It’s not so often that you would recommend reading about mathematical history, but here I am – having finished Mario Livio’s wonderful retrospective on art, history and use (or purported use) of the Golden Ratio.
As a resident number nerd, and someone that their entire life claimed they detested art history and history itself – I have to say that Livio succinctly and sweetly would the three topics together into an enthralling tale of mis-attribution and cultural intrigue. All the while, pulling in both the natural math savant, art fluency and historical perspective within all of us.
Though it initially seems a bit silly to read about numbers, but books on mathematics illuminate the whole mind into understanding the world around us – and within us – at a different frequency. Once you begin to understand what the Golden Ratio is (below), and the common natural occurances of it in the world around you (above) – I dare you to not be astounded that a natural phenomena can be so intricuately detailed within the permutation of a constantly recurring irrational number, phi – Φ.
As easy as it is to believe that a book about mathematics and history could be dense, Livio’s book The Golden Ratio is a poetic and poignant tale of something that we can all recognize in the world. Math is supposed to be accessible by everyone, as it’s the language of the universe, and Livio reminds you that it’s both both within and around you.
For more ‘books about numbers’ and some additional insight into art history, I highly recommend:
Admittedly, between moving four times across three different states in the last two years and starting up school again at the beginning of the year – I haven’t had much ‘downtime’ to read much. However, in light of recent events, I was finally able to finish Thoreau’s Walden, a book I started before my wedding, wayyyy back in 2017. Around America, 41 states have currently issued either a ‘Stay in Place’ or ‘Shelter in Place’ order – with another 4 deploying the order at a more local level. And we’re all trying to figure out how to adjust to this hopefully temporary new ‘normal’. Whether in comforting or in trying times, losing yourself in the lyricism of a fantastic book is always a novel idea; to be honest, with the current state of the Coronavirus pandemic in the world, I would even consider reading a necessary habit.
An exceptionally poignant read, I finished Walden with a snail’s pace that I’m sure Thoreau would respect, and feel like a better person for doing so; over and over, I have been humbled by the bits of knowledge that it doled out onto me. It’s a dense read, and by that I mean that each sentence is a meal worth truly digesting before moving onto the next – and after every paragraph, you were still left hungry.
Thoreau’s seminal work of Transcendental philosophy, Walden delves into living simply and solitarily, all the while finding personal resolve and strength. As Thoreau chronicles his life at Walden Pond, we’re brought in for an intimate journey of self reliance and societal retrospection on a newly industrialized world. Written originally in 1854, Walden gives a timeless analysis that’s just as important today as it was back then.
What book has helped you in a time of solitude or self-reliance? Let me know in the comments below!
Some of my favorite quotes from Walden:
“I learned this, at least, by my experiment: that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.”
“We need the tonic of wildness…At the same time that we are earnest to explore and learn all things, we require that all things be mysterious and unexplorable, that land and sea be indefinitely wild, unsurveyed and unfathomed by us because unfathomable. We can never have enough of nature.”
“Live in each season as it passes; breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit, and resign yourself to the influence of the earth.”
“However mean your life is, meet it and live it; do not shun it and call it hard names. It is not so bad as you are. It looks poorest when you are richest. The fault-finder will find faults even in paradise. Love your life, poor as it is. You may perhaps have some pleasant, thrilling, glorious hours, even in a poorhouse. The setting sun is reflected from the windows of the almshouse as brightly as from the rich man’s abode; the snow melts before its door as early in the spring. I do not see but a quiet mind may live as contentedly there, and have as cheering thoughts, as in a palace.”
“We must learn to reawaken and keep ourselves awake, not by mechanical aids, but by an infinite expectation of the dawn, which does not forsake us even in our soundest sleep. I know of no more encouraging fact than the unquestionable ability of man to elevate his life by a conscious endeavour. It is something to be able to paint a particular picture, or to carve a statue, and so to make a few objects beautiful; but it is far more glorious to carve and paint the very atmosphere and medium through which we look, which morally we can do. To affect the quality of the day, that is the highest of arts.”
