Articles by Maria Popova

We found 232 results.


Bruce Lee’s Never before Revealed Letters to Himself about Authenticity, Personal Development, and the Measure of Success
Maria Popova | Brain Pickings – TRANSCEND Media Service, 22 Jan 2018

Where some people have a self, most people have a void, because they are too busy in wasting their vital creative energy to project themselves as this or that, dedicating their lives to actualizing a concept of what they should be like rather than actualizing their potentiality as a human being, a sort of “being” vs. having — that is, we do not “have” mind, we are simply mind. We are what we are.

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A Stoic’s Key to Peace of Mind: Seneca on the Antidote to Anxiety
Maria Popova | Brain Pickings – TRANSCEND Media Service, 15 Jan 2018

There are more things … likely to frighten us than there are to crush us; we suffer more often in imagination than in reality. Accordingly, some things torment us more than they ought; some torment us before they ought; and some torment us when they ought not to torment us at all. We are in the habit of exaggerating, or imagining, or anticipating, sorrow.

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The Binary Code of Body and Spirit: Computing Pioneer Alan Turing on Mortality
Maria Popova | Brain Pickings – TRANSCEND Media Service, 1 Jan 2018

When Christopher died of bovine tuberculosis in 1930 Alan fell to pieces. He was able to collect himself only through work, by burrowing so deep into the underbelly of mathematics that he emerged almost on the other side, where science and metaphysics meet. Sorrow had taken him on a crusade to make sense of reality. He wanted to understand how he could remain so attached to someone who no longer existed materially but who felt so overwhelmingly alive in his spirit.

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The Banality of Evil: Hannah Arendt on the Normalization of Human Wickedness and Our Only Effective Antidote to It
Maria Popova | Brain Pickings – TRANSCEND Media Service, 25 Dec 2017

“Under conditions of terror most people will comply but some people will not… No more is required, and no more can reasonably be asked, for this planet to remain a place fit for human habitation.”

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Between Sinew and Spirit: Are You a Body with a Mind or a Mind with a Body?
Maria Popova | Brain Pickings – TRANSCEND Media Service, 27 Nov 2017

An Animated Journey to the Center of the Self – “The body provides something for the spirit to look after and use,” computing pioneer Alan Turing wrote as he anguished at the intersection of love and loss. And yet we are creatures of atoms, with spirit and sinew inextricably entwined.

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Trailblazing Astronomer Maria Mitchell on Science, Spirituality, and the Conquest of Truth
Maria Popova | Brain Pickings – TRANSCEND Media Service, 13 Nov 2017

“The notion that science and spirituality are somehow mutually exclusive does a disservice to both,” Carl Sagan wrote shortly before his death. An entire century earlier, another patron saint of cosmic insight contemplated this enduring question with equal parts wisdom and warm wit. “Every formula which expresses a law of nature is a hymn of praise to God.”

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The Search for a New Humility: Václav Havel on Reclaiming Our Human Interconnectedness in a Globalized Yet Divided World
Maria Popova | Brain Pickings – TRANSCEND Media Service, 2 Oct 2017

The main task in the coming era is a radical renewal of our sense of responsibility. Our conscience must catch up to our reason, otherwise we are lost. It is my profound belief that there is only one way to achieve this: we must divest ourselves of our egotistical anthropocentrism, our habit of seeing ourselves as masters of the universe who can do whatever occurs to us. We must discover a new respect for what transcends us: for the universe, for the earth, for nature, for life, and for reality.

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Gauguin’s Stirring First-Hand Account of What Actually Happened the Night Van Gogh Cut off His Own Ear
Maria Popova | Brain Pickings – TRANSCEND Media Service, 28 Aug 2017

Certain relationships are charged with an intensity of feeling that incinerates the walls we habitually erect between platonic friendship, romantic attraction, and intellectual-creative infatuation. One of the most dramatic of those superfriendships unfolded between the artists Paul Gauguin and Vincent van Gogh, whose relationship was animated by an acuity of emotion so lacerating that it led to the famous and infamously mythologized incident in which Van Gogh cut off his own ear.

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John Quincy Adams on Efficiency vs. Effectiveness, the Proper Aim of Ambition, and His Daily Routine
Maria Popova | Brain Pickings – TRANSCEND Media Service, 28 Aug 2017

Digging at the heart of modernity’s foundational disconnect between efficiency and effectiveness: our tendency to pour tremendous energy into doing things, with little reflection on whether those are the right things to do in the first place.

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When Things Fall Apart: Tibetan Buddhist Nun and Teacher Pema Chödrön on Transformation through Difficult Times
Maria Popova | Brain Pickings – TRANSCEND Media Service, 31 Jul 2017

“Only to the extent that we expose ourselves over and over to annihilation can that which is indestructible be found in us… We don’t set out to save the world; we set out to wonder how other people are doing and to reflect on how our actions affect other people’s hearts.”

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Seneca on True and False Friendship
Maria Popova | Brain Pickings – TRANSCEND Media Service, 29 May 2017

“Ponder for a long time whether you shall admit a given person to your friendship; but when you have decided to admit him, welcome him with all your heart and soul.” “Friendship is unnecessary,” C.S. Lewis wrote, “like philosophy, like art, like the universe itself… it has no survival value; rather it is one of those things which give value to survival.”

