Reading Journal

What I'm reading

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Deep Survival - Who Lives, Who Dies, and Why, by Laurence Gonzales

This is a very cool book. It has great stories about wilderness survival and fatalities, and uses it to draw lessons about life.

He who is brave in daring will be killed,
He who is brave in not daring will survive.
Tao Te Ching

Nice quote about the fine balance between pessimism and realism:
Good survivors, like good wives, husbands, and CEOs, always consider the bleak side of things, too. They plan for them and have an earnest hope that they will manage. But they do not care overly much that they might not. They accept that to succumb is always a possibility and is ultimately their fate. They know safety is an illusion and being obsessed with safety is a sickness. They have a frank relationship with risk, which is the essence of life. They don't need others to take care of them. They are used to caring for themselves and facing the inherent hazards of life.

Stay within your limits.
The summit is not the only place on the mountain.... It's a matter of looking at yourself and assessing your own abilities and where you are mentally, and then realizing that it's better to turn back and get a chance to do it again than to go for it and not come back at all.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

The Picture of Dorian Gray, by Oscar Wilde

This book was not what I expected from Oscar Wilde. It was dark and disturbing, not lighthearted and witty. Dorian Gray is a rich young man who gets his portrait painted. The painter is inspired by Dorian's innocence and good looks, and he paints an almost mystically perfect portrait. As Dorian looks at the finished product, he realizes he will get old and ugly while the portrait will remain beautiful. He then makes a wish that the opposite would happen, that he would stay always youthful but that the picture would age.

It happens.

As time goes on, Dorian descends into selfishness and increasingly into moral corruption, including many oblique references to homosexuality. His only goal is to find new aesthetic experiences. He looks for pleasure, not happiness. He keeps the portrait locked in an upper room in his house. Although he himself still appears innocent and beautiful, his portrait not only ages but the painted expression takes on a lascivious leer.

The brain had its own food on which it battened, and the imagination, made grotesque by terror, twisted and distorted as a living thing by pain, danced like some foul puppet on a stand, and grinned through moving masks.

I like this description.

...he repeated to himself the words that Lord Henry had said to him on the first day they had met: "To cure the soul by means of the senses, and the senses by means of the soul." Yes, that was the secret. He had often tried it, and it would try it again now. There were opium-dens, where one could buy oblivion, dens of horror where the memory of old sins could be destroyed by the madness of sins that were new.

The moon hung low in the sky like a yellow skull. From time to time a huge misshapen cloud stretched a long arm across and hid it.