DCPLive is a blog by library staff at the DeKalb County Public Library!
Aug 22 2014

Exploring a Lost Art

by Dea Anne M

In 1960, the average woman at Cornell University owned 2.9 pairs of pants. That .9 is really worrying me. Where did the rest of the pants go and, more important, what was left? Were the side seams missing to such an extent that the pants flapped wildly around the poor woman’s legs providing neither warmth nor coverage? Did the pants lack a waistband altogether so that she had to use duct tape to attach them to her skin?

Now I know perfectly well that this .9 is probably the statistical result of some of those women owning 1 pair of pants, some owning 2, and some owning a full complement of 3. Yet the possibility of a .9 pair of pants affects me in a way similar to the way learning as a child that “the average American family” had 2.5 children affected me. Where, I wondered, was my half-sibling? And by “half-sibling” I didn’t envision a child who shared only one parent with me. No. I imagined a literal half-child who was bisected down the middle and wearing half a shirt, half a pair of pants, and one shoe.  She or he was a potentially tragic creature–one that my parents had to be hiding somewhere, but where? Certainly not anywhere in our house–a Central Florida ranch model that had no basement, much less anything resembling an attic. Was there a place in the country for all those .5 children that the average American family kept producing–some haven where each child was allowed ice cream every day and the pet of his or her choice? Childhood poses many such odd questions…or maybe my brain was just a weird place to be.

That 2.9 pants statistic comes from an entertaining new book The Lost Art of Dress: The Women Who Once Made America Stylish by Linda Przybyszewski. Przybyszewski is a professor in the History Department at the University of Notre Dame. Among the courses she teaches is A Nation of Slobs, which introduces students to “the art, ethics and losteconomics of dress in Modern America.” According to the book, American women were considered some of the best dressed in the world up through the earlier half of the twentieth century. Since then, we’ve experienced the explosive growth of the garment industry and its subsequent globalization–as well as the impact of far-reaching movements for social change and an increasingly youth-oriented culture. All of these have altered the way we think about attire and its importance. As far as women and their pants go, the book posits that prior to the late 1960′s women simply didn’t have that many occasions to wear them. Trousers were considered “proper” for women when engaged in sports, for at home wear or when in the county or suburbs. The ubiquity of pants in women’s wardrobes today can be traced to the advent of the mini-skirt (introduced by British designer Mary Quant in 1964) and the subsequent (mostly female-led) backlash against such a revealing garment.  Throughout, Przybyszewski argues her points tartly and often humorously–and whether you agree with her or not, the book itself is well worth reading. In fact, I’ve already read it twice!

Dr. Przybyszewski attributes the former wide acceptance of certain standards of women’s dress to a couple of things (and these standards didn’t necessarily embrace an adherence to luxury but rather ideas of appropriateness and artistic harmony). One was that, until fairly recently, American consumers didn’t have the sort of access to low-priced, mass-produced garments that we do today. Instead, the average woman either sewed her own clothes or shopped very carefully for the highest quality garments that she could afford. In fact, it’s surprising how very few clothes were considered necessary to be well dressed.  For work, some experts ruled that 5 outfits were enough and some declared 2 or 3 ample with clever changes of accessories. That’s difficult for many of us these days to consider desirable…or even possible. Though I do love the idea of a well-edited wardrobe and the so-called “capsule wardrobe” really appeals to me.

In any case, I want to upgrade my own clothing and in service to that goal I’m slowly teaching myself to sew. I don’t expect to save money this way. My main focus is on learning to create garments that fit well in colors that flatter me. Most of us who shop for clothes will eventually feel frustrated with the poor fit of so many off-the-rack garments and, as for color, there isn’t always a good choice available. Fortunately, DCPL has plenty of resources to help me in my sewing adventure. If you share my aspirations, these resources could help you too.

Here are a few of the titles that I’ve found helpful:

Sewing Solutions: Tips and Advice for the Savvy Sewist by Nicole Vasbinder

200 Sewing Tips, Techniques and Trade Secrets by Lorna Knight

Sewing In a Straight Line: Quick and Crafty Projects You Can Make by Simply Sewing Straight by Brett Bara

And here are three titles that will be of special interest to those of us who are interested in creating clothing:

The Complete Photo Guide to Clothing Construction by Christine Haynes is technique-based and beautifully illustrated. I’m not ready yet for pleats or contour darts, but when I am, this is the book I will turn to.

