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13-Year-Old Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Prejudice, Its Antidote, and the Five Documents That Shaped Humanity

“No one can feel free from danger and destruction until the many torn threads of civilization are bound together again… There can be a happy world… when men create a strong bond towards one another, a bond unbreakable by a studied prejudice or a passing circumstance.” “Society has discovered discrimination as the great social weapon by which one...

“I Go Down to the Shore”: Natascha McElhone Reads Mary Oliver’s Spare, Splendid Antidote to Melancholy and Personal Misery

Consolation for the waves of sorry from the waves of the sea. “Let us… seek peace… near the inland murmur of streams, and the gracious waving of trees, the beauteous vesture of earth, and sublime pageantry of the skies,” Mary Shelley wrote two hundred years ago as she envisioned a world ravaged by a deadly pandemic and weighed what makes life worth...

Proust on the Essence of Creativity and the Hallmark of Artistic Genius

“Genius [consists] in reflecting power and not in the intrinsic quality of the scene reflected.” The word empathy entered the popular lexicon in the early twentieth century as a term to describe the imaginative act of projecting yourself into a work of art, into the subjective world of the artist, where you encounter yourself afresh and emerge with...

The Sun, the Shadow, and the Unselved Self: Helen Macdonald on Eclipses as an Antidote to Ideologies of Otherness and a Portal to Human Connection

“A total eclipse wreaks havoc on your sense of self, on rational individuality.” Just when you begin rueing that nothing original could possibly remain to be written about the cosmic spectacle of a total solar eclipse — after astronomer Maria Mitchell’s pioneering essay detailing the science and enchantment of the 1869 eclipse, after Virginia Woolf’s...

The Love of Life in the Face of Death: Keith Haring on Self-Doubt, the Fragility of Being, and Creativity as the Antidote to Our Mortal Anxiety

“It is very important to be in love with life… Life is very fragile and always elusive. As soon as we think we ‘understand,’ there is another mystery. I don’t understand anything. That is, I think, the key to understand everything.” “Life loves the liver of it,” Maya Angelou observed as she contemplated the meaning of life in 1977, exhorting: “You...

Of Owls and Roses: Mary Oliver on Happiness, Terror, and the Sublime Interconnectedness of Life

“The world where the owl is endlessly hungry and endlessly on the hunt is the world in which I live too. There is only one world.” “Go to the limits of your longing… Let everything happen to you: beauty and terror,” Rilke urged in his Book of Hours, his poetic cadence assuring us to “just keep going,” for “nearby is the country they call life.”...

Coming Out in the Time of COVID: A 90-Year-Old Man’s Moving Conversation with His Daughter During the Quarantine

A touching elegy for what lives on the other side of lifelong heartbreak. “To be nobody-but-yourself — in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else — means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight,” E.E. Cummings wrote in his magnificent forgotten manifesto for being unafraid to feel. It takes...

The Mountain and the Meaning of Life: René Daumal’s Alpine Allegory of Courage and the Measure of Wisdom

“There is an art to finding your way in the lower regions by the memory of what you have seen when you were higher up. When you can no longer see, you can at least still know.” Since long before Dr. King proclaimed “I have seen the mountaintop!” mountains — like rivers — have been among our richest nature-drawn metaphors for making sense of our human...

Artist Maira Kalman Illustrates the Extraordinary Love Story of Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas

“This is a love story. You know. How two people, joined together, become themselves.” It is not often that one encounters a great love letter to a great love, composed by someone outside the private world of that love, serenading it across the spacetime of epochs and experiences. In my many years of dwelling in the lives and loves and letters of...

Neuroscientist David Eagleman on How the Physiology of Drug Withdrawal Explains the Psychology of Heartbreak and Loss

“The difference between predictions and outcomes is the key to understanding a strange property of learning: if you’re predicting perfectly, your brain doesn’t need to change further.” “Who is good if he knows not who he is? and who knows what he is, if he forgets that things which have been made are perishable, and that it is not possible for one...

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