Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Trump demands Dems pay for corona virus effort by cutting heating oil for the poor

But, of course.  Let's move millions to the soon-to-be-sick folks from the soon-to-freeze-to-death folks.  Another "It's Perfect!" Trump solution.

https://www.rawstory.com/2020/02/trump-demands-democrats-pay-for-coronavirus-effort-by-cutting-heating-oil-for-the-poor/

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Monday, February 17, 2020

Essay about Bloomberg should be read by all Democrats

Bloomberg's ubiquitous ads, on every channel, every day, all across the nation are meant to lure Dem. voters into choosing him as our nominee.  If you agree that this is the most important election of our nation's political history -- and that it's best for us to look into who this man really is before jumping on his bandwagon -- then you will want to read the following:

COMPLETE ESSAY, giving important info. about Bloomberg, with many links to the facts:
https://mail.google.com/mail/u/0/#inbox?compose=CllgCHrjnKdHJJKFTZsFRnWnCcdLPrJFcwrWJBFqGrGpLhdSlMFJnChdnPzphVSXZmSwKXVMmgq

EXCERPT:

Take away the $60 billion fortune that Bloomberg amassed on the backs of his workers too afraid to take bathroom breaks, and there's no way he should even be at 0.3 percent in the Democratic polls, let alone leading in some states. In a time of the #MeToo movement against misogyny and sexual harassment, Bloomberg and his company have settled scores of lawsuits from women over a toxic work environment, including crude remarks from Bloomberg himself about women's looks or their pregnancies. Bloomberg both expanded and praised "stop-and-frisk" policies in which black and brown people — the vast majority of whom committed no crime — were subjected to a cruel and sometimes violent police occupation.

At various times, Bloomberg has bashed the idea of a living wage, waged war on teachers' unions, endorsed the Iraq War and the war-criminal president who started it, expressed nostalgia for "redlining" policies that discriminated against black and brown home buyers, and even — shades of Donald Trump — praised authoritarian regimes like China's Xi Jinping and once said Americans should learn from Singapore, which executes drug dealers.

This ... this is the Democrat? I'm old enough to remember when there was no liberal principle held higher than that the American White House is not for sale, so why the sudden embrace of this billionaire getting away with it in broad daylight? The quiet part of the Bloomberg revolution is this notion that democracy is broken beyond repair in a time of pure tribal warfare, and so the only way to beat their dictator is with our oligarch. But if this is how 2020 works, then who would even attempt to run for president as a small-d democrat in 2024? Or 2096, if we're not under three feet of water?

It's not destined to be this way. I mentioned earlier that I think there's a 50 percent chance that Bloomberg buys his way to the nomination. But I also think there's a 50 percent chance that Bloomberg's billionaire brand is a wake-up call for Democrats. Preventing a Bloomberg-Trump general election could rally Democrats behind (hopefully) the woman who could best fight for actual progressive values, Elizabeth Warren

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Friday, February 07, 2020

Thoughtful and challenging essay from psychology prof. at UC Davis

My thoughts:  Professor Tart's essay would be a good one for politicians to consider as they vote on important issues that affect us all.  And, for all of us who will be voting in the November election, if we are to make wise choices, the question the professor poses is an important one.  To be true to our essential self, we must know the answer to the question Who Am I?  This requires a deep and penetrating curiosity.

I've always loved Einstein's quotes on the importance of curiosity.  "Curiosity is more important than knowledge. I have no special talent. I am only passionately curious. It is a miracle that curiosity survives formal education. The important thing is to not stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing."

I also read somewhere that, as he approached the end of his life, Einstein reflected on some of the unfathomable mysteries that quantum physics was revealing and said: "I should have listened more to the mystics."  Following is Professor Tart's thoughtful essay as it appears on the PEERS site today. If you think it is worth sharing in this time of our country's turmoil, please pass it on:

Who am I? If you think life is a meaningless accident, your perceptions of the complex world around you will likely be biased toward seeing the meaningless and absurd. If you believe in original sin and the great difficulties of finding salvation, your perceptions will likely be biased toward seeing your own and others' failures. Our beliefs about who we are and what our world is like are not mere beliefs – they strongly control our perceptions. We can gain more control by finding out what we believe and how those beliefs affect us."  ~~  Prof. Charles Tart in his thought-provoking essay "Who Am I?"

Dear friends,

The thought-provoking article below explores the profound question, "Who am I?" Charles Tart, professor of psychology at the University of California, Davis, has written this intriguing essay inviting us not to take for granted our beliefs and our view of reality. Questioning our own beliefs creates room for personal growth and deeper understanding.

Do you really know who you are? Do I really know who I am? How much is our thinking around this and other deep questions shaped by our beliefs and our upbringing? Read on to explore further into the depths of this mystery and open to a more expanded awareness of who we are.

With best wishes,
Fred Burks for the PEERS empowerment websites

Who am I?

The question is an eternal one. If you don't answer it, you may never be able to distinguish between what your essential self wants and what other people manipulate you to want. Each of us may do best to answer it for himself or herself. Yet the answers given by others do affect the way we approach (or avoid) this question. Several general types of answers have been offered.

The most traditional answer in Western culture is that you are a creature, a creation of God, a creation that is flawed in vital ways. Conceived and born in original sin, you are someone who must continually struggle to obey the rules laid down by that God, lest you be damned. It is an answer that appears depressing in some ways. One the one hand, it can lead to low self-worth and the expectation of failure. On the other, it can lead to the rigid arrogance of being one of the "elect." Further, this view doesn't much encourage you to think about who you really are, as the answer has already been given from a "higher" source.

The more modern answer to "Who am I?" is that you are a meaningless accident. Contemporary science is largely associated with a view of reality that sees the entire universe as totally material, governed only by fixed physical laws and blind chance. It just happened that, in a huge universe, the right chemicals came together under the right conditions so that the chemical reaction we call life formed and eventually evolved into you. But there's no inherent meaning in that accident, no spiritual side to existence.

I believe that this view is not really good science, but rather what we believe to be scientific and factual. More important, it's a view that has strong psychological consequences. After all, if you're just a mixture of meaningless chemicals, your ultimate fate – death and nonexistence – is clear. Don't worry too much about other people, as they are just meaningless mixtures of chemicals, too. In this view, it doesn't really matter if you think about who you really are – whatever conclusions you arrive at are just subjective fantasies, of no particular relevance in the real physical world.

Psychologically speaking, this materialist view of our ultimate nature leaves as much to be desired as does the born-into-original-sin view. As a psychologist, I stress the psychological consequences of these two views of your ultimate identity, because your beliefs play an important role in shaping your reality. Modern research has shown that, in many ways, what we believe affects the way our brain constructs the world we experience. Some of these beliefs are conscious. You know you have them. Yet many are implicit – you act on them, but don't even know you have them.

If you think life in general is a meaningless accident, your perceptions of the complex world around you will likely be biased toward seeing the meaningless and absurd. Seeing this will in turn reinforce your belief in the meaninglessness of things. If you believe in original sin and the great difficulties of finding salvation, your perceptions will likely be biased toward seeing your own and others' failures, again reinforcing your belief in a self-fulfilling prophecy. Our beliefs about who we are and what our world is like are not mere beliefs – they strongly control our perceptions. So we can gain more control by finding out what we believe and how those beliefs affect us.

