Tag Archives: religion

the life-changing magic of tidying up – Chapter 5 Notes and Conclusion

What follows in this blog entry is my summary and thoughts on the self-help book “the life-changing magic of tidying up” by Marie Kondo.   My notes should in no way be construed as a replacement for the book and if you want to know more you are encouraged to purchase the original work and have a look for yourself.

Chapter 5 – the magic of tidying up dramatically transforms your life

Getting your house in order is a process not only of physical cleaning but of self-discovery.  By casting off excessive things you are allowed the freedom to make room in your life for what’s really important to you, to get at the nub of existence.  It also refines your ability make decisions as you repeated practice of deciding what to keep and what to be rid of.

We have trouble getting rid of things for two reasons.  The first is a misplaced attachment to the past; a desire to go back to some point in our lives that we believe we have lost.  The second is fear of the future, that we will need something we’re considering getting rid of.  This is a dangerous thing because our ownership of things is a guiding principle in our lives so by allowing our lives to be ruled by regret and fear we never manage to grow beyond those things.

It should not be said, however, that discarding things is entirely without regret.  Many of the author’s clients do end up regretting things they’ve gotten rid of, at least temporarily.  Eventually, however, they find great relief in the certainty of not having to search for something and being able to focus on the job of moving to find a solution to the problem.  The author points out too though that there are some things which are joyful and there may be pressure to get rid of them from others.  You should never get rid of that which truly brings you joy no matter what the neighbors might have to say about it.

At the heart of all this though is the idea that you should treat your house with respect.  Greet your home and thank it for sheltering you and welcoming you home.  When tidying, remember that this is not a sad event.  It’s a time of joy in which you can send off your unwanted possessions to a better life to do service for others.

To summarize extremely compactly, your home is a reflection of you. By tidying it you show it respect and in turn demonstrate respect for  yourself.  Her clients even go so far that tidying helps them lose weight and become healthier and while this might seem absurd, coming home to a tidy house just feels good.  There is a joy in looking around your home and seeing everything all in its place and just so.  Feeling good about your home and your surroundings is a vitally important thing and it would be easy to see how this positive feedback could impact your physical well-being.


Series Guide

View back-to-back on the YouTube Playlist
Chapter 1 – Why can’t I keep my house in order?
Chapter 2 – Finish discarding first
Chapter 3 – Tidying by category works like magic
Chapter 4 – Storing your things to make your life shine
Chapter 5 – The magic of tidying dramatically transforms your life

5 Comments

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World Religions: Islam – Lecture 9: Islam at the Crossroads

The following bits represent my notes and thoughts as I watch The Great Courses, “Great World Religions: Islam” by John L. Esposito.  A few things are worth noting:

  1. I encourage those with an interest to seek out the original source material.  You can do that on The Great Courses website.  My notes are just a pale shadow of the whole course but they might whet your proverbial whistle.
  2. These are just my notes and not an attempt to encapsulate the whole course.  As such, it should be painfully obvious that I’m no expert and at times prone to oversimplification and outright error.
  3. There is no third thing.  I just can’t stand having only two things in a list.

Lecture 9: Islam at the Crossroads

This lecture, more than the others, doesn’t try to provide answers so much as it attempts to frame the questions that face Muslims in the world today.

There are four Muslim orientations towards faith and the greater world:

  1. Secularists – They believe that the Muslim faith is a personal engagement and that it should have no impact on the larger governance of the world.  “Keep Islam in the Mosque”
  2. Conservatives – Wish to follow tradition and allow for no change over time.  They rely only on past doctrine under the argument that these laws were specifically laid down by God and therefore should be immutable.  Leaders of conservative Muslim groups tend, therefore, to be high-ranking clerics.
  3. Mainstream or Fundamentalist – Beliefs based on Quranic teaching but more flexible and prone to interpretation in view of the world as it is now.
  4. Reformers – Liberal Muslims that borrow heavily from Western thought.  Beliefs are still rooted in the Quran but they draw a distinct line between divinely proscribed law and those rooted in man’s interpretation of those laws.

