culture

Leonard Michaels’s Playful and Poignant Meditations on the Enigma of Our Feline Companions and How They Reveal Us to Ourselves – Brain Pickings – Self Improvement Article

“A cat must have three different names,” T.S. Eliot proclaimed in the iconic verses that became the basis of one of the longest-running and most beloved Broadway musicals of all time. “You can never know anyone as completely as you want. But that’s okay, love is better,” Caroline Paul wrote generations later in her gorgeous memoir of finding the meaning of life through a lost cat. Between our longing for love, our urge to name what we barely understand, and…

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3 Alternatives to New Year’s Resolutions – Productivity Theory – Productivity Article

Twitter Pinterest LinkedIn Facebook There’s a reason your New Year’s resolutions are difficult to achieve, and that reason is not you. The problem is New Year’s resolutions themselves.New Year’s resolutions are often very shortsighted or broad, sweeping generalizations about making yourself better. They rarely contain no actionable goals and are predicated on roughly 36 hours of making a mental checklist of everything that’s “wrong” with you.It’s easy to lose motivation when the only goal you set for yourself is an…

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How Adults Can Support the Mental Health of Black… – Happiness Article

With his last breaths, George Floyd called out, “Momma!” before he was killed in Minneapolis. He was one of nearly 1,300 black people have been killed by police in the last five years. They are two times more likely to be killed by police than white Americans. Riana Elyse Anderson, University of Michigan Facing destructive policies and attitudes in the United States, mothers and fathers try to safeguard their black children from racism. This often takes the form of preparing…

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Amanda Palmer Reads Poet Jane Hirshfield’s Miniature Masterwork of Insistence, Persistence, and Compassionate Courage – Brain Pickings – Happiness Article

“When we come to it,” Maya Angelou beckoned in her stunning cosmic vision for humanity, “when the curtain falls on the minstrel show of hate…” Then, she bent the mind in language to remind us, and only then will we have risen to our cosmic destiny — a destiny built on the discipline of never forgetting, never daring let ourselves forget, our shared cosmic belonging. “For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.    Remember?” But we do forget,…

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Octavio Paz on Being Other, the Courage of Responsibility, the Meaning of Hope, and the Only Fruitful Portal to Change – Brain Pickings – Personal Development Article

I came to this country not having inherited its sins, not being afforded many of its rights, but eager to share — and having by now devoted my adult life to sharing — in its responsibilities, its atonements, its healing. I came alone, barely out of my adolescence, into a country not yet out of its adolescence — that developmental stage when the act of taking responsibility is most difficult, and the impulse toward evasion and escapism most intense. “I…

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The Illustrated Story of How a Little Boy Who Grew Up to Be a Trailblazing Astronaut Fought Segregation at the Public Library – Brain Pickings – Self Improvement Article

“Knowledge sets us free… A great library is freedom,” Ursula K. Le Guin wrote in contemplating the sacredness of public libraries. “Freedom is not something that anybody can be given; freedom is something people take and people are as free as they want to be,” her contemporary James Baldwin — who had read his way from the Harlem public library to the literary pantheon — insisted in his courageous and countercultural perspective on freedom. Ronald McNair (October 21, 1950–January 28,…

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Grammy Award-Winning Jazz Vocalist Cécile McLorin Salvant Reads Audre Lorde’s Poignant Poem “The Bees” – Brain Pickings – Happiness Article

Bees hum the essential harmonics in the symphony of life — crucial pollinators responsible for our planet’s diversity, responsible for the flourishing of the entire food chain, responsible even for Earth’s resplendent colors. It is hardly a wonder that they have long moved poets, those essential harmonizers of human life, to rapture and reverie. Emily Dickinson reverenced “their velvet masonry,” Walt Whitman their “their perpetual rich mellow boom” and “great glistening swelling bodies,” and Ross Gay their murmured assurance, “saying…

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How to Make Sense of the Chaos and Uncertainty – Self Improvement Article

