We are sticking with books from Nassim Nicholas Taleb for this post. A few days ago I covered The Black Swan, now it is time for Antifragile.
If The Black Swan taught us the danger of highly unpredictable events and the effect they have in our world, Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder tries to offer us a solution, to design systems that are able to benefit from the chaos and are not susceptible to these adverse events.
The main idea from the book is that we usually classify things as Fragile, if they are severely affected by disturbances, or Robust, if they are not affected by disturbances. Taleb proposes a new category, the Antifragile, for things that gain from the chaos. An example of this would be information, which feeds from attempts to harm it or disguise it, more than it does from attempts to promote it.
There are plenty of ideas worth pondering about in this book. From the importance of inaction, meaning, sometimes it is better to left things/systems to sort themselves out instead of trying to intervene just so it shows that we are trying to fix them. It takes some courage to justify inaction instead of naive interventionism. To being able to distinguish 'Absence of Evidence' from 'Evidence of Absence'.
As with The Black Swan you might find Taleb's style to be a bit arrogant, but there are some gems to be found in this book if you are able to look pass it.
An idea that really resonated with me from this book, and one that I think will come in handy for my fellow Coil Bloggers, is the use of procrastination as an heuristic. If you do not feel inclined to write (or whatever you’re doing for that matter) about something, you shouldn’t try to fool your audience into thinking it is interesting.
The book closes with some discussion on what Taleb calls Skin in the Game, which incidentally is the title of his latest book. Basically, the idea is to keep an eye out for who is saying or doing something, and to quantify how much stake they have in whether or not they are correct. If they have nothing to lose, or worse, they have something to gain from being wrong, then you should discard their advise.
You can find the rest of my reviews here. See below for some of my favorite quotes form the book.
Given that halloween has just passed us and that I am a big fan of vampire stories, from Bram Stoker's Dracula, John Ajvide Lindqvist's Let the Right One In, to Elizabeth Kostova's The Historian; I decided that this week we will be focusing on John Sheridan Le Fanu and his Gothic Horror novella Carmilla.
Joseph Thomas Sheridan Le Fanu (1814-1873) was an Irish writer renowned for his Gothic and Horror tales. Known as 'The Invisible Prince' due to his reclusive habits, he was a master of the supernatural tale, and his works have served as influence for plenty of authors. Among his best known works is the novella Carmilla.
The story follows a young woman, Laura, who becomes the prey of the female vampire Carmilla, whom is introduced into our protagonist's home as a guest after a freak accident. Laura quickly befriends Carmilla, giving place to an interesting dynamic between the two, all the while in the villages nearby, young women start to die of an unknown disease.
Carmilla is a pretty fascinating read due to its historic importance alone, it was published 25 years before Dracula and as such it has a heavy influence on Bram Stoker's classic novel, plus it features some lesbian situations between the two female protagonists, a theme practically unheard of at the time it was published.
This one is a bit longer than our previous entries, spanning around 100 pages long depending on the version you get, but it still should be manageable within a week. You can download the full work from here. You can find the rest of the entries to my Weekly Reading Series here.
See below for some of my favorite quotes from Carmilla.
“All of humanity's problems stem from man's inability to sit quietly in a room alone” -Blaise Pascal
Stillness is the Key by Ryan Holiday is the third and final book of the trilogy comprised by The Obstacle is the Way and Ego is the Enemy, (both of which are really good books that you should check out).
Now, I'm a pretty lazy guy, so when I heard that there was a book out there telling me that being still would be the way of solving my problems, I was instantly interested and decided to give it a read.
The book is divided in three sections: Mind, Spirit and Body, each one consisting on small easy to digest chapters about a certain form of stillness, or application of it, that we should bear in mind in order to improve our lives. The opening quotes on each chapter are usually pretty good and give you a good sense of the overall topic of the chapter.
Ryan makes use of historical figures (Buddha, Kennedy, Anne Frank, and even Tiger Woods) to present us with some dilemmas or difficult situations, and the way in which Stillness can help us hurdle through the different obstacles that life may throw at us.
Maybe it's because I have already read some books by Ryan, or because some of the anecdotes told in this book were already shared on his daily stoic meditations, but I wasn't as impressed with this book as with the previous ones.
But don't get me wrong, there's plenty of useful advice here: from understanding what are the things we should care about; Knowing how to organize yourself to deal with what's really important, not what seems urgent at the moment, not what social media tells you you should be worrying about; to learning to create moments of silence in your life, so you can think about what really matters.
I sincerely believe that you will get something of value from reading this book, specially if this is your first piece by the author.
You can find the rest of my reviews here. In case you haven't heard about it, I'm currently running a giveaway be sure to check it out, you can find all the details on this tweet.
