Participatory Spirituality for the 21st Century
This thread is for listing books or essays you intend to read or would like to recommend to other members of the forum. Separate threads can be started to discuss any particular book or essay in detail; this thread is just a resource page.
Library books I recently checked out. I won't have time to read most (any?) of these, but am skimming and reading sections here and there. Organized in this photo from the bottom up in relation to my impression of going from most optimistic to the most pessimistic scenarios.
I don't need to say anything about Jeremy Rifkin here.
Jorgen Randers is one of the 4 original authors of Limits to Growth ('72). He's a pessimist, but (suprsingly to me) thinks we have another 50 years before things really go south.
Korten's Agenda for a New Economy was written in 2009 in the aftermath of the banking/housing/financial crisis. He asks, 1) Do Wall St. institutions do anything so vital for the national interest that it justifies opening the national purse strings to shower them with trillions of dollars to save them from the consequences of their own excess? 2) Is it possible that the whole Wall St. edifice is built on an illusion...? 3) Might there be other ways to provide necessary and beneficial financial services...?
"To break the suspense, here are the answers: 1) no, 2) yes, 3) yes."
For the Common Good: redirecting the economy toward community, the environment, and a sustainable future (1989) by Herman Daly (former economist for the World Bank) and John Cobb (yes, the process theologian) is considered a classic by many, and I keep meaning to read this book. Chapter 1 is titled "The Fallacy of Misplaced Concreteness in Economics and Other Disciplines." With a start like that, how could this book go wrong?
Limits to Growth: The 30 Year Update. A 2004 update on the original 1972 book. A classic, very important book that we should all read. In 2012, 40 years after the original publication, it was demonstrated that their worst case "Business As Usual" scenario has been amazingly accurate. What you need to know is that this scenario the downturn begins around 2015! As researcher Graham Turner wrote in The Guardian:
"As the graphs show, the University of Melbourne research has not found proof of collapse as of 2010 (although growth has already stalled in some areas). But in Limits to Growth those effects only start to bite around 2015-2030."
The Energy of Slaves by Canadian journalist Andrew Nikiforuk looks like an awesome, very well written book. I was involved with Nikiforuk as part of a panel discussion about his previous book on Tar Sands, and heard him give a presentation about this book, but still haven't read it. Really impressed while skimming through it today though; looks like a very good survey of the history of fossil fuels, with the focus on the idea that fossil fuel energy has "replenished slavery's ranks with combustion engines and other labour-saving tools," and "we still behave like slaveholders in the way we use energy....What we need, says Nikiforuk, is a radical new emancipation movement that confronts the most pressing challenge we face: learning to use energy on a moral and truly human scale."
Countdown by journalist Alan Weisman is about over population. He asks the question "how many people can there be on earth," and travels around the world to find answers.
Bottleneck: Humanity's Impending Impasse (2009) is the follow-up to William Catton's classic "Overshoot" (1980). Catton was a sociologist, and this is an erudite book combnining sociology and ecology. It looks to be very readable and compelling. Catton recently passed away, inspiring many glowing comments from appreciative readers, such as here and here ("His book, "Overshoot," may stand as the central text of the 20th century about the ecological fate of humankind. The book represents a missed opportunity in that so few people were able to hear what Catton had to say in 1980...").
Bottleneck begins with this opening page:
when the Newcommon steam engine
had been upgraded by James Watt,
its use led to escalating reliance
on fossil energy;
of the world's human population
With subsequent technological developments
Homo colossus acquired through
the next nine generations
the delusion of limitlessness.
from the "Controller" in the tower:
HUBRIS 1776 ABORT YOUR TAKEOFF!
I SAY AGAIN ABORT YOUR TAKEOFF IMMEDIATELY!
YOU ARE ATTEMPTING TO TAKE OFF FROM A RUNWAY THAT IS TOO SHORT.
TAKEOFF CLEARANCE CANCELED.
Finally, The Five Stages of Collapse Survivor's Toolkit by Dimitry Orlov. Orlov has a razor-sharp wit that makes discussion about collapse enjoyable to read, if you can imagine that. His five stages of collapse are Financial, then Commercial, then Political, then Social, then Cultural. I usually don't read his books, because he writes regularly on his blog, which is freely available at cluborlov.com
Books recently read or in process:
Havoc, Thy Name is 21st Century: Thermodynamic Isolation and the New World Order - the posthumous release from Peter Pogany: "His theory predicts that global society is drifting toward a new form of sefl-organization that will recognize limits to demographic-economic expansion - but only after we go through a new chaotic transition..."
The End of Certainty: Time, Chaos, and the New Laws of Nature - Ilya Prigogine's last major work (1997) written for a general audience, where he reconciles Newtonian physics with Quantum Mechanics and Relativity Theory. All brought together with a more complete understanding of thermodynamics - resulting in "the new laws of nature." A very important work, I think, which seems to have been largely ignored (except for Pogany above, who strongly referenced this book and initiated my interest in it). Has anyone else here read this one? I skipped over the challenging math, but still got a lot out of it.
Heritage of Western Civilization - a compilation of abridged classics I found in the free box at the local library, of which I read John Dewey's Liberalism and Social Action and Whitehead's Science and the Modern World.
