No One You Love Is Ever Dead: Hemingway on the Most Devastating of Losses and the Meaning of Life
The Marginalian
by Maria Popova
2d ago
“We must live it, now, a day at a time and be very careful not to hurt each other.” Along the spectrum of losses, from the door keys to the love of one’s life, none is more unimaginable, more incomprehensible in its unnatural violation of being and time, than a parent’s loss of a child. Ernest Hemingway (July 21, 1899–July 2, 1961) was in his twenties and living in France when he befriend Gerald and Sara Murphy. The couple eventually returned to America when one of their sons fell ill, but it was their other son, Baoth, who died after a savage struggle with meningitis. Upon receiving the news ..read more
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The Messiah in the Mountain: Darwin on Wonder and the Spirituality of Nature
The Marginalian
by Maria Popova
4d ago
Here we are, matter yearning for meaning, each of us a fragile constellation of chemistry and chance hurtling through a cold cosmos that has no accord for our wishes, takes no interest in our dreams. “I can’t but believe that all that majesty and all that beauty, those fated and unfailing appearances and exits, are something more than mathematics and horrible temperatures,” Willa Cather wrote to the love of her life while watching the transcendent spectacle of Jupiter and Venus rising in the summer sky. “If they are not, then we are the only wonderful things — because we can wonder.” That we ..read more
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On Giving Up: Adam Phillips on Knowing What You Want, the Art of Self-Revision, and the Courage to Change Your Mind
The Marginalian
by Maria Popova
6d ago
“Not being able to give up is not to be able to allow for loss, for vulnerability; not to be able to allow for the passing of time, and the revisions it brings.” “A self that goes on changing is a self that goes on living,” Virginia Woolf wrote. Nothing is more vital to the capacity for change than the uncomfortable luxury of changing your mind — that stubborn refusal to ossify, the courageous willingness to outgrow your views, anneal your values, and keep clarifying your priorities. It is incredibly difficult to achieve because the very notion of the self hinges on our sense psychological co ..read more
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John Gardner on the Key to Self-Renewal Across Life and the Art of Making Rather Than Finding Meaning
The Marginalian
by Maria Popova
1w ago
“The potentialities you develop to the full come as the result of an interplay between you and life’s challenges.” A person is not a potted plant of predetermined personality but a garden abloom with the consequences of chance and choice that have made them who they are, resting upon an immense seed vault of dormant potentialities. At any given moment, any seed can sprout — whether by conscious cultivation or the tectonic tilling of some great upheaval or the composting of old habits and patterns of behavior that fertilize a new way of being. Nothing saves us from the tragedy of ossifying mor ..read more
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Nothing: The Illustrated Story of How John Cage Revolutionized Music and the Art of Listening Through Silence
The Marginalian
by Maria Popova
1w ago
“We make our lives by what we love.” “After silence that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible is music,” Aldous Huxley wrote. Silence is greater than music because it is its central organizing principle, the way the negative space around an object is what gives it a shape, the way you love someone for what they are not — the person who will not break a promise, the person who will not pass a collapsed bicycle without picking it up, the person who will not interrupt your reverie but will instead wait silently beside you until you open your eyes, is a particular kind of person, a ..read more
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What It’s Like to Be a Falcon: The Peregrine as a Portal to a Way of Seeing and a State of Being
The Marginalian
by Maria Popova
1w ago
“You cannot know what freedom means till you have seen a peregrine loosed into the warm spring sky to roam at will through all the far provinces of light.” We shall never know the sky, you and I — never know how to pierce a mountain with a pupil or sweep a meadow with a wing — and so we shall never know this world in its totality. It is our creaturely destiny to remain earthbound, trapped in frames of reference shaped by our senses, but it is our biological benediction to have a consciousness crowned with an imagination — that periscope of wonder capable of reaching beyond our sensorium, beyo ..read more
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Flowers for Things I Don’t Know How to Say: A Tender Painted Lexicon of Consolation and Connection
The Marginalian
by Maria Popova
2w ago
“To be a Flower is profound Responsibility,” Emily Dickinson wrote. From the moment she pressed the first wildflower into her astonishing teenage herbarium until the moment Susan pinned a violet to her alabaster chest in the casket, she filled her poems with flowers and made of them a lexicon of feeling, part code language and part blueprint to the secret chambers of the heart. The symbolic language of flowers peaked in Dickinson’s time, seeded by Erasmus Darwin’s radical romantic botany a century earlier and popularized by books like The Moral of Flowers, but humans have long heavied flowers ..read more
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Nature’s Oldest Mandolin: The Poetic Science of How Cicadas Sing
The Marginalian
by Maria Popova
2w ago
“The use of music,” Richard Powers wrote, “is to remind us how short a time we have a body” — a truth nowhere more bittersweet than in the creature whose body is the oldest unchanged musical instrument on Earth: a tiny mandolin silent for most of its existence, then sonorous with a fleeting symphony of life before the final silence. Each summer, cicadas arrive by the billions with their strange red eyes, their mysterious prime-shaped periodic cycles, and their haunting nocturnal emergence, sudden and synchronized. For years they have lived underground, soft milky-white nymphs nursed by endosy ..read more
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The Work of Art: Inside the Creative Process of Beloved Artists, Poets, Musicians, and Other Makes of Meaning
The Marginalian
by Maria Popova
2w ago
“The true artist,” Beethoven wrote in his touching letter of advice to a young girl aspiring to be an artist, “is sad not to have reached that point to which his better genius only appears as a distant, guiding sun.” The choreographer Martha Graham called this particular shade of sadness “divine dissatisfaction.” It is something quite different from the small mean voice of the internal critic — it is rather a matter of “making your unknown known,” as Georgia O’Keeffe wrote in her magnificent letter of advice on the creative life to the young Sherwood Anderson, “and keeping the unknown always ..read more
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The Universe in Verse Book
The Marginalian
by Maria Popova
3w ago
“We need science to help us meet reality on its own terms, and we need poetry to help us broaden and deepen the terms on which we meet ourselves and each other. At the crossing point of the two we may find a way of clarifying our experience and of sanctifying it.” Seven years after the improbable idea of cross-pollinating poetry and science came abloom on a Brooklyn stage in a former warehouse built in Whitman’s lifetime, after it traveled to the redwoods of Santa Cruz and the sunlit skies of Austin, The Universe in Verse has become a book — fifteen portals to wonder, each comprising an essay ..read more
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