During this time of year, the concept of time is ever more present. New Year’s is still fresh in our minds, as well as all of our resolutions for the year ahead. Office workers are about to receive their performance reviews on the year that has gone by, and their bonuses will be determined on whether or not they’ve hit their targets in the specified time frame they were being measured on. As human beings engaged in the productive economic chain, time feels like it’s either flying by or dragging on.
But the concept of time isn’t an objective one. As Luiz Felipe Pondé so eloquently explained on the year-end episode of Linhas Cruzadas titled “Is the New Year an illusion?”, there are many different types of time studied in the field of philosophy: cosmic time, physiological time, sociological time, and even technological time.
Cosmic time is indifferent to us. As people living in the pale blue dot, we are simply related to it in an ephemeral way. This is the Universe’s time – where time is relative to the distance of space itself.
Physiological time can be best understood as cellular or biological. Our bodies are all aging, yet the way we experience it is completely outside of our control. People can try to alter it with medical procedures to change its appearance but you can’t effectively change its pace. And once it expires, our physiology simply dissolves and we turn into dust.
Sociological time is the one humans in the 21st century are most familiar with. It’s composed of calendars, the pace of the productive economic chain, juristic sentences, deadlines, etc. However, what most people don’t realize is that this experience of time is a fairly recent phenomena in human history. 50,000 years ago – and for that matter, even just 1,000 years ago -, there was no sociological time. There were no calendars, New Year’s parties, deadlines. The majority of human existence has happened in times of repetition – whether or not it was Monday or Saturday, you did the exact same things. For contrast, modern social time in a place like New York City goes by a lot faster than in Woodville, Mississippi. The reason being that social relations in NYC are expensive and you need to generate economic activity, so whether you complete a task now or in one hour can cost a business a lot of money.
Finally, technological time is one that takes place within the Web 2.0 (ie.: social media). It runs in parallel to sociological time, but follows different rules – the distance from point A to B is irrelevant, unlike in the real world; or when having a debate online, your argument will repeat itself to everyone who reads it, enabling hundreds of people to partake in the discussion without your presence. This type of time is the newest and is getting faster with each year that goes by.
Much of the discontents of modern society today derives from their relationship with time. Whether someone passes away, or you’re in a deadline crunch, or a pandemic pushed you to work fully online and remote – it feels like there’s never enough time. This subjective experience cannot be taken lightly as time is the only finite resource we have, physiologically speaking.
And so, making the most of our time doesn’t fall on doing more things in less time, since time itself is experienced subjectively. Rather it comes down to pausing and truly appreciating our movement through it – the smells, sights, sounds and thoughts that are constantly morphing into our human experience. Maybe then, and only then, the time we have will feel like enough.
Early in the morning, I hear them Sing a full spectrum of harmonies As if saying to all living beings to Rise up and go on Spin the wheels of life on Earth And go do what you were meant to do before Sleep and calm befell upon every corner of the land That you found yourself in Early in the morning, I hear them
Halfway across the world In a jungle of bricks, leaves and everything in between The sound is different but The message still clearly the same Reminding that today is another day and one must Rise up and go on Lay another brick on this project we call Life, day after day I still hear them
No matter where I go, except In the farthest corners of the land where Life struggles to exist and silence befalls like a spell As if still asleep, forgotten to Rise up and go on To take a step toward further existence in the fight Against an overwhelming nothingness that Takes hold in the forgotten corners of the world where The guardians above the clouds cannot reach
Early in the morning, I hear them Touch every cell in my body with a soft Melodic vibration which I cannot make up the words, only the intent and Consistency of each day that from High above the heavens The Divine itself lifts me by my underarms Like a child in need of a push to Rise up and go on
As we exited 2020 with the amazing news of vaccines having been developed, I was hopeful that the new year was going to bring new and exciting horizons. I kicked off 2021 deeply interested in politics and biographies – I started January by reading A Short History of Canada(Desmond Morton), then Barack Obama’s memoir A Promised Land, and eventually Nelson Mandela’s Long Walk to Freedom. Learning about different countries’ complexities and how the great figures in history navigated difficult times is fascinating to me. It has helped me fill in the wholes of my knowledge web as I seek to make sense of what the hell is going on around me (as there was no shortage of madness already happening six days into the year…).