These groups, and even subgroups within these groups, vary wildly on a few key questions:

  1. What is the role of women?  In some countries, women can’t drive but in others women hold high-ranking political offices.
  2. What is the role of the democratic process in governing?  Some countries hold free elections while others are theocracies.
  3. Where is the separation, if any, between the role of the church in society and that of the government?
  4. What is the status of non-Muslims, or dhimmi?  In some countries, non-Muslims are treated as second class citizens forced to pay a head tax to remain in the country.  In others, they are treated as equals in every way.
  5. Does the hudud, Quranically proscribed punishments such as amputation and stoning, have a place in Muslim culture?
  6. At its heart, all these questions seem to boil down to one: Is the law of God mutable over time as circumstances changes or is it written once and for all time never to be changed?

So while Islam is monotheistic, it is far from monolithic.  There is much diversity and disagreement within the Muslim faith and debate continues daily on these and dozens of other points of view.


Series Guide

IslamView back-to-back on the YouTube Playlist
Lecture 1– Islam Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow
Lecture 2 – The Five Pillars of Islam
Lecture 3 – Muhammad-Prophet and Statesman
Lecture 4 – God’s Word-The Quranic Worldview
Lecture 5 – The Muslim Community-Faith and Politics
Lecture 6 – Paths to God-Islamic Law and Mysticism
Lecture 7 – Islamic Revivalism-Renewal and Reform
Lecture 8 – The Contemporary Resurgence of Islam
Lecture 9 – Islam at the Crossroads
Lecture 10 – Women and Change in Islam
Lecture 11 – Islam in the West
Lecture 12 – The Future of Islam

11 Comments

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World Religions: Islam – Lecture 8: Contemporary Resurgence of Islam

The following bits represent my notes and thoughts as I watch The Great Courses, “Great World Religions: Islam” by John L. Esposito.  A few things are worth noting:

  1. I encourage those with an interest to seek out the original source material.  You can do that on The Great Courses website.  My notes are just a pale shadow of the whole course but they might whet your proverbial whistle.
  2. These are just my notes and not an attempt to encapsulate the whole course.  As such, it should be painfully obvious that I’m no expert and at times prone to oversimplification and outright error.
  3. There is no third thing.  I just can’t stand having only two things in a list.

Lecture 8: Contemporary Resurgence of Islam

Note: This lecture is an extremely boiled-down version of the history of the 20th century Middle East and very informationally dense even before I try to summarize it.  As such, the reader is encouraged strongly to seek out the source material directly.  This is the most currently relevant and interesting lecture to date but I cannot really seek to do it justice.

The current political states of the Middle East were created, for the most part, by European colonial powers after World War I.  These states were put together with little regard for history or demographics of the area and so it should come as little surprise that decades later they rebelled to form their own governments that more accurately reflect the people being governed.

Historically, these states have fallen into two basic groups

  • More secular governments were favored by the West and looked upon as more ‘Modern’ and easier to deal with.  As is typical, the West confuses “better” with “more like us”
  • Muslim governments are looked down upon as backwards or antiquated and fall out of favor with the west unless there’s some direct economic benefit to be had by dealing with them.

In 1967 the third Arab-Israeli War, or Six-Day War, tripled the size of Israeli-held territory while Arab forces from Egypt, Jordan and Syria were soundly defeated.  Even more importantly, Jerusalem, the third holiest city in Islam was no longer under Arab control.

In the Muslim community this set up a bit of an identify crisis.  Why had Allah abandoned the faithful?  This war become the rallying cry for a massive movement to reject Western identity and replace it with a stronger affirmation of the Islamic past and traditional values.

Over the ensuing decades, a quiet non-military revolution ensued in many countries in which educated Muslims rose to political power and replaced their previously secular governments.  Those old governments had been supported by the Western powers that had helped established them in the first place and met with resistance from their own militaries as well as old allies.

Despite being legitimate democratically elected governments, they also came under fire from Muslim extremist groups who considered them still too liberal.  Meanwhile Western powers feared them simply because of their religious backgrounds and resorted to a sort of secular fundamentalism.  Western governments seemed all too willing to support governments of any sort as long as it’s economically beneficial to do so.


