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James Baldwin and Margaret Mead on Reimagining Democracy for a Post-Consumerist Culture


“It demands … a vast amount of passion and some courage to attack the forces which menace everybody’s life.” NOTE: This is the third installment in a multi-part series celebrating Mead and Baldwin’s historic yet forgotten conversation.

Dante and the Eternal Quest for Nonreligious Divinity: Physicist Margaret Wertheim on Science and God


“I believe that there is a love that moves the sun and the other stars.” Centuries after Ada Lovelace, the world’s first computer programmer, contemplated the relationship between science and religion, and decades after Carl Sagan did the same in his exquisite Varieties of Scientific Experience, physicist-turned-science-writer Margaret Wertheim offers perhaps the most elegant and emboldening reconciliation of these two frequently contrasted approaches to the human longing for truth and meaning.

The Antarctic Book of Cooking and Cleaning: The Extraordinary Edible Record of Two Women Explorers’ Journey to the End of the World


“In Antarctica, everything is stripped down… It is only who you are and what you do that counts.” “Housekeeping, the art of the infinite, is no game for amateurs,” Ursula K.

Kierkegaard on Popular Opinion, the Petty Jealousies of Criticism, and the Only Cure for Embitterment in Creative Work


“I need the enchantment of creative work to help me forget life’s mean pettinesses.” “Publicity in general is a very destructive thing, for any artist,” Susan Sontag admonished in 1969.

The Crossroads of Should and Must: An Intelligent Illustrated Field Guide to Finding Your Bliss


“Should is how other people want us to live our lives… Choosing Must is the greatest thing we can do with our lives.” “Does what goes on inside show on the outside?

Love Is Love: Maria Bello on Resisting the Labels We Are Given and Redefining Those We Give Ourselves


A courageous quest for nuance that liberates the different experiences of partnerships we have in the modern world.

Virginia Woolf on the Elasticity of Time


“An hour, once it lodges in the queer element of the human spirit, may be stretched to fifty or a hundred times its clock length.” Long before psychologists had any insight into our warped perception of time — for instance, why it slows down when we’re afraid, speeds up as we age, and gets twisted when we vacation — or understood how our mental time travel made us human, another great investigator of the human psyche captured the extraordinary elasticity of time not in science but in art.

The Great Zen Buddhist Teacher Thich Nhat Hanh on How to Do “Hugging Meditation”


“When we hug, our hearts connect and we know that we are not separate beings.” “I embrace you with all my heart,” Albert Camus wrote in his beautiful letter of gratitude to his childhood teacher shortly after winning the Nobel Prize.

JFK on Poetry, Power, and the Artist’s Role in Society: His Eulogy for Robert Frost, One of the Greatest Speeches of All Time


“If art is to nourish the roots of our culture, society must set the artist free to follow his vision wherever it takes him.

Our Microbes, Ourselves: How the Trillions of Tiny Organisms Living Inside Us Are Redefining What It Means to Be Human


“You are mostly not you… We are not individuals; we are ecosystems.” Being alone may be the central anxiety of our time but, as it turns out, you are never really alone — at least in a biological sense: Every single cell of you — that is, every cell made of human DNA — is kept company by ten cells of microbes that call your body home.

E.B. White on Idea-Incubation and the Two Faces of Discipline


How to ride the “wave of emotion” in creative work on a raft of conscientious revision. “One must continually watch what one is doing, without being carried away by it … [but] another kind of discipline is needed for using the mind with support from the imagination,” Simone Weil wrote in contemplating the key to discipline in 1933.

An Adventure in Paris with Pussy and Lovey: Alice B. Toklas and Gertrude Stein Become Babysitters


A positively pleasing illustrated take on a true story. The fateful first meeting of Gertrude Stein and Alice B.

The Miraculous in the Mundane: Annie Dillard on Reclaiming Our Capacity for Joy and Wonder


“The world is fairly studded and strewn with pennies cast broadside from a generous hand.” Annie Dillard (b.

David Whyte on the True Meaning of Friendship, Love, and Heartbreak


“Heartbreak is how we mature… There is almost no path a human being can follow that does not lead to heartbreak.” “Words belong to each other,” Virginia Woolf asserted in the only surviving recording of her voice.

Where the Wild Things Really Are: Maurice Sendak Illustrates the Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm


A dialogue in darkness and light across two centuries of magic and genius. It is always an immeasurable delight when a beloved artist reimagines a beloved children’s book — take, for instance, the various illustrations for Alice in Wonderland and The Hobbit from the past century — but I have a special soft spot for reimaginings of the Brothers Grimm fairy tales, which remain among humanity’s most exquisite and enduring storytelling.

Delacroix’s Rare Illustrations for Goethe’s Faust


“Goethe … peered into the mysteries of human existence with a hope of solving the imponderables that hold the lives of men enmeshed.” “Why not take advantage of those antidotes to civilization, good books?

What Makes a Hero: Joseph Campbell’s Seminal Monomyth Model for the Eleven Stages of the Hero’s Journey, Animated


“It has always been the prime function of mythology and rite to supply the symbols that carry the human spirit forward.” Nearly four decades before Joseph Campbell (March 26, 1904–October 30, 1987) refined his enduring ideas on how to find your bliss and have fulfilling life, the legendary mythologist penned The Hero with a Thousand Faces (public library) — his seminal theory outlining the common journey of the archetypal hero across a wealth of ancient myths from around the world.

The Workhorse and the Butterfly: Ann Patchett on Writing and Why Self-Forgiveness Is the Most Important Ingredient of Great Art


“The ability to forgive oneself … is the key to making art, and very possibly the key to finding any semblance of happiness in life.” “All makers must leave room for the acts of the spirit,” Ursula K.

Einstein on the Common Language of Science in a Rare 1941 Recording


“Perfection of means and confusion of goals seem — in my opinion — to characterize our age.” What makes Albert Einstein endure as “the quintessential modern genius” isn’t merely his monumental contribution to science but also his unflinching faith in the human spirit and in our civilizational capacity for good even in the face of undeniable evil.

Turning Trauma into Power: Marina Abramovic on How Her Harrowing Childhood Became the Raw Material for Her Art


“You know you are an artist if you have to do art — it’s like breathing and you have no choice. Nothing should be able to stop you.” Let’s get one thing out of the way: Although creative history is littered with tortured geniuses who survived terrible childhoods full of abuse and violence — take Franz Kafka’s abusive father or Maya Angelou’s rape or Eve Ensler’s trauma — and although my own early years contain elements of these experiences (sans the subsequent genius), I am not one who romanticizes pain, upheaval, and adversity as prerequisites for success.


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