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Motivational Stories

Sylvia Plath and the Loneliness of Love – Brain Pickings

Sylvia Plath and the Loneliness of Love – Brain Pickings

Western psychologists have rightly observed that “who we are and who we become depends, in part, on whom we love.” Zen Buddhists have rightly observed that “to love without knowing how to love wounds the person we love.” That lacuna between whom and how, between the objects of our love and its observance, is powerful…

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Motivational Stories

Chance, the Universe, and the Pale Blues of Knowing Who We Are – Brain Pickings

The Mirror of Enigmas: Chance, the Universe, and the Pale Blues of Knowing Who We Are

It takes a great sobriety of spirit to know your own depths — and your limits. It takes a special grandeur of spirit to know the limits of your self-knowledge. A recent brush with those limits reminded me of a short, stunning essay by Jorge Luis Borges (August 24, 1899–June 14, 1986) titled “The Mirror…

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Motivational Stories

The Conscience of Color, from Chemistry to Culture – Brain Pickings

The Conscience of Color, from Chemistry to Culture

“The deep blue water of the open sea far from land is the color of emptiness and barrenness; the green water of the coastal areas, with all its varying hues, is the color of life,” Rachel Carson wrote as she illuminated the science and splendor of the marine spectrum, enriching the literary canon of history’s…

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Motivational Stories

Matter Delights in Music, and Became Bach – Brain Pickings

Matter Delights in Music, and Became Bach

“A rough sound was polished until it became a smoother sound, which was polished until it became music,” Mark Strand wrote in his splendid poem “The Everyday Enchantment of Music,” touching on the materiality of that enchantment: Music is matter dancing in the mind. Music has a profound spiritual power over us — an echo…

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Motivational Stories

Bronson Alcott on Gardening and Genius – Brain Pickings

Bronson Alcott on Gardening and Genius – Brain Pickings

“I had a pleasant time with my mind, for it was happy,” Louisa May Alcott wrote in her diary just after she turned eleven, a quarter century before Little Women bloomed from that uncommon mind — a mind whose pleasures and powers were nurtured by the profound love of nature her father wove into the…

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Motivational Stories

An Illustrated Homage to Ernest Everett Just’s Trailblazing Life and Life-Redefining Science – Brain Pickings

The Vast Wonder of the World: An Illustrated Homage to Ernest Everett Just’s Trailblazing Life and Life-Redefining Science

“I have marveled at the green urchins on a Maine shore, clinging to the exposed rock at low water of spring tides, where the beautiful coralline algae spread a rose-colored crust beneath the shining green of their bodies,” Rachel Carson wrote as she was revolutionizing our understanding of the marine world with her poetic science…

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Motivational Stories

Aldous Huxley on Knowledge vs. Understanding and the Antidote to Our Existential Helplessness – Brain Pickings

Aldous Huxley on Knowledge vs. Understanding and the Antidote to Our Existential Helplessness – Brain Pickings

To understand anything — another person’s experience of reality, another fundamental law of physics — is to restructure our existing knowledge, shifting and broadening our prior frames of reference to accommodate a new awareness. And yet we have a habit of confusing our knowledge — which is always limited and incomplete: a model of the…

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Motivational Stories

Keith Haring on Art, the Diversity of Human Experience, and What Makes Us Who We Are – Brain Pickings

Keith Haring on Art, the Diversity of Human Experience, and What Makes Us Who We Are

“Envy those who see beauty in everything in the world,” artist Egon Schiele wrote in contemplating why visionaries tend to come from the minority. Artists are so often those whom society paints as other by some hue of identity and belonging, and yet they are also the ones who, in seeing how and what most…

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Motivational Stories

Notes on Building Paradise – Brain Pickings

Notes on Building Paradise – Brain Pickings

“The gardener digs in another time, without past or future, beginning or end… Here is the Amen beyond the prayer,” Derek Jarman wrote as he grieved his dying friends, faced his own death, and contemplated art, mortality, and resistance while planting a garden between an old lighthouse and a new nuclear plant on a barren…

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Motivational Stories

Ornithologist J. Drew Lanham on the Spirituality of Science and the Wonder of the Wilderness – Brain Pickings

Nature as Worship: Ornithologist J. Drew Lanham on the Spirituality of Science and the Wonder of the Wilderness

“Our origins are of the earth. And so there is in us a deeply seated response to the natural universe, which is part of our humanity,” Rachel Carson wrote as she reflected on science and our spiritual bond with nature a decade before she interleaved her training as a scientist and her poetic reverence of…

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Motivational Stories

Marcus Aurelius on How to Keep Your Mental Composure and Emotional Equanimity When People Let You Down – Brain Pickings

The Stoic Antidote to Frustration: Marcus Aurelius on How to Keep Your Mental Composure and Emotional Equanimity When People Let You Down

The vast majority of our mental, emotional, and spiritual suffering comes from the violent collision between our expectations and reality. As we dust ourselves off amid the rubble, bruised and indignant, we further pain ourselves with the exertion of staggering emotional energy on outrage at how reality dared defy what we demanded of it. The…

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Motivational Stories

Thich Nhat Hanh’s Simple, Profound Mindfulness Practice to Magnify Your Capacity for Joy – Brain Pickings

Tangerine Meditation: Thich Nhat Hanh’s Simple, Profound Mindfulness Practice to Magnify Your Capacity for Joy

My poet friend Marie Howe gives the students in her ecopoetry class a lovely assignment: At the outset of the semester, each young poet is asked to name the animal they find most repulsive, then to learn everything they can about it — scientifically, historically, culturally. By the conclusion of the course, they have to…

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Motivational Stories

Naomi Shihab Nye’s Beloved Ode to Kindness, Animated – Brain Pickings

Naomi Shihab Nye’s Beloved Ode to Kindness, Animated

“Nothing can make our life, or the lives of other people, more beautiful than perpetual kindness,” Leo Tolstoy — a man of colossal compassion and colossal blind spots — wrote while reckoning with his life as it neared its end. “Practice kindness all day to everybody and you will realize you’re already in heaven now,”…

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Motivational Stories

Poet Joy Harjo’s Reflections on Science and Meaning in Response to an Astronomer’s Otherworldly Photographs of Earth – Brain Pickings

Secrets from the Center of the World: Poet Joy Harjo’s Reflections on Science and Meaning in Response to an Astronomer’s Otherworldly Photographs of Earth

“Place and a mind may interpenetrate till the nature of both is altered,” the trailblazing Scottish mountaineer and poet Nan Shepherd wrote into the void of self-elected obscurity decades before her work was posthumously rediscovered as a rare masterpiece of landscape poetics irradiated by the human search for meaning. A generation later, another trailblazing woman…

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Motivational Stories

Hasui Kawase’s Stunning Japanese Woodblock Prints from the 1920s-1950s – Brain Pickings

Hasui Kawase’s Stunning Japanese Woodblock Prints from the 1920s-1950s – Brain Pickings

“After you have exhausted what there is in business, politics, conviviality, love, and so on — have found that none of these finally satisfy, or permanently wear — what remains?” the aging Walt Whitman asked in his diary as he contemplated what makes life worth living while recovering from a paralytic stroke, then answered: “Nature…

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