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Journal Thrive

2020 Booker Prize Shortlist

The 2020 Booker Prize shortlist was released earlier this week. Six novels contending for the best English-language fiction of the year. In the past, some of my favorite reads were either on the shortlist or actual winners; I’ve discovered some of my favorite authors because of the list.

Lately I’ve been overwhelmed by choice. There are so many books that I want to read that I have a hard time picking one. Given that this has been a hell of a year, I need to escape into a good book on a regular basis. That’s why I’m going to attempt to read all of the novels on this shortlist.

The caveat is that I need to be able to acquire them here in central Finland. The library has a decent selection of English-language books, but they tend to be classics or older works by popular authors. Bookstores likewise have an English section, but they lean heavily toward popular novels. Booker Prize nominees aren’t known for burning up the bestseller lists.

In the past I have used similar award lists to make my reading choices for me. If this works out, I might begin working backward, year-by-year, or simply read any winners that I haven’t already. Anything that can potentially deliver me a delightful surprise, while cutting down on decisions that I need to make, is welcome.

The 2020 Booker Prize shortlist is:

  • Diane Cook, The New Wilderness (US)
  • Tsitsi Dangarembga, This Mournable Body (Zimbabwe)
  • Avni Doshi, Burnt Sugar (US)
  • Maaza Mengiste, The Shadow King (Ethiopia-US)
  • Douglas Stuart, Shuggie Bain (Scotland-US)
  • Brandon Taylor, Real Life (US)

I’ve already started Real Life, which I broke down and got in Kindle edition.

2020 Booker Prize Shortlist

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About Berin Kinsman

Berin Kinsman is a writer, game designer, and owner/publisher at Dancing Lights Press. An American by accident of birth, he currently lives in Finland with his wife, artist Katie Kinsman.

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Journal Thrive

I See Four Lights

Today’s post is not a rerun, or an update of an older post. It’s an interlude, so I can explain why I’m taking a more time away from the internet at the moment. I see four lights.

Deadlines, respiratory infection, fascism, ecological disaster, pandemic, sure. All of that. More disturbing to me, though, is the gaslighting, the elevation of conspiracy theories over facts, and the fall of humanity into madness. The things that I have been reading about from trusted, credible sources, some of which never make the mainstream for more than a moment, as disturbing. I see four lights.

This isn’t Orwellian, even allowing for variable definitions of the term. There is no simple juxtaposition claiming one this is in fact it’s opposite; “war is peace”, “freedom is slavery”, and so on. If you want to paint with a broad brush and say that it’s a situation that poses and immediate threat to a free society, sure. I see four lights.

O’Brien held up his left hand, its back towards Winston, with the thumb hidden and the four fingers extended.

“How many fingers am I holding up, Winston?’

“Four.”

“And if the Party says that it is not four but five – then how many?”

“Four.”

The word ended in a gasp of pain. The needle of the dial had shot up to fifty-five. The sweat had sprung out all over Winston’s body. The air tore into his lungs and issued again in deep groans which even by clenching his teeth he could not stop. O’Brien watched him, the four fingers still extended. He drew back the lever.

It’s not even Kafkaesque. People think of The Metamorphosis, or horror stemming from a lack of control over surreal and absurd situations. My mind leaps toward The Trial, where the situation seems fabricated specifically to create chaos and confusion. It certainly applies to a certain amount of dehumanization, and a lack of civil rights. Even so, it seems like an organized effort more akin to Orwell’s 1984; there is, somewhere, a point to this abuse. I see four lights.

“They’re talking about things of which they don’t have the slightest understanding, anyway. It’s only because of their stupidity that they’re able to be so sure of themselves.”

What I see is downright Lovecraftian. While not on a cosmic scale, it juxtaposes what I know to be true against an unfathomable ignorance. An ignorance that insists that the world operates in a way that goes against all science and reason. That there are people in power to enforce this perspective, and declare that these demonstrably false things are reality, is even more maddening. It makes me question my place in such a world, where I cannot fit in because it does not conform to objective reality. I see four lights.

What this does is create a perpetual state of the unknown. It becomes harder to find factual truth among the propeganda, conspiracy theories, and mass hysteria. Speaking the truth seems to draw the zombie down upon you, like inquisitors falling upon a heretic. You know that this is not how the world works. Yet you are expected to go along with this insanity. I see four lights.

