The Kindle is always a blessing, especially on the daily train commute when I have nothing else to do but to either snooze, or read. And over the years, the hour or so spent on the train has been so valuable on my readings.
So, I’m on this current trend where the daily reading matter consists of nothing but biographies, one after another. And I’ve chewed through quite a few of them, check out the list (not in order):
- Steve Jobs
- Michael J. Fox
- Paul Allen
- Steve Wozniak
- Ronald Reagan
- And it’s on to Barack Obama now.
Needless to say, my reading pace slowed down considerably the moment I got to Reagan and Obama, the main contributing factor being the amount of understanding required on digesting political content. Have since concluded that politics is just too convoluted for normal people. There’s no way you can represent your own unique stance on every issue, seeing as you have to align yourself with the party stance. This means a stance on every debatable topic under the sun from education to abortion to taxes to gay marriage to religion; like seriously, there is just no way anyone would not be offended by the perspective announced, since everyone is entitled to their own views to begin with. And you being tied up by the party liners, might end up representing something you do not believe in, which means you might trust in the main article but not the smaller ones.
And when we get to all the debates that run through the government, all the red tape, the debates and special interest group lobbies, constant polling and speeches, public scrutiny, it just eats away at you. Democracy is a wonderful thing, but the government mechanism needed to run it just feels like an organism with multiple brains co-ordinating the limbs all at the same time – it is difficult to even walk straight. Concluded politics as deeply satisfying, but too draining to fight against the bulk of resistance to do the right thing.
All these being said, I really loved this excerpt about Obama’s mother, so much that I felt I had to share it with you:
Religion was an expression of human culture, she would explain, not its wellspring, just one of the many ways—and not necessarily the best way—that man attempted to control the unknowable and understand the deeper truths about our lives. In sum, my mother viewed religion through the eyes of the anthropologist that she would become; it was a phenomenon to be treated with a suitable respect, but with a suitable detachment as well.
– Barack Obama, The Audacity of Hope
An interesting perspective on the concept of religion. As an atheist, I view it objectively as a pillar of faith that many people subscribe to, and a means to living one’s life in a kinder manner. Not something to scorn at, but simply an ideal that requires a necessary leap of faith that the realist in me finds disturbing, and unnecessary in my own life. I believe in destiny and possibly a higher existence that has planned our lives, but nothing more than that.
And yet for all her professed secularism, my mother was in many ways the most spiritually awakened person that I’ve ever known. She had an unswerving instinct for kindness, charity, and love, and spent much of her life acting on that instinct, sometimes to her detriment. Without the help of religious texts or outside authorities, she worked mightily to instill in me the values that many Americans learn in Sunday school: honesty, empathy, discipline, delayed gratification, and hard work. She raged at poverty and injustice, and scorned those who were indifferent to both.
Most of all, she possessed an abiding sense of wonder, a reverence for life and its precious, transitory nature that could properly be described as devotional. During the course of the day, she might come across a painting, read a line of poetry, or hear a piece of music, and I would see tears well up in her eyes. Sometimes, as I was growing up, she would wake me up in the middle of the night to have me gaze at a particularly spectacular moon, or she would have me close my eyes as we walked together at twilight to listen to the rustle of leaves. She loved to take children—any child—and sit them in her lap and tickle them or play games with them or examine their hands, tracing out the miracle of bone and tendon and skin and delighting at the truths to be found there. She saw mysteries everywhere and took joy in the sheer strangeness of life.
– Barack Obama, The Audacity of Hope
The way it was penned, is just beautiful. I love the way it sounds, the way his mother was represented. Hopefully I will get to the same stage of love and appreciation for life that she had; it feels like another level of spiritual awareness altogether, to be able to marvel at the brilliance of nature and the miracles it weaves every day, every moment.