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What’s the Story?
A discovery engine for meaningful knowledge, fueled by cross-disciplinary curiosity.
A Brain Pickings project edited by Maria Popova in partnership with Noodle.
Twitter: @explorer
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Bear Despair – utterly charming illustrated wordless story about depression and perseverance. 

Bear Despair – utterly charming illustrated wordless story about depression and perseverance. 

I don’t get out of bed every morning thinking, “Will I find extraterrestrial intelligence today?” But I do think every day, “How can I improve the search?”

Astronomer Jill Tarter, who inspired Jodie Foster’s character in the film based on Carl Sagan’s Contact, on the search for extraterrestrial life and the importance of playing the long game – so much wisdom that applies to just about every aspect of life.

Teaser for Book Hive, an amazing interactive installation at Bristol’s Central Library from British art collective Rusty Squid – the best thing since this photographic love letter to public libraries.

I’ve been a writer all my life, and a visual artist, too. When I was in private practice, I used creative tools with my psychotherapy clients, drawing from Jungian traditions, from global mythology, from creative arts of all kinds. From sand-tray to self-inquiry, my territory was the creative inner world.

And then my love drowned in front of me on an otherwise ordinary day.

Tell me, what use is it to rearrange mythic figures on a board when life has exploded that way? Where is the relevance of self-inquiry in the face of such reeling pain? A paintbrush is not going to solve anything.

[…]

There’s a deep cultural presumption that creating something out of grief somehow makes it all even out in the end. That your deepest call is to transform your grief into a work of art that touches others. That when you do that, when you turn to creative expression in the depths of pain, you are, in fact, healing your grief. Creativity is a way to transform pain. The results of your creativity, if they’re good enough, can help others transform their pain. It all works out.

But the truth is, there is no fair trade.

[…]

The truth is, pain, like love, needs expression. Some of us use words. Some paint. Some build, some invent, some serve. We are story-telling creatures.

Creative expression is part of me. It’s part of you. It’s in all of us.

That you make something beautiful and useful out of your pain, whether for yourself or others, is a wonderful thing. It’s a healing thing. But it’s not a prescription, and it won’t fix anything.

But the truth is, there is no fair trade.

A harrowing counterpoint to the art-as-therapy idea from author and grief counselor Megan Devine. Pair with Meghan O’Rourke’s sublime memoir of grief.

(HT Cheryl Strayed)

There are three sorts of appetites:

1. Appetite that comes from hunger. It makes no fuss over the food that satisfies it. If it is great enough, a piece of raw meat will appease it as easily as a roasted pheasant or woodcock.

2. Appetite aroused, hunger or no hunger, by a succulent dish appearing at the right moment, illustrating the proverb that hunger comes with eating.

The third type of appetite is that roused at the end of a meal when, after normal hunger has been satisfied by the main courses, and the guest is truly ready to rise without regret, a delicious dish holds him to the table with a final tempting of his sensuality.

Three Musketeers and Count of Monte Cristo author Alexandre Dumas, born on this day in 1802, was a secret gastronome – here’s his advice on the 3 types of appetite, 3 types of gluttony, and perfect number of dinner party guests
Amelia Earhart, born on this day in 1897, on marriage – the bold, ahead-of-its-time letter she sent to her future husband the day before their wedding.

Amelia Earhart, born on this day in 1897, on marriage – the bold, ahead-of-its-time letter she sent to her future husband the day before their wedding.

Mr. Rogers shows you how crayons are made.

(via The Kid Should See This)

The Poetics of Reverie – philosopher Gaston Bachelard on dreams, love, solitude, and happiness, a beautiful read.

The Poetics of Reverie – philosopher Gaston Bachelard on dreams, love, solitude, and happiness, a beautiful read.

To begin with, you need to write. This seems axiomatic because it is. The only way to amass a pile of words into a book is to shovel some every single day. No days off. You have to form this habit; without it you are screwed. I’m going to assume everyone who keeps reading already has this down. If you don’t — you won’t make it. My best advice on how to form this habit is twofold: Get comfortable staring at a blank screen and not writing. This is a skill. If you can not write and avoid filling that time with distractions, you’ll get to the point where you start writing. Open your manuscript and just be with it.

Hugh Howey, author of the famous Wool series, offers his advice to aspiring writers – a fine addition to our ongoing archive of writing advice.

For the ultimate resource, see the famous writers’ collected advice on writing. And for empirical evidence of this rain-or-shine approach to writing, see the daily routines of great authors

I am not one to advocate for a blind quota-filling approach, where there must be equal representation on all levels at all cost. And yet it’s rather disappointing to see only one female scientist alongside her twenty-two male peers. To be sure, Edge itself is far from gender-balanced — one could rationalize that this is simply the state of science still — but the site’s vast archive, spanning fifteen years of conversations and essays, does feature a number of female scientists, which renders the 5% female representation in this collection editorially lamentable.

This gender gap lends double meaning to [physicist Leonard] Susskind’s reflections on the progress of science in the twenty-first century as he notes: "Man’s place in the universe is also being reexamined and challenged." Woman’s, evidently, is not.