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The Infinite Hotel Paradox: A Brilliant Animated Thought Experiment to Help You Grasp the Mind-Bending Concept of Infinity
Maria Popova | Brain Pickings – TRANSCEND Media Service, 10 Apr 2017

“Infinity is a demented concept,” astrophysicist Janna Levin, who studies the finitude of the universe, wrote in her spectacular diary-turned-book about the universe. Infinity is also a dementing concept.

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Maya Angelou (4 Apr 1928 – 28 May 2014): On Identity and the Meaning of Life
Maria Popova, Brain Pickings – TRANSCEND Media Service, 3 Apr 2017

Angelou’s timeless wisdom shines with unparalleled light in a 1977 interview by journalist Judith Rich, in which Angelou explores issues of identity and the meaning of life.

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Atom, Archetype, and the Invention of Synchronicity: How Iconic Psychiatrist Carl Jung and Nobel-Winning Physicist Wolfgang Pauli Bridged Mind and Matter
Maria Popova | Brain Pickings – TRANSCEND Media Service, 27 Mar 2017

Two of humanity’s greatest minds explore the parallels between spacetime and the psyche, the atomic nucleus and the self.

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The Binary Code of Body and Spirit: Computing Pioneer Alan Turing on Mortality
Maria Popova | Brain Pickings – TRANSCEND Media Service, 6 Mar 2017

“The body provides something for the spirit to look after and use.” Turing’s decryption of Nazi communication code is estimated to have shortened WWII by two to four years, consequently saving anywhere between 14 and 21 million lives. But despite his wartime heroism, Turing was driven to suicide after being chemically castrated by the U.K. government for being homosexual. More than half a century after his disquieting death, Queen Elizabeth II issued royal pardon — a formal posthumous apology that somehow only amplifies the tragedy of Turing’s life and death.

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Bruce Lee’s Never before Revealed Letters to Himself about Authenticity, Personal Development, and the Measure of Success
Maria Popova | Brain Pickings – TRANSCEND Media Service, 27 Feb 2017

“I have come to accept life as a process and am satisfied that in my ever-going process, I am constantly discovering, expanding, finding the cause of my ignorance, in martial art and especially in life. In short, to be real… Where some people have a self, most people have a void, because they are too busy in wasting their vital creative energy to project themselves as this or that, dedicating their lives to actualizing a concept of what they should be like rather than actualizing their potentiality as a human being.”

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The Banality of Evil: Hannah Arendt on the Normalization of Human Wickedness and Our Only Effective Antidote to It
Maria Popova | Brain Pickings – TRANSCEND Media Service, 20 Feb 2017

“Under conditions of terror most people will comply but some people will not… No more is required, and no more can reasonably be asked, for this planet to remain a place fit for human habitation.”

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The Joy of Suffering Overcome: Young Beethoven’s Stirring Letter to His Brothers About the Loneliness of Living with Deafness and How Music Saved His Life
Maria Popova | Brain Pickings – TRANSCEND Media Service, 13 Feb 2017

“Ah! how could I possibly quit the world before bringing forth all that I felt it was my vocation to produce?”

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The History of Zero: How Ancient Mesopotamia Invented the Mathematical Concept of Naught and Ancient India Gave It Symbolic Form
Maria Popova | Brain Pickings – TRANSCEND Media Service, 6 Feb 2017

“If you look at zero you see nothing; but look through it and you will see the world.” –Mathematician Robert Kaplan. If the ancient Arab world had closed its gates to foreign travelers, we would have no medicine, no astronomy, and no mathematics — at least not as we know them today.

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An Experiment in Love: Martin Luther King, Jr. on the Six Pillars of Nonviolent Resistance and the Ancient Greek Notion of ‘Agape’
Maria Popova | Brain Pickings – TRANSCEND Media Service, 16 Jan 2017

“Along the way of life, someone must have sense enough and morality enough to cut off the chain of hate. This can only be done by projecting the ethic of love to the center of our lives.”

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Albert Camus on Consciousness and the Lacuna between Truth and Meaning
Maria Popova | Brain Pickings – TRANSCEND Media Service, 2 Jan 2017

“From the evening breeze to this hand on my shoulder, everything has its truth. Consciousness illuminates it by paying attention to it.”

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Toni Morrison on the Power of Language: Her Spectacular Nobel Acceptance Speech after Becoming the First African American Woman Awarded the Accolade
Maria Popova | Brain Pickings – TRANSCEND Media Service, 19 Dec 2016

“We die. That may be the meaning of life. But we do language. That may be the measure of our lives.” Morrison took the podium at the Swedish Academy in Stockholm and accepted the accolade with a spectacular speech about the power of language — its power to oppress and to liberate, to scar and to sanctify, to plunder and to redeem. Morrison’s address remains perhaps our most powerful manifesto for the responsibility embedded in how we wield the tool that stands as the hallmark of our species.

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The Greatest Science Books of 2016
Maria Popova | Brain Pickings – TRANSCEND Media Service, 12 Dec 2016

From the sound of spacetime to time travel to the microbiome, by way of polar bears, dogs, and trees.

