What I’ve Been Reading :
Leadership in Turbulent Times by Doris Kearns Goodwin
Really, really good book. The author provides us with mini biographies of four American presidents and how they overcame personal tribulations, and later on led their people through national crises — Abraham Lincoln in the Civil War, Theodore Roosevelt in the coal strike, FDR in the Great Depression, and Lyndon Johnson in enacting the Civil Rights Act. This book has a lot of great details and anecdotes that I didn’t know about before, but what I really loved most is the list of practical lessons that the author so poignantly uncovers. I like being able to flip through when I’m re-reading and going back to the particular strategies that resonated best with me.
How to Live : A Life of Montaigne by Sarah Bakewell
If you don’t know who Montaigne is, he was pretty much the pioneer of essays — He was one of the first people who deliberately used “I” and “me” in published writing, and drew into his own life as his research material. And that’s why, even today, his readers often have the sensation that Montaigne was writing about them and peeking into their private worlds — Because he wrote about very human, universal, and sometimes even mundane topics. The author of this biography does a great job at emulating that same sensation, as she narrates Montaigne’s life vis-à-vis a question that he attempted to answer in his essays : How to live.
Conversations With Tom Petty by Paul Zollo
You may disagree with me, but I personally find that I enjoy an art a lot better when I learn about the artist, what drove him to create his work, what it could have meant to him, and what events were going on, whether in his personal life, or in society when his work was created. Even as a huge Tom Petty fan, this book has definitely led me to not only appreciate his music a lot more, but have a deeper respect for anyone who goes out of their way to put out their work, just to make the world a little better, whatever that means to them. As you might expect though, one question I had left unanswered was — How did he write all those great songs? Because even Petty didn’t know. Of course there were stories of how his ideas came about, but ultimately, the creative process remains a mystery, and there’s never a black-and-white answer to it. Heck, come to think of it, I can’t explain how I could write these articles every week either. I guess that just happens when you really love doing something, and it never feels like work.
The Iliad by Homer
The Iliad was one of those books that I heard so often about, but had never gotten around to picking up. But I now understand what makes it so worth reading. In this book that was written centuries ago, we could see just how little we have changed. War is still being fought for none other than impulses such as pride, arrogance, and hatred. If you took a good look at the story, it seems like the Achaeans and the Trojans were fighting for nearly frivolous reasons — And that really was the case. The Greeks loved war, and any small reason would suffice to justify their going to battle.
Especially through the characters Achilles and Priam, Homer teaches us that honor, or being a hero, isn’t in fighting, but in empathizing with your fellow human beings — Even your enemies. Achilles finds inner peace, not in waging war or in exacting revenge, but in simply seeing the humanity in his enemy, Priam, and giving him the chance to properly bury his fallen son, whom Achilles had killed. Priam exemplifies true bravery too — For having the humility to saunter through enemy camps and kneel to Achilles, begging him for his son’s body, simply out of his love as a father, and not as a powerful ruler.
Painting as a Pastime by Winston Churchill
Churchill was one of the people who best understood that leisure isn’t in not doing anything, but in doing something that’s unrelated to our field of work. That’s how our mind actually rejuvenates, and by unconsciously letting those different domains rub against one another, we get to attain some pretty brilliant and fresh insights too. When Churchill wasn’t a statesman, he wrote books, he laid bricks, and of course, he painted. Painting especially calmed himself down from pressures that protruded from all directions, and helped him be one with himself again. “Light and colour, peace and hope,” he wrote, “Will keep painters company to the end of the day.”
What I’ve Been Watching :
Bill and Ted Face the Music
Watched this in the cinema during the weekend, and goddamn, it was a really fun movie. I grew up watching the first two Bill and Ted movies, and I gotta say, I love this one the most. It is a silly movie, but that’s exactly what we all need during these times — A couple of hours to just have fun and laugh. One line from the movie has since stuck with me, and that is, “Sometimes things don’t make sense until the end of the story”. And that’s very true, isn’t it?
It’s very nice too, to see Keanu Reeves who has amassed huge levels of success in his John Wick and Matrix movies, going back to the movie franchise that first placed him into the limelight as a young actor. And he did it just for the fans. Oh, and how could I not end this review by saying, “Be excellent to each other…and party on, dudes!”
What I’ve Been Listening to :
The Load-Out / Stay by Jackson Browne
The Load-Out is literally the only song I know in which the artist pays homage to his roadies and his crew. It also contains some of the most beautiful lyrics about the life of a performer — Being somewhat numb in endless traveling and routine, yet remembering the very thing that makes you feel alive when you hit the stage and hear the audience roar. “The only time that seems too short, is the time that we get to play,” sings Jackson Browne. The song then immediately transitions to Stay, a love letter from Browne to his audience — Convincing them to stay and sing with him just one more song.