It might seem impossible to make sense of a nation-wide racial revolt being dropped into the middle of a pandemic in a country that’s already seething with bitter cultural divides, but let’s try anyway.Don’t worry, I’m not going to get political here. Instead, I’d like to use this as an opportunity to walk you through how I go about processing extremely emotional and upsetting public events such as this. I think this is important because right now, due to social…

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Edward Gorey’s Tender and Surprising Vintage Illustrated Allegory About the Meaning of True Love – Brain Pickings – Personal Development Article

Great loves, like great works of art, live at the crossing point of the improbable and the inevitable. That, at least, has been my experience, both as a scholar of history and as a private participant in the lives of the heart. Such loves come unbidden, without warning or presentiment, and that is their supreme insurance against the projectionist fantasy that so frequently disguises not-love — infatuation, obsession, jealousy, longing — as love. But when they do come, with all…

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When Did Time Really Begin? The Little Loophole in the Big Bang – Brain Pickings – Self Improvement Article

A pleasurable warping of the figuring faculty to contemplate what was there before the before. By Maria Popova “Time says ‘Let there be,’” Ursula K. Le Guin wrote shortly before her death in her splendid “Hymn to Time,” saluting the invisible dimension that pervades and encompasses the whole of life: “the radiance of each bright galaxy. And eyes beholding radiance. And the gnats’ flickering dance. And the seas’ expanse. And death, and chance.” But what does time say of the…

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James Baldwin on Keeping the Light Alive Amid the Entropic Darkness of Being, Set to Music – Brain Pickings – Happiness Article

“Against this cosmic background the lifespan of a particular plant or animal appears, not as drama complete in itself, but only as a brief interlude in a panorama of endless change,” Rachel Carson wrote in her poetic, unexampled 1937 essay Undersea as she incubated the ideas that would awaken humanity’s ecological conscience. “There is grandeur in this view of life,” Darwin had written in the closing pages of On the Origin of Species in the middle of the previous century,…

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Poet and Philosopher David Whyte’s Gorgeous Letter to Children About Reading, Amazement, and the Exhilaration of Discovering the Undiscovered – Brain Pickings – Personal Development Article

I remember the feeling of first seeing the Moon through the small handheld telescope my father had smuggled from East Germany — how ancient yet proximate it felt, how alive, as though I could glide my six-year-old finger over its rugged radiance — the feeling of electric astonishment at something so surprising yet so inevitable, something that seemed to have always been waiting there just for me to discover it. I remember next having that feeling nearly a decade later,…

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Stunning 19th-Century Illustrations from the World’s First Encyclopedia of One of Earth’s Most Vibrant and Delicate Ecosystems – Brain Pickings – Self Improvement Article

While the German marine biologist Ernst Haeckel was salving his fathomless personal tragedy with the transcendent beauty of jellyfish, having enraptured Darwin with his drawings, his English colleague William Saville-Kent (July 10, 1845–October 11, 1908) was transcending his own darkness on the other side of the globe with the vibrant, irrepressible aliveness of the Great Barrier Reef and its astonishing creatures. Anemones from The Great Barrier Reef of Australia, 1893. (Available as a print.)By the end of his adolescence, William…

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Everything I Know, I Learned on “Fresh Air” With Terry Gross – Spiritual Article

Last updated on May 15th, 2020 at 07:56 pmFor years, I’ve been meaning to write a piece about Terry Gross’s Fresh Air interview show on America’s National Public Radio. For about as long as I’ve been telling friends, “Terry Gross should get some kind of Pulitzer Prize!”What finally got me typing away today was this: A couple of months back, my wife and I finished watching the 15 available seasons of Grey’s Anatomy. We knew we had to get over…

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David Byrne Performs His Hymn of Optimism and Countercultural Anthem of Resistance and Resilience with the Brooklyn Youth Chorus – Brain Pickings – Happiness Article

In the spring of 2019, when David Byrne (b. May 14, 1952) took the stage at the third annual Universe in Verse to read a science-inspired love poem to time and chance titled “Achieving Perspective,” I introduced him as one of the last standing idealists in our world — a countercultural force of lucid and luminous optimism, kindred to Walt Whitman, who wrote so passionately about optimism as a mighty force of resistance and a pillar of democracy. Two weeks…

