All the World's a Classroom
“Where did the time go?” we often ask, and no matter the frequency of this conversation, it’s never boring, because we feel its truthfulness each time. Blink once, it’s Monday, blink twice it’s Thursday, and so the weeks, months, and years pass by.
Age, I hear, accelerates this experience, and I can probably agree. It took forever and a half to reach age 10 and another half to 17. But to the observing adults, my aging probably did feel fast. They certainly talk about the flying time with more intensity.
Mathematically, it’s been explained that the ratio of a fixed amount of time, say, a year, to the total length of our growing lifetime will only diminish, hence the increased speediness. It’s perfectly rational. I like rational. But, if the math is the real cause of the experience, how scary is that? It means life will only move faster and faster, like a runaway train that’s gone out of hands. Is there nothing to be done about it?
A Glimmer of Hope
Reading Oliver Sacks’ Gratitude and Paul Kalanithi’s When Breath Becomes Air tells me that there may be a way out. Written when their authors were cancer-ridden—the first, a collection of essays written during Oliver’s last two years of his life and the second, written during the two years between Paul’s diagnosis and his death—both writings seem to know how to slow time down.
Faced with the finiteness of their lives, these authors mastered the art of living consciously (isn’t this why time feels fast—it goes by and we are not conscious of it) and thus put a break to the speeding train of time. The writing certainly feels that way, and in reading their words, my time too slows down.
Consciousness of time, I think, is the kindred subject that occupied both men, evaporating the near half-century gap between their ages. Linked to this is also the fierce quest of meaning and the evaluation of their lived years.
Confronting mortality, humankind is forced to reflect. What of my life? Has it been good, meaningful? Am I contented with who I am? And in reflecting, time is recaptured, somehow.
Whether intended or not, Paul and Oliver’s writings have this recapturing effects on me. Their sense of sacredness in the time they had left produced words that grace their readers with wisdom. Yet, is this gift only possessed by those close to death’s door? I’m not dying–not that I know of, at least–and I too am covetous of this consciousness of time.
Oliver’s last and poignant essay was titled “Sabbath,” published in the New York Times two weeks before his death last August, and one that was very important to him. As his days were closing, he found his thoughts drifting back to the Sabbath.
And now, weak, short of breath, my once-firm muscles melted away by cancer, I find my thoughts, increasingly, not on the supernatural or spiritual, but on what is meant by living a good and worthwhile life — achieving a sense of peace within oneself. I find my thoughts drifting to the Sabbath, the day of rest, the seventh day of the week, and perhaps the seventh day of one’s life as well, when one can feel that one’s work is done, and one may, in good conscience, rest.
After abandoning his Jewish faith and heritage for decades, Oliver recalled one Sabbath celebration in 2014:
The peace of the Sabbath, of a stopped world, a time outside time, was palpable, infused everything, and I found myself drenched with a wistfulness, something akin to nostalgia, wondering what if: What if A and B and C had been different? What sort of person might I have been? What sort of a life might I have lived?
I wonder if the Sabbath was made so that humankind would live, in the deepest sense of the word, with consciousness of time. The gift of rest in the Sabbath surpasses the physical realm into the essence of life itself. This infusion is not automatic—I’ve lived Sabbath to Sabbath my entire life and I know that Sabbath too can be busy—but it is a space and time carved out to stop and reflect each week. Did I do well? Was I good? Did I do things that matter?
Robert John Aunamm, 2005 Nobel Laureate in Economics, said in an interview that Oliver mentioned in his essay,
The observance of the Sabbath is extremely beautiful, and is impossible without being religious. It is not even a question of improving society—it is about improving one’s own quality of life. For example, let’s say I’m taking a trip a couple of hours after the Sabbath. Any other person would spend the day packing, going to the office, making final arrangements, final phone calls, this and that. For me it’s out of the question. I do it on Friday. The Sabbath is there. The world stops.
After the ceremony, Robert John told Oliver, “had he been compelled to travel to Stockholm on a Saturday, he would have refused the prize. His commitment to the Sabbath, its utter peacefulness and remoteness from worldly concerns, would have trumped even a Nobel.”