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Genes and the Holy G: The Dark Cultural History of IQ and Why We Can’t Measure Intelligence
Maria Popova | Brain Pickings – TRANSCEND Media Service, 5 Dec 2016

“If the history of medical genetics teaches us one lesson, it is to be wary of precisely such slips between biology and culture… Genes cannot tell us how to categorize or comprehend human diversity; environments can, cultures can, geographies can, histories can.” IQ testing perilous cultural legacy is what practicing physician, research scientist, and Pulitzer-winning author Siddhartha Mukherjee explores.

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On Nonconformity: Artist Ben Shahn’s Spirited Defense of Nonconformists as Society’s Engine of Growth and Greatness
Maria Popova | Brain Pickings – TRANSCEND Media Service, 28 Nov 2016

“Without the nonconformist, any society of whatever degree of perfection must fall into decay.”

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There Is a Crack in Everything, That’s How the Light Gets In: Leonard Cohen on Democracy and Its Redemptions
Maria Popova | Brain Pickings – TRANSCEND Media Service, 14 Nov 2016

Trained as a poet and ordained as a Buddhist monk, Leonard Cohen (21 Sep 1934–10 Nov 2016) is our patron saint of sorrow and redemption. He wrote songs partway between philosophy and prayer — songs radiating the kind of prayerfulness which Simone Weil celebrated as “the rarest and purest form of generosity.”

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10 Learnings from 10 Years of Brain Pickings
Maria Popova | Brain Pickings – TRANSCEND Media Service, 24 Oct 2016

Fluid Reflections on Keeping a Solid Center – I left Bulgaria for America lured by the liberal arts education promise of being taught how to live. As the reality fell short of that promise, I began keeping my own record of what I was reading and learning outside the classroom in mapping this academically unaddressed terra incognita of being.

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What Color Is The Wind? A Most Unusual Serenade to the Senses, Inspired by a Blind Child
Maria Popova | Brain Pickings – TRANSCEND Media Service, 17 Oct 2016

“What is essential is invisible to the eye,” Antoine de Saint-Exupéry wrote in The Little Prince. Those bereft of vision, therefore, need not be bereft of the essential — they discern it by means other than sight. An imaginative invitation to empathy and self-expansion.

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The Secret Life of Trees: The Astonishing Science of What Trees Feel and How They Communicate
Maria Popova | Brain Pickings – TRANSCEND Media Service, 10 Oct 2016

“A tree can be only as strong as the forest that surrounds it.” Trees dominate the world, the oldest living organisms. Hermann Hesse called them “the most penetrating of preachers.”

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The Private Person and the Public Persona: Borges on the Divided Self
Maria Popova | Brain Pickings – TRANSCEND Media Service, 26 Sep 2016

However integrated the our layered identity may be, our twined nature stands like a stereogram — two separate and noticeably different views, composed into a single three-dimensional image of personhood only through the special focal mechanism of our own consciousness.

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A New Refutation of Time: Borges on the Most Paradoxical Dimension of Existence
Maria Popova | Brain Pickings – TRANSCEND Media Service, 26 Sep 2016

“Time is the substance I am made of. Time is a river which sweeps me along, but I am the river; it is a tiger which destroys me, but I am the tiger; it is a fire which consumes me, but I am the fire.”

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The Sound of Silence: An Illustrated Serenade to the Art of Listening to One’s Inner Voice amid the Noise of Modern Life
Maria Popova | Brain Pickings – TRANSCEND Media Service, 12 Sep 2016

A tender reminder that silence is not the absence of sound but the presence of an inward-listening awareness.

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Proust on Love and How Our Intellect Blinds Us to the Wisdom of the Heart
Maria Popova | Brain Pickings – TRANSCEND Media Service, 15 Aug 2016

“Our intelligence, however lucid, cannot perceive the elements that compose it and remain unsuspected.”

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Bruce Lee’s Never-Before-Seen Writings on Willpower, Emotion, Reason, Memory, Imagination, and Confidence
Maria Popova | Brain Pickings – TRANSCEND Media Service, 8 Aug 2016

“You will never get any more out of life than you expect.”

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A Largeness of Contemplation: Bertrand Russell on Intuition, the Intellect, and the Nature of Time
Maria Popova | Brain Pickings – TRANSCEND Media Service, 1 Aug 2016

Both in thought and in feeling, even though time be real, to realise the unimportance of time is the gate of wisdom. The greatest men who have been philosophers have felt the need both of science and of mysticism: the attempt to harmonise the two was what made their life, and what always must, for all its arduous uncertainty, make philosophy, to some minds, a greater thing than either science or religion.

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Thoreau on How to Use Civil Disobedience to Advance Justice
Maria Popova | Brain Pickings – TRANSCEND Media Service, 18 Jul 2016

Civil Disobedience is an indispensable read for every democratically minded, socially conscious human being awake to justice. “Under a government which imprisons unjustly, the true place for a just man is also a prison.” — Thoreau

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Schopenhauer on What Makes a Genius and the Crucial Difference between Talent and Genius
Maria Popova | Brain Pickings – TRANSCEND Media Service, 4 Jul 2016

“Genius is the power of leaving one’s own interests, wishes, and aims entirely out of sight… so as to remain pure knowing subject, clear vision of the world.”
“Genius gives birth, talent delivers.”

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Thin Slices of Anxiety: An Illustrated Meditation on What It’s Like to Live Enslaved by Worry and How to Break Free
Maria Popova | Brain Pickings – TRANSCEND Media Service, 4 Jul 2016

A guided tour of this pernicious prison of the psyche, honest and assuring in its honesty.

