Simplify: a review

Back in 2008, I saw a review for Simplify by Paul Borthwick over at Internet Monk, back before Mike Spencer died. I bought the book immediately. I found that despite its price tag ($16.99), it contained a wealth of valuable information. It’s exactly what it says it will be. A book about the practical side of simplifying your life, especially with respect to finances and time. I read it as soon as I purchased it and starting applying its principles. My wife then read it (I lent it to her before we were even dating). And it has helped us to live rather simply. It’s principles are worth revisiting periodically. I was reorganizing my library (it must be done often because I always pull volumes off the shelf and lazily put them wherever I can reach), and saw it and reread it.

 

Simplify: 106 Ways to Uncomplicate Your Life

The downside to the book is that everything in it is available free in thousands of online articles or sites like Wiki-How. But the upside is that all the useful information is available in one volume in a format which could easily be used for family reading time, church study groups, or accountability/holiness meetings with other Christians.

One of the funniest things about the book is that the author suggests it may not be useful on the back. As a sincere question, it’s a helpful reflection. As a sales pitch, it’s genius.

Anyway, the book offers helpful advice for saving money, uncomplicating your life, and managing your time. I highly recommend that you read it with your spouse, read it before you get married, or read it as a sort of guide to subtle but helpful pathways out of bad habits.

4/5, highly recommend unless you’re willing to look this stuff up online.

Review: Mike Cernovich’s Gorilla Mindset

Introduction

Mike Cernovich is a civil rights lawyer, though I do not think he practices any longer. He’s considered a controversial figure. I don’t really care about that. A person could be utterly terrible, but it does not change the merit of their arguments or the truth value of evidenced claims that they make. I first came across Mike Cernovich a couple of years ago when I had found a study on ebsco about cabbage juice and heart burn symptoms. When trying to find more information about the constituents of cabbage and what in it might increase mucilage production in the stomach lining, I came across a blog called fit-juicer which cited the same article. While the site was clearly designed to sell his books on juicing, it had excellent recipes for juice (my wife brought a juicer into our marriage…I never would have considered one, but I’m glad we have it). Not only were his recipes tasty, but he typically cited scientific literature related to the consumption of juice or plant constituents in relation to the benefits he claimed for his juices. It was interesting. I literally went through his website using in-article links and never read the comments. I had no idea that the guy was a lawyer, a figure or controversy, or even his name.

Anyhow, well over a year later, I was working on a writing project (still am) and was looking for a more practical application of Carol Dweck’s mindset ideas that I had found in her book on motivation in education. In the process, I came across Mike Cernovich’s book Gorilla Mindset. It had a title that seemed cheesy, although most people want the things it claims to provide. I found, a preview on Scribd (or was it a pirated version?). After I looked through the exercises at the end of each chapter and saw how similar they were in design to the ones I was writing for something else, I went ahead and bought a kindle edition of the book. I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the book. It didn’t merely provide a model for what I was trying to do myself, but it provided legitimately helpful insight into improving one’s life and happiness.

The Good

  • Cernovich writes in a terse, no-nonsense style that is easy to absorb and does not leave the reader with so much theory that they cannot act on the principles he explains. Example, when talking about the way you make plans in life, he writes, “Maybe this, maybe that, maybe I’ll be a contender. Mr. Maybe is the ultimate seducer. Mr. Maybe whispers honey in your ear.”
  • Cernovich’s advice on health is actionable and the mindset shift he offers on health makes sense. Particularly his comment that a sick body leads to a sick mind. While it is true that some bodily ailments cannot be changed through exercise/nutrition (I have a genetic bone disorder), it is true that nutrition and exercise can shift you into a more positive frame of mind about such things. Not only that, but when I lift weights regularly, I have significantly less chronic pain than I have after just two or three weeks out of the gym.
  • Each chapter has helpful and actionable exercises that one could actually do to improve himself or herself.