For the first time in years I didn’t read any business books. I’ve started to notice that the vast majority of them could be put into 1000-word articles (although there are exceptions, such as Good Economics for Hard Times). And so, the Harvard Business Review, The Economist, opinion columns on newspapers, and a handful of newsletters have become a great resource for business knowledge during my daily wanderings. Similarly, self-help books have also dropped off my lists – most of them are recycled works from philosophical thinkers, so I’ve just started going straight to the source (Seneca, Marcus Aurelius, or even religious works are my go-to’s).
At around summertime, my interests took a bit of a turn, and I dove into the world of fiction. I’ve never been one to read the genre, but time has a way of changing us – a good fictional story today will teach me more than most textbooks (while being far more enjoyable to read). I have a running list of Classics that my father has recommended me to read over the years, supplemented by reading lists curated by some of my favourite contemporary thinkers. All in, I believe this giant list to be essential for a modern liberal education, and so I’ve started picking away at it.
In my Goodreads page you can find all of the books I’ve read this past year and if you’re looking for recommendations, below are the Top 5 books that had the biggest impact in my thinking this past year.
I picked up this book after taking Doris Goodwin’s U.S. Presidential History and Leadership course on Masterclass. It was a fantastic refresher on what makes an effective leader and how some of the most iconic presidents in U.S. history used to live.
Team of Rivals tells the story of none other than Abraham Lincoln. This 700-page behemoth tells an in-depth and engaging narrative of the life of one of history’s most amazing leaders. From his humble beginnings in a log cabin in the woods of Kentucky all the way to his tragic death at the Ford Theater, this is a page turner.
It is simply fascinating learning about Lincoln’s genius in preparing the population for change and leading the Union through one of the bloodiest wars that the U.S. has ever gone through. His ability to unite and inspire people is unmatched, and Doris makes it easy for anyone, American or not, to understand what the hell happened in mid-1800s America.
I highly recommend this book to anyone looking to understand the Civil War and what makes a great president. In the times we live today it seems that exemplary leaders are hard to come by, but this book gives you direct access into the life of undeniably America’s greatest president.
PS: if you’re feeling inspired, I highly recommend you buying Doris Goodwin’s The Presidential Biographies pack – it contains Team of Rivals, Teddy Roosevelt’s Bully Pulpit and Franklin & Eleanor Roosevelt’s No Ordinary Time.
Freud is a polarizing figure – from his early days trying to convince the scientific establishment of the effects of hypnotism, to his addiction to cocaine and troubling work with his daughter Anna, there isn’t a shortage of criticism to go around regarding his ways. But what is undeniable is his impact on the field of psychotherapy, which many attribute its birth to him.
I stumbled upon this book after listening to a Brazilian philosopher named Luiz Felipe Ponde, who has attributed much of his intellectual formation to Freud. In Civilization and its Discontents, Freud takes you through a philosophical argument that tries to explain why modern society is unhappy.
He explains his theory of the Id, Ego and Superego, and how humans have an innate violence within themselves that is often expressed through work in a capitalist society and sexual desires. He makes the case as to why communism can lead to further violence and the role that laws have in a society where some of its members have a weak Superego (which is the part of the psyche responsible for the emotions of guilt – hence a critical concept in understanding psychopaths).
This is a great introduction to Freud and a thought-provoking book that will make you reflect deeply on how the debate over societies’ organization models (capitalism vs socialism, totalitarianism vs democracy, etc.) all begin with the human psyche. This book has led me to another work on his biography (Freud: A Life of Our Time by Peter Gay), which I gave as a gift to my dad for Christmas, but haven’t yet read. If you’re looking for an entertaining series on Freud, Netflix’s Freud tells a fantastical story during his early years working with hypnosis.
