General

On Reading, and Not Reading

If you follow my Facebook page, you know I post links to some interesting articles around the web. Here’s a round-up of some recent favorites:

Have trouble finding time to read? Are you optimizing your reading time? What are you reading goals? Why You Need a Reading Plan will answer those questions and set you on a life-long adventure of reading.

In Reading The Great Books Well Should Transcend Moralism, Ramona Tausz asks, “Can books change you? Can they make you a better person? Most importantly, will you let them try?” Learn from the Great Books.

Find out if you suffer from Tsundoku, the practice of buying more books than you can read. Is this a bad thing?

Read the troubling, A Third Of Teens Haven’t Read A Single Book In Past Year, which writes:

Many [teens] simply don’t have experience delving into long-form texts. Learning to do so is imperative…as it lays the groundwork for developing critical thinking skills and understanding complex issues…

“Think about how difficult it must be to read even five pages of an 800-page college textbook when you’ve been used to spending most of your time switching between one digital activity and another in a matter of seconds.”

Follow on FB for more fascinating books, ideas and the cutting edge. Of course, stay here as well for longer discussions, Finding your Story, and the War Among the Shadows.

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Categories: Books, General | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Rethinking Christmas

I realize many people think “Black Friday” was the beginning of the Christmas season. I have been known to declare Christmas here once the egg nog starts appearing in stores. Well, it really begins today — the first day of Advent. At least in most of the Christian world this is when it starts and continues to January 6th (remember the 12 days of Christmas?). As I did last year (here and here), we will take a look at the history behind some Christmas traditions over the next month.

But first, what happened to Christmas?

It’s a bit of dark irony that this religious holiday has become the icon of materialism and the yearly personal bailout program of retailers. No, I’m not against gift giving. It has become part of the celebration of sharing love and friendship. Even the weeks of crazed frenziness add to the atmosphere. But when you wake up the day after and ask, “What happened?” and everything is over, did you ever stop to ask “Why?” or “Have I really celebrated Christmas or just become a pawn of marketers and retailers?”

I realize some people get worked up at slightest hint at questioning their Christmas motivations or methods. You’re free to do whatever you want, but I’m just asking you to think about why you do what you do. We are told that spending drives the economy. It does, but so does saving (banks invest your money, usually in items with more long-term value than toys and obsolete electronics). Writer Charles W. Sasser hit the nail on the head when he wrote:

I looked around and observed how many of my friends held eight-to-five jobs they could barely tolerate. The average American owned two cars, a house with a 30-year mortgage, a color TV set and a stack of bills on luxuries and ‘necessities’ long worn out and discarded. It seemed to me that he did not work to enrich his life. Instead, he worked to support his possessions, all the while feeling compelled to continue to buy and buy in hopes of ever new and more wonderful possessions making him happy.

Most of us, to one extent or another, have let ourselves to be dragged into this wonderful world of stuff that we let people (usually strangers) convince us we absolutely need. The rough economy has done little to remind people that this is one of the reasons that they (and the government) are in such a mess. Many churches and charities are trying to scrape together money, yet billions seem to manifest themselves during Christmas for shopping. This is all a far cry from Christmas’ origins. What other religious holiday has become so commercialized? Corrupted?

Sure, I wonder why non-Christians celebrate Christmas. It would be like me celebrating Hanukkah just to get more gifts or not to feel left out. I guess we all like the “Hanukkah song” and its hard for people not to get caught up in the Christmas traditions. One still has to wonder what do people tell themselves, after all “Christ” is even in the name.

Christians aren’t without fault here either. Really, who let one of their primary holidays spiral out of control? What other holiday is comparable in what this one has become? Yes, many Christians still try their best in all of the secularization to worship and remember what Christmas is all about. I tend to think we can all do a bit better. The issues of Christmas are only an extension of our other problems.

I find it amusing that some groups will protest or boycott stores not saying “Merry Christmas” or for using generics like “Happy Holidays.” These things used to bother me too until I thought about it a bit:

“Basically we’re saying that we will only participate in your secularization of our holiday if you use the right codewords.”

Makes the boycotts sound stupid when it’s put that way, doesn’t it?

Retailers aren’t celebrating the holidays, they are using them as tool to make money. Nothing wrong about making money, but I don’t much care about what they do so long as they aren’t purposefully attacking Christmas. Though some could argue, and with some truth, that their abuse of Christmas has gone too far. Perhaps we don’t want them to use “Christmas” in their advertising.

So maybe we should step back, take a moment and think about how we approach and celebrate Christmas and the Advent season. I like how the folks over at Advent Conspiracy approach this. They’re not saying stop buying your gifts, only remember why you are buying them in the first place.

Once you do that, you will experience Christmas as intended. A time to reevaluate your life, put other people first and figure out where you are going.

You got over four weeks. Don’t blow it.

Categories: Critical Thinking, General, Traditions | Tags: , , , , | 3 Comments

11/11/11

Tomorrow is a Big Day for End of the World Buffs and those into number patterns like “time prompt phenomenon.” 11/11/11 is seen by some as a big kick off to the 2012 — the Year-To-End-All-End-of-Time-Years. I wrote about the coming Big Year nearly a year ago. More on tomorrow’s hubbub can be read here.

Will 2012 be bigger than Y2K? People seem to be less optimistic of the world now: Economic chaos, war and corrupt governments all on the increase since 2000 went bust. They’re tired and fed-up so something like this appeals to many. It seems the logical next step for the world. Those of us who think of 2012 as just another year look at all the 2012-talk as a segway into finding ways to push back the problems of the world.

Instead of worrying about disaster, prepare for it [When All Hell Breaks Loose].

Instead of blindly trusting government and letting them divide us, change them [Broke].

Instead of believing in nothing or everything, how about something tangible [Why the Universe is the Way It Is].

And, of course, tomorrow is Veteran’s Day. An important reason to stop and ponder our history and where we may be headed.

Categories: General | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Disasters: Could you Survive?

Ancient history is full of disaster accounts: Floods, comets, volcanoes. Cities wiped out. Earth seemed much more chaotic back in the day. Have we simply been lucky or just have been in a dry spell? Check out these possibilities: California Superstorm, Poison Clouds From Space and America’s Potentially Most Dangerous Earthquake Zone.

Maybe being prepared for something other than the next snow storm is not such a bad idea? Would today’s pampered, unprepared people survive “biblical” disasters? Or are you going to wait for the government to come save you? Perhaps you could take control of your own future: Ready.gov & Prepare.org.

Categories: General, Nature | Tags: , | Leave a comment

Beginnings

It’s sad that we live in an age where history is forgotten. We relive mistakes already made and know nothing of who came before us. Even the places we walk every single day were once occupied by peoples that have long since disappeared. Legends and myths have sparks of truth to be uncovered. Some writers conjure fantastic theories based on nothing more than imagination. People believe anything and everything, yet the truth is far more exciting. On this site we will explore these lost worlds, from our own Ancient America to times before history was recorded. About twice a week I’ll post an interesting fact, little known tidbit or theory for us to ponder. It’s my hope that people will stop for a moment from the manufactured busyness of their lives and think about what has come before them so that they move forward in the right direction.

Categories: General, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

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