culture

Thoreau on the True Value of a Tree – Brain Pickings – Happiness Article

More than two years after a fire started by a teenage boy destroyed 47,000 acres of old-growth forest in Oregon’s Columbia River Gorge, having just resolved to face the new year like a tree, I found myself on the brink of tears before the blackened trunk of an ancient ponderosa pine as I walked the sylvan scar tissue of the tragedy. A conversation with my hiking companion — a dear friend currently working with the Navajo Nation on preserving and…

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Mary Shelley’s Father on Parenting and How an Early Love of Books Paves the Way for Lifelong Happiness – Brain Pickings – Personal Development Article

In the final years of the eighteenth century, the radical political philosopher and novelist William Godwin (March 3, 1756–April 7, 1836) entered into a pioneering marriage of equals with another radical political philosopher and novelist: Mary Wollstonecraft, founding mother of what later ages termed feminism. While Wollstonecraft was pregnant with their daughter — future Frankenstein author Mary Shelley, a Romantic radical in her own unexampled right — Godwin began channeling their nightly conversations about how to raise happy, intelligent, and…

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Kahlil Gibran on Befriending Time – Brain Pickings – Happiness Article

I have been thinking about time lately, as I watch the seasons turn and wait for a seemingly endless season of the heart to set; I have been thinking about Ursula K. Le Guin’s lovely “Hymn to Time” and its kaleidoscopic view of time as stardust scattered in “the radiance of each bright galaxy” and the “eyes beholding radiance,” time as a portal that “makes room for going and coming home,” time as a womb in which “begins all ending”;…

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Poet and Painter Rebecca Hey’s Gorgeous 19th-Century Illustrations for the World’s First Encyclopedia of Trees – Brain Pickings – Self Improvement Article

“The tree which moves some to tears of joy is in the eyes of others only a green thing which stands in the way… As a man is, so he sees,” William Blake wrote in his most beautiful letter a quarter millennium before scientists began to see the molecular poetry of what trees feel and how they communicate. Perched partway in time between Blake’s time and ours, and partway in sensibility between the poetic and the scientific, Sylvan Musings, or,…

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Neil Gaiman Reads His Humanistic Poem for Refugees, Composed from a Thousand Definitions of Warmth from Around the World – Brain Pickings – Personal Development Article

“There is a huge abyss within every mind. When we belong, we have an outside mooring to prevent us from falling into ourselves,” the late, great Irish poet and philosopher John O’Donohue wrote as he channeled ancient Celtic wisdom on belonging. But given this mooring is already difficult enough a triumph in the privacy of each personhood, given the abyss already gapes fathomless enough in each inner world, what happens when the outside world — a world in which, as…

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10 Important Lessons We Learned from the 2010s – Self Improvement Article

Ah, yes, the time has come! A time that only occurs a few times in our adult lives. A time that is completely arbitrary and whose importance is invented for the sake of writing clickbaity headlines like this one. That’s right, it’s the end of the decade, motherfuckers.1 It’s one of those special times when writers and journalists who are whores to the constant internet content cycle get together and decide what the “bests” and “worsts” of the past ten…

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Potter and Poet M.C. Richards on What She Learned at the Wheel About Non-Dualism, Creative Wholeness, and the Poetry of Personhood – Brain Pickings – Happiness Article

Looking back on the first thirteen years of Brain Pickings, I termed my thirteen most important life-learnings “fluid reflections on keeping a solid center.” But how exactly do we locate our center and master its osmotic balance between fluidity and solidity? That is what poet, potter, and manual philosopher M.C. Richards (July 13, 1916–September 10, 1999) explores in her 1964 counterculture classic Centering: In Pottery, Poetry, and the Person (public library) — an inspired inquiry into “how we may seek…

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How Kepler Invented Science Fiction and Defended His Mother in a Witchcraft Trial While Revolutionizing Our Understanding of the Universe – Brain Pickings – Self Improvement Article