Skirt-A-Day Sewing: Create 28 Skirts for a Unique Look Every Day by Nicole Smith provides instruction for making exactly what the title promises. These skirts are adorable and could keep you happily, and beautifully, clothed for some time.

If you’ve already been sewing for a while, How To Use, Adapt, and Design Sewing Patterns by Lee Hollahan will show you how to alter paper patterns for an absolutely perfect fit and personal detail.

I’m still very much a beginner to sewing but I’m happy to say that I’m enjoying the process of learning. Who knows, maybe some day soon you’ll see me wearing a beautiful garment that I made with my own hands!

To go, briefly, back to The Lost Art of Dress, the author frequently mentions Elizabeth Hawes, a clothing designer who was active professionally from the mid-1920′s through 1940.  As a political activist and a champion of gender equality, Hawes was very much ahead of her time. She had plenty of provocative and interesting things to say about clothing and the fashion industry. She was also, in my opinion, a brilliant designer who created some of the most original and beautiful hawesclothes I’ve ever seen (with some of the most interesting names). The Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art has an online archive of its collection where you can view the work of many designers, including Elizabeth Hawes. Check out the amazing evening gown called It Is My own Invention (see photo, right) as an example of her talent (and click here for a larger picture).

Do you sew? Do you enjoy making your own clothes? Guys, you may be feeling left out of this post, but I would love to hear from any men out there who already sew or are interested in learning.

 

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gate with arch

Hello readers,

Any publication about introverts or introversion usually catches my eye and my interest. While perusing The Introvert’s Way: Living a Quiet Life in a Noisy World by Sophia Dembling, I began to wonder about introverted fictional characters. Books and films abound with them and, it is no wonder, many authors and artists are introverted.

What qualities (positive) characterize introverts and introversion? While the forefathers of psychology and pop psychology tend to couch their descriptions in pejorative terms, it has been reassessed that at least 50% of all humans are introverted. And, luckily for us, the great Carl Gustav Jung also thought highly of introverts. Much of his work was devoted to the inner worlds of imagination and intuition–skills that delight many introverts. 50% of the population is indeed a high percentage in a Darwinian equation in which only the most fit survive. There must be something highly important about the introvert personality with regards to human adaptation to have such a strong presence within the general population. While American culture glorifies the active, risk-taking, impulsive, highly social and (from an introvert’s perspective) short-fused, superficial, and attention-deficit oriented individual, a sense of balance seems to require a very different personality type to keep the group going.

extrovert-introvert

Introverts are slower, more thoughtful and careful planners, more detail-oriented, and less socially inclined. Introvert brains process information differently, using more areas of the brain to assess information. High sensitivity (see Elaine Aron’s site about HSPs–Highly Sensitive Persons) also often is a characteristic of introversion. Introverts often need to be alone, to reflect, to digest observations. In ancient times, the wealthy and powerful surrounded themselves with sages and advisers. The introvert is just the woman or man for that job. While not seeking out the limelight, the introvert tends to seek truth, knowledge, or justice. The bottom line is that all personality types are valuable and necessary for our collective survival and wellbeing as humans.

Perhaps taking a closer look at fictional characters contributes to our ability to perceive the value of “the other half.”

MyersBriggsTypes

While searching online, I found a fun and interesting tumblr site MBTI-in-Fiction in which numerous fictional characters are analyzed along the lines of the Myers-Briggs personality profile system. Just for fun, take the free online 16 Personalities quiz (not an official Myers-Briggs test), and compare your personality type with those of your favorite fictional characters.

individuationIn the Myers-Briggs personality evaluation system, the various letters stand for key personality traits. I represents introvert, while E stands for extrovert, N for intuitive, T for thinking, J for judging, F for feeling, P for perceiving, S for sensing, etc. Various traits have different levels of dominance in each personality type, which is a combination of four traits, inspired by the Jungian theory of individuation.

Some of my favorite introverted film characters include warm-hearted dreamer AmelieAmelie Poulain, from the 2001 French film Amelie, “Le Fabuleux Destin d’Amelie Poulain,” directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet, and Tim Burton’s Edward, of Edward Scissorhands  (1990).  The contrast in personalities and creativity of the various characters in both films highlight the challenges of these two very lovable characters.

edward-scissorhandsWhether your own temperament is characterized by a dominant introvert or extrovert, I think we can all learn to better know and appreciate ourselves and one another by enjoying works of literature or film, helping to make our human community more balanced and our inner lives richer.

