Ex Libris Kirkland

Ex Libris Kirkland is my self-centered way to keep track of what I read, what I like, and what I want to remember.

Recently Quoted

  • The way of Friends is to think quietly and to listen. We ask the question, we consider how the answer is made by different people, we ask again, answer again, change our minds; we reach an understanding. The Meeting evolves this way, not by shouting each other down, not by the weight of the majority, but by the capacity of individual human beings to comprehend one another.

    an excerpt from The Dazzle of Day, written by Molly Gloss in 1998

  • After breathing out, we experience discomfort if we wait too long before having fresh brought in again. This means that every time our lungs are full we must breathe out and every time our lungs are empty we must breathe in. As we breathe in, we experience a small degree of calmness, and as we breathe out, we experience a small degree of calmness. We desire calmness and relief of tension and do not like the tension and feeling resulting from the lack of breath. We wish that the calmness would stay longer and the tension disappear more quickly that it normally does. But neither will the tension go away as fast as we wish nor the calmness stay as long as we wish. And again we get agitated or irritated, for we desire the calmness to return and stay longer and the tension to go away quickly and not to return again. Here we see how even a small degree of desire for permanency in an impermanent situation causes pain or unhappiness. Since there is no self-entity to control this situation, we will become more disappointed.

    However, if we watch our breathing without desiring calmness and without resenting tension arising from the breathing in and out, but experience only the impermanence, the unsatisfactoriness and selflessness of our breath, our mind becomes peaceful and calm.

    an excerpt from Mindfulness in Plain English, written by Bhante Henepola Gunaratana in 1991

  • When we face a situation where we feel indignation, if we mindfully investigate our own mind, we will discover bitter truths in ourselves. That is we are selfish; we are egocentric; we are attached to our ego; we hold on to our opinions; we think we are right and everybody else is wrong; we are prejudiced; we are biased; and at the bottom of all of this, we do not really love ourselves. This discovery, though bitter, is a most rewarding experience. And in the long run, this discovery delivers us from deeply rooted psychological and spiritual suffering.

    an excerpt from Mindfulness in Plain English, written by Bhante Henepola Gunaratana in 1991

Recently Noted

  • Like most scifi books, there are a couple of interesting ideas that make the book worth the time, even if they're a bit trite. First, after generations of living only on a spaceship - even a big one that has its own clouds and dirt and farms - the colonists are filled with /dread/ when they visit an actual planet. Their eyes (or souls) just can't process distances of more than a kilometer or two. The sheer size and vastness and emptiness of an planet just blows their minds.

    an note about The Dazzle of Day, written by Molly Gloss in 1998

  • I'll bet this book riled up the nastier parts of the scifi community: it's a scifi book about a spacefaring colony ship that breaks every norm: instead of food replicators, they farm. Instead of hypersleep, they have families and get old and die. Instead of a military-like hierarchy, they're Quakers and decide important matters by consent and a practice of stillness. Instead of young, male, heroic characters, we inhabit a cast of women, children, and old folks, most of whom seem nonwhite. It's like a Wendell Berry x Liberal fever dream of spacefaring.

    an note about The Dazzle of Day, written by Molly Gloss in 1998

  • I wanted to learn more about Xinjiang province; it's an interesting topic in China current affairs, and one of my favorite books from the 20th century takes place there. It's a remote province, full of desert but sparsely populated, with muslim turkic people groups like the Uyghurs. But today, the remote western region of China is being aggressively ... infiltrated? colonized? integrated? harmonized? assimilated? suppressed? by the Chinese government and majority Han culture. There's a concerted campaign on the ground to raise the standard of living, but also to assimilate cultures, including settling ethnically Han Chinese into the area, luring young people to the East with scholarships, sending in greater military forces, and using the 'war on terror' as an excuse to suppress muslim practices. It's apparently a hearts-and-minds and guns-and-laws campaign.

    This book on the face of it looks like a slice of life portrait of the people of Xinjiang: there are large portrait photos, paired with 2-3 page first-person essays about that person's life. But it doesn't take a close read to see that this only presents people who have successfully integrated with the larger Chinese society; people who run businesses back East, or studied in Beijing, or made it big in some other area. There's a lot of talk about Xinjiang's harmony, and a notable absence of muslim women. I obviously don't know much about life on the ground there, but it seems like this book obviously went thru some major censorship, or was decidedly coopted.

    But all the same: fascinating! Fascinating to read about the life history of people in a remote place, no matter how refracted their stories are.

    an note about I am from Xinjiang on the Silk Road, written by Kurbanjan Samat in 2015

Looking for more recent books? Check out the Personal Timeline.

Ex Libris Kirkland is a super-self-absorbed reading journal made by Matt Kirkland. Copyright © 2001 - .
Interested in talking about it?
Get in touch. You might also want to check out my other projects or say hello on twitter.