This essay is adapted from Figuring. This is how I picture it: A spindly middle-aged mathematician with a soaring mind, a sunken heart, and bad skin is being thrown about the back of a carriage in the bone-hollowing cold of a German January. Since his youth, he has been inscribing into family books and friendship albums his personal motto, borrowed from a verse by the ancient poet Perseus: “O the cares of man, how much of everything is futile.” He…

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The Best of Brain Pickings 2019 – Brain Pickings – Happiness Article

Love, poetry, friendship, solitude, and lots of trees. By Maria Popova In this annual review, following the annual selections of the year’s loveliest children’s books and overall favorite books, “best” is as usual a composite measure of what I most enjoyed thinking and writing about over the course of the year, and what you most ardently read and shared. It has been curious to observe, in this most difficult year of my life, the patterns that emerge — strong women’s…

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Favorite Children’s Books of 2019 – Brain Pickings – Self Improvement Article

Great children’s books are really miniature cartographies of meaning, emissaries of the deepest existential wisdom that cut across all lines of division, scuttle past the many walls adulthood has sold us on erecting, and slip in through the backdoor of our consciousness to speak — in the language of children, which is the language of unselfconscious sincerity — the most timeless truths to the truest parts of us. Here are the loveliest such truthful, timeless treasures I savored this year.…

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Sarah Kay Reads Whitman and Performs Her Splendid Song-Poem “Astronaut” – Brain Pickings – Personal Development Article

“A leaf of grass is no less than the journey work of the stars,” Walt Whitman bellowed from the golden age of American astronomy, through which he lived wide-eyed with wonder and ablaze with a belief in the unity of everything, the interconnectedness and inter-belonging of everything — the telescopic and the microscopic, the wondrous and the wretched. A century and a half later, his soul-salving poems continue to welcome the beautiful and the terrible equally as particles of our…

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Favorite Books of 2019 – Brain Pickings – Happiness Article

Long ago, when the present and the living appealed to me more, I endeavored to compile “best of” reading lists at the close of each year. Even then, those were inherently incomplete and subjective reflections of one person’s particular tastes, but at least my scope of contemporary reading was wide enough to narrow down such a selection. In recent years, these subjective tastes have taken me further and further into the past, deeper and deeper into the common record of…

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Edmund Burke’s Remarkable Letter to His Children About Generosity and the Importance of Honoring the Dignity of Those in Need – Brain Pickings – Happiness Article

The Anglo-Irish statesman and philosopher Edmund Burke (January 12, 1729–July 9, 1797) was a rare centaur of a creature. Although in the centuries since his death his ideas have been somewhat hijacked to conservative ends, in his own day they were embraced by liberals and conservatives alike. A staunch champion of freedom and a vocal critic of British colonialism, he influenced minds as vast and varied as Frankenstein author Mary Shelley, her radical philosopher father William Godwin, Romantic poetry beacons…

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Gorgeous Vintage Posters of Animals and Scientific Phenomena by Japanese Graphic Designer, Illustrator, and Printmaker Kazumasa Nagai – Brain Pickings – Self Improvement Article

A vibrant minimalist celebration of nature, from the scale of cells and atoms to the scale of elephants and the Moon. By Maria Popova Around the time the mid-century French artist and natural history curator Paul Sougy was creating his stunning scientific diagrams of the living world, a young man on the other side of this living world was just beginning to direct his attention and his own uncommon talent toward making visible and beautiful the mysterious processes and phenomena…

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What Color Is Night? Grant Snider’s Illustrated Invitation to Discover the Subtle Beauty of Darkness – Brain Pickings – Personal Development Article

A spare serenade to the spectrum of wonder between black and white. By Maria Popova “Were it not for shadows, there would be no beauty,” the Japanese novelist Junichiro Tanizaki wrote in his gorgeous 1933 love letter to darkness. More than a century before him, Goethe observed in his theory of color and emotion that “color itself is a degree of darkness.” Darkness, we could say, is the sum total of all the colors and all the emotions — a…

