How to Apologize for Standing Someone Up: A Lesson from Lewis Carroll’s Hilarious Letter by Maria Popova “I am obliged to use an umbrella to keep the tears from running down on to the paper.” From Richard Feynman’s sketches to Marilyn Monroe’s poetry to Sylvia Plath’s drawings , we’ve learned that famous creators often harbor little-known talent in a different medium . Among this tendency’s prime examples is Charles Dodgson, better-known today as Lewis Carroll . Though primarily celebrated as the author of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland , he was also a masterful mathematician and logician, as well as a dedicated practitioner of the then-new art form of photography. Known for his friendships with children, Dodgson had a particular soft spot for photographing them and famously took portraits of Alice Liddell, the real little girl who inspired Wonderland . Annie Rogers and Mary Jackson as Queen Eleanor and Fair Rosamund. My dear Annie: This is indeed dreadful. Funny Letters from Famous People , edited by the great Charles Osgood, remains a treat in its entirety.
The Art of Observation and How to Master the Crucial Difference Between Observation and Intuition by Maria Popova Why genius lies in the selection of what is worth observing. “In the field of observation,” legendary disease prevention pioneer Louis Pasteur famously proclaimed in 1854, “chance favors only the prepared mind.” “Knowledge comes from noticing resemblances and recurrences in the events that happen around us,” neuroscience godfather Wilfred Trotter asserted. From The Art of Scientific Investigation (public library; public domain) by Cambridge University animal pathology professor W. Though a number of celebrated minds favored intuition over rationality, and even Beveridge himself extolled the merits of the intuitive in science, he sides with modern-day admonitions about our tendency to mislabel other cognitive processes as “intuition” and advises: It is important to realize that observation is much more than merely seeing something; it also involves a mental process. One cannot observe everything closely, therefore one must discriminate and try to select the significant.
The One Thing That Changes All Relationships. ~ Freya Watson We live in a vibrational world, where similar vibrations attract. “I was going through a tough patch in my relationship. It felt as if I was carrying everything myself, with my partner just not being there to support me… Being ‘self-aware,’ I thought I had reflected on myself sufficiently (a dangerous assumption to make!). I had looked at the situation from all angles, wondered what I was projecting onto my partner, wondered what I need to look at myself—but I still kept feeling let down and unsupported. Eventually, one day, the frustration hit a particular low, and I let all the unspoken feelings and criticisms come tumbling out—and it turned out to be the key that unlocked the door to understanding. That night, as we lay in bed, I laughed at the idea that there we were, the two fathers in bed together – but where were the ‘real’ us? (from The Beautiful Garden ) My thirties were a dramatic period of change in my life. I’m lighter in my engagement with others. I don’t keep secrets.
What Makes People Compelling by Maria Popova The art of mastering the vital osmosis of two conflicting qualities. What makes a winning personality? It turns out that when we assess someone’s personality, we pay heed to two main criteria: “strength,” which as a personal quality is a measure of how well a person can will the world into obedience, and “warmth,” which induces a sense of belonging or being cared for, often through shared interests or concerns. Strength is a person’s capacity to make things happen with abilities and force of will. They illustrate this with a few examples of where that vital osmosis of strength and warmth works or fails: The waitress’s sweet talk projects warmth, while her level gaze suggests she does not put up with nonsense. Strength and warmth are in direct tension with each other. Donating = Loving Bringing you (ad-free) Brain Pickings takes hundreds of hours each month. You can also become a one-time patron with a single donation in any amount: Share on Tumblr
Picasso on Intuition, How Creativity Works, and Where Ideas Come From by Maria Popova “To know what you’re going to draw, you have to begin drawing.” “Inspiration is for amateurs — the rest of us just show up and get to work,” painter Chuck Close memorably scoffed. Picasso having lunch at the Brasserie Lipp, chatting with Pierre Matisse, Henri Matisse's son. This was one of the questions the famed Hungarian photographer Brassaï posed to Pablo Picasso over the course of their 30-year-long interview series, collected in Conversations with Picasso (public library) — the same superb 1964 volume that gave us Picasso on success and why you should never compromise creatively. I don’t have a clue. The chalk portrait of Picasso that Henri Matisse drew blindfolded. To further illustrate this notion that the best creative work happens when the rational, self-editing mind gets out of the way of the intuitive inclination — something Ray Bradbury articulated beautifully in a 1974 interview — Picasso offers an illustrative example. Donating = Loving Share on Tumblr
3 Ways to Access Everyday Intuition Many of us are raised to believe that logic is the best way to make a decision; weighing the pros and cons back and forth. The truth is “Life is Illogical.” We plan for A and B happens, we get upset and disappointed, because somehow we believe we have control over how each step goes, especially when we mapped it out so logically. Intuition is alway in operation 24/7, it nudges us in the direction we should go. It’s our internal map, our friendly guide. Most of us simply don’t trust it, we think it must be more complicated and often, it goes against what our “brain” says the right thing to do is in many situations. The brain operates from experience and intuition from our truth. Our mind is an encyclopedia of past experiences, always drawing upon itself for information and this can keep us repeating patterns or abstaining from risk, because of the fear that the same thing will happen to us. How do we learn to trust it? 1. 2. Our intuition can be felt physically. 3. About Tracy Crossley
