I like Brainpickings.org Newsletter

This is the weekly email digest of the daily online journal Brain Pickings by Maria Popova. If you missed last week’s edition — Aldous Huxley on love, knowledge vs. understanding, and the antidote to our existential helplessness; Neil Gaiman’s tribute to a forgotten visionary — you can catch up right here. If my labor of love enriches your life in any way, please consider supporting it with a donation – for a decade and a half, I have spent tens of thousands of hours, made many personal sacrifices, and invested tremendous resources in Brain Pickings, which remains free and ad-free and alive thanks to reader patronage. If you already donate: THANK YOU.

The Secret of Happiness: Bronson Alcott on Gardening and Genius

“I had a pleasant time with my mind, for it was happy,” Louisa May Alcott wrote in her diary just after she turned eleven, a quarter century before Little Women bloomed from that uncommon mind — a mind whose pleasures and powers were nurtured by the profound love of nature her father wove into the philosophical and scientific education he gave his four daughters.bronsonalcott.jpg?resize=680%2C896

Bronson Alcott

The progressive philosopher, abolitionist, education reformer, and women’s rights advocate Bronson Alcott (November 29, 1799–March 4, 1888) developed his ideas about human flourishing and social harmony by observing and reflecting on the processes, phenomena, and pleasures of the natural world — something he shared with the Transcendentalists of his generation, and particularly with his best friend: the naturalistic transcendence-shaman Ralph Waldo Emerson.

In 1856, while living next door to the visionary Elizabeth Peabody in Boston — the seedbed of Transcendentalism, a term Peabody herself had coined — Alcott borrowed and devoured Emerson’s copy of a book sent to him by an obscure young Brooklyn poet as a token of gratitude for having inspired it: Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass, published months earlier.

Whitman’s unexampled verse — so free from the Puritanical conventions of poetry, so lush with a love of life, so unabashedly reverent of nature as the only divinity — stirred a deep resonance with Bronson’s own worldview and inspired him to try his hand at the portable poetics of nature: gardening.elizabethblackwell_curiousherbal_tomato.jpg?resize=680%2C1001

Tomato, or Love-Apple, from Elizabeth Blackwell’s pioneering 1737 encyclopedia of edible plants. (Available as a print and as a face mask, benefitting The Nature Conservancy.)

Right there in the middle of bustling Boston, where his young country was just beginning to find its intellectual and artistic voice, Alcott set up his humble urban garden. One May morning — a century and a half before bryologist Robin Wall Kimmerer contemplated gardening and the secret of happiness, before Olivia Laing wrote of gardening as an act of resistance, before neurologist Oliver Sacks drew on forty years of medical practice to attest to the healing power of gardens — the fifty-six-year-old Alcott planted some peas, corn, cucumbers, and melons, then wrote in his journal:

2e292385-dc1c-4cfe-b95e-845f6f98c2ec.pngHuman life is a very simple matter. Breath, bread, health, a hearthstone, a fountain, fruits, a few garden seeds and room to plant them in, a wife and children, a friend or two of either sex, conversation, neighbours, and a task life-long given from within — these are contentment and a great estate. On these gifts follow all others, all graces dance attendance, all beauties, beatitudes, mortals can desire and know.


Hot pepper by Elizabeth Blackwell from A Curious Herbal, 1733. (Available as a print and as a face mask, benefitting The Nature Conservancy.)

By mid-summer, Alcott had discovered in his garden not only a creaturely gladness but a portal into the deepest existential contentment — something akin to the creative intoxication that he, like all artists, found in his literary calling:

2e292385-dc1c-4cfe-b95e-845f6f98c2ec.pngMy garden has been my pleasure, and a daily recreation since the spring opened for planting… Every plant one tends he falls in love with, and gets the glad response for all his attentions and pains. Books, persons even, are for the time set aside — studies and the pen. — Only persons of perennial genius attract or recreate as the plants, and of books we may say the same, as of the magic of solitude.

