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The Universe in Verse: Regina Spektor Reads “Theories of Everything” by Astronomer, Poet, and Tragic Genius Rebecca Elson
But even the panting on the wall behind, Itself an accident of shattered symmetries, Is only half eclipsed by his transparencies Of hierarchy and order, And the history of thought.
brainpickings  poetry  astronomy 
8 weeks ago by emkay
Redirect: A New Way to Think About Psychological Change – Brain Pickings
Mentions Timothy Wilson's
"Redirect: The Surprising New Science of Psychological Change"
brainpickings  psychology 
8 weeks ago by pleclerc
The Shortness of Life: Seneca on Busyness and the Art of Living Wide Rather Than Living Long – Brain Pickings
"The greatest obstacle to living is expectancy, which hangs upon tomorrow and loses today... The whole future lies in uncertainty: live immediately."
BrainPickings  CavemanCircus 
11 weeks ago by thx1138
Hannah Arendt on Love and How to Live with the Fundamental Fear of Loss
The triumph of love is in the courage and integrity with which we inhabit the transcendent transience that binds two people for the time it binds them, before letting go with equal courage and integrity.
brainpickings  love 
february 2019 by emkay
Rebecca Solnit on Hope in Dark Times, Resisting the Defeatism of Easy Despair, and What Victory Really Means for Movements of Social Change – Brain Pickings
It’s important to say what hope is not: it is not the belief that everything was, is, or will be fine. The evidence is all around us of tremendous suffering and tremendous destruction. The hope I’m interested in is about broad perspectives with specific possibilities, ones that invite or demand that we act. It’s also not a sunny everything-is-getting-better narrative, though it may be a counter to the everything-is-getting-worse narrative. You could call it an account of complexities and uncertainties, with openings.

Hope locates itself in the premises that we don’t know what will happen and that in the spaciousness of uncertainty is room to act.

Hope is an embrace of the unknown and the unknowable, an alternative to the certainty of both optimists and pessimists. Optimists think it will all be fine without our involvement; pessimists take the opposite position; both excuse themselves from acting. It’s the belief that what we do matters even though how and when it may matter, who and what it may impact, are not things we can know beforehand. We may not, in fact, know them afterward either, but they matter all the same, and history is full of people whose influence was most powerful after they were gone.

What we call mushrooms mycologists call the fruiting body of the larger, less visible fungus. Uprisings and revolutions are often considered to be spontaneous, but less visible long-term organizing and groundwork — or underground work — often laid the foundation. Changes in ideas and values also result from work done by writers, scholars, public intellectuals, social activists, and participants in social media. It seems insignificant or peripheral until very different outcomes emerge from transformed assumptions about who and what matters, who should be heard and believed, who has rights.

Ideas at first considered outrageous or ridiculous or extreme gradually become what people think they’ve always believed. How the transformation happened is rarely remembered, in part because it’s compromising: it recalls the mainstream when the mainstream was, say, rabidly homophobic or racist in a way it no longer is; and it recalls that power comes from the shadows and the margins, that our hope is in the dark around the edges, not the limelight of center stage. Our hope and often our power.

A victory doesn’t mean that everything is now going to be nice forever and we can therefore all go lounge around until the end of time. Some activists are afraid that if we acknowledge victory, people will give up the struggle. I’ve long been more afraid that people will give up and go home or never get started in the first place if they think no victory is possible or fail to recognize the victories already achieved.

There’s a public equivalent to private depression, a sense that the nation or the society rather than the individual is stuck. Things don’t always change for the better, but they change, and we can play a role in that change if we act. Which is where hope comes in, and memory, the collective memory we call history.

You row forward looking back, and telling this history is part of helping people navigate toward the future. We need a litany, a rosary, a sutra, a mantra, a war chant for our victories. The past is set in daylight, and it can become a torch we can carry into the night that is the future.
hope  psychology  politics  brainpickings  inspiration  uncertainty 
january 2019 by emmacarlson
Umberto Eco’s Antilibrary: Why Unread Books Are More Valuable to Our Lives than Read Ones – Brain Pickings
“It is our knowledge — the things we are sure of — that makes the world go wrong and keeps us from seeing and learning,”

"The great E.F. Schumacher captured this strange dynamic in the concept of adaequatio — the notion that “the understanding of the knower must be adequate to the thing to be known.” But how do we face our inadequacy with grace and negotiate wisely this eternal tension between the known, the unknown, the knowable, and the unknowable?"