Even though a fiction novelist, Fyodor Dostoevsky, alongside philosophers Kierkegaard and Nietzsche, gave birth to Existentialism in the mid-19th century, a philosophical theory that emphasizes that the human experience is subjective and that the universe is irrational.
Dostoevsky was ahead of his time and was one of the first authors to tell stories through the character’s thoughts and feelings, instead of a removed narrator telling a series of events. Through his deeply flawed protagonists, he gave readers access to a new dimension in literature, which is one of the reasons why Dostoevsky is considered to be one of the greatest writers of all time.
In Notes from Underground, he divides the book into two parts: the first is the character’s deepest thoughts and conflicts he has with himself (the “underground”), whereas the second part is chronologically before the first, and depicts a series of events that led to those thoughts.
This classic is filled with philosophical dilemmas, as a retired St. Petersburg civil servant battles with humanity’s desire to create a utopia against one’s own self interests. There’s a lot to unpack in this short book, and it deserves to be read many times over. This is such an important book, that you can find entire lectures online that discuss the ideas enclosed in its pages.
“What does reason know? Reason knows only what it has managed to learn (some things, perhaps, it will never learn; this is no consolation, but why not say it anyway?), while human nature acts as an entire whole, with everything that is in it, consciously and unconsciously, and though it lies, still it lives.”
Jean-Paul Sartre was another existentialist who wrote numerous classics at a time where society was battling with new moral dilemmas. Born in Paris in the early 20th century, he saw two world wars, was a Marxist who believed the Soviet Union was a revolutionary state working for the betterment of humanity, and once refused a Literature Nobel Prize in protest against “the institutions”. In sum, this guy had a pretty wild life – which is often seen as a requirement for fascinating writers (nod to Ernest Hemingway).
In The Age of Reason, Sartre tells the story of a philosophy teacher, who is deeply driven by his socialist ideals, trying to preserve his notion of freedom by looking for money to pay for his mistress’s abortion. The story takes a series of unexpected turns, and it constantly engages the readers in thought provoking dilemmas that makes one realize that right or wrong is subjective.
In the coming year we will be hearing the U.S. Supreme Court decide on whether to overturn Roe v Wade. This is a charged topic that requires deep inquiry into one’s most closely held beliefs and how they should be projected into society. By reading The Age of Reason, one can think through the very questions that hundreds of thousands of people battle with each year in the face of an unexpected pregnancy. It all starts with empathy, and Sartre will pose you difficult questions that most hope they will never have to answer.
This book won numerous awards over the past year in Brazil and abroad for the lyric and narrative style that Itamar Vieria Junior so beautifully composed as he tells a fictional story grounded on a troubled reality.
The narrative takes place in the early to mid-20th century, when slavery in Brazil had just recently been effectively outlawed. The work is divided into 3 parts, and follows two sisters who, in the face of a tragic event, become deeply connected for the rest of their lives. The story is narrated by different characters in each section and brings the reader into a reality that millions of rural workers have had to face over the course of Brazilian history.
It’s magical, tragic and beautiful all at the same time. Itamar, who has a Ph.D. in Ethnic and African Studies from the Universidade Federal da Bahia, wrote a book that many believe should be studied at universities now. Torto Arado, which translates to “Crooked Plow” in English, is a must read for anyone seeking to understand the long-term effects of slavery in Brazil.
Unfortunately, this book is only available in Portuguese, Italian and Bulgarian – for now. The U.S. National Endowment for the Arts has awarded a grant to Montclair State University Professor Johnny Lorenz to translate the work into English, so the novel should be available in more languages shortly (as well as in series or film form eventually).
I hope I was able to be of help in picking a couple books for your 2022 reading list. Please drop me a line with what you’re planning to read in the new year in the comment section!
To see what I’m reading year-round, follow me on Goodreadshere.
Over the summer of 2014 I got the opportunity to visit Foz do Iguaçu in the state of Parana, Brazil.
There are plenty of stuff to do there but I would not recommend staying there for longer than 4 days (unless you intend to adventure into Argentina or Paraguay for a few extra days).
