The Poetics of the Psyche: Adam Phillips on Why Psychoanalysis Is Like Literature and How Art Soothes the Soul by Maria Popova “Everybody is dealing with how much of their own aliveness they can bear and how much they need to anesthetize themselves.” “A writer is someone who pays attention to the world — a writer is a professional observer,” Susan Sontag once said. The object of the writer’s observation isn’t just the outer world but also — and perhaps even more so — the inner. In that regard, the writer bears a striking similarity to another professional observer — the psychotherapist. That’s precisely what Adam Phillips — Britain’s most celebrated psychoanalytical writer and the author of such immeasurably stimulating reads as Promises, Promises: Essays on Psychoanalysis and Literature, On Kissing, Tickling, and Being Bored: Psychoanalytic Essays on the Unexamined Life, and the particularly wonderful On Kindness — explores in his wide-ranging conversation with Paul Holdengräber, several years in the making, part of The Paris Review’s legendary interview series. There is no creative process.
8 tips to make your life more surprising — from a “Surprisologist” A closeup of Tania Luna, with glow stick. Photo: James Duncan Davidson In today’s talk, Tania Luna shares her experience of immigrating to the United States from Ukraine as a little girl. Perfectly happy with her family’s outhouse and with chewing a single piece of Bazooka gum for a week, Luna found herself blown away by the wonders of her new country. Commit to the mindset and process of surprise. Luna believes we can all be surprisologists. Tania Luna leads a TED audience in a glowstick dance, during a talk given a year prior to the one posted today.
Charming talks for a boost on a bad day | Playlist Now playing All under the age of 16, brothers Jonny, Robbie and Tommy Mizzone are from New Jersey, a US state that's better known for the rock of Bruce Springsteen than the bluegrass of Earl Scruggs. Nonetheless, the siblings began performing bluegrass covers, as well as their own compositions, at a young age. Here, they play three dazzling songs in three different keys, passing the lead back and forth from fiddle to banjo to guitar. How to Find Fulfilling Work By Maria Popova “If one wanted to crush and destroy a man entirely, to mete out to him the most terrible punishment,” wrote Dostoevsky, “all one would have to do would be to make him do work that was completely and utterly devoid of usefulness and meaning.” Indeed, the quest to avoid work and make a living of doing what you love is a constant conundrum of modern life. The desire for fulfilling work — a job that provides a deep sense of purpose, and reflects our values, passions and personality — is a modern invention. … For centuries, most inhabitants of the Western world were too busy struggling to meet their subsistence needs to worry about whether they had an exciting career that used their talents and nurtured their wellbeing. Krznaric goes on to outline two key afflictions of the modern workplace — “a plague of job dissatisfaction” and “uncertainty about how to choose the right career” — and frames the problem: There are two broad ways of thinking about these questions.
How to help your doctor give you better care Upstreamists like me — and we can be doctors, nurses or other clinicians — know that asthma can start in the air around us. We know that ailments such as depression, anxiety and high blood pressure can arise from chronically stressful conditions at work and home. We see how policies that deny opportunity, fairness and justice can be reflected in patients’ faces as well as in their DNA. And, just as important, we understand how to translate this knowledge into action. The upstreamist considers it her professional duty not only to prescribe a chemical remedy but also to tackle sickness at its source. There aren’t nearly enough of these pioneers working in health care today, but our ranks are slowly growing. 1. Create a list of the potentially unhealthy issues in your environment. Some of these problems you might be able to fix yourself. 2. So, next time you visit your doctor, try asking: “Doctor, do you consider yourself an upstreamist?” 3. Not a gadgethead? 4. 5. 6.
What are you revealing online? Much more than you think What can be guessed about you from your online behavior? Two computer privacy experts — economist Alessandro Acquisti and computer scientist Jennifer Golbeck — on how little we know about how much others know. The best indicator of high intelligence on Facebook is apparently liking a page for curly fries. At least, that’s according to computer scientist Jennifer Golbeck (TED Talk: The curly fry conundrum), whose job is to figure out what we reveal about ourselves through what we say — and don’t say — online. Of course, the lines between online and “real” are increasingly blurred, but as Golbeck and privacy economist Alessandro Acquisti (TED Talk: Why privacy matters) both agree, that’s no reason to stop paying attention. I hear so much conflicting information about what I should and shouldn’t be posting online. Alessandro Acquisti: My personal view is that individual responsibility is important, but we are at a stage where it is not sufficient. Jennifer Golbeck: I agree with that.
It’s a “Story Problem”: What’s Behind Our Messed-Up Economy by David Korten The peoples of earlier times prospered from the guidance of simple stories that offered answers to their deepest questions. We need those now more than ever. posted Jul 18, 2013 For people, generally, their story of the universe and the human role in the universe is their primary source of intelligibility and value. ... According to evolutionary biologists, the first living organisms appeared on Earth some 3.6 billion years ago. We humans live by stories and have a particularly passionate need for stories that give our lives meaning and direction. We humans pride ourselves on being the most intelligent of the species made possible by the supposedly lesser, mostly microscopic organisms that transformed Earth from a toxic dead rock into a living jewel. It seems that despite all of our extraordinary scientific and economic advances, we humans are a species out of touch with reality. Millions of people now ask, "Why do we get it so terribly wrong?" I believe it’s a story problem. Story awareness
Helen Keller on Optimism by Maria Popova “Doubt and mistrust are the mere panic of timid imagination, which the steadfast heart will conquer, and the large mind transcend.” Decades before the dawn of the positive psychology movement and a century before what neuroscience has taught us about the benefits of optimism, Helen Keller — the remarkable woman who grew up without sight and hearing until, with the help of her teacher Annie Sullivan, she learned to speak, read, write, and inhabit the life of the mind with such grace and fierceness that made her one of history’s most inspired intellectual heroes — penned a timeless treatise on optimism as a philosophy of life. Simply titled Optimism (public library; public domain), it was originally published in 1903 and written — a moment of pause here — after Keller learned to write on a grooved board over a sheet of paper, using the grooves and the end of her index pencil to guide her writing. Once I knew only darkness and stillness. I know what evil is.
