books

June 3, 1947: The Young Jack Kerouac Coins “Beat” While Grieving His Father

“My conscience of life and eternity is not a mistake, or a loneliness, or a foolishness — but a warm dear love of our pour predicament.” …

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The Sea and the Soul: Poet, Painter, and Philosopher Etel Adnan on the Elemental Blues of Being

“For seeing the sea it’s sometimes better to close one’s eyes.” …

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Nature and Creativity: The Science of “Soft Fascination” and How the Natural World Presses the Reset Button of the Brain’s Default Mode Network

“Our everyday experience does not prepare us to assimilate the gaping hugeness of the Grand Canyon or the crashing grandeur of Niagara Falls. We have no response at the ready; our usual frames of reference don’t fit.” …

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Amy Lowell on Legends as a Lens on the Poetic Truth of Our Powers, Limitations, and Endurances

“Legends… are bits of fact, or guesses at fact, pressed into the form of a story and flung out into the world as markers of how much ground has been travelled.” …

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Into the Heart of Life: Richard Powers on Living with Bewilderment at the Otherworldly Wonder of Our World

“That’s the ruling story on this planet. We live suspended between love and ego.” …

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Rebecca Solnit on Writing, Gardening, and the Life of the Mind

“As a writer, you withdraw and disconnect yourself from the world in order to connect to it in the far-reaching way that is other people elsewhere reading the words that came together in this contemplative state.” …

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Iris Murdoch on the Myth of Closure and the Beautiful, Maddening Blind Spots of Our Self-Knowledge

“Judgements on people are never final, they emerge from summings up which at once suggest the need of a reconsideration. Human arrangements are nothing but loose ends and hazy reckoning.” …

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Octavia Butler on the Meaning of God

On change, the measure of intelligence, the courage to take responsibility for our own lives. …

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Artist and Philosopher Rockwell Kent on Our Existential Wanderlust

“Wander where you will over all the world, from every valley seeing forever new hills calling you to climb them, from every mountain top farther peaks enticing you… until you stand one day on the last peak on the border of the interminable sea, stopped by the finality of that.” …

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Barry Lopez on Storytelling and His Advice on the Three Steps to Becoming a Writer

“It is through story that we embrace the great breadth of memory, that we can distinguish what is true, and that we may glimpse, at least occasionally, how to live without despair in the midst of the horror that dogs and unhinges us.” …

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June 16, 1816: The Inception of Frankenstein and Mary Shelley’s Prescient Warning About Reproductive Rights

A teenage girl from another epoch illuminates the fault lines of ours. …

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The Dandelion and the Meaning of Life: G.K. Chesterton on How to Dig for the “Submerged Sunrise of Wonder”

Recovering the “forgotten blaze or burst of astonishment at our own existence” alive in the back of our modernity-deadened minds. …

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The Grandmother, the Mermaid, and the Soul: Poet Elizabeth Alexander on How Literature Widens the Portal of the Possible

How a poem made a life and a life a poem. …

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The Solace of Open Spaces

“There is nothing in nature that can’t be taken as a sign of both mortality and invigoration… Everything in nature invites us constantly to be what we are.” …

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The Art of Living: The Contemplative Cartoonist Grant Snider’s Illustrated Love Letter to Noticing and Manifesto for Self-Liberation from Striving

The consolation of clouds, the secret lives of leaves, and the yearning to be more fully human. …

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Dismantling the Dogmas of Life and Death: How the Forgotten Prodigy William James Sidis Presaged the Quantum Undoing of Time and Thermodynamics

“There is no way of telling whether we are living organisms in a positive universe, or pseudo-living organisms in a negative universe.. The difference is really one merely between the two directions of time, and, though those two directions are opposite to each other, they have no physical properties which are in any way different.” …

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Hermann Hesse on Trees and the Meaning of Life

“It was the great and eternal made visible: a confluence of opposites, their fusing together in the fire of reality. It meant nothing… or, rather, it meant everything… and it was beautiful, it was happiness and meaning… like an earful of Bach or an eyeful of Cézanne.” …

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The Power of the Bittersweet: Susan Cain on Longing as the Fulcrum of Creativity

In search of the most transcendent solution to “the problem of being alive in a deeply flawed yet stubbornly beautiful world.” …

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The Stoic Key to Kindness

“Suppose someone standing by a clear, sweet spring were to curse it: it just keeps right on bringing drinkable water bubbling up to the surface.” …

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Poet Mark Doty on Connection and Creativity

“We are all co-extensive, and our work is to move toward union… We must know our fellows in order for everything to move forward; it is our spiritual imperative to connect, or else the destiny of the world cannot be completed.” …

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Catching the Light of the World: The Entwined History of Vision and Consciousness

“The light of the mind must flow into and marry with the light of nature to bring forth a world… To see, to hear, to be human requires… our ceaseless participation.” …

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Iris Murdoch’s Pocket History of the Five Phases of Freedom, in Literature and Life

“Freedom is our ability to rise out of history and grasp a universal idea of order which we then apply to the sensible world.” …

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How to Live with Fear and What It Means to Love: A Tender Meditation in Ink, Watercolor, and Wonder

“Nothing beats kindness… It sits quietly beyond all things.” …

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Your Brain on Grief, Your Heart on Healing

“Grief is a heart-wrenchingly painful problem for the brain to solve, and grieving necessitates learning to live in the world with the absence of someone you love deeply, who is ingrained in your understanding of the world… For the brain, your loved one is simultaneously gone and also everlasting, and you are walking through two worlds at the same time.” …

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The Faith of the Naturist: John Burroughs’s Superb Century-Old Manifesto for Spirituality in the Age of Science

“Communing with God is communing with our own hearts, our own best selves, not with something foreign and accidental. Saints and devotees have gone into the wilderness to find God; of course they took God with them.” …

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