What I've been pretending to read


Why meditate? - Matthieu Ricard

The writer is a really interesting guy. He worked as a scientist in the prestigious Pasteur institute. Then decided to give it all up and become a Buddhist monk in Nepal.
He has a very analytical view about meditation (even about the link between the mind and quantum mechanics), and it's a breath of fresh air to read about this subject from a more scientific angle.
First he convinces you that meditation might not be such a bad idea, even though you might think you have absolutely no time for this, because obviously you are so important and busy the entire time.
Then he also provides some example meditations, with a main focus on compassion and altruism. I found this very inspiring, because the majority of meditations focus on being aware of the self etc, whilst I believe that people who need meditation should just be focussing on themselves as little as they can.

Ego is the Enemy - Ryan Holiday

It is quite hard to define "ego". If you would ask 100 people you'd get 150 different answers.
To be clear, the author's definition is the following: ego = an unhealthy belief in your own importance, the need to be recognised beyond reasonability, arrogance, putting your own motives before all else.
Ideally you should be humble in your aspirations, gracious in our success and resilient in our failures.

In my opinion, the being humble is the most important part. As Leonardo Da Vinci is said to have said: "you can do what you want, or want what you can do". The moment you want something, you immediately create a lack as well. Ego crosses out what matters and replaces it with what doesn’t.

In terms of success, those who have accomplished the greatest results are those who never lose self-control, but are always calm, self-possessed, patient, and polite. A person who thinks all the time has nothing to think about except thoughts, so he loses touch with reality and lives in a world of illusions.

Lastly, failure. Denial is your ego refusing to believe that what you don’t like could be true. That pretty much sums up why we are so afraid of doing the right thing. We should instead do the right thing and not worry wether the right thing actually will happen. Focusing on doing your best, what you find most fun, what gives you most purpose. And to hell with the results.

Chris Hadfield - A astronaut's guide to life on earth:

I have always been interested in space, and our capability as a species to work together to go beyond our planet. To be honest, as a kid, I wanted to become a astronaut. However, somehow along the way, maybe because of uncertainty, I kind of stopped pursuing this as a realistic goal.

This book gives really good life lessons based on the author's experience as a astronaut. NASA teaches them to "work the problem", a kind of Stoic approach of not getting emotional and going through all the options you have available.

I also like the idea that when you look down on earth, you seem to feel like you really don't matter.



Free will - Sam Harris:

My favourite podcast host is also an excellent author. It is an interesting idea, the fact that we are the result of neurons firing in our brain, which is basically just a series chemical reactions.

When you start to think about it more, it starts to make sense that we don't seem to really be in any kind of control. I don't know about you, but I am not able to tell my carbon atoms what bonds they should be making today.