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The Science of How Our Minds and Our Bodies Converge in the Healing of Trauma
Maria Popova | Brain Pickings – TRANSCEND Media Service, 27 Jun 2016

“When our senses become muffled, we no longer feel fully alive… If you have a comfortable connection with your inner sensations … you will feel in charge of your body, your feelings, and your self.”

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A Brief History of the Toilet
Maria Popova, Brain Pickings – TRANSCEND Media Service, 6 Jun 2016

How the most appropriately named inventor in history saved humanity from a centuries-long crisis. Perhaps no word in English has undergone more transformations in its lifetime than toilet. And the final link in this chain of problem-solving came from an inventor with perhaps the most brilliantly appropriate name in history: Thomas Crapper.

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How Leo Tolstoy Found His Purpose: The Beloved Author on Personal Growth and the Meaning of Human Existence
Maria Popova | Brain Pickings – TRANSCEND Media Service, 23 May 2016

So I too shall be safe in taking for the aim of my existence a conscious striving for the universal development of everything existent. I should be the unhappiest of mortals if I could not find a purpose for my life, and a purpose at once universal and useful… Wherefore henceforth all my life must be a constant, active striving for that one purpose.

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In Praise of the Tamed Metaphysicist: Einstein on Reality, Rationality, and the Human Passion for Comprehension
Maria Popova | Brain Pickings – TRANSCEND Media Service, 16 May 2016

“Reason is a tool, a machine, which is driven by the spiritual fire,” Dostoyevsky wrote in 1838 as he contemplated how we come to know truth.

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Nobel-Winning Physicist Frank Wilczek on Complementarity as the Quantum of Life and Why Reality Is Woven of Opposing Truths
Maria Popova | Brain Pickings – TRANSCEND Media Service, 9 May 2016

“You can recognize a deep truth by the feature that its opposite is also a deep truth.” When confronted with the world’s complexity, we default into navigating it by creating artificial binaries, perceiving contradiction where they might in fact only be complementarity. Wilczek points to one familiar example — the fact that light is neither inherently a particle nor inherently a wave, but can be either depending on how we measure it.

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Don’t Heed the Haters: Albert Einstein’s Wonderful Letter of Support to Marie Curie in the Midst of Scandal
Maria Popova, Brain Pickings – TRANSCEND Media Service, 25 Apr 2016

“If the rabble continues to occupy itself with you, then simply don’t read that hogwash, but rather leave it to the reptile for whom it has been fabricated.”

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Aldous Huxley on the Transcendent Power of Music and Why It Sings to Our Souls
Maria Popova, Brain Pickings – TRANSCEND Media Service, 11 Apr 2016

From pure sensation to the intuition of beauty, from pleasure and pain to love and the mystical ecstasy and death — all the things that are fundamental, all the things that, to the human spirit, are most profoundly significant, can only be experienced, not expressed. The rest is always and everywhere silence. After silence, that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible is music.

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The Art of Living: The Great Humanistic Philosopher Erich Fromm on Having vs. Being and How to Set Ourselves Free from the Chains of Our Culture
Maria Popova, Brain Pickings – TRANSCEND Media Service, 28 Mar 2016

“The full humanization of man requires the breakthrough from the possession-centered to the activity-centered orientation, from selfishness and egotism to solidarity and altruism.”

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Seneca on How to Fortify Yourself against Fear and Misfortune
Maria Popova, Brain Pickings – TRANSCEND Media Service, 22 Feb 2016

“If you would not have a man flinch when the crisis comes, train him before it comes.” The great Roman philosopher — a man of timeless wisdom on ‘how to stretch life’s shortness by living wide rather than long’ — took this point to its exquisite extreme in a letter to his friend Lucilius Junior.

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The Soul of an Octopus: How One of Earth’s Most Alien Creatures Illuminates the Wonders of Consciousness
Maria Popova, Brain Pickings – TRANSCEND Media Service, 4 Jan 2016

Montgomery begins with a seemingly simple premise. The octopus is a creature magnificently dissimilar to us — it can change shape and color, tastes with its skin, has its mouth in its armpit, and is capable of squeezing its entire body through a hole the size of an apple. And since we humans experience reality in profoundly different ways from one another, based on our individual consciousnesses, then the octopus must be inhabiting an altogether different version of what we call reality.

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Bruce Lee on Self-Actualization and the Crucial Difference between Pride and Self-Esteem
Maria Popova, Brain Pickings – TRANSCEND Media Service, 21 Dec 2015

“Real self-esteem is an integration of an inner value with things in the world around you,” Anna Deavere Smith wrote. “When, for whatever reason, self-esteem is unattainable, the autonomous individual becomes a highly explosive entity. He turns away from an unpromising self and plunges into the pursuit of pride — the explosive substitute for self-esteem.” –Bruce Lee

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The Art of Self-Culture and the Crucial Difference between Being Educated and Being Cultured
Maria Popova, Brain Pickings – TRANSCEND Media Service, 14 Dec 2015

“In order to be cultured and not to stand below the level of your surroundings it is not enough to have read ‘The Pickwick Papers’ and learnt a monologue from ‘Faust,’ Anton Chekhov wrote in an 1886 letter to his brother, outlining the eight qualities of cultured people — among them sincerity, “no shallow vanity,” and a compassionate heart that “aches for what the eye does not see.”