See below for some of my favorite quotes from the book:
It is time for Ray Bradbury's turn in our Weekly Readings Series, we will be focusing on his short story The Fog Horn. But first, I think I should give you some information about the author himself.
Ray Bradbury (1920-2012) was an American novelist, short story writer, essayist and screenwriter... Ok you get it, he liked writing, a lot, with well over 500 published works. He first started building up his reputation with the publication of The Martian Chronicles, a Sci-Fi series which describes humanity's first attempts to colonize Mars.
His most famous work is the classic novel Fahrenheit 451, set in a world where books are forbidden and it's the firemen's job to ignite fires to destroy them. It's considered one of the best books of all time, you should give it a try if you haven't.
His short story The Fog Horn was published on 1951, you could classify it either as Sci-Fi or Horror. It relates the last night that two co-workers, the narrator and his boss, share on a lighthouse. During the night, the boss starts telling the story of a mysterious sea creature that comes to visit the lighthouse, a creature that has been returning for years.
I highly recommend you give it a read, it's a short and amazing work. The story is pretty well written, gives you some food for thought, and it has some pretty epic passages:
“One day many years ago a man walked along and stood in the sound of the ocean on a cold sunless shore and said, “We need a voice to call across the water, to warn ships; I'll make one. I'll make a voice like all of time and all of the fog that ever was; I'll make a voice that is like an empty bed beside you all night long, and like an empty house when you open the door, and like trees in autumn with no leaves. A sound like the birds flying south, crying, and a sound like November wind and the sea on the hard, cold shore. I'll make a sound that's so alone that no one can miss it, that whoever hears it will weep in their souls, and hearths will seem warmer, and being inside will seem better to all who hear it in the distant towns. I'll make me a sound and an apparatus and they'll call it a Fog Horn and whoever hears it will know the sadness of eternity and the briefness of life.”
I don't want to spoil much of what happens and if that passage alone did not make you want to read it, I really don't know what will, so I will leave it at that for now. You can find the full short story here.
In case you haven't heard about it, I'm currently running a giveaway be sure to check it out, you can find all the details on this tweet. As usual, Coil subscribers get some of my favorite quotes below:
“You could leave life right now. Let that determine what you do and say and think.”
- Marcus Aurelius
Today was an interesting day at the CBC, just as I was thinking about making this post, two of our members decided to come up with their own Mortality related posts, you can find one of them here, the other one is still on the making.
What is Memento Mori?
The quick answer is: Memento Mori is Latin for “Remember death” or “Remember that you will die.” which seems like a pretty brutal and unnecessary reminder, but it really is a useful one when understood correctly. For if we have our own mortality present at all times we will hardly waste our time, it will help us make better decisions and live a more virtuous life.
And plenty of religions seems to agree with this, this concept is present, with small variations, in christian religion, in Buddhism, in Japanese Zen...
I came to learn about this practice while reading on Stoic philosophy, and decided to pick it up, to analyze any important decision I need to take considering it may very well be the last thing I do on earth. I can say it has helped me set my priorities straight and avoid some bad decisions, it helped me take the difficult road and be honest with those around me instead of telling them what they want to hear.
Thinking about death helps you get a real sense of priority, most things we do are almost meaningless in the grand scheme of things; in the face of death you can easily identify what's really important, what matters the most to you.
And since death is the only thing that's certain for all of us, it is best if we learn to find in it a source of inspiration, a counselor, instead of being terrified by it.
So take a brief moment and reflect upon your life. Would you be okay with the way you have lived, with what you have accomplished, if you were to leave life right now? If not, wouldn't it be better to change your habits right now?
I hope you found this practice interesting and would be awesome if it helped you at any point in your life.
Before you go on to our premium section, I would like to introduce you to a friend of mine who has just joined Coil, he's studying to be a chef and will be posting recipes from the Mexican cuisine among other things. You can find his posts here.
Welcome back to our Stoic Quotes series. Today's post will be the second part of some awesome Seneca quotes. If you want to check out any of the previous posts from this series you can find them here.
As usual, below you will find some quotes representing the different Stoic values. And while it can feel really good to look at a quote and tell yourself that you agree with the idea being presented to you, we should not stop there, we should really take the message to heart and use it to improve ourselves, to become better with each passing day, so we can help others do the same.
“Wherever there is a human being, there is an opportunity for kindness.”
“I judge you unfortunate because you have never lived through misfortune. You have passed through life without an opponent— no one can ever know what you are capable of, not even you.”
“We should every night call ourselves to an account;
What infirmity have I mastered today?
What passions opposed? What temptation resisted? What virtue acquired? Our vices will abort of themselves if they be brought every day to the shrift.”
“Anger, if not restrained, is frequently more hurtful to us than the injury that provokes it.”
“It is not because things are difficult that we do not dare; it is because we do not dare that things are difficult.”
