Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance

(Disclaimer: This is an introspection, not a book review.)

Being an immigrant, and a minority citizen to my own country, understanding where I came from is always important in discovering who I am. JD Vance’s exploration of his childhood and life so far in Hillbilly Elegy just does that.

Yup, I’m guilty. I loved this book because I can relate to it. That’s what I found surprising about it. From Vance’s journey migrating north from Kentucky to Ohio to multiple households, to finding his grind as a Marine and going to Law School, He refers to himself as a “cultural emigrant” who yearned for a successful and peaceful home.

One of the tips he learns from his grandma, Mamaw, who he attributes as the person who raised him, is that “having good role models around you will remind you that there is another life out there. And that exposure gives you something to dream for.” This took me back to high school when I always spent time at my friends’ houses for dinner, especially on Monday nights when my mother threw karaoke parties. But these families I lived vicariously through reminded me that I don’t have to be on guard all the time, that I can have a conversation without shouting, that there are people who listen, and that I can be deserving of people’s love.

Vance also finds himself as a minority to his own hillbilly people, “a stranger in this strange land”, due to his upward mobility as a Marine and with his college degree. He liked the feeling of self-sufficiency and providing for those in need, for the kind of people who he once was. One thing I would say is that towards the end, as his chronological storytelling becomes more relevant, the greater understanding of his past draws him further from it, nor can he really come back to it anymore. He will always be an outsider now, even to his past, family and hillbilly culture. (He lives in Silicon Valley now, might I add.) But the price he paid is the understanding of the things he can control, who he is, and that he isn’t that doomed after all the demons he fought in his youth. An acceptance of who he is.

I’m not holding him as a hillbilly spokesperson nor am I praising this to give me hope during this presidency, but I admire how this book allowed for sympathy and understanding with the storytelling of his past. Vance motivates me to tell my own story. It’s not that I find my own life boring, but maybe I am looking too much into the past to really see what’s in front of me and how far I’ve come.

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Imagine: How Creativity Works by Jonah Lehrer

Notes:

Ideas & creativity

  1. Hopelessness → Revelation: The hardest work always comes after when you’re trying to make Idea to a Reality
  2. The right hemisphere of the brain is responsible for making sense of the whole (not just seeing the parts).
  3. The human imagination has no clear precursors. It’s out of no where.
  4. William James: “The [creative process] is like a seething cauldron of ideas, where everything is fizzling and bobbling about in a state of bewildering activity.

Persistence is necessary. Nothing good is every easy.

Creativity as an Act of Unconcealing.

  1. That’s because we see nothing at first glance. It’s only really thinking about something that we’re able to move ourselves into perceptions that we never knew we had the capacity for. We unconceal the reality of it from the clutter of the world, by all the ideas and sensation that DISTRACT THE MIND. it is the KNIFE OF CONSCIOUS ATTENTION to cut away the excess and reval the things themselves. → RAW ←
  2. Einstein: “creativity is the residue of time wasted.”
  3. Steve Martin: “Naivete is the quality that keeps you from knowing just how unsuited you are for what you are about to do.

On cities

  1. Cities are INEXHAUSTIBLE SOURCE OF IDEAS.
  2. With each addition, productivity and innovation increases.
  3. This is what makes it rare and different from corporations.
  4. Walking speed of people are directly correlated to creation of new ideas.
    1. MOST COLLISIONS!
  5. Ideas become more USEFUL when they become more POPULAR
  6. The unifier for all ideas and people. How every creative story is different but also the same. “Out of nothing, is something.”

Brands

  1. Used to be about establishing AUTHORITY and reliability. Now, it’s all about EMPATHY.
  2. Used to attract us through specs and capabilities, now, it has to ENABLE AN EXPERIENCE.
  3. Newness: the thrill of discovery but also the thrill of not having to decide.
  4. Using narrative is the delivery vehicle, a way to emphasize and empathize with human interaction.
  5. brands help us understand the world and make decisions.
  6. How we remember (chronology + nostalgia)
    1. [Arbitrary thing] + [Beginning, middle and End] = something we can own, embrace and share.
  7. We all tell our own stories, because we are all the leading character, and everyone has a supporting role.

The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson

argoNotes

  • On the notion of “feeling real”
    • When finding an identity, “one can aspire to feel real, other can help others to feel real, and one can oneself feel real” and is tied to the primary sensation of aliveness “the aliveness of the body tissues and working with body functions, including the heart’s action and breathing” which makes spontaneous gesture possible. In regards to Winnicott, “feeling real is not a reactive to external stimuli, nor is it an identity. It is a sensation– one that spreads. Among other things, it makes you want to live.
  • On the unaddressed greatness of motherhood
    • Addressing D.W. WInnicott, Nelson notes it’s better not tell mothers that what they are doing is important “When a mother has a capacity quite simply to be a mother we must never interfere. She will not be able to fight for her rights because she will not understand.” Simply they all believe the are ordinary
  • The concept of “leaving an empty space so that God could rush in.”
    • They say that in bonsai, you often plan a tree off-center in the pot “to make space for the divine. This concept covers something more greater, in that there is no center! And this will keep you going in heart or art.
  • What does being trans mean?
    • While often used as a shorthand for “transitioning”, we are often familiar with people say they were “born in the wrong body”. For some, it’s an idea of leaving the idea of gender entirely behind. For a society that demands resolution, it seems there is always a destination to the journey, “transitioning to what?” leaving plenty in confusion, conflict or grief. In such cases, the best is to simply listen to what people have to tell you and treat them accordingly without having to gloss over their version of reality with yours.
    • It’s hard to comprehend that becoming sometimes doesn’t have an end result, becoming, transitioning, in which one never really becomes. Nelson simply, “A becoming in which one never becomes, a becoming whose rule is neither evolution nor asymptote but a certain
    • turning, a certain turning inward, turning into my own, turning on in, to my own self, at last, turning out of the white cage, turning out of the large cage turning at last (Lucille Clifton)

The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life by Twyla Tharp

cvr9780743235273_9780743235273_hrHabits:

  1. “In order to be creative you have to know how to be creative.” Ask yourself “what’s your blank canvas?”
  2. Create a habit-forming environment and subtract any distractions
  3. “Build up your tolerance for solitude.”
  4. “Work with the best.”
  5. “Build a bridge to the next day.”
  6. “Never have a favorite Weapon.”
  7. “Reading is your first line of defense against an empty head.”
  8. Always remember why you started
  9. Don’t stay in denial. Let yourself fail and learn from it.

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