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The Invention of Clouds: Goethe’s Poems for the Skies and His Heartfelt Homage to the Young Scientist Who Classified Clouds


“Most pioneers are at the mercy of doubt at the beginning, whether of their worth, of their theories, or of the whole enigmatic field in which they labour.” If I should ever cease to be amazed and enraptured by the magic of clouds, I should wish myself dead.

Declaration of the Independence of the Mind: An Extraordinary 1919 Manifesto Signed by Albert Einstein, Bertrand Russell, Jane Addams, and Other Luminaries


“We commit ourselves never to serve anything but the free Truth that has no frontiers and no limits and is without prejudice against races or castes.” Decades before Martin Luther King, Jr.

A Living Obituary: Faulkner’s Beautiful Epitaph for Himself


“He made the books and he died.” By the time 64-year-old William Faulkner took his last breath on July 6, 1962, he had been a little-known Jazz Age artist, a world-famous sage of literature, the author of an obscure children’s book with a curious back-story, the recipient of two Pulitzer Prizes, and a Nobel laureate whose prize acceptance speech is itself a supreme work of art.

The Art of Biophilia: Extraordinary Mosaics Incorporating Earth’s Most Colorful Creatures


A mesmerizing celebration of “the passionate love of life and of all that is alive.” In his 1973 book The Anatomy of Human Destructiveness, psychologist and philosopher Erich Fromm popularized the word biophilia as a term for a positive psychological state of being.

The Aesthetics of Silence: Susan Sontag on Art as a Form of Spirituality and the Paradoxical Role of Silence in Creative Culture


“The art of our time is noisy with appeals for silence. A coquettish, even cheerful nihilism. One recognizes the imperative of silence, but goes on speaking anyway.” “The impulse to create begins — often terribly and fearfully — in a tunnel of silence,” Adrienne Rich asserted in her spectacular 1997 lecture Arts of the Possible.

Teenage Sylvia Plath’s First Tragic Poem, with a Remembrance by Her Mother


“Once a poem is made available to the public, the right of interpretation belongs to the reader.” “Darker emotions may well put on the mask of quite unworldly things,” Sylvia Plath observed in a BBC interview shortly before she took her own life.

The Central Mystery of Quantum Mechanics, Animated


How a lineage of scientists pieced together the puzzle revealing the dual nature of the universe. Ever since Heisenberg stood on the shoulders of giants to pave the way for quantum mechanics, this captivating branch of science and its central fact — that light can behave both as a particle and as a wave — has challenged us to grapple with the perplexing duality of the universe, inspiring everything from critical questions about the future of science to mind-bending meditations at the intersection of theology and astrophysics to philosophical children’s books.

The Magic Box: A Whimsical Vintage Children’s Book for Grownups About Life, Death, and How To Be More Alive Every Day


“This book was written outside the cemetery wall … in memory of life, the wonder & pain of it & the unspeakable worthwhileness of every second of it.” “Death is our friend,” wrote Rilke in a beautiful 1923 letter, “precisely because it brings us into absolute and passionate presence with all that is here, that is natural, that is love.” And yet most of us spend our days dreading this inevitable and natural conclusion to the human journey, casting death as life’s ultimate and most hateful antagonist — a fear that invariably contracts our aliveness.

Amanda Palmer Reads Polish Nobel Laureate Wislawa Szymborska’s Poem “Life While-You-Wait”


Consolation for those moments when you feel “ill-prepared for the privilege of living.” One spring evening not too long ago, I joined the wonderful Amanda Palmer on a small and friendly stage at Chicago’s Old Town School of Folk Music and we read some Polish poetry together from Map: Collected and Last Poems (public library) — the work of Nobel laureate Wislawa Szymborska (July 2, 1923–February 1, 2012), for whom we share deep affection and admiration.

