Brain Pickings - RSS Feed

interestingness, curated.

Latest articles

Place, Personhood, and the Hippocampus: The Fascinating Science of Magnetism, Autonoeic Consciousness, and What Makes Us Who We Are

“Often the places we grow up in… influence how we perceive and conceptualize the world, give us metaphors to live by, and shape the purpose that drives us.” “Place and a mind may interpenetrate till the nature of both is altered,” the Scottish mountaineer and poet Nan Shepherd wrote in her lyrical love letter to her native Highlands, echoing an ancient...

Between Restlessness and Rapture: Autumn and the Sensual Urgency of Aliveness

A wildlife ecologist’s serenade to the season that makes you “want to linger long enough to hear every sound and look far enough to see into forever.” When autumn comes with its ecstasy of sweetness in the orchard and its symphony of color in the forest, it staggers us with something difficult to name, some bewildering harmonic of the transcendent...

The Good Luck of Your Bad Luck: Marcus Aurelius on the Stoic Strategy for Weathering Life’s Waves and Turning Suffering into Strength

“What happened could have happened to anyone, but not everyone could have carried on.” Most people live with a great deal more suffering than is visible to even the most proximate and sensitive onlooker. Many have survived things both unimaginable and invisible to the outside world. This has been the case since the dawn of our species, for human...

The Gifted Listener: Composer Aaron Copland on Honing Your Talent for Listening to Music

“There are few pleasures in art greater than the secure sense that one can recognize beauty when one comes upon it… Recognizing the beautiful in an abstract art like music partakes somewhat of a minor miracle.” “Even poetry, Sweet Patron Muse forgive me the words, is not what music is,” the poet Edna St. Vincent Millay wrote to a friend, adding the...

Blue Floats Away: A Tender Illustrated Fable About Our Capacity for Change, Told Through the Story of Water

In praise of our unfathomed capacity to experience beautiful new things beyond our habitual ideas of the possible. “The things we want are transformative, and we don’t know or only think we know what is on the other side of that transformation,” Rebecca Solnit wrote in her unsurpassable Field Guide to Getting Lost. This might be the greatest challenge...

The Unfinished Story of the World: Richard Powers’s Advice on Life and the Antidote to Cynicism

“This fluke, single, huge, cross-indexed, thermodynamic experiment of a story that the world has been inventing to tell itself at bedtime is still in embryo. It’s not even the outline of a synopsis of notes toward a rough draft yet.” Perhaps the gravest violence we can do to ourselves is to live out our lives believing the world to be a fixity handed...

Bridging the Island Universes of Our Experience: Aldous Huxley on Making Sense of Ourselves and Each Other

“To see ourselves as others see us is a most salutary gift. Hardly less important is the capacity to see others as they see themselves.” Conversing with a symphonic-minded physicist and a science-spirited musician on a small boat off the coast of a small island, I express my skepticism that the swell of digital records would improve posterity’s ability...

The Blue Horses of Our Destiny: Artist Franz Marc, the Wisdom of Animals, and the Fight of Beauty Against Brutality

Tragedy and transcendence in the search for the spiritual in nature. “Do you need a prod? Do you need a little darkness to get you going?” wrote Mary Oliver in one of the masterpiece from her suite of poems celebrating the urgency of aliveness, Blue Horses. In the bleak winter of 1916, in the thickest darkness of World War I, several enormous canvases...

The Music of Trees: Improvisation, Iteration, and the Science of Immortality

“Potentially, every tree is immortal.” Hermann Hesse believed that if we could learn to listen to the trees, we would achieve profound perspective on our human lives by grasping the deepest meaning of aliveness. He used listening in the metaphorical sense. But the great existential gift of trees — to us in the metaphors they furnish, and to themselves...

How (Not) to Be a Writer: Chekhov on Why the Task of Art Is Not to Solve Problems But to Formulate Questions

“Anyone who says that the artist’s sphere leaves no room for questions, but deals exclusively with answers, has never done any writing or done anything with imagery.” It is a truism that the questions we ask shape the answers we find. It is, also, a truth. Another is that our questions — those wonderments, uncertainties, and quickenings of doubt...

Discover, share and read the best on the web

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

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