The Secret is Conviction

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I wrote a post awhile back on the way we attract things to ourselves; not only people but jobs, money, etc.  On success in general, a few things stick out from my childhood in particular.  One was a saying my grandfather used on me quite often:

“You can’t just WISH to play the piano well; you have to spend the time practicing every day.”

The other is a line from the book, Jacob Have I Loved by Katherine Paterson, which is a novel about two sisters who mirror the relationship between Jacob and Esau.  Caroline is beautiful and talented while Sara Louise is awkward and unsure of her place in the world.  When a family friend leaves a large sum of money to Caroline instead of Sara Louise (who was under the impression that she would inherit said money), the gentleman says:

”Your sister knew what she wanted,” said the Captain, ”so when the chance came she could take it. Do not tell me no one ever gave you a chance, Sara Louise. You can make your own chances. But first you have to know what you are after, my dear.”

I have not read Rhonda Byrne’s book, The Secret, because I’m on the fence with regard to her intentions in publishing it.  I think the “law of attraction” is nonsense; the universe is composed of a series of random occurrences and trying to make up silly ideas like that kind of puts me off; there really is no secret behind what she’s talking about.  When people REALLY want something they go after it, and that goes for a type of career, all types of relationships with people, etc.  Success without or with just limited connections is achieved through sheer will, discipline, and desire.  It goes back to the piano saying; it’s not just enough to “wish” to play it well, in order to do so a good deal of time must be invested in practice.  And with regard to people, a relationship (family, friendship, romantic) is only as solid as what both parties invest; it is up to us to determine what we want to put in and get out of a relationship.

I think the reason I have been relatively successful so far in my life is because I live with the conviction that I’m working toward a specific end goal, and I fully believe that I can make a difference with regard to that goal.  I’ve had a vision of what I’ve wanted to do with my life for about 10 years now, and while I don’t believe in any magical abilities we have to make things suddenly happen because we “thought about them,” I DO believe that a driving vision is a fully rational way of paving the way for personal success.

1Q84

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I finally bought 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami.  When I was younger, I swore off existentialism of any sort.  I was vehemently opposed to it (probably because I had no idea what it even was, at that time I just automatically associated it with Nietzsche, who I assumed was just an overinflated pessimist).  Now, not only do I find myself reading books of that genre, but also writing in that genre.  I think some of the ideas that make up existentialism are just understandings that we reach with the passage of time.  The meanings that we assign things are arbitrary; we have been conditioned to believe that there are patterns or things happen for a reason, when in reality, things just happen.  What we know as “reality” is subjective and we live through what we know (Matrix, anyone?).

1Q84 is Murakami’s modern take on George Orwell’s 1984  (in Japanese, “9” is pronounced the way English speakers say “Q”).  It is a sweeping work with numerous themes; one in particular which interests me.  One of the major characters starts noticing small, subtle changes in the world around her and the question is raised: What is reality?  I remember coming home one afternoon walking up my driveway and seeing my neighbors front porch; it was exactly as it had been, except all the furniture had been shifted to the opposite side.  When I saw this reflected in 1Q84, it was strangely comforting to know that others have thought of this possible “other reality.”  This story is also about connections we make in life; sometimes small and fleeting but strong enough to tie us to something in some way or another.

As I continue reading, I will write a more in-depth review.  Happy reading!

The Lifeboat

So I’ve been back in Japan for almost a week now just getting back into the swing of things and have been quite busy.

I love going home to America because there are certain things you really begin to miss living in a foreign country. Walking into a bookstore with English books is one of them for me, and I can easily spend an hour or so perusing the aisles in Barnes & Noble. I recently purchased The Lifeboat by Charlotte Rogan, which has so far been captivating.

The story is set in 1914, and the main character is crossing the Atlantic from England to the United States with her husband on a luxury liner. The ship is destroyed with a sudden, mysterious explosion and the main character is thrust into a lifeboat by her husband with almost 40 others. Although they believe an SOS message to have been sent and rescue imminent, the days begin to add up and the riders in the lifeboat begin to die from exhaustion, suffer psychosis, illness, dehydration, and the beginnings of starvation. All the while reading there is a terrifying undertone to it all: we are all animals underneath it all, and in times of absolute extremity, the decorum and the masks come down and we see ourselves for how brutish we all truly are (just as in Hobbes’ “State of Nature”). When survival is threatened, what we consider in proper society as “murder” becomes something else entirely–“survival of the fittest.” Perhaps in us all there lies the capability to commit certain acts normally deemed as atrocious. Also the concept of discerning meaning in chaos and the idea that there in the middle of the dark, unrelenting sea, undiscovered by any passing vessel, the little boat is pathetic and meaningless and completely at the mercy of nature. There may be no greater meaning, man may try too hard to believe that his existence has meaning when in all actuality it is completely void of any meaning with regard to the universe.

It is a beautiful and haunting metaphor for life, the “what-ifs” of the human condition. I have yet to finish the book, but so far it really is phenomenal and I recommend it to anyone looking for an unconventional thriller.