Today I finished a book called The Price of Civilisation by Jeffrey Sachs, one that my GP tutor had been recommending time and again for many lessons. A week ago, I finally decided to make my way to our very well-filled Shaw Foundation Library where the most amazing wonders can be found. I really think that we could be the most fortunate students in the world to have access to a beautiful library like this one from our age. There’s a limit to the experiences and life lessons we can learn ourselves, and the bulk of the rest, comes from listening and reading. So once in a while I like to pick up a (hopefully) good book, replace my media devices while I’m ont public transport with is, and immerse myself in a new experience I would otherwise have never imagined.
The Price of Civilisation was a book that explored, from the perspective of an experienced economist, the mistakes that the America’s (and possibly many other nations’) economies have made over the years of developments, losing sight of the role that economy plays in our society and the focus that revenue should be placed upon to ensure the balance within society. It explores the ethics and virtues we have lost and the kind of lifestyle we are beginning to lead so frivolously as a result. In his book, he quoted President John F. Kennedy in his Peace Speech after the Cuban Missile Crisis, demanding that his audience “not be blind to our differences- but also direct attention to our common interests and to the means by which those differences can be resolved… We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children’s future. And we are all mortal.” This was insightful to me, as much as the words of Uruguay’s President, “We have sacrificed the old immaterial gods, and now we are occupying the temple of the Market-God. He organizes our economy, our politics, our habits, our lives, and even provides us with rates and credit cards and gives us the appearance of happiness.”
As we advance and get obsessed with numbers and statistics and the materials that give us short-term happiness and long-term lack of self-fulfillment; we are leaving behind the notion of advancing as a species, not as nations or states, countries or individuals, but as a species. We all share the same home, that we aren’t doing enough to protect, and we all face the same problems but we do little to solve them together. I’m not sure this is what we’d really like, but I suppose reflecting a little about this could be a start.
Anyway to give us all some closure, the key takeaway from this read would be learning to be mindful. Mindful of oneself (who we are and what we try to make of ourselves), mindful of work (the balance we strike between work and leisure, and what exactly are we working for anyway?), mindful of knowledge (the exact details of the knowledge we are receiving, learning to grasp the complete picture and be inquisitive to do so), mindful of nature (the conservation of the world’s ecosystem), mindful of others (the exercise of compassion and cooperation), mindful of politics (the cultivation of public deliberation and shared values for collective action through political institutions), mindful of the future (the responsibility we have in the future) and mindful of the world (the acceptance of diversity) I’d probably talk more about mindfulness sometime else, but here’s to good reads in our lives!
P/S If you do have books you’d like to share and recommend to others, please tell us at firstname.lastname@example.org!