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A Seizure of Happiness: Mary Oliver on Finding Magic in Life’s Unremarkable Moments

How to revel in the “sudden awareness of the citizenry of all things within one world.” Nearly a century before modern neuroscience presented the uncomfortable finding that mind-wandering is making us unhappy, Bertrand Russell contemplated the conquest of happiness and pointed to the immense value of “fruitful monotony” — a certain quality of presence with the ordinary rhythms of life.

Why Consciousness Exists: Douglas Rushkoff on Science, God, and the Purpose of Reality

What to make of the fact “that something wonderfully strange is going on in the dimension we call reality.” “If we ever reach the point where we think we thoroughly understand who we are and where we came from,” Carl Sagan wrote in his magnificent meditation on science and spirituality, “we will have failed.” Some centuries earlier, Ada Lovelace, the world’s first computer programmer, touched on the same idea in a beautiful letter to her neighbor; and some decades later, Alan Lightman, MIT’s first professor with dual appointments in science and the humanities, considered how we can find meaning in the space between the known and the unknowable.

Margaret Mead and James Baldwin in Conversation, Part 2: Identity, Race, and the Immigrant Experience

“You’ve got to tell the world how to treat you. If the world tells you how you are going to be treated, you are in trouble.” NOTE: This is the second installment in a multi-part series covering Mead and Baldwin’s historic conversation.

Sense of Nonsense: Alan Watts on How We Find Meaning by Surrendering to Meaninglessness

“It is in this kind of meaninglessness that we come to the profoundest meaning.” In his early thirties, Alan Watts (January 6, 1915–November 16, 1973) walked away from a career as an Episcopal priest and set out to popularize Zen teachings in the West.

Viva Frida: A Beautiful and Unusual Children’s Book Celebrating Frida Kahlo’s Story and Spirit

The story of creative culture’s most uncommon Alice in a luminous Wonderland of her own making. Mexican painter Frida Kahlo (July 6, 1907–July 13, 1954) was a woman of vibrantly tenacious spirit who overcame an unfair share of adversity to become one of humanity’s most remarkable artists and a wholehearted human being out of whom poured passionate love letters and compassionate friend-letters.

Reinventing the Secular Sermon: Remarkable Commencement Addresses by Nora Ephron, David Foster Wallace, Ira Glass, and More

How to live life “on fire with the same force that made the stars: love, fellowship, the mystical oneness of all things deep down.” We live in an era where religion is, thank “god,” increasingly being displaced by culture and secular thought.

Jane Goodall Tells Her Remarkable Life-Story, Animated

How, in the midst of twentieth-century patriarchy, a young woman without so much as a university degree forever changed the course of modern science.

Umberto Eco’s Antilibrary: Why Unread Books Are More Valuable to Our Lives than Read Ones

How to become an “antischolar” in a culture that treats knowledge as “an ornament that allows us to rise in the pecking order.” “It is our knowledge — the things we are sure of — that makes the world go wrong and keeps us from seeing and learning,” Lincoln Steffens wrote in his beautiful 1925 essay.

Consolation for Life’s Darkest Hours: 7 Unusual and Wonderful Books that Help Children Grieve and Make Sense of Death

From Japanese pop-up magic to Scandinavian storytelling to Maurice Sendak, a gentle primer on the messiness of mourning and the many faces and phases of grief.

Better than Before: A Psychological Field Guide to Harnessing the Transformative Power of Habit

How to lay a steadfast foundation for “the invisible architecture of daily life.” “We are spinning our own fates, good or evil… Every smallest stroke of virtue or of vice leaves its never so little scar,” William James wrote in his seminal 1887 treatise on habit, the bundle of behavior he called the “enormous fly-wheel of society.” In the century since, our civilizational love affair with habit has only intensified — we’ve become besotted with the daily routines of luminaries and transfixed by the psychology of the perfect daily routine, as if replicating the way successful people structure their time would somehow sprinkle the pixie dust of success over our own lives.

Plato’s Allegory of the Cave, Animated: History’s Greatest Parable Exploring the Nature of Reality

“Life is like being chained up in a cave forced to watch shadows flitting across a stone wall.” “Reality,” wrote Philip K.

Thoreau on What It Really Means to Be Awake

“I know of no more encouraging fact than the unquestionable ability of man to elevate his life by conscious endeavor.” “The secret of success is… to be fully awake to everything about you,” Jackson Pollock’s father wrote in his beautiful 1926 letter of advice to his teenage son.

The Illustrated Story of Persian Polymath Ibn Sina and How He Shaped the Course of Medicine

How a voraciously curious little boy became one of the world’s greatest healers. Humanity’s millennia-old quest to understand the human body is strewn with medical history milestones, but few individual figures merit as much credit as Persian prodigy-turned-polymath Ibn Sina (c.

Thoreau on What It Really Means to Be Awake

“I know of no more encouraging fact than the unquestionable ability of man to elevate his life by conscious endeavor.” “The secret of success is… to be fully awake to everything about you,” Jackson Pollock’s father wrote in his beautiful 1926 letter of advice to his teenage son.

Dear Data: Two Designers Visualize the Mundane Details of Daily Life in Magical Illustrated Postcards Mailed Across the Atlantic

A celebration of the infinitesimal, incomplete, imperfect, yet exquisitely human details of life. We live, they say, in the age of Big Data — algorithms trawl through vast databases of our digital trails seeking to extract insight on the human experience, from how we fall in love to what we read.

A Rap on Race: Margaret Mead and James Baldwin’s Rare Conversation on Forgiveness and the Difference Between Guilt and Responsibility

“We’ve got to be as clear-headed about human beings as possible, because we are still each other’s only hope.” On the evening of August 26, 1971, Margaret Mead (December 16, 1901–November 15, 1978) and James Baldwin (August 2, 1924–December 1, 1987) sat together on a stage in New York City for a remarkable public conversation about such enduring concerns as identity, power and privilege, race and gender, beauty, religion, justice, and the relationship between the intellect and the imagination.

Amanda Palmer Reads Polish Nobel Laureate Wislawa Szymborska’s Glorious Poem “Possibilities”

“I prefer cunning kindness to the over-trustful kind.” It is said — here, now — that one of the great markers of spiritual kinship is a love for the same poetry.

Martin Luther King on the Two Types of Law and the Four Steps to Successful Nonviolent Resistance

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality… Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.” On April 3, 1963, Dr.

Sidewalk Flowers: An Illustrated Ode to the Everyday Art of Noticing and Presence in a Culture of Distraction and Productivity

A gentle wordless celebration of the true material of aliveness. “How we spend our days, of course, is how we spend our lives,” Annie Dillard wrote in her magnificent defense of living with presence.

Nobel Laureate Nadine Gordimer on Freedom and What Status Really Means for a Writer

“All worthwhile writing… comes from an individual vision, privately pursued.” Wendell Berry defined freedom as a kind of coherence with oneself.