My Reading List for Saving our Civilization

“The more clearly we can focus our attention on the wonders and realities of the universe about us, the less taste we shall have for destruction.”

 Rachel Carson
Photo by Michael Competielle

“Civilization is much more than the survival of the fittest and the unrelenting culling of the weakest members. Civilized people share a value system that extends far beyond doing whatever it takes to survive. Mere barbarians might be devoted to a life of exploitation. In contrast, civilized people value nature and care for the most vulnerable members of their kind.”

 Kilroy J. Oldster, Dead Toad Scrolls

2020 has been one hell of a year with the Coronavirus highjacking the World news headlines. It seems like a millennia ago I was tipping back a glass of bubbly thinking of new ways to expand upon my creativity and intellectual explorations. Reading more books to learn new talents topped the 2020 wishlist.

2019 had concluded with my starting to read A Year with Swollen Appendices by the polymath revolutionary Brian Eno. I’d joined The Long Now as member #10,800 to expand my knowledge of long term thinking while maximizing each precious moment.

It was in studying Eno I’d recognized his pattern of protection of time by practicing aggressive time management. The importance of protecting each precious moment and recognizing how little time we have. How he conceptualized the idea that we shouldn’t perform any tasks that didn’t provide the ability to simultaneously listen to an audiobook. How we should use every moment to our maximum advantage and automate practices to increase productivity.

Learning from brilliant thinkers such as Eno, Stewart Brand, and Malcolm Gladwell has reinforced the power of explorative thinking while mastering my own universe. Enhancing my brain plasticity by increasing the saturation of intellectual content has proven to change my mood and ability for conceptual retention.

Processing Qualitative Content

Heading back from spending the Holiday in Florida I listened to the audiobook version of The Spirit Level by Kate Pickett during my drive home. The book focuses on the analysis of inequality in unequal societies through the widening divide between the wealthy and the poor. How successful societies require greater economic equality and not greater wealth. Based on over thirty years of research the book lays out examples of gross inequality and conceptualizes ways to achieve equality.

As we are currently fighting a World Pandemic, the inequality has never been more apparent than during these struggling times. The inability of many demographics to work from home, social distance, have access to quality healthcare, and monetarily survival is apparent. Concepts of Universal Basic Income and Universal Healthcare should take precedent over opening beaches or sporting events.

I deep-sixed a shitty book The United States of Socialism written by pro-Trump supporter Dinesh D’Souza. The book wrongfully displays Social Democracies as Socialist or Communist societies. It does help to mention that the D’Souza was pardoned by Trump and therefore has a debt to pay. I didn’t finish this book nor am I recommending it.

Overcompensated professional athletes are prioritizing playing games with cardboard cutout fans while jeopardizing essential medical, emergency, and transportation workers. It’s sophomorically wreckless, childish behavior while lacking empathy or emotional intelligence. Professional sports should suck it up, and sit this one out. Collect some unemployment checks or small Federal stipend and call it a day.

As America goes deeper into the Pandemic the inequality becomes deeply apparent. According to a recent study by the Washington Center for Economic Growth these 6 principles of vulnerability in pandemic inequality. must be examined.

  • Too many people lack the basic protections that would have slowed the spread of the virus.
  • Workers lack the power to share in the gains of the economic expansion that would have given them protections and security.
  • Decades of stagnant wages and meager workplace benefits leave many families without enough savings to weather the coronavirus recession.
  • Policymakers starve public goods of investments that would have enabled better protections from the coronavirus pandemic and ensuing recession.
  • States and localities don’t have the resources to deal with a pandemic or a recession.
  • Business concentration across markets increases consumer and small business vulnerabilities just when those threats are most dire.

The Spirit Level brought to the forefront a clear understanding of why inequality happens and the difficulties of a healthy survival if the struggles aren’t addressed. The irony is within a few short months of reading this book, the failures of our society would become blatantly evidenced during this trying time begs to question, Where do we go from here?

Corona and the Quietus

Pre-Corona my suburban neighborhood was noisy. Highway and air traffic polluted the air with a consistent noise-floor. I’d attempted some early spring field recordings hoping to capture cheerful birdsong only to listen to highway rumble. One evening I stepped outside to an eerie sound…the sound of silence. Gone was the road noise and grounded were the planes. For the first time in my life, I noticed the silence.

The idea of descriptive nature writing fascinated me to the point I read The Invention of Nature by Andrea Wulf. This book studies the polymath Alexander von Humbolt. He explored nature, botany, geology, geography, and science. It was Humbolt’s explorations and writings that had inspired Darwin, Thoreau, and Thomas Jefferson.

Having traveled from Europe to South, Central, North America, and Russia, Humbolt was the first person to describe human-induced climate change. His first writings on the observation were in 1800. Agriculture and industrialization was the cause of climate change. Unfortunately few listened.

