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Cassandra Austen’s Drawings of English Royalty for Teenage Jane Austen’s Parodic History of England


“By a partial, prejudiced & ignorant Historian.” “At fifteen, she had few illusions about other people and none about herself,” Virginia Woolf once wrote of Jane Austen.

D.T. Suzuki on What Freedom Really Means and How Zen Can Help Us Cultivate Our Character


“The ego-shell in which we live is the hardest thing to outgrow.” Alan Watts may be credited with popularizing Eastern philosophy in the West, but he owes the entire trajectory of his life and legacy to a single encounter with the Zen Buddhist sage D.T.

How to Listen Between the Lines: Anna Deavere Smith on the Art of Listening in a Culture of Speaking


“Some people use language as a mask. And some want to create designed language that appears to reveal them but does not.” In his exquisite taxonomy of the nine kinds of silence, Paul Goodman included “the silence of listening to another speak, catching the drift and helping him be clear.” And yet so often we think of listening as merely an idle pause amid the monologue of making ourselves clear.

How Playing Music Benefits Your Brain More than Any Other Activity


“Playing music is the brain’s equivalent of a full-body workout.” “Each note rubs the others just right, and the instrument shivers with delight.

Rilke on What It Really Means to Love


“For one human being to love another: that is perhaps the most difficult of all our tasks… the work for which all other work is but preparation.” The human journey has always been marked by our quest to understand love in order to reap its fruits.

Pulitzer-Winning Poet Mark Strand on the Heartbeat of Creative Work and the Artist’s Task to Bear Witness to the Universe


“It’s such a lucky accident, having been born, that we’re almost obliged to pay attention.” In the 1996 treasure Creativity: The Psychology of Discovery and Invention (public library) — the same invaluable trove of insight that demonstrated why “psychological androgyny” is essential to creative genius and gave us Madeleine L’Engle on creativity, hope, and how to get unstuck — pioneering psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi interviewed 91 prominent artists, writers, scientists, and other luminaries, seeking to uncover the common tangents of the creative experience at its highest potentiality.

Sloth, Sissiness, and the Search of Self: Young Tolstoy’s Diaries and the Problem of Compulsive Intentional Organization


“This is the entire essence of life: Who are you? What are you?” Some of humanity’s greatest writers championed the creative benefits of keeping a diary, but hardly any literary titan has explored the medium’s spiritual and existential value more intimately than Leo Tolstoy (September 9, 1828–November 10, 1910).

The Absurdity of Infinity: Astrophysicist Janna Levin Explains Whether the Universe Is Infinite or Finite in Letters to Her Mother


“The simpler the insight, the more profound the conclusion.” In 1998, while on the cusp of becoming one of the most significant theoretical cosmologists of our time, mathematician-turned-astrophysicist Janna Levin left her post at Berkeley and moved across the Atlantic for a prestigious position at Cambridge University.

Happy Birthday, Lewis Carroll: How the Beloved Author’s Rules of Letter-Writing Can Make Email More Civil


“If your friend makes a severe remark, either leave it unnoticed, or make your reply distinctly less severe.” I have a friend who writes me wonderful letters.

Anne Lamott on Hope, Meaning, and How We Help Each Other Endure


“The world is always going to be dangerous, and people get badly banged up, but how can there be more meaning than helping one another stand up in a wind and stay warm?

The Quiet Book: An Illustrated Love Letter to Life’s Meaningful Pauses


A sweet celebration of the nuanced stillnesses that comprise aliveness. “There is the dumb silence of slumber or apathy… the fertile silence of awareness, pasturing the soul… the silence of peaceful accord with other persons or communion with the cosmos,” wrote Paul Goodman in his sublime taxonomy of the nine kinds of silence.

Emerson on Talent vs. Character, Our Resistance to Change, and the Key to True Personal Growth


“People wish to be settled; only as far as they are unsettled is there any hope for them.” “Cut short of the floundering and you’ve cut short the possible creative outcomes,” Denise Shekerjian wrote in contemplating the capacity for “staying loose” that many MacArthur geniuses have in common.

The Principle of Infinite Pains: Legendary Filmmaker Maya Deren on Cinema, Life, and Her Advice to Aspiring Filmmakers


“The love of life itself… seems to me larger than the loving attention to a life. But, of course, each contains the other…” Russian-born American filmmaker, poet, photographer, choreographer, and critic Maya Deren (April 29, 1917–October 13, 1961) endures as one of humanity’s most significant experimental filmmakers and champions of independent cinema.

Little Tree: An Uncommonly Beautiful and Subtle Japanese Pop-Up Book about the Cycle of Life


“No one notices such a small presence…” Pop-up books have a singular magic, but even the pioneering vintage “interactive” picture-books of Italian graphic designer Bruno Munari can’t compare to the beauty, subtlety, and exquisite elegance of those by Japanese graphic designer and book artist Katsumi Komagata.

Hans Christian Andersen’s Daily Routine


From coffee time to bedtime, via a necessary stretch of royal tedium. I have a longstanding fascination with the daily routines of writers — most recently, those of C.S.

Control, Surrender and the Paradox of Self-Transcendence: Wisdom from a Vintage Scandinavian Children’s Book


“It’s a pity that exciting things always stop happening when you’re not afraid of them anymore and would like to have a little fun.” “It is the first thing any one has to learn in order to live,” Henry Miller wrote in comparing the art of living to dance, driven by rhythm into which the dancer must relax.

What to Do When Your Wife Is More Successful than You: Wise Advice from Tchaikovsky’s Father, 150 Years Ahead of Its Time


“Married happiness is based upon mutual respect, and you would no more permit your wife to be a kind of servant, than she would ask you to be her lackey.” Eastern Europe is not exactly a region known for empowering women and promoting gender equality.

Control, Surrender and the Paradox of Self-Transcendence: Wisdom from a Vintage Scandinavian Children’s Book


“It’s a pity that exciting things always stop happening when you’re not afraid of them anymore and would like to have a little fun.” “It is the first thing any one has to learn in order to live,” Henry Miller wrote in comparing the art of living to dance, driven by rhythm into which the dancer must relax.

To Paint Is to Love Again: Henry Miller on Art, How Hobbies Enrich Us, and Why Good Friends Are Essential for Creative Work


“What sustains the artist is the look of love in the eyes of the beholder. Not money, not the right connections, not exhibitions, not flattering reviews.” One particularly icy winter day not too long ago, I reluctantly retired my bike, took the subway into Manhattan, and gave up my seat to a kindly woman a few decades my senior.

Bertrand Russell on Boredom, Excitement, Parenting, and How to Cultivate the Essential Capacity for Fruitful Monotony


“A generation that cannot endure boredom will be a generation of little men… of men in whom every vital impulse slowly withers, as though they were cut flowers in a vase.” Between the time Kierkegaard contemplated boredom and psychoanalyst Adam Phillips made his bewitching case for why the capacity for it is essential for a full life, Bertrand Russell (May 18, 1872–February 2, 1970) tussled with the subject more elegantly than any other thinker before or since.


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