When we arrived in the airport of the city of Foz do Iguaçu and picked up our rental standard vehicle, we drove down the Avenida das Cataratas and saw multiple hotels and resorts along the highway. Most people prefer to stay in those rather than finding a place in the city, since the national park is just 10 to 20 minutes away from any hotel along the road.
Av. das Cataratas
We stayed at the Harbor Hotel Colonial, on kilometer 20 of the Av. das Cataratas. It is a nice hotel with a pool and a restaurant. The rooms provide you with just enough of what you need. Since we were planning on spending most of our days outside, we did not care much about the fanciness of the hotel.
The national park of the Iguacu Falls opens daily at 9am and closes at 5pm. By the time we arrived at the hotel, it had already been closed so we decided to go into the city to have dinner. We had heard a lot of good things about a place named La Mafia, an italian restaurant based on the film The Godfather.
And wow, what a unique place.
The restaurant is situated in a house that had been turned into an eatery, located in a skinny dark street – perfect scenario for the italian mafia themed place. All the waiters were dressed like in the movie and the rooms were decorated differently from each other, portraying a different scene of the movie. The food was great, and so was the wine. 10/10.
The following day we we went to the National Park. They charge you a daily fee of R$52,20 for foreigners and R$31,20 for Brazilians. After you pay, you hop into a air conditioned bus (trust me you will be glad it is air conditioned) which takes you into the park. There is only one two-way road that reaches a final destination at a restaurant, but along the way you can choose to get off at multiple locations to start your trail throughout the falls.
We chose to go on an adventure with Macuco Safari, which takes your through the forest and explains to you in english and portuguese a little bit of the history of the place and the different types of trees and animals that live in that ecosystem. When you reach the end of the ride you hop in a boat that takes you under the gigantic falls. Yes, they take you right under one of the largest water falls in the world.
It is scary as hell and people had told us that a boat had flipped upside down before during one of those tours. I was holding on for my dear life during the ride, but I could not understand how one of those boats had flipped. They are massive and the pilots do that on a regular basis. There is no need to be afraid about that sort of thing.
Macuco Safari boat
We also spend the day walking through the trails and taking photos. The scenery is absolutely jaw-dropping. Make sure your camera is charged, and that you bring extra batteries and a plastic bag.
The waterfalls are so massive that water sprays all over you and you will get wet, and so will your camera if you don’t cover it.
I got to walk on a catwalk over the Devil’s Throat. Yes, they named a place the goddamn Devil’s Throat. This is a massive water fall that kind of makes the shape of a half moon and millions of tons of water go through it every second. It is loud, it is wet, it is nature telling you who’s the boss.
At the end of the day, after we finished walking through all the trails in the Brazilian side, dodging hungry Quatis and slapping mosquitos off of our arms, we visited the Parque das Aves (Birds’ Park), where you get to see Rio 1 and 2 in real life. There are so many different birds and walk in cages that at one point a toucan was trying to pick a fight with me. At the end of the tour you get to put a macaw on your arm and take a picture with it.
This was our last full day at the tropical paradise so we decided to go visit the Argentinian side. Most of the falls are located on that side, so instead of observing them from a far, now we were walking through them.
Massive waterfall on the Argentinean side
It was quite the experience as you get a lot wetter. Oh, and make sure that when you cross the boarder you exchange your Brazilian reais for Argentinian pesos, because otherwise you will starve.
Our South American neighbors were very receptive and understanding of the fact that I could not speak spanish to save my life. They also have great meat at a ridiculously low price. It is a great place to eat and drink.
We used the morning to relax by the pool and read. The previous days had been very hard on our legs, so taking this time off is essential to give yourself a break. Our flight back to Sao Paulo was in the early afternoon and that was the end of our amazing trip to one of the seven wonders of the world.
I highly recommend this place to anyone looking for some adventure as you can go skydiving and do white water rafting if you have the guts. The scenery is beautiful, the people are great, the food is impeccable, and it is really easy to get around.