The Will Power Instinct by Kelly McGonigal: A Review

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Photo by Ash on Pexels.com

Do you have a hard time resisting what  you see in that picture? You’ve come to the right place.

One of the best self-help books I have read in a long time is The Willpower Instinct: How-Self Control Works, Why It Matters, and What You Can Do to Get More of It by Kelly McGonigal. It is so good I bought the audio book after I bought the digital version, and I am seriously considering buying the print version. I think this is a must read.  Self-control, or will power, is a must for staying fit – eating right, working out, and living a more direct life.

What is self control? Here is a great definition from Wikipedia:

Self-control, an aspect of inhibitory control, is the ability to regulate one’s emotions, thoughts, and behavior in the face of temptations and impulses. As an executive function, self-control is a cognitive process that is necessary for regulating one’s behavior in order to achieve specific goals.

“Self-control.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 27 Jul. 2018. Web. 4 Sep. 2018.

Here is a description of the book from the publisher:

Informed by the latest research and combining cutting-edge insights from psychology, economics, neuroscience, and medicine, The Willpower Instinct explains exactly what willpower is, how it works, and why it matters. For example, readers will learn:

  • Willpower is a mind-body response, not a virtue. It is a biological function that can be improved through mindfulness, exercise, nutrition, and sleep.
  • Willpower is not an unlimited resource. Too much self-control can actually be bad for your health.
  • Temptation and stress hijack the brain’s systems of self-control, but the brain can be trained for greater willpower
  • Guilt and shame over your setbacks lead to giving in again, but self-forgiveness and self-compassion boost self-control.
  • Giving up control is sometimes the only way to gain self-control.
  • Willpower failures are contagious—you can catch the desire to overspend or overeat from your friends­­—but you can also catch self-control from the right role models.

What is apparent to me is how connected self-control is, with mindfulness although the two are closely related. I think that a high level of self-control is necessary for mindfulness, and that mindfulness is a natural pathway to self-control although the two have very different skill sets.

Over labor day my wife and I went out of town to visit relatives. We had the audio version to listen to during the drive, and we  both loved it. We would often pause it to discuss certain points that were being discussed.

McGonigal is a prolific writer and I highly recommend this book, and I will be reading a good deal of her other works.  Note:  I am making a rare cross-posting with my other blog.

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Review: You Can’t Go Home Again

This is a sister review to my review of Max Perkins Editor of Genius by A. Scott Berg.  When that book was finished I had a list of about five books I wanted to read, and the first one that I managed to get at the library was You Can’t Go Home Again by Thomas Wolfe.                                                                                                                                                                                         First of all a disclaimer. I don’t review books negatively.  If I write a review here, or elsewhere, I only write positive reviews. If I can’t write a positive review I say nothing. I got into that habit with poetry. There is a lot of poetry I just don’t get and there are a lot of people who don’t get the poetry  or prose I write. I have a spreadsheet full of rejections to prove that. But, some do like what I write.  I refuse to be critical of another writer on a public forum because it may be a work that just doesn’t resonate with me.

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Thomas Wolfe photo by Carl Van Vechten Van Vechten Collection at Library of Congress

Now to Thomas Wolfe and his book. As to the author I will be brief, and refer you to A. Scott Berg’s biography of Max Perkins, or to one of the many biographies (which I have not yet read) of Thomas Wolfe who lived a short life from 1900 – 1938. He was a big man with big appetites and was rather notorious for writing novels which were essentially, fundamentally, chapters out of his own life.  My opinion is that all writers do that, including me, but he was more blatant about it than most, and wrote when the world was a wee bit less litigious than it is now. If you read A. Scott Berg’s biography of Max Perkins you will recognize many of the people mentioned in that work.

The book itself is fantastic. A rolling, rollicking, ramble of stories connected together. I have never read anything like it.  A little bit like stream of consciousness, and a bit like Faulkner only with shorter sentences. But it works. It reads to me like life is. It reads to me like the way life comes at us is as we live it.  There is a plot,maybe, but often it is not all that clear exactly what the plot is.   I see my life like that.  As  one scene after another loosely connected which from certain vantage points manages to have a certain coherence, and perhaps even develops a certain meaning.

In the book the characters are so sharply defined, and undoubtedly taken from Wolfe’s own experiences.  One of the most compelling, in kind of a creepy way, is Judge Bland who is now blind but manages to “see” what is going on all around him. He was a person of some promise who unexpectedly turns into some kind of  malevolent creature. Reminds me a little bit of Gollum from The Hobbit. But I digress.