Series Guide

IslamView back-to-back on the YouTube Playlist
Lecture 1– Islam Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow
Lecture 2 – The Five Pillars of Islam
Lecture 3 – Muhammad-Prophet and Statesman
Lecture 4 – God’s Word-The Quranic Worldview
Lecture 5 – The Muslim Community-Faith and Politics
Lecture 6 – Paths to God-Islamic Law and Mysticism
Lecture 7 – Islamic Revivalism-Renewal and Reform
Lecture 8 – The Contemporary Resurgence of Islam
Lecture 9 – Islam at the Crossroads
Lecture 10 – Women and Change in Islam
Lecture 11 – Islam in the West
Lecture 12 – The Future of Islam

11 Comments

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the life-changing magic of tidying up – Chapter 4 Notes

What follows in this blog entry is my summary and thoughts on the self-help book “the life-changing magic of tidying up” by Marie Kondo.   My notes should in no way be construed as a replacement for the book and if you want to know more you are encouraged to purchase the original work and have a look for yourself.

Chapter 4 – Storing your things to make your life shine

Proper storage is all about routine.  Each day you should come home and put every item you use back in its proper place.  Unpack your bag and put all its contents in a proper spot if possible.  Show each item that you appreciate it by thanking it for its hard work and give it a rest until its ready to be used again the next morning.  This is important because in effect you are performing a sacred act in giving each article you own a special place of its own to live.

The author relates the story of her old cellphone that she had for years until it became too scratched and ugly to be used.  She used her new phone to send her old phone one final text to thank it and then found it had died a few minutes later as if it knew that its life was done and that it could finally rest.

The author admonishes us to discard first and store later.  Generally speaking, homes already have plenty of storage.  Keep storage simple and centralized.  All items of the same type should be stored together and in one central space.  If living with other people, each person should have their one designated spot.  Decorate your storage space with posters and other memorabilia to make it personal and truly yours.  By taking ownership of your storage space it will be motivation to keep things tidy.

Avoid attempts to define your storage for efficiency or flow planning.  Storage defines the flow of a home much more than flow should determine storage.  Clutter springs from the failure to put things away so making storage centralized and simple is the key.  Over time, let your home decide how storage will be organized.  For example, a drawer will naturally sort itself over time so that frequently used items are at the front and those less used are at the back.

When storing items keep it simple.  There is no need for fancy storage devices; a few boxes and bins are sufficient.  The shoe box is a perfect organizer; the lid can be used as a tray and the box itself is not only attractive but the right height for a drawer organizer.  Boxes with large print or words on them should be avoided as they constitute additional mental noise that takes away from the attractiveness of a storage area.

Handbags and the like should be stored within other bags of the same type and use.  Remember that your bags should be emptied every day so they can properly rest.

Closets should hold everything that would otherwise be on the floor.  In the top of the closet you should store off-season and large items.  The center of the closet should hold clothes, stored and sorted upright, in clear plastic boxes so you can see everything at once.  The bottom of the closet is for appliances and seasonal electronics like fans and space heaters.

Shower and bath should never be used for storing anything.  Soaps and shampoo bottles should be removed when not in use lest they become slimy.  Dry your shampoo bottle and store it in a cabinet.

In the kitchen, hang clothes and sponges out to dry properly lest they begin go smell.  If possible, dry dishes outside in the sun.  Oils, cleaners and spices, even though often used should never be left on the counter where they can be splashed with oils.

Tidying is a sacred act, so the tops of bookshelves are optimal places for sacred objects.

Clothes should be removed from packaging and have their tags off as soon as they enter the home.  Until this is done clothes aren’t really ‘owned’ and thus less likely to be worn.  Some leave tags on in the event they may have to return items or so they’ll be more valuable if you have to take them to consignment.  This is flawed thinking; if this is even a remote possibility then the clothes would be better left at the store.  Don’t stock up on things you might not ever need.


