What am I Reading?

Glad you asked.  May not finish these until August because classes start this week, but enjoying all three.

Man’s Search for Meaning by Victor Frankl

This classic is a hard read because of the content of Frankl’s concentration camp experiences. Existential theory gets a bad rap in Christian circles for different reasons, but I believe there is more complementary between the view and Christianity than contradictory.

“An abnormal reaction to an abnormal situation is normal behavior.”

my favorite part is actually from the preface, and not even a main principle of the book:

“…success, like happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensue, and it only does so as the unintended side-effect of one’s personal dedication to a cause greater than oneself or as the by-product of one’s surrender to a person other than oneself. Happiness must happen, and the same holds for success; you have to let it happen by not caring about it.”

Descartes’ Error: Emotion, Reason, and the Human Brain by Antonio Damasio

I have been interested in this for a while. It is written by a neurologist, but for a general audience. I worry that emotion is given a bad rap in psychology and Christian circles. He has done research that suggests that emotion can be an integral and helpful part of decision-making.

“feelings are just as cognitive as other percepts.”

“Emotion, feeling and biological regulation all play a role in human reason.”

“I began writing this book to propose that reason may not be as pure as most of us think it is or wish it were, that emotions and feelings may not be intruders in the bastion of reason at all; they may be enmeshed in its networks, for worse and for better.”

Unholy Ghost: writers on depression

This is an anthology of writers sharing their own experiences with depression.  So it’s not clinical but personal and fascinating. And powerful, at times.

There are three cases where a person afflicted will write, and then a loved one will share their perspective.

Russel Banks contribution, “Bodies in the Basement” is a great essay on poetry, fiction, and depression. Highly recommend.

You will get stuff like this by Darcy Steinke: “The raw nub of my soul bobbed up to the surface, ugly and ungainly, and I was suddenly pierced with panicky malaise.” So, if you are interested in depression/mental health but prefer something more scientific, this may not be for you.

My favorite, so far, has by Susanna Kaysen, who wrote, “One Cheer for Melancholy.”

These quotes give you the gist:

“Any psychiatrist can tell you this (pessimism) is a standard defense mechanism against disappointment and loss. But so is optimism–and optimism is a lousy defense mechanism because more than half the time it leaves you feeling bad.”

“Seeing things clearly, for me, is a sort of happiness, even if what I see is banal or sad.”

“Americans are saddled with the idea that we can and should be happy.”  (I could go on for days on this sentence)

“I think depression and despair are reasonable reactions to the nature of life.”

“The melancholic temperament is equipped to perceive and, more important, to tolerate the fundamental ambiguities of life.”

 

 

 

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4 thoughts on “What am I Reading?

  1. brunohughes

    Have you read Against Happiness? I borrowed it from the downtown Nashville public library. It’s a pretty short read. I loved it, and I’m one of those smiley optimist types. That “One Cheer for Melancholy” essay sounds like a similar take on the human experience. It’s good to be reminded that people respond to this weird world in different ways, and we shouldn’t judge each other on surface appearances. My surface smile might hide dark inner depths, and someone else’s dour expression might hide an abiding inner strength.

  2. have you heard of Barbara Ehrenreich’s Bright-Minded, ok, maybe i goofed the author and title, but she suggests the american trait of optimism has negative consequences

  3. brunohughes

    I read Ehrenreich’s Nickel and Dimed, but never heard of Bright-Minded. I remember a guest chapel speaker at FHU describing the student body as moronically happy. It was an ingrained culture thing there, and it kept people from dealing with painful realities, in my experience.

  4. moronicially happy! hahahah, i do think a shallow from of happiness that is NOT biblically joy has infiltrated the church at times. we rush to Rom 8:28 etc instead of feeling sad, and we neglect the Psalms, right?

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