Letters to a Young Artist: Anna Deavere Smith on Confidence and What Self-Esteem Really Means by Maria Popova “Real self-esteem is an integration of an inner value with things in the world around you.” “Character — the willingness to accept responsibility for one’s own life — is the source from which self-respect springs,” Joan Didion wrote in her timeless meditation on self-respect. But how can character be cultivated in such a way as to foster that prized form of personal dignity, along with its sibling qualities of confidence and self-esteem? Art should take what is complex and render it simply. Portrait of Anna Deavere Smith by Mary Ellen Mark for NPR For artists and creative spirits alike, Smith argues, the issue of confidence is as important as it is messy — and it’s also often a placeholder term for something far more crucial in the dogged pursuit of mastery that defines any successful creative endeavor. Confidence is a static state. In the arts, value … is like a yo-yo. Instead, she considers the essence of what self-esteem actually means and why it matters: Thanks, Wendy
Trying Not to Try: How to Cultivate the Paradoxical Art of Spontaneity Through the Chinese Concept of Wu-Wei by Maria Popova “Our modern conception of human excellence is too often impoverished, cold, and bloodless. Success does not always come from thinking more rigorously or striving harder.” “The best way to get approval is not to need it,” Hugh MacLeod memorably counseled. We now know that perfectionism kills creativity and excessive goal-setting limits our success rather than begetting it — all different manifestations of the same deeper paradox of the human condition, at once disconcerting and comforting, which Edward Slingerland, professor of Asian Studies and Embodied Cognition at the University of British Columbia and a renowned scholar of Chinese thought, explores in Trying Not to Try: The Art and Science of Spontaneity (public library | IndieBound). Our lives, Slingerland argues, are often like “a massive game of Mindball,” when we find ourselves continually caught in this loop of trying so hard that we stymie our own efforts. Art by Austin Kleon from 'Show Your Work.' Share on Tumblr
Should you trust your first impression? - Peter Mende-Siedlecki Social psychology is a branch of psychology focused on the scientific study of how people think about and relate to one another. One of the core research areas within social psychology concerns the question of how we learn about and evaluate other people based on their behavior. Expanding on the theories of early pioneers like Solomon Asch, Fritz Heider, and Harold Kelley, social psychologists have identified consistent patterns that govern how form stable impressions of the people around us. For instance, research suggests that when learning about a person’s moral character, bad behavior weighs more heavily on our impressions than good behavior. However, when learning about a person’s abilities, achievement is more informative than failure. In more recent years, the field of social neuroscience has emerged at the intersection of social psychology and the biological sciences. I’m currently a graduate student, working under the guidance of Dr. Selected References 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8.
The Science of Love: How Positivity Resonance Shapes the Way We Connect by Maria Popova The neurobiology of how the warmest emotion blurs the boundaries by you and not-you. We kick-started the year with some of history’s most beautiful definitions of love. But timeless as their words might be, the poets and the philosophers have a way of escaping into the comfortable detachment of the abstract and the metaphysical, leaving open the question of what love really is on an unglamorously physical, bodily, neurobiological level — and how that might shape our experience of those lofty abstractions. That’s precisely what psychologist Barbara Fredrickson, who has been studying positive emotions for decades, explores in the unfortunately titled but otherwise excellent Love 2.0: How Our Supreme Emotion Affects Everything We Feel, Think, Do, and Become (UK; public library). She begins with a definition that parallels Dorion Sagan’s scientific meditation on sex: First and foremost, love is an emotion, a momentary state that arises to infuse your mind and body alike.
Intuition Pumps: Daniel Dennett on the Dignity and Art-Science of Making Mistakes by Maria Popova “The chief trick to making good mistakes is not to hide them — especially not from yourself.” “If you are not making mistakes, you’re not taking enough risks,” Debbie Millman counseled. “Make New Mistakes. Make glorious, amazing mistakes. Make mistakes nobody’s ever made before,” Neil Gaiman advised young creators. Though most of his 77 “intuition pumps” address concrete questions, a dozen are “general-purpose” tools that apply deeply and widely, across just about any domain of thinking. Echoing Dorion Sagan’s case for why science and philosophy need each other, Dennett begins with an astute contribution to the best definitions of philosophy, wrapped in a necessary admonition about the value of history: He speaks for the generative potential of mistakes and their usefulness as an empirical tool: Sometimes you don’t just want to risk making mistakes; you actually want to make them — if only to give you something clear and detailed to fix. Donating = Loving Share on Tumblr
How Our Minds Mislead Us: The Marvels and Flaws of Our Intuition by Maria Popova “The confidence people have in their beliefs is not a measure of the quality of evidence but of the coherence of the story that the mind has managed to construct.” Every year, intellectual impresario and Edge editor John Brockman summons some of our era’s greatest thinkers and unleashes them on one provocative question, whether it’s the single most elegant theory of how the world works or the best way to enhance our cognitive toolkit. This year, he sets out on the most ambitious quest yet, a meta-exploration of thought itself: Thinking: The New Science of Decision-Making, Problem-Solving, and Prediction (public library) collects short essays and lecture adaptations from such celebrated and wide-ranging (though not in gender) minds as Daniel Dennett, Jonathan Haidt, Dan Gilbert, and Timothy Wilson, covering subjects as diverse as morality, essentialism, and the adolescent brain. There is no sharp line between intuition and perception. … Perception is predictive. . . .