"Brain Pickings", Bill Hayes, James Baldwin, Margaret Mead, Maria Popova, Oliver Sacks, Posts on Writing and Living, Sunday morning blog, Wendell Berry
I’m not sure exactly how to describe this wonderful Sunday morning gift to those who subscribe (free) to Brain Pickings.
It’s the first email I open and read each Sunday morning. Those years of spending an hour or two with the mammoth Sunday NY Times are long past, and I’m not sure anything has ever filled that void. (Some friends look forward to the Sunday news shows on TV, but I’ve long been in agreement with Calvin Trillin who snarkly refers to them as ‘the Sunday morning gasbags.” Plus, TV has never been central in our lives.)
Anyway, for those of you who don’t know of Brain Pickings, take a look. It’s author, Maria Popova, writes below about what she’s trying to do. But I never saw her once-a-week postings in the exact light she describes. Mostly, she focuses on one or two authors each week and highlights something from his/her writings that she finds particularly insightful and important.
About Brain Pickings, she says:
Hey there. My name is Maria Popova and I’m a reader, writer, interestingness hunter-gatherer, and curious mind at large. I’ve previously written for Wired UK, The Atlantic, The New York Times, and Harvard’s Nieman Journalism Lab, among others, and am an MIT Futures of Entertainment Fellow.
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.
Founded in 2006 as a weekly email that went out to seven friends and eventually brought online, the site was included in the Library of Congress permanent web archive in 2012.
Here is a little bit about my most important learnings from the journey so far.
The core ethos behind Brain Pickings is that creativity is a combinatorial force: it’s our ability to tap into our mental pool of resources — knowledge, insight, information, inspiration, and all the fragments populating our minds — that we’ve accumulated over the years just by being present and alive and awake to the world, and to combine them in extraordinary new ways. In order for us to truly create and contribute to the world, we have to be able to connect countless dots, to cross-pollinate ideas from a wealth of disciplines, to combine and recombine these pieces and build new ideas.
I think of it as LEGOs — if the bricks we have are of only one shape, size, and color, we can build things, but there’s a limit to how imaginative and interesting they will be. The richer and more diverse that pool of resources, that mental library of building blocks, the more visionary and compelling our combinatorial ideas can be.
Brain Pickings — which remains ad-free and supported by readers — is a cross-disciplinary LEGO treasure chest, full of pieces spanning art, science, psychology, design, philosophy, history, politics, anthropology, and more; pieces that enrich our mental pool of resources and empower combinatorial ideas that are stronger, smarter, richer, deeper and more impactful. Above all, it’s about how these different disciplines illuminate one another to glean some insight, directly or indirectly, into that grand question of how to live, and how to live well.
If you are looking to replace some of the time you may be currently spending on obsessive reading of political ‘news,’ check out one or two of the links I’ve posted below that will give you a sense of what her Sunday posts contain.
You can subscribe to her blog (see the details on the left hand side of this or any of her posts), and each Sunday morning you will be greeted by her latest focus. I don’t read them all, but I do find many of them lead me to authors and writings that I enjoy.
Check out one or two of these:
2. Ten Learnings from 10 Years of Brain Pickings (includes, towards the second half of this particular post, ten of the things (she) most loved reading and writing about in this first decade of Brain Pickings)
3. A Rap on Race: Margaret Mead and James Baldwin’s Rare Conversation on the Difference Between Guilt and Responsibility.
4. Insomniac City: Bill Hayes’s Extraordinary Love Letter to New York, Oliver Sacks, and Love Itself (Note: Popova is quite a fan of Oliver Sacks and has written about him and his various writings on numerous occasions. This one is her latest).
5. Wendell Berry on How to Be a Poet and a Complete Human Being.