But What If We’re Wrong

I’m still working through what was supposed to be my September read – 1177 B.C. – The Year Civilization Collapsed.  As a non-fiction history book it can be a little sluggish at times, so I picked up But What If We’re Wrong, by Chuck Klosterman as a book to read on the side in September.

It was pretty good.  And yes the cover is printed the way it shows in my picture, upside down. Basically it is trying to look at today (this era) from hundreds of years in the future.  What will people in the future say was the definite musical artist of our times?  Who will they say is the writer that defined what it meant to live right now?  What criteria will they be looking back at to even use to judge those things?  Is it the person who sold the most albums, books, etc.?  And how can we even know what they would be looking for, living in this era?

As with my previous book, I took a lot of quotes down.

Let’s start with my favorite quote from the book:

pg 94 – To matter forever, you need to matter to those who don’t care. And if that strikes you as sad, be sad.

I think that quote is just eerie, but telling.  In order to matter in the future, you have to matter and be known to just about everyone.  Or at least have a large enough impact that those not even close to you, those who don’t like you or your ideas, still will remember you.

There was one whole chapter with a mishmash of conversations between the author and Brian Greene, and the author and Neil deGrasseTyson. He went back and forth between these two science superstars discussing their different takes on unknowns, basically asking them to comment on each other’s thoughts.  It was so interesting I couldn’t pick out quotes from it, the whole chapter really needs to be read.  But essentially Brian Greene argues that 500 years in the future, the way we describe gravity may change more than any other aspect of science.  He sees gravity being something that is indirectly caused by another process.  Sort like how temperature is an aspect of the motion of atoms.  Neil deGrasse Tyson disagrees with that, and thinks we already have an understanding of gravity, just with some pieces still to be discovered.  By the end of the chapter the author comes to appreciate the difference between a theoretical physicist like Brian Greene (someone who uses math to explore complex phenomena) and Neil deGrasse Tyson who is an astrophysicist (someone who explores and tries to explain the known universe). I’m not even sure that explanation is accurate.  Accept my apologies in advance if its not.

Anyways… here are the rest of the quotes I pulled from the book:

Pg 0 – This is not a collection of essays.
It might look like a collection of essays, and–at times–it might feel like a collection of essays. But that is not the intention.
Obviously, you can read this book however you choose. I can’t demand people read this book in sequential order, nor can I stop anyone from skipping around and reading random chapters in whatever insane pattern they desire. But it will make more sense if to don’t.
This is not a collection of essays.

pg 2 – When you ask smart people if they believe there are major ideas currently accepted by the culture at large that will eventually be proven false, they will say, “Well, of course. There must be. That phenomenon had been weekend by every generation who’s ever lived, since the dawn of human history.”

pg 3 – It’s impossible to examine questions we refuse to ask.

pg 10 – We live in an age when virtually no content is lost and virtually all content is share…. In other words, we’re starting to behave as if we’ve reached the end of human knowledge. And while that notion is undoubtable false, the sensation of certitude if generates is paralyzing.

pg 24 – Quality will matter at the end of an argument, but not at the beginning. At the beginning, the main thing that matters is what the future world will be like. From there, you work in reverse.

pg 39 – So this, it seems, is the key for authors who want to live forever: You need to write about important things without actually writing about them.

pg 58 – But this possibility strikes me as plausible, primarily for a reason that must never be ignored: History is a creative process (or as Napoleon Bonaparte once said, “a set of lies agreed upon.”). The world as it happens, but we district what we remember and what we forget. And people will eventually do that to us, too.

pg 89 – “There is pathetic, justice-driven part of my brain that believes-or needs to believe-that cream rises to the top, and the best work endures by virtue of its goodness.”
Amanda Petrusich

pg 86 – If you tried to give rock and roll another name,” John Lennon famously said, “you might call it Chuck Berry.”

pg 91 – History is defined by people who don’t really understand what they are defining.

pg 94 – To matter forever, you need to matter to those who don’t care. And if that strikes you as sad, be sad.

pg 117 – Here’s the thing with paradigm shifts: They tend to be less dramatic than cultural memory suggests.

pg 164 – So apply this philosophy to ourselves, as to our own version of televised culture: If we consider all the possible criteria, what were the most accidentally realist TV shows of all time? Which American TV programs – if watched by a curious person in a distant future – would latently represent how day-to-day American society actually was?

pg 206 – If Buchanan truly was the worst president, his failure has had about as much impact on contemporary society as the cancellation of Two and a Half Men. (FYI – this was written before the 2016 election)

pg 207 – If and when the United States does ultimately collapse, will that breakdown be a consequence of the Constitution itself?

pg 222 – I’m just working through my central hedgehog thought, which is this: The ultimate failure if the United States will probably not derive from the problems we see or the conflicts we wage. It will more likely derive from our uncompromising belief in the things we consider unimpeachable and idealized and beautiful. Because every strength is a weakness, if given enough time.

