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Wednesday, January 20, 2010 @ 09:01 AM
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Our biggest problem today is information overload. Someone somewhere has the answer to everything we need to know, but finding it can be a time consuming process. There are a number of topics that I have researched and have kept notes in the form of book reviews which I am happy to share. It is my hope that readers will be able to determine whether or not a book is worth buying. A review will be posted weekly.

My wake-up call

Some survivors look upon cancer as a blessing because it is a wake-up call. Jill Sklar who wrote The Five Gifts of Illness: A Reconsideration is one of them. My wake-up call after my brush with cancer took several forms. I read Elie Wiesel’s speech ‘The perils of indifference’ in Speeches that Changed the World and realized that my greatest sin has been indifference and that I needed to overcome this defect in my character.

When researching my pension options I learned that a 65 year old man could expect to live to 87. Statistically I had 22 years remaining and From Age-ing to Sage-ing: A Profound New Vision of Growing Older helped me realize that even as a pensioner I could still do something positive. 50 Secrets of the World’s Longest Living People told me that there are plenty of people who enjoy a very active life beyond 100 years of age and that by living my life more sensibly I might be one of them. Percy Cerutty’s Be Fit! Or Be Damned made me realize that keeping fit is a major key to enjoying life and being an asset rather than a burden as I grow older.

With the world in chaos I wanted to have greater control over my life and found the answer in Our Next Frontier: A Personal Guide to Tomorrow’s Lifestyle and Robert Rodale’s advice that the most convenient point of entry to the idea of self-reliance is through gardening. Eliot Coleman’s The Organic Grower: A Master’s Manual of Tools and Techniques for the Home and Market Gardener provided all the information I needed to get started on my new occupation of gardening.

One reason that I got my cancer was my life style; at work I was always under pressure to meet deadlines and do things fast and this carried over into my personal life. In Praise of Slow: How a Worldwide Movement is Challenging the Cult of Speed convinced me that balance is the best approach – be fast when fast is called for but be slow for the important things in life such us family, friends, and relationships.

In the context of Leo Hickman’s A Good Life: The Guide to Ethical Living, ‘ethical’ means, above all, taking personal responsibility. This, in turn, means considering ‘sustainability’ of everything you do – making sure that your actions do not have a negative influence on you or, more importantly, the wider world. In 2001 humanity’s ecological footprint exceeded global biocapacity by 21%. A major tenet of ethical living is to attempt, wherever possible, to reduce one’s own demand for resources; it is a call to consume a fairer and more proportionate slice of the pie. As it takes 24 acres (9.7 hectares) of land to sustain an American, 9 acres (3.6 hectares) an Italian and just under an acre (0.4 hectares) for an Indian, I made my goal to enjoy an American lifestyle based on as little land as possible.

Food, Diet and lifestyle

The two biggest killers in Western society are heart disease and cancer, both of which are related to food, diet and life style. Books in this section helped Christine and me to determine what to grow in our garden, how to prepare our food and how to reduce the chances of falling prey to heart disease and cancer.

Cancer

I became interested in this topic after I was diagnosed with prostate cancer in December 2004, after six friends close to the family died from cancer during 2005 and after my 40-year-old daughter was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2006. In effect this section is my crash course in cancer education to determine why we lost six good friends, how to help my daughter and how to stop my cancer returning.

The collapse of Western civilization

I entered the work force in 1961 wanting to leave the world a better place and bought into the adage that ‘a rising tide raises all ships’. On retirement I took stock and found that, by most of the criteria I considered important, the world was a worse place. However, I had unwittingly contributed to the happiness of 500 billionaires whose net worth equals the net worth of half the world population. My research convinced me that our society is working to a failed paradigm, that certain sectors have been behaving irresponsibly by placing self-interest above communal interest, and that the problem has reached such proportions that our society is committing suicide.

Rebuilding Western civilization

If our society is not to commit suicide the majority of us have to adopt a completely new mindset and worldview that has been proposed by leading edge thinkers and also implemented by some groups. This section looks at the various proposals for helping our civilization get out of the hole it has dug for itself.