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The Power Paradox: The Surprising Science of How We Gain and Lose Influence

“We rise in power and make a difference in the world due to what is best about human nature, but we fall from power due to what is worst.” “There are many fine things which we cannot say if we have to shout,” Thoreau wrote as he contemplated how silence ennobles speech.

Orson Welles Reads Walt Whitman’s “Song of Myself”

“All goes onward and outward … and nothing collapses, and to die is different from what any one supposed, and luckier.” My recent immersion in James Gleick’s exquisite inquiry into how our fascination with time travel mediates our anxiety about mortality reawakened in my conscience a few lines from Walt Whitman’s 1855 masterpiece Leaves of Grass (public library | public domain).

James Gleick on How Our Cultural Fascination with Time Travel Illuminates Memory, the Nature of Time, and the Central Mystery of Human Consciousness

“Every moment alters what came before. We reach across layers of time for the memories of our memories.” “Both in thought and in feeling, even though time be real, to realise the unimportance of time is the gate of wisdom,” Bertrand Russell in 1931 as he made his beautiful case for “a largeness of contemplation” in contemplating the nature of time.

The Difficult Balance of Intimacy and Independence: Beloved Philosopher and Poet Kahlil Gibran on the Secret to a Loving and Lasting Relationship

“Love one another but make not a bond of love: let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls.” “What’s the use of falling in love if you both remain inertly as-you-were?

The Secret Life of Trees: The Astonishing Science of What Trees Feel and How They Communicate

“A tree can be only as strong as the forest that surrounds it.” Trees dominate the world’s the oldest living organisms.

The Day I Became a Bird: A Tender Illustrated Parable of Falling in Love and Learning to Unmask Our True Selves

Imaginative assurance that we are worthy of love just as we are. In what remains the greatest definition of love, Tom Stoppard described the real thing as “knowledge of each other, not of the flesh but through the flesh, knowledge of self, the real him, the real her, in extremis, the mask slipped from the face.” And yet the grandest paradox of love — the source of its necessary frustration, the root of the inescapable lover’s sulk — is our insistence on crafting and putting on ever more elaborate masks under the mistaken belief that these idealized selves, presented to the object of our infatuation, would render us more desirable and worthier of love.

Virginia Woolf on the Nature of Memory and How It Threads Our Lives Together

“Memory is the seamstress, and a capricious one at that. Memory runs her needle in and out, up and down, hither and thither.” “In these all-seeing days, the traffic between memory and forgetting becomes untrackable,” Teju Cole wrote in his beautiful essay on photography and “our paradoxical memorial impulses.” But what is memory, exactly?

We Are the American Heartbreak: Langston Hughes on Race in a Rare Recording

Reflection on “the rock on which Freedom stumped its toe.” The African American poet, essayist, playwright, novelist, and jazz poetry pioneer Langston Hughes (February 1, 1902–May 22, 1967) was in a sense the William Blake of his generation — like Blake, he was endowed with a rare poetic genius that incurred merciless ridicule by the era’s critics and was often wholly ignored by the public.

George Bernard Shaw on Suffering

“What you yourself can suffer is the utmost that can be suffered on earth. If you starve to death you experience all the starvation that ever has been or ever can be.” “Try to exclude the possibility of suffering which the order of nature and the existence of free wills involve, and you find that you have excluded life itself,” C.S.

A Beginning, Not a Decline: Colette on the Splendor of Autumn and the Autumn of Life

In praise of “the gaiety of those who have nothing more to lose and so excel at giving.” The weather has seeded our earliest myths, inspired some of our greatest art, and even affects the way we think.

James Baldwin and Chinua Achebe’s Forgotten Conversation About Beauty, Morality, and the Political Power of Art

“Those who tell you ‘Do not put too much politics in your art’ are not being honest. If you look very carefully you will see that they are the same people who are quite happy with the situation as it is… What they are saying is don’t upset the system.” “Art,” Jeanette Winterson told an interviewer, “can make a difference because it pulls people up short.

Eudora Welty on the Difficult Art of Seeing Each Other and the Power of Photography as a Dignifying Force

“If exposure is essential, still more so is the reflection. Insight doesn’t happen often on the click of the moment, like a lucky snapshot, but comes in its own time and more slowly and from nowhere but within.” “When we learned to speak to, and listen to, rather than to strike or be struck by, our fellow human beings, we found something worth keeping alive, worth possessing, for the rest of time,” Eudora Welty (April 13, 1909–July 23, 2001) wrote in her beautiful reflection on how friendship helped human language evolve.

A New Refutation of Time: Borges on the Most Paradoxical Dimension of Existence

“Time is the substance I am made of. Time is a river which sweeps me along, but I am the river; it is a tiger which destroys me, but I am the tiger; it is a fire which consumes me, but I am the fire.” “If our heart were large enough to love life in all its detail, we would see that every instant is at once a giver and a plunderer,” the French philosopher Gaston Bachelard wrote in contemplating our paradoxical experience of time in the early 1930s.

Hidden Figures: The Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Powered Early Space Exploration

A heartening testament to “the triumph of meritocracy” and to the idea that “each of us should be allowed to rise as far as our talent and hard work can take us.” “No woman should say, ‘I am but a woman!

Harvest and the Human Spirit: Henry Beston on How Our Relationship to the Earth Reveals Us to Ourselves

“If we are to live and have something to live for, let us remember, all of us, that we are the servants as well as the masters of our fields.” “Farm work is one of the best jobs for getting to know people as they really are,” young Sylvia Plath wrote in reflecting on how her formative job as a farmer shaped her as a writer.

How to Meditate: An Animated Guide

A simple, assuring invitation into releasing the resistance to one of the most life-expanding practices possible.

The New Better Off: Courtney Martin on Reimagining Our Ethos of Success and Reclaiming Our Sense of “Enough”

“That’s the thing about success… it’s only satisfying if it’s defined by you and influenced most deeply by the people you love and trust.” “The good life is one inspired by love and guided by knowledge,” Bertrand Russell wrote in 1925 as he explored how we limit our happiness, cautioning: “Neither love without knowledge, nor knowledge without love can produce a good life.” But something in the near-century since — the so-called “century of the self” — made us deviate further and further away from these parallel pillars of the good life, misled by the increasingly limiting mythos of success seeded by the rise of consumer culture.

Baudelaire on the Genius of Childhood

“Genius is nothing more nor less than childhood recovered at will.” “Children … are the most attentive, curious, eager, observant, sensitive, quick, and generally congenial readers on earth,” E.B.

Just-Like-That Mind: A Great Zen Teacher on Navigating Loss and Grief

“Name and form are made by thinking. Water does not say, ‘I am water.’ Steam does not say, ‘I am steam.’” “To lament that we shall not be alive a hundred years hence, is the same folly as to be sorry we were not alive a hundred years ago,” Montaigne observed as he contemplated death and the art of living in the sixteenth century.

Composing a Life: Anthropologist Mary Catherine Bateson on Our False Mythos of Achievement and the Messy, Nonlinear Reality of How We Become Who We Are

“The knight errant, who finds his challenges along the way, may be a better model for our times than the knight who is questing for the Grail.” “Living has yet to be generally recognized as one of the arts,” proclaimed a 1924 guide to the art of living while, across the Atlantic, Bertrand Russell was contemplating what the good life really means.