Slowly but inexorably crawling upon my consciousness and rising above every other impression, came a dizzying fear of the unknown; a fear all the greater because I could not analyse it, and seeming to concern a stealthily approaching menace; not death, but some nameless, unheard-of thing inexpressibly more ghastly and abhorrent.

I See Four Lights

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About Berin Kinsman

Berin Kinsman is a writer, game designer, and owner/publisher at Dancing Lights Press. An American by accident of birth, he currently lives in Finland with his wife, artist Katie Kinsman.

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Journal Simplify

The Minimalist Thing is Invaluable, Irksome

A version of this post, The Minimalist Thing is Invaluable, Irksome, was previously published here on 8 January 2017. 

Minimalism is nothing more than getting rid of what you don’t need, in order to make more space for the things that you truly need and want. Period. You can spend a lot of time trying to define “need” and “want” and how blurry the line between them might be. There are conversations that could be had as to the means of getting rid of excess things. We could go over every possible type of resource to be saved from our tendencies to squander — money, time, food, energy, even affections and emotions. It all comes back to the same core statement: Minimalism is nothing more than getting rid of what you don’t need, in order to make more space for the things that you truly need and want.

It’s not a lifestyle. Minimalism is a tool. It’s an effective set of filters that help you to sort don’t-need from need/want. What it’s mean to do is help you focus, so that you’re not wasteful with your finite resources. It can make you more productive, help you to cultivate gratitude, and even lead you toward happiness by bringing you closer to your goals. It’s certainly not a contest, to see who can survive with the least amount of stuff or accomplish the most tasks in the briefest interval of time. That’s missing the point. But you know what they say, when you’ve converted to the cult of being a hammer, your newfound zealotry makes everything look like a nail.

Creating Word Clutter

I used to write a lot about minimalism. It quickly became repetitive. There’s only so much to say. At a certain point, you begin to break the basic tenets. You’re adding things you don’t need, creating unnecessary clutter. Excess verbiage detracts from getting what you need, and what you want. The fact that a lot of self-styled minimalists began to rub me the wrong way, because they’re incredibly pretentious, made me not want to be in that company. Their philosophical ramblings and holier-than-thou attitudes were taking up space I needed for more important things.

I don’t like clutter. It’s visual noise, and I have an anxiety disorder. Clutter is a distraction. It also takes time to dust it, to move it to dust underneath it, to move in order to get to the things I need, you know the drill. I learned a long time ago that quality is better than quantity. A few good things that I use often, that are pleasing to the eye and built to last, are much more satisfying to possess than a bunch of things I might need someday and have on hand just in case.

It feels good to use finite resources effectively, no matter what those resources are. There’s satisfaction in making things last longer. In getting more out of them. In knowing that the value comes not from the thing but in how you’ve learned to utilize it more effectively. By being targeted and selective, you can get what really matters to you.

Simple Living is the Key

This is one of the reasons that I’m focusing more on simple living minimalism. There’s a lot of ground to cover with simple living. It’s why I’m folding in the context of being a self-employed creative, and a spoonie. I think that this niche I’m in is a lot broader and deeper than the plain vanilla minimalism. So many other blogs already have covered.

The Minimalist Thing is Invaluable, Irksome

This is the latest in a series of posts on Simple Living Minimalism. If you enjoy my posts you can buy me a coffee. Consider subscribing below, so you can read my daily ramblings about the writer’s life, minimalist, being a spoonie, and the intersection of all of those things.

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About Berin Kinsman

Berin Kinsman is a writer, game designer, and owner/publisher at Dancing Lights Press. An American by accident of birth, he currently lives in Finland with his wife, artist Katie Kinsman.

Categories
Journal Simplify

Getting Started with Simple Living Minimalism

For a movement that prides itself on simplicity, people sure like to make becoming a minimalist complicated. Getting started with simple living minimalism isn’t that difficult. You don’t have to pile everything you own into the middle of the room. There’s no need to create lists and charts and elaborate plans. Just find one thing you don’t need, and get rid of it. That’s all.

It could be a material possession that you don’t use. You might be tired of moving it to get to something else, or tripping over it, or having to dust it. Get rid of the clothes in your closet that you don’t wear. Take those canned good you’re never going to eat to a food bank. Throw out those expired products in your fridge, or your in your bathroom cabinet. If it serves no purpose to you, sell it, give it away, donate it, recycle it, or put it in the bin.

Remember, this is about more than material possessions. If there’s something in your daily routine that’s not providing you with any real benefit (checking social media six times an hour, for example), stop doing that. Cancel a meeting and send what you have to say in an email. Mute your phone for a couple of hours when you need to focus on something else. Turn off the TV that’s playing in the background, even when you’re not watching in. Tweak your routines a little bit, so things flow more easily.