What is the story line?  The main character, I won’t use the word protagonist since this is not an English Lit class, becomes a big city New York  writer who pens a best seller using the backdrop of his hometown and it’s citizenry for material. Place and persons are only marginally disguised.  Yes. He really did do that.  It is magnificent. However, there is a price to pay not only for fame, but for writing a very public best selling novel which is in essence a gossipy tell all of your hometown.

You can’t go home again.  Not really. But you can revisit your version of what it was like in your mind, or you can put it on paper like Wolfe and every other write does. Highly recommended.

 

Review: Max Perkins Editor of Genius

If you are a writer, or if you aspire to be one, read this excellent biography. If you are a lover of good literature, or a history buff, read this book. In my opinion Maxwell Perkins was the most influential editor in American literary history. In case your English literature class was woefully deficient, thankfully mine wasn’t, he was the editor of F. Scott Fitzgerald, Thomas Wolfe (the first one not the one who wrote Bonfire of the Vanities), Ernest Hemingway, and James Jones. A pantheon of American literature the likes of which we have not seen since. And that is just a partial list. More than editor. He was in essence an essential collaborator to writers who might not have been as successful without him.

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Max Perkins Editor of Genius by A. Scott Berg

This book provides a lot of inside information on the writing and editing process. That itself made it worth my time. Knowing how to take a jumbled inchoate manuscript from the scribbles of someone like Thomas Wolfe and help the author turn it into a piece of genuine literature is a rare art. Back in the day an unknown writer could waltz into the Scribner building on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan with their manuscript, and had a much better than even chance of seeing the man himself. Many were asked to tea. Compare that to today when charlatans abound in the publishing business and most publishers want to see an edited manuscript before they will look at it.

A. Scott Berg’s work takes us deep inside Scribner’s publishing house (which started as a publisher of religious books), and the storied rise of Max Perkins and the writers he worked with. The book starts slow, because the author takes his time in building the foundation. It picks up steam as it goes along, and I finished the last half of it today because I couldn’t put it down. I had tears in my eyes the last few pages. I cannot ever remember when I have been moved so powerfully by a biography. I suspect never.

Time Travel, Letters, and a Poem

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This week I found three brown plastic file boxes. Inside my garage, and unopened for years. A literal treasure chest of stuff. Much of which I had forgotten about, or thought I had lost.

I found my press pass from when Ronald Reagan came to town, Kodachrome slides, my discharge certificates from the Army and the Navy, and letters. A huge pile of letters I had written to my Grandfather at P. O. Box 261, Sturgeon Missouri. I am actually thinking about writing and seeing who answers.

The letters were unbelievable. Evidently while stationed at Ft. Riley, and living in Manhattan, Ks., I was dating a “cute girl,” named Debbie who was under five foot tall, and we went to a Buddy Rich concert.

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I went to a Buddy Rich concert?

I don’t remember her or the concert. I do remember watching Buddy Rich play the drums on the Johnny Carson show. The letters cover all three years from my first days in basic training at Ft. Dix, to medical training at Ft. Sam, to my permanent duty station at Ft. Riley, Kansas. There are even some letters from Germany when I went there for training. There were also some letters to my uncle Bruce who lived with them. As you can see they were written on the stationary they used to sell at the PX.

In honor of my Grandfather, and all of my family members that have passed – especially my father. I offer it as a tribute to those “working class” people who lived decent lives and worked harder than they should have, for less than they should have made. A tribute to the struggle of the working person. I offer up this poem written in August of 2013 and published by The Poet’s Haven in December of that year along with another poem called Flight.

All My Relatives

I see them
in the small
secluded places
outside of office buildings
alone or
in small groups
smoking
listening to music
on their phone
or even reading a book
taking a break
whatever it takes
to escape
from their waged
slave labor
where they must
comply
with a smile
and a thank you
to the humiliation
of being
captured
and incarcerated
in a system
where they are used
and then discarded
at will
when they are
bent and broken
but before that
they stand
they stand on
the small corner
of the tiny
nation state
of their existence
where they can
enjoy
the diluted freedom
allotted to them
I see them
in the still small
secluded places
outside of office buildings
all my relatives
living on the reservations
of capitalism

It is sad that nobody writes letters anymore. Or reads poetry. When my two youngest girls went to camp I wrote them, but they never wrote back except to ask for money.

