Cultivating a Culture of Kindness

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Hope: a Tragedy by Shalom Auslander


I loved this book! Its comic, tragic and wise. Auslander takes some huge subjects: history, the holocaust, hope and toys with them with great pathos, humour and wisdom. What a brave and fearless writer. The humour is black, base and slapstick and really very, very funny.

Protagonist Solomon Kugel is haunted by both the darkest events in human history and fears for the disasters of the future. History hides in his attic and he worries about who’s attic he’ll be able to hide in when history finally repeats itself. He dreams of the short time in his early childhood when he was actually happy – as supporting character Professor Jove says:

“… It was the knowing that there had been a happier time, a place of joy and peace and security, that made the sudden absence of it all so agonizing… Not the agony of what was, but the agony of what was no longer; this was the source of all life’s pain–not the fear of a hell to come, but rather the knowledge of an Eden that is no more. Hell isn’t the punishment… Eden was.”

What a great book.

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The Self Illusion by Bruce Hood

self illusion

As a complete novice at Neuroscience (this is the first neuroscience book I have ever read), I found this book illuminating and insightful. It basically argues that the self can not exist in a vacuum, as social creatures we have evolved to define ourselves in terms of the people and experiences we come into contact with throughout our lives.

The conclusions I took from this book are maybe not the ones that Bruce Hood intended me to take. It made me realise that comparing each other and judging one another is completely pointless: if we are all a sum of individual genetic combinations mixed with a blend of external influences from birth to present then we really are all unique – I don’t know what your childhood was like and how it influenced how your neurons have connected, just like you don’t know anything about my genetics, past experiences and how my neurons are connected. It also helped me to come to the realisation that no man is an island – our sense of self, indeed our sanity, is dependent on our connections to others, the stronger our connections, the stronger our sense of self.

I would definitely recommend this book to novices in the field of neuroscience.

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King of Cats




Yesterday I discovered a new band: King of Cats. Reminiscent of Daniel Johnston or the Moldy Peaches, this DIY music is instantly engaging. Distinctive voiced lead singer sings whimsically over a simple backdrop of music which reminds me of being at the last dregs of a party, when everyone is wasted and someone magically produces a guitar and someone else spontaneously makes up a song to sing over it. Its the imperfections, the childlike simplicity (the Muppets is another comparison that springs to mind) and the honesty of this music that provides its charm. And that’s what this music definitely is: spontaneous and charming.