Here’s the Secret

If you really want to simplify your life, you don’t need to look for tips and tricks. You already know where your pain points are. You know what you need to do. It’s a matter of having the dedication to actually do it. There’s no need to do everything at once. It doesn’t have to be some broad, dramatic gesture. That sort of change rarely sticks anyway.

That’s why I say pick one thing. It doesn’t matter how small. Get rid of it. Tomorrow, pick another thing. Deal with it. A few minutes at a time, one problem at a time. If something is more complicated, like sorting through all of the junk stored in the garage or breaking a longstanding habit, then you might need to make a plan. Otherwise, it’s all about following up intention with action.

Getting Started with Simple Living Minimalism

This is the latest in a series of posts on Simple Living Minimalism. If you enjoy my posts you can buy me a coffee. Consider subscribing below, so you can read my daily ramblings about the writer’s life, minimalist, being a spoonie, and the intersection of all of those things.

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About Berin Kinsman

Berin Kinsman is a writer, game designer, and owner/publisher at Dancing Lights Press. An American by accident of birth, he currently lives in Finland with his wife, artist Katie Kinsman.

Categories
Journal Simplify

My Biggest Challenges with Simple Living Minimalism

Sometimes the hardest part isn’t deciding what to get rid of. My challenges with simple living minimalism mostly stem from acquiring things. It’s often an issue of not having too much stuff, but having the wrong stuff. I make due with what I’ve got, and it’s not always because I can’t afford the better, more efficient, or more compact thing.

As an example, for 5 years I worked at a kitchen table. Nothing wrong with that; I still work in the kitchen. The problem was that the table we had wasn’t suitable for use as a desk. It was an Ikea NORDEN (not sponsored) gateleg table. There was no way to sit comfortably for long period of time, because there’s always a crossbar under your feet. I kept banging my knee into the drawers, which were oddly-shaped and thus useless for office supplies. But because we’d spent €199 on the thing, I felt obligated.

Katie finally got fed up with my complaints, spent €25 on a simple table, and sold the old one for €100. Now I’m comfortable and happy, and realize that I could have fixed the problem years ago. The value of the thing is never what what you paid for it.

The Pressure of Consumer Society

In the United States, I spent a lot of time feeling bad about myself. Even when I was working as a writer, living in a nice apartment, leading a pleasant life, advertising and social pressure made me feel less than. Although I was happy to be free from the financial burden of a car (and the terror of New Mexico drivers), I had to put up with questions and remarks because I walked or rode the bus everywhere. There was a stigma to not owning a car. There’s an overall stigma to not having stuff, as if possessions are a measure of your worth as a human being.

Everything you do in the United States is based on your credit score. Your ability to get a basic bank account, rent an apartment, get a job, is based on that one metric. Everything else about you is run through that filter. Even if you make good money, are highly educated, and can prove that you’re dependable, you will be judged by your credit score. How can you fix your credit score? Buy more stuff!

It Doesn’t Have to Be That Way

Moving to Finland opened my eyes to a lot of things. Not every flat surface is plastered with advertising, for a start. People all dress pretty much the same, because ostentatious displays of wealth are looked down upon. There’s not a lot of jockeying for social status, at least not based on material possessions. Everyone walks, bikes, and uses public transportation. The rise of streaming services means I don’t watch broadcast television, so I don’t see TV commercials. Because everyone here is paid via direct deposit and pays their bills online, anyone can get a basic bank account.

It’s taken a lot of the pressure off. I can live however I choose to live, and not feel judged for it. There’s no need to be defensive. I don’t feel like I have to buy things I don’t want, with money I don’t have, to impress people I don’t even like. In the United States, even when I got all of the stuff I still felt awful, because there was always more stuff. While I struggle less, my biggest challenges with simple living minimalism still come down to worrying about what other people will think.

My Biggest Challenges with Simple Living Minimalism

This is the latest in a series of posts on Simple Living Minimalism. If you enjoy my posts you can buy me a coffee. Consider subscribing below, so you can read my daily ramblings about the writer’s life, minimalist, being a spoonie, and the intersection of all of those things.

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About Berin Kinsman

Berin Kinsman is a writer, game designer, and owner/publisher at Dancing Lights Press. An American by accident of birth, he currently lives in Finland with his wife, artist Katie Kinsman.