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Aug 12 2014

Tiny Space, Big Life

by Dea Anne M

Many years ago–My grandfather has built a playhouse for the grandchildren to use when they come to visit. To say that I’m enchanted would be an understatement.  The charm of a space just my size is almost too much to take in. I begin to make plans to run away and live in the playhouse.

A number of years ago–A friend is visiting me in my new place. This friend happens to be a big guy, standing well over six feet, and he seems fidgety as we sit on my sofa and chat. Suddenly, he leaps up and cries, “This place is like a dollhouse! I’ve gotta’ get out of here!” As I close the door, I look around at my tiny apartment and smile.  I have a sense–which will prove itself over time–that this petite pad will be my favorite of many rental abodes.

Not so many years ago–I’m visiting the town of Oak Bluffs on Martha’s Vineyard and I’m thrilled with the collection of “gingerbread cottages” surrounding the central pavilion of what became, through the 1880′s and beyond, a wildly popular site for Methodist camp meetings. These wee “Carpenter’s Gothic” style houses are painted in all the colors of a Crayola box, boast miniature balconies and front porches, and look exactly like the fairy tale houses of my childhood dreams.

I’ve never lost my fascination with scaled-down living spaces. Boat interiors, travel trailers, treehouses, cabins–I find them all thoroughly charming, especially when scrupulously organized. Indeed, small houses are something of an enthusiasm and dedicated choice for people who want to scale back, live more simply and spend less money. A woman I’ve known for years told me recently that she was planning on buying a house from the Tumbleweed Tiny House Company, which offers ready-made houses to place on foundations or on wheels as well as a variety of house plans. Make no mistake, these houses are truly tiny. Yet small as they are, the Tumbleweed houses are appealing, as are those on offer from other companies such as Four Lights and Brevard Tiny House. Clever built-ins, sleeping and storage lofts, and comparatively spacious kitchens make these homes appear quite livable. Tumbleweed’s smallest rolling model, The Elm, measures a mere 117 square feet. A quick check of apartments available in Decatur shows studios averaging 550 square feet. Perhaps the smallest of these houses would be best for just one person, or maybe as a vacation home used primarily for sleeping and preparing food. Of course, the question of whether a space like this is right for you comes down to not how much room you really need, but how much “stuff” you have.

Another memory–We are going out for the evening and we stop to pick up a woman who is new to our group. She shows us into the room she rents in a communal house–architecturally distinguished and in need of repairs, as are so many houses in this college town. Kay’s room is enormous, with a soaring ceiling and a real fireplace. For me though, the most striking feature of the room is how it’s furnished. Wedged tight into a corner, is a twin bed, without a headboard, flanked by a folding metal chair on which sits an unshaded lamp. The rest of the space is taken up by rolling metal clothes racks. Each rack is crammed with clothing–dresses, blouses, skirts, coats of all cuts, colors, and styles. There are fur stoles, feather boas, kimonos, and even more exotic garments. There are shoes, arrayed like battalions, beneath each rack. It’s eye-boggling and, as so often happens when I’m startled, I can think of nothing remotely intelligent to say.

“Wow,” I finally stammer. “You sure have a lot of clothes.”

“I do.” Kay says. She assures me that all these clothes represent years of work spent scouting the country for thrift-shop treasures and vintage finds. “People offer to buy clothes from me all the time,” she tells me. Kay gives me a wistful smile.  “But I could never part with a single thing. I think of each garment as a special friend.”

And maybe that’s all the space we need–enough for our friends.

Are you interested in exploring smaller and/or alternative living spaces? If so, check out these offerings from DCPL.little

A Little House of My Own: 47 Grand Designs for 47 Tiny Houses by Les Walker includes a lavishly illustrated chapter on my beloved Martha’s Vineyard cottages. Here, also you’ll find the “refugee shacks” built to house people after the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, a Caribbean “chattel house,” and numerous vacation homes, artist studios and the like. All in all, an intriguing collection.

