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Simone Weil on True Genius and the Crushing Illusion of Inferiority


“When one hungers for bread one does not receive stones.” “Many of the tenets of sainthood are also to be cultivated in the committed writer,” Melissa Pritchard observed in her beautiful meditation on art as a form of active prayer.

Two Nine-Year-Olds’ Magnificent Open Letter to Disney About Racial and Gender Stereotypes


“Like most people we love your attractions, but we found some problems with some of them and those problems are stereotypes.” In the spring of 2015, a nine-year-old boy named Dexter went to Disneyland with his family and found himself deeply unsettled — not by a scary ride or the unpleasantness of waiting in line, but by some of the most unsettling cultural issues of our time: racial and gender stereotypes, culminating in a profound failure to honor today’s nuanced identity politics.

Bukowski on Writing, True Art, and the Courage to Create Outside the Forms of Approval


“Art is its own excuse, and it’s either Art or it’s something else. It’s either a poem or a piece of cheese.” “There are contradictory impulses in everything,” Susan Sontag observed in lamenting how our inability to sit with duality makes us fall into perilous polarities.

Michelangelo on Poverty, Creative Integrity, and the Right Not To Be Interrupted


“I do not know which is better, the ill that helps or the good that harms.” Italian Renaissance sculptor, painter, poet, architect, and engineer Michelangelo (March 6, 1475–February 18, 1564) is celebrated as one of the greatest and most influential artists of all time.

Neil Gaiman’s Philosophical Dream, in a Whimsical Animation Narrated by Amanda Palmer


A weird and wonderful journey into the woodland of the subconscious. “A dream can be so strange that it seems that another subject has come to dream with us,” philosopher Gaston Bachelard observed in his reflection on dreams and reverie.

Art as a Form of Active Prayer and What Writers Really Labor For


“Immerse yourself in the common ground of the universe so that your true voice — not the egoistic voice that clamors vainly for power (for it will ruin you if you listen to it) — your authentic voice … may be heard.” Why do we humans create — why do artists make art, why do writers write?

Hunter S. Thompson on Violence, Vengeance, and the Only True Fix for Our Destructive Impulses


“One of the most important things is to recognize that we do have this mounting violence in us, and then to find the reasons.” More than half a century after Tolstoy’s little-known correspondence with Gandhi on violence, human nature, and why we hurt each other, as the civil rights movement was being built on a philosophy of nonviolence and Leonard Bernstein was making his moving case for the only true antidote to violence, twenty-something Hunter S.

Elizabeth Alexander on What Poetry Does for the Human Soul


“…and are we not of interest to each other?” Elizabeth Alexander is among the most entrancing and spiritually invigorating poets of our time, and only the fourth poet in history to read at a U.S.

What Pet Should I Get? Dr. Seuss’s Previously Unseen Illustrated Wink at the Paradox of Choice and the Fear of Missing Out


“Oh boy! It is something to make a mind up.” Theodor Geisel (March 2, 1904–September 24, 1991), better known as Dr.

Beatrix Potter, Mycologist: The Beloved Children’s Book Author’s Little-Known Scientific Studies and Illustrations of Mushrooms


“Imagination is the precursor to policy, the precondition to action. Imagination, like wonder, allows us to value something.” Beatrix Potter (July 28, 1866–December 22, 1943) is one of the most beloved and influential storytellers of all time.

Albert Einstein’s Love Letters


“How was I able to live alone before, my little everything? Without you I lack self-confidence, passion for work, and enjoyment of life — in short, without you, my life is no life.” Under the tyranny of our present productivity-fetishism, we measure the value of everything by the final product rather than by the richness of the process — its rewards, its stimulating challenges, the aliveness of presence with which we fill every moment of it.

The World We Live In: An Extraordinary Reality-Check


The chilling human story behind an almost-statistic. “You’ve got to tell the world how to treat you,” James Baldwin told Margaret Mead in their magnificently prescient 1970 conversation on race.

A Zen Master Explains Death and the Life-Force to a Child and Outlines the Three Essential Principles of Zen Mind


“Zen practice … requires great faith, great courage, and great questioning.” If death is so enormous a mystery that we remain unable to wrap our grownup minds around it, despite comfort from our great poets and consolation from our great philosophers, how are tiny humans to make sense of it all?

Amelia Earhart on Sticking Up for Yourself, in a Remarkable Letter of Advice to Her Younger Sister


“Adult human beings owe as much to themselves as to others, for by asserting individual rights, the baser natures of those who have them are held in check.” Amelia Earhart (b.

Robert Graves on Love and Lust


“Love is really a recognition of truth, a recognition of another person’s integrity and truth.” Poet, novelist, mythologist, essayist, and translator Robert Graves (July 24, 1895–December 7, 1985) is among the most influential artists of the past century — a piercing mind carried on the wings of a thoroughly free spirit, an unflinching idealist with a certain Mad Hatter quality to his genius.

How Naming Confers Dignity Upon Life and Gives Meaning to Existence


“Finding the words is another step in learning to see.” To name a thing is to acknowledge its existence as separate from everything else that has a name; to confer upon it the dignity of autonomy while at the same time affirming its belonging with the rest of the namable world; to transform its strangeness into familiarity, which is the root of empathy.

The Rebellious and Revolutionary Life of Galileo, Illustrated


How a college dropout reordered the heavens and forever changed our understanding of our place in the universe.

An Illustrated Meditation on Memory and Its Imperfections, Inspired by Borges


A most unusual invitation to repaint the reality we take for granted through the art of moral imagination.

Get Out of Your Own Light: Aldous Huxley on Who We Are, the Trap of Language, and the Necessity of Mind-Body Education


“In all the activities of life, from the simplest physical activities to the highest intellectual and spiritual activities, our whole effort must be to get out of our own light.” Aldous Huxley endures as one of the most visionary and unusual minds of the twentieth century — a man of strong convictions about drugs, democracy, and religion and immensely prescient ideas about the role of technology in human life; a prominent fixture of Carl Sagan’s reading list; and the author of a little-known allegorical children’s book.

Toni Morrison on How to Be Your Own Story and Reap the Rewards of Adulthood in a Culture That Fetishizes Youth


“There is nothing… more gratifying than true adulthood… Its achievement is a difficult beauty, an intensely hard won glory, which commercial forces and cultural vapidity should not be permitted to deprive you of.” In May of 2004, a decade after receiving the Nobel Prize for her “visionary force and poetic import” and shortly after collaborating with her son on a little-known and lovely children’s book, Toni Morrison was invited to Wellesley College to deliver what is both among the greatest commencement addresses of all time and a courageous counterpoint to the entire genre — Morrison defies every graduation cliché with wisdom at once thoroughly grounding and immensely elevating, striking that difficult but crucial balance of critical thinking and hope.


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