asher63 (asher63) wrote,

Reading update: Genesis, Ascent of Man, 12 Rules.

I set myself the goal to complete these three books by the end of the week. I've read all three of them before, so it will be a re-read for all. That's fun because you always notice things the second time that you missed the first time, and you're better prepared to pick out themes in the book.

Because I have a slightly OCD trait around scheduling, of course I had to break each of the books into a day-by-day reading schedule. Fortunately Genesis is divided into 12 readings (according to the yearly Torah reading schedule - Jews are the most OCD people in the world LOL), TAOM is 13 episodes/chapters, and '12 Rules for Life' is divided into - you guessed it - twelve chapters. So, two a day, with an extra Bronowski for the weekend.

Genesis. The first two portions cover the Creation and the Flood, the next two are mostly about Abraham and Sarah, and the next two about Isaac and Rebecca. The "sister" ruse is perplexingly repeated three times: with Abraham / Sarah and Pharaoh, Abraham / Sarah and Avimielech, and Isaac / Rebecca and Avimelech. Of the three Patriarchs (Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob), Isaac alone had only one name and only one partner. The machinations with Jacob's twin and antagonist Esau (aka Edom) only seem more mysterious on each reading. What is going through Rebecca's mind in all this? Who or what does Esau represent?

The Ascent of Man. The early chapters trace the beginnings of agriculture and architicture; then Bronowski moves to chemistry, mathematics, and astronomy. Recurring themes include the mutual interaction between mind and hand (JB stresses that learning involves doing), the pleasure in acquired skill as an impetus to develop further, and the quest for underlying patterns and structure in the universe. Chapter 6, 'The Starry Messenger', tells the story of Galileo's rise and fall. Having realized the truth of the sun-centered model of the solar system (as argued by Copernicus and Kepler), Galileo thought he could get away with skirting the Church's prohibition on teaching the system. The Vatican thought otherwise; in fact the Inquisition spent 22 years compiling a dossier on Galileo. Brought to trial and threatened with torture, Galileo recanted. And in 1642, the year of Galileo's death, Isaac Newton was born.

12 Rules for Life. Jordan Peterson's self-help book expounds on twelve "rules" for living a healthy, successful, and meaningful life. Some are relatively straightforward: "Stand up straight with your shoulders back" means just what it says, that good posture can reinforce a positive attitude towards life, but also that the willingness to face life (both literally and figuratively) is a conscious choice. The last rule - "Pet a cat when you encounter one on the street" - is more cryptic, and I won't spill the secret here. Peterson draws on his clinical experience as a psychologist, as well as his personal experiences from growing up in remote northern Alberta to raising a family. He emphasizes the importance of individual responsibility, and of the role our social groups play in our development. (Rule 3 says, "Make friends with people who want the best for you.") Recurring themes are the importance of meaning (JBP greatly admires Viktor Frankl), the delay of gratification, and the role of attention in finding our way to better things.
Tags: books

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