Peacefulness and remoteness from worldly concerns. What would it look like to live, entirely divorced from even the privilege of winning a Nobel Prize. It seems like Robert John estimated the prize very differently from most people; something else mattered to him more. Perhaps it was an understanding of ultimate things—what is the most important thing in life, what matters most, things we usually understand when death is nigh, when time is short.
Perhaps the Sabbath is like speed bumps, preventing life from being overrun by the train of time. It is a reminder to be conscious of time, like a balance by which everything is scaled against eternity. The things that exist in the Sabbath realm are the things that matter in eternity—they will always matter—like family, friends, love, reflection, peace with God and peace with self. Everything else can take a pause, irrelevant for one day.
I’m writing this at the entrance of a Sabbath. For the next 24 hours then, I’m going to live with consciousness of time.
 I’ll use their first names here to make the post more personal instead of academic.
Photo by Johnny Loi
All photos of the Stony Island Arts Bank in this post are taken by Johnny Loi Photography.
If you’re a history lover and an enthusiast of cultures, you must visit the Stony Island Arts Bank in the South Side of Chicago. It’s a community, cultural, and arts center, housed in a reclaimed building that was initially going to be torn down. The beautiful structure was a bank from the 1920s that had been abandoned for a long time, until the Rebuild Foundation came, renovated, and gave it a new life as a center that fosters community engagement with the history and culture of Chicago’s South Side. See the beautiful images of the bank in the image gallery below.
I came primarily to see its marvelous reading room and I dragged my photographer husband with his gears. The reading room is actually the Johnson Publishing Library, with books up to the ceiling on Black history and cultures. You’re allowed to browse and flip through the books, but not check them out. Wash your hands first before you touch the books, since some of them are very old. They also have drawers of old picture slides dating all the way back from the 1800s (wear gloves if you want to check them out and notify the staffs).
The top floor features two private collections that had been donated to the arts bank. One is the Frankie Knuckles records collection and the other one is the private collection of Edward J. Williams, who had amassed hundreds of racist artifacts of Black Americans from the Civil War era to the present. He had purchased many of these objects to take them out of circulation. Among these were segregated bathroom signage, old postcards with very disturbing images and sayings, and many others that reflect a way of thinking that is part of American history.
The staffs are very helpful and eager to tell the many interesting stories associated with the arts bank and its exhibits. Since its opening in October 2015, this center has been an active and ongoing project, with volunteers from the community helping with efforts such as cataloging the books in the library.
I enjoyed the few hours I spent there tremendously. They also host events and musical performances by local artists, which are more reasons to come back and visit. If you plan to visit Chicago, be sure to stop by and spend some time there (free admissions!).
Tips and tricks on how to save money on Audible membership for new and existing users. Also see this post for more tips on how to get audiobook discounts using the Whispersync feature. [Last updated: Oct 5, 2018]
What You’ll Learn in This Article
1. What you’ll get from the Audible Gold Membership.
2. Special promotions when you sign up for membership. Use the Free Trial!
3. How to get reduced membership fee after the free trial and you’ve
become a member.
4. Other lower cost membership plans (i.e., AudibleListener Light
and Silver Membership).
5. How to pause membership.
Audible is the Amazon audiobook subscription service. Being a member allows you to purchase and listen to over 180,000+ audiobooks, get discounts, and special sales that Amazon holds.
I’ve had an Audible subscription for years now, and I’ve discovered a few tricks on how to save money on Audible membership. Here, I’ll share several tips on how to maximize your savings when you sign up for an Audible membership and how to save when you are already a member.
To read all about the different Audible membership levels and their pricing, go to this article:
But first, what does an Amazon Audible subscription offer?
What you get from an Amazon Audible membership
The subscription cost for an Audible Gold Membership, the most common membership level that Amazon advertises, is $14.95/month. This includes:
- 1 audiobook credit each month, which you can use to purchase any audiobook, no matter how long or short, expensive or cheap the original price is. In essence, this is equivalent to buying an audiobook for $14.95 each month. Since an Amazon audiobook is generally quite pricey–above $14.95–this means that you’re getting a decent value on audiobooks. If you sign up through Amazon, you get the first month free and 2 audiobook credits, i.e., 2 free audiobooks just for trying Audible. The best perk of this promotion is that you get to keep the 2 free audiobooks forever, even if you cancel your subscription after the free trial. [Update 1/9/18: Currently, this is the best sign up offer available]
- Discounted audiobooks. As a member, if you purchase audiobooks without the credits, you will get discounts on all titles (usually 30%).