Between the traditional religious and materialistic views of who you are, there are a variety of ideas that embrace elements of each which include rich possibilities for personal and social growth. The common element in these other views is that life and the universe do have some meaning and that each of us shares in some form of spiritual nature. Yet they also recognize that something has gone wrong somewhere. We have "temporarily" lost our way. We have forgotten the essential divine element within us and have become psychologically locked into a narrow, traditional, religious or materialist views.

There is an old Eastern teaching story that illustrates this – the story of the Mad King. Although he is actually the ruler of vast dominions, the Mad King has forgotten this. Years ago he descended into the pits of the dankest cellar of his great palace, where he lives in the dark amongst rags and rats, continually brooding on his many misfortunes. The king's ministers try valiantly to persuade him to come upstairs into the light, where life is beautiful. But the Mad King is convinced these are madmen and will not listen. He will not be taken in by fairy tales of noble kings and beautiful palaces!

We have a lot of evidence in modern psychology to show how little of our natural potential we use and how much of our suffering is self-created, clasped tightly to our bosoms in crazed fear and ignorance. Yet the ministers do carry a light with them when they come down into the cellar, and they do bring the food which keeps the king alive. Even in his madness, he must sometimes notice this. In the real world, events keep occurring that don't fit into our narrow views, no matter how tightly we may hold them, and sometimes these events catch our attention.

So-called psychic phenomena are like that. They certainly don't fit a materialistic view, just as they challenge the traditional religious view held by many that this kind of phenomena only happened thousands of years ago, and are thus to be believed, but not pondered.

Psychic phenomena are disturbing to both the traditional religious and materialistic views of who we are. It is one thing to consider abstractly that our true identity may be more than we conceive, or that our universe may be populated with other non-material intelligences. It is quite another thing, with channeling for instance, when the ordinary looking person sitting across from you seems to go to sleep, but suddenly begins speaking to you in a different voice, announcing that he is a spiritual entity who has temporarily taken over the channel's body to teach you something!

Now you have to really look at what's going on. Who is that so-called "entity?" Who is that person who channels? If someone else can have his or her apparent identity change so drastically, do we really know who they are? Can I even be sure about who I am? If you have been conditioned to believe that who you are is meaningless or inherently bad or sinful, you might not welcome this stimulation that the phenomena of channeling gives to the question "Who am I?"

We have many ways of psychologically defending ourselves against dealing with things that don't fit into our organized and defended world. You could just say, "This person is crazy, or maybe even deliberately faking this stuff." It's a good defense, for of course there are some people known as channels who are probably just crazy or deliberately faking it. The best lies usually contain a very high proportion of truth.

You could also just naively accept whatever the ostensible channeled entity says. "Yes, you are Master Shananangans from the 17th planet of the central divine galaxy Ottenwelt. Teach me Master, I hear and obey." This overenthusiastic acceptance can be just as much of a defense against deeper thinking and questioning as overenthusiastic rejection.

Channeling and other psychic phenomena are having a great impact on our culture today. We can use this impact for personal and social growth if we are willing to think about the deeper implications, and examine the things we take for granted about our inherent nature.

If we just believe or disbelieve without really looking, this opportunity will be lost. Read, reflect, examine your own beliefs, argue, go meet some psychics or channels. Perhaps you will decide that they are "real." Perhaps you will decide they are not "real" in the ordinary sense of the word, but are somehow psychologically or spiritually real or important. Perhaps you will decide that some (or most or all) of this stuff is really crazy. But in the process, you will learn a lot about who you are, and who we are.


Note: The above essay is an edited version of Charles Tart's foreword to Jon Klimo's well researched and intriguing book titled Channeling. For a powerful essay inviting you to open to more fluid intelligence and transparency, click here. For excellent evidence that there may be more to ESP than meets the eye, click here.

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See the treasure trove of resources in our Inspiration Center

Explore the mind and heart expanding websites managed by the nonprofit PEERS network:

www.peerservice.org - PEERS websites: Spreading inspiration, education, & empowerment
www.momentoflove.org - Every person in the world has a heart
www.personalgrowthcourses.net - Dynamic online courses powerfully expand your horizons
www.WantToKnow.info - Reliable, verifiable information on major cover-ups
www.weboflove.org - Strengthening the Web of Love that interconnects us all



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Wednesday, February 05, 2020

Check out this incredible ad using Adam Schiff's impeachment closing speech

If you like it, please spread the word by forwarding it to friends and relatives. Everyone should see this!

https://twitter.com/Eleven_Films/status/1224906560616316930

It should be shown every hour, every day on every news channel until the November elections!
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Monday, February 03, 2020

"It's Midnight In Washington" -- Adam Schiff's most important closing speech today

WELL WORTH VIEWING IN ITS ENTIRETY! Please pass this video along to friends, including Trump supporters who most need to hear its message. You know Fox won't be showing it, and Trump warns them against all other media, so how will they ever have the chance to hear the truth?
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SQEH62vbwoQ

This great speech of warning should be viewed by every American.  It is destined to be remembered as one of the greatest and most important in our nation's history  -- a most impassioned plea for truth and a rousing call to patriotism, for the salvation and preservation of our democratic republic.  It ranks along with the most famous and revered speeches recorded in the Revolutionary period, when our forefathers were desperately trying to free us from the authoritarian rulership of a heartless (and insane) king.  It's amazing how history repeats itself.

Today, we are continuing that fight from the 1700s between the progressive minds, who want to save and protect the Constitution, and the conservative minds who, in their entrenched greed and lust for power, will sell out the country and the democratic principles upon which it was founded, without a second thought. Today's Republican senators are the "loyalists," fearful of voting against the would-be dictator in the White House. They are a present-day incarnation of those cowardly and fearful "loyalist" defenders of the British king back in the 1700s.  Like a present-day Paul Revere, Adam Schiff is sounding the alarm!  We must listen to him -- or pay the price of giving away our democracy to a ruthless (and insane) dictator who will stop at nothing to achieve his own selfish ends. 

The pathway we take is even more crucial in this period of history than it was in the 1700s.  In today's corporate/political world of unfettered greed for money and power, not only does our republic hang in the balance, but the world itself is in jeopardy. The planet itself is in grave danger from its serious disease of "humans."  Our decisions now will crucially affect the future for our children and grandchildren -- and for their actual physical survival on our planet.  Scientists are warning that thousands of planetary species are disappearing daily and weekly. They are rapidly being annihilated by climate change that has been caused by human actions -- and exacerbated by machinations of greed-and-power-mad leaders bent on enriching themselves at the expense of the planet and its inhabitants. 

It is not too bold a warning to say that the fate of the human species hangs in the balance and will be decided by this generation and the direction we take.  Two paths are clearly being laid out before us. Which one will we take?  Adam Schiff is laying down the gauntlet for our Senate representatives to truly represent the people, instead of the mad dictator who will lead us to ruin.  Sadly for us all, it seems the craven Republican senators are willing to sell us out for a tiny pittance of present gain. Where have we heard this story before--where truth, right and goodness were sold for a few pieces of silver?  Will the human consciousness never rise above the low level being demonstrated now by the Republican party, in this so-called "illuminated" time of history?  

Adam Schiff is a true patriot, pleading for us all.  We must follow the lead of this good man!