Series Guide

View back-to-back on the YouTube Playlist
Chapter 1 – Why can’t I keep my house in order?
Chapter 2 – Finish discarding first
Chapter 3 – Tidying by category works like magic
Chapter 4 – Storing your things to make your life shine
Chapter 5 – The magic of tidying dramatically transforms your life

4 Comments

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the life-changing magic of tidying up – Chapter 3 Notes

What follows in this blog entry is my summary and thoughts on the self-help book “the life-changing magic of tidying up” by Marie Kondo.   My notes should in no way be construed as a replacement for the book and if you want to know more you are encouraged to purchase the original work and have a look for yourself.

Chapter 3 – Tidying by category works like magic

Clothes

As previously stated, you have to get all your clothes out and pile them on the floor to gain a proper perspective.  Then sort them into subcategories: Tops, bottoms, jackets and suits, socks, underwear, bags, accessories, clothes for specific events and shoes.

For each item, do the “does it bring me joy?” test.  If it doesn’t, pitch it.  Anything you forget about after trying to get everything in one room automatically gets thrown out too.  Also, no clothing should be downgraded  to lounge-wear.  If it’s not good enough to wear out then pitch it unless it’s specifically designed to be lounge-wear.

When storing clothes, fold them. Don’t hang them unless they would be “happier” on hangers: suits, jackets.  Hang like things together with heavy items on the left (heavy = longer clothes, heavy material, dark colors) and light items on the right.

The author describes herself as a folding fanatic and the description made me think of Sheldon Cooper with his very specific folding tools and technique.  Folded items should be stored on edge so they can all be seen at once when opening the drawer.  The act of folding should be one of care and love.  Don’t ball or tie socks.  They should be folded neatly and respectfully and stood on edge.

The general theme for clothes seems to be to minimize as much as possible, fold with extreme neatness and make sure you give your clothes the proper love and attention that they deserve.  Those socks do a pretty hard job when jammed between your foot and your shoe, after all, so they deserve a break.

Books

All books should be stacked on the floor and broken into subcategories:  General, practical, visual and magazines.  Again, touch each one and decide if it’s going to bring you joy.

General traps to avoid:

  • Nobody every rereads anything.  So if you expect to reread it, forget it.
  • If it’s never been read before, pitch it.  You’ll never feel more passionately about a book then immediately after you buy it so if you’ve not read it yet, pitch it.
  • Papers not of future verifiable usefulness, pitch.  This includes class notes, pay statements, appliance manuals and just about everything that you don’t have to take immediate action on.
  • Empty boxes for items you use should be pitched.  No practical purpose ever.

For Misc items from CDs to makeup and kitchen gadgets, apply the same rules.  One category at a time and one item at a time apply the ‘joy’ test.

Don’t get attached to things just because they’re gifts.  If it’s not currently giving you joy, pitch it no matter where you got it.

Mementos

These have the toughest emotional attachment, so they’re hardest to part with but the same test should apply.  Don’t send your old college stuff back to mom and dad and make the mess their problem.  Unless it gives you current joy then pitch it.  It’s not going to somehow become more important in five more years.

Photos get the individual joy test.  Every single picture, one by one, should be assessed and anything failing the test goes in the bin.

In general, the theme seems to be to pound home the same basic strategy.  The author indicates that you’ll know you’re done intuitively when things just “click” for you and you find you have the correct amount of stuff to fit your own desires and lifestyle.


Series Guide

View back-to-back on the YouTube Playlist
Chapter 1 – Why can’t I keep my house in order?
Chapter 2 – Finish discarding first
Chapter 3 – Tidying by category works like magic
Chapter 4 – Storing your things to make your life shine
Chapter 5 – The magic of tidying dramatically transforms your life

4 Comments

Filed under books, self-help, Uncategorized

World Religions: Islam – Lecture 7: Islamic Revivalism – Renewal and Reform

The following bits represent my notes and thoughts as I watch The Great Courses, “Great World Religions: Islam” by John L. Esposito.  A few things are worth noting:

  1. I encourage those with an interest to seek out the original source material.  You can do that on The Great Courses website.  My notes are just a pale shadow of the whole course but they might whet your proverbial whistle.
  2. These are just my notes and not an attempt to encapsulate the whole course.  As such, it should be painfully obvious that I’m no expert and at times prone to oversimplification and outright error.
  3. There is no third thing.  I just can’t stand having only two things in a list.

