catcher in the pool. I rescue it… and record my magnanimous-ness (apparently not a real word) for posterity. Yay me. I presume its a shrew. And its only now, that I wiki it, that I find out a shrew is actually venomous, and that their bite hurts something fierce.
The shrew lacks hollow fangs (as in venomous snakes) but instead has a gland that allows saliva to flow with the venom. When the shrew encounters its prey – often an invertebrate, but it can also be a mouse or other vertebrate – it begins biting it, allowing the venomous saliva to flow into the wound.
For the prey, this is the beginning of a very bad day. The venom paralyzes the creature, but keeps it very much alive. The shrew can then move it to a cache, available for whenever hunting is not going so great. For an animal that has to eat constantly, this keeps a fresh if unsavory meal always at the ready. The American Chemical Society reports that a mealworm can be kept, paralyzed but alive, for 15 days. Shrew bites on humans are reportedly painful but fade in a few days.
That would have messed up my day. Lol. Considering I carried it down into the basement to show my wife. And then back out into the garden.
I feel my courage in shrew-handling was only due to my massive ignorance.
Probably a less catchy subtitle though. Ryan Holiday may shoot rattlesnakes under his porch. But I wrangle half drowned shrews with my bare hands.
Not that I’m competitive. Or anything.
Okay I totally am.