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Elizabeth Gilbert Reads a Poignant Forgotten Poem About the Big Dipper and Our Cosmic Humanity – Brain Pickings – Personal Development Article

For as long as we have been raising enchanted eyes to the night sky — that is, for as long as we have been the conscious, curious, wonder-stricken animals recognizable as human — we have marveled at seven bright stars outlining the third largest constellation in the Northern hemisphere, and humanity’s most beloved one. Ursa Major — Latin for “the great she-bear” — has enraptured the human imagination since before we had the words to call it the Big Dipper…

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Kierkegaard on the Spiritual and Sensual Power of Music, the Essence of Genius, and the Key to a Timeless Work of Art – Brain Pickings – Happiness Article

“Without music life would be a mistake,” Nietzsche bellowed his unmistakable baritone of buoyant nihilism into the vast chorus of great thinkers extolling the singular power of music. A year before his birth, Søren Kierkegaard (May 5, 1813–November 11, 1855) — another thinker of soaring lucidity, unafraid to plumb the darkest depths for the elemental truths — took up the subject in a portion of Either/Or: A Fragment of Life (public library) — the 1843 masterwork that furnished his insight…

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Lisel Mueller’s Tender Poem About the Lush, Unclassifiable Bond Between Johannes Brahms and Clara Schumann – Brain Pickings – Self Improvement Article

Among the handful of things I have learned about life with the calm, quiet clarity of elemental knowing is one that bears repeating: The human heart is an ancient beast that roars and purrs with the same passions, whatever labels we may give them. We are so anxious to classify and categorize, both nature and human nature. It is a beautiful impulse — to contain the infinite in the finite, to wrest order from the chaos — but it is…

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Natascha McElhone Reads Hermann Hesse’s 100-Year-Old Love Letter to Trees in a Virtual Mental Health Walk Through Kew Gardens – Brain Pickings – Personal Development Article

In the final years of his life, the great neurologist Oliver Sacks reflected on the physiological and psychological healing power of nature, observing that in forty years of medical practice, he had found only two types of non-pharmaceutical therapy helpful to his patients: music and gardens. It was in a garden, too, that Virginia Woolf, bedeviled by lifelong mental illness, found the consciousness-electrifying epiphany that enabled her to make some of humanity’s most transcendent art despite her private suffering. When…

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Nobody Knows What Is Going On – Personal Development Article

I’m reposting the Monday newsletter on the site because I believe it’s important. It’s an effort to cut through a lot of the confusion and bullshit out there with regards to the current pandemic. Things have gotten contentious around the world with a lot of blaming, arguing, and finger-pointing going on. So, I’d like to use this as an opportunity to dispel anyone’s sense of certainty about, well, anything.Let’s dive right in.No one has any idea what the fuck is…

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Rosanne Cash Reads Lisel Mueller’s Subtle Poem About Growing Out of Our Limiting Frames of Reference – Brain Pickings – Happiness Article

We parse and move through reality as multidimensional creatures in a multidimensional world. The experience of dimensions, this living fact of spatiality, may be our most direct mathematical grasp of the universe — an understanding woven into our elemental sensemaking, into our language and our metaphors: We speak of our social circles, our love triangles, our spheres of influence, the depth of our feelings, the height of our intellect, the length of our lives. But we are also quite limited…

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Astronaut Leland Melvin Reads Pablo Neruda’s Love Letter to Earth’s Forests – Brain Pickings – Self Improvement Article

“Today, for some, a universe will vanish,” Jane Hirshfield writes in her stunning poem about the death of a tree a quarter millennium after William Blake observed in his most passionate letter that how we see a tree is how we see the world, and in the act of seeing we reveal what we are: “The tree which moves some to tears of joy is in the eyes of others only a green thing which stands in the way,” he…

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Physicist Brian Greene on Mortality, Our Search for Meaning, and the Most Important Fact of the Universe – Brain Pickings – Personal Development Article

