Brain Pickings

Two Hundred Years of Blue

Two Hundred Years of Blue

Cerulean splendor from Goethe, Thoreau, Virginia Woolf, Vladimir Nabokov, Rachel Carson, Toni Morrison, and other literary masters.
Life, Loss, and the Wisdom of Rivers

Life, Loss, and the Wisdom of Rivers

"It’s a mercy that time runs in one direction only, that we see the past but darkly and the future not at all."
Nabokov’s Synesthetic Alphabet: From the Weathered Wood of A to the Thundercloud of Z

Nabokov’s Synesthetic Alphabet: From the Weathered Wood of A to the Thundercloud of Z

"The long A of the English alphabet... has for me the tint of weathered wood, but a French A evokes polished ebony."
Optimism: A Poetic Stop-Motion Celebration of Nature’s Resilience and the Persistence of Life Against All Odds

Optimism: A Poetic Stop-Motion Celebration of Nature’s Resilience and the Persistence of Life Against All Odds

A spare and lovely ode to that which we so easily forget yet which animates the center of existence.

Pioneering Mathematician G.H. Hardy on the Noblest Existential Ambition and How We Find Our Purpose

"If a man has any genuine talent he should be ready to make almost any sacrifice in order to cultivate it to the full."
The Universe as an Infinite Storm of Beauty: John Muir on the Transcendent Interconnectedness of Nature

The Universe as an Infinite Storm of Beauty: John Muir on the Transcendent Interconnectedness of Nature

"When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe."

Reality, Representation, and the Search for Meaning: Argentine Artist Mirtha Dermisache’s Invented Graphic Languages

A poetic reminder that language itself is an invention — a net woven of abstraction in which we try to hold reality, only to watch it all too often slip through uncaught.

Walt Whitman’s Advice to the Young on the Building Blocks of Character and What It Takes to Be an Agent of Change

"Go, dear friend, if need be give up all else, and commence to-day to inure yourself to pluck, reality, self-esteem, definiteness, elevatedness..."
Erich Fromm on Spontaneity as the Wellspring of Individuality, Creativity, and Love

Erich Fromm on Spontaneity as the Wellspring of Individuality, Creativity, and Love

"Spontaneous activity is the one way in which man can overcome the terror of aloneness... for in the spontaneous realization of the self man unites himself anew with the world — with man, nature, and

Create Dangerously: Albert Camus on the Artist as a Voice of Resistance and a Liberator of Society

"To create today is to create dangerously... The question, for all those who cannot live without art and what it signifies, is merely to find out how, among the police forces of so many ideologies
Pioneering Jamaican-American Illustrator and Designer Jacqueline Ayer’s Lovely Vintage Children’s Book About Loss, Hope, And Homecoming, Inspired by Thailand

Pioneering Jamaican-American Illustrator and Designer Jacqueline Ayer’s Lovely Vintage Children’s Book About Loss, Hope, And Homecoming, Inspired by Thailand

"In a sunny, sleepy place halfway around the world in Siam, on the banks of a long brown river, there once lived a little boy whose name was Nu Dang."

Thomas Carlyle on What Self-Help Really Means and the Healing Power of Love in Moments of Blackest Despair

"The feeling of recklessness and stormy self-help, when friends grow cold, and the world seems to cast us off, and the heart gathers force from its own wretchedness, converting its 'tortures into

Theodore Roosevelt on the Cowardice of Cynicism and the Courage to Create Rather Than Criticize

"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the
Astrophysicist Janna Levin Reads Ursula K. Le Guin’s “Hymn to Time”

Astrophysicist Janna Levin Reads Ursula K. Le Guin’s “Hymn to Time”

An ode to the eternal "let there be" between death and chance.