Said and read – March 2021

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“While our coming migrations may not proceed fast enough to keep pace with our shifting climate, a growing body of evidence suggests they may be our best shot at preserving biodiversity and resilient human societies.” – Sonia Shah, The Next Great Migration: The Beauty and Terror of Life on the Move

Previous book reports: 2021 – February, January. 2020 – December, October, September, August, July, June, May, April, March, February, January. 2019 – December, November, October, September, May, April, March, February, January. 2018 – NovemberOctober, SeptemberAugust, July, June, May, April, March, February and January.

Thoughts on reading for March

A lackluster month in many ways – overly long, filled with churning through the process of just trying to get things done. Reading hasn’t been the priority, and I feel its loss when I don’t have the time to indulge.

Still, I read quite a few things, but nothing really stood out.

*When the Body Says NoGabor Maté

“…people do not become ill despite their lives but rather because of their lives. And life includes not only physical factors like diet, physical activity, and the environment, but also the internal milieu of thoughts and unconscious emotions that govern so much of our physiology, through the mechanisms of stress and the unity of the systems that modulate nerves, hormones, immunity, digestion, and cardiovascular function. Much disease could be prevented and healed if we fully understood the scientific evidence verifying the mind-body unity.”

Can stress kill you… or contribute to your early demise?

“The dynamics of repression operate in all of us. We are all self-deniers and self-betrayers to one extent or another, most often in ways we are no more aware of than I was conscious of while “deciding” to disguise my limp. When it comes to health or illness, it is only a matter of degree and, too, a matter of the presence or absence of other factors—such as heredity or environmental hazards, for example—that also pre-dispose to disease.”

Dr Gabor Maté, well-known for his work on addiction, argues that stress and trauma, particularly that which has been repressed and never dealt with, can be fatal.

“A U.S. study, for example, found that women who are unhappily married and do not express their emotions have a greatly increased risk of death compared with similarly unhappy women who do not repress their feelings. Canadian research has shown that people abused in childhood have a nearly 50 percent increased risk of cancer in adulthood. Such data are manifestations of what the psychiatrist and author Daniel Siegel has termed “interpersonal neurobiology,” or what, going a small step further, we may call interpersonal biology. Our relationships help shape our physiology.”

One of the salient points in the book is one that emerges from discussion about human health more generally: we ignore the whole in favor of the part, specializing in or focusing on one thing, only to end up without insight into the bigger picture. The human body can suffer most of all from this short-sightedness and perceived lack of connection between the mind and body.

“The more specialized doctors become, the more they know about a body part or organ and the less they tend to understand the human being in whom that part or organ resides.”

Additionally, dealing with stress or trauma also requires understanding what to  do with the absence of stress: after a life lived under the weight of the burden of it, the lack of stress itself can cause another type of stress.

“For those habituated to high levels of internal stress since early childhood, it is the absence of stress that creates unease, evoking boredom and a sense of meaninglessness. People may become addicted to their own stress hormones, adrenaline and cortisol, Hans Selye observed. To such persons stress feels desirable, while the absence of it feels like something to be avoided.”

*Kubernetes for Full-Stack Developers – various authors

*Kubernetes for Developers – Joe Heck

So let’s start by saying that I am not a developer and even though I work in a tech environment, these kinds of books aren’t part and parcel of what I need to do or know. They are not designed for me. Not at this level of hands-on or specific depth anyway. But it’s still interesting following along passively as technology and application development change shape.

*The Next Great Migration: The Beauty and Terror of Life on the MoveSonia Shah

“Human migration is not exceptional. Long isolation did not differentiate our species into separate races. Feats of navigation are not the sole province of “white gods” from the West. The oceans can be crossed by canoe. And humans aren’t the only ones who move across the landscape, leaping over continents and oceans. Plants and animals do, too.”

Migration is nothing new – it has been done forever.

“By describing peoples and species as “from” certain places, we invoke a specific idea about the past. It traces back to the eighteenth century, when European naturalists first started cataloging the natural world. Assuming that peoples and wild creatures had stayed mostly fixed in their places throughout history, they named creatures and peoples based on those places, conflating one with the other as if they’d been joined since time immemorial. Those centuries-old taxonomies formed the foundation for modern ideas about our biological history. Today a range of fields from ecology to genetics and biogeography allude to long periods of isolation in our distant past, when species and peoples remained ensconced in their habitats, each evolving in their separate locales. This stillness at the center of our ideas about the past necessarily casts migrants and migrations as anomalous and disruptive. Early twentieth-century naturalists dismissed migration as an ecologically useless and even dangerous behavior, warning of “disastrous results” should migrant animals be allowed to move freely. Conservationists and other scientists warned that human migration, too, would precipitate biological calamity.”

Sonia Shah tells the story of migration – of animals, plants, people, explaining its additive rather than disruptive or negative force.

*Break It Up: Secession, Division, and the Secret History of America’s Imperfect UnionRichard Kreitner

We tend to think of the United States as an always-united concept apart from the horror of the Civil War. But the idea of disunion and secession has always been woven into the ethos of the American experiment. It continues now, particularly during the turbulence of the last few years (the lead-up to and during the Trump presidency).

*The Invention of SolitudePaul Auster

Impossible, I realize, to enter another’s solitude. If it is true that we can ever come to know another human being, even to a small degree, it is only to the extent that he is willing to make himself known.

Amen.

Image (c) 2021, S Donaghy

on no work

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On No Work Of Words
Dylan Thomas

On no work of words now for three lean months in the
bloody
Belly of the rich year and the big purse of my body
I bitterly take to task my poverty and craft:

To take to give is all, return what is hungrily given
Puffing the pounds of manna up through the dew to heaven,
The lovely gift of the gab bangs back on a blind shaft.