If you dream of a small place at the lake or ocean or a tiny cabin in the woods, be sure to check out Homes homesfrom Home: Inventive Small Spaces from Chic Shacks to Cabins and Caravans by Vinny Lee. My favorite is the Vintage Beach Hut but you’ll find plenty of inspiration and fun in abodes like The Tin House and the amazing Italian Island Cave. There are even houses made out of metal shipping containers!

A lot of us had a treehouse when we were kids, or had a friend who did, but have you ever considered an adult treehouse? Check out The Treehouse Book by Peter and Judy Nelson with David Larkin. Most of treehousethese structures aren’t living quarters as such but tend to function mainly as work or recreational spaces, or as alternative sleeping spaces in good weather. A stunning exception is the multi-level treehouse built by William Scott Scurlock. During the 1990′s, Scurlock robbed more than 15 banks in the Northwest before his suicide in 1996. Something of a dreamer, Scurlock’s treehouse was apparently his pet project and he lived in it off and on while he added to it year after year. For a treehouse, the structure is downright palatial and includes picture windows, a sundeck with shower, and functioning plumbing.

To many of us, the epitome of mobile compact living is the Airstream trailer. Airstream Living by Bruce Littlefield and Simon Brown will fill you in on the history and lore of this classic of American design. Sometime in the 1920′s, airstreamWally Bynum invented a prototype of the Airstream simply because he was a man who loved camping–and he had a wife who refused to camp without access to a proper kitchen. Bynum continued to fine tune his design through the years. In 1936 (following the introduction of the alloy “Duraluminum”), he introduced the Airstream Clipper and a legend was launched. The rest of this beautifully photographed book introduces you to a wide variety of Airstreams and their happy owners. Some of the trailers function as bases for parties–either slumber or cocktail. Some are beautifully decorated (often in retro styles) living spaces. There is an Airstream restaurant/bar, a sound studio, and even an Airstream motel! Money magazine included the Airstream in its list of “99 Things That, Yes, Americans Make the Best,” and with its sleek design and cozy yet efficient interiors, it’s easy to see why.

Do you long for a simpler, smaller space? Maybe you want a home you can travel in. What is your small space dream?

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Aug 8 2014

The First Day of School

by Glenda

readytoreadHooray, hooray, the first day of school

The library’s quiet and barely full

Hooray, hooray, the first day of school

The children’s area is clean and the shelves are completely full

Hooray, hooray, the first day of school

No children’s programs today, and the café area is not even full

Hooray, hooray, the first day of school

No one’s looking for Margaret McNamara’s The First Day of School

Don’t say it, don’t say it

Hooray, hooray, the first day of school

Because

It is very lonesome when the kids are in school

And

I’m lonely, when do the kids get out of school?

–by an exhausted children’s librarian after a great, busy, fun-filled summer

Here are a few other first-day-of-school books:

Ham and Pickles: The First Day of School by Nicole Rubel

First Day of School: All About Shapes and Sizes by Kirsten Hall

Look Out Kindergarten, Here I Come by Nancy Carlson

Wemberly Worried by Kevin Henkes

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Aug 6 2014

On Books and Covers

by Joseph M

girl with the dragon tattoo cover

They say don’t judge a book by its cover, but sometimes an eye-catching graphic provides the impetus to pick up a book that might otherwise have gone unnoticed. If you’ve ever wondered who comes up with the ideas for those covers, you may be interested in a recent New York Times article profiling Peter Mendelsund, associate art director for the publishing house Alfred A. Knopf. You may recognize his work on this cover of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Although he has designed literally hundreds of book covers over the course of his career, the one that gave him the most trouble was for his own first book. Read more by clicking here.

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Billy Joel biography coverI grew up listening to the music of Billy Joel. My family would sing classics like “Piano Man” and “The Longest Time” on car trips and jam out to “We Didn’t Start The Fire” and “The Downeaster Alexa” when they came on the radio. To this day he remains one of my favorite musicians to sing along with.

I’m not alone in my appreciation of Bill Joel. On July 22nd, the Librarian of Congress, James H. Billington, named Billy Joel as the next recipient of the Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song. The Gershwin Prize for Popular Song is an award given to a composer or performer for lifetime contributions to popular music. Previous recipients include such notable names as Paul Simon, Stevie Wonder, Sir Paul McCartney, and Carole King.