Benjamin Franklin's warning comment at the time of the signing of the Declaration of Independence bears repeating:  "We must all hang together, or, most assuredly, we shall all hang separately."   Only this time, with the planet itself in play, we are talking about the fate of all humanity.
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Sunday, January 19, 2020

Waiting for lightning to strike Moscow Mitch McConnell, PERJURER

MOSCOW MITCH, PERJURER   http://www.smirkingchimp.com/thread/joan-mccarter/88378/moscow-mitch-perjurer

Excerpt:

As we head into Donald Trump's impeachment trial next week, it's worth remembering this promise from Moscow Mitch McConnell:

"I'm not an impartial juror. This is a political process. There's not anything judicial about it. […] The House made a partisan political decision to impeach. I would anticipate we will have a largely partisan outcome in the Senate. I'm not impartial about this at all."

On Thursday, McConnell stood with his hand in the air in front of Chief Justice of the United States John Roberts and took the oath "I solemnly swear that in all things appertaining to the trial of Donald John Trump, now pending, I will do impartial justice according to the Constitution and laws, so help me God."

When he took that oath, when he signed his name to the book proclaiming that oath, he became a perjurer. It's not just crazy liberal bloggers saying so. Former chief White House ethics lawyer Richard Painter says so, too.

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Friday, January 17, 2020

What are the earliest signs of gaslighting? Every girl/woman should read this

I lived many years in a gaslighting relationship -- sure wish I'd had the following advice way back then.... I even saw the movie Gaslight during that time period, but didn't recognize myself in the Ingrid Bergman character.  Now when I re-watch that film, I truly empathize with her (and wince inside with remembrance of myself being that weak in self-esteem, which was true of many women in my generation). I know how it feels to be put down over and over and over. I especially relate to this sentence in the following advice:  "I remember thinking that if I could just figure out the rules, and be good, I could avoid another person ever being mad at me."  With this idea, you just keep trying over and over to try to please the gaslighter, bending over backwards to gain his approval.  It never works.

Standing up for yourself is SO IMPORTANT!  Teenage girls need to be taught this -- teenage boys, too, because gaslighting can occur in both genders, although it does seem to occur most often with the man putting down the woman.  I think the following advice is well worth passing along, especially the very last sentence that advises "See yourself for who you are."  That is most important of all.  Once you find out who you really are, you will never tolerate abuse ever again:

Natalie Engelbrecht
Natalie Engelbrecht, Psychotherapist, Researcher at WNHC (1996-present)

Highlights

Gaslighting works in stages. In the beginning you may not even notice it. You pass it off as the person having some stress in their life. After a while it begins to preoccupy your life and, as more time passes, you doubt yourself and your point of view and eventually become joyless and hopeless.

Image source: Gaslighting

Stage 1: Disbelief

At this stage the gaslighter says something outrageous. For example, before the movie starts you excuse yourself to go to the toilet and when you get back your gaslighter is fuming. You ask what is wrong and he says: "How can you be so inconsiderate, I have been sitting here waiting for 20 minutes, who were you talking to?" You think to yourself, I can't have been gone that long, the movie has not even started. He says maybe you were not keeping track of time, puts his arm around you and says that perfume you are wearing is lovely, you should wear it more often.

Entering stage one: A crucial turning point.

The most tricky thing about stage one is that what happens seems so minor—a misunderstanding, a moment of disagreement, a tiny temper outburst. The challenge with this stage is that it is difficult to tell whether these are little annoyances to be dismissed, problems for which you are to blame, or warning signs of a pattern that is unfolding and what is yet to come.

This stage offers two options: a way to continue to move forward into gaslighting, or a way to stop those tendencies and move the relationship into something healthier—leave or identify.

Recognizing gaslighting at this stage is difficult, but if you can, it will save you a lot of pain and suffering down the road. You need to stop playing into the pattern that I discussed in a previous post:

Natalie Engelbrecht's answer to What is gaslighting?

You may also decide once you recognize this stage that you would prefer to leave the relationship as it will involve far less pain than if you stay in an abusive relationship.

Finally if you can identify gaslighting at this stage, it will help you see your own part in the gaslight dance.

Natalie Engelbrecht's answer to What are 10 things you should do to protect yourself from a narcissist?

These are the signs that you have entered stage 1:

How to figure out if it is gaslighting or not:

  1. Frequent feelings of being bewildered or confused.
  2. Inability to remember details about what is happening with your gaslighter.
  3. Somatic indicators: sore throat, upset stomach, tight chest.
  4. A sense of hyper-alertness when they call or are coming home.
  5. A sense of tolerating treatment that compromises your integrity.

At this stage the victim has started idealizing the gaslighter and begins to need his approval—and therein lies the trap that engages the gaslighting dance between victim and abuser.

So what can you do to avoid this dance? Every choice we make feeds one outcome or another.

Avoiding being gaslighted—you can see the behaviour of the person getting upset with you as their problem, not yours. And you can also decide if you want to have a relationship with a person who is so easily frustrated. You can choose not to dance this dance, or just walk off the dance floor.

Promoting being gaslighted—If you are striving for this person's approval, you may blame yourself for their annoyance. If you are looking for this person's approval, you will begin to do what you need to gain it… and so the dance begins.

You are more likely to be gaslighted if:

  1. You are very responsive to people who seem hurt, needy or easily frustrated.
  2. You have a strong need to be right and seen as right.
  3. You care deeply about being liked and appreciated.
  4. It is important to help people and make things turn out alright.
  5. You have a great sense of empathy and are able to see things easily from your gaslighter's point of view.
  6. You want to maintain the relationship.
  7. You have a hard time letting go of relationships.
  8. It is difficult to acknowledge when someone treats you badly.
  9. You are more comfortable relying on another person's opinion.
  10. You find conflict very uncomfortable.
  11. You are worried about not being good enough.
  12. You feel more comfortable with other people's opinions than your own.

How to protect yourself:

  1. Refuse the Urge to Merge—maintain that there are two separate views. If your boyfriend raises his voice at you, and you calmly say, "please don't yell at me," and his response is "I did not yell at you," you now have choices. Your best choice is to not say he is right. You can say, "I guess we see things differently," or "I don't want to continue this conversation." Being receptive to criticism is important for any relationship. However, if you feel anxious and reduced to feeling 'not good enough', then you are in trouble. The problem with gaslighting criticism is that it is designed to undermine, not help.
  2. Stop listening to the words the moment you sense you are being attacked and focus on the main point. YOU DO NOT DESERVE TO BE TREATED THIS WAY no matter what you have done.
  3. Never ever listen to criticism that is intended to harm, even if it contains a grain of truth.

What does criticism that intended to harm look like?

  1. Name calling, insults, exaggerations.
  2. Is intended to win the argument.
  3. Seems to come out of nowhere.
  4. Changes the focus from the other person to yours.

The Explanation Trap

The effort we make to explain away behavior that bothers us.

  1. It's not him, it's me—This allows us to maintain a sense of being in control, and if we just avoid the behaviour or work harder at the relationship in the future, we can avoid the outcome we don't want.
  2. They feel so bad—The gaslightee sees the abuser's behavior as caring because they are upset. For example, in the movie example at the start of the post, the gaslighter seems upset that his date took so long, and confuses that with caring.
  3. I should rise above his behaviour—And when nothing else works, you can try to convince yourself that you should not be affected by another person's behaviour. We try to not be affected by another person's behavior by becoming a better person ourselves. I remember thinking that if I could just figure out the rules, and be good, I could avoid another person ever being mad at me. This is impossible unless you are fully subservient to another person. Instead of seeing the person for who they are, and whether they are meeting your needs, we cling to the fantasy that if we were more loving, more giving, less selfish we would have the love we were looking for.