To lift to leave from treasures of man is pleasing death
That will rake at last all currencies of the marked breath
And count the taken, forsaken mysteries in a bad dark.

To surrender now is to pay the expensive ogre twice.
Ancient woods of my blood, dash down to the nut of the seas
If I take to burn or return this world which is each man’s
work.

Photo by Artem Sapegin on Unsplash

destruction

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Destruction
Carlos Drummond de Andrade

Translation

Destruição

Photo by James Wainscoat on Unsplash

vigil

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Vigil

Cecília Meireles

As the companion is dead,
so we must all together die
somewhat.

Shed for him who lost his life,
our tears are worth
nothing.

Love for him, within this grief,
is a faint sigh lost in a vast
forest.

Faith in him, the lost
companion — what but that
is left?

To die ourselves somewhat
through him we see today
quite dead.

Translation

Vigília
Como o companheiro é morto,
todos juntos morreremos
um pouco.

O valor de nossas lágrimas
sobre quem perdeu a vida
não é nada.

Amá-lo, nesta tristeza,
é suspiro numa selva
imensa.

Por fidelidade reta
ao companheiro perdido,
que nos resta?

Deixar-nos morrer um pouco
por aquele que hoje vemos
todo morto.

Photo by 王维家 on Unsplash

toothbrush – bicycle

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The Toothbrush to the Bicycle Tire

Sarah Kay

They told me that I was meant for the cleaner life;
that you would drag me through the mud.

They said that you would tread all over me,
that they could see right through you,

that you were full of hot air;
that I would always be chasing,

always watching you disappear after sleeker models—
that it would be a vicious cycle.

But I know better. I know about your rough edges
and I have seen your perfect curves.

I will fit into whatever spaces you let me.
If loving you means getting dirty, bring on the grime.

I will leave this porcelain home behind. I’m used to
twice-a-day relationships, but with you I’ll take all the time.

And I know we live in different worlds, and we’re always really busy,
but in my dreams you spin around me so fast, I always wake up dizzy.

So maybe one day you’ll grow tired of the road,
and roll on back to me.

And when I blink my eyes into morning,
your smile will be the only one I see.

Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash

nightingale pledge

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Nightingale Pledge

Romalyn Ante

Before God and those assembled here, I pledge:
I will check the screen tracing your heart rhythm –
the beep steady as a bird’s call from the shadows.
I will tie your gown, so faithfully strong
it won’t show your bare back, your leaf-like keloid.
Only filtered air will stroke your unwashed hair.
I will carry out to the best of my ability
my nocturnal duties – the warm Horlicks,
the call bell, the ajar door. I will devote
my midnight listening to you hum a song –
something that lessens the weight of my eyelids.
I will attend to the sound of your bare feet
as they touch the sticky floor. In the morning
I will explain what the cylindrical bottles are for;
without a word, you’ll unbend your arm to me.
My fingertip will search for the strongest vein.
I will not do anything evil. The defib pads
will fly out of the metal drawer, I will slap them
on your chest: one on the right, below the clavicle,
the other on the left, just under the armpit.
I will be the first one to greet you, Welcome back.
Even if I know you’d rather go. I will not reveal
the story of your life, how your daughter left
when she learned of your diagnosis.
I will devote my hours listening to things
you do not say. I will maintain the prestige
of my profession, but release a wild laugh
when I find you pretend choking
on your egg-white tablets
so I will pat your back.

the dawn

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The Dawn

Ricardo Jaime Freyre

Translation

El alba

Las auroras pálidas,
que nacen entre penumbras misteriosas,
y enredados en las orlas de sus mantos
llevan jirones de sombra,
iluminan las montañas,
las crestas de las montañas rojas;
bañan las torres erguidas,
que saludan su aparición silenciosa,
con la voz de sus campanas
soñolienta y ronca;
ríen en las calles
dormidas de la ciudad populosa,
y se esparcen en los campos
donde el invierno respeta las amarillentas hojas.
Tienen perfumes de Oriente
las auroras;
los recogieron al paso, de las florestas ocultas
de una extraña Flora.
Tienen ritmos
y músicas armoniosas,
porque oyeron los gorjeos y los trinos de las aves
exóticas.

Su luz fría,
que conserva los jirones de la sombra,
enredóse, vacilante, de los lotos
en las anchas hojas.
Chispeó en las aguas dormidas,
las aguas del viejo Ganges, dormidas y silenciosas;
y las tribus de los árabes desiertos,
saludaron con plegarias a las pálidas auroras.
Los rostros de los errantes beduinos
se bañaron con arenas ardorosas,
y murmuraron las suras del Profeta
voces roncas.

Tendieron las suaves alas
sobre los mares de Jonia
y vieron surgir a Venus
de las suspirantes olas.
En las cimas,
donde las tinieblas eternas sobre las nieves se posan
vieron monstruos espantables
entre las rocas,
y las crines de los búfalos que huían
por la selva tenebrosa.
Reflejaron en la espada
simbólica,
que a la sombra de una encina
yacía olvidada y polvorosa.

Hay ensueños,
hay ensueños en las pálidas auroras…
Hay ensueños,
que se envuelven en sus jirones de sombra…
Sorprenden los amorosos
secretos de las nupciales alcobas,
y ponen pálidos tintes en los labios
donde el beso dejó huellas voluptuosas…

Y el Sol eleva su disco fulgurante
sobre la tierra, los aires y las suspirantes olas.

Photo by Thomas Millot on Unsplash