Brain Pickings

interestingness, curated.

Latest articles

The Storm, the Rainbow, and the Soul: Coleridge on the Interplay of Terror and Transcendence in Nature and Human Nature

“In the hollow… I sate for a long while sheltered, as if I had been in my own study in which I am now writing: there I sate with a total feeling worshipping the power and ‘eternal link’ of energy.” “Place and a mind may interpenetrate till the nature of both is altered,” the great Scottish mountaineer and poet Nan Shepherd wrote in her tiny, tremendous...

A Young Poet’s Love Letter to Earth and to the Double Courage of Facing a Broken Reality While Refusing to Cease Cherishing This Astonishing World in Its Brokenness

In praise of anemone and dust and “the smallest possible once before once.” To make anything — a photograph, a theorem, a poem — is to toss a handful of wildflower seeds into the wind, knowing neither the type of soil they will land in, nor the location of the landscape, nor the type of flowers that will bloom. Sometimes, oftentimes, the seeds come...

Mary Shelley on the Courage to Speak Up Against Injustice and the Power of Words in Revising the World

“Words have more power than any one can guess; it is by words that the world’s great fight, now in these civilized times, is carried on.” “To sin by silence, when we should protest, makes cowards out of men*,” the poet Ella Wheeler Wilcox wrote in her 1914 anthem against silence — a line Rachel Carson leaned on in summoning her epoch-making courage...

The Stuff of Stars: A Stunning Marbled Serenade to the Native Poetry of Science and the Cosmic Interleaving of Life

A consummate celebration of the improbable loveliness of life amid the edgeless panorama of cosmic being. “Before I was born out of my mother,” Walt Whitman wrote in Leaves of Grass, “my embryo has never been torpid… For it the nebula cohered to an orb.” Only by connecting our own birth, our own existence, to that of everything and everyone we know,...

Snakes, Dragons, and the Power of Music: Strange and Wondrous 18th-Century Illustrations of Real and Mythic Serpents

“That there is not a wise Purpose in every thing that is made because we do not understand it, is as absurd as for a Man to say, there is no such thing as Light, because he is blind and has no Eyes to see it.” In 1742, more than a century before Darwin parted the veil of creationist mythology to reveal the reality of nature, an English theologian...

Drawing on Walls: An Wondrous Illustrated Homage to Keith Haring, His Irrepressible Art of Hope, and His Beautiful Bond with Children

“Children know something that most people have forgotten. Children possess a fascination with their everyday existence that is very special and would be very helpful to adults if they could learn to understand and respect it.” Growing in Bulgaria, one of my most cherished objects was also one of the first fragments of American culture to enter our...

Astronomy, Race, and the Unwitnessed Radiance Inside History’s Blind Spots

A poetic instrument for observing and redrawing the spectrum of privilege and possibility. In 1977, the poet Adrienne Rich exhorted a graduating class of young women to think of education not as something one receives but as something one claims. But what does an education mean, and what does claiming it look like, for lives and minds animating...

As an Antidote to Fear of Death, I Eat the Stars: Vintage Science Face Masks

Art and science between the practical and the poetic. A small, coruscating delight: I have made a series of face masks featuring wondrous centuries-old astronomical art and natural history illustrations I have restored and digitized from various archival sources over the years. Among them are treasures like the Solar System quilt Ella Harding...

Leibniz’s Blades of Grass: The Philosophy of Plants, Difference as the Wellspring of Identity, and How Diversity Gives Meaning to the World

“The world… flourishes only in and as the variance among the beings that comprise it. Difference is at the origin of the world: it ‘worlds.’” Nearly a century before Walt Whitman led us to see that “a leaf of grass is no less than the journey work of the stars,” Immanuel Kant proclaimed that there will never be a Newton for a blade of grass. There...

A Poem for Peter: A Lyrical Illustrated Tribute to Ezra Jack Keats and the Making of the First Mainstream Children’s Book Starring a Black Child

“Brown-sugar boy in a blanket of white. Bright as the day you came onto the page. From the hand of a man whose life and times, and hardships, and heritage, and heroes, and heart, and soul led him to you.” The year was 1962 — the year The Beatles auditioned for the first major record label and were rejected, the year a NASA probe shot for the Moon...

Discover, share and read the best on the web

Subscribe to RSS Feeds, Blogs, Podcasts, Twitter searches, Facebook pages, even Email Newsletters! Get unfiltered news feeds or filter them to your liking.

Get Inoreader
Inoreader - Subscribe to RSS Feeds, Blogs, Podcasts, Twitter searches, Facebook pages, even Email Newsletters!