The art of holding up one’s own end of the dialogue. “I believe that there is a love that moves the sun and the other stars,” physicist Margaret Wertheim asserted as she turned to Dante in reconciling science and spirituality.
How to master the inverse pyramid of transmuting information into wisdom. I have always considered writing a way of organizing reality — of organizing one’s own mind and, in recording that process, decluttering the reader’s understanding of some subtle or staggering aspect of the world.
“You first need to have an ego in order to be aware that it doesn’t exist.” For the past few centuries, Western philosophy has maintained that human beings are driven by enlightened self-interest — a view predicated on the needs and desires of a solid self.
“I shall hope against hope that you may weather this misery, and be restored again to the joy of full living.” The history of creative culture is strewn with silent supporters whose unconditional love and encouragement have carried artists and thinkers to greatness.
“To finish the moment, to find the journey’s end in every step of the road, to live the greatest number of good hours, is wisdom.” In contemplating the shortness of life, Seneca considered what it takes to live wide rather than long.
Hauntingly beautiful visual vignettes in paper and clay. In his magnificent meditation on fairy tales and the psychology of fantasy, J.R.R.
Visual verses celebrating the glorious grandeur of life on our pale blue dot. The mystery of marine life has compelled humanity for millennia, from ancient Indian mythology to Aristotle, who was the first to outline the distinction between invertebrates and vertebrates in his Historia Animalium.
The perplexity of why your identity endures even if all the cells in your body are wholly replaced every seven years.
A revelatory reality check and a clarion call for life-saving compassion. “One feels as if one were lying bound hand and foot at the bottom of a deep dark well, utterly helpless,” Vincent van Gogh wrote to his brother from the grip of mental illness.
“I have gathered a posy of other men’s flowers, and nothing but the thread that binds them is mine own.” I often think of reading not as the acquisition of static knowledge but as the active springboard for thinking and dynamic contemplation — hence the combinatorial, LEGO-like nature of creativity, wherein we assemble building blocks of existing knowledge into new formations of understanding that we consider our original ideas.
“So many doors open when you are present with an angle.” “It is through [the] invisible holes in reality that poetry makes its way,” Adrienne Rich wrote in her sublime meditation on the art of the possible.
“People are generally better persuaded by the reasons which they have themselves discovered than by those which have come into the mind of others.” If it weren’t for the “backfire effect” — the strange psychological phenomenon behind our propensity for self-righteousness — changing people’s minds wouldn’t be such an uncomfortable luxury.
“The impulse to create begins — often terribly and fearfully — in a tunnel of silence. Every real poem is the breaking of an existing silence.” “When power corrupts, poetry cleanses,” John F.
“The good life is one inspired by love and guided by knowledge. Neither love without knowledge, nor knowledge without love can produce a good life” Bertrand Russell (May 18, 1872–February 2, 1970) endures as one of humanity’s most lucid yet luminous thinkers, his ideas tracking between the timeless and the prophetic.
A touching celebration of the “intense sense of love, death, and transience, inseparably mixed.” “I have been able to see my life as from a great altitude, as a sort of landscape, and with a deepening sense of the connection of all its parts,” visionary neurologist Oliver Sacks wrote in his poignant, beautiful, and courageous farewell to life.
“To forgive is to assume a larger identity than the person who was first hurt.” “Our emotional life maps our incompleteness,” philosopher Martha Nussbaum wrote in her luminous letter of advice to the young.
“Stuff your eyes with wonder… live as if you’d drop dead in ten seconds. See the world. It’s more fantastic than any dream made or paid for in factories.” Something decidedly magical happens when a great visual artist interprets a literary classic, translating a beloved text into image.
“My desire for knowledge is intermittent, but my desire to bathe my head in atmospheres unknown to my feet is perennial and constant.” A century and a half before the wise and wonderful Wendell Berry championed the way of ignorance, long before Jacob Bronowski admonished against the dark side of certainty and scientists came to recognize “thoroughly conscious ignorance” as central to human progress, another sage of the ages made this point with enormous elegance and piercing precision.
A gentle reminder of what we stand to lose when we lock away loss. “Children … are the most attentive, curious, eager, observant, sensitive, quick, and generally congenial readers on earth,” E.B.
A specimen from the fossil record of Truth and Reason. “People wish to be settled,” Emerson wrote in his spectacular 1841 essay on character and the key to personal growth, “[but] only as far as they are unsettled is there any hope for them.” Exactly a decade later, Charlotte Brontë (April 21, 1816–March 31, 1855) — a mind at least as brilliant as Emerson’s and a spirit at least as expansive — tussled with this vital and vitalizing interplay of hope and unsettlement as she faced one of the most momentous frontiers of the human experience.