What I’d Been Reading
Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig
I often tell people that depression is like a club. Because the only people who understand what depression is like are often depressives themselves. If you try explaining it to an outsider, you’d get the typical response of “snap out of it” or “pick yourself up”, as if you choose to be depressed — or even worse, pretend to be.
If we could really just snap out of it, we would have already — but no, it’s a recurring, intrusive thing. If you suffer from depression, Matt Haig here offers his shoulders for you to lean on, as he gives relatable and hopeful advice : you can never really get rid of the black dog, but you can use it to be a better person, and to be of service to other people. I’d also recommend this book to just about anybody, because I think it’s a good start for you to educate yourself on mental health.
Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport
Social media and mobile apps are addicting because they capitalize on the hooking uncertainty of intermittent rewards (exactly like how a slot machine works), and our human need for social approval. We check our phones every few minutes and obsess about our feed because we hunger for rewards (i.e. notifications), and to be accepted in our circle (i.e. likes, views). You probably know it already, but this can badly affect our ability to do meaningful work, as well as our self-esteem — if we continue to leave our mobile habits unchecked. And here, Cal Newport shares doable, albeit radical tips for us to take charge of our phones, instead of the other way around.
Year of the Monkey by Patti Smith
I’d never get bored of Patti Smith’s writing. Just Kids and M. Train had been some of my most memorable reads, and I could now say the same about this one. In Year of the Monkey, she tags us along her journey through aging and loss, coffee trips, and her elegiac blend of dream and reality. As with any Patti Smith book (or song), you savor the words, one by one. You feel them deeply as they roll off your tongue or trickle in your mind.
Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller
I watched the movie (starring Dustin Hoffman and John Malkovich) when I was in high school, and it greatly affected me, even then. I related closely with the strain that exists between the father and son in the story — for instance, the father wanting his son to be his carbon-copy, and the son wanting a life of his own. Having read the original play now, I’m happy to have picked up new lessons. I think, more than anything, it teaches us about the dangers of pride. Pride makes you feel ashamed to ask for help when you’re at your lowest, pride makes you afraid to confront reality as it is, pride makes you live in delusion, pride hinders you from having the strength to accept that things don’t always work out the way you imagine them to be.
Anything You Can Imagine : Peter Jackson and the Making of Middle-Earth by Ian Nathan
If you’ve never watched any of the Lord of the Rings movies, man are you missing out. You don’t have to be a fantasy geek to appreciate Tolkien, or Peter Jackson for that matter. For a long time, Lord of the Rings seemed impossible to turn into film — its world and characters were way too dense and intricate. Yet, that changed when Peter Jackson stepped up to the plate : he had a childlike vision, hired the right people, stuck his ass to his seat, and nearly perfected every minute detail of the trilogy. That’s the beautiful thing about LOTR — there are just so many different angles from which you can be in awe of. The making of the story is just as spellbinding as the story itself.
Who Rules the World? by Noam Chomsky
This was my first Chomsky read, and I had already scribbled notes in nearly every page. It’s an eye-opener about American foreign policy, and its hypocrisy. For a start, Chomsky discusses in-depth on how the American government has always been quick to condemn or punish other countries (ones that don’t share the same understanding as them) for their crimes, and gets away scot-free for similarly gruesome or worse crimes that they have committed themselves. Their crimes are instead justified as things that were right or had to be done. With that, the question is, how do we hold those in power accountable? As the saying goes, “Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?” — “Who watches the watchmen?”
What I’d Been Watching
The Babadook is unique from any other horror movies that I’ve seen. Because hey, I never would have thought that I would actually learn something useful from a horror movie. The Babadook is a manifestation of the character’s grief : her loneliness due to her husband’s passing, her inability to relate with their son, her shame of being a single mom.
The story advocates mental health, as it reflects how we tend to regard grief — which is by ignoring it or refusing to talk about it. As you’d see in the story, the more the character disregards the Babadook, the stronger it grows, or in other words, the more overwhelming her grief becomes. The healthy way to deal with grief is to process and acknowledge it. I’m not gonna spoil the story for you, but it does teach us that while grief can never completely disappear, it can be less overwhelming, and it’s not impossible for us to be happy again. We would sometimes need to look back and tend to our past wounds every once in a while, and think, “You were a big part of me, and I acknowledge that. But I also need to move forward with my life.”