You/I – a weird and wonderful animated meditation on users and interfaces

July 23, 1951 — how a vintage children’s book illustrated by graphic novel godfather Lynd Ward saved New York’s iconic Little Red Lighthouse

July 23, 1951 — how a vintage children’s book illustrated by graphic novel godfather Lynd Ward saved New York’s iconic Little Red Lighthouse

“My name is Molly. I’m 36, single, live in Brooklyn, and work in publishing. I love gloomy Victorian novels, obscure Korean horror films, Premier League soccer, and knitting. I’m 5-foot-5, slim, with brown hair and brown eyes. I am looking for a serious relationship. I suffer from mental illness.”

That dating profile is going to get me nowhere.

[…]

I am not ashamed of my condition. Or not exactly. I think there is still a lot more stigma than we admit, and every joke someone cracks about being “so OCD” makes it harder to explain that while you all think you’re totally cool with me being obsessive-compulsive, it’s a lot more than lining up pencils and touching the light switch… I have no qualms about someone seeing my cellulite, but I am afraid of him seeing my self-inflicted scars.

Molly Pohlig's brave, moving essay on dating with mental illness

Also see the relationship between mental illness and creativity

(via The Dish)

You’re probably not getting enough sleep, but you might not be as far off the mark as you think. Most sleep experts would offer that aiming for between seven to nine hours of snooze time a night is optimal for feeling refreshed and productive the next day. In a new report, however … researchers are closing in on what may just be that magic nightly number—and it’s not nine hours, or even eight as once believed… it’s seven hours of sleep.

The usual caveats apply, and these findings should be taken with a grain of salt. But the results are interesting—especially if you’re the kind of person who struggles with sluggishness throughout the day.

"The lowest mortality and morbidity is with seven hours," [says] Shawn Youngstedt, a professor in the College of Nursing and Health Innovation at Arizona State University Phoenix… "Eight hours or more has consistently been shown to be hazardous."

Intriguing new study on the optimal amount of sleep. But that grain of salt can’t be overstated given the wide variation of “chronotypes” and internal time.

Also see the science of what actually happens while you sleep and how it affects your every waking moment.

Ann Friedman's Disapproval Matrix for handling criticism is a thing of genius, not to mention essential internet-age literacy. She explains:

Critics: These are smart people who know something about your field. They are taking a hard look at your work and are not loving it. You’ll probably want to listen to what they have to say, and make some adjustments to your work based on their thoughtful comments.
Lovers: These people are invested in you and are also giving you negative but rational feedback because they want you to improve. Listen to them, too.
Frenemies: Ooooh, this quadrant is tricky. These people really know how to hurt you, because they know you personally or know your work pretty well. But at the end of the day, their criticism is not actually about your work—it’s about you personally. And they aren’t actually interested in a productive conversation that will result in you becoming better at what you do. They just wanna undermine you. Dishonorable mention goes to The Hater Within, aka the irrational voice inside you that says you suck, which usually falls into this quadrant. Tell all of these fools to sit down and shut up.
Haters: This is your garden-variety, often anonymous troll who wants to tear down everything about you for no rational reason. Folks in this quadrant are easy to write off because they’re counterproductive and you don’t even know them. Ignore! Engaging won’t make you any better at what you do. And then rest easy, because having haters is proof your work is finding a wide audience and is sparking conversation. Own it.
The general rule of thumb? When you receive negative feedback that falls into one of the top two quadrants—from experts or people who care about you who are engaging with and rationally critiquing your work—you should probably take their comments to heart. When you receive negative feedback that falls into the bottom two quadrants, you should just let it roll off your back and just keep doin’ you.

Complement with Benjamin Franklin’s trick for neutralizing critics, Daniel Dennett on how to criticize with kindness, and Anne Lamott’s definitive manifesto for handling haters.

Ann Friedman's Disapproval Matrix for handling criticism is a thing of genius, not to mention essential internet-age literacy. She explains:

Critics: These are smart people who know something about your field. They are taking a hard look at your work and are not loving it. You’ll probably want to listen to what they have to say, and make some adjustments to your work based on their thoughtful comments.

Lovers: These people are invested in you and are also giving you negative but rational feedback because they want you to improve. Listen to them, too.

Frenemies: Ooooh, this quadrant is tricky. These people really know how to hurt you, because they know you personally or know your work pretty well. But at the end of the day, their criticism is not actually about your work—it’s about you personally. And they aren’t actually interested in a productive conversation that will result in you becoming better at what you do. They just wanna undermine you. Dishonorable mention goes to The Hater Within, aka the irrational voice inside you that says you suck, which usually falls into this quadrant. Tell all of these fools to sit down and shut up.

Haters: This is your garden-variety, often anonymous troll who wants to tear down everything about you for no rational reason. Folks in this quadrant are easy to write off because they’re counterproductive and you don’t even know them. Ignore! Engaging won’t make you any better at what you do. And then rest easy, because having haters is proof your work is finding a wide audience and is sparking conversation. Own it.

The general rule of thumb? When you receive negative feedback that falls into one of the top two quadrants—from experts or people who care about you who are engaging with and rationally critiquing your work—you should probably take their comments to heart. When you receive negative feedback that falls into the bottom two quadrants, you should just let it roll off your back and just keep doin’ you.

Complement with Benjamin Franklin’s trick for neutralizing critics, Daniel Dennett on how to criticize with kindness, and Anne Lamott’s definitive manifesto for handling haters.