Billington explains the selection of Billy Joel as the next award winner:

“Billy Joel is a storyteller of the highest order. There is an intimacy to his songwriting that bridges the gap between the listener and the worlds he shares through music. When you listen to a Billy Joel song, you know about the people and the place and what happened there. And while there may be pain, despair and loss, there is ultimately a resilience to it that makes you want to go to these places again and again.

Importantly, as with any good storyteller, the recognition experienced in a Billy Joel song is not simply because these are songs we have heard so many times, but because we see something of ourselves in them.”

Reacting to news of the announcement, Joel said, “The great composer, George Gershwin, has been a personal inspiration to me throughout my career. And the Library’s decision to include me among those songwriters who have been past recipients is a milestone for me.”

Joel has reached a number of impressive milestones throughout his 50 years in the entertainment industry; he is the sixth top-selling artist of all time and the third top-selling solo artist of all time, according to the Recording Industry Association of America, and is also the winner of six Grammy Awards.

If you want to see what all the fuss is about, DCPL has a plethora of Billy Joel related material available in our catalog. For those interested in learning more about the man behind the music, check out this biography of him by author Hank Bordowitz.

Popular music has changed a lot over the past few decades, with rock music in particular experiencing various permutations and divisions. We have alternative rock, indie rock, southern rock, surf rock, soft rock, hard rock, classic rock…the list goes on. But no matter what varieties the modern scene has morphed into, the music of Bill Joel is still rock and roll to me.

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Jul 31 2014

Museum of the Missing

by Hope L

mus2The introduction to Simon Houpt’s book Museum of the Missing: A History of Art Theft begins with the heartbreaking true story:

“It may be the most haunting work of art in the world.

It has no canvas, no oil paint, no artist’s signature.  Official appraisals would say it is worthless.  It is just a single carved wood frame, the color of burnished gold, hanging on an easel draped in heavy brown fabric.  Until one late winter night in 1990, that frame held The Concert, one of only thirty-six known works by Dutch artist Johannes Vermeer.  Like so many of Vermeer’s paintings, The Concert is famously enigmatic.  It quietly imposes itself on the viewer, insisting on contemplation.  And here, in the Dutch Room on the second floor of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston, a wide-backed chair upholstered in light green Victorian fabric sits in front of the easel, courteously placed there so that a visitor might pause to reflect on the painting’s luminous beauty and the many secrets it holds.

But in 1990, when two thieves ransacked the museum during the city’s post-St. Patrick’s Day inebriated haze, plucking the Vermeer and twelve other treasures, including three Rembrandts and a Govaert Flinck from this same room, the greatest secret of The Concert became its location.  Now, if you go to the Gardner, you will see a heartbreaking tableau:  that chair staring up at the empty frame, as if in eternal contemplation of the loss.”

As noted on the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum website, the stolen works include: “Rembrandt’s Storm on the Sea of Galilee (1633),  A Lady and Gentleman in Black (1633) and a Self Portrait (1634), an etching on paper; Vermeer’s The Concert (1658–1660); and Govaert Flinck’s Landscape with an Obelisk (1638); and a Chinese vase or Ku, all taken from the Dutch Room on the second floor. Also stolen from the second floor were five works on paper by the Impressionist artist Edgar Degas and a finial from the top of a pole support for a Napoleonic silk flag, both from the Short Gallery. Edouard Manet’s Chez Tortoni (1878–1880) was taken from the Blue Room on the first floor.”

Chez

The approximately $500 million worth of art stolen from the Gardner is still an open case, and there is a $5 million reward for information leading to the recovery of the 13 pieces. The FBI maintains a dedicated webpage on the case.

The latter portion of Houpt’s book contains the Gallery of Missing Art, an assortment of artwork that has been stolen with a brief paragraph on each piece.  And of course, the color pictures of the stolen art are amazing.

There were two security guards on duty that night in 1990 at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum (they were unscathed). I’m so glad I wasn’t one of them–the thieves duped the guards by dressing up as city policemen, stating that they were there for a call.

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Jul 23 2014

Flying Around Book Ops

by Jesse M

Late last year I posted a video of drone pilot Nate Bolt flying through the New York Public Library with his Phantom Quadcopter. The drone’s-eye view provided an interesting and unique perspective and so when I learned he had released another video exploring the library through the eyes of his drone, I was excited to watch it! This time, Nate takes us through BookOps, the massive book sorting center in Queens, New York, that provides material for the 150 branches of the New York and Brooklyn Public Libraries. As stated in the video, the book sorting machine depicted is the second largest in the world, sorting 33,000 items a day on average.