American Philosophies of Religion by Henry Nelson Wieman and Bernard Meland - I'm slowly reading through this book from 1936 which "sweeps the whole field of modern religious thought from Royce to Ames and the Niebuhrs." A very interesting survey of early 20th century religious thought in the U.S. from the perspective of these two Chicago school philosophers of religion, and their bent toward religious naturalism. Especially interesting to read this and the above from Dewey and Whitehead, all written during the period (1914-1945) that Pogany refers to as the chaotic transition between Global System 1 and Global System 2.
The Vital Question: Energy, Evolution, and the Origins of Complex Life - by biochemist Nick Lane. I'm not usually drawn to books about evolution, but the Energy component drew me in. Published earlier this spring, this is cutting edge, ground-breaking work. Another hugely important book, I think. Lane offers a solution to "conundrums that have puzzled generations of scientists." It's the energy, stupid.
Other Books Waiting for Me in the Wings:
Improvisation, Creativity, and Consciousness: Jazz as integral template for music, education, and society by Ed Sarath. I picked this up at ITC 2015 and look forward to the opportunity to read this one.
Music and the Power of Sound: The Influence of Tuning and Interval on Consciousness by Alain Danielou. A classic, deeply insightful and techical book on "sound healing" originally published in 1943. If you recognize the name of the author, it's probably from his translation of the Complete Kama Sutra.
Into the Cool: Energy Flow, Thermodynamics, and Life by Eric Schneider and Dorion Sagan. Why are we here, and where are we going? Schneider and Sagan say that the 2nd law of thermodynamics holds the key. Looks like a good companion to the Prigogine and Nick Lane books above.
Reinventing the Sacred: A New View of Science, Reason, and Religion by Stuart Kauffman. Kauffman wrote a blurb for Prigogine's book above, but doesn't even reference Prigogine in the index of this 2008 book - what's up with that? Then again, he had his fingers crossed in the Prigogine blurb, where he wrote: "For much of the past century physicists have suggested that the arrow of time is due to the Second Law of Thermodynamics with its unidirectional increase in entropy. Ilya Prigogine, in this bold book, takes a different stance. One does not have to agree with his solution to find the problems profound and the argument entrancing."
I didn't read the Prigogine work but some of his others and one with Stengers. His version of QM is far different than the popular metaphysical version, primarily in that he frames it within thermodynamics while the pop version does not. I discussed him and this framing in the complexity and pomo thread. See pp. 1 and 3-5. As to my comment on QM see this post:
"For classical physics and for quantum physics there is no privileged direction of time. Future and past play the same role.... The traditional description is deterministic, even in quantum theory....but the results obtained...contain certainly a large part of truth....[but] these descriptions are based on a too restricted form of dynamics" (10).
Thanks for the link to the relevant posts in the complexity thread. The End of Certainty was first published in France in 1996, and the English translation in 1997. I didn't know about Is Future Given, which was transcribed from a series of lectures given in 2000, and published in 2003, the year of Prigogine's passing. So that looks to be possibly his last major presentation. Based on your various quotes, it appears he is conveying much the same content of the book I've just read.
Here's a good quote: "We now recognize that equilibrium physics gave us a false image of matter. Once again, we are faced with the fact that matter in equilibrium is 'blind,' while in nonequilibrium it begins to 'see.'"
It's funny, I almost never read fiction anymore. When I do read fiction, I realize that there's often at least as much wisdom and insight in really good fiction as there is in non-fiction. For some reason, I'm drawn to non-fiction, sometimes even books that are hard for me to follow, such as Prigogine and Lane (where I just skim over the hard science parts).
One of the last fiction books I partially read was Milroy the Magician by Paul Theroux. Really enjoyed it, but for some reason never finished it. A friend gave me a couple of books he really liked: That Old Cape Magic by Richard Russo, and Windup Girl, by Paulo Bacigalupi, but they've remained on the bookshelf so far.
I did forget to include in my photo pile Whitehead's "Adventures of Ideas" given to me by an elderly friend who had studied with Hartshorne, Tillich, Cobb, and others; and The Permaculture City by Toby Hemenway.
Ambo Suno said:
I read a lot of fictional, mixing in a more serious and 'real' treatise at a ratio of maybe 1:5.
Last week I finished skimming Madness in Civilization, by Andrew Scull. A pretty good overview. Though in general not quite new material for me, some interesting cultural details about both the consistent and the varying manifestations (and cultural translations/interpretations) and societal responses to 'madness' over time.
Though non-fiction clearly carries more intellectual and seriousness prestige, as you say, fiction has its merits. I am surprised often by how psycho-culturally aware and insightful many novelists are, even in heavy action, adventure and thriller genres.
Here in the photo are two story books I am reading now, and the bottom one, I just finished.
Dragonfish by Vu Tran gives some peeks into Viet Namese history culture, and psyche.
Much of my more serious and academic education takes place on cyber forum reading and viewing, like IPMS and ILC. Gratitude for this.
I have a couple of friends who will only read non-fiction. They say that fact is often more unbelievable, strange, and interesting than fiction.