This blue marble

– and yet it spins


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Blueberries, goodberries

blueberriesBlueberries and bilberries are the same, right? Wrong. Blueberries found in our European supermarkets all-year round are cultivated highbush blueberries, juicy and light or green inside. The blue berries found in the Northern European forests are bilberries. These are the ones that stain your fingers and tongue when you eat them straight from the bush.

And it is the European bilberry which (as far as I know) is the superior superfood of the two: loads of antioxidants, minerals, and great taste, unbeatable by the North American blueberry.

But when it is April and the Finnish forests are only waking up one takes what one finds (in the supermarket). And so today granma’s old sugar bowl is filled with cultivated blueberries.

(Loviisa, Finland; April 2019)


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Books of wisdom

booklistLet’s talk about reading lists (I am assuming you are interested in books!). No, not the reading lists one is forced to survive through in school, but reading lists we choose to plow through. I chose to spend 10 years plowing through my previous reading list of 106 books of pretension. It was a major classics binge and worth at least 100 books out of the 106.

And so, last year I found myself in the luxury situation of compiling another reading list. What would be a good topic for a 30-something person to delve into? More classics? Books on naturalism? Meditation? Biographies? Or just some freaking great modern novels? What do we all do when we need an answer? We google.

I googled “books with wisdom”. I thought if I start now, I might just be able to improve how I live my life so that it would have a significant impact on the remaining half a century I (might) have ahead of me. And google did not fail. It pulled up three lists of three blogging individuals, which I have compiled into one long reading list called Books of Wisdom.

This is not my list. I intend to make my own once I am through these recommendations. Some of these, like Suzuki and Aurelius, will definitely be on that list. Others, like Kaufman and Pirsig, are not for me as much as they might be for you. I am nearly half-way through. Here, take a dive into the below. And come back for my own Books of Wisdom list in one or two years’ time.

Philosophy & meditation

  1. Brian Johnson – A Philosopher’s Notes
  2. Marcus Aurelius – Meditations
  3. Epictetus – Manual for living
  4. Henry David Thoreau – Walden
  5. Shunryu Suzuki – Zen Mind Beginners Mind
  6. Seneca – Letters from a Stoic
  7. JunPo Dennis Kelly Roshi – The Heart of Zen
  8. Ryan Holiday – Ego Is The Enemy
  9. Hugh Prather – Notes To Myself
  10. Alan Watts – Become What You Are

Mastering the body and mind

  1. Haruki Murakami – What I Talk About When I Talk About Running
  2. Danny Dreyer – Chi Running
  3. Gay Hendricks – Conscious Breathing
  4. Daniel Goleman – Emotional Intelligence
  5. Steven Levitt & Stephen Dubner – Think Like a Freak
  6. Ryan Holiday – The Obstacle is the Way
  7. George Leonard – Mastery
  8. Dan Ariely – Predictably Irrational
  9. Daniel Kahneman – Thinking Fast and Slow
  10. Malcolm Gladwell – Blink

Productivity & creativity

  1. Tim Ferriss – The 4-Hour Chef
  2. Josh Kaufman – The First 20 Hours
  3. Keith Johnstone – Impro: Improvisation and the Theatre

Business

  1. Harvard Business Review – 10 Must Reads on Managing Yourself
  2. Josh Kaufman – The Personal MBA
  3. Peter Drucker – The Effective Executive
  4. Mark H. McCormack – What They Don’t Teach You at Harvard Business School
  5. Ray Kroc – Grinding It Out
  6. Ray Dalio – Principles
  7. Jonathan Fields – Uncertainty
  8. Nassim Nicholas Taleb – Fooled by Randomness

Happiness psychology

  1. Dalai Lama – The Art of Happiness
  2. Sonja Lyubomirsky – The How of Happiness
  3. Brene Brown – The Gifts of Imperfection
  4. Karen Beaumont – I Like Myself!
  5. David Foster Wallace – This is Water
  6. Tal Ben Shahar – The Pursuit of Perfect

History, science, society

  1. Yuval Noah Harari – Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind
  2. Will & Ariel Durant – The Lessons of History
  3. Ken Wilber – A Brief History of Everything
  4. Stephen Hawking – A Brief History of Time
  5. Neil Strauss – The Game

Novels

  1. Robert Pirsig – Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance
  2. Hermann Hesse – Siddhartha
  3. Richard Bach – Jonathan Livingston Seagull
  4. Robert Heinlein – Stranger in a Strange Land
  5. Paulo Coelho – The Alchemist
  6. Antoine de Saint Exupery – The Little Prince

Compiled from the lists of James Clear, Michael Balchan, and Darius Foroux.