A poem, perhaps a dirge, for our times.

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The Children of Hegel

Whoa...

I need to catch my breath
as I look out the window of an ancient childhood
take inventory of the moment ponder the question:
what is this world we have become?
as we wound our way through
the serpentine flow of history
which started as a clear stream, with direction
only to slow to a trickle
then halt in a moribund morass of sludge
which has ground we the people to a halt, and history no longer flows free
but threatens to backup like a sewer
and we the children of Hegel are stranded stuck
stuck
in an eternal synthesis
in a fused bipolar cycle which is the
worst of both worlds
no thesis, and no antithesis
Marx, Hegel, and Fukuyama never saw it coming
the sucker punch of technology - Heidegger’s enfolding
and we have become the slave of it
what we failed to envision
is the possibility that good might fail
and that in the end, before the end of times
that evil would prevail
fed fat on the cancer of malignant capitalism
we descend anew into the Dark Ages
the questions remains...

Will we emerge or destroy the very foundation 
of the earth we stand upon?

Two issues. Heidegger warned that technology might not be what it seems.  He sensed something sinister in it, and wrote about it in The Question Concerning Technology. He called it an enfolding. I hope to have a lot to say about that later in future posts.

The second issue.  A nation of vision, strength, and no little amount of moral integrity has become a debauchery of greed and indulgence, and we are ruled by a plutocracy.  Reagan’s light on a hill (say what you want at least he was no cynic and believed the rhetoric) is now a dim, and flickering, flame.  We are fading, and the grand experiment in democracy is in peril.  Oh, I know, we were never perfect.  Far from it.  But we thought we could be. We had that audacity.  God bless us for that.  We believed we could become something good, and better all humankind.

I must say a word about capitalism.  Note I used the term malignant capitalism which I want to define rather narrowly.  The one lesson America has not learned is moderation. Everything is supersized, everything is breaking news, everything is over the top.   Capitalism in and of itself is not malignant.  But, when it becomes the focus, and when the business of America is business (or making money – there is a difference and that is our present state) something bad happens. Unchecked, and monitored it becomes grotesque, and the traits of it that were virtuous become a vice. Just like the hunting rifle of old has turned into a weapon, and dangerous parody of what it once was.

 

 

Time

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Funny thing about time isn’t it?  We enter time  from eternity and then return to the infinite when we are done here.  In time are all born, and we all die.  Also, here in Missouri the Indian people lived before the time when white men came and drove them out.  I knew I was Native American on one side of my family, but was surprised to find out, from a surprisingly detail genealogy, that I was native American on both sides. I am 1/16th to the tribes reckoning, and they think I  had a great grandmother who was “full blood” but they couldn’t prove that at the time. 

These poems are from the time in my life where I was searching the nooks and crannies of my Native American relations. Time for some poetry with a little Indian flair!

My Death Song

as I face death
I ask You 
the Great Mystery
grant me the kindness
of no fear
that the final moments
are not seized by terror
but grace and good will
with someone to hold my hand
that is not paid 
to be there
and that my relations 
come quickly 
to greet me as I
step out into
the next journey 

Going to Water

(based on the practices of Cherokee Medicine Man Rolling Thunder)

my favorite way
to go to water
is when it is raining lightly
just above a drizzle
then the water is more powerful
the medicine quicker
as the current foams white
upon the higher rocks
in the small creeks and streams
that are common here in Missouri
you wade shoeless into the water
and face downstream
then will pray to the Great Mystery
that the water will carry away
the debris 
I like to raise my hands as I begin
but that is optional
just watch the ripples and currents
carry your burdens away 
leeching the salt 
from you wounds
you will feel
the water pulling away
what you don't need

A Picture & Two Poems

UntitledPoetry, at least in large part, is about the sound.  Years ago I started a poem that consisted of words that just felt good when you said them.  They are also words which are a bit dusty from lack of use.  That is the first poem.

The second poem is about the semi innocence of youth.  Awkward moments learning the dance of love, feeling your way through, and around, relationships.  I am still kinda working on that.

As, is so often the case with this blog, the photo has little to do with the content. Or does it?

 

 


Words That Feel Good to Say That You Do Not Get to Say Often Enough

Thingamajig
Fandango
Scintillating
Imbroglio
Magnanimous
Thingamabob
Gizmo
Gargantuan
Geranium
Whirligig
Lollygagging
(this is a work in progress)

Sixteen

In the yellow incandescent light
of your back porch
we were semi innocent