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Motivational Stories

Astronomer Natalie Batalha Reads Dylan Thomas’s Cosmic Serenade to Trees and the Wonder of Being Human – Brain Pickings

Being but Men: Astronomer Natalie Batalha Reads Dylan Thomas’s Cosmic Serenade to Trees and the Wonder of Being Human

Trees are unworded thoughts, periscopes of perspective. They are both less alive than we think and more sentient than we thought. In them, we see what we are and see what we can be. From them, we draw our best metaphors for love, for art, for happiness. Crowning the canon of branched reflections on what…

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Motivational Stories

Essential Life-Learnings from 14 Years of Brain Pickings – Brain Pickings

Part of the Milky Way, from a study made between 1874 and 1876

Brain Pickings was born on October 23, 2006, as a short email to seven friends. Seven years and several incomprehensible million readers into its existence, I began what has since become an annual tradition — a distillation of the most important things I have learned about living while reading and writing my way through life;…

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Motivational Stories

Bruce Lee on Death and What It Takes to Be an Artist of Life – Brain Pickings

Bruce Lee on Death and What It Takes to Be an Artist of Life

“Do you need a prod? / Do you need a little darkness to get you going?” Mary Oliver asked in her stunning love poem to life, composed in the wake of a terrifying diagnosis. “Let me be as urgent as a knife, then, / and remind you of Keats, / so single of purpose and…

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Motivational Stories

An Uncommonly Enchanting Painted Poem Celebrating the Wilderness of the Imagination and Our Capacity for Love, Trust, and Hope – Brain Pickings

The Unwinding: An Uncommonly Enchanting Painted Poem Celebrating the Wilderness of the Imagination and Our Capacity for Love, Trust, and Hope

“Some dreams aren’t dreams at all, just another angle of physical reality,” Patti Smith wrote in Year of the Monkey — her exquisite dreamlike book-length prose poem about mending the broken realities of life, a meditation drawn from dreams that are “much more than dreams, as if originating from the dawn of mind.” As I…

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Motivational Stories

Ellen Bass’s Immense and Intimate Poem of Perspective and Persistence, Read by Amanda Palmer – Brain Pickings

The Big Picture: Ellen Bass’s Immense and Intimate Poem of Perspective and Persistence, Read by Amanda Palmer

“Yours is a grave and sobering responsibility, but it is also a shining opportunity,” the poet turned marine biologist Rachel Carson enjoined a gathering of young people about to commence their lives as she was exiting hers, having catalyzed the modern environmental movement with her courageous 1962 book Silent Spring “Mankind is challenged, as it…

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Motivational Stories

Bertrand Russell on the Two Pillars of Human Flourishing – Brain Pickings

The Love of Truth and the Truth of Love: Bertrand Russell on the Two Pillars of Human Flourishing

In the mid-1950s, as the icy terror of the Cold War was cloaking the embering rubble of two World Wars, the BBC producer and cartoonist Hugh Burnett envisioned an unexampled program to serve both as a cross-cultural bridge and a mirror beaming back to a dimmed and discomposed humanity the noblest and most beautiful ideas…

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Motivational Stories

Frederick Douglass on the Wisdom of the Minority and the Real Meaning of Solidarity – Brain Pickings

Frederick Douglass on the Wisdom of the Minority and the Real Meaning of Solidarity

“Truth always rests with the minority,” the lonely and ostracized Kierkegaard fumed in his journal in 1850, “because the minority is generally formed by those who really have an opinion, while the strength of a majority is illusory, formed by the gangs who have no opinion.” Across the Atlantic, another visionary of uncommon lucidity and…

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Motivational Stories

Helen Macdonald on Eclipses as an Antidote to Ideologies of Otherness and a Portal to Human Connection – Brain Pickings

The Sun, the Shadow, and the Unselved Self: Helen Macdonald on Eclipses as an Antidote to Ideologies of Otherness and a Portal to Human Connection

Just when you begin rueing that nothing original could possibly remain to be written about the cosmic spectacle of a total solar eclipse — after astronomer Maria Mitchell’s pioneering essay detailing the science and enchantment of the 1869 eclipse, after Virginia Woolf’s arresting 1927 account of total darkness in the celestial lighthouse, after Annie Dillard’s…

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Motivational Stories

Artist Maira Kalman Illustrates the Extraordinary Love Story of Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas – Brain Pickings

Artist Maira Kalman Illustrates the Extraordinary Love Story of Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas

It is not often that one encounters a great love letter to a great love, composed by someone outside the private world of that love, serenading it across the spacetime of epochs and experiences. In my many years of dwelling in the lives and loves and letters of beloved artists, scientists, and writers, I have…

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Motivational Stories

Octavia Butler on How (Not) to Choose Our Leaders – Brain Pickings

Octavia Butler on How (Not) to Choose Our Leaders

In 1845, as the forgotten visionary Margaret Fuller was laying the foundation of modern feminism, advocating for black voting rights, and insisting that “while any one is base, none can be entirely free and noble,” she contemplated what makes a great leader and called for “no thin Idealist, no coarse Realist,” for a person “of…

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Motivational Stories

Poet and Philosopher David Whyte’s Stunning Meditation on Walking into the Questions of Our Becoming – Brain Pickings

Sometimes: Poet and Philosopher David Whyte’s Stunning Meditation on Walking into the Questions of Our Becoming

An invitation into the transcendent disquietude of those stirrings “that can make or unmake a life,” “that have no right to go away.” By Maria Popova The role of the artist, James Baldwin believed, is “to make you realize the doom and glory of knowing who you are and what you are.” This, too, is…

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Motivational Stories

A Field Guide from the Pioneering Buddhist Teacher Sylvia Boorstein – Brain Pickings

How to Master the Ancient Art of Walking Meditation in Modern Life: A Field Guide from the Pioneering Buddhist Teacher Sylvia Boorstein

“I have met with but one or two persons in the course of my life who understood the art of Walking, that is, of taking walks — who had a genius, so to speak, for sauntering,” Henry David Thoreau wrote in his classic manifesto for the spirit of sauntering, before proclaiming that “every walk is…

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Motivational Stories

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

A Cat: Leonard Michaels’s Playful and Poignant Meditations on the Enigma of Our Feline Companions and How They Reveal Us to Ourselves

“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…

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Motivational Stories

John McPhee on Artistic Originality and Self-Doubt – Brain Pickings

John McPhee on Artistic Originality and Self-Doubt

“I’m not a writer. I’ve been fooling myself and other people. I wish I were.” So wrote John Steinbeck as he was working on the book that earned him a Pulitzer and paved the way for his Nobel Prize. “I am assailed with my own ignorance and inability,” he exorcised the demon of self-doubt in…

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Motivational Stories

D.H. Lawrence on Trees, Solitude, and How We Root Ourselves When Relationships Collapse – Brain Pickings

D.H. Lawrence on Trees, Solitude, and How We Root Ourselves When Relationships Collapse

To walk among trees is to be reminded that although relationships weave the fabric of life, one can only be in relationship — in a forest or a family or a friendship — when firmly planted in the sovereignty of one’s own being, when resolutely reaching for one’s own light. A century ago, Hermann Hesse…

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