Complement with Derek Jarman on gardening as creative redemption and training ground for presence, then revisit Whitman, writing while recovering from a paralytic stroke in the nursery of nature, on what makes life worth living.

donating=lovingFor 15 years, I have been spending hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars each month to keep Brain Pickings going. It has remained free and ad-free and alive thanks to patronage from readers. I have no staff, no interns, no assistant — a thoroughly one-woman labor of love that is also my life and my livelihood. If this labor makes your life more livable in any way, please consider aiding its sustenance with a donation. Your support makes all the difference.monthly donationYou can become a Sustaining Patron with a recurring monthly donation of your choosing, between a cup of tea and a Brooklyn lunch. one-time donationOr you can become a Spontaneous Supporter with a one-time donation in any amount.Partial to Bitcoin? You can beam some bit-love my way: 197usDS6AsL9wDKxtGM6xaWjmR5ejgqem7

Sylvia Plath on Living with the Darkness and Making Art from the Barely Bearable Lightness of Being

When the twenty-two-year-old Sylvia Plath (October 27, 1932–February 11, 1963) wrote to her mother one bleak January day, both women were wading through a darkness of the soul. Science was only just beginning to hone the tools with which to begin dissecting the elemental mystery of what makes us who we are: how much of our psychology and what we experience as our personhood — whether we call it self or soul or spirit — is a product of our physical constitution, of the particular biochemical processes coursing through our particular infrastructure of matter that we experience as our body. Neuroscience was then an infant science — it still is — and the helix of heredity had just been discovered, hinting at the promise of new clarity on the ancient puzzlement of nature versus nurture, new insight into how much of our psychology is a biological inheritance and how much an ongoing composition continually revised by the confluence of chance and choice we call experience.sylviapalth_smithsonian.jpg?resize=680%2C908

Sylvia Plath by Rollie McKenna (Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery)

Several years earlier, the teenage Plath had begun contouring her consciousness and mapping its psychological promontories, its luminous surfaces and its dark edges, rhapsodizing about the joy of living, thinking deeply about free will and what make us who we are, and composing her first tragic poem in response to a minor domestic accident. Two years before she shaded in what was becoming an all-consuming darkness in “The Disquieting Muses,” she wrote to her mother in a letter included in the posthumously collected Letters Home: Correspondence 1950–1963 (public library):

2e292385-dc1c-4cfe-b95e-845f6f98c2ec.pngI don’t know whether it is an hereditary characteristic, but our little family is altogether too prone to lie awake at nights hating ourselves for stupidities — technical or verbal or whatever — and to let careless, cruel remarks fester until they blossom in something like ulcer attacks — I know that during these last days I’ve been fighting an enormous battle with myself.

But then, with the presence of mind and the triumph of spirit that allowed her to live through the remaining years of her life — years she filled with some of the most timelessly exquisite poetry ever written — she adds:

2e292385-dc1c-4cfe-b95e-845f6f98c2ec.pngBut beyond a point, fighting only wears one out and one has to shut off that nagging part of the mind and go on without it with bravo and philosophy… Your present life is the important thing.

There is a dangerous fallacy — a biological falsehood, a feebleness of empathy, an ethical failing — in the view that people who die by suicide after living with mental illness have somehow failed at life. It is one thing to feel deeply the tragedy of that loss, to rue the help not available to them in their time of struggle; it is quite another to fault the faulty instrument itself. It is impossible for any one consciousness to truly know what living inside another is like in the first place — we make art and poems and songs to try to show each other what it is like to be alive in this body-mind. But it is especially unfathomable for a mind coursing with fairly ordinary biochemistry, housed in a brain with fairy ordinary neurophysiology, to grasp what it might be like to live with a mind inflamed by ceaselessly misfiring neurotransmitters or a mind housed in a brain with a large tumor pressing against the amygdala at every moment of every hour. To survive even a single day with such a mind is no small feat. To have not only survived thirty-one years, as Sylvia Plath did, but to have filled those years with works of staggering beauty, with poems that irradiate generations of lives — that is a rare triumph of the spirit.sylviaplath_smithsonian9.jpg?resize=680%2C512

One of Sylvia Plath’s little-known paintings.

Complement with May Sarton on the cure for despair and Lorraine Hansberry — another visionary artist of Plath’s generation, who also lived and made in the darkest depths — on the most reliable antidote to depression, then hear Meryl Streep read Plath’s stunning “Morning Song” and savor a rare glimpse of the poet’s inner world through her little-known paintings.


The Vast Wonder of the World: An Illustrated Homage to Ernest Everett Just’s Trailblazing Life and Life-Redefining Science


“I have marveled at the green urchins on a Maine shore, clinging to the exposed rock at low water of spring tides, where the beautiful coralline algae spread a rose-colored crust beneath the shining green of their bodies,” Rachel Carson wrote as she was revolutionizing our understanding of the marine world with her poetic science and preparing to awaken the modern environmental conscience. “At that place the bottom slopes away steeply and when the waves at low tide break on the crest of the slope, they drain back to the sea with a strong rush of water. Yet as each wave recedes, the urchins remain… undisturbed.”