(Brande, Denmark; May 2019)


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The real New York City

manhattanAs I stood by the DUMBO waterfront I tried to calculate how many people these huge boxy buildings on the opposite shore would contain, any given moment in time. This is the Manhattan skyline as as we know it. “As WE know it”. Because really, just 150 years ago it was like any old town. And just 500 years ago, when Europe was restless because of religious reformations against the Catholic church and Shakespeare wrote his famous plays, Manhattan was mostly swampland. With mosquitoes.

Times Square was a crossing of two rivers and a beaver pond. There were salt marshes and grasslands and forests, all home to turkeys, beavers, elk, and those mosquitoes. The area holding up the skyscrapers I was looking at was sea floor (much of lower Manhattan is landfill). This is the real New York. If this is news to you you might like this excellent article by the National Geographic.

My view of Manhattan is a fart in the history of time. Quickly formed, possibly also not very durable. And yet this is the “iconic” New York “we all know”. Hudson, visiting in 1609, knew the beavers. I doubt city kids today know beavers from anything else than school books (sorry, educational internet websites).

Were do New Yorkers go to rewild? Is Central Park enough or does one have to leave this once so lush and bountiful island?mannahatta.ngsversion.1502920743252.adapt.1900.1

Lower photo humbly borrowed from “Before New York”, National Geographic, September 2009

(New York, USA; April 2019)


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History underground

brooklyn-6When learning about a foreign city, one can go to history museums. Or art museums. Or the more random museums, like the New York transport museum, hosted in an old unused subway station. And learn how, long ago, subway trains had nearly stylish rattan imitation seats.

Or how, even longer ago, before there were subway trains there were streetcars, jam-packed with gentlemen in hot sweaty suits and ladies with two-meter circumference of crinoline squeezing together like sardines in a can. In rush hour surely the streetcar spilled over with skirt hoops and lace and top hats. brooklyn-5The most interesting detail of the Transport Museum is the advertising on the walls of old train cars. Much of it is from WWII, and the strangest references were made to the war. It is also a reminder of how the government raised its own citizens’ money to fight a war outside of US turf by issuing war bonds yielding less than the market rate of other reasonable investments.

Some lovely soul has also been fixated with turnstiles. Yes, turnstiles. There is a collection of probably every single model of turnstile used in the history of the NYC subway. And that is surprisingly many – we just do not pay attention. Someone more attentive did – and collected them all. 🙂brooklyn-4(NYC Transport Museum, Brooklyn, NYC, USA; April 2019)


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DUMBO

brooklyn-3There are photos of the Brooklyn bridge. And then there are photos of people taking photos of the Brooklyn bridge. Same goes for DUMBO beach and the Manhattan skyline. Some heavy cropping was required to weed out tourists in red and orange jackets, absolutely not suitable for being in the frame.

Photography is always reality enhanced. But the fabulous, urban views from DUMBO are real. And so is the lovely restaurant by the waterfront across the beach, with a glass of cool wine if you prefer.brooklyn-8(Brooklyn, USA; April 2019)


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In Brooklyn

brooklyn-2Brownstone buildings, quiet streets, tiny low-fenced gardens with wisterias and greens just like in small European towns, and people playing soccer in the park. Brooklyn is more like Europe than any other American place I have visited. And yet it is just a bridge away from the most American of them all: Manhattan.brooklyn-1But here, among the tulips and the hipster cafés and people walking dogs, I forget I am in the USA. If only for a brief while. Brooklyn, as an old Dutch colony, even still has a Dutch slogan on its city arms.

I am not friends with Manhattan. But I think Brooklyn and I became buddies during just one day. brooklyn-7(Brooklyn, NYC, USA; April 2019)


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About life, above NYC

The difference between these two photos is two hours of bittersweet life stories among three Cambridge alumni classmates. Up above the Manhattan skyline we made attempts to have a light, pleasant reunion after 8 years, but discovered time after time that life was not always light and pleasant.

Thankfully there was a delicious Korean BBQ dinner to keep us entertained among stories of weddings, losses, relocations, and bravely defeated illnesses.

“Life is bittersweet. And it is alright when it is more sweet than bitter,” another classmate of ours once concluded, with a sigh. Once upon a time I would have considered such an opinion a defeat. Not an acceptable goal for a good life lived. But perhaps he was right. The sweet moments are there to be enjoyed in full and then let go; and the bitter moments are for reflection of impermanence and the slow buildup of strength of character.

And so, up on the high floor above Manhattan, three (nearly old) acquaintances laughed and sympathized with life as the sun went down over the city.

(New York City, USA; April 2019)