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Jul 21 2014

MILLION$ OF PROBLEM$

by Hope L

cashMost of us have wondered what it would be like to win a million dollars. Or several million. Maybe even hundreds of millions!  If you have ever bought (or even thought about buying) a lottery ticket, sent in a Publishers Clearinghouse entry, or gambled to strike it rich: take note.  You’ve been warned.

I picked up Edward Ugel’s Money for Nothing: One Man’s Journey Through the Dark Side of Lottery Millions from my DCPL branch, and amusedly began reading.  My smile quickly faded.

Apparently, the problem for many lottery winners with millions of dollars coming in is that it is never enough. And not coincidentally, a great deal of the winners are also problem gamblers. The author has changed the names and situations. He spent many years as a salesman and upper level manager of a lump-sum company that purchases lottery annuities from “lucky” lottery winners who are desperate for money–he knows quite a bit.

From the front jacket:

Ed met hundreds of lottery winners and saw up close the often hilarious, sometimes sad outcome when great wealth is dropped on ordinary people. Once lottery winners realized their “dream-come-true” multimillion jackpots were not all that they were cracked up to be, Ed would knock on their door, offering them the cash they wanted–and often desperately needed. This cash sometimes came at a high price, but winners were rarely in a position to walk the other way. As Ed learned, few of them had the financial savvy to keep up with the lottery-winner lifestyle. In fact, some just wanted their old lives back.

As a salesman for The Firm, I got a crash course in the reality of what winning the lottery actually meant. Within a matter of days after my arrival, the myth of the lottery had been replaced with the surprising truth. Winning was, for a majority of winners, a tricky, overwhelming mess with obvious benefits and a multitude of hidden dangers.

…only after I became a manager did I appreciate the extent to which winners were pursued by both my industry and anyone else who could figure out a way to leech onto them–friends and family included.

This book has several sad stories about these “winners” who found that their piles of money went very quickly and that the world now–even and especially their friends and family–became interested in them only for financial gain.

It really gives credence to the old saying, “Be careful what you ask for because you might just get it.”

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Jul 18 2014

What Are You Hungry For?

by Rebekah B

hot pepper

Hello readers,

Deepak Chopra’s “not a diet book” What Are You Hungry For: The Chopra Solution to Permanent Weight Loss, Well-Being, and Lightness of Soul is, by consensus of Goodreads readers and reviewers, a common-sense holistic solution to weight loss.  Don’t eat when you are not hungry, learn new habits by re-training your brain and increased mindfulness, eat quality foods, get enough sleep and exercise, and find ways to self-fulfillment by doing satisfying work, maintain a positive attitude, and relish meaningful social connections.  Dr. Chopra recommends eating foods from all six taste groups as recommended by Ayurvedic tradition: sweet (includes grains and meats), salty, sour (acidic–citrus and fermented foods), bitter (green and yellow vegetables), astringent (tea, coffee, beans, apples, berries), and pungent (spicy). The variety of flavors inherently creates a balanced nutritional intake.  An appendix includes a variety of recipes utilizing the entire range of recommended flavors.

wayhf

What Are You Hungry For focuses primarily on personal commitments to change, which makes sense in that social revolution begins with our personal decisions and choices. This book is a helpfully refreshing holistic approach to health and diet.  I do appreciate how the author repeatedly insists that deprivation will never work when it comes to diet, as we are all ultimately best motivated by pleasure, and most of us are at least somewhat terrified by the shame of cellulite and the tantalizing guilt inspired by the likes of chocolate cake or ice cream sundaes.  Dr. Chopra shares comforting strategies on how to handle sugar cravings in the most gentle of manners. However, he does not seem to spend much effort discussing how our culture is devoted to keeping us unfulfilled and permanently dissatisfied…in order to stimulate the economy.  A lack of self-love is necessary for this process. The pressure to keep feeling guilty is very powerful and deeply seated.  This includes pushing individuals to neglect personal talents and desires from an early age, and to conform to social and economic expectations in choice of careers, in particular.

baby with spaghetti

While small children intuitively understand how to enjoy life by being playful and by being themselves, adult humans have been molded to conform to a certain mindset and sadly most often lose this ability early on in life. Adult life would be so much more enjoyable for all of us if each individual were embraced from the start as a unique and valuable asset, born with specific gifts, talents, body type, and personality quirks, then raised to be a responsible steward of these gifts. What might our world be like if our societies were built upon that simple principle: to support the need for each person to feel happy, energetic, and an active contributor to the group by being him or herself!  We organize our societies in a manner that is not balanced, and then we work hard to tease people into thinking that by buying a wide array of products and services we will become more attractive, successful, healthier, etc.