Stopping the Gaslighting Tango

TIP #1 : Do not ask yourself "Who is right?" Ask yourself "Do I like being treated this way?" Remember the need to be right is one of the biggest traps to being gaslighted.

Don't ask yourself if your boyfriend is being reasonable about getting upset about you taking long in the bathroom. Ask yourself if you want to be with someone who gets upset that you take long in the bathroom.

TIP #2: Don't try to be 'good' Ask yourself if you are taking on all of the responsibility for the relationship being good.

TIP #3: Don't debate what you know to be true. The point of gaslighting is to make you wrong.

TIP #4: Tell yourself the truth about who you are. This one can be really tough for anyone who has been abused, but see yourself for who you are.



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Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Highly recommended viewing: THE NEW POPE on HBO

Last night, I watched the first episode of The New Pope, which is the continuation of the series The Young Pope from last season.  Don't miss this one on HBO!  It is such a great story.  Lets you know what would probably happen if a pope like our present Francis (but named Francis the Second in the show) decided to completely live the principles of St. Francis of Assisi -- and put into practice those ideals in the Catholic church itself. The next episode will introduce John Malkovich as another contender for the papal position.  It promises to bring more revelations, as layers are pulled back to reveal hidden truths.  Whether or not you are Catholic -- or have never or ever been at one time -- I think you will find the cleverly written and well-acted story to be very interesting.  On HBO. https://www.hbo.com/the-new-pope

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Monday, January 13, 2020

Psychiatrists' site "UNFIT" and documentary about Trump's unfitness

Check out this site:  https://www.unfitfilm.com/

and tell friends about it.  Keep spreading the word and maybe we can be rid of him!

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Sunday, January 12, 2020

LA Times: Call Trumpism what it is: a cult (Randy Rainbow got it right!)


https://www.latimes.com/opinion/story/2020-01-10/donald-trump-cult-steven-hassan-moonie

 Randy Rainbow got it exactly right in this one:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wb219dz_NeA
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Wednesday, January 01, 2020

Happy New Year! Elevating reading for the New Year inspired by some of humanity's greatest minds


Here is an excellent offering from Brain Pickings -- inspiring reading for making New Year's resolutions.There is something for everyone here -- I love this site and thought you might find it interesting, too.  It offers good practical wisdom infused with love and generosity of spirit.













Midweek pick-me-up: Elevating resolutions for the New Year inspired by some of humanity's greatest minds
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Brain Pickings

Welcome Hello! This is the Brain Pickings midweek pick-me-up: Once a week, I plunge into my 13-year archive and choose something worth resurfacing and resavoring as timeless nourishment for heart, mind, and spirit. (If you don't yet subscribe to the standard Sunday newsletter of new pieces published each week, you can sign up here – it's free.) NOTE: This is a long edition and your email program might have truncated it by default – if it appears so, click here to read it unsavaged. If you missed the annual review of the best of Brain Pickings 2019, you can catch up right here; if you missed the two annual specials of the year's loveliest children's books and overall favorite books, they are here and here. And if you find any value and joy in my labor of love, please consider supporting it with a donation – over these thirteen years, I have spent tens of thousands of hours and tremendous resources on Brain Pickings, and every little bit of support helps keep it going. If you already donate: THANK YOU.

FROM THE ARCHIVE | Elevating Resolutions for the New Year Inspired by Some of Humanity's Greatest Minds

treebrain.jpg?zoom=2&fit=199%2C261

What if we could augment the bucket-list of typical New Year's resolutions, dominated by bodily habits and pragmatic daily practices, with higher-order aspirations — habits of mind and spiritual orientations borrowed from some of humanity's most timelessly rewarding thinkers? After last year's selection of worthy resolutions inspired by such luminaries as Seneca, Maya Angelou, Bruce Lee, and Virginia Woolf, here is another set for the new year borrowed from a new roster of perennially elevating minds.

1. ADRIENNE RICH: CULTIVATE HONORABLE RELATIONSHIPS

adriennerich4.jpg

rich_lies.jpg?zoom=2&w=680One of the most influential poets of the twentieth century and a woman of unflinching conviction, Adrienne Rich (May 16, 1929–March 27, 2012) became the first and to date only person to decline the National Medal of Arts in protest against the growing monopoly of power and the government's proposed plan to end funding for the National Endowment for the Arts. Although her poetry collection The Dream of a Common Language is a cultural cornerstone and required reading for every thinking, feeling human being, her lesser-known collected prose, published as On Lies, Secrets, and Silence (public library), pours forth Rich's most direct insight into the political, philosophical, and personal dimensions of human life.

In it, she writes:

2e292385-dc1c-4cfe-b95e-845f6f98c2ec.pngAn honorable human relationship — that is, one in which two people have the right to use the word "love" — is a process, delicate, violent, often terrifying to both persons involved, a process of refining the truths they can tell each other.

It is important to do this because it breaks down human self-delusion and isolation.

It is important to do this because in doing so we do justice to our own complexity.

It is important to do this because we can count on so few people to go that hard way with us.

2. SØREN KIERKEGAARD: RESIST ABSENTMINDED BUSYNESS

kierkegaard.jpg

kierkegaard_eitheror.jpg?zoom=2&w=680Søren Kierkegaard (May 5, 1813–November 11, 1855), considered the first true existentialist philosopher, remains a source of enduring wisdom on everything from the psychology of bullying to the vital role of boredom to why we conform. In a chapter of the altogether indispensable 1843 treatise Either/Or: A Fragment of Life (public library), thirty-year-old Kierkegaard writes:

2e292385-dc1c-4cfe-b95e-845f6f98c2ec.pngOf all ridiculous things the most ridiculous seems to me, to be busy — to be a man who is brisk about his food and his work.

In a latter chapter, titled "The Unhappiest Man," he considers how we grow unhappy by fleeing from presence and busying ourselves with the constant pursuit of some as-yet unattained external goal:

2e292385-dc1c-4cfe-b95e-845f6f98c2ec.pngThe unhappy person is one who has his ideal, the content of his life, the fullness of his consciousness, the essence of his being, in some manner outside of himself. The unhappy man is always absent from himself, never present to himself. But one can be absent, obviously, either in the past or in the future. This adequately circumscribes the entire territory of the unhappy consciousness.

[…]

The unhappy one is absent… It is only the person who is present to himself that is happy.

3. RAINER MARIA RILKE: LIVE THE QUESTIONS

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letterstoayoungpoet.jpg?zoom=2&w=680In 1902, Rainer Maria Rilke (December 4, 1875–December 29, 1926) began corresponding with a 19-year-old cadet and budding poet named Franz Xaver Kappus. Later published as Letters to a Young Poet (public library), Rilke's missives address such enduring questions as what it really means to love, how great sadnesses bring us closer to ourselves, and what reading does for the human spirit.

In one of the most potent letters, he writes:

2e292385-dc1c-4cfe-b95e-845f6f98c2ec.pngI beg you, to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don't search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.

