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text 2014-12-17 02:20
On Conformity and Rebellion, In Honor of Jane Austen's Birthday

Today is Jane Austen’s birthday!




She was born 239 years ago, on December 16th 1775. It was a long time ago, but she was a woman ahead of her time. Her female characters had strong personalities and opinions and they fought for what they believed. They were, for the time, daring! Back then, Austen herself was extremely brave to even dare to write any creative story at all. It was not often that a woman was allowed to think, much less to be published. Did you know her first novels were originally published as “by a Lady”? Only the last novel published when she was alive had her name (Emma, published in 1816, one year before she died).


Writing and publishing a book is probably not much if you think solely from a 21st century point of view (although I will repeatedly tell you I think it is, to this day, the bravest thing anyone can do). But if you think that in Austen’s time women weren’t allowed to vote, to own property or inherit it, to work, or even to walk down the streets side by side to a man unless they were their father, brother or husband, you’ll understand the kind of grit it took to dare like that. A women’s hopes, dreams and especially actions were frequently restricted by the way their society saw their gender.


Well, much has changed since then. But did that change much?


Sure, we are all restricted by our society’s norms and conventions. I would even say that some degree of conformity is normal and even healthy, from a sociological point of view. But so is a certain degree of rebellion. And what is rebellion nowadays? In a society where so much is allowed, how does one rebel? What does rebellion even mean today?


I know, I know, we are a long way from being a tolerant society. There is plenty of room to rebel everywhere in the world. I’m not a sociologist, an anthropologist, or a human rights advocate (even though I am a supporter) to come here and tell you an educated answer either way. But I do mean to pose a reflection (I’m big on those!):


Before anyone commits a rebellious act – may that be to write a book when you are a woman in 1811, to write and publish a diverse book in 2014, to speak up against something you believe to be wrong when you know your opinion is controversial, or to open yourself up to criticism in any way whatsoever – you have to first rebel against yourself.


Yes! You have to rebel against that little voice inside your head that says “Are you sure?”, or “You are being ridiculous!”, or “That’s never going to work out!”. That little voice that takes hold of your heart and your guts, and crushes them because it’s afraid. That little voice that is usually, honestly, just trying to save you some heartache. That little voice that absolutely has to be defied!


So, when was the last time you rebelled against yourself?


source: Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen, published by Hub Editorial

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review 2014-10-12 20:17
Chocolat Quickie Review
Chocolat - Joanne Harris

How I got between its sheets: When a friend loaned me what I found out was a sequel to this book, simply had to purchase the first one with my persnickety self.


What stimulated me:
      • The setting – provincial French village of Lansquenet and Vianne’s chocolate shop seem back in time and fairytale-like, though the story is contemporary.
     • Writing style – Ms. Harris’ style is evocative, hypnotic. She pulls one into this sad little town and the chocolate shop, the reader becoming a fly on the wall with all senses awakened.
     • Potpourri of quirky characters – Sensual, breath-of-fresh-air Vianne; zealot priest Père Renaud; wise woman Armande Voizin and her town snob daughter Caro Clairmont; klepto Joséphine Muscat; and sexy Roma/Gypsy Luc and his cohorts.
     • Story – sweet tale of small town constrictions and societal pressure, individuality, and tolerance.
     • A world of comforting chocolate – creamy hot chocolate, Venus’ nipples, candied rose petals, chocolate seashells, truffles, pralines, hazelnut clusters. Who doesn’t love chocolate?
     • Dash of magic strewn like candy sprinkles atop the story.


What turned me off:
     • It took me quite a while into the book to distinguish all the characters.
     • It ended. Luckily, the sequel awaits me.

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review 2013-10-14 00:17
The Art of Non-Conformity - Bust it out, Baby!
The Art of Non-Conformity: Set Your Own Rules, Live the Life You Want, and Change the World - Chris Guillebeau

I love the first sentence of chapter one, “The purpose of this book is to transform your thinking about life and work.”


I’m ready for a change, I’ve been busting at the seams for months with an excess of energy and looking for a way to direct it effectively.  This is the kind of book that will immediately appeal to you or not.  If you’re completely happy with your life and not ripe for change, you’ll probably find all sorts of objections to the author’s message and many things to criticize about the book itself.  I am going to focus on the positive and what spoke to me.


The next passage that struck me was this one.  “My motivation is to help people challenge authority and live unconventional, remarkable lives.  The mission is to support a full-scale revolution with a simple underlying message: You don’t have to live your life the way other people expect you to.”


Oh boy, give me more!  For the first forty odd years of my life I lived in fear.  Fear was so much a part of every decision; I was completely unaware of the amount of power I’d given it.   Fear of standing out, not being liked, not being normal, not being good enough?  What a load of crap.  I actually have had moments of fearlessness and adventure but sadly, many more moments of conformity.  Looking back, I see my spirit aching to break out and succeeding for short periods, only to be sucked back into the morass of a conventional life. 


In the latter parts of the book, the author asks you to think about what kind of legacy you want to leave and to start living immediately with that vision in mind.  I used to be the kind of person who wished for some divine inspiration to strike me about the purpose of my life.  I used to wonder why I didn’t know what to do with myself.  And what was wrong with me that I couldn’t figure it out? 


Recently, I asked myself a series of questions that led to the crafting of my own vision and purpose.  I’ve stopped waiting for some mysterious inner or outside inspiration.  Since that moment, my vision has been driving every purposeful and conscious action.  I am more at peace and less anxious than I’ve ever been.  I say, if you don’t know what to do, make it up and make it powerful!  You will inspire yourself! 


There is a chapter about setting goals in order to create a flexible but purposeful environment for yourself.  He provides a series of simple but useful questions to ask, which will help define what you might like to do.   At the end of each chapter, there is a short, point-form summary of the main points.  The writing is clear and formatted in bite sized chunks.  This is very easy reading.


It’s been many years since I travelled.  Other experiences have been explored and become more dominant in my life but I cannot deny that travel altered my world view in a way that nothing else has.  While being an armchair traveler is fun, the desire to fully experience the pleasure and discomfort of being outside my familiar world has been re-awakened and I’ll be adding a few destinations to my bucket list. 


Inspiring quotes are peppered throughout the book and one in the “Contrarian Adventures” chapter struck me particularly. “Travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer” – Anonymous. If anything I’ve written strikes a chord with you than you might want to pick up a copy of The Art of Non-Conformity.  It’s not that scary. 

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review 2013-09-12 00:00
The Art of Non-Conformity: Set Your Own Rules, Live the Life You Want, and Change the World
The Art of Non-Conformity: Set Your Own Rules, Live the Life You Want, and Change the World - Chris Guillebeau 3 stars, borrow it.
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review 2013-06-23 00:00
The Art of Non-Conformity: Set Your Own Rules, Live the Life You Want, and Change the World - Chris Guillebeau There's nothing particularly earth shattering in this book but it's written in an accessible, motivating voice. Guillebeau is upfront about what he is (a frugal world traveler, an entrepreneur) and what he's not (perfect, a guru) in a way that's refreshing and approachable. Some ideas will work for everyone but creative types who like to travel will get the most out of this book. While I fall into the former group Guillebeau got me thinking about what kind of "legacy" I'd like to leave - never a bad thing.
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