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

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