4. SUSAN SONTAG: PAY ATTENTION TO THE WORLD

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atthesametime_sontag.jpg?zoom=2&w=680In a terrific 1992 lecture, Susan Sontag (January 16, 1933–December 28, 2004) asserted that "a writer is someone who pays attention to the world — a writer is a professional observer." But this observant attentiveness to the world, Sontag believed, is as vital to being a good writer as it is to being a good human being — something she addresses in one of the many rewarding pieces collected in the posthumous anthology At the Same Time: Essays and Speeches (public library), which also gave us Sontag on beauty vs. interestingness, courage and resistance, and literature and freedom.

Reflecting on a question she is frequently asked — to distill her essential advice on writing — Sontag offers:

2e292385-dc1c-4cfe-b95e-845f6f98c2ec.pngI'm often asked if there is something I think writers ought to do, and recently in an interview I heard myself say: "Several things. Love words, agonize over sentences. And pay attention to the world."

Needless to say, no sooner had these perky phrases fallen out of my mouth than I thought of some more recipes for writer's virtue.

For instance: "Be serious." By which I meant: Never be cynical. And which doesn't preclude being funny.

But these tenets of storytelling, Sontag argues, aren't just writerly virtues — they are a framework for human virtues:

2e292385-dc1c-4cfe-b95e-845f6f98c2ec.pngTo tell a story is to say: this is the important story. It is to reduce the spread and simultaneity of everything to something linear, a path.

To be a moral human being is to pay, be obliged to pay, certain kinds of attention.

When we make moral judgments, we are not just saying that this is better than that. Even more fundamentally, we are saying that this is more important than that. It is to order the overwhelming spread and simultaneity of everything, at the price of ignoring or turning our backs on most of what is happening in the world.

The nature of moral judgments depends on our capacity for paying attention — a capacity that, inevitably, has its limits but whose limits can be stretched.

But perhaps the beginning of wisdom, and humility, is to acknowledge, and bow one's head, before the thought, the devastating thought, of the simultaneity of everything, and the incapacity of our moral understanding — which is also the understanding of the novelist — to take this in.

5. BERTRAND RUSSELL: MAKE ROOM FOR "FRUITFUL MONOTONY"

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bertrandrussell_theconquestofhappiness.jpg?zoom=2&w=200Many of humanity's greatest minds have advocated for the vitalizing role of not-doing in having a full life, but none more compellingly than British philosopher Bertrand Russell (May 18, 1872–February 2, 1970) in his 1930 masterwork The Conquest of Happiness (public library) — an effort "to suggest a cure for the ordinary day-to-day unhappiness from which most people in civilized countries suffer," and a timelessly insightful lens on what "the good life" really means.

In a chapter titled "Boredom and Excitement," Russell teases apart the paradoxical question of why, given how central it is to our wholeness, we dread boredom as much as we do. Long before our present anxieties about how the age of distraction and productivity is thwarting our capacity for presence, he writes:

2e292385-dc1c-4cfe-b95e-845f6f98c2ec.pngWe are less bored than our ancestors were, but we are more afraid of boredom. We have come to know, or rather to believe, that boredom is not part of the natural lot of man, but can be avoided by a sufficiently vigorous pursuit of excitement.

[…]

As we rise in the social scale the pursuit of excitement becomes more and more intense.

Many decades before our present concerns about screen time, he urges parents to allow children the freedom to experience "fruitful monotony," which invites inventiveness and imaginative play — in other words, the great childhood joy and developmental achievement of learning to "do nothing with nobody all alone by yourself." He writes:

2e292385-dc1c-4cfe-b95e-845f6f98c2ec.pngThe pleasures of childhood should in the main be such as the child extracts from his environment by means of some effort and inventiveness… A child develops best when, like a young plant, he is left undisturbed in the same soil. Too much travel, too much variety of impressions, are not good for the young, and cause them as they grow up to become incapable of enduring fruitful monotony.

I do not mean that monotony has any merits of its own; I mean only that certain good things are not possible except where there is a certain degree of monotony… A generation that cannot endure boredom will be a generation of little men, of men unduly divorced from the slow processes of nature, of men in whom every vital impulse slowly withers, as though they were cut flowers in a vase.

6. URSULA K. LE GUIN: REFUSE TO PLAY THE PERFECTION GAME

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leguin_waveinthemind.jpg?zoom=2&w=680Perfectionism is our most compulsive way of keeping ourselves small, a kind of psychoemotional contortionism that gives the illusion of reaching for greatness while constricting us into increasingly suffocating smallness. That's what Ursula K. Le Guin (October 21, 1929–January 22, 2018)) explores in a wonderful 1992 essay titled "Dogs, Cats, and Dancers: Thoughts about Beauty," found in the altogether spectacular volume The Wave in the Mind: Talks and Essays on the Writer, the Reader, and the Imagination (public library) — the source of Le Guin's wisdom on the cultural baggage of gender, the magic of real human conversation, and the sacredness of public libraries.

Reflecting on various cultures' impossible and often punishing ideals of human beauty, "especially of female beauty," Le Guin writes:

2e292385-dc1c-4cfe-b95e-845f6f98c2ec.pngThere are a whole lot of ways to be perfect, and not one of them is attained through punishment.

[…]

I think of when I was in high school in the 1940s: the white girls got their hair crinkled up by chemicals and heat so it would curl, and the black girls got their hair mashed flat by chemicals and heat so it wouldn't curl. Home perms hadn't been invented yet, and a lot of kids couldn't afford these expensive treatments, so they were wretched because they couldn't follow the rules, the rules of beauty.

Beauty always has rules. It's a game. I resent the beauty game when I see it controlled by people who grab fortunes from it and don't care who they hurt. I hate it when I see it making people so self-dissatisfied that they starve and deform and poison themselves. Most of the time I just play the game myself in a very small way, buying a new lipstick, feeling happy about a pretty new silk shirt.

[…]

There's the ideal beauty of youth and health, which never really changes, and is always true. There's the ideal beauty of movie stars and advertising models, the beauty-game ideal, which changes its rules all the time and from place to place, and is never entirely true. And there's an ideal beauty that is harder to define or understand, because it occurs not just in the body but where the body and the spirit meet and define each other.

And yet for all the ideals we impose on our bodies, Le Guin argues in her most poignant but, strangely, most liberating point, it is death that ultimately illuminates the full spectrum of our beauty — death, the ultimate equalizer of time and space; death, the great clarifier that makes us see that, as Rebecca Goldstein put it, "a person whom one loves is a world, just as one knows oneself to be a world."

With this long-view lens, Le Guin remembers her own mother and the many dimensions of her beauty:

2e292385-dc1c-4cfe-b95e-845f6f98c2ec.pngMy mother died at eighty-three, of cancer, in pain, her spleen enlarged so that her body was misshapen. Is that the person I see when I think of her? Sometimes. I wish it were not. It is a true image, yet it blurs, it clouds, a truer image. It is one memory among fifty years of memories of my mother. It is the last in time. Beneath it, behind it is a deeper, complex, ever-changing image, made from imagination, hearsay, photographs, memories. I see a little red-haired child in the mountains of Colorado, a sad-faced, delicate college girl, a kind, smiling young mother, a brilliantly intellectual woman, a peerless flirt, a serious artist, a splendid cook—I see her rocking, weeding, writing, laughing — I see the turquoise bracelets on her delicate, freckled arm — I see, for a moment, all that at once, I glimpse what no mirror can reflect, the spirit flashing out across the years, beautiful.

That must be what the great artists see and paint. That must be why the tired, aged faces in Rembrandt's portraits give us such delight: they show us beauty not skin-deep but life-deep.

More here.

