What makes Michelangelo: A Life on Paper all the more intriguing is that, by extending an invitation into Michelangelo’s private world of words written for his eyes alone, it raises the question of whom we create for — ourselves, as tender beings with a fundamental need for self-expression, or an audience, as social creatures with a fundamental desire to be liked, understood and acclaimed.
~ Maria Popova
I have reached the point of no-return on books. The first, undeniable demonstration of my mortality is the stack of “to read” books. Every year I read more than in the previous year. And every year the stack of books gets taller. I am saddened when I find books such as this, and know that I will never get around to reading them.
Those of us accustomed to making life livable by superimposing over its inherent chaos various control mechanisms — habit, routine, structure, discipline — are always haunted by the disquieting awareness that something essential is lost in the clutch of control, some effervescent liveliness and loveliness elemental to what makes life not merely livable but worth living.
~ Maria Popova
I spend significant time swerving between the two extremes of schedule-and-organize “all the things,” and running around like a dog fascinated by everything. New item #1 on my list of 42 things (all numbered “1”)…
To be sure, understanding the whole of the universe seems like too grandiose an aspiration when we are continually struggling to understand the tiny subset of the universe that is ourselves.
~ Maria Popova
As with many things Maria Popova creates, anything I add would simply detract. Click. Thank me later.
To live with sincerity in our culture of cynicism is a difficult dance — one that comes easily only to the very young and the very old. The rest of us are left to tussle with two polarizing forces ripping the psyche asunder by beckoning to it from opposite directions — critical thinking and hope.
Critical thinking without hope is cynicism. Hope without critical thinking is naïveté.
~ Maria Popova
Sometimes the best pull-quote is what she quoted from her reading.
Often the best insight is something she herself has written.
Go follow Brain Pickings. Support her work — she’s one of the few wordsmiths building great content on the Internet.
One of the functions of art is to give people the words to know their own experience. There are always areas of vast silence in any culture, and part of an artist’s job is to go into those areas and come back from the silence with something to say. It’s one reason why we read poetry, because poets can give us the words we need. When we read good poetry, we often say, ‘Yeah, that’s it. That’s how I feel.’
~ Ursula K. Le Guin
In the beginning, I watched 2001: A Space Odyssey — no, I’m not old enough to have seen it in the theater, thank you — and, in all honesty, I did not understand most of it. Later, I learned about the story, read the related books, etc.. I rewatched the movie and began a long period of wielding my understanding as a badge of pride. (“I understand 2001! Here, let me show it to you. Let me explain it to you.”) I eventually went on to learn to play the Blue Danube on the piano because the piece is so prominent and moving in the film.
… cross-fade …
Very recently, I saw a solar eclipse and I wished someone had queued up Also sprach Zarathustra — whose introduction, by the way, still gives me shivers. It would have been sublime to have had totality begin just as the creshendo strikes in the opening . . .
Also sprach Zarathustra is a tone poem and after the eclipse — perhaps in search of that sublime moment missed — I took the time to listen to it in its entirety.
…and that led me to adjust my living room for optimal viewing
…to crank up the volume
…and to cue up 2001.
It was just as awe-inspiring as I recalled. Just as awe-inspiring as I’d hoped.
…and then I read this piece — from the perennianlly stellar Brain Pickings — about le Guin’s conception of art.
Something clicked and I gained a new appreciation for the film: “Yeah, that’s it. That’s how I feel.”
One of the most fascinating portions of her treatise, for it applies to nearly every aspect of life in every era at every level of society, deals with the complex ecosystem of talent, ambition, and success — what we do with our talent, what others make of our success, and how to cope with one of the ugliest impulses of the human heart: the small-spirited urge to tear down those who have risen to prominence by their own merit.
~ Maria Popova
Two centuries old (ie, very new). There’s nothing new under the sun (at least, in terms of the crap humans do wrongly ;)
It has been a difficult year — politically, personally. Through it all, I have found solace in taking a more telescopic view — not merely on the short human timescale of my own life, looking back on having lived through a Communist dictatorship and having seen poems composed and scientific advances made under such tyrannical circumstances, but on far vaster scales of space and time.
~ Maria Popova
Not sure what it is about this winter, but I’m finding it notably harder to knuckle-down and dig in to prepare for 2018. Normally, the dreary winter months are generally depressing, but it’s the sort of dreary that “cozy up with a good book by the fire (and maybe some good Scotch)” takes care of. But this winter. meh I’ve got a lot of sorting out to do yet for 2018.
“Freedom is the capacity to pause in the face of stimuli from many directions at once and, in this pause, to throw one’s weight toward this response rather than that one.”
“The pause is especially important for the freedom of being, what I have called essential freedom. For it is in the pause that we experience the context out of which freedom comes. In the pause we wonder, reflect, sense awe, and conceive of eternity. The pause is when we open ourselves for the moment to the concepts of both freedom and destiny.”
~ Rollo May from, “Freedom and Destiny”
Check out Maria Popova’s, “Existential Psychologist Rollo May on Freedom and the Significance of the Pause”
…and my favorite season is here! I love the cool evenings, and how the knowledge that Daylight Savings is about to kick in makes me pay extra attention to my time outdoors in the evening. One thing I love doing is walking while listening to podcasts where I often find inspiring gems.
Here’s an example from The Tim Ferris Show Episode #86
Around 1 hour 20 miutes in, Chris Fussell says:
“I had a great mentor of mine, early on in my carrer, say, you should have a running list of three people — you can but you don’t need to share it with them or the world — that you’re always watching: Someone senior to you that you want to emulate; A peer who you think is better at the job than you, and you respect; And someone subordinate who is doing the job that you did a year or two or three years ago better than you did it. If you just have those three individuals that you’re constantly measuring yourself off of, and who you’re constantly learning from, you’re going to be exponentially better.”
Aside: DST should be abolished. It no longer saves us energy (it’s original purpose), but it does cause a statistically significant rise in traffic accidents:
(that’s the actual New England Journal of Medicine mind you.)
But you will cease to feel isolated when you recognize, for example, that you do not have a sensation of the sky: you are that sensation. For all purposes of feeling, your sensation of the sky is the sky, and there is no “you” apart from what you sense, feel, and know.
And now, somehow, a decade has elapsed.
Because I believe that our becoming, like the synthesis of meaning itself, is an ongoing and dynamic process, I’ve been reluctant to stultify it and flatten its ongoing expansiveness in static opinions and fixed personal tenets of living. But I do find myself continually discovering, then returning to, certain core values. While they may be refined and enriched in the act of living, their elemental substance remains a center of gravity for what I experience as myself.
Maria Popova’s site “Brain Pickings” is one of the true delights of the Internet. Take a few minutes to click over and see.