The Bad

  • The kindle version had several typos, he could have used an editor (or a better one).
  • I wish he had cited more sources…but getting his readers lost in secondary literature probably wouldn’t have helped them the way he intended to, so while this is a bad in relationship to my preferences as a reader, it is probably a good with regard to his goals as a writer.

Conclusion

I have nothing to say about Mike’s more controversial endeavors. But he’s a helpful writer and 8.99 for the kindle edition of his book Gorilla Mindset is a good price for people who struggle with being stuck in life, feeling ineffectual, or who have persistent and powerful bouts of self-doubt the prevent them from achieving a measure of emotional or moral happiness in life. I recommend his book.

Disclosure: I wrote this review after buying the book because I enjoyed it.

The Didache, a Book Review, and the Christian Life

There is an early Christian document called known as, “The Didache. (did-ah-kay)” I read about it in high school and read it and discussed with my Roman Catholic friend Gilbert all those years ago. It has intrigued me ever since. My interest in it back then was arguing with Gilbert about baptism. My interest in it now is two fold:

  1. it gives insight into how we should understand the four gospels (as well as the rest of the New Testament)
  2. and it thus gives insight into how the early Christians understood how to be a disciple of Jesus Christ.

I recently came across a book at Half-Price titled, The Didache: Text, Translation, Analysis, and Commentary. The author is Aaron Milavec, an apparent polymath. He’s a computer programmer, professor, SBL chair, and more obviously author. Any how the book review is below

The Good

The book does not really have a specific argument to outline, but there is one overriding concern throughout. Milavec takes as a working hypothesis (based upon the best translation of the Greek word διδαχη) that the Didache was written (and orally transmitted), not just as a series of rules, but as a balanced book of pastoral guidance for early Christian disciple-makers. He recommends translating the word διδαχη as “training” or “apprenticing.” Dallas Willard would be pleased. I certainly am. This has implications for how we read the gospels, of course. The commands of Jesus are something that people had to be taught, over time, how to do. Not just memorized and tried and failed at a few times (the resultative infinitive in Matthew 28:19 shows that the gospels wanted people to be ‘trained how to do everything which I [Jesus] have commanded you’).

Milavec tests the pastoral hypothesis by treating it as an assumption in various interpretive situations throughout pages 39-88. The hypothesis is pretty much proven by the coherence it gives to the text.

Milavec’s translation, which stands alongside the Greek text is also an excellent resource for devotional reading (there is no textual apparatus).

Milavec also notes that regardless of the date writing, the emphasis on orality in the Didache indicates that it was originally a memorized oral tradition. Keeping this in mind, the material in the Didache, antedates the gospels and the letters of Paul. I personally would say that Robinson’s arguments about a 40-60ad date for the writing of the Didache make the most sense.

The Bad

The book is meant to be an introduction to non-specialists. I’m not sure that it could be. Maybe if non-specialists means, “people who went to a Bible college and majored in whatever and minored in Bible.”

Milavec also makes some decent arguments that Didache 16:5 (“they will be saved by the Accursed One himself”) is referring, not to Jesus as the one who was hung upon a tree, but to the judgment of God, as an accursed event. I disagree. I think that the early Christian milieu had a greater focus on the atonement and the salvific nature of Jesus than Milavec’s argument presupposes (see McKnight Jesus and His Death). Refusing to capture the significance of The Didache’s obsession with relaying the training from Jesus correctly (the way of life rather than of death) allows one to see the rest of the book without reference to the early Christian impression of Jesus’ significance as a unique representative of God whose death effected atonement.

Conclusion

I recommend the book for anybody interested in the Didache. I also recommend the book to those who know a bit about first century history and who are interested in being a disciple of Jesus. It will help them to see how and why early Christian literature was written and collected. Particularly it will help the read to see that by and large the purpose of much early Christian literature was training people to live a certain way. Christianity has gotten more and more away from the notion that theology (the right understanding of God) was meant to support the lifestyle which is based upon the will of the God who is known through Jesus Christ.