7. ERICH FROMM: MASTER THE ART OF LOVING

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erichfromm_theartofloving.jpg?zoom=2&w=200Our cultural mythology depicts love as something that happens to us — something we fall into, something that strikes us arrow-like, in which we are so passive as to be either lucky or unlucky. Such framing obscures the fact that loving — the practice of love — is a skill attained through the same deliberate effort as any other pursuit of human excellence.

Long before the Zen sage Thich Nhat Hahn admonished that "to love without knowing how to love wounds the person we love," the great German social psychologist, psychoanalyst, and philosopher Erich Fromm (March 23, 1900–March 18, 1980) addressed this neglected skillfulness aspect of love in his 1956 classic The Art of Loving (public library) — a case for love as a skill to be honed the way artists apprentice themselves to the work on the way to mastery, demanding of its practitioner both knowledge and effort.

Fromm writes:

2e292385-dc1c-4cfe-b95e-845f6f98c2ec.pngLove is not a sentiment which can be easily indulged in by anyone, regardless of the level of maturity reached by him… [All] attempts for love are bound to fail, unless [one] tries most actively to develop [one's] total personality, so as to achieve a productive orientation; …satisfaction in individual love cannot be attained without the capacity to love one's neighbor, without true humility, courage, faith and discipline. In a culture in which these qualities are rare, the attainment of the capacity to love must remain a rare achievement.

[…]

There is hardly any activity, any enterprise, which is started with such tremendous hopes and expectations, and yet, which fails so regularly, as love.

The only way to abate this track record of failure, Fromm argues, is to examine the underlying reasons for the disconnect between our beliefs about love and its actual machinery — which must include a recognition of love as an informed practice rather than an unmerited grace:

2e292385-dc1c-4cfe-b95e-845f6f98c2ec.pngThe first step to take is to become aware that love is an art, just as living is an art; if we want to learn how to love we must proceed in the same way we have to proceed if we want to learn any other art, say music, painting, carpentry, or the art of medicine or engineering. What are the necessary steps in learning any art? The process of learning an art can be divided conveniently into two parts: one, the mastery of the theory; the other, the mastery of the practice. If I want to learn the art of medicine, I must first know the facts about the human body, and about various diseases. When I have all this theoretical knowledge, I am by no means competent in the art of medicine. I shall become a master in this art only after a great deal of practice, until eventually the results of my theoretical knowledge and the results of my practice are blended into one — my intuition, the essence of the mastery of any art. But, aside from learning the theory and practice, there is a third factor necessary to becoming a master in any art — the mastery of the art must be a matter of ultimate concern; there must be nothing else in the world more important than the art. This holds true for music, for medicine, for carpentry — and for love. And, maybe, here lies the answer to the question of why people in our culture try so rarely to learn this art, in spite of their obvious failures: in spite of the deep-seated craving for love, almost everything else is considered to be more important than love: success, prestige, money, power — almost all our energy is used for the learning of how to achieve these aims, and almost none to learn the art of loving.

More here.

8. ANNE TRUITT: CHOOSE UNDERSTANDING OVER JUDGMENT

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annetruitt_daybook.jpg?zoom=2&w=190Perhaps because she was formally trained as a psychologist, artist Anne Truitt (March 16, 1921–December 23, 2004) possessed exceptional powers of introspection and self-awareness coupled with an artist's penchant for patient observation. This made her diary, eventually published as Daybook: The Journal of an Artist (public library), a true masterwork of psychological insight.

In one particularly poignant entry, she considers how our preconceptions and our ready-made judgments are keeping us from truly seeing one another, erecting a perilous barrier to love:

2e292385-dc1c-4cfe-b95e-845f6f98c2ec.pngUnless we are very, very careful, we doom each other by holding onto images of one another based on preconceptions that are in turn based on indifference to what is other than ourselves. This indifference can be, in its extreme, a form of murder and seems to me a rather common phenomenon. We claim autonomy for ourselves and forget that in so doing we can fall into the tyranny of defining other people as we would like them to be. By focusing on what we choose to acknowledge in them, we impose an insidious control on them. I notice that I have to pay careful attention in order to listen to others with an openness that allows them to be as they are, or as they think themselves to be. The shutters of my mind habitually flip open and click shut, and these little snaps form into patterns I arrange for myself. The opposite of this inattention is love, is the honoring of others in a way that grants them the grace of their own autonomy and allows mutual discovery.

More here.

9. SIMONE WEIL: MAKE USE OF YOUR SUFFERING

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simoneweil_notebooks.jpg?zoom=2&w=680Long before scientists had empirical evidence of the astounding ways in which our minds affect our bodies, French philosopher and political activist Simone Weil (February 3, 1909–August 24, 1943) — a thinker of unparalleled intellectual elegance and a sort of modern saint whom Albert Camus described as "the only great spirit of our times" — examined the delicate relationship between our physical and spiritual suffering, between the anguish of the material body and that of the soul.

A few months before her painful yet stoic death from tuberculosis — despite her diagnosis and her doctor's explicit orders to eat heartily, Weil consumed only what was rationed to her compatriots under the German Occupation in a remarkable gesture of solidarity, ultimately resulting in fatal malnutrition — she turned to the problem of pain in First and Last Notebooks (public library). In an entry from late 1942, Weil considers how our instinctive reaction to suffering often only amplifies our pain:

2e292385-dc1c-4cfe-b95e-845f6f98c2ec.pngThe way to make use of physical pain. When suffering no matter what degree of pain, when almost the entire soul is inwardly crying "Make it stop, I can bear no more," a part of the soul, even though it be an infinitesimally small part, should say: "I consent that this should continue throughout the whole of time, if the divine wisdom so ordains." The soul is then split in two. For the physically sentient part of the soul is — at least sometimes — unable to consent to pain. This splitting in two of the soul is a second pain, a spiritual one, and even sharper than the physical pain that causes it.

Weil extends this philosophy beyond physical pain and into other forms of bodily and spiritual discomfort that we habitually exacerbate by stiffening with resistance to the unpleasantness:

2e292385-dc1c-4cfe-b95e-845f6f98c2ec.pngA similar use can be made of hunger, fatigue, fear, and of everything that imperatively constrains the sentient part of the soul to cry: I can bear no more! Make it stop! There should be something in us that answers: I consent that it should continue up to the moment of death, or that it should not even finish then, but continue for ever. Then it is that the soul is as if divided by a two-edged sword.

To make use in this way of the sufferings that chance inflicts upon us is better than inflicting discipline upon oneself.

10. JAMES BALDWIN: TELL THE WORLD HOW TO TREAT YOU

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araponrace.jpg?zoom=2&w=190One August evening in 1970, James Baldwin (August 2, 1924–December 1, 1987) and Margaret Mead (December 16, 1901–November 15, 1978) sat together on a stage in New York City for a remarkable public conversation. They talked for seven and a half hours over the course of the weekend, tackling such enduring concerns as power and privilege, race and gender, beauty, religion, justice, and the relationship between the intellect and the imagination. The transcript was eventually published as A Rap on Race (public library) — a testament to both how far we've come and how far we have yet to go, exploring such timeless and timely questions as changing one's destiny, the crucial difference between guilt and responsibility, and reimagining democracy for a post-consumerist culture.

In a portion of the conversation examining race, identity, and the immigrant experience, Baldwin observes:

2e292385-dc1c-4cfe-b95e-845f6f98c2ec.pngIt takes a lot to wrest identity out of nothing.