“If the day and the night are such that you greet them with joy, and life emits a fragrance like flowers and sweet-scented herbs, is more elastic, more starry, more immortal- that is your success. All nature is your congratulation, and you have cause momentarily to bless yourself. The greatest gains and values are farthest from being appreciated. We easily come to doubt if they exist. We soon forget them. They are the highest reality. Perhaps the facts most astounding and most real are never communicated by man to man. The true harvest of my daily life is somewhat as intangible and indescribable as the tints of morning or evening. It is a little star-dust caught, a segment of the rainbow which I have clutched.”
“If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away. It is not important that he should mature as soon as an apple-tree or an oak. Shall he turn his spring into summer?”
As the digital age seems to exponentially evolve the world around it, whether it be through cell phones and social media or the internet of everything, it gets harder and harder to feel like you’re truly present for your life. Not the one that you’re busy posting to Instagram or Snapchat, but the only you’re physically, tangibly living; the one that you devote your emotional and mental energy to.
Inundated with high res digital images, high octane music and a high frequency world that keeps going at a faster and faster pace, I understand why so many of us are disconnected in one way or another from the biggest picture of life. Not “a” big picture, or their big picture – but the biggest picture of our reality, the cosmic unconsciousness which all living beings are an important part of.
Whenever I’m finding it hard to truly be, I can always pull myself out of my feedback cycles by opening a good book. It’s been a while since I’ve really gotten behind a self-professed ‘self-help’ book but far be it for anyone to believe they’re beyond needing a bit of enlightenment – especially me. Typically, I can sit in a corner and lock myself in my mental for hours while marinating in a good book, but due to the content and wanting to put my learning into action – I took this one in digestible partitions that were chalk full with potential energy. Two months later I can confirm: I’m so thrilled I did it this way.
For most of my life, I’ve proudly embodied the definition of being a multitask er but what ‘The Power of Now” made me realize was that I’m never truly present for any of it, if I’m trying to do all of it. I’ve found myself giving space and presence to my feelings instead of running from them, avoiding them or ushering them away. I have found ways to ground myself in the now. Instead of giving into negative feedback cycles, I give into and acknowledge my current state. Instead of anxiety about the future or pain from a past event, I’m content to purely exist as I am. It’s a beautiful chrysalis, and I feel like a new found butterfly that just discovered their wings.
On that note, I leave you with a few of my favorite quotes from the book.
“Your task is not to search for love but to find a portal through which love can enter.”
“The light is too painful for someone who wants to remain in darkness.”
“I have lived with several zen masters – all of them cats.”
“ As soon as you honor the present moment, all unhappiness and struggle dissolve, and life begins to flow with joy and ease. When you act out the present-moment awareness, whatever you do becomes imbued with a sense of quality, care, and love – even the most simple action. ”
“Time isn’t precious at all, because it is an illusion. What you perceive as precious is not time but the one point that is out of time: the Now. That is precious indeed. The more you are focused on time—past and future—the more you miss the Now, the most precious thing there is.”
“The most common ego identifications have to do with possessions, the work you do, social status and recognition, knowledge and education, physical appearance, special abilities, relationships, person and family history, belief systems, and often nationalistic, racial, religious, and other collective identifications. None of these is you.”
“When you are on a journey, it is certainly helpful to know where you are going or at least the general direction in which you are moving, but don’t forget: The only thing that is ultimately real about your journey is the step that you are taking at this moment. That’s all there ever is.”
“Give your fullest attention to whatever the moment presents. This implies that you also completely accept what is, because you cannot give your full attention to something and at the same time resist it.”
“Resistance to the Now as a collective dysfunction is intrinsically connected to loss of awareness of Being and forms the basis of our dehumanized industrial civilization .”
For more on rooted in marinating in mindfulness – including a short list of books for a spiritual way of being – head here. Have you read ‘The Power of Now’? What were some of your biggest takeaways? Any book recommendations from y’all??
To learn more about ‘The Power of Now” or Eckhart Tolle, peep the links: