Tag Archives: Brain Pickings

10 Ideas for Living a Good Life in Bad Times

Face it. We live in a very uncomfortable time with some very uncomfortable realities.

Donald Trump is actually a viable candidate for President. The alternative, Hillary Clinton, is no better than La Donald, just a different shape and different background. On November 8th, 2016, the American public gets to choose between a male bully with megalomania and  no morals or a female cobra with ever-changing ethics and situational morals.

Can you say Hobson’s choice?

Whoever wins this election, these United States are in for a rough ride, facing international sanctions and national crises — all of our own making and all born of greed and the overweening desire for power and control.

I can’t change any of this. All I can do is live my small life. You can’t change any of this either. So, this morning, I offer a way for you and I and anyone else who is tired of the trash talk, afraid of the looming future and worried about their loved ones, some insights from  one of my very favorite intellectuals, writers, and muses.

Maria Popova offers 10 core values which, she has gleaned over the 10 years of writing her amazing blog – Brain Pickings

My Sunday mornings are spent with a cup of coffee and her newsletter – my break, my solitude, my weekly dose of philosophy, culture, insight, learning and being.

I offer Popova as an antidote to the idiocy we see all around us. I offer her as peace in a world fraught with panic. I hope she brings you the same joy that she brings me.

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Filed under arm wresting, Death & Dying, Education, Freelance Writing, Gifts, Inspiring People, Life & Death, Mysteries, Politics, Religion, World Changing Ideas

Aldous Huxley Captures the Power of Music

Why is there music in every culture of the world?

Why can some pieces of music (for me it’s classical music) bring you to a standstill? Pierce your heart? Make you understand the relentlessness of loss, of death like the Adagio For Strings in G Minor by Tomaso Albinoni? How can others make you smile, bring you peace or joy like Vivaldi’s Four Seasons or Bedrich Smetanau’s Moldau?

These were the last questions that my brother Bob sought to answer before his untimely death. He and I shared books like Oliver Sachs Musicophilia and Daniel Levitin’s The World in Six Songs. We shared thoughts and ideas but we never came close to understanding the universality of music, the power.

Once again, the clever, beautiful and ingenious writer, Maria Popova, the woman behind the stunning website, Brain Pickings, has produced a lyric piece on Aldous Huxley (a man I admired but Bob wasn’t too keen on) that opens the door on why music touches souls, transcends words, shapes lives and shapes cultures.

Huxley wrote about music long before he authored Brave New World or journeyed into the world of hallucinogenic drugs and the publication of his slim but influential book entitled Doors of Perception.

Huxley actually explains why I never liked Wagner! Popova shares this quote of Huxley’s: “Silence is an integral part of all good music. Compared with Beethoven’s or Mozart’s, the ceaseless torrent of Wagner’s music is very poor in silence. Perhaps that is one of the reasons why it seems so much less significant than theirs. It “says” less because it is always speaking.”

And he explains why I’ve always loved the lonesome call of a train as it passes through the back country on its way to I don’t know where…but you’ll have to read about that in Popova’s newsletter.

She outdoes herself on this essay and that, my friends, is saying something. Her newsletter is a weekly labor of love; this one is no exception. Popova offers her research, her writing, herself for free…but accepts donations. I cannot imagine a better person to become a patron for than this brilliant teller of stories.

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Filed under Gifts, Inspiring People, Mysteries, Uncategorized, World Changing Ideas

Amazing Thinking & Amazing Insights from BrainPickings

My Osteopath introduced me to Brain Pickings.

It’s hard to put this eclectic, philosophical, introspective and intriguing site into words but founder, collator, researcher, writer and bottle washer, Maria Popova offers this description:

“Brain Pickings is my one-woman labor of love — a subjective lens on what matters in the world and why. Mostly, it’s a record of my own becoming as a person — intellectually, creatively, spiritually — and an inquiry into how to live and what it means to lead a good life.”

Every week, when I click through a link in Popova’s newsletter, I feel like I imagine Alice felt when she fell down the rabbit hole and into Wonderland. But this Wonderland is more of a literary and intellectual salon — a place of good food, good wine, good conversation and always, good insights.

In one of these rabbit holes, I discovered why I did what I did for a living despite the fact that it was mind numbing and simultaneously self important.  I worked in corporations. I know how much there is to do, how good it feels to cross off items on your list of work.

I could never articulate just how intellectually and spiritually deadening my work environment was.  Then Popova shared a passage written almost 70 years ago by writer Willa Cather who was writing in response to her long time companion, Sarah Jewitt:

My Dear, Dear Miss Jewett;

Such a kind and earnest and friendly letter as you sent me! I have read it over many times. I have been in deep perplexity these last few years, and troubles that concern only one’s habits of mind are such personal things that they are hard to talk about. You see I was not made to have to do with affairs — what Mr. McClure calls “men and measures.”

If I get on at that kind of work it is by going at it with the sort of energy most people have to exert only on rare occasions. Consequently I live just about as much during the day as a trapeze performer does when he is on the bars — it’s catch the right bar at the right minute, or into the net you go. I feel all the time so dispossessed and bereft of myself.

My mind is off doing trapeze work all day long and only comes back to me when it is dog tired and wants to creep into my body and sleep. I really do stand and look at it sometimes and threaten not to take it in at all — I get to hating it so for not being any more good to me. Then reading so much poorly written matter as I have to read has a kind of deadening effect on me somehow.

I know that many great and wise people have been able to do that, but I am neither large enough nor wise enough to do it without getting a kind of dread of everything that is made out of words. I feel diluted and weakened by it all the time — relaxed, as if I had lived in a tepid bath until I shrink from either heat or cold.

Popova finishes these observations with this very salient quote from Parker Palmer, “… “the tighter we cling to the norm of effectiveness the smaller the tasks we’ll take on.”

That was my life; don’t let it be yours.

 

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Filed under arm wresting, Death & Dying, Education, Inspiring People, Life & Death, Uncategorized, Work