He offers an autobiographical example:

2e292385-dc1c-4cfe-b95e-845f6f98c2ec.pngI remember once a few years ago, in the British Museum a black Jamaican was washing the floors or something and asked me where I was from, and I said I was born in New York. He said, "Yes, but where are you from?" I did not know what he meant. "Where did you come from before that?" he explained. I said, "My mother was born in Maryland." "Where was your father born?" he asked. "My father was born in New Orleans." He said, "Yes, but where are you from?" Then I began to get it; very dimly, because now I was lost. And he said, "Where are you from in Africa?" I said, "Well, I don't know," and he was furious with me. He said, and walked away, "You mean you did not care enough to find out?"

Now, how in the world am I going to explain to him that there is virtually no way for me to have found out where I came from in Africa? So it is a kind of tug of war. The black American is looked down on by other dark people as being an object abjectly used. They envy him on the one hand, but on the other hand they also would like to look down on him as having struck a despicable bargain.

But identity, Baldwin argues, isn't something we are born with — rather, it is something we claim for ourselves, then must assert willfully to the world:

2e292385-dc1c-4cfe-b95e-845f6f98c2ec.pngYou've got to tell the world how to treat you. If the world tells you how you are going to be treated, you are in trouble.

More here.

11. JOHN STEINBECK: USE DISCIPLINE TO CATALYZE CREATIVE MAGIC

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workingdays_steinbeck.jpg?zoom=2&w=680Many celebrated writers have championed the creative benefits of keeping a diary, but no one has put the diary to more impressive practical use in the creative process than John Steinbeck (February 27, 1902–December 20, 1968).

In the spring of 1938, he embarked on the most intense writing experience of his life. The public fruit of this labor would become the 1939 masterwork The Grapes of Wrath, which earned Steinbeck the Pulitzer Prize in 1940 and was a cornerstone for his Nobel Prize two decades later. But its private rewards are at least as important and morally instructive: Alongside the novel, Steinbeck also began keeping a diary, eventually published as Working Days: The Journals of The Grapes of Wrath (public library) — a living record of his creative journey, in which this extraordinary writer tussles with excruciating self-doubt (exactly the kind Virginia Woolf so memorably described) but plows forward anyway, with equal parts gusto and grist, determined to do his best with the gift he has despite his limitations.

His journal, which became for him a practice both redemptive and transcendent, stands as a supreme testament to the fact that the essential substance of genius is the daily act of showing up. Steinbeck captures this perfectly in an entry that applies just as well to any field of creative endeavor:

2e292385-dc1c-4cfe-b95e-845f6f98c2ec.pngIn writing, habit seems to be a much stronger force than either willpower or inspiration. Consequently there must be some little quality of fierceness until the habit pattern of a certain number of words is established. There is no possibility, in me at least, of saying, "I'll do it if I feel like it." One never feels like awaking day after day. In fact, given the smallest excuse, one will not work at all. The rest is nonsense. Perhaps there are people who can work that way, but I cannot. I must get my words down every day whether they are any good or not.

The journal thus becomes at once a tool of self-discipline (he vowed to write in it every single weekday, and did, declaring in one of the first entries: "Work is the only good thing."), a pacing mechanism (he gave himself seven months to complete the book, anticipated it would actually take only 100 days, and finished it in under five months, averaging 2,000 words per day, longhand, not including the diary), and a sounding board for much-needed positive self-talk in the face of constant doubt ("I am so lazy and the thing ahead is so very difficult," he despairs in one entry; but he assures himself in another: "My will is low. I must build my will again. And I can do it.") Above all, it is a tool of accountability to keep him moving forward despite life's litany of distractions and responsibilities. "Problems pile up so that this book moves like a Tide Pool snail with a shell and barnacles on its back," he writes, and yet the essential thing is that despite the problems, despite the barnacles, it does move. He captures this in one of his most poignant entries, shortly before completing the first half of the novel:

2e292385-dc1c-4cfe-b95e-845f6f98c2ec.pngEvery book seems the struggle of a whole life. And then, when it is done — pouf. Never happened. Best thing is to get the words down every day. And it is time to start now.

A few days later, he spirals into self-doubt again:

2e292385-dc1c-4cfe-b95e-845f6f98c2ec.pngMy many weaknesses are beginning to show their heads. I simply must get this thing out of my system. I'm not a writer. I've been fooling myself and other people. I wish I were. This success will ruin me as sure as hell. It probably won't last, and that will be all right. I'll try to go on with work now. Just a stint every day does it. I keep forgetting.

And so he inches forward, day after day. As he nears the finish line, he is even more certain of this incremental reach for greatness:

2e292385-dc1c-4cfe-b95e-845f6f98c2ec.pngI'll get the book done if I just set one day's work in front of the last day's work. That's the way it comes out. And that's the only way it does.

And yet even as he approaches the end, his self-doubt remains as unshakable as his commitment to finish:

2e292385-dc1c-4cfe-b95e-845f6f98c2ec.pngI only hope it is some good. I have very grave doubts sometimes. I don't want this to seem hurried. It must be just as slow and measured as the rest but I am sure of one thing — it isn't the great book I had hoped it would be. It's just a run-of-the-mill book. And the awful thing is that it is absolutely the best I can do. Now to work on it.

The book, of course, was far from run-of-the-mill. In addition to earning the two highest accolades in literature, The Grapes of Wrath remained atop the bestseller list for almost a year after it was published, sold nearly 430,000 copies in its first year alone, and remains one of the most read and celebrated novels ever written.

12. MARTHA NUSSBAUM: HEED THE INTELLIGENCE OF THE EMOTIONS

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upheavalsofthought_marthanussbaum.jpgAs scientists are shedding light on how our emotions affect our susceptibility to disease, it is becoming increasingly clear that our emotional lives are equipped with a special and non-negligible kind of bodily and cognitive intelligence. The nature of that intelligence and how we can harness its power is what Martha Nussbaum (b.May 6, 1947), whom I continue to consider the most compelling and effective philosopher of our time, examines in her magnificent 2001 book Upheavals of Thought: The Intelligence of Emotions (public library). Titled after Proust's conception of the emotions as "geologic upheavals of thought," Nussbaum's treatise offers a lucid counterpoint to the old idea that our emotions are merely animal energies or primal impulses wholly separate from our cognition. Instead, she argues that they are a centerpiece of moral philosophy and that any substantive theory of ethics necessitates a substantive understanding of the emotions.

Nussbaum writes:

2e292385-dc1c-4cfe-b95e-845f6f98c2ec.pngA lot is at stake in the decision to view emotions in this way, as intelligent responses to the perception of value. If emotions are suffused with intelligence and discernment, and if they contain in themselves an awareness of value or importance, they cannot, for example, easily be sidelined in accounts of ethical judgment, as so often they have been in the history of philosophy. Instead of viewing morality as a system of principles to be grasped by the detached intellect, and emotions as motivations that either support or subvert our choice to act according to principle, we will have to consider emotions as part and parcel of the system of ethical reasoning. We cannot plausibly omit them, once we acknowledge that emotions include in their content judgments that can be true or false, and good or bad guides to ethical choice. We will have to grapple with the messy material of grief and love, anger and fear, and the role these tumultuous experiences play in thought about the good and the just.

[…]

Emotions are not just the fuel that powers the psychological mechanism of a reasoning creature, they are parts, highly complex and messy parts, of this creature's reasoning itself.