Lecture 7: Islamic Revivalism – Renewal and Reform

Note: This lecture in particular becomes very specific and talks in great detail about specific movements and various persons within those movements and their own personal roles and motivations.  In these notes I have endeavored to eschew the specific and instead focus on the big-picture of what is being described.  As a result, this section has boiled off more completely than others and will appear relatively short.  This brevity is not a reflection of the relative importance of this topic over others.

In the 17th through 20th centuries Islam went through a bout of moral and social decline.  The Quran teaches that each century a Mujaddid will appear at the turn of each century to revive Islam and cleanse it of improper elements.

All movements had to deal with a few fundamental questions:

  • Firstly, what is the role of the West?  Is it a source of corruption or is it a force for modernity to be adapted to and learned from?
  • Which portion of the Muslim faith is eligible for change and modernization and which ones are not?  Some movements went as far as to allow logic and reason to supersede even the direct written word of the Quran.
  • What caused the social decline of the Muslim community in the first place?  Was it because it had become too backward or failed to keep up or did the Western world invade and make it stray from the right path?

Conservative or Fundamentalist movements tended to condemn Sufi practices and many important artifacts and monuments were destroyed even those related to the prophet himself.  These movements rejected modernization and considered the influence of the West as a purely corrupting influence.  The correct path, they would argue, is to return to the simplest underlying tenants of Islam and leave it at that.

Modernist movements rejected outright the idea of regression to a previous age and argued that the reason for stagnation stemmed directly from the tendency to cleave on to antiquated modes of thinking.  If Islam was to survive, it must adapt as it always had and return to the Golden Age of Islam in which the community had become a keen patron of the sciences.


Series Guide

IslamView back-to-back on the YouTube Playlist
Lecture 1– Islam Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow
Lecture 2 – The Five Pillars of Islam
Lecture 3 – Muhammad-Prophet and Statesman
Lecture 4 – God’s Word-The Quranic Worldview
Lecture 5 – The Muslim Community-Faith and Politics
Lecture 6 – Paths to God-Islamic Law and Mysticism
Lecture 7 – Islamic Revivalism-Renewal and Reform
Lecture 8 – The Contemporary Resurgence of Islam
Lecture 9 – Islam at the Crossroads
Lecture 10 – Women and Change in Islam
Lecture 11 – Islam in the West
Lecture 12 – The Future of Islam

11 Comments

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the life-changing magic of tidying up – Chapter 2 Notes

What follows in this blog entry is my summary and thoughts on the self-help book “the life-changing magic of tidying up” by Marie Kondo.   My notes should in no way be construed as a replacement for the book and if you want to know more you are encouraged to purchase the original work and have a look for yourself.

Chapter 2 – Finish Discarding First

Tidying consists of two parts: Discarding and then deciding where things go.  Typically, this process takes about six months to complete in the author’s experience.  This change must be sudden and profound if it is to take root.

Discarding should be done in a particular order:

  1. Visualize your end goal.  What is it that you want in the end.  If you have difficulty, consult magazines or other publications.
  2. Decide why you want this; what will change about your life if you meet this goal?
  3. Choose what to keep, not what to discard.  If an item doesn’t bring you joy then get rid of it.  This should be done in this order: clothes, books, papers, misc and finally mementos.

There are a few key traps to avoid when discarding:

  • Don’t keep things because they might be useful later
  • Don’t tidy room by room.  Choose items by category and gather them together in one place so you can see the entire scope of what you’re dealing with.  Once you see all your clothes in one place it will be easier to decide what to be rid of, for example.
  • Tidy items with a sentimental attachment last as this will take the most discipline.  This discipline can only be built after making your way through the other categories.
  • Don’t let others in your family see what you’re getting rid of.  If they do, they may guilt you into keeping items or take them for themselves which simply transfers the untidiness to someone else.
  • If you find yourself in conflict with your family or housemates about tidiness, then don’t attempt to tidy for them but instead lead by example.  Seeing your tidy environment will cause them to naturally tidy for themselves.
  • Don’t attempt to give away items to family members or use them as storage for your unwanted items.  Likely if you don’t need it then they don’t either.
  • Don’t find fault with other’s level of tidiness.  Likely if you see fault in others it’s because your own life is not tidy enough.
  • Don’t play music or have the TV on when tidying.  Your environment should be calm and undistracting and you should tidy in the morning if possible.