As Mr. Chopra explains in What Are You Hungry For, balance is a necessary and natural part of being alive. All of nature seeks balance and intuitively knows what to do to acquire this agreeable state of being. Fulfillment and balance are not quite the same thing. Balance can include suffering, loss, and grief. Achieving your individual destiny does not mean you will be happy or successful.  It just means that you will have led a life of meaning and purpose, using your individual skills, character, and integrity (or lack thereof) to fulfill your personal potential.

creating balance

Being human is not easy, nor is it always pleasant.  We all struggle with conflicting desires, and our personal wishes are not always in harmony with the group ethic or plan.  So how do we get to a place of peace, in spite of all of the complexity?  I do think that simplifying one’s life, as Dr. Chopra suggests, is a good start.  As more individuals begin to choose wanting less stuff and less confusion in their lives, it just might get easier to see the bigger picture.  We just might feel hungry when our bodies actually need nutrition.  With simplicity will hopefully come more time to enjoy real, flavorful and home-made meals, prepared lovingly with savory, locally grown ingredients.  Perhaps people will take the time to sit down together and delight in excellent conversation.  What feeds the heart and soul is meaning, connection, and beauty.  When we are disconnected from ourselves, from other humans, and from all of life, we lose balance, and we feel lost, alone, anxious.

picnic-in-provence-646

While Dr. Chopra discusses strategies to right the feelings of emptiness and to find balance in life and diet, I feel that a greater movement is necessary to help people feel connected, useful, and loved.  Food is often used by parents to reward children for good behavior, and food is also something that is readily available in order to reward ourselves when we feel lonely, drifting, sad, or without purpose.  Food does not abandon or betray us…most of the time.  It is comforting and an anchor in a busy, fast-paced world that often seems not to care.

The greater question that needs to be addressed is how to create a world that does care?  Our post-industrial global society has been built on the values of efficiency and profits (for a few), and it has largely neglected the well-being of most.  A turn-around in core values will be needed before the hunger of the first world will begin to be satisfied, and for a return to balance that we all instinctively crave.

Suggested reading on your path to fulfillment from our DCPL collections:

Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose by Tony Hsieh, 2010

“Tony Hsieh–the widely admired CEO of online shoe retailer Zappos.com–explains how he created a unique culture and commitment and service that strives to improve the lives of its employees, customers, vendors, and backers. Even better, he shows how creating happiness and record results go hand in hand.” (book summary)

Survival of the Nicest: How Altruism Made Us Human and Why It Pays to Get Along by Stefan Klein, translated by David Dollenmayer, 2014

Klein synthesizes an extraordinary array of material: current research on genetics and the brain, economics, social psychology, behavioral and anthropological experiments, history, and modern culture. Ultimately, his groundbreaking findings lead him to a vexing question: If we’re really hard-wired to act for one another’s benefit, why aren’t we all getting along?

Klein believes we’ve learned to mistrust our generous instincts because success is so often attributed to selfish ambition. In Survival of the Nicest, he invites us to rethink what it means to be the ‘fittest’ as he shows how caring for others can protect us from loneliness and depression, make us happier and healthier, reward us economically, and even extend our lives.” (excerpt from description on Goodreads)

The Soul’s Code: In Search of Character and Calling by Dr. James Hillman, 1997

Plato and the Greeks called it ‘daimon,’ the Romans ‘genius,’ the Christians ‘guardian angel.’ Today we use the terms heart, spirit, and soul. To James Hillman, the acknowledged intellectual source for Thomas Moore’s bestselling sensation Care of the Soul, it is the central and guiding force of his utterly compelling ‘acorn theory’ in which each life is formed by a unique image, an image that is the essence of that life and calls it to a destiny, just as the mighty oak’s destiny is written in the tiny acorn.(excerpt from description on Goodreads)

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