“Death is our friend precisely because it brings us into absolute and passionate presence with all that is here, that is natural, that is love,” Rainer Maria Rilke wrote in letter to his grief-stricken friend, the Countess Margot Sizzo-Noris-Crouy, in 1923 — the year he published, after a decade of work, his miraculous Duino Elegies. Nearly a century after Rilke’s death, the theoretical physicist and mathematician Brian Greene — who is reading and reflecting on the ninth of Rilke’s ten…

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What Happens When We Lose Our Social Rituals? – Happiness Article

When the shelter-in-place orders came down in California, the first thing I thought of was my cousin’s wedding—the one I was supposed to officiate. I’d been working on creating a special ceremony since the fall. But once the pandemic kicked in, everything was cancelled. Perhaps my cousin is luckier than some—after all, a wedding can be rescheduled. Even so, he had to let go of a cherished dream of when and how his wedding would take place. He’s certainly not…

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Amanda Palmer Reads “Einstein’s Mother” by Tracy K. Smith – Brain Pickings – Happiness Article

The forces of chance that chisel reality out of the bedrock of possibility — this improbable planet, this improbable life — leave ghostly trails of what-ifs, questions asked and unanswered, unanswerable. Why do you, this particular you, exist? Why does the universe? And once the dice have fallen in favor of existence, there are so many possible points of entry into life, so many possible fractal paths through it — so many ways to live and die even the most…

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Mary Shelley on What Makes Life Worth Living and Nature’s Beauty as a Lifeline to Regaining Sanity – Brain Pickings – Self Improvement Article

Half a century before Walt Whitman considered what makes life worth living when a paralytic stroke boughed him to the ground of being, Mary Shelley (August 30, 1797–February 1, 1851) placed that question at the beating heart of The Last Man (free ebook | public library) — the 1826 novel she wrote in the bleakest period of her life: after the deaths of three of her children, two by widespread infectious diseases that science has since contained; after the love…

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Full Show – Brain Pickings – Personal Development Article

Each spring, I join forces with my friends at Pioneer Works for an improbable idea that began in 2017 and has taken on a life of its own: The Universe in Verse — a charitable celebration of the science and splendor of nature through poetry. The third annual Universe in Verse at Pioneer Works. April 23, 2019. Photograph: Walter Wlodarczyk.With our sleeves rolled up and sweat-soaked in preparation for the 2020 virtual edition (“trailer” here), and with the world stunned…

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Astrophysicist Janna Levin Reads Astronomer and Poet Rebecca Elson’s Stunning Cosmic Salve for Our Creaturely Tremblings of Heart – Brain Pickings – Happiness Article

It is our biological wiring to exist — and then not; it is our psychological wiring to spend our lives running from this elemental fact on the hamster wheel of busyness and the hedonic treadmill of achievement, running from the disquieting knowledge that the atoms huddling for a cosmic blink around the shadow of a self will one day disband and return to the “aloof stars” that made them. If we still ourselves for a moment, or are bestilled by…

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An Illustrated 1896 Manifesto for the Universal Splendors of the Bicycle as an Instrument of Self-Reliance, a Training Machine for Living with Uncertainty, and a Portal to Joy – Brain Pickings – Self Improvement Article

After the first progenitor of the modern bicycle — a seat atop two in-line metal wheels without gears, chain, tires, or pedals even, to be straddled and propelled Flintstones-style with strides pushing off the ground, dubbed the “running machine” — made its debut in the early nineteenth century, novelty-enthusiastic riders struggling to balance the contraption began migrating from the carriage-rutted streets to the smoother sidewalks, bolting past startled pedestrians. The proto-bicycle was soon banned in Germany, England, and America as…

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Newton, the Plague, and How Quarantine Fomented the Greatest Leap in Science – Brain Pickings – Personal Development Article

In the 1650s, the penumbra of plague slowly began eclipsing Europe. Italy fell first, soon Spain, then Germany, then Holland. From across the slender cell wall of the Channel, England watched and trembled, then cautiously relaxed — for about a decade, some divine will seemed to be shielding the country. But the world was already worshipping at the altar of commerce and the forces of globalization had already been set into motion — with England’s economy relying heavily on trade,…

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