Finally, when you have reached the end and are discarding items with sentimental attachment, consider why that item was previously important to you.  Has it fulfilled that role?  Did it teach you what it was supposed to, even if the lesson was that you don’t like that particular style of clothing or type of cereal?  If so, free it to be useful to someone else.


Series Guide

View back-to-back on the YouTube Playlist
Chapter 1 – Why can’t I keep my house in order?
Chapter 2 – Finish discarding first
Chapter 3 – Tidying by category works like magic
Chapter 4 – Storing your things to make your life shine
Chapter 5 – The magic of tidying dramatically transforms your life

4 Comments

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World Religions: Islam – Lecture 6: Paths to God – Islamic Law and Mysticism

The following bits represent my notes and thoughts as I watch The Great Courses, “Great World Religions: Islam” by John L. Esposito.  A few things are worth noting:

  1. I encourage those with an interest to seek out the original source material.  You can do that on The Great Courses website.  My notes are just a pale shadow of the whole course but they might whet your proverbial whistle.
  2. These are just my notes and not an attempt to encapsulate the whole course.  As such, it should be painfully obvious that I’m no expert and at times prone to oversimplification and outright error.
  3. There is no third thing.  I just can’t stand having only two things in a list.

Lecture 6: Paths to God – Islamic Law and Mysticism

Islamic law is derived from three sources:

  • Sharia – the teachings of the prophet as embodied in the Quran
  • Sunnah – the example of the prophet
  • Ijtihad – human interpretation of Sharia and Sunnah by the Ulama (scholars) and application of common sense and reasoning.  For the Shia community, this last takes a secondary role to collected writings not recognized by the Sunni community.

The law is designed to establish definitively what it means to be a good Muslim and create a just society that is equitable to all.  For the Muslim faith, action and obedience to the law is considered much more important than questions of theology.

The law covers two basic areas:

  • Duties to God – essentially, the Five Pillars previously discussed
  • Duties to Others – rules about public and family life

Family Law – Family law covers three basic topics which will be outlined below.  It should be noted that these laws vary greatly from region to region to conform to some degree with local customs and have over time evolved significantly.  Legal opinions are passed down by means of the issuance of a fatwa, a formal legal opinion given by a Mufti.

  • Marriage – previous to the Muslim faith, women were treated essentially as a possession to be handed out.  Under Sharia, women became a party to their own marriage contracts and could benefit from their own dowries.  Polygamy was regulated and men were limited to four wives but only if they could legitimately support them.  Men and women are viewed to have equal partnership within Muslim marriage but to have complimentary roles with the man working outside the home while the woman is master inside the home.
  • Divorce – while still permitted, divorce is termed “the most abominable” of things allowed by the Quran.  Previously, a man needed merely to utter “I divorce you” to remove his wife from her position.  Now the rules are significantly more complex and the wife is entitled to financial support.
  • Inheritance – woman can now inherit whereas previously it was only the eldest male child which could see money from the death of a parent.

Sufism represents the mystical aspects of Islam and the lecturer’s description made me think of them like hippies.  They are observant when it comes to Islamic law but they find that the law alone isn’t really sufficient.  They seek direct contact with Allah through prayer, fasting and meditation.  Despite being, at times, in conflict with the ulama, since about the 12th century they have worked to spread themselves through the establishment of monasteries that bring to mind monastic aspects of the Christian religion.


Series Guide

IslamView back-to-back on the YouTube Playlist
Lecture 1– Islam Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow
Lecture 2 – The Five Pillars of Islam
Lecture 3 – Muhammad-Prophet and Statesman
Lecture 4 – God’s Word-The Quranic Worldview
Lecture 5 – The Muslim Community-Faith and Politics
Lecture 6 – Paths to God-Islamic Law and Mysticism
Lecture 7 – Islamic Revivalism-Renewal and Reform
Lecture 8 – The Contemporary Resurgence of Islam
Lecture 9 – Islam at the Crossroads
Lecture 10 – Women and Change in Islam
Lecture 11 – Islam in the West
Lecture 12 – The Future of Islam

11 Comments

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the life-changing magic of tidying up – Intro and Chapter 1 notes

What follows in this blog entry is my summary and thoughts on the self-help book “the life-changing magic of tidying up” by Marie Kondo.   My notes should in no way be construed as a replacement for the book and if you want to know more you are encouraged to purchase the original work and have a look for yourself.

Introduction

Introduces the Konmari method, which is essentially to discard all that is unnecessary and tidy up in one fell swoop.  She states that her training course has a 3-month waiting list and that she has no repeat customers.  It also includes several rather puzzling and amusing testimonials from clients:

“Your course taught me to see what I really need and what I don’t.  So I got a divorce.”

“Someone I have been wanting to get in touch with recently contacted me.”

“I finally succeeded in losing ten pounds”

It’s not entirely clear to me at this juncture what those things have directly to do with tidying up but perhaps that will all become evident later.

Chapter 1 – Why can’t I keep my house in order?

On first reading, I will say that the text is surprisingly non-linear and seems rather disheveled and repetitious.  I will attempt to organize my notes in a more coherent manner but cannot guarantee that they won’t suffer from the same issues due to the influences of the text.

Conventional wisdom about maintaining a tidy space is wrong and in many ways unhelpful.  It indicates on some level that tidying is a natural thing that everyone should just magically do but really it must be studied methodically.

Most texts warn against the problem of rebound, that if you attempt to tidy everything at once, you’ll be so tired of tidying by the end that you’ll relapse immediately due to a sort of tidying fatigue.  Kondo argues, however, that this is a fallacy and that you must tidy all at once so that you see immediate and undeniable results and therefore maintain motivation to stay tidy.  To quote from the text:

“Tidying brings visible results.  Tidying never lies.  The ultimate secret of success is this: If you tidy up in one shot, rather than little by little, you can dramatically change your mind-set.  A change so profound that it touches your emotions will irresistibly affect your way of thinking and your lifestyle habits.”

Common methods of tidying are actually traps and illusions and must be avoided.  For example, adding storage and organizers only allows you to hide clutter rather than actually resolving the root problem.  Often too, would-be organizers are told to tidy one item or one room a day but this is quickly defeated when we acquire more quickly than we dispose of them and often don’t keep with the program long enough to actually finish.

Finally, the author admonishes that we should not attempt to personalize the methods she will teach us based on any perception we might have about our own personalities or quirks.  People tend to be either unable to throw out things they don’t need or unable to put things back after they use them or a combination of both.  These are really the only two categories of behaviors that need to be addressed regardless of individual personality.


Series Guide

View back-to-back on the YouTube Playlist
Chapter 1 – Why can’t I keep my house in order?
Chapter 2 – Finish discarding first
Chapter 3 – Tidying by category works like magic
Chapter 4 – Storing your things to make your life shine
Chapter 5 – The magic of tidying dramatically transforms your life

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World Religions: Islam – Lecture 4 – God’s Word: The Quranic Worldview

The following bits represent my notes and thoughts as I watch The Great Courses, “Great World Religions: Islam” by John L. Esposito.  A few things are worth noting:

  1. I encourage those with an interest to seek out the original source material.  You can do that on The Great Courses website.  My notes are just a pale shadow of the whole course but they might whet your proverbial whistle.
  2. These are just my notes and not an attempt to encapsulate the whole course.  As such, it should be painfully obvious that I’m no expert and at times prone to oversimplification and outright error.
  3. There is no third thing.  I just can’t stand having only two things in a list.

Lecture 4: God’s Word: The Quranic Worldview

According to the Muslim faith, The Quran is the literal and uncorrupted word of God; it was sent to the world as a correction to the Bible which had become tainted by the hand of man.  Primary among the Quran’s concerns about the Bible is that it allows for idolatry in the form of the worship of Jesus Christ.  Christianity is not considered to be properly monotheistic because of its recognition of the Trinity.