She considers the rationale behind the book's title:

2e292385-dc1c-4cfe-b95e-845f6f98c2ec.pngEmotions should be understood as "geological upheavals of thought": as judgments in which people acknowledge the great importance, for their own flourishing, of things that they do not fully control — and acknowledge thereby their neediness before the world and its events.

More here.

13. GRACE PALEY: MASTER THE ART OF GROWING OLDER

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hereandsomewhereelse_paley.jpgPerhaps the greatest perplexity of aging is how to fill with gentleness the void between who we feel we are on the inside and who our culture tells us is staring back from that mirror. The cultivation of that gentleness is what beloved writer Grace Paley (December 11, 1922–August 22, 2007) examines in a magnificent short piece titled "My Father Addresses Me on the Facts of Old Age," originally written for the New Yorker in 2002 and included in Here and Somewhere Else: Stories and Poems by Grace Paley and Robert Nichols (public library) — a celebration of literature, love, and the love of literature by Paley and her husband, published a few months before she died at the age of eighty-five.

Paley writes:

2e292385-dc1c-4cfe-b95e-845f6f98c2ec.pngMy father had decided to teach me how to grow old. I said O.K. My children didn't think it was such a great idea. If I knew how, they thought, I might do so too easily. No, no, I said, it's for later, years from now. And besides, if I get it right it might be helpful to you kids in time to come.

They said, Really?

My father wanted to begin as soon as possible.

[…]

Please sit down, he said. Be patient. The main thing is this — when you get up in the morning you must take your heart in your two hands. You must do this every morning.

That's a metaphor, right?

Metaphor? No, no, you can do this. In the morning, do a few little exercises for the joints, not too much. Then put your hands like a cup over and under the heart. Under the breast. He said tactfully. It's probably easier for a man. Then talk softly, don't yell. Under your ribs, push a little. When you wake up, you must do this massage. I mean pat, stroke a little, don't be ashamed. Very likely no one will be watching. Then you must talk to your heart.

Talk? What?

Say anything, but be respectful. Say — maybe say, Heart, little heart, beat softly but never forget your job, the blood. You can whisper also, Remember, remember.

More here.

14. FRIEDRICH NIETZSCHE: WALK YOUR OWN PATH

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schopenhaueraseducator.jpg?zoom=2&w=680"Do you have the courage to bring forth the treasures that are hidden within you?" Elizabeth Gilbert asked in framing her catalyst for creative magic. This is among life's most abiding questions and the history of human creativity — our art and our poetry and most empathically all of our philosophy — is the history of attempts to answer it.

Friedrich Nietzsche (October 15, 1844–August 25, 1900), who believed that embracing difficulty is essential for a fulfilling life, considered the journey of self-discovery one of the greatest and most fertile existential difficulties. In 1873, as he was approaching his thirtieth birthday, Nietzsche addressed this perennial question of how we find ourselves and bring forth our gifts in a beautiful essay titled Schopenhauer as Educator (public library), part of his Untimely Meditations.

Nietzsche, translated here by Daniel Pellerin, writes:

2e292385-dc1c-4cfe-b95e-845f6f98c2ec.pngAny human being who does not wish to be part of the masses need only stop making things easy for himself. Let him follow his conscience, which calls out to him: "Be yourself! All that you are now doing, thinking, desiring, all that is not you."

Every young soul hears this call by day and by night and shudders with excitement at the premonition of that degree of happiness which eternities have prepared for those who will give thought to their true liberation. There is no way to help any soul attain this happiness, however, so long as it remains shackled with the chains of opinion and fear. And how hopeless and meaningless life can become without such a liberation! There is no drearier, sorrier creature in nature than the man who has evaded his own genius and who squints now towards the right, now towards the left, now backwards, now in any direction whatever.

Echoing Picasso's proclamation that "to know what you're going to draw, you have to begin drawing," Nietzsche considers the only true antidote to this existential dreariness:

2e292385-dc1c-4cfe-b95e-845f6f98c2ec.pngNo 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!

More here.

15. MARTHA GRAHAM: EMBRACE YOUR DIVINE DISSATISFACTION

marthagraham.jpg

martha_agnesdemille.jpg?zoom=2&w=200"Resign yourself to the lifelong sadness that comes from never ­being satisfied," Zadie Smith counseled in her ten rules of writing. But how does one befriend this perennial dissatisfaction while continuing to unlock, to borrow Julia Cameron's potent phrase, the "spiritual electricity" of creative flow?

To this abiding question of the creative life, legendary choreographer Martha Graham (May 11, 1894–April 1, 1991) offers an answer at once remarkably grounding and remarkably elevating in a conversation found in the 1991 biography Martha: The Life and Work of Martha Graham (public library) by dancer and choreographer Agnes de Mille.

In 1943, De Mille was hired to choreograph the musical Oklahoma!, which became an overnight sensation and ran for a record-setting 2,212 performances. Feeling that critics and the public had long ignored work into which she had poured her heart and soul, De Mille found herself dispirited by the sense that something she considered "only fairly good" was suddenly hailed as a "flamboyant success." Shortly after the premiere, she met Graham "in a Schrafft's restaurant over a soda" for a conversation that put into perspective her gnawing grievance and offered what De Mille considered the greatest thing ever said to her. She recounts the exchange:

2e292385-dc1c-4cfe-b95e-845f6f98c2ec.pngI confessed that I had a burning desire to be excellent, but no faith that I could be.

Martha said to me, very quietly: "There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open. You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep yourself open and aware to the urges that motivate you. Keep the channel open. As for you, Agnes, you have so far used about one-third of your talent."

"But," I said, "when I see my work I take for granted what other people value in it. I see only its ineptitude, inorganic flaws, and crudities. I am not pleased or satisfied."

"No artist is pleased."

"But then there is no satisfaction?"

"No satisfaction whatever at any time," she cried out passionately. "There is only a queer divine dissatisfaction, a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive than the others."

16. KURT VONNEGUT: CELEBRATE ENOUGHNESS

vonnegut.jpg?zoom=2&w=680

enough_bogle.jpgIn 2005, Kurt Vonnegut (November 11, 1922–April 11, 2007) — a man of discipline, a sage of storytelling, and one wise dad — penned a short and acutely beautiful remembrance of his friend Joseph Heller, who had died several years earlier. Originally published in the New Yorker, it was later reprinted in John C. Bogle's Enough: True Measures of Money, Business, and Life (public library).

2e292385-dc1c-4cfe-b95e-845f6f98c2ec.pngJOE HELLER

True story, Word of Honor:
Joseph Heller, an important and funny writer
now dead,
and I were at a party given by a billionaire
on Shelter Island.

I said, "Joe, how does it make you feel
to know that our host only yesterday
may have made more money
than your novel 'Catch-22'
has earned in its entire history?"
And Joe said, "I've got something he can never have."
And I said, "What on earth could that be, Joe?"
And Joe said, "The knowledge that I've got enough."
Not bad! Rest in peace!

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RELATED READING:

The Fate of Fausto: Oliver Jeffers's Lovely Painted Fable About the Absurdity of Greed and the Existential Triumph of Enoughness, Inspired by Vonnegut

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Self-Refinement Through the Wisdom of the Ages: New Year's Resolutions from Some of Humanity's Greatest Minds

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13 Life-Learnings from 13 Years of Brain Pickings

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