In The Arena

I decided at the beginning of July to read at least a book a month for the remainder of the year. Since I don’t work in July (well I don’t work as much in July, I still work a lot in July), I read several books.  I read for pleasure (fiction), read a self-help type book, read a history / conspiracy book, and read a solid non-fiction history book.  It was a decent spread style wise.  My July reading list includes:

Not too bad.  Before those books I hadn’t picked up a book to read in a while.  Back in January and February I read The Kennedy Brothers: The Rise and Fall of Jack and Bobby.  So I reached 5 books, even if some of them were short and were fiction / self help books.

For my August book I grabbed In the Arena by Richard Nixon.  Yes, that Richard Nixon.  I picked this book up for a 25 cents at a garage book sale down the street – all she was selling was books and a few dvd’s!  It wasn’t bad.  It is more memoir than autobiography, but was a worthwhile read.

Some select quotes I found interesting:

  • pg. 90 – “I treasure the friendship and wise counsel Billy Graham had extended me over the years. On a few occasions, however, I have been in the position of advising him…. I urged him not to join the Moral Majority, …. Because I believe a minister cannot carry out his major mission in life as effectively if he dabbles in politics…. A minister’s mission is to change the lives of men and women, not change governments.”
  • pg. 120 – “You must live your life for something more important than your life alone. One who had never lost himself in a cause bigger than himself has missed one of life’s Mountain top experiences.”
  • pg. 154 – “Act as men of thought.  Think as men of action.”  He attributes this quote to Henri Bergson.
  • pg. 200 – “The incumbency lock is another highly negative characteristic of today’s politics. Congress had become an incumbent’s protective association…. Unless the incumbency lock is broken by eliminating gerrymandering and allowing challengers to compete with incumbents on a more level playing field, we will have completely vitiated the Founders’ goal of a Congress that renews itself constantly to reflect the changing views of the voters. “
  • pg. 203 – “A candidate’s primary purpose in getting into politics should never be self interest.”
  • pg. 213 – “A leader should never speak ‘off the top of his head.’ His words are important, and he owes it to his audience to think about them before he speaks.”
  • pg. 273 – “Brilliant people are often difficult and contentious. It is a mistake to exclude them….”
  • pg. 279 – “Most critics of the “imperial Presidency” magically transform into busted of a strong White House when a President who advocates policies they agree with is in power.”
  • pg. 288 – “I can understand people feeling single about special issues such as abortion, gun control, and ERA. But they should always step back and consider the alternative. Sometimes it is necessary to make a painful decision to support a candidate who may be wrong on your pet outside but right on most others.”
  • pg. 303 – “They (the founders) understood the tremendous power of religious and ideological beliefs – and recognized their capacity to tear asunder the bounds of society.”
  • pg. 337 – “A day did not pass during my years in the White House that I did not hate the war in Vietnam.”
  • pg. 360 – “While each individual must confront old age in his own way, some basic guidelines apply to everyone: Keep fit, keep active, and keep up with what’s going on in the world.”

Nothing revolutionary, but still interesting.  You can probably tell I didn’t start keeping track of interesting quotes until about a third of the way into the book.  I have found that the addition of a rocking chair to my front porch has made reading much more enjoyable.

Next up for my September read: 1177: The Year Civilization Collapsed by Eric H. Cline. It’s about the collapse of Bronze Age Civilizations.  Reading more non-fiction was a goal as well, and since I really enjoy history, why not focus on history books.  I’m also reading, more like light perusing, Building School Culture One Week at a Time by Jeffrey Zoul.  I had decided I should do some reading for work beyond what I’m doing in my grad school classes.  I am trying to read that book in the mornings as part of a morning routine since it is broken up into 3 – 8 page chapters, really a pretty light and quick read.  I’m not succeeding at that morning routine thing right now.  So much for the The Miracle Morning.  But I want to have a morning routine, so that’s something.

If anyone’s curious, I’m using Trello to keep track of the books I’m reading / have read, track quotes, and identify any books I want to read.  It has worked well so far for me, and made it really easy to just copy and paste quotes I had written from In the Arena into this post.