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‘Dark Matter and the Dinosaurs,’ by Lisa Randall
Maria Popova - International New York Times, 30 Nov 2015

Dark matter is the invisible cosmic stuff that, like ordinary matter — which makes up the stars and the stardust, you and me and everything we know — interacts with gravity but, unlike ordinary matter, doesn’t interact with light. Although scientists know that dark matter exists and accounts for a staggering 85 percent of the universe.

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Nicole Krauss’s Beautiful Letter to Van Gogh on Fear, Bravery, and How to Break the Loop of Our Destructive Patterns
Maria Popova, Brain Pickings – TRANSCEND Media Service, 16 Nov 2015

“Bravery is always more intelligent than fear, since it is built on the foundation of what one knows about oneself: the knowledge of one’s strength and capacity, of one’s passion.”
[NOTE FROM TMS EDITOR: Last week we posted: Vincent van Gogh on Fear, Taking Risks, and How Making Inspired Mistakes Moves Us Forward. Here Nicole Krauss answers to Van Gogh. Delightful dialogue of minds.]

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Vincent van Gogh on Fear, Taking Risks, and How Making Inspired Mistakes Moves Us Forward
Maria Popova, Brain Pickings – TRANSCEND Media Service, 9 Nov 2015

“However meaningless and vain, however dead life appears, the man of faith, of energy, of warmth … steps in and does something.”

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Ben Hecht on Greatness, the Radiance of Realness, and the Rewards of Keeping in Touch with the Soul of Your Childhood
Maria Popova, Brain Pickings – TRANSCEND Media Service, 2 Nov 2015

In a culture that continually mistakes prestige for purpose and defines who we are by what we do, what remains of our being when the doing is stripped away and what does success really mean to those innermost selves buried beneath layers of cultural conditioning?

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A New and Sweeping Utopia of Life: Gabriel García Márquez’s Nobel Prize Acceptance Speech
Maria Popova, Brain Pickings – TRANSCEND Media Service, 2 Nov 2015

“A new and sweeping utopia of life, where no one will be able to decide for others how they die, where love will prove true and happiness be possible, and where the races condemned to one hundred years of solitude will have, at last and forever, a second opportunity on earth.”

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Nietzsche on How to Find Yourself and the True Value of Education
Maria Popova, Brain Pickings – TRANSCEND Media Service, 12 Oct 2015

No one can build you the bridge on which you, and only you, must cross the river of life. There may be countless trails and bridges and demigods who would gladly carry you across; but only at the price of pawning and forgoing yourself. There is one path in the world that none can walk but you. Where does it lead? Don’t ask, walk!

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Physicist David Bohm and Philosopher Jiddu Krishnamurti on Love, Intelligence, and How to Transcend the Wall of Being
Maria Popova, Brain Pickings – TRANSCEND Media Service, 5 Oct 2015

Physicist David Bohm and Indian spiritual philosopher Jiddu Krishnamurti sat down for a mind-bending, soul-stretching series of conversations about some of the most abiding human concerns: time, transcendence, compassion, death, the nature of reality, and the meaning of existence.

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Physicist David Bohm and Buddhist Monk Matthieu Ricard on How We Shape What We Call Reality
Maria Popova, Brain Pickings – TRANSCEND Media Service, 28 Sep 2015

“Reality is what we take to be true. What we take to be true is what we believe… What we believe determines what we take to be true.”

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The Four Desires Driving All Human Behavior: Bertrand Russell’s Magnificent Nobel Prize Acceptance Speech
Maria Popova, Brain Pickings – TRANSCEND Media Service, 28 Sep 2015

“All human activity is prompted by desire. There is a wholly fallacious theory advanced by some earnest moralists to the effect that it is possible to resist desire in the interests of duty and moral principle. I say this is fallacious, not because no man ever acts from a sense of duty, but because duty has no hold on him unless he desires to be dutiful. If you wish to know what men will do, you must know not only, or principally, their material circumstances, but rather the whole system of their desires with their relative strengths.” — Bertrand Russell, Nobel Literature Laureate

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The Oldest Living Things on Earth
Maria Popova, Brain Pickings – TRANSCEND Media Service, 21 Sep 2015

“Our overblown intellectual faculties seem to be telling us both that we are eternal and that we are not,” philosopher Stephen Cave observed in his poignant meditation on our mortality paradox. And yet we continue to long for the secrets of that ever-elusive eternity.

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Why Some People Are Left-Handed
Maria Popova, Brain Pickings – TRANSCEND Media Service, 14 Sep 2015

An evolutionary parable of how the contradictory forces of competition and cooperation shaped human destiny.

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Bruce Lee on the Power of Repose and the Strength of Yielding
Maria Popova, Brain Pickings – TRANSCEND Media Service, 7 Sep 2015

Nothing in the world is more yielding and softer than water; yet it penetrates the hardest. Insubstantial, it enters where no room is. It is so fine that it is impossible to grasp a handful of it; strike it, yet it does not suffer hurt; stab it, and it is not wounded. Be the water.