5 Everyday Moments You Didn't Realize Were Spiritual There are moments in your life that will take your breath away, ones that will make you weep, and others that will fill you with joy. Although we tend to focus on the good moments, each of these moments are sacred. They have been sent to teach us important life lessons. Being part of the human experience means we all share similar highs and lows, and sometimes these shared experiences are actually spiritual moments in disguise, intended to put us directly in touch with the higher being (spirit). 1. Have you ever been driving along and your mind starts to wander? None of these are coincidences. 2. When I was a child, my mother would say, “If you see rays of sunshine bursting through the clouds, God is answering someone's prayers.” 3. Have you ever felt like you were saved from a terrible situation at the very last minute? 4. It is a moment when you feel so happy, your heart is so full, that you begin to weep for no good reason. 5. Photo Credit: Shutterstock.com
The Nature of the Self: Experimental Philosopher Joshua Knobe on How We Know Who We Are by Maria Popova A mind-bending new understanding of our basic existential anchor. “The fate of the world depends on the Selves of human beings,” pioneering educator Annemarie Roeper wrote in her meditation on how poorly we understand the self. Over the past decade, the emerging field of experimental philosophy — a discipline that pursues inquiries about the human condition traditionally from the realm of philosophy with the empirical methods of psychology — has tackled this paradox, along with its many fringe concerns spanning morality, happiness, love, and how to live. Though the full talk is remarkable in its entirety and is well worth the watch, here is what I find to be Knobe’s most poignant pause-giver: One specific thing [has] really been exploding in the past couple of years and this is experimental philosophy work on the notion of the self. Donating = Loving Bringing you (ad-free) Brain Pickings takes hundreds of hours each month. Brain Pickings has a free weekly newsletter.
Kierkegaard on Our Greatest Source of Unhappiness by Maria Popova Hope, memory, and how our chronic compulsion to flee from our own lives robs us of living. “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives,” Annie Dillard memorably wrote in reflecting on why presence matters more than productivity. “On how one orients himself to the moment depends the failure or fruitfulness of it,” Henry Miller asserted in his beautiful meditation on the art of living. And yet we spend our lives fleeing from the present moment, constantly occupying ourselves with overplanning the future or recoiling with anxiety over its impermanence, thus invariably robbing ourselves of the vibrancy of aliveness. Kierkegaard, who was only thirty at the time, begins with an observation all the timelier today, amidst our culture of busy-as-a-badge-of-honor: Of 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. The unhappy one is absent. Consider first the hoping individual. Donating = Loving
Conformity and the Instinct of Rebellion: Norman Mailer Channels His Departed Friend, the Pioneering Psychologist Robert Lindner by Maria Popova “Because of the instinct of rebellion man has never been content with the limits of his mind: it has led him to inquire its secrets of the universe, to gather and learn and manipulate the fabulous inventory of the cosmos, to seek the very mysteries of creation.” On February 27, 1956, the prolific writer and pioneering psychologist Robert Lindner — best-known for his 1944 book Rebel Without A Cause: The Hypnoanalysis of a Criminal Psychopath, from which the famous 1955 starring James Dean borrowed its title — died of a chronic heart condition at the age of 41. His death devastated, among others, his close friend Norman Mailer, who had befriended Lindner after being taken with his book Prescription for Rebellion. Mailer, who later sponsored a memorial research foundation in Lindner’s name, writes: Bob Lindner was so good a friend that I simply have no heart to write about him now. Cover of 'Must You Conform' by Robert Lindner Donating = Loving Share on Tumblr
The Ego and the Universe: Alan Watts on Becoming Who You Really Are by Maria Popova The cause of and cure for the illusion of separateness that keeps us from embracing the richness of life. During the 1950s and 1960s, British philosopher and writer Alan Watts began popularizing Eastern philosophy in the West, offering a wholly different perspective on inner wholeness in the age of anxiety and what it really means to live a life of purpose. We owe much of today’s mainstream adoption of practices like yoga and meditation to Watts’s influence. Alan Watts, early 1970s (Image courtesy of Everett Collection) Though strictly nonreligious, the book explores many of the core inquiries which religions have historically tried to address — the problems of life and love, death and sorrow, the universe and our place in it, what it means to have an “I” at the center of our experience, and what the meaning of existence might be. Watts considers the singular anxiety of the age, perhaps even more resonant today, half a century and a manic increase of pace later:
A Short Guide to a Happy Life: Anna Quindlen on Work, Joy, and How to Live Rather Than Exist by Maria Popova “You cannot be really first-rate at your work if your work is all you are.” The commencement address is a special kind of modern communication art, and its greatest masterpieces tend to either become a book — take, for instance, David Foster Wallace on the meaning of life, Neil Gaiman on the resilience of the creative spirit, Ann Patchett on storytelling and belonging, and Joseph Brodsky on winning the game of life — or have originated from a book, such as Debbie Millman on courage and the creative life. In 2000, Villanova University invited Pulitzer-Prize-winning author, journalist, and New York Times op-ed columnist Anna Quindlen to deliver the annual commencement address. Anna Quindlen (artwork based on a photograph by Grant M. Quindlen begins: I’ve never earned a doctorate, or even a master’s degree. And know it she does: Don’t ever confuse the two, your life and your work. Illustration by Maurice Sendak from 'Open House for Butterflies' by Ruth Krauss. She continues: