Remember how I said that I was increasing my activity with moderation in mind? Well, that was a lie. Not intentionally so, but once again I let my enthusiasm and stubbornness get ahead of my better judgement and I pushed a little too hard. Last week I paid the price for that, and it was a reminder that I relied on George rather than myself for control as his was the voice of reason and moderation, as opposed to my own inclination to overdo (even when doing nothing). I do in fact know when I am pushing too hard, but my innate stubbornness pushes that voice down as far as possible and it is long past time that I learned to listen to my own internal voice of reason and perhaps learn to seek my own internal balance.
Anyway, the result was pain, a new pair of sneakers, loss of sleep, and some light reading. It doesn't sound so bad does it? But I am still suffering from the residual loss of sleep, and a bit of overstimulation which I in no way regret. Hence the lack of posts last week. But, if moving into my 50's, and even my late 50's now, has taught me anything is that I no longer worry about justifying my activity or lack of it, and I am more willing to just acknowledge the ups and downs of my nature and move on. Part of this is just accepting that "only human" is not necessarily a flaw, but a gift, even when it means embracing all that it means to be "only human".
But onto the reading. Over the course of a couple of insomniac periods I entertained myself by reading Joanne Harris's Gentlemen and Players. The book had been on my stack quite a few years now I think, and had originally been recommended by my mom. I don't really know why I put off reading it when I would read other books she recommended, even though I tend to think of her choices as bubble-gum reading. Regardless, I am happy to have finally read it, and it was both better than I anticipated and not quite what I expected. I think the technique of telling the tale in alternating voices, from two viewpoints, is both difficult and well done, and there were some interesting twists in the story. Even though I figured out who the second voice actually was fairly early in the narrative there were still enough twists and detail to keep me interested. If revenge is a dish best savored slowly, the book was one that I could savor, could enjoy reading, but in the end, the conclusion was just that, an end, and a bit of a hollow victory. I had the sense that there was too much of a reliance on predictable stereotypes, and, although the author did manage to capture a sense of longing for something in each of her protagonists, the promise of fulfillment was never delivered. That probably was too much for me to expect. Although I did enjoy the book, it is not something that I see myself reading again.
First up is Diarmaid MacCulloch's Christianity: The first Three Thousand Years. This is the text for a class that started in September and will continue until May. I am reading a chapter a week, with a brief break in January for other reading. I must admit that I am happy to be back to this book, and happy to have the opportunity to read it slowly, as I absolutely love it. MacCulloch is an excellent writer, I had read his book on the Reformation some years back, and I have a couple of his other books sitting around waiting for my attention. I look forward to each week's reading, and then after class I am usually so pent up with excitement that I can't wait to read the next chapter. MacCulloch manages to make historical contretemps understandable in such a way as to provide insight to how some of these same issues and squabbles continue to plague human ventures. He also has a marvelous dry wit, and many times I will read a passage only to pause, think, and reevaluate.
I also have to admit that I had too many books on my plate at one time in January. I read all but one of them, and many others besides, but I also struggled with a rather uncomfortable level of distraction. My goal is to be a little more focused this month, if possible, even while accepting that there are benefits to a certain level of distraction in life.
The book I did not read, but am reading now, is Philip Wylie's The Disappearace. I read the first few pages in January, put it down, forgot it, and restarted it this past weekend. I am only a couple of chapters in, but am thoroughly enjoying it. Although the novel was initially published in 1951, and many things have changed in 60-plus years, I can already see that many of the underlying currents in this book are still relevant today. Undoubtedly I will have more to say later.
Also on my desk waiting to be read is the first volume of Niall Ferguson's biography of Henry Kissinger, Kissinger: 1923-1968: The Idealist. I tend to think Ferguson's insights can be brilliant, and sometimes terribly flawed, but then see above comment on "only human". It seems the book may actually provide an interesting point of balance and analysis that will go well with both the Wylie, and the ongoing theological and philosophical discussion that center around the class involving the MacCulloch. Perhaps not. But the timing seems good.
If I get through the Wylie and the Ferguson this month, and manage to keep up with everything else, I'll feel like I've managed well.