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A Zen Master Explains Death and the Life-Force to a Child and Outlines the Three Essential Principles of Zen Mind
Maria Popova, Brain Pickings – TRANSCEND Media Service, 3 Aug 2015

“Zen practice … requires great faith, great courage, and great questioning.” If death is so enormous a mystery that we remain unable to wrap our grownup minds around it, despite comfort from our great poets and consolation from our great philosophers, how are tiny humans to make sense of it all?

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Get Out of Your Own Light: Aldous Huxley on Who We Are, the Trap of Language, and the Necessity of Mind-Body Education
Maria Popova, Brain Pickings – TRANSCEND Media Service, 27 Jul 2015

What are we in relation to our own minds and bodies — or, seeing that there is not a single word, let us use it in a hyphenated form — our own mind-bodies? What are we in relation to this total organism in which we live? The moment we begin thinking about it in any detail, we find ourselves confronted by all kinds of extremely difficult, unanswered, and maybe unanswerable questions.

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An Experiment in Love: Martin Luther King, Jr. on the Six Pillars of Nonviolent Resistance and the Ancient Greek Notion of ‘Agape’
Maria Popova, Brain Pickings – TRANSCEND Media Service, 6 Jul 2015

Although Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. used Christian social ethics and the New Testament concept of “love” heavily in his writings and speeches, he was as influenced by Eastern spiritual traditions, Gandhi’s political writings, Buddhism’s notion of the interconnectedness of all beings, and Ancient Greek philosophy.

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On Balance and the Necessary Excesses of Life
Maria Popova, Brain Pickings – TRANSCEND Media Service, 15 Jun 2015

On Being Too Much for Ourselves – “There are situations in which it is more dangerous to keep your balance than to lose it.”

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Ralph Waldo Emerson on Small Mercies, the True Measure of Wisdom, and How to Live with Maximum Aliveness
Maria Popova, Brain Pickings – TRANSCEND Media Service, 1 Jun 2015

“To finish the moment, to find the journey’s end in every step of the road, to live the greatest number of good hours, is wisdom.” In contemplating the shortness of life, Seneca considered what it takes to live wide rather than long.

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Consider the Octopus: A Little Boy’s Moving Case against Eating Animals
Maria Popova, Brain Pickings – TRANSCEND Media Service, 1 Jun 2015

A ‘food’ — this exquisite masterwork of evolution, this intelligent alien with an order of consciousness so beyond ours that we can barely begin to grasp its extent with the clumsy and insensitive tentacles of our moral imagination. Disarming wisdom from a tiny-bodied, huge-hearted human animal.

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How to Make Use of Our Suffering: Simone Weil on Ameliorating Our Experience of Pain, Hunger, Fatigue, and All That Makes the Soul Cry
Maria Popova, Brain Pickings – TRANSCEND Media Service, 25 May 2015

There is almost a Buddhist undertone to Weil’s insistence on accepting everything that is, as it is, without compounding pain with “the second arrow” of our tendency to resist any unpleasantness and judge it as a kind of personal failure, which in turn precipitates an even graver sense of dissatisfaction.

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Richard Feynman on Science vs. Religion and Why Uncertainty Is Central to Morality
Maria Popova, Brain Pickings – TRANSCEND Media Service, 18 May 2015

“It is impossible to find an answer which someday will not be found to be wrong. I do not believe that science can disprove the existence of God; I think that is impossible. And if it is impossible, is not a belief in science and in a God — an ordinary God of religion — a consistent possibility?”

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Dante and the Eternal Quest for Nonreligious Divinity: Physicist Margaret Wertheim on Science and God
Maria Popova, Brain Pickings – TRANSCEND Media Service, 11 May 2015

Centuries after Ada Lovelace, the world’s first computer programmer, contemplated the relationship between science and religion, and decades after Carl Sagan did the same in his exquisite ‘Varieties of Scientific Experience,’ physicist-turned-science-writer Margaret Wertheim offers perhaps the most elegant and emboldening reconciliation of these two frequently contrasted approaches to the human longing for truth and meaning.

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What Makes a Hero: Joseph Campbell’s Seminal Monomyth Model for the Eleven Stages of the Hero’s Journey, Animated
Maria Popova, Brain Pickings – TRANSCEND Media Service, 4 May 2015

“It has always been the prime function of mythology and rite to supply the symbols that carry the human spirit forward.”

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Einstein on the Common Language of Science in a Rare 1941 Recording
Maria Popova, Brain Pickings – TRANSCEND Media Service, 4 May 2015

“Perfection of means and confusion of goals seem — in my opinion — to characterize our age.”

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Why War: Einstein and Freud’s Little-Known Correspondence on Violence, Peace, and Human Nature
Maria Popova, Brain Pickings – TRANSCEND Media Service, 20 Apr 2015

“As long as all international conflicts are not subject to arbitration and the enforcement of decisions arrived at by arbitration is not guaranteed, and as long as war production is not prohibited we may be sure that war will follow upon war. Unless our civilization achieves the moral strength to overcome this evil, it is bound to share the fate of former civilizations: decline and decay.” — Einstein

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André Gide on Sincerity, Being vs. Appearing, and What It Really Means to Be Yourself
Maria Popova, Brain Pickings – TRANSCEND Media Service, 16 Mar 2015

‘Dare to be yourself.’ I must underline that in my head too. Don’t ever do anything through affectation or to make people like you or through imitation or for the pleasure of contradicting.

