SOLITUDE: A  Singular Life in a Crowded World – Michael Harris

Our March meetings will be held at 2pm at two different homes: March 8 at the home of Linda Palmason, 3022 Westridge Blvd, and March 22nd at the home of Helen Griffin, 1370 Armstrong Drive

The capacity to be alone–properly alone–is one of life’s subtlest skills. Real solitude is a contented and productive

state that garners tangible rewards: it allows us to reflect and recharge, improving our relationships with ourselves and, paradoxically, with others. Today, the zeitgeist embraces sharing like never before. Fueled by our dependence on online and social media, we have created an ecosystem of obsessive distraction that dangerously undervalues solitude. Many of us now lead lives of strangely crowded loneliness–we are ever-connected, but only shallowly so.

 

Award-winning author Michael Harris examines why our experience of solitude has become so impoverished, and how we may grow to love it again in the frenzy of our digital landscape. Solitude is an optimistic and encouraging story about discovering true quiet inside the city, inside the crowd, inside our busy and urbane lives. Harris guides readers away from a life of ceaseless pings toward a state of measured connectivity, one that balances solitude and companionship.

Rich with true stories about the life-changing power of solitude, and interwoven with reporting from the world’s foremost brain researchers, psychologists and tech entrepreneurs, Solitude is a beautiful and convincing statement on the benefits of being alone.

THE RIGHT TO BE COLD – Sheila Watt-Cloutier

We will be meeting to discuss this book on February 8 & 22,  at the home of Linda Palmason, 3022 Westridge Blvd., Peterborough. All are welcome to join us for our usual invigorating discussion

While it was both enlightening and revealing to learn about her earlier life and intricate details of the forced assimilation imposed on Inuit children, the rest of Sheila-Watt Cloutier’s journey in becoming one of the most influential and decorated environmental, cultural, and human rights advocate in the world, is all the more inspiring — and a departure from the cultural genocide narrative that has come to the fore in CanLit.

In the language of the Inuktitut, there are myriad subtle ways in describing the ice, the snow, and the environment that are part and parcel of the Inuit way of life — a life that they have knew for millennia prior to Western colonization yet with the steady drumbeat of industrialization, material culture, and human activity in the Anthropocene, all of this is changing rapidly. The change in climate evokes a change in the way of life, and by extension an erosion of a culture that has been brutalized yet still clings to life.

Sheila-Watt has articulated the case for action against the climate change that native cultures have been seeing for the past generation. Those that live in tandem with and are closest to the land and nature are the proverbial canary in the coal mine; they remind us that the world must act now in order to stave off significant environmental changes years from now.

THE POWER OF HABIT by Charles Duhigg

Here  is a description of the book  we will be discussing on January 11th and 25th at 2pm, at the home of Brian Ling, 440 Carriage Lane, Peterborough.

Groundbreaking new research shows that by grabbing hold of the three-step “loop” all habits form in our brains–cue, routine, reward–we can change them, giving us the power to take control over our lives.
 
“We are what we repeatedly do,” said Aristotle. “Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” On the most basic level, a habit is a simple neurological loop: there is a cue (my mouth feels gross), a routine (hello, Crest), and a reward (ahhh, minty fresh). Understanding this loop is the key to exercising regularly or becoming more productive at work or tapping into reserves of creativity. Marketers, too, are learning how to exploit these loops to boost sales; CEOs and coaches are using them to change how employees work and athletes compete. As this book shows, tweaking even one habit, as long as it’s the right one, can have staggering effects.

In The Power of Habit, award-winning New York Times business reporter Charles Duhigg takes readers inside labs where brain scans record habits as they flourish and die; classrooms in which students learn to boost their willpower; and boardrooms where executives dream up products that tug on our deepest habitual urges. Full of compelling narratives that will appeal to fans of Michael Lewis, Jonah Lehrer, and Chip and Dan Heath, The Power of Habit contains an exhilarating argument: our most basic actions are not the product of well-considered decision making, but of habits we often do not realize exist. By harnessing this new science, we can transform our lives.

THE SPIRAL STAIRCASE by Karen Armstrong

We will be meeting this month on the 1st and 3rd Thursdays of December at the home of Linda Palmason 3022 Westridge Blvd at 2pm.  All are invited for these discussions.

In the lucid yet reflective manner that is Armstrong’s trademark, The Spiral Staircase recalls her painful early life as a nun, her even more painful reentry into secular society, and most compellingly, the long-undiagnosed epilepsy that made her life a horror show of phantom visions and misplaced hours.

We follow Armstrong to the Middle East and elsewhere as she searches for answers to questions no less daunting than the significance of faith. Yet what drives Armstrong is her distaste for and distrust of those who see only black or white, never shades of grey. “I disliked the crusading certainty of Ayatollah Khomeini, yet I was also disturbed by the shrill rhetoric of some of Rushdie’s champions,” she writes in the wake of debate over Salman Rushdie’s Satanic Verses and the ensuing fatwa issued by the extremists on the Islamic right. Indeed, as religious dogma divides the world in ever new ways, Armstrong’s learned views are especially resonant.

But The Spiral Staircase, its name inspired by T.S. Eliot’s poem cycle Ash-Wednesday, is not a polemic, despite Armstrong’s forceful and persuasive arguments for religious tolerance. Rather, it’s a beautiful letter sent by a gifted writer attempting to decode the meaning of her life. Who can’t relate? –Kim Hughes

Freedom Evolves – Daniel Dennett

The book for November is Freedom Evolves.  The gatherings will be held at Gillie Trowbridge’s home, 24 Cricket Place at 2pm on November 9 & 23.

Can there be freedom and free will in a deterministic world? Renowned philosopher Daniel Dennett emphatically

answers “yes!” Using an array of provocative formulations, Dennett sets out to show how we alone among the animals have evolved minds that give us free will and morality. Weaving a richly detailed narrative, Dennett explains in a series of strikingly original

arguments—drawing upon evolutionary biology, cognitive  neuroscience, economics, and philosophy—that far from being an enemy of traditional explorations of freedom, morality, and meaning, the evolutionary perspective can be an indispensable ally. In Freedom Evolves, Dennett seeks to place ethics on the foundation it deserves: a realistic, naturalistic, potentially unified vision of our place in nature.