So too with deepest discoveries of science, adhering to the bedrock of culture ideas that remain through the ebb and flow of ideologies. So too with the minds who produce them — the rebels, the visionaries, the pioneers who stand strong and undisturbed against the tide of their time.

Exactly twenty years before Carson began honing her urchin mind at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Massachusetts — the JPL of marine biology — a young fellow urchin alighted there to do the same.ernesteverettjust.jpg?resize=680%2C1114

Ernest Everett Just (Marine Biological Laboratory Archives)

Ernest Everett Just (August 14, 1883–October 27, 1941), who soon came to be admired as the “black Apollo” of science by the Italian women working at the Neapolitan laboratory for which he left Woods Hole, is the subject of The Vast Wonder of the World (public library) by librarian-turned-author Mélina Mangal and Colombian illustrator Luisa Uribe — a lovey addition to the growing corpus of picture-book biographies of cultural heroes to foment young hearts with inspiration for growing vast minds and tenacious spirits.


The story begins in Woods Hole in 1911:

2e292385-dc1c-4cfe-b95e-845f6f98c2ec.pngAt twilight, a man lay on a dock, luring marine worms with a lantern. He scooped them out with his net and placed them in a bucket. He couldn’t wait to look at them more closely.

He knew the ways of the sea, though he was not a fisherman. His grandfather had built wharves, but he was not a dockworker…

He was a scientist.

But Ernest Everett Just was not like other scientists. Half a century after another researcher with a similar name and a similar scientific passion (the German marine biologist Ernst Haeckel) coined the word ecology and half a century before another marine biologist with similar outsider status (Rachel Carson) made it a household word, Ernest Everett Just “saw the whole, where others saw only parts.” Like Carson, he wrote poetry — that supreme art of interrelation; like every true visionary, he was above all a noticer — “he noticed details others failed to see.”


The story follows him from his childhood in South Carolina — where he watched the river become ocean, attended the school his mother founded in the town she established, and nearly lost his life to typhoid fever — to the laboratory where he developed his greatest scientific contribution: the understanding of how life begins from an egg.

Along the way, we see his mother’s school destroyed by a fire, we see Ernest leave home on a segregated steamship to continue his education in the North, we see him study with grief-redoubled focus after his mother dies of tuberculosis.


At Dartmouth, a biology class concentrates and consecrates his devotion to science as he looks through a microscope for the first time and discovers the miniature universe of the cell.


Born not long after the development of cell theory began revolutionizing our understanding of life, at a time when the cell was known to be the basic biological unit but its working parts were a mystery, Just devoted the rest of his cellular existence to illuminating the mystery.

He became a biology professor. He traveled to Woods Hole each summer to deepen his research and train young scientists. In an era when most biologists treated marine creatures as inanimate samples for study, he tenderly removed sea urchins and sand dollars from their habitat to transport them to the lab and encouraged his students to study them right there in the tide pool.


Day after obsessive day, night after late night, he peered at sea animals through the microscope, squinting at the edges of a radical idea, until it blazed with the empirical clarity of a discovery: Studying a sand dollar during fertilization, he observed how the egg cell was directing its own development — anathema to the accepted view that the sperm cell was responsible for the changes that coalesce into new life.

Despite the scientific esteem the discovery brought him, Just felt increasingly stifled by the swell of racism in his nation’s bosom, which kept him from obtaining a teaching position at a major university worthy of his talent and credentials. (Since history is not the factual record of events but the dramatic narrative our species superimposes over events, it is historical irony, in the classic Ancient Greek literary sense, that Just was among the biologists whose work laid the foundation for genomics and its sobering revelation that we share 98% of our DNA with a head of broccoli, dwarfing to absurdity the sub-negligible biological differences on which humans peg the artificial othernesses of their senseless biases.)


In his mid-forties, Just emigrated to Europe, where he completed and published the groundbreaking results of his research as the twin triumphs Basic Methods for Experiments on Eggs of Marine Animals and The Biology of the Cell Surface, both published in 1939, as the world’s deadliest war was syphoning life from humanity and syphoning the humanity from Life.

All biography is more like sculpture than like portraiture, tasked with the creative challenge of what to cut away from the immense monolith of a whole life in order to render a representative depiction of personhood — a challenge especially trying when sculpting a life-story for young readers, balancing beauty and complexity. The Vast Wonder of the World is more Grecian sculpture than Guernica, composed in the spirit of beautification and celebration — Just did, after all, live a beautiful and inspiring life — without wading into the confusions, controversies, and complexities that haunt any human life and haunted his. (My own orientation to writing nonfiction for young humans, especially dealing with science, is to lean on the side of truth; to trust that any truth, handled with basic sensitivity and humanity, is in the larger service of beauty — the beauty of reality — and that E.B. White was right in his life-tested conviction that anyone who writes down to children is simply wasting his time.”) The book, while lovely, ends on an abruptly and artificially upbeat note with the publication of Just’s magnum opus, leaving a great deal out: how he, like Frederick Douglass before him, fell in love with a German woman — a philosophy student — while still married; how, unlike Douglass, he had the moral courage to rise against the stigma of divorce; how the Nazis invaded Germany months after the landmark publication of his life’s work and interned him in a camp; how he was soon released and headed back to America, not knowing his own cells had been silently mutating along the way; how within months of his return he was dead by that metastatic mutation, leaving behind the stunning urchin spine of his trailblazing life and his life-redefining science.


Special thanks to my friend Stephon Alexander for bringing Ernest Everett Just’s story into my life.

For other lovely picture-book biographies of science visionaries who broadened the humanistic landscape of possibility with the example of their lives, savor the illustrated lives of astronomer Maria Mitchell and astronaut Ronald McNair, then revisit the inspiring story of Wangari Maathai, who became the first African woman to win the Nobel Prize with her tenacious work at the intersection of activism and ecology.

donating=lovingFor 15 years, I have been spending hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars each month to keep Brain Pickings going. It has remained free and ad-free and alive thanks to patronage from readers. I have no staff, no interns, no assistant — a thoroughly one-woman labor of love that is also my life and my livelihood. If this labor makes your life more livable in any way, please consider aiding its sustenance with a donation. Your support makes all the difference.monthly donationYou can become a Sustaining Patron with a recurring monthly donation of your choosing, between a cup of tea and a Brooklyn lunch. one-time donationOr you can become a Spontaneous Supporter with a one-time donation in any amount.

Tiny Thought by Shane Parrish

Tiny Thought

There are two types of talent: natural and chosen.

Natural talent needs no explanation. Some people are just born better at certain things than others. While natural talent may win in the short term, it rarely wins in the long term. A lot of people who are naturally talented don’t develop work at getting better.

Eventually, naturally talented people are passed by people who choose talent.

How can you choose talent?

When you focus all of your energy in one direction for an uncommonly long period of time, you develop talent.

Results follow obsession.

Appreciate- MOtivate

Appreciation is a wonderful thing:

It makes what is excellent in others belong to us as well.

Voltaire – 1694-1778 – French Writer

<img src="https://d2kmupq6z275fj.cloudfront.net/quote-2429.jpg&quot; alt=" motivational quote: Appreciation is a wonderful thing: It makes what is excellent in others belong to us as well.</p>

National Maritime day

Did you know…

… that today is National Maritime Day? Today we celebrate the entire maritime industry and domestic waterborne commerce, as well as the brave men and women who have dedicated their lives to serving aboard a Merchant Marine ship. Observed on May 22 each year, it commemorates the 1819 date of the American steamship Savannah, which set sail from Savannah, Georgia, on the first ever transoceanic voyage under steam power.


Today’s Inspirational Quote:

“Knowing others is intelligence; knowing yourself is true wisdom. Mastering others is strength, mastering yourself is true power.”

— Lao-Tzu

Requested Ministry-wise PIB Releases

Requested Ministry-wise PIB releases.
Requested Ministry-wise PIB releases.

23 Artists on Creativity, From Picasso to Kahlo | Inspiring Quotes

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23 Artists on Creativity, From Picasso to Kahlo

One of the most influential and prolific artists in history, Pablo Picasso famously said that “every child is an artist, the problem is staying an artist when you grow up.” Well, the folks on this list held on to that creativity and wonder, and became some of the most collected — and quoted — creators in the game.

From the sculptural mobiles of Alexander Calder to the abstracted flowers of Georgia O’Keefe, from pop art to abstract expressionism, from Paris to New York, these artists have changed the world with their iconic paintings, unforgettable photography, stunning sculpture, and immersive installations. In the process, they have earned insights about creativity and imagination, process and progress, and seeing the truth in beauty and form. These 23 quotes offer wisdom, inspiration, and motivation that a new generation of artists can take to heart.