The completion of The Invention of Nature filled my reading list with Darwin’s Origin of Species (a text I must need and not listen too), Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, and Walden by Henry David Thoreau.

Our understanding of nature and it’s precious balance has come alive in these books. The silencing from the pandemic lockdown has globally impacted even the most casual observant. Noise and noise pollution from excessive traffic and industry temporarily gave us peace and quiet.

Patterning Your Life To Maximize Productivity

Charles Darwin’s Day to Day Pattern

Prioritizing a process toward structure is essential if you want to excel at learning. As I continued my quest for knowledge and comprehension as my focus shifted to expansive thinkers. Range by David Epstein is a book that explores the need for knowledge in a wide range of subjects and the ability to make new and unique connections. The book debunks the Malcolm Gladwell 10,000 hour theory by an exploration into vast thinking and developing a wide range of topics.

Polymath is a term often used to describe broad depth thinkers. A copy of The Polymath by Wacas Ahmed helped to solidify my interests in wide-ranging knowledge, autodidacts, and boredom of specialists. Every day I jam in hours of audiobooks, web-based text, and books to expand my thinking and depth of knowledge.

Thinking Long Term

I abandoned The Power of Now by Eckhardt Tolle in favor of thinking in the long term. Go Long by Dennis Carey filled the void from now to then by examining examples of long term strategists. Companies such as Amazon and Apple were examined while short term bottom-line thinking is exposed.

Ecological Intelligence by  Daniel Goleman digs even deeper into the long term effects that products have on our economy and environment. Studying the life cycle of products from the cradle to the grave and understanding the impacts from raw material acquisition to biodegradability or recyclability will push manufactures and markets to explore their impacts and work collectively to make environmental change a policy.

Wearing Bluetooth headphones while making breakfast and doing dishes I can block out external distractions. Ignoring social media accounts, the morning news, and unsubscribing to invasion emails has impacted me emotionally. I feel freedom and less triggered.

Noise by Joseph McCormack examines how we are emotionally and mentally hijacked by marketing and electronic gadgets. The book reads fast and fluently through the amount of severe noise we daily must wade through. It was the exposure to the knowledge of how were are being mentally manipulated that has rejuvenated my levels of self learning.

Black Lives Matter

It was during the Pandemic, while many people were home glued to the noise of their televisions and smartphones that our nation’s inequality and racism was again exposed. Better yet it was during this moment it was recognized. As the World is struggling to survive, America has again proven our racial divide.

I’m not going to pretend for even one second that I understand racial prejudice, or can I even use what little knowledge I possess to teach. What I’ve realized is I need to learn more.

So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Olua stings like a swarm of bees. The belief that racial inequality and prodigious was an issue swept under the carpet of the 13th amendment is untrue and unjust. With the fact that 1 out of every 3 African American males will be incarcerated in their lifetime is a horrific statistic. The fact that African Americans currently make 30% less than the average Caucasian worker and this inequality is widening.

Brian Eno recommended Roll Jordan Roll by Eugene Genovese in his list Reading for an Apocalypse. James “Jimbo” Mathus recommends The American Slave Coast by Ned Sublette. Both of which are still in my queue.

I’m silenced by my need to continue to learn more.

Michael Competielle

Where Do We Go From Here?

I’m reading George Orwell’s 1984, we are living it, might as well have the blueprint. Fake news and unvetted stories can keep piling up. I’m not partaking. We must learn from these moments and make a change.

As one of our modern-day brilliant minds, Stewart Brand has helped to expand knowledge and futuristic thinking. From his Whole Earth Catalog to How Buildings Learn, Stewart’s expansion thinking is inspirational. From his Ted Talks to his The Long Now presentations, I’m unaware of any other writer who has changed my mind and thinking more than him.

Whole Earth Discipline by Stewart Brand is a book that can and will change the World. From explorations in population expansion and contraction, alternative energy, nuclear power, and GMOs (which he refers to as Genetic Engineering) this one man could potentially save our planet.

From requesting that NASA in the 1970’s release a photograph of the Whole Earth taken from space, to the installation of a 10,000-year clock Stewart Brand has the potential to save the Whole Earth from its largest predator, humans.

Learning How to Write

When I have the time, which is hardly the case I try to work on my writing skills. I’m reading The Rum Diary by Hunter S Thompson for a novel I’m currently writing, The Peregrine by J.A.Baker to learn to be more descriptive and Wired for Story by Lisa Cron so I can use neuroscience to get you to read past the title.

If you read this far, which is doubtful, you’ll realize I’m trying not only to learn but to also articulate my thoughts into readable text. Currently, my Yoast Seo AI states this “article is shit and that you suck”. Perfect words to hear because the World is in shitty shape and we all need to learn.

Author: mtcwriter

Michael Competielle is a Creative Designer specializing in Sound, Brand and Experiential Design.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.