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How to Read Intelligently and Write a Great Essay: Robert Frost’s Letter of Advice to His Young Daughter
Maria Popova, Brain Pickings – TRANSCEND Media Service, 23 Feb 2015

«Take it easy with the essay whatever you do. Be as concrete as the law allows in it — concrete and experiential. Don’t let it scare you. Don’t strain. Remember that any old thing that happens in your head as you read may be the thing you want. If nothing much seems to happen, perhaps another reading will help.»

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The Island of Knowledge: How to Live with Mystery in a Culture Obsessed with Certainty and Definitive Answers
Maria Popova, Brain Pickings – TRANSCEND Media Service, 9 Feb 2015

We strive toward knowledge, always more knowledge, but must understand that we are, and will remain, surrounded by mystery. “To think of science as separate from spirituality to me is a big mistake… It’s exactly because I feel very spiritually connected with nature that I am a scientist.” –astrophysicist/philosopher Marcelo Gleiser

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The Shortness of Life: Seneca on Busyness and the Art of Living Wide Rather Than Living Long
Maria Popova, Brain Pickings – TRANSCEND Media Service, 19 Jan 2015

“The greatest obstacle to living is expectancy, which hangs upon tomorrow and loses today… The whole future lies in uncertainty: live immediately.” I frequently worry that being productive is the surest way to lull ourselves into a trance of passivity and busyness the greatest distraction from living, as we coast through our lives day after day, showing up for our obligations but being absent from our selves, mistaking the doing for the being.

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Be Like Water: The Philosophy and Origin of Bruce Lee’s Famous Metaphor for Resilience
Maria Popova, Brain Pickings – TRANSCEND Media Service, 12 Jan 2015

“In order to control myself I must first accept myself by going with and not against my nature.”
Nothing is weaker than water,
But when it attacks something hard
Or resistant, then nothing withstands it,
And nothing will alter its way.

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Anne Lamott on Writing and Why Perfectionism Kills Creativity
Maria Popova, Brain Pickings – TRANSCEND Media Service, 12 Jan 2015

Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life, and it is the main obstacle between you and a shitty first draft.

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Why Do Men Stupefy Themselves? Leo Tolstoy on Why We Drink
Maria Popova, Brain Pickings – TRANSCEND Media Service, 5 Jan 2015

Decades before the founding of Alcoholics Anonymous and nearly a century before alcohol abuse was recognized as a disease by the World Health Organization, Tolstoy writes: “What is the explanation of the fact that people use things that stupefy them: vodka, wine, beer, hashish, opium, tobacco, and other things less common: ether, morphia, fly-agaric, etc.?”

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Leonardo’s Brain: What a Posthumous Brain Scan Six Centuries Later Reveals about the Source of Da Vinci’s Creativity
Maria Popova, Brain Pickings – TRANSCEND Media Service, 5 Jan 2015

An astonishing intellectual, and at times spiritual, journey into the particular brain of one undereducated, left-handed, nearly ambidextrous, vegetarian, pacifist, gay, singularly creative Renaissance male who was able to attain a different state of consciousness than “practically all other humans.”

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Alan Lightman and ‘The Accidental Universe’
Maria Popova, Brain Pickings – TRANSCEND Media Service, 29 Dec 2014

Science does not reveal the meaning of our existence, but it does draw back some of the veils. Theoretical physics is the deepest and purest branch of science. It is the outpost of science closest to philosophy, and religion.

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A Life Worth Living: Albert Camus on Our Search for Meaning and Why Happiness Is Our Moral Obligation
Maria Popova, Brain Pickings – TRANSCEND Media Service, 22 Dec 2014

“To decide whether life is worth living is to answer the fundamental question of philosophy,” Albert Camus wrote in ‘The Myth of Sisyphus’ in 1942. “Everything else … is child’s play; we must first of all answer the question.” If the question abides, it is because it is more than a matter of historical or biographical interest.

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Haunting Illustrations for Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, Introduced by the Courageous Journalist Who Broke the Edward Snowden Story
Maria Popova, Brain Pickings – TRANSCEND Media Service, 22 Dec 2014

As the full impact of the Snowden revelations sank in, many people made the connection, and Amazon announced a dramatic rise in sales of ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four.’ To some, the young NSA analyst had revealed a world which was near-Orwellian; others thought that he had described a state of affairs that Orwell could barely have imagined.

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Margaret Mead on Myth vs. Deception and What to Tell Kids about Santa Claus
Maria Popova, Brain Pickings – TRANSCEND Media Service, 22 Dec 2014

How to instill an appreciation of the difference between “fact” and “poetic truth,” in kids and grownups alike. Belief in Santa Claus becomes a problem when parents simultaneously are telling their children a lie and insist on the literal belief in a man in a red suit. Children who have been told the truth about birth and death will know when they hear about Santa Claus that this is a truth of a different kind.

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William James on Choosing Purpose Over Profit and the Life-Changing Power of a Great Mentor
Maria Popova, Brain Pickings – TRANSCEND Media Service, 10 Nov 2014

“After all, the great problem of life seems to be how to keep body and soul together.” Life spoke to him in even more ways than to most men, and he responded to its superabundant confusion with passion and insatiable curiosity. His spiritual development was a matter of intense personal experience.