“Men do not care how nobly they live, but only for how long, although it is within the reach of every man to live nobly, but within no man’s power to live long.”
“All this hurrying from place to place won’t bring you any relief, for you’re traveling in the company of your own emotions, followed by your troubles all the way.”
“In the meantime, cling tooth and nail to the following rule: not to give in to adversity, not to trust prosperity, and always take full note of fortune’s habit of behaving just as she pleases.”
“Wealth is the slave of a wise man. The master of a fool “
“No man was ever wise by chance”
“Philosophy calls for simple living, not for doing penance, and the simple way of life need not be a crude one.”
“You act like mortals in all that you fear, and like immortals in all that you desire”
“As long as you live, keep learning how to live.”
“I shall never be ashamed of citing a bad author if the line is good.”
Please see our subscriber-only content If you are interested in learning more about Stoicism and would like a tool to help you work on yourself during each day of the year.
No, not that movie with Natalie Portman. I am talking about the book by Nassim Nicholas Taleb. There are two things I think you should know about reading 'The Black Swan'.
First, most likely you will find Taleb to be extremely arrogant and a pain to read. Second, this is a book that you must absolutely read, specially if you have investments in the stock or crypto market.
The book's title comes from the following idea: every now and then, there occurs a highly unpredictable event which produces a massive effect on our world, and it's only after the fact that we are able to produce a 'reasonable' explanation to make the event appear predictable or even inevitable. This is the definition of a 'Black Swan'
As such, the book's main idea is that current models have a hard time predicting outliers and people have the tendency to fool themselves with a post-facto explanation as to why the crisis/event that occurred was inevitable, and easy to foresee, when in reality, no one was able to predict it.
Taleb argues that, since it is not possible to see most of these events coming, it’s more useful to try and protect ourselves again these disasters than accurately predicting their probability. Maintaining that we should learn how to rank beliefs not according to their plausibility, but by the harm they may cause if proven true.
Among other important ideas from the book is that we should understand that some domains do not allow us to correctly predict using past data, and some others do; We need to learn how to identify them. For this, it is rather useful to avoid confirmation bias, meaning, we should try to disprove our own ideas instead of seeing where they work.
We are also presented with the all too common suggestion of having a diversified portfolio; however, Taleb puts a spin on it as follows: Knowing that we are unable to accurately predict risks, it is better to adopt a hyperconservative position with most of your portfolio, say 85% invested in treasury bills, and an hyperagressive position with the rest, for example on highly speculative assets (If only we had some kind of coin we could invest in...). This, instead of the usual recommendation of having “medium risk” investments.
I believe that 'The Black Swan' raises some good questions and interesting takes on modern world problems that may fall on deaf ears due to Taleb's narrative voice and arrogant style.
You can find my previous reviews here. See below for some of my favorite quotes from the book:
One of the main reasons that I joined Coil, apart form the XRP hype, was to finally write reviews for every new book that I read. At a rate of 30+ books per year it is not as easy to keep up with that goal, but I will give it a try.
Hopefully you will find something to your liking in the lists below:
Welcome back to another edition of our Weekly Readings series. If you missed any of the previous posts you can find them here.
This week we focused on a short story called 'The Legend of the Two Discreet Statues' by Washington Irving, this is one of the many supernatural tales written by Irving.
Washington Irving (1783-1859) was an American short story writer, biographer, historian and diplomat. Irving was one of the first American authors to achieve acclaim in Europe and is best known for writing 'The Legend of Sleepy Hollow'.
In 1829 Irving stayed in the Alhambra, a palace found in Granada, Spain, for a few weeks. He was enthralled by the place which inspired him to write about the place, its history, traditions, legends and myths.
One of the works resulting from this was 'The Legend of the two Discreet Statues' which follows the live of a gardener called Lope Sanchez and his family. During the festivities of St. John's Eve his daughter finds and amulet which starts a fantastical adventure for the little girl, one which is filled with spectral apparitions as she wanders through the halls of the Alhambra getting to see it in all its former glory.
The story features beautiful descriptions of the scenery, one of the reasons it helped spike an interest in the Alhambra during the 19th Century. The characters could have been developed a bit better, as it feels they are just taken out of the picture once they have served their purpose on the story; that being said, there are some really interesting interactions between them, specially once the priest is introduced into the tale.
Overall the short story is a pretty fascinating tale. You can read the whole story for free here courtesy of The Library of America. If you want to find more about The Library of America please read below.
If you have been following my blogs for a while, you already know that I have a great love for books, to the point where I have given away 20+ books this year alone to strangers.
However, I understand that reading a book can be a big commitment of time, so for those of you that prefer to spend a little less time reading I have decided to start a Weekly Reading series featuring short stories that we share on the Reading Club that I attend.