A Matter Of Scale
by Keith Farnish
The Story Behind The Book - review on The Earth Blog
How do I summarise something consisting of 100,000 words, 17 chapters, four self-contained and entirely different sections, and containing the solution to most of the world’s ills? More than that, though, how can I make you understand that A Matter Of Scale may be the most important book ever written?
A hollow claim, much like everything that includes the phrase, “This book could change your life”, but the difference here is I am not trying to make a penny out of the work I have put into it – in fact I have spent years of my life, an awful lot of money and the last 12 months writing as though my life depended on it, in order to produce something that now has to stand up on its own merits. So please forgive me if I take a few words explaining myself.
It was a couple of years ago that I conceived the idea of writing a book, while I was still working for a financial organisation, but growing more disillusioned with everything except for the few things that kept me sane: my family, my friends and the brief times I had had the chance to connect with something other than the consumer culture. By January 2007, I had made up my mind to ditch paid work for something I realised was far more important – it sounds desperately cheesy, but I realised there was a sense of destiny in doing what I was about to do.
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Linchpin: Are You Indispensable? [Hardcover]
Seth Godin (Author)
****4.5 Stars by 250 Reviewers****
Amazon Exclusive: Hugh MacLeod Reviews Linchpin
Hugh MacLeod is an artist, cartoonist, and Web 2.0 pundit whose blog, gapingvoid.com, has two million unique monthly visitors. His first book, Ignore Everybody, was an Amazon Top Ten Business Book of the Year and a Wall Street Journal bestseller. Read his exclusive Amazon guest review of Linchpin:
This is by far Seth’s most passionate book. He’s pulling fewer punches. He’s out for blood. He’s out to make a difference. And that glorious, heartfelt passion is obvious on every page, even if it is in Seth’s usual quiet, lucid, understated manner.
A linchpin, as Seth describes it, is somebody in an organization who is indispensable, who cannot be replaced—her role is just far too unique and valuable. And then he goes on to say, well, seriously folks, you need to be one of these people, you really do. To not be one is economic and career suicide.
No surprises there—that’s exactly what one would expect Seth to say. But here’s where it gets interesting.
In his best-known book, Purple Cow, Seth’s message was, “Everyone’s a marketer now.” In All Marketers Are Liars, his message was, “Everyone’s a storyteller now.” In Tribes, his message was, “Everyone’s a leader now.”
And from Linchpin?
"Everyone’s an artist now."
By Seth’s definition, an artist is not just some person who messes around with paint and brushes, an artist is somebody who does (and I LOVE this term) “emotional work.”
Work that you put your heart and soul into. Work that matters. Work that you gladly sacrifice all other alternatives for. As a working artist and cartoonist myself, I know exactly what he means. It’s not what you do, it’s the way that you do it.
The only people who have a hope of becoming linchpins in any organization, who have any hope of changing anything for the better in real terms, are those who have the capacity to do “emotional work” at a high level—to be true artists at whatever they set their minds on doing. The guys who just plod around the office corridors, just turning up for their paycheck.... Well, those guys don’t have a prayer, poor things. The world is just too interesting and competitive now.
And Seth then challenges us, the readers, to become linchpins ourselves. To make the leap. To become artists. To do emotional work, whatever the sacrifice may be. It’s our choice, and it’s our burden. Seth won’t be there to catch us if we fall, but to become the people we need to be eventually, well, we probably wouldn’t want him to, anyway.
Congratulations, Seth. You have penned a real gem of a book here. Rock on.
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Walking on Water: Reading, Writing, and Revolution [Paperback]
Derrick Jensen (Author)
Amazon Review By L. Feld "lowkell"
"Walking on Water" is filled with insight, wisdom, and humor by Derrick Jensen, one of the most important (although, sadly, not well known) thinkers, visionaries, and leaders of our time. This is a fascinating book -- provocative, intriguing, informative, entertaining -- albeit a bit scattered at times. Given what I know about Jensen (I have read several of his other books and belonged to his Yahoo discussion group for a while), my guess is that "Walking on Water" is a bit scattered because it is in part an interlude, almost a palate cleanser, for Jensen as he authors his next great "Radical Environmentalist" jeremiad.
And what will THAT book be about? Here's a hint: it's Derrick's third "R" after Reading and Writing. Or how about the following quotes from "Walking on Water": "I hate industrial civilization...[it] is killing the planet" and we need to "change the whole system." In other words, "Walking on Water," while excellent in and of itself, is most likely something of a warmup for Jensen's "bringing down civilization" book -- the book that will represent the culmination of Jensen's thinking, activism, and life work to date (I can't wait!).
As a warmup, though, if indeed that's partly what it is, "Walking on Water" is important because it focuses on the critical role played by our "industrial education" system, and the damage that this system does to to our souls, our communities, and our ecosystems. In other words, training people to think and act like unthinking, mindless, interchangeable parts coming off an assembly line may be a politically effective, cost-efficient way of holding together the industrial capitalist economic system. But, treating people like this is certainly not conducive to their well-being or to the well-being of the planet, which is being rapidly destroyed by human greed and stupidity even as we sit here. This is why Derrick Jensen's "Walking on Water" is important, because it attacks this system based on Jensen's tremendous knowledge and insight, his deep personal experience with the education system (and with fighting the worst of the capitalist system), and his skill, passion, and courage as a writer, thinker, and activist.
At the risk of oversimplifying, what Jensen is (correctly) arguing and demonstrating here is that our education system is first and foremost designed to produce good worker bees for the capitalist economy, bees who will accept authority and "won't question country, God, capitalism, science, economics, History, the rule of law" or anything else, really. In other words, bees that collect honey but don't sting.
What Jensen is also arguing --and showing, through his own leadership and life example -- is that it DOESN'T HAVE TO BE THIS WAY. Thus, we see Jensen teaching ("Principles of Thinking and Writing") in a very different way than most of us are accustomed to, both at an actual prison and also at a metaphorical one (a state university in Eastern Washington). Some of the most interesting moments in the book are when Jensen collides with people who have obviously bought into the system to an extreme degree.
For instance, who knew that arranging chairs in a circle could set off such strife (the "Great Chalkboard War of 1995")? And who knew that encouraging students to think for themselves would lead one particular student, a fundamentalist Christian woman, to come to Jensen's office, to sit in his chair, to tell him he's "going to hell" (while taking "a lot of people with [him]"), and finally to drop down on her knees and start praying for him (as Jensen watches tensely to see if she's about to pull a gun on him). Finally, who knew that one-third of college students, at least in one classroom at one university in America -- answer in all seriousness that they have no interest whatsoever in thinking at all (this does, of course, help explain how 40+% of Americans can continue to support George W. Bush)?
In the end, "Walking on Water" is both encouraging and depressing. Encouraging because it demonstrates that it IS possible to help people break free of the mental straightjacket they have been placed in by the "industrial education" system. Depressing because it highlights that there are perilously few Derrick Jensens out there, and because those few brave souls are fighting such a huge, powerful, rotten system. As Jensen emphasizes through his words and actions, however, we must all fight for what we believe in while living our lives as if death is at our shoulder (which, of course, it is). To quote the last words of Jensen's book: "There is much work to be done. What are you waiting for? It's time to begin."
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