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Poet and Gardener Ross Gay’s Yearlong Experiment in Willful Gladness – Brain Pickings – Self Improvement Article

“The high value put upon every minute of time, the idea of hurry-hurry as the most important objective of living, is unquestionably the most dangerous enemy of joy,” Hermann Hesse wrote at the dawn of the twentieth century in trying to course-correct the budding consumerist conscience toward the small triumphs of attentive presence that make life worth living, adding: “My advice to the person suffering from lack of time and from apathy is this: Seek out each day as many…

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French Artist Paul Sougy’s Stunning Mid-Century Scientific Illustrations of Plants, Animals, and the Human Body – Brain Pickings – Personal Development Article

On a recent visit with a friend and her newborn daughter, I was completely taken with an enormous scientific diagram of a snail hanging by the crib, aglow with the thrill of science and the unmistakable vibrancy of mid-century graphic design. I asked about it — she said it was a vintage French classroom poster she had acquired at the Oakland Flea Market. Determined to find out more about its creator, I had only the tiny inscription in the bottom…

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It pays to be kind: improving workplace culture through kindness – Positive News – Positivity Article

Kindness might not be the first thing to spring to mind when you think about work. But more businesses are recognising that it is just as important to company culture as communication or collaboration. Being kind to others stimulates serotonin and oxytocin – hormones associated with happiness. Research also shows that people who are regularly kind have significantly lower levels of the stress hormone, cortisol. Now, the business world is starting to take note. “We’re a small, close-knit team, and…

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The Star Wars Prayer: An Excerpt From ’50 Ways To Pray’ – Spiritual Article

We live in a media-saturated culture. Each day thousands of promotional messages clamor for our attention. Television has become our national storyteller, with the TV screen becoming a focal point in most of our family rooms. But we can find prayer in our media culture — even “Star Wars.” What has prayer got to do with our media culture? Everything. Even if you were to “kill your television” and attempt to ban all brand-name advertising from entering your home, your…

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The Deep Fear That Makes Us Turn to Mister Rogers – Happiness Article

I’ve spent a lot of time with Mister Rogers over the last three years as I researched and wrote my book about his life and faith. Throughout, I have been fascinated by the question of why we keep summoning him forth from memory. A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood by Sony Pictures Releasing premiered on November 22, 2019. For decades, we have recalled Fred whenever something terrible happened in our world, sharing his comforting words and image on social media.…

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Alain de Botton on Existential Maturity and What Emotional Intelligence Really Means – Brain Pickings – Happiness Article

“Maturity is the ability to live fully and equally in multiple contexts,” poet and philosopher David Whyte wrote in one of his most beautiful meditations. A generation before him, Anaïs Nin took up the subject in her diary, which is itself a work of philosophy: “If you intensify and complete your subjective emotions, visions, you see their relation to others’ emotions. It is not a question of choosing between them, one at the cost of another, but a matter of…

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How to Start a New Life When You’re Feeling Stuck  – Productivity Theory – Productivity Article

Twitter Pinterest LinkedIn Facebook If you’re broke, in a toxic relationship or are experiencing monotony in your career, it’s easy to feel hopelessly stuck. It seems impossible to pull yourself out of your depressing situation and, besides, where would you start? When you feel stuck in a rut, it’s easy to let stress and despair blind you from opportunities to dig yourself out. You’re so focused on the negative, you don’t notice the positives.But, the good news is, even in…

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Kahlil Gibran on Silence, Solitude, and the Courage to Know Yourself – Brain Pickings – Self Improvement Article

Something strange and wondrous begins to happen when one spends stretches of time in solitude, in the company of trees, far from the bustle of the human world with its echo chamber of judgments and opinions — a kind of rerooting in one’s deepest self-knowledge, a relearning of how to simply be oneself, one’s most authentic self. Wendell Berry knew this when he observed that “true solitude is found in the wild places, where one is without human obligation” —…