- Member-only sales. Audible holds quite a number of sales that are accessible only to members. They send emails with daily deals, many for less than $5. They also do special events like get 2 books for 1 credit, 3 books for 2 credits, etc., which I’ve taken advantage of many times.
- Whispersync for Voice. This is one of the neatest features of Audible, in my opinion. Many books offered by Amazon are Whispersync for Voice-ready enabled, meaning that when you have both the audiobook and Kindle ebook versions of the same title, they will be synced with each other, allowing you to pick up where you left off from the audio or ebook version. Now, why would you want to buy both versions? When you buy either an audiobook or a Kindle ebook that is Whispersync for Voice-ready, Amazon will give you an offer to buy the other version at a heavily discounted price. Sometimes, the total price for this combination, by taking advantage of the special sales or daily deals, will be lower than the original price of either the audio or ebook version. I usually prefer ebooks, since I like to go back to certain sections of the book, get quotes, etc, which would be difficult with the audio version. A few times, I’ve found out that buying the audiobook first, then taking advantage of the Whispersync offer, I get a lower total amount spent and I have both the ebook and audiobook versions in my library. For more on this and tips on how to get audiobook discounts via Whispersync, check out this article:
- Return books at any time. If you don’t like any audiobook that you’ve purchased, you can simply return and exchange it with another book, no questions asked.
6. Listen to Audible original series, interviews, news, comedy, etc. with Audio Shows (previously called Channels).
7. NEW in 2018! Two free Audible Originals each month. Audible decided to be more awesome in 2018! Now, with your membership, you get 2 free Audible Originals each month. They’re typically shorter, up to about 4 or 5 hours lengthwise. But they are more than just books. In September, I picked Girls & Boys, which is a play that was on off-Broadway earlier this year by Carey Mulligan. The Audible Original is also narrated by Mulligan, whom I love. The other selection that I picked is the X-Files. For October, I see that there are more selections for theater lovers, comedy lovers, etc. For a theater enthusiast who lives so far away from New York City, I’m loving these productions! If you’re a member already, don’t forget to grab these Audible Originals soon!
If you’re a big audiobook consumer, this membership package is not a bad deal overall. But for me, sometimes 1 audiobook/month is too much to keep up. An audiobook can take 10-12 hours of listening, and since I only listen to them during commutes, it can take me a while to finish. Plus, $14.95/month is not insignificant.
The good news is there are other offers that you can take advantage of both during sign up and after you’ve become an Audible member.
How to save money on Amazon Audible membership
The tips here are for 2 groups of people:
1. Those who don’t have an Audible membership yet, but would like to sign up.
2.Those who have an Audible membership already.
How to maximize savings when you sign up for Audible
If you have never been an Audible member and would like to try/sign up, there are multiple offers you can take advantage of. It’s essentially equivalent to getting a discount on the Audible membership.
Option 1. Sign up via Amazon. Their offer is a one-month free membership, so the $14.95 charge only starts on the second month. Additionally, they also give you 2 credits upon sign up, which means that you get 2 free audiobooks just by trying Audible for a month. (Note: some links only offer 1 free credit. Use the link below to get 2 free credits). Try it for free, cancel anytime (or change membership level), and the 2 books are yours to keep forever!
Option 2. Sign up via shopping portals. The better deal is to sign up via shopping portals or discount websites such as Groupon or Swagbucks. [Update 1/9/18: While these portals worked in the past, it seems that these promotions are no longer offered at this point.]
2a. Swagbucks is a shopping portal where you can get points for doing online shopping. These points can then be converted into merchant gift cards. (Read an overview of Swagbucks from this awesome blog.) Swagbucks currently has an Audible offer for $2 for 2 months, after which the regular membership price will be charged to you. This means that your total spending for 2 months = $2, instead of $14.95 via Amazon.
Note: These offers may change over time. Be sure to browse around first before signing up for Audible.
