Jonathan Franzen on How to Write About Nature, with a Side of Rachel Carson and Alice in Wonderland
Brain Pickings – An inventory of the meaningful life.
by Maria Popova
11h ago
I grew up loving Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. My grandmother read it to me before I could read. I read it to myself as soon as I could. I loved the strangeness of it, and the tenderness. As a child mathematician, I loved knowing that a grown mathematician had written it. But what I most loved about the story was Alice’s fearless curiosity and compassion as she encountered all the creatures populating Wonderland. I loved the White Rabbit and the Cheshire Cat and Bill the Lizard because Alice loved them. This is what makes Wonderland Wonderland: To its denizens, it is just their world, mun ..read more
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How Emotions Are Made
Brain Pickings – An inventory of the meaningful life.
by Maria Popova
4d ago
“Emotions are not reactions to the world; they are your constructions of the world.” “A purely disembodied human emotion is a nonentity,” William James wrote in his revolutionary 1884 theory of how our bodies affect our feelings — a gauntlet thrown at the classical view that emotions are the brain’s response to the outside world, hard-wired and universal. In the century-some since, we have come to discover that this embodied construction of emotion, known as interoception, is the tectonic activity shaping the psychological landscape of being, which the brain then interprets to navigate the wo ..read more
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Hermann Hesse on Discovering the Soul Beneath the Self and the Key to Finding Peace
Brain Pickings – An inventory of the meaningful life.
by Maria Popova
1w ago
“Self-hate is really the same thing as sheer egoism, and in the long run breeds the same cruel isolation and despair.” “To be nobody-but-yourself — in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else — means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight,” E.E. Cummings told students from the hard-earned platform of his middle age, not long after Virginia Woolf contemplated the courage to be yourself. It is true, of course, that the self is a place of illusion — but it is also the only place where our physical reality and social reality cohere to pull th ..read more
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Endling: A Poem
Brain Pickings – An inventory of the meaningful life.
by Maria Popova
1w ago
I turned the corner one afternoon to find my neighborhood grocer gone. No warning, just gone — padlocked and boarded off, closed for good, a long chain of habit suddenly severed. We know that entropy drags everything toward dissolution, that life is a vector pointed at loss, but how rarely we realize that the lasts are last, how staggering the turning of those corners. The friend you embrace in a casual parting not knowing it is the final farewell. The lover you kiss not knowing you will never touch again. Your mother answering the phone in a voice you’ve known forever, a voice you don’t know ..read more
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The Secret Life of Chocolate: Oliver Sacks on the Cultural and Natural History of Cacao
Brain Pickings – An inventory of the meaningful life.
by Maria Popova
1w ago
Without chocolate, life would be a mistake — not a paraphrasing of Nietzsche he would have easily envisioned, for he was a toddler in Germany when a British chocolatier created the first modern version of what we now think of as chocolate: a paste of sugar, chocolate liquor, and cocoa butter, molded into a bar. As the making of bars entered the factories over the course of the next century, chocolate — further and further removed from the lush life of cacao, stripped of its cultural history and botanical wonder — became a microcosm of our progressive commodification of delight, our aggressive ..read more
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Maira Kalman on How to Live with Remorse and Wrest from It Defiant Joy in Living
Brain Pickings – An inventory of the meaningful life.
by Maria Popova
2w ago
Each time we have tried to elevate ourselves above the other animals by claiming singular possession of some faculty, we have been humbled otherwise: Language, it turns out, is not ours alone, nor is the use of tools, nor is music. Elephants grieve, octopuses remember and predict, crows hold grudges. Perhaps one day this too will be snatched from us, but for now there seems to be one tumult of being pulsating in the human breast alone: the capacity to be sorry, to feel the soul-ache of remorse as the penitent past fangs the flesh of the present. How to live with remorse, how to make of it a c ..read more
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When Relationships Change: Anne Morrow Lindbergh on Embracing the Intermittency and Mutability of Love
Brain Pickings – An inventory of the meaningful life.
by Maria Popova
2w ago
“All living relationships are in process of change, of expansion, and must perpetually be building themselves new forms.” “God is Change,” Octavia Butler wrote, channeling in poetic truth the fundamental scientific fact of the universe. We know this. And yet to be human is to long for constancy, to crave the touchingly impossible assurance that what we have and cherish will be ours to hold forever, just as it is now. We build homes — fragile haikus of concrete and glass to be unwritten by the first earthquake or flood. We make vows — fragile promises to be upheld by selves we haven’t met in a ..read more
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The Art of Allowing Change: Neurobiologist Susan R. Barry’s Moving Correspondence with Oliver Sacks about the Blessed Overwhelm of Transformation
Brain Pickings – An inventory of the meaningful life.
by Maria Popova
3w ago
There is a thought experiment known as Mary’s Room, brilliant and haunting, about the abyss between felt experience and our mental models of it, about the nature of knowledge, the mystery of consciousness, and the irreducibility of aliveness: Living in a black-and-white chamber, Mary the scientist studies how nature works — from the physics of light to the biology of the eye — but when she exits her monochrome room and encounters color, she experiences something far beyond her knowledge of what color is. It might be impossible, the experiment intimates, to imagine — even with our finest knowl ..read more
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Thich Nhat Hanh on True Love and the Five Rivers of Self-Knowledge
Brain Pickings – An inventory of the meaningful life.
by Maria Popova
3w ago
“For one human being to love another: that is perhaps the most difficult of all our tasks… the work for which all other work is but preparation,” Rilke wrote to his young correspondent. The great difficulty of loving arises from the great difficulty of bridging the abyss between one consciousness and another in order to understand each other, to map the inner landscape of another’s territory of trust and vulnerability, to teach each other how what we need of love. “Understanding and loving are inseparable,” the humanistic philosopher and psychologist Erich Fromm wrote in his wonderful field g ..read more
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The Warblers and the Wonder of Being: Loren Eiseley on Contacting the Miraculous
Brain Pickings – An inventory of the meaningful life.
by Maria Popova
3w ago
“The time has to be right; one has to be, by chance or intention, upon the border of two worlds. And sometimes these two borders may shift or interpenetrate and one sees the miraculous.” Every once in a while, the curtain of the ordinary parts and we touch the miraculous — the sense that there is another world not beyond this one but within it, a mirror-world any glimpse of which returns our own more luminous and full of wonder. This can never be willed, but one can be willing for it — a willingness woven of two things: total wakefulness to reality and total openness to possibility. It can ha ..read more
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