Pyongyang, Vonnegut, and Depression
Amy and I had another wonderful digital sabbath yesterday.
It started Friday at sundown when I put my computer to sleep. I’m using Inbox When Ready and have locked my inbox from Friday at 6pm to Saturday at 11:59pm. I also put my phone in Do Not Disturb mode for this same time period. While I’m not committed to doing this every weekend in 2018, I’m going to do it most of the time.
I woke up Saturday morning and meditated for 30 minutes. Amy and I then had breakfast and then we retired to the couch to read. I’ve decided that in 2018 when I’m at home I’ll read physical books, since I have an infinite pile of those along with my infinite pile of Kindle books. I scanned my shelves of unread books, picked four that I thought varied widely, and dug in.
I started with Architectural and Cultural Guide Pyongyang. North Korea has been on my mind lately (fathom that), although I had bought this book a few years ago after Eric Schmidt’s trip to in North Korea. It was mentioned in one of the articles I read at the time, but it had been sitting on my shelf since then. It was a fascinating and beautifully done book (well – pair of books). The first was a detailed architectural overview of Pyongyang with official descriptions of all the buildings. The second was a series of essays on different aspects of the architectural and historical dynamics of modern Pyongyang. Everything was otherworldly and mysterious.
I then moved on to If This Isn’t Nice, What Is?: Advice to the Young-The Graduation Speeches – a short volume of nine graduation speeches by Kurt Vonnegut. It turns out there is a second – expanded – edition, but I didn’t notice that until after I’d finished and logged the book in Goodreads. I love Vonnegut. One summer over a decade ago I bought all of his books in hardcover, ordered them by publication date, and started working my way through them. In addition to being a delightful writer, Vonnegut was an in-demand and excellent public speaker. Each graduation speech was unique even though there were some lines and jokes repeated. What stuck with me was the contrast between the Beatitudes and the Code of Hammurabi and how Vonnegut applied them to our modern world.
Amy and I had lunch and then took a nap. I went for a run as I’m starting to ramp up again, although I still have some issues with my left calf.
After a shower, I settled into Playing Hurt: My Journey from Despair to Hope by John Saunders. I’m not a sports fan and never watch ESPN (unless I’m at a Ruby Tuesday or other place where it’s playing on the TV during a meal) so I didn’t know who John Saunders was. I can’t remember who recommended the book to me, but it was in the context of a well-known person’s memoir where they reveal – in depth – their struggles with depression. In a cruel twist, Saunders died before the book was published, but his family bravely supported publishing it posthumously. The book is incredibly intimate, linearly told, but with Saunders going deep on his life. He struggled with depression. sexual and physical assault as a child. continuous racism. endless suicidal ideation, health issues including diabetes, a major brain injury in 2011 from a fall on the ESPN set, and a heart attack in 2014. Through it all, he rose to the top of his field as a sports journalist, with a 30-year career at ESPN / ABC.
After I finished it, I reshelved the fourth, unread book and went to bed. When I woke up this morning, there was snow everywhere.