culture

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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How do Dodge a Deadline Like William Blake – Brain Pickings – Personal Development Article

Neil Gaiman has semi-facetiously located the two primary sources of good ideas in desperation and deadlines. Still, deadlines come and go and, devoid of ideas or dry of their actualization, we despair. We make excuses. Sometimes — like when the dog actually ate Steinbeck’s manuscript — they happen to be true. But the best excuse is always the truth itself — creative work is slower and more sacred in its unwillable transmissions from the muse than we ever like to…

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The Weighing – Brain Pickings – Happiness Article

A well to the groundwater of our strength. By Maria Popova “All you have is what you are, and what you give,” Ursula K. Le Guin wrote in a philosophical novel contemplating suffering and getting to the other side of pain. “If equal affection cannot be / Let the more loving one be me,” W.H. Auden wrote in a philosophical poem contemplating the courage to love more, to give more, in the face of even the most heartbreaking and elemental…

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Being More Mindful of the Types of Information We Consume – Self Improvement Article

If you consume a lot of junk food, your body is going to feel like crap and not function at its best. And if you consume a lot of junk information, your mind is going to feel like crap and not function at its best. In other words… we have to be just as mindful of what we consume with our minds as we are of what we consume with our bodies. The information that you consume on a daily…

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13 Life-Learnings from 13 Years of Brain Pickings – Brain Pickings – Personal Development Article

More fluid reflections on keeping a solid center. By Maria Popova On October 23, 2006, Brain Pickings was born as a plain-text email to seven friends. It was then, and continues to be, a labor of love and ledger of curiosity, although the mind and heart from which it sprang have changed — have grown, I hope — tremendously. At the end of the first decade, I told its improbable origin story and drew from its evolution the ten most…

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Iris Murdoch on Imperfection as Integral to Goodness and How the Beauty of Nature and Art Leavens Our Most Unselfish Impulses – Brain Pickings – Self Improvement Article

To recognize that there are infinitely many kinds of beautiful lives is to step outside the self, beyond its particular conceptions of beauty — which includes, of course, moral beauty — and walking beside it with humble, nonjudgmental curiosity about the myriad other selves afoot on their own paths, propelled by their own ideals of the Good. Such recognition requires what the great moral philosopher and novelist Iris Murdoch (July 15, 1919–February 8, 1999) termed unselfing — a difficult, triumphant…

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Whitman’s Immortal Words, Illustrated in Stunning Cyanotype – Brain Pickings – Happiness Article

A charitable celebration of art, science, our shared belonging. By Maria Popova “Every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you,” Walt Whitman wrote in one of his profoundest verses, in a golden age of science and social change, yet an era at least as divisive as ours. The sentiment became a focal point for Figuring and inspiration for The Astronomy of Walt Whitman — the special pop-up edition of The Universe in Verse, taking place on Governors Island…

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Rare, Arresting Illustrations for Edgar Allan Poe’s Short Stories by the Irish Stained Glass and Book Artist Harry Clarke – Brain Pickings – Personal Development Article

“I prefer the old fine-lined illustrations… I prefer Grimms’ fairy tales to the newspapers’ front pages,” the Nobel-winning Polish poet Wisława Szymborska wrote in her poignant poem “Possibilities.” Old fine-lined illustrations and classic tales that outgrim the newspapers’ front pages, twisting the grisly into the sublime, come together in a rare 1933 edition of Edgar Allan Poe’s Tales of Mystery and Imagination (public library), with illustrations by the Irish stained-glass and book artist Harry Clarke (March 17, 1889–January 6, 1931),…

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Bill T. Jones Performs Poet Ross Gay’s Ode to Our Highest Human Potentialities – Brain Pickings – Happiness Article

“Before I was born out of my mother, generations guided me,” Walt Whitman wrote in Song of Myself, envisioning his unborn self as the product of myriad potentialities converging since the dawn of time — “the nebula cohered to an orb” and “the long, slow strata piled” to make it possible. A century and a half after Whitman, Ross Gay — another poet of uncommon sensitivity to our shared longings and largehearted wonderment at the universe in its manifold expressions…

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Pico Iyer on Finding Beauty in Impermanence and Luminosity in Loss – Brain Pickings – Self Improvement Article

Rilke considered winter the season for tending to one’s inner garden. A century after him, Adam Gopnik reverenced the bleakest season as a necessary counterpoint to the electricity of spring, harmonizing the completeness of the world and helping us better appreciate its beauty — without winter, he argued, “we would be playing life with no flats or sharps, on a piano with no black keys.” What, then, of autumn — that liminal space between beauty and bleakness, foreboding and bittersweet,…

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Shelley on Poetry and the Art of Seeing – Happiness Article

“Poetry… reproduces the common universe of which we are portions and percipients, and it purges from our inward sight the film of familiarity which obscures from us the wonder of our being.” By Maria Popova “We hear and apprehend only what we already half know,” Thoreau wrote in contemplating the crucial difference between knowing and seeing. To apprehend reality unblinded by our preconceptions, to truly see rather than pre-know, takes a special receptivity, a special channel of perception that bypasses…

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Kevin Kelly’s Letter to Children About the Glory of Books and the Superpower of Reading in an Image-Based Digital Culture – Personal Development Article

In his epoch-making 1632 book Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems: Ptolemaic and Copernican, Galileo made a subtle case for how reading gives us super-human powers. Printed books were a young medium then, still in many ways a luxury for the privileged. But as the cogs of culture continued to turn, revolutionizing ideologies and technologies, making books common as daylight, the written word never lost this power. 350 years later, Carl Sagan — another patron saint of cosmic truth…

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What Miss Mitchell Saw: An Illustrated Celebration of How 19th-Century Astronomer Maria Mitchell Blazed the Way for Women in Science – Self Improvement Article

“Mingle the starlight with your lives and you won’t be fretted by trifles,” Maria Mitchell (August 1, 1818–June 28, 1889) often told her Vassar students — the world’s first university class of professionally trained women astronomers — having herself become America’s first professional woman astronomer, thanks to her historic discovery of a new telescopic comet on October 1, 1847, after sixteen tenacious years of sweeping the sky night after night. Mitchell (whose extraordinary life was the seed for what became…

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How to Find Your Silver Linings – Happiness Article

MAGGIE SMITH It’s funny, my daughter this year, in her Mother’s Day card wrote to me, “Thank you for helping me be optimistic.” And it made me cry, but it also made me laugh, because if you had told me even five years ago, but certainly 10 years ago, and definitely 15 years ago, that anyone would accuse me of being an optimist, I would have laughed. I’m sure my own mother would have laughed. I would probably call myself…

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Year of the Monkey: Patti Smith on Dreams, Loss, Love, and Mending the Broken Realities of Life – Happiness Article

“Life is a dream. ‘Tis waking that kills us,” Virginia Woolf wrote in Orlando — her groundbreaking novel that gallops across centuries of history, across lines of logic and convention, to telescope a vision for a different future of the human heart. There are moments in life when it is no longer clear whether we dream our dreams or are dreamt by them — moments when reality presses against us with such intensity, acute and overwhelmingly real, that all we…

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