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Kahlil Gibran on the Absurdity of Self-Righteousness
Maria Popova, Brain Pickings – TRANSCEND Media Service, 3 Nov 2014

A short poem that speaks with great subtlety and great insight to our illusion of separateness and the self-righteousness it produces, our lamentable tendency to mistake others for interruptions and nuisances, to forget that everybody is simply doing their best in this shared experience called life.

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At Home with Themselves: Sage Sohier’s Moving Portraits of Same-Sex Couples in the 1980s
Maria Popova, Brain Pickings – TRANSCEND Media Service, 3 Nov 2014

A Tender, Thoughtful Lens on Life and Love in the Margins

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October 22, 1964: Jean-Paul Sartre Becomes the First Person to Decline the Nobel Prize
Maria Popova, Brain Pickings – TRANSCEND Media Service, 3 Nov 2014

My reasons for refusing the prize concern neither the Swedish Academy nor the Nobel Prize in itself, as I explained in my letter to the Academy. In it, I alluded to two kinds of reasons: personal and objective.

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Friedrich Nietzsche on Why a Fulfilling Life Requires Embracing Rather than Running from Difficulty
Maria Popova, Brain Pickings – TRANSCEND Media Service, 20 Oct 2014

A century and a half before our modern fetishism of failure, a seminal philosophical case for its value. “The most fulfilling human projects appeared inseparable from a degree of torment, the sources of our greatest joys lying awkwardly close to those of our greatest pains…”

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The Life of the Mind: Hannah Arendt on Thinking vs. Knowing and the Crucial Difference Between Truth and Meaning
Maria Popova, Brain Pickings – TRANSCEND Media Service, 6 Oct 2014

The questions raised by our thirst for knowledge arise from our curiosity about the world, whatever is given to our sensory apparatus, in principle all answerable by common-sense. But the questions raised by thinking and which it is in reason’s very nature to raise — questions of meaning — are all unanswerable by common sense and the refinement of it we call science.

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How to Be Alone: An Antidote to One of the Central Anxieties and Greatest Paradoxes of Our Time
Maria Popova, Brain Pickings – TRANSCEND Media Service, 22 Sep 2014

“We live in a society which sees high self-esteem as a proof of well-being, but we do not want to be intimate with this admirable and desirable person.”

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Why We Hurt Each Other: Tolstoy’s Letters to Gandhi on Love, Violence, and the Truth of the Human Spirit
Maria Popova, Brain Pickings – TRANSCEND Media Service, 25 Aug 2014

The exchange sparked an ongoing correspondence between the two that lasted until Tolstoy’s death — a meeting of two great minds and spirits, eventually collected in Letters from One: Correspondence (and more) of Leo Tolstoy and Mohandas Gandhi and rivaled only by Einstein’s correspondence with Freud on violence and human nature.

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Fascinating: The Universe, “Branes,” and the Science of Multiple Dimensions
Maria Popova, Brain Pickings – TRANSCEND Media Service, 4 Aug 2014

How a needle, a shower curtain, and a New England clam explain the possibility of parallel universes. Gradually physicists and cosmologists are coming to see our ten billion light years as an infinitesimal pocket of a stupendous megaverse.

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Edna St. Vincent Millay on the Death Penalty and What It Really Means to Be an Anarchist
Maria Popova, Brain Pickings – TRANSCEND Media Service, 4 Aug 2014

An Anarchist is a person who believes that human beings are naturally good, and that if left to themselves they would, by mutual agreement, govern themselves much better and much more peaceably than they are being governed now by a government based on violence. [TMS editor: The 12-Step self-help Anonymous groups as examples]

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C.S. Lewis on Suffering and What It Means to Have Free Will in a Universe of Fixed Laws
Maria Popova, Brain Pickings – TRANSCEND Media Service, 28 Jul 2014

If the universe operates by fixed physical laws, what does it mean for us to have free will? That’s what C.S. Lewis considers with an elegant sidewise gleam in an essay titled “Divine Omnipotence” from his altogether fascinating 1940 book The Problem of Pain.

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A Brief History of How Bees Sexed Up Earth and Gave Flowers Their Colors
Maria Popova, Brain Pickings – TRANSCEND Media Service, 21 Jul 2014

How a striped, winged, six-legged love machine sparked “the longest marketing campaign in history.”

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Buddhist Economics: How to Stop Prioritizing Goods Over People and Consumption Over Creative Activity
Maria Popova, Brain Pickings – TRANSCEND Media Service, 14 Jul 2014

What does it really mean to create wealth for people — for humanity — as opposed to money for governments and corporations? That’s precisely what the influential German-born British economist, statistician, Rhodes Scholar, and economic theorist E. F. Schumacher explores in his seminal 1973 book Small Is Beautiful: Economics as if People Mattered

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Alan Watts on the Difference between Belief and Faith
Maria Popova, Brain Pickings – TRANSCEND Media Service, 14 Jul 2014

Belief, as I use the word here, is the insistence that the truth is what one would “lief” or wish it to be. The believer will open his mind to the truth on the condition that it fits in with his preconceived ideas and wishes. Faith, on the other hand, is an unreserved opening of the mind to the truth, whatever it may turn out to be. Faith has no preconceptions; it is a plunge into the unknown.

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