Currently Reading

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  1. No Immediate Danger, Volume 1 of Carbon Ideologies by William T. Vollmann.

About 300 pages in to this book and it’s altering my perception of the world on a vast scale. Vollmann is doing a lot of work to break down information and make it digestible. There’s 200 pages of writing that is a bunch of About chapters. About Carbon, About Power, About Manufacturing, About Power Plants, About Solar Energy, About Greenhouse Gasses, About Fuels,  etc. It’s all essentially an educational primer for beginning to understand carbon-based energy production and what ideology it was made to serve. Vollmann keeps asking, “What was the work for?” It’s written in a style that is addressed to people of the future, who inhabit a world much more hellish than the one we live in now, and it’s supposed to be an explanation of our world, how it was thought of or unthought for. Vollmann’s literary scope is fueled by tons of research and a lot of fieldwork (I’m currently reading about his trip to Japan after the Fukushima nuclear disaster). The book is speaking on many levels. Finding the project to be both inspiring in its example of effort, and frightening in honesty of reflection.

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2. Perfection’s Therapy, An essay on Albrecht Dürer’s Melencolia I by Mitchell B. Merback

Maybe because the world seems to be slipping into a state of chaos, and it’s difficult to know what to do or how to act, Dürer’s print Melencolia I has been on my mind. I decided to get this book by Mitchell B. Merback, and so far I’m really enjoying it. Merback’s intro smoothly covers historical framework of Dürer’s engraving as well as addressing a lot of the thought about the engraving already written by others (Apparently the Melencolia I engraving is one of the most written-about works of art). I’m only about 70 pages in so far, but dwelling with the book is like dwelling with the art. The text is interspersed with really good reproductions of the Dürer engravings. What I’m most impressed with so far is how entertaining it is to read, quality of information organized at the right pace. The author is setting up an argument that Dürer’s print is simultaneously articulating the state of spiritual paralysis associated with Melancholia, as well as offering therapeutic routes out of such a state by mobilizing cognitive process in engagement with the composition.

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3. The Ascent to Truth, Thomas Merton

This is the first time I’ve ever read Thomas Merton, his name kept coming up from a variety of sources, so I decided to spend time with him. During the past year I’ve started reading more spiritually-minded material, mostly Christian, and also Buddhist. Merton lived as a Trappist monk in a monastery in Kentucky until he died in 1968, and published a handful of books that are considered some of the best writing available on religious themes. The book I’m reading now is Merton’s explanation of Christian mysticism, told primarily through the lens of St. John of the Cross, published in 1951. St. John of the Cross was a Spanish mystic in the 1500s, acquaintance to St. Teresa, and he is known as a great writer on both a religious and literary level. Spending time with Merton a way to gain insight and address spiritual problems, to cleanse a way of thinking, his style is very  clear even as he navigates into territory around Unknowing. I have a strange feeling that Merton’s work will continue to grow and be needed as we move further into the 21st century. Reading his work so far has been like having a light in a place I haven’t had a light before, and it makes an appropriate counterpart to contemporary political chaos as well as the looming threat of global warming and the incoming of an increasingly volatile globe.

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