There’s a place on the web where you can press the “surprise me” button and almost always find something out of left field that will send your mind on a deeper journey.
Have you heard of BrainPickings.org? It’s a wonderful blog visited by 250,000 people per day who want a little challenge.
Maria Popova is the one-woman show behind Brain Pickings. Here’s what she says about her intentions for the website:
In order for us to truly create and contribute to the world, we have to be able to connect countless dots, to cross-pollinate ideas from a wealth of disciplines, to combine and recombine these pieces and build new ideas.
I think of it as LEGOs — if the bricks we have are of only one shape, size, and color, we can build things, but there’s a limit to how imaginative and interesting they will be. The richer and more diverse that pool of resources, that mental library of building blocks, the more visionary and compelling our combinatorial ideas can be. 1
Maria has previously written for Wired UK, The Atlantic, The New York Times, and Harvard’s Nieman Journalism Lab, among others, and is an MIT Futures of Entertainment Fellow.
She’s brilliant but down to earth about the little adventures she takes us on. Just try to follow the many links in any of her articles and you will come out the other end transformed by a sense of “I had no idea!”
There are strangely wonderful things there like the wisdom from one of Albert Einstein’s letters to his son about life.
Another article I found from the “surprise me” button was a beautifully intriguing piece about Trees as our oldest living friends, another about the recipes from the first Antarctic Research Station, another about Beethoven’s only known love letter, another on the soul of an octopus.
I know… it sounds a bit eclectic and at the same time cerebral, but that’s it!
It is just that. For curious people, bored to death by cat gifs and other instant pleasures on the web, Brain Pickings will be a welcome place for adventures of the mind.
Maria is an avid reader who does the deep digging for us, uncovering little-known wonders from the vast written record of our shared human experience.
Take for instance her article on Cicero’s Web: How Social Media was born in ancient Rome or one on why Galileo thought Books Give Us Superhuman Powers.
Maria does our homework for us and brings to light points long forgotten yet more relevant than ever.
And then there are the fun articles like her 27 of History’s Strangest Inventions. You will love a look at that. It’s a hoot!
Here’s some quotes I found to open a few more pieces I came upon when looking through Popova’s articles:
“When one does not complain … one pays for outward calm with an almost unbearable inner struggle,” Charlotte Brontë wrote in her beautiful and heartbreaking love letters as she tussled with unrequited affection. 2
These quotes are just small nuggets from the articles she puts together with threads of relevance to today and Ah-ha moments about the past. Here’s another.
Junichiro Tanizaki (1886-1965), a famous design artist once said, “We find beauty not in the thing itself but in the patterns of shadows, the light and the darkness, that one thing against another creates… Were it not for shadows, there would be no beauty.” 3
Think about that for a moment.
Think about your favorite memory of a beloved teacher, grandparent or best friend.
Isn’t it the dark days (the shadows) that make the bright moments so special?
Check out Maria’s seven things she’s learned from the research she’s done for Brain Pickings. I think she nails these. See what you think…
Great advice. I need to get more sleep. I know she’s so right on these points.
Take a look around Brain Pickings some time instead of wasting time on other mindlessness on the web. I love the quote she reminded us about, “How we spend our hours, and then our days, is how we spend our lives.”
If you’d like to hear more from Maria, I can recommend, very highly, getting a favorite beverage, a comfortable chair, so you can listen to her interview/podcast with Christa Tippet from On Being.
We hope you’ll at least dabble over there at Brain Picking. Maria really advances our thesis that this is still an amazing world: smart people sharing their curiosity with all of us.
Just scroll down to the bottom of this page where you’ll find a few of my favorite articles that continue a few of the trains of thought here!
Stay open, curious and hopeful!
~ Dr. Lynda
- Popova, Maria. “About.” Brain Pickings. N.p., 28 Aug. 2007. Web. 07 Mar. 2016. <https://www.brainpickings.org/about/>. ↩
- Popova, Maria. “Charlotte Brontë’s Beautiful and Heartbreaking Love Letters of Unrequited Affection.” Brain Pickings. N.p., 21 Apr. 2015. Web. 10 Mar. 2016. <https://www.brainpickings.org/2015/04/21/charlotte-bronte-love-letters-heger/>. ↩
- Popova, Maria. “In Praise of Shadows: Ancient Japanese Aesthetics and Why Every Technology Is a Technology of Thought.” Brain Pickings. N.p., 28 May 2015. Web. 10 Mar. 2016. <https://www.brainpickings.org/2015/05/28/in-praise-of-shadows-tanizaki/>. ↩
- Popova, Maria. “Maria Popova: 7 Things I Learned.” YouTube. CreativeMornings HQ, 27 Oct. 2013. Web. 10 Mar. 2016. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PyOxrLnPLeA>. ↩
- “MARIA POPOVA — Cartographer of Meaning in a Digital Age.” On Being. 14 May 2015. On Being. Web. 10 Mar. 2016. <http://www.onbeing.org/program/maria-popova-cartographer-of-meaning-in-a-digital-age/7580>. ↩