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The Science of Dust, Picasso’s Favorite Phenomenon


“With every breath, we inhale a bit of the story of our universe, our planet’s past and future…” It takes more than three centuries for a one-foot layer of dust to accumulate.

Edna St. Vincent Millay on the Death Penalty and What It Really Means to Be an Anarchist


“The minds of your children are like clear pools, reflecting faithfully whatever passes on the bank…” In 1921, Italian immigrants Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti, both in their thirties, were convicted of murdering two payroll guards during a bank robbery in Massachusetts.

New Yorker Cartoonist Roz Chast’s Remarkable Illustrated Meditation on Aging, Illness, and Death


Making sense of the human journey with wit, wisdom, and disarming vulnerability. “Each day, we wake slightly altered, and the person we were yesterday is dead,” John Updike wrote in his magnificent memoir.

Jeanette Winterson on Time, Language, Reading, and How Art Creates a Sanctified Space for the Human Spirit


“Art can make a difference because it pulls people up short. It says, don’t accept things for their face value; you don’t have to go along with any of this; you can think for yourself.” In September of 1994, beloved British writer Jeanette Winterson joined Canadian broadcaster Eleanor Wachtel on the air for a spectacular conversation, later published in More Writers & Company: New Conversations with CBC Radio’s Eleanor Wachtel (public library) — the fantastic collection that also gave us Chinua Achebe on the meaning of life and the writer’s responsibility.

The Relationship Between Creativity and Mental Illness


The science behind the “tortured genius” myth and what it reveals about how the creative mind actually works.

The Last Hotel: Patti Smith Sets Jack Kerouac to Song


Two great talents at the intersection of reality and dream. Between 1954 and 1965, in the thick of his foray into Buddhism, Jack Kerouac turned his beliefs and techniques for writing prose to poetry and wrote several dozen poems, both playful and profound, spanning everything from irreverent comments on his friends to meditations on spirituality.

How to Get Rich: Paul Graham on Money vs. Wealth


Debunking the pie fallacy, or why there’s more to success than giving people what they want. “The moral challenge and the grim problem we face,” Alan Watts argued in his superb 1970 essay on the difference between money and wealth, “is that the life of affluence and pleasure requires exact discipline and high imagination.” Hardly anywhere is this urgency manifested more vibrantly than in startup culture.

The Science of Mental Time Travel: Memory and How Our Ability to Imagine the Future Made Us Human


Shedding light on “the cognitive rudder that allows our brains to navigate the river of time.” Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland remains one of my all-time favorite books, largely because Carroll taps his training as a logician to imbue the whimsical story with an allegorical dimension that blends the poetic with the philosophical.

Maya Angelou’s Beautiful Letter to Her Younger Self


“Be courageous, but not foolhardy.” “You only are free when you realize you belong no place — you belong every place — no place at all,” the late and great Maya Angelou told Bill Moyers in their extraordinary 1973 conversation.

A “Dynamic Interaction”: Leo Buscaglia on Why Love Is a Learned Language


From developmental psychology to Timothy Leary, a reframing of love as deliberate mastery rather than magical thinking.

Tove Jansson’s Rare Vintage Illustrations for Alice in Wonderland


Down the rabbit-hole, Moomin-style. As a lifelong lover of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, I was thrilled to discover one of its most glorious creative permutations over the past century and a half came from none other than beloved Swedish-speaking Finnish artist Tove Jansson.

Elementary School Kids Record Adorable Recommendations for Their Favorite Books


A sweet reminder of what algorithms can never give us. “Reading is the work of the alert mind, is demanding,” E.B.

The Art of Looking: How to Live with Presence, Break the Tyranny of Productivity, and Learn to See Our Everyday Wonderland


“When you look closely at anything familiar, it transmogrifies into something unfamiliar.” For my book club collaboration with The Dish, Andrew Sullivan’s online oasis of intelligence and idealism, I had the pleasure of sitting down with cognitive scientist Alexandra Horowitz to discuss her immeasurably wonderful On Looking: Eleven Walks with Expert Eyes (public library) — one of the best books of 2013 and among the most interesting I’ve ever read, a provocative exploration of how powerfully our experience of “reality” is framed by the limitations of our attention and sensory awareness.

Alan Watts on the Difference Between Belief and Faith


How to master the delicate dance of unconditional openness to the truth. A century and a half before Carl Sagan explored the relationship between science and religion, Ada Lovelace, the world’s first computer programmer, contemplated the subject in a beautiful letter.

The Art of Looking: How to Live with Presence, Break the Tyranny of Productivity, and Learn to See Our Everyday Wonderland


“When you look closely at anything familiar, it transmogrifies into something unfamiliar.” For my book club collaboration with The Dish, Andrew Sullivan’s online oasis of intelligence and idealism, I had the pleasure of sitting down with cognitive scientist Alexandra Horowitz to discuss her immeasurably wonderful On Looking: Eleven Walks with Expert Eyes (public library) — one of the best books of 2013 and among the most interesting I’ve ever read, a provocative exploration of how powerfully our experience of “reality” is framed by the limitations of our attention and sensory awareness.

Legendary Songwriter Carole King on Inspiration vs. Perspiration and How to Overcome Creative Block


“Once the inspiration comes, that directs where the perspiration goes.” To call Carole King one of the most successful female songwriters of all time, while correct, would be a disservice to the fact that she is one of the most successful, innovative, creatively courageous any songwriters of all time — something her four Grammy Awards and induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame can only begin to reflect.

A Good Man: Moving Animated Short Film by StoryCorps Tells the Human Stories of LGBT Pride


How a moment of utter vulnerability brought together eight siblings torn apart by their father’s bigotry.

Curiosity and Wonder Are My Religion: Henry Miller on Growing Old, the Perils of Success, and the Secret of Remaining Young at Heart


“If you can fall in love again and again… if you can forgive as well as forget, if you can keep from growing sour, surly, bitter and cynical… you’ve got it half licked.” “On how one orients himself to the moment,” 48-year-old Henry Miller wrote in reflecting on the art of living in 1939, “depends the failure or fruitfulness of it.” Over the course of his long life, Miller sought ceaselessly to orient himself toward maximal fruitfulness, from his creative discipline to his philosophical reflections to his exuberant irreverence.

7 Life-Learnings from 7 Years of Brain Pickings, Illustrated


“Presence is far more intricate and rewarding an art than productivity.” In the fall of 2013, as Brain Pickings was turning seven, I wrote about the seven most important things I learned in those seven years of reading, writing, and living.

Happy Birthday, George Orwell: The Beloved Author on Money, Government, and Taxes


“Towards the government I feel no scruples and would dodge paying the tax if I could. Yet I would give my life for England readily enough, if I thought it necessary.” “It’s always good to have a motive to get you in the chair.


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