Thomas Mann’s Moving Tribute for His Dear Friend Hermann Hesse’s Sixtieth Birthday


“I… love the man, his serenely contemplative, kindly-mischievous air, the fine, deep glance of his poor weak eyes, which with their blueness light up the gaunt, sharply cut face…” Nothing sustains creative culture more sturdily than the invisible scaffolding of kinship between artists supporting each other through the merciless cycles of criticism, acclaim, and indifference.

An Experiment in Love: Martin Luther King, Jr. on the Six Pillars of Nonviolent Resistance and the Ancient Greek Notion of ‘Agape’


“To retaliate in kind would do nothing but intensify the existence of hate in the universe. Along the way of life, someone must have sense enough and morality enough to cut off the chain of hate.” Although Dr.

Legendary Victorian Art Critic John Ruskin on the Value of Imperfection and How Manual Labor Confers Dignity Upon Creative Work


“It is only by labour that thought can be made healthy, and only by thought that labour can be made happy, and the two cannot be separated with impunity.” Long before Anne Lamott admonished that perfectionism kills creativity, long before Joseph Campbell asserted that “what evokes our love … is the imperfection of the human being,” the great English art critic, draughtsman, watercolorist, and philanthropist John Ruskin (February 8, 1819–January 20, 1900) made history’s most beautiful and enlivening case for the value of imperfection in his 1853 book The Stones of Venice, eventually included in the altogether illuminating Ruskin anthology Unto This Last and Other Writings (public library).

The Art of Constructive Criticism: Trailblazing Feminist Margaret Fuller Rejects Young Thoreau and Helps Him Improve His Writing


“I can have no advice or criticism for a person so sincere; but, if I give my impression of him, I will say, ‘He says too constantly of Nature, she is mine.’ She is not yours till you have been more hers.” Few things reveal your intellect and your generosity of spirit — the parallel powers of your heart and mind — better than how you give feedback, especially if it is to a friend and especially if the work in question leaves something to be desired.

Where Children Play: Photographs of Playgrounds Around the World


From Bolivia to Bhutan, a visual ethnography of childhood experiences. “Children help us to mediate between the ideal and the real,” MoMA curator Juliet Kinchin wrote in her beautiful design history of childhood.

The Art of Constructive Criticism: Trailblazing Feminist Margaret Fuller Rejects Young Thoreau and Helps Him Improve His Writing


“I can have no advice or criticism for a person so sincere; but, if I give my impression of him, I will say, ‘He says too constantly of Nature, she is mine.’ She is not yours till you have been more hers.” Few things reveal your intellect and your generosity of spirit — the parallel powers of your heart and mind — better than how you give feedback, especially if it is to a friend and especially if the work in question leaves something to be desired.

Pathways to Bliss: Joseph Campbell on Why Perfectionism Kills Love and How to Save Your Relationship


“Perfection is inhuman… What evokes our love … is the imperfection of the human being.” “Where the myth fails, human love begins,” Anaïs Nin wrote in her diary in 1941.

The Value of Not Understanding Everything: Grace Paley’s Advice to Aspiring Writers


“Luckily for art, life is difficult, hard to understand, useless, and mysterious.” “As a person she is tolerant and easygoing, as a user of words, merciless,” the editors of The Paris Review wrote in the introduction to their 1992 interview with poet, short story writer, educator, and activist Grace Paley (December 11, 1922–August 22, 2007).

Poet and Philosopher David Whyte on Belonging and How to Be at Home in Yourself


“Our sense of slight woundedness around not belonging is actually one of our core competencies.” “Sit.

Emerson on What Beauty Really Means, How to Cultivate Its True Hallmarks, and Why It Bewitches the Human Imagination


“The secret of ugliness consists not in irregularity, but in being uninteresting.” Creative culture is woven of invisible threads of influence — someone sees something created by another and it sparks something else in their own mind.

Proust on What Art Does for the Soul and How to Stop Letting Habit Blunt Our Aliveness


“Artists are people who strip habit away and return life to its deserved glory.” “There are few things humans are more dedicated to than unhappiness,” philosopher Alain de Botton writes in the opening sentence of the intensely rewarding How Proust Can Change Your Life (public library).


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