Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Chi Running, The Shallows and Fr. Elijah

Two reviews, no waiting as I slowly hone my critical style. The Shallows could be an absolutely life-changing book if I can focus long enough to remember the contents.

I haven't mentioned running in a good long while. 2018 marks the third year in a row of easy 3x a week runs after my knee surgeon pronounced me benched for good back in '09. I credit the Chi Running program as it taught me how to land with minimum impact on my weak knee. Despite the exercise, I've noticed a tendency to put on weight, starting around Halloween when I eat most of the Trick or Treat candy. Then Thanksgiving and Christmas arrive with gastronomical goodies, then I start losing weight in January by giving up sweets and carbs. Disney would call such a pattern the Cycle of Life. I would call it the Cycle of an Ill-Disciplined Fattie.

Oddly enough, I've discovered I can walk at a faster sustained pace than I can run. So, for now, I"m walking briskly around a local golf course, pausing only to pick up the odd golf ball sliced onto the bridal trail by form-challenged duffers. A pleasant mid-week to all.

  The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our BrainsThe Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains by Nicholas Carr
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Skim more, ponder less as "the transformative power of new communication technologies alters our neural pathways." Using studies to bolster his point, the author holds that our minds are changing as they adapt to an ocean of easily-accessible information streaming over our phones and computers. This alteration threatens users' ability to think deeply or analyze because the "Web has scattered attention, parched their memory or turned them into compulsive nibblers of info snacks."

Neither luddite nor scold, Carr reasons calmly that our technologies are changing us to better adapt to their nature. According to research, both young and old Web surfers find their neurons and synapses effected by heavy Web interaction, resulting in "shrinking vocabulary [that becomes] hackneyed and formulaic with less flexible syntax."

Carr feels we are seduced by Internet "benefits of speed, efficiency and desirability." Losing the knack of deep thinking "the tumultuous advance of technology could . . . drown the refined perceptions, thoughts, and emotions that arise only through contemplation and reflection."

Having experienced the drawbacks of prolonged Web usage, Carr explains what actions he took to focus enough to write this book, and offers hope that a more aware approach to the Internet may be on the horizon.

Written seven years ago, this book is accessible to the general reader, and remains increasingly relevant today.

View all my reviews Elijah in JerusalemElijah in Jerusalem by Michael D. O'Brien
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Carmelite Father Elijah once again attempts to unmask a rising world leader who may well be the antichrist. Picking up where "Father Elijah: An Apocalypse" ended, the hunted priest enters Jerusalem as a fugitive, wanted for a murder he didn't commit. Accompanied by fellow Carmelite Brother Enoch, Father Elijah finds himself pitted against spiritual and temporal forces, his own doubt, and the depressing knowledge that his mission may end in failure and a gruesome death.

With intriguing glimpses into the play of good and evil in human souls, the book often digresses into the backstories of seemingly incidental characters. And while these encounters propel Father Elijah forward to his destiny, they often slow the narrative in what is a fairly short book.

Still, this sequel is a fascinating, compelling window into Catholic eschatology as well as the power of faith, obedience and prayer in the face of hostility and disbelief.

View all my reviews

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