In Search of the Sacred: Pico Iyer on Our Models of Paradise
Brain Pickings – An inventory of the meaningful life.
by Maria Popova
8h ago
“The thought that we must die… is the reason we must live well.” “The mind is its own place, and in it self can make a Heav’n of Hell, a Hell of Heav’n,” Milton wrote in his immortal Paradise Lost. With these human minds, arising from these material bodies, we keep trying to find heaven — to make heaven — in our myths and our mundanities, right here in the place where we are: in this beautiful and troubled world. We give it different names — eden, paradise, nirvana, poetry — but it springs from the selfsame longing: to dwell in beauty and freedom from suffering. With soulful curiosity channel ..read more
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The Unphotographabe: Walt Whitman on Birds Migrating at Midnight
Brain Pickings – An inventory of the meaningful life.
by Maria Popova
12h ago
Sometimes, a painting in words is worth a thousand pictures. I think about this more and more, in our compulsively visual culture, which increasingly reduces what we think and feel and see — who and what we are — to what can be photographed. I think of Susan Sontag, who called it “aesthetic consumerism” half a century before Instagram. In a small act of resistance, I offer The Unphotographable — Saturdays, a lovely image in words drawn from centuries of literature: passages transcendent and transportive, depicting landscapes and experiences radiant with beauty and feeling beyond what a vi ..read more
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The Ants, the Bees, and the Blind Spots of the Human Mind: How Entomologist Charles Henry Turner Revolutionized Our Understanding of the Evolution of Intelligence and Emotion
Brain Pickings – An inventory of the meaningful life.
by Maria Popova
2d ago
“The handicaps under which Dr. Turner’s work was accomplished were many, and were modestly and bravely met.” The son of a nurse and a church janitor, entomologist Charles Henry Turner (February 3, 1867–February 14, 1923) died with a personal library of a thousand books, having published more than fifty scientific papers, having named his youngest son Darwin, and having revolutionized our understanding of the most abundant non-human animals on Earth by pioneering a psychological approach to insect learning, devoting his life to discovering “stubborn facts that should not be ignored.” Charles He ..read more
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The Remarkable Story of the Dawn Redwood: How a Living Fossil Brought Humanity Together in the Middle of a World War
Brain Pickings – An inventory of the meaningful life.
by Maria Popova
4d ago
How an ancient survivor of the unsurvivable became a triumph of the human spirit in a divided world. Sixty million years ago, when tropical climes covered the Arctic, a small redwood species developed an unusual adaptation that shaped its destiny: Despite being a conifer — needle-leaved trees that are usually evergreen — it became deciduous, losing all of its needles during the months-long lightless winter to conserve energy, then growing vigorously in the bright summer months — the fastest-growing of the redwoods. With this uncommon competitive edge, it conquered large swaths of the globe, sp ..read more
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The Two Objects of the Good Life: Mary Shelley’s Father on the Relationship Between Personal Happiness, Imagination, and Social Harmony
Brain Pickings – An inventory of the meaningful life.
by Maria Popova
5d ago
“The true object of education, like that of every other moral process, is the generation of happiness. Happiness to the individual in the first place. If individuals were universally happy, the species would be happy.” “The good life is one inspired by love and guided by knowledge,” the philosopher Bertrand Russell wrote as he reflected on how to stop limiting your happiness. “Neither love without knowledge, nor knowledge without love can produce a good life.” A century and a half before him, the radical and far-seeing political philosopher and novelist William Godwin (March 3, 1756–April 7 ..read more
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Audre Lorde on What to Do When Difference Ruptures Society
Brain Pickings – An inventory of the meaningful life.
by Maria Popova
1w ago
Living into the risk and responsibility of the multiple identities we carry. “If you don’t understand yourself you don’t understand anybody else,” the young poet Nikki Giovanni told the elder James Baldwin in their historic intergenerational conversation. Perhaps it is because we are such strangers to ourselves — so opaque in our own motives and vulnerabilities, so haunted by confusion and self-contradiction — that we so bruisingly misunderstand and mistreat others, so readily seize on their otherness, lashing our confusions at them, so readily forget that diversity and difference are the rea ..read more
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The Vital Difference Between Work and Labor: Lewis Hyde on Sustaining the Creative Spirit
Brain Pickings – An inventory of the meaningful life.
by Maria Popova
1w ago
“The gifts of the inner world must be accepted as gifts in the outer world if they are to retain their vitality.” It is a gladness to be able to call one’s daily work a labor of love, and to have that labor put food on the table the way any work does, dishwashing or dentistry. And yet such labors of diligence and devotion — the kind William Blake called “eternal work” — are somehow different, different and more vulnerable, for they enter the world in a singular spirit and are recompensed in a singular spirit, distinct from dentistry or dishwashing. That spirit is the spirit of a gift — not th ..read more
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Ways of Being: Rethinking Intelligence
Brain Pickings – An inventory of the meaningful life.
by Maria Popova
1w ago
“Intelligence is not something which exists, but something one does.” “Intelligence supposes good will,” Simone de Beauvoir wrote. “Sensitivity is nothing else but the presence which is attentive to the world and to itself.” Yet our efforts to define and measure intelligence have been pocked with insensitivity to nuance, to diversity, to the myriad possible ways of paying attention to the world. Within the human realm, there is the dark cultural history of IQ. Beyond the human realm, there is the growing abashed understanding that other forms of intelligence exist, capable of comprehending an ..read more
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What the Heart Keeps When the Mind Goes: May Sarton on Loving a Loved One Through Dementia
Brain Pickings – An inventory of the meaningful life.
by Maria Popova
1w ago
On remaining in loving contact with the intangible, immutable part of the self. One of the hardest things in life is watching a loved one’s mind slowly syphoned by cognitive illness — that haunting ambiguous loss of the familiar body remaining, but the person slowly fading into otherness, their very consciousness frayed and reconstituted into that of a stranger. How to go on loving this growing stranger is the supreme challenge of accompanying a precious human being through the most disorienting experience in life — the great open question pocked with guilt but pulsating with possibility. The ..read more
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Turning Loss and Loneliness into Wonder: How the Victorian Visionary Marianne North Revolutionized Art and Science with Her Botanical Paintings
Brain Pickings – An inventory of the meaningful life.
by Maria Popova
1w ago
A vibrant foray into “a perfect world of wonders” fueled by the bittersweet dimension of life. Marianne North (October 24, 1830–August 30, 1890) was twenty-six and had just lost her mother to a long tortuous illness when her father took her to an oasis of wonder in the heart of London — Kew Gardens, one of the most biodiverse places on Earth: a lush affirmation of life bustling with life-forms beyond the wildest imagination. In the majestic half-acre glass-and-iron palm house full of tropical plants, Marianne found a portal to another world. She fell under the spell of the exotic red Amherstia ..read more
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