Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The Corpse Walker

I just finished The Corpse Walker: Real-life stories, China from the Bottom Up by Liao Yiwu. It was a fascinating read. I found myself pulled into the stories of 27 people Yiwu interviewed - from the migrant worker to the former Red Guard to the 103-year-old Buddhist Abbot.

These are "voices from the bottom of Chinese social outcasts," whom Yiwu talked with over several years. This book is just a few of the interviews he's done, taken from his original work in Chinese which spanned three volumes.

These are first-hand accounts of the famine of 1959-1962, the Cultural Revolution, Tiananmen Square, and other events in recent Chinese history. Theirs are heartbreaking, shocking experiences of torture and abuse at the hands of government officials and the fanatical following of Mao's words which turned the culture upside down and ruined the countryside.

Yiwu does an excellent job of honestly recording the interviewees voice, viewpoint and experiences. As a result, some interviews are full of swear words. However, if you want an unwashed view of how the Chinese have survived the past 50 years, this is a book for you to read.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

A Lasting Contribution

A Lasting Contribution is the title of book by Tad Waddington. This guy is one smart dude. He's got a masters of divinity from the University of Chicago and a PhD in something about statistics. You can read all about it in the back of the book. His emphasis at UC was the history of chinese religions, and it clearly shows in this little book.

The front flap says, "This book is for everyone." Perhaps everyone but me. I'm not a philosopher by nature or training, and many of the words he used were completely new to me. There's a handy glossary at the back of the book, which I discovered when I was done reading it. I guess I wasn't really in the mood to learn a whole new vocabulary in order to really sink my teeth into this book.

I wrote quite a few quotes down in my journal from his book - like:

pg 6 "...when does think before acting and when thinkers take action, remarkable results follow. When doers don't think before acting and when thinkers don't act, good people's efforts fail to acheive their full impact."

pg 15 "It's not about smarts, but discipline." - this really resonated with me because I just finished reading Carry on, Mr. Bowditch to my children in school. Nathaniel Bowditch was one smart guy, but he achieved a lot because of his discipline. It was an awesome example of this.

"Deciding what not to do is crucial." Something I need to remember.

Unfortunately, from my perspective, Waddington takes the entire book to explain why someone should want to contribute and all the causes leading to a lasting contribution... but without an ultimate reason. He clearly states in his book (pg 87), quoting someone named Bronowski, " 'There is no absolute knowledge. ... all information is imperfect. We have to treat it with humility. That is the human condition."

Well - yes and no. I believe that there is One who is Absolute Knowledge, and He decided to share some of it with us - through the Holy Scriptures and the person of Jesus Christ. We still have to treat our understanding of the Bible with humility because, as Isaiah writes, "His thoughts are not our thoughts. His ways are not our ways." There's a lot about God we do not know.

Ultimately, he tries to make a case for a purpose in life without the True Purpose. He writes on page 90 that 'Ethics and action are inseperable." James wrote the same thing in the New Testament "Faith without works is dead."

I like Rich Mullins' version: "Faith without works is like a screen door on a submarine." Rather useless.

I think I could sum up my impression of A Lasting Contribution with the lyrics of another Rich Mullins song, Maker of Noses:

When I turn to the world they gave me this advice

They said boy you just follow your heart
But my heart just led me into my chest
They said follow your nose
But the direction changed every time I went and turned my head
And they said boy you just follow your dreams
But my dreams were only misty notions

My response would echo that of Mullins':
But the Father of hearts and the Maker of noses
And the Giver of dreams He's the one I have chosen
And I will follow Him

Saturday, July 19, 2008

My wake up call - to a healthier me

This was Thursday, July 17th, the day I realized I had to make a choice. I've been thinking about it a long time. In the past, at certain times, I had made the choice and then quit.

Anna, my 8yo, had informed me the night before that she needed to exercise in the morning. "Mom, in the morning, can I unroll the exercise mat and you put on an exercise DVD and we can exercise together?"

"Probably not tomorrow morning, hon."

In the morning, Anna came into my bedroom dressed in her leotard and asked again, "Can you put on an exercise DVD?"

I groaned, told her to put on socks and shoes and rolled out of bed to put on an exercise DVD. I started it for her and then WENT BACK TO BED. I didn't even bother to join her.

What had happened to me?

Over the years, I've been an on-again, off-again exerciser. My longest stint was the fall-winter of 2006-2007. I exercised every morning with my exercise video (except Sundays and an occasional Saturday). When my kids woke up, they sometimes joined me. I was doing great, until it got hot and I got sick. Once I hadn't exercised for a few days, it was easier not too. So, since June of 2007, I've been telling myself I need to exercise every time my alarm goes off in the morning.

Telling myself, yet choosing to stay in bed instead. My eating habits tend to follow my exercise habits, so I started eating worse and worse.

Amazingly enough, I've kept off most of the weight I lost (about 15 lbs), but did gain about an inch or so in my waist, so all my 'new' clothes barely fit.

So, now it's time to try something new. I was lifting & doing cardio exercises with, but not intervals. I'm studying my Fit Yummy Mummy book this weekend, and plan to start Monday morning.

Honestly, I dread the learning curve. But, I see the results my friend Angela has had, and have hope for me.

Last fall, Lydia, my 6yo, asked me, "Mommy, do you remember when you used to get up an exercise? You should do that again."

Yes honey, I should. And I will.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Some thought-provoking quotes

I've just finished reading Nurtured by Love by Shinichi Suzuki. A piano teacher I've been talking with recommended I read it.

I realized how western my mindset is while I was reading this book. I found I had to lay it down frequently because I was irritated by the wanderings of Suzuki's mind. In one part, he started a story about an expedition he was on in Japan, followed his thoughts down many different roads and finished the story quite a few pages later.

However, he said a few things that caught my attention and made me think:

pg 54 "Whatever work it may be, the way to success is, after all, to stick to one's intentions to the very last. Everyone is able to do it; it depends only on one's will."

Pg 56 "Without stopping, without haste, carefully taking a step at a time forward will surely get you there."

pg 89 "Harmony - in order to achieve it, one person must gracefully give in to the other, and it is nobler to be the one who gives in than the one who forces the other to give in."

pg 99 "There is no merit in just thinking about doing something. The result is exactly the same as not thinking about it. It is only doing the thing that counts. I shall acquire the habit of doing what I have in mind to do."

pg 106 "Children are really educated in the home..."