Monday, March 11, 2013

On Mercury Retrograde and other believing

I have a bit of a problem, which is that most often when asked about my religious/spiritual/life perspectives I say, "I don't really have beliefs, I just kind of have things that I like the idea of, so I go with them."

This is mostly true.

I am constantly awed by the universe, and interested in the great many possibilities of life. I have no idea which of them are true, even out of the ones that seem like facts. I don't believe in an afterlife, per se, or in tarot cards, or in simulation theory, or in astrology - but I kind of like the idea of all of these things, so I count them as possibilities, and act accordingly.

But I'm not sure I can claim that something is not a belief if I follow it. À la: I am planning a trip with my dad. We'll be going to Japan in October. And tonight I said to him, "I don't want to book our tickets until Mercury goes direct." Yes, I - out loud - used astrology as a guiding factor in my life and my decisions. I said it as if I were hiding my face behind my hands, which I might have been, had we been talking in person rather than over the phone. It seems to be that my fondness for astrology has become a belief. I'm still uncomfortable with that word - after all, I can't know. I have no idea. And whatever I believe, or think, or imagine is possible, some day it will be proven right or wrong, whether or not I am conscious/still exist to know it. And so I don't necessarily believe in beliefs - vaporous as they are, they seem sort of pointless.


But, maybe they're good for us. 

I recently read a couple of books about near death experiences, because it's a phenomenon I find fascinating and, you know, possible. The thing that I was left with, though, is that if there is a space we inhabit after death, a space where all we feel is connection, where all we feel is love, why on earth (in sky, in nonspace?) would we spend time on earth, in the opposite of that? I don't get life. I like life fine; I think it's endlessly fascinating and amazing and painful and weird, but I don't get it. 

And so I decided to just pick a reason. Rather than beating my firsts against the sky, asking repeatedly "why?" I decided to decide. 

I picked love. 

I was reading (still am, actually) Emotional Freedom, by Judith Orloff, and I came across the following passage: 
My teacher says to look at life as your main career and as a divine classroom. Your spirit is in human form to learn what the body and emotions can teach about love, including how to overcome a slew of obstacles. The way you approach everything - your job, family, friends, health - must be in service to that aim. (44)
This made about as much sense as anything else, and, moreover, it felt nice. So I decided to just believe it. I don't know - I can't know - why we're here (or even if we're here, it sometimes feels like), so I might as well pick something. It's nice to have, this belief. It's something to return to, and it has become a kind of mantra. Whenever I am anxious about anything, whenever anything feels like it's going wrong: "I am here to learn about love." I have no idea whether or not it's true, but I'm going to believe it.

And now, because I also apparently believe in astrology, I am going to go back to researching my trip to Japan, without signing any paperwork until March 18, while figuring out what all of this can teach me about love.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Books and Movies

Where do I stand with my 100 books and 100 movies in 2013, you ask?


  1. Stories We Tell
    Who deserves to tell a story? Who does it belong to? It depends on who you ask. 
  2. The Lucky One
  3. Groundhog Day
    Interesting how every time I watch this it has a different effect. Last time I saw it, I'm pretty sure I wept - somehow this time was less moving, but still as enjoyable. 
  4. What's Your Number?
    UGH again. I'm pretty sure there was one funny moment in this movie. 
  5. Sleepwalk With Me
    An odd film, about sleepwalking, relationships, and comedy. Quite enjoyable, though. 
  6. This is 40
    I laughed about a thousand times, but there was no plot to speak of, and the people were terrible to one another. I love Judd Apatow, but this was a pretty meagre offering. About 50x better than What's Your Number, but still worse than most other movies I've seen in my life. 