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A Poetic Illustrated Meditation on the Meaning of Happiness and Its Quiet Everyday Sources – Brain Pickings – Personal Development Article

“What is your idea of perfect happiness?” asks the famous Proust Questionnaire. Posed to David Bowie, he answered simply: “Reading.” Jane Goodall answered: “Sitting by myself in the forest in Gombe National Park watching one of the chimpanzee mothers with her family.” Proust himself answered: “To live in contact with those I love, with the beauties of nature, with a quantity of books and music, and to have, within easy distance, a French theater.” The touching specificity of these answers…

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An Animated Explanation of the Greatest Unsolved Challenge to Our Understanding of Reality – Brain Pickings – Happiness Article

Reconciling the science of the very large with the science of the very small, with a sidewise possibility that everything we experience as reality is a holographic projection. By Maria Popova “It seems to be difficult for any one to take in the idea that two truths cannot conflict,” the trailblazing astronomer Maria Mitchell wrote in the middle of the nineteenth century as she contemplated the human search for truth. Since her era — a time predating the very notion…

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Relationship Lessons from Trees – Brain Pickings – Self Improvement Article

“The tree which moves some to tears of joy is in the eyes of others only a green thing which stands in the way,” William Blake wrote in his most beautiful letter. “As a man is, so he sees.” Walt Whitman saw trees as the wisest of teachers; Hermann Hesse as our mightiest consolation for mortality. Wangari Maathai rooted in them a colossal act of resistance that earned her the Nobel Peace Prize. Poets have elegized their wisdom, artists have…

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Rebecca West’s Extraordinary Love Letter to H.G. Wells in the Wake of Heartbreak – Brain Pickings – Happiness Article

“If during the next million generations there is but one human being born in every generation who will not cease to inquire into the nature of his fate, even while it strips and bludgeons him, some day we shall read the riddle of our universe,” the great English writer and feminist Rebecca West (December 21, 1892–March 15, 1983) wrote as she contemplated suffering, survival, and the will to keep walking the road to ourselves in her 1941 masterpiece Black Lamb…

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The Male Pregnancy of the Seahorse and the Fearless Trans Fish of the Coral Seas – Brain Pickings – Personal Development Article

“We need another and a wiser and perhaps a more mystical concept of animals,” the great nature writer Henry Beston insisted nearly a century ago. “In a world older and more complete than ours they move finished and complete, gifted with extensions of the senses we have lost or never attained, living by voices we shall never hear.” Over the long sweep of evolution, our fellow creatures have developed wondrous forms and faculties far superior to our own — from…

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Neil Gaiman Reads His Touching Tribute to the Lonely Genius Arthur Eddington, Who Confirmed Einstein’s Relativity – Brain Pickings – Happiness Article

“You have got a boy mixed of most kindly elements, as perhaps Shakespeare might say. His rapidly and clearly working mind has not in the least spoiled his character,” a school principal wrote at the end of the nineteenth century to the mother of a lanky quiet teenager who would grow up to be the great English astronomer Sir Arthur Stanley Eddington (December 28, 1882–November 22, 1944) and who would catapult Albert Einstein into celebrity by confirming his relativity theory…

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Beloved Children’s Book Author and Poet Ruth Krauss’s Lost Alphabet of Joy, Illustrated – Brain Pickings – Self Improvement Article

“Her lovely and original poetry has a flexibility that allowed me the maximum of space to execute my fantasy variations on a Kraussian theme,” Maurice Sendak wrote of the great children’s book author and poet Ruth Krauss (July 25, 1901–July 10, 1993), with whom he collaborated on two of the loveliest, tenderest picture-books of all time. A quarter century after the end of Krauss’s long life, lost fragments of her daring poetic imagination coalesced into a manuscript that alighted to…

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