Koonagi's World

Personal Blog of Eric J. Kuhns

5 Books That Changed My Life.

1. The Last Lecture

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Awhile back, CMU created a lecture series called, "The Last Lecture". The idea was to have different professors give a lecture as if it was the last one they would ever give. Sadly, the book, The Last Lecture, is based off of Randy Pausch who actually had terminal cancer. I picked this book up at Half Price awhile back and read it cover to cover without putting it down. There is a wealth of knowledge and life lessons in his last lecture entitled, "Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams." You can watch the entire lecture below, but I recommend reading the book as well! 

The brick walls are there for a reason. The brick walls are not there to keep us out. The brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something. Because the brick walls are there to stop the people who don’t want it badly enough. They’re there to stop the other people.
— Randy Pausch, The Last Lecture

2. Tough Shit

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Tough Shit is an autobiography of sorts about one of my favorite film makers, Kevin Smith. Kevin Smith writes with such a humble pen throughout the book and is incredibly honest (and descriptive) with each chapter. He talks about the movie business, his personal life, and everything in between. I hope one day I can meet Kevin and interview him or just have a private conversation. Kevin and his book have inspired me in my own writings and creative projects. I would also suggest you follow him on Instagram and Twitter!

Remember: It costs nothing to encourage an artist, and the potential benefits are staggering. A pat on the back to an artist now could one day result in your favorite film, or the cartoon you love to get stoned watching, or the song that saves your life. Discourage an artist, you get absolutely nothing in return, ever.
— Kevin Smith, Tough Shit: Life Advice from a Fat, Lazy Slob Who Did Good

3. The Dharma Bums

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I read Jack Kerouac's "Dharma Bums" about 4 years ago and I still find myself thinking about it about once a month. Kerouac had a way with describing scenes and human emotions that I feel no one else ever has. He's prolific throughout and incredibly personable at the same time. I've yet to read a book since that makes nature, travel, and life discovery so vibrant and attractive. I advise that you read it and then go find your own adventure.

I felt like lying down by the side of the trail and remembering it all. The woods do that to you, they always look familiar, long lost, like the face of a long-dead relative, like an old dream, like a piece of forgotten song drifting across the water, most of all like golden eternities of past childhood or past manhood and all the living and the dying and the heartbreak that went on a million years ago and the clouds as they pass overhead seem to testify (by their own lonesome familiarity) to this feeling.
— Jack Kerouac, The Dharma Bums

4. Einstein's Unfinished Revolutions

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I always add this book to my list of favorites, because it's the book that started me on my path toward leaving organized religion and introducing me to the wonders of science. (If you're wondering why it took so long for science to resonate within me, It's important to note that most of my schooling was at christian schools which taught creation science.) Einstein's Unfinished Revolutions hardly ever touches on the subject of religion though and the way author Paul Davies makes science feel and look is incredibly captivating, or at least it was to eighteen year old me. I will forever keep my copy of this book and recommend it to others. 

Until now, I’ve been writing about “now” as if it were literally an instant of time, but of course human faculties are not infinitely precise. It is simplistic to suppose that physical events and mental events march along exactly in step, with the stream of “actual moments” in the outside world and the stream of conscious awareness of them perfectly synchronized. The cinema industry depends on the phenomenon that what seems to us a movie is really a succession of still pictures, running at twenty-five [sic] frames per second. We don’t notice the joins. Evidently the “now” of our conscious awareness stretches over at least 1/25 of a second.

In fact, psychologists are convinced it can last a lot longer than that. Take the familiar “tick-tock” of the clock. Well, the clock doesn’t go “tick-tock” at all; it goes “tick-tick,” every tick producing the same sound. It’s just that our consciousness runs two successive ticks into a singe “tick-tock” experience—but only if the duration between ticks is less than about three seconds. A really bug pendulum clock just goes “tock . . . tock . . . tock,” whereas a bedside clock chatters away: “ticktockticktock...” Two to three seconds seems to be the duration over which our minds integrate sense data into a unitary experience, a fact reflected in the structure of human music and poetry.
— Paul Davies, About Time: Einstein's Unfinished Revolution

5. Pale Blue Dot

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The opening to this book is incredibly powerful. Even if you don't have time to read through one or all of the books on this list, I highly recommend watching at least the video below, which is read by Carl Sagan himself. His words and this book apply just as much today, if not more than it did when it was written. The Pale Blue Dot forever changed my perspective on what it means to be a human on this planet.

Look again at that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every “superstar,” every “supreme leader,” every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there-on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.

The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner, how frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that, in glory and triumph, they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot.

Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.

The Earth is the only world known so far to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment the Earth is where we make our stand.

It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.
— Carl Sagan, Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space