  1. Heads in Beds
    An enjoyable read - quite light, with tons of insight into the Hotel world and how someone can be sucked in for life. I now feel the need to tip everyone I see in a hotel, which was, I think, the point. I'm sure this will pass.
  2. Yes, Chef
    The early chapters were really compelling - about growing up in Sweden after having been adopted from Ethiopia, finding himself as a chef and traveling the world, discovering new flavours. The later chapters, once Marcus is established, were less engaging, but the book was, overall, enjoyable. A glimpse at what it takes to become a top chef (let's just say long hours).
  3. Don't Breathe a Word
    Was very compelling as I started and got into it, creepy but not so dark I had to put it down as soon as the sun set, but too many questions are left unanswered and I found the ending very dissatisfying. Tuns of twist and turns that seem to end up just in a tangle: instead of the catharsis of unravelling them, it feels like McMahon just cut through it all with a convenient, too-shiny pair of scissors. Snip.
  4. The Diviners
    The characters were enjoyable but slightly flat (at times), the 20s-speak felt a little forced (at times), but the story definitely pulled me in. I could picture everything that was happening, and can imagine a super successful film version of this series. Since only the first in the series has been published, I'm looking forward at how everything comes together - hopefully now that all of the characters have been introduced, the next book will have a li...more
  5. Sharp Objects
    I knew what the themes were going to be pretty early on, but still enjoyed the narrator - flawed but beautiful, in a whole lot of ways - and the way Flynn tells stories. I loved that everything wasn't tidied up in the end - the mystery is solved but sad people are still sad, and so on. One thing: I think I read this too soon after reading Gone Girl - need to give Flynn's books more space, because the tone/style/plotting (which I do enjoy) are too similar, so far.
  6. Heaven is for Real
    Ugh. I find near death experience stories endlessly fascinating, but the overly preachy tone (surprise - the author is indeed a preacher) of this one left me cold.
  7. State of Wonder
    So, so gorgeous. Everything is perfectly placed, every story unfolds exactly as one knows it must, and every element comes to have deep, resonating importance. I cried as it ended, and I wanted to know what's next, but I also knew that it was a completely perfect telling of the story, and the end comes exactly where it should.
  8. Mr. Penumbra's 24 Hour Bookstore
    For the first chapter I was convinced this was one of those blogs that got turned into a memoir (somehow I missed the whole "a novel" bit on the cover, though I was reading the e-version, so I have a sort-of excuse). It sort of feels that way - I could actually imagine it being written that way, too - fiction in blog form - but it quickly became too weird to be non-fiction. A hyper-modern fantastical journey through the stacks of a very odd bookstore (with very few books for sale) and beyond, this book definitely pulled me in. Where it fell flat, for me, was the lack of emotional depth. Everything was very flat, very surface, maybe to match the shiny tech setting (complete with multiple trips to the Google campus). I chuckled quite a number of times, but while there was lots of cleverness, I didn't find much heart. And I need heart in my books.
  9. Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon's Journey into the Afterlife
    Much more interesting than Heaven is For Real (and much less preachy - not surprisingly), and fascinating in light of the author's original skepticism. I wish this had been a long article, though - turning it into a book meant it was full of all kinds of stuff that I had no interest in - what was happening in his hospital room, who came to visit him and when. And I'm not convinced by his arguments as to why this was definitely a visitation to the afterlife, as opposed to some kind of chemical function of the brain upon nearing death (not that I'm sure they are different). Still, if you're interested in life after death stuff, this is a pretty interesting addition to what's out there (Rosemary Altea, anyone?)
So, I'm a little behind, and need to read and watch more. I'm especially surprised by how few movies I've watched, though I realize that I've become more of a television person. Watching a season of television is so much more satisfying than watching a film, much of the time. I'm not counting the TV shows I watch, though maybe I should... every season counts as a movie. If so, I'm almost finished House of Cards (the new Netflix version), which has devoured me (it feels more like that than the other way around, sometimes). 

Sally asked what winter is good for, after Christmas is over (actually, I think she asked how one can conceptualize winter after Christmas - the nerd). My answer: making crafts and watching movies. So I can catch up, I think. 

Sunday, January 6, 2013

In 2013

Image via Flickr user davidmonro

Initially inspired by the massive influx of new Goodreads friends and their 2013 reading challenge aims, I committed to my first real resolution of the year: read 100 books in 2013. Except, being a hippie, I don't believe in resolutions, and instead call them intentions. And also, being a hippie, my sister and I had already done early Solstice intentions for the coming year (complete with burning them to release the energy into the world), and mine centered on taking action more. Anyhow, 100 books in 2013. Okay.

Then, listening to my favourite, they discussed their own resolutions for the year, and I was again inspired to set some more goals.

100 movies. Unlike Ms. Holmes, I will not require myself to see new movies (and I have yet to decide whether they have to be new to me), but I'm going to watch 100 movies this year. And read 100 books. And, the strongest bit of inspiration, I'm going to write about them. I was sitting around the other day, after reading some great bit of writing about some great bit of pop culture, and I was getting down on myself for not writing about things, mostly because I worry that I won't have anything to say. Brainwave: write about things you love and why you love them, and about things you hate and why you hate them. Easy. Hopefully I'll come across (or, you know, have) some insights, and I'll find some interesting things to say. But yes. Action. Action!

I've made my way through the first of my books for the year: Heads in Beds: A Reckless Memoir of Hotels, Hustles, and So-Called Hospitality, by Jacob Tomsky. I'm giving it 7/10 - a solidly enjoyable account of a life spent working in hotels, along with all of the dirty (like, pretty gross) secrets of the industry. Included: how to steal from the minibar, and how to get an upgrade. Also included, an odd undercurrent that felt like it was leading to a story of sobriety, but maybe that's still coming (he needs to keep something for the next book). The main theme: Tip! Also: Unions are awesome.


Email me at thenewisthetrue (at) gmail .com
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Toronto, Canada
I think I might be addicted to books. And noodles. I need the ocean. I want to know everything. Almost. I love love. And loving things. Like love. And like.