How to save when you already signed up for Audible
Once you are a member, you can’t take advantage of the sign up offers anymore. But it doesn’t mean that you’re stuck with a $14.95/mo. Of course, you can always cancel the membership, but these tips are for those who would like to keep subscribing to Audible and enjoy all those membership benefits mentioned above.
The good news is that there are options to reduce your subscription costs. Note that Amazon may offer different things to different members, so you may not see the options below in the same order. But if you see other offers than listed here, please let me know in the comments section and I’ll add them to the list.
Option 1. Pause membership. Maybe you need time to catch up on the audiobooks in your library, or you want to suspend the charges to your credit card. Audible allows you to hold your membership for up to 90 days. During this time, you’ll still have your existing unused credits, but you won’t get any new ones. You’ll still have access to the other benefits (e.g., discounts, etc.), though. They will resume charging your credit card after the 90 days period. The caveat is that this option is only available to you once, so once you’ve used it, it’s not available anymore (i.e., you can’t suspend your membership forever).
[reader’s comment: someone found that this option is available once every 12 months. So maybe it’s not just once forever after all. Ask the customer rep!]
Option 2. Reduced rate offer. When you are a member, you can also get an additional offer of $7.95/mo for 3 months. To get this, do the following steps. Go to My Account, click Cancel my Membership. When they ask the reason for cancellation, choose “The membership fee was too expensive for me”. Once you click Continue, Audible will bring you to an offer page that lets you continue your membership for a reduced rate of $7.95/mo for 3 months. Once you accept, this deal will show up in the Membership Plan Description section of My Account.
Option 3. AudibleListener Light Membership – Annual. If you’ve noticed above, the only advertised membership level is the Gold Membership at $14.95/mo. But it turns out that Amazon has other Audible plans that you won’t find unless you ask a customer service representative or Audible offers them to you.
After exhausting options 1 and 2, I still felt that the membership fee and 1 audiobook per month was too much to keep up. So I took the steps to cancel the membership again, as described in Option 2. This time though, Audible gave me an AudibleListener Light Membership offer at $9.95/year. This is much cheaper than the Gold membership, but it doesn’t include the 1 credit/mo. However, I still have access to the email deals, which for me, are worth more than $9.95/year. Some of these email deals have huge discounts. Note, however, that you also won’t have the 30% discount that you would normally have with the Gold membership.
Option 4. Audible Silver Membership. After using the Listener Light Membership for about a year, I decided to upgrade my membership level again, since there just have been so many great audiobooks published. But I still thought the Gold Membership was too much to keep up with. Hence, the Audible Silver Membership is the perfect choice for me right now. Again, as in Option 3, this membership level is not advertised by Audible, so you’ll have to ask a customer representative to set it up. For me it took a few pain-free minutes.
What does the Audible Silver Membership entail:
- Silver membership costs $14.00 (plus tax) every other month. So instead of 1 credit per month, you’ll get 1 credit every two months.
- You are eligible for the 30% discount of any audiobook you buy.
- You get all the perks of being a member as in the Gold Membership (e.g., sales, 2-books-for-1-credit promotions, free audiobooks that Audible gives away).
Note: I’d recommend exercising any of these options at the end of your membership month (i.e., just before they charge you for the following month), to prevent you from losing value for the month that you already paid for. In my experience, whenever you accept a new offer, they charged my credit card and restarted the new membership plan right away.
If you still want to cancel your Audible membership
Make sure to redeem all of your unused credits before canceling, since they will disappear once you cancel. The rest of your library will always be available to you.
In short, these are the tips on how to save money on Audible Membership
1. Take advantage of sign up offers
– Sign up via Amazon (first month free + 2 free audiobooks)
– Sign up via shopping portals such as Groupon, Swagbucks, etc. for reduced rates (recommended)
2. Reduce your monthly membership fee
– Pause membership for up to 90 days (only available once)
– Get the $7.95/mo for 3 months offer by going through the steps to cancel membership
– Get AudibleListener Light Membership – Annual at $9.95/year by going through the steps to cancel membership.
– Get Audible Silver Membership at $14.00 every other month and still get all the perks of being a member.
If you’ve found out more options than listed here, please let me know in the comments section and I’ll include them in this post. I’ll also update this post when I find more tricks on how to save with Audible in the future.
Try Audible for free today!
Other tips on audiobooks and Audible:
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