They thought I was a surrealist, but I wasn’t. I never painted dreams. I painted my own reality.
– Frida Kahlo


Great things are not done by impulse, but by a series of small things brought together.
– Vincent van Gogh


The only way art lives is through the experience of the observer. The reality of art begins with the eyes of the beholder, through imagination, invention and confrontation.
– Keith Haring


A photograph is a secret about a secret. The more it tells you, the less you know.
– Diane Arbus


The texture of experience is prior to everything else.
– Willem de Kooning


The artist is a receptacle for emotions derived from anywhere: from the sky, from the earth, from a piece of paper, from a passing figure, from a spider’s web. This is a spider’s web. This is why one must not make a distinction between things. For them there are no aristocratic quarterings. One must take things where one finds them.
— Pablo Picasso


I can control the flow of paint; there is no accident.
– Jackson Pollock


I tell myself that anyone who says he has finished a canvas is terribly arrogant. Finished means complete, perfect, and I toil away without making any progress, searching, fumbling around, without achieving anything much.
– Claude Monet


Originality is neither a matter of inventiveness nor method, it is the essence of personality.
– Edward Hopper


The herculean task of a photographer is to capture a momentary frame as beautiful in reality, as it would be in a dream.
– Ansel Adams


If you refuse to study anatomy, the arts of drawing and perspective, the mathematics of aesthetics, and the science of color, let me tell you that this is more a sign of laziness than of genius.
– Salvador Dalí


Art is a guarantee of sanity.
– Louise Bourgeois


I think there are many open-ended questions that artists can pose and we can ask communities to feel empowered enough to reply, respond, rebel, and feel amazed by the relentless spiraling of thought and image and action that is the artist’s profession.
– Kara Walker


A creator needs only one enthusiast to justify him.
– Man Ray


The admission of approximation is necessary, for one cannot hope to be absolute in his precision. He cannot see, or even conceive of a thing from all possible points of view, simultaneously. While he perfects the front, the side, or rear may be weak; then while he strengthens the other facade he may be weakening that originally the best. There is no end to this. To finish the work he must approximate.
– Alexander Calder


I try to apply colors like words that shape poems, like notes that shape music.
– Joan Miró


Great art — or good art — is when you look at it, experience it and it stays in your mind. I don’t think conceptual art and traditional art are all that different. There’s boring conceptual art and there’s boring traditional art. Great art is if you can’t stop thinking about it, then it becomes a memory.
– Damien Hirst


I’ve never met a person I couldn’t call a beauty.
– Andy Warhol


Art without content is like sex without intimacy: technically sufficient, but emotionally empty.
– Judy Chicago


Artists and religionists are never far apart, they go to the sources of revelation for what they choose to experience and what they report is the degree of their experiences. Intellect wishes to arrange — intuition wishes to accept.
– Georgia O’Keeffe


I don’t think about art while I work … I try to think about life.
– Jean Michel-Basquiat


The progression of a painter’s work, as it travels in time from point to point, will be toward clarity: toward the elimination of all obstacles between the painter and the idea, and between the idea and the observer. As examples of such obstacles, I give (among others) memory, history or geometry, which are swamps of generalization from which one might pull out parodies of ideas (which are ghosts) but never an idea in itself. To achieve this clarity is, inevitably, to be understood.
– Mark Rothko


Art doesn’t transform. It just plain forms.
– Roy Lichtenstein

Photo Credit: Agnieszka Cymbalak/ Unsplash

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About the Author
Frank Gargione
Frank is communications director for a non-profit living with his two tiny rescue dogs on the Jersey Shore.

New Age BS… auto generated

By unfolding, we exist.

You and I are entities of the universe. Being is a constant.

Fulfillment requires exploration.

We are in the midst of an intergalactic redefining of health that will remove the barriers to the quantum soup itself. Our conversations with other warriors have led to a refining of ultra-zero-point consciousness. Who are we? Where on the great myth will we be recreated?

Today, science tells us that the essence of nature is love. The stratosphere is bursting with pulses. We exist as ultrasonic energy.

How should you navigate this ancient universe? The universe is calling to you via atomic ionization. Can you hear it? Although you may not realize it, you are zero-point.

We reflect, we grow, we are reborn.

23rd May 2021

International Day to End Obstetric Fistula 23 May 2021

End Obstetric Fistula

This day aims to shed light on obstetric fistula, a condition that pregnant women could develop due to prolonged, obstructed labor without treatment.

Content marketing ideas:   

  • Listicle idea: X Medical conditions that are common among pregnant women
  • Infographic idea: X Things you should prepare for if your wife is going into labor soon
  • Video idea: What kind of challenges do rural women face while giving birth?
  • Podcast idea: How to choose the right hospital for your delivery