Figuring

Trailblazing Writer and Feminist Margaret Fuller on the Social Value of Intellectual Labor and Why Artists Ought to Be Paid – Brain Pickings – Personal Development Article

By the end of her thirties, Margaret Fuller (May 23, 1810–July 19, 1850) — one of the central figures in Figuring — had shaped her young nation’s sensibility in literature and art as founding editor and prolific contributor to the visionary Transcendentalist journal The Dial, advocated for prison reform and African American voting rights as the only woman in a New York newsroom, trekked through war-torn Rome seven months pregnant as America’s first foreign war correspondent, and composed the foundational…

Read More

Herman Melville’s Passionate, Beautiful, Heartbreaking Love Letters to Nathaniel Hawthorne – Brain Pickings – Self Improvement Article

The summer when nineteen-year-old Emily Dickinson met the love of her life — the orphaned mathematician-in-training Susan Gilbert, who would come to be the poet’s greatest muse, her mentor, her primary reader and editor, her fiercest lifelong attachment, her “Only Woman in the World” — another intense, label-defying love was igniting in the heart of another literary titan-to-be some fifty miles westward. That other love unfolds alongside Dickinson’s in Figuring — a book I wrote to explore, among other existential…

Read More

Rachel Carson’s Birdsong Notation, Set to Music – Brain Pickings – Self Improvement Article

A melodic homage to the patron saint of the modern environmental conscience. By Maria Popova One of the loveliest discoveries in my research for Figuring came at Yale’s magical Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library, where Rachel Carson’s papers are housed: Among her ample letters, manuscripts, and field notebooks I found a piece of railway stationery from the now-defunct Portland Rose train line, onto which Carson had counted bird calls and scribbled the notation of a birdsong melody — that…

Read More

Amanda Palmer Reads Neil Gaiman’s Stunning Poem Celebrating Rachel Carson’s Legacy of Culture-Shifting Courage – Brain Pickings – Self Improvement Article

“To sin by silence, when we should protest, makes cowards out of men,” the poet Ella Wheeler Wilcox wrote in her piercing and prescient 1914 anthem against silence. Half a century later, these words would come to embolden one of the most revolutionary voices humanity has produced — a scientist who changed culture by writing like a poet. “Knowing what I do, there would be no future peace for me if I kept silent,” marine biologist and poet laureate of…

Read More

Astrophysicist Janna Levin Reads W.H. Auden’s Sublime Ode to Our Unrequited Love for the Universe – Brain Pickings – Self Improvement Article

I wrote Figuring (public library) to explore the interplay between chance and choice, the human search for meaning in an unfeeling universe governed by equal parts precision and randomness, the bittersweet beauty of asymmetrical and half-requited loves, and our restless impulse to uncover the deepest truths of nature, even at the price of our convenient existential delusions of self-importance. (More about the book here.) These are vast, thickly interwoven themes, difficult to distill in a single sentiment, so I chose…

Read More