Finally collected in written form in 650, the Quran was written in Arabic and has been preserved verbatim.  From a textual standpoint, it is considered the single greatest written work in the Arabic language even today and stands as a perfect literary example.  It has even been said that some people have spontaneously converted to Islam after hearing and understanding it even once.  The Quran is the only miracle of the prophet Muhammad.  In Muslim countries reciters of the Quran are viewed as great celebrities and have been known to fill stadiums.

The Quran is 114 chapters or suras and designated as either Meccan or Medinan depending on where the prophet happened to be living when he uttered them.  The arrangement is not chronological but basically lists longer suras first followed by shorter ones.  Typically the Meccan suras cover religious practice while the Medinan ones revolve around daily life non-religious aspects of the faith.

Islam recognizes a few different classes of beings.  In no particular order:

  • Allah – God, the center of creation.  His nature is revealed through the world around us and he is merciful and just but souls will be judged.  The only truly unforgiveable sin is idolatry unless you repent before death.
  • Angels – Recorders and messengers between Allah and the rest of the world.
  • Jinn – Spirits with free will that are either good or evil.
  • Devils – Fallen angels who have been disobedient to God
  • Humans – Have special status and have been given the Earth in trust from Allah.  While Muslims believe in The Fall they do not believe that every person born since has Original Sin but that each person is judged for his or her actions in life.  Humans are therefore not saddled with guilt for past misdeeds but encouraged to simply repent and return to the path of righteousness.

The Quran speaks at length about several key topics but among the most important:

  • Society – The primary crux of the Quran is that of social justice.  All people are bound by Islamic law and as such are part of a whole that is responsible for care of the poor, widows and children.  Even charging interest is forbidden as its seen as taking advantage of the poor.  Muslims, therefore can neither earn interest from savings accounts nor pay interest on a mortgage, for example.
  • Women – The Quran abolished the ownership of women and established their rights to own property and to be financially cared for in the event of divorce.  It also established rules for when divorce was appropriate and forbade infanticide.  The most telling of quotes on the status of women is: “The best of you is he who is best to his wife.”  Previously the status of women in Middle Eastern society was tenuous at best.
  • Religious Tolerance – There is to be no compulsion for conversion of other religious faiths.  All were made different by Allah intentionally but the Muslims are to act as an example to other faiths on the right way to run a society.  Christians and Jews are “People of the Book” and therefore share a single God.  All who do right and live a righteous life will be rewarded in Heaven.  Non-Muslims living in Muslim countries are welcome but must pay a tax similar to the 2.5% that Muslims themselves must donate to charity.
  • The Lesser Jihad is a physical struggle to right injustice.  For example, if you are kicked out of your homeland, you may fight to get it back.  The Quran is very clear though that fighting is only a means of last resort:
    “[2:190] You may fight in the cause of GOD against those who attack you, but do not aggress. GOD does not love the aggressors.”  It goes on to detail rules for the treatment of prisoners and other specific situations in which the Lesser Jihad is appropriate.
  • The Greater Jihad is the struggle to stay on the path of righteousness and uphold the five pillar so Islam that have been previously detailed in another lecture.

Lastly, there is a brief discussion of what have been deemed the “Sword Verses” which many use to justify the categorization of Islam as a warlike faith.  The lecturer points out that these verses are taken out of context and incompletely quoted.


Series Guide

IslamView back-to-back on the YouTube Playlist
Lecture 1– Islam Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow
Lecture 2 – The Five Pillars of Islam
Lecture 3 – Muhammad-Prophet and Statesman
Lecture 4 – God’s Word-The Quranic Worldview
Lecture 5 – The Muslim Community-Faith and Politics
Lecture 6 – Paths to God-Islamic Law and Mysticism
Lecture 7 – Islamic Revivalism-Renewal and Reform
Lecture 8 – The Contemporary Resurgence of Islam
Lecture 9 – Islam at the Crossroads
Lecture 10 – Women and Change in Islam
Lecture 11 – Islam in the West
Lecture 12 – The Future of Islam

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