"We tend to treat our knowledge as personal property to be protected and defended. It is an ornament that allows us to rise in the pecking order. So this tendency to offend Eco’s library sensibility by focusing on the known is a human bias that extends to our mental operations."

"Let us call this an antischolar — someone who focuses on the unread books, and makes an attempt not to treat his knowledge as a treasure, or even a possession, or even a self-esteem enhancement device — a skeptical empiricist."
academics  books  libraries  brainpickings  education 
january 2019 by emmacarlson
Albert Camus on Strength of Character and How to Ennoble Our Minds in Difficult Times – Brain Pickings
We know that we live in contradiction, but we also know that we must refuse this contradiction and do what is needed to reduce it. Our task as [humans] is to find the few principles that will calm the infinite anguish of free souls. We must mend what has been torn apart, make justice imaginable again in a world so obviously unjust, give happiness a meaning once more to peoples poisoned by the misery of the century. Naturally, it is a superhuman task. But superhuman is the term for tasks [we] take a long time to accomplish, that’s all.

If we are to save the mind we must ignore its gloomy virtues and celebrate its strength and wonder.
psychology  optimism  principles  values  brainpickings 
january 2019 by emmacarlson
In Praise of Idleness: Bertrand Russell on the Relationship Between Leisure and Social Justice – Brain Pickings
much like Utopia for Realists: there is no need in the modern world to work as we all worked in slave eras. sigh.

"Russell considers how this manipulated mentality has hypnotized us into worshiping work as virtue and scorning leisure as laziness, as weakness, as folly, rather than recognizing it as the raw material of social justice and the locus of our power"

"Pointing out that this equivalence originates in the same morality — or, rather, immorality — that produced the slave state, he exposes the core cultural falsehood it has effected, which stands as a monumental obstruction to equality and social justice in contemporary society:

'The idea that the poor should have leisure has always been shocking to the rich.'"

" Exacerbating our already warped relationship with work is the muddling of needs and wants at the heart of capitalist materialism"

"stop regarding the virtue of work as an end in itself and begin seeing it as a means to a state of being in which work is no longer needed, reinstating leisure and comfort — that is, a contented sense of enoughness — as the proper existential end"

"The modern man thinks that everything ought to be done for the sake of something else, and never for its own sake."

" To correctly calibrate modern life around a sense of enough — that is, around meeting the need for comfort rather than satisfying the endless want for consumerist acquisitiveness — would be to lay the groundwork for social justice."
brainpickings  philosophy  work  politics  economics  war  capitalism  social  justice  socialism 
january 2019 by emmacarlson
Eleanor Roosevelt on the Power of Personal Conviction and Our Individual Responsibility in Social Change – Brain Pickings
In a sense, nearly all great civilizations that perished did so because they had crystallized, because they were incapable of adapting themselves to new conditions, new methods, new points of view. It is as though people would literally rather die than change."

also: on education policy and critical thinking in schools
also: on action
on civics and responsibility
brainpickings  politics  rome  change  education  action  civics  government 
january 2019 by emmacarlson
Bluets: Maggie Nelson on the Color Blue as a Lens on Memory, Loneliness, and the Paradoxes of Love – Brain Pickings
"To wish to forget how much you loved someone — and then, to actually forget — can feel, at times, like the slaughter of a beautiful bird who chose, by nothing short of grace, to make a habitat of your heart." Maggie Nelson, via Brain Pickings
tf  poetry  quotes  brainpickings 
january 2019 by edsonm
The Best of Brain Pickings 2018
Here is to the intellectual and spiritual electricity of the eclectic, and to a beautiful new orbit.
brainpickings  best  2018  literature 
december 2018 by emkay

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