(2019) by Maria Popova
the i lowered from the pedestal of ego
we spend our lives trying to discern where we end and the rest of the world begins. we snatch our freeze frame of life from the simultaneity of existence by holding on to illusions of permanence, congruence and linearity; of static selves and lives that unfold in sensical narratives..
all the while we mistake chance for choice,
our labels and models of things for the things themselves, ..t.. our records for our history.. history is not what happened, but what survives the shipwrecks of judgment and chance..
labels et al
some truths, like beauty, are best illuminated by the sidewise gleam of figuring,..t
of meaning – making.. in the course of figuring orbits intersect,..t.. often unbeknownst to the bodies they carry (leaf in spider web).. intersections mappable only from the distance of decades or centuries..
how in this blink of existence bookended by nothing ness do we attain completeness of being
there are infinitely many kinds of beautiful lives..t
so much of the beauty, so much of what propels our pursuit of truth, stems from the invisible connections..t – between ideas, between disciplines/time/place..
1 – only the dreamer wakes
there is no static, solid self. throughout life, our habits, beliefs, and ideas evolve beyond recognition. our physical/social environs change. almost all of our cells are replace. yet we remain to ourselves, ‘who’ ‘we’ ‘are’
so w science: bit by bit, discoveries reconfigure our understanding of reality.. this reality is revealed to us only in fragments.. the more fragments we perceive and parse, the more lifelike the mosaic we make of them.. but it’s still a mosaic, a *representation, imperfect, and incomplete, however beautiful it may be, and **subject to unending transfiguration
walt whitman would observe how beholden the mind is to the body, ‘how behind the tally of genius and morals stands the stomach, and gives a sort of casting vote’
gut et al
(on kepler’s mother on trial for witchcraft -) – an uncanny symmetry haunts kepler’s predicament – it was (his mother) who first enchanted her son w astronomy when she took him to the top of a nearby hill and let the 6 yr old boy gape in wonderment as the great comet of 1577 blazed across the sky
2 – to find dismooned among the stardust
where does it live, that place of permission that lets a person chart a new terrain of possibility, that makes her dare to believe she can be something other than what her culture tells her she is,..t.. and then becomes what she believes she can..how does something emerge from nothing?..no such thinking as a self made person…
genius loci – ‘the spirit of a place’.. although the modern use of the word ‘genius’ has allocated it to the individual, this original use encodes the indelible role of place in personhood.. comets of chance and tides of circumstance sculpt the shorelines of the self to make us who we are.. we can no more claim all credit for achievement than deflect all blame for impediments, ..t..and it is often difficult to separate the elements of life that make for fortune from those that make for misfortune
what human hubris it is to call one thing accident and another luck in a universe insentient to any of our hopes and fears, to our categories of good/bad..the human mind seems unwilling to wrap itself and its prosthetic of language around the notion of pure impartial probability. .t..we imbue even the word chance w a constellation of subjective meanings – chance as serendipity’s accomplice, chance as free will’s counterpoint, chance as love’s other name or a dog’s only.
basic unit of identity errors on the side of the improbable
3 – what is lost and what is gained
this notion of beauty as a focal lens of intellectual curiosity was how mitchell herself saw the universe, and perhaps how every person of genius does. beauty magnetizes curiosity and wonder beckoning us to discover – in the literal sense, to uncover and unconceal – what lies beneath the surface of the human label..t
labels et al
maria mitchell: i knew of no sadder pic in the history of science than that of the old man galileo, worn by a long life of scientific research, weak and feeble, trembling before that tribunal whose frown was torture, and declaring that to be false which he knew to be true. and i know of no pic in the history of religion more weekly pitiable than that of the holy church trembling before galileo, and denouncing him because he found in the book of nature truths not stated in their own book of god – forgetting that the book of nature is also a book of god..
it seems to be difficult for anyone to take in the idea that two truths cannot conflict..t
4 – of the infinite in the finite
we are so anxious to classify and categorize, both nature and human nature. it is a beautiful impulse – to contain the infinite in the finite, to wrest order form the chaos, to construct a foothold so we may climb toward higher truth. it is also a limiting one, for in naming things we often come to mistake the names for the things themselves.. the labels we give to the loves of which we are capable – varied and vigorously transfigured from one kind into another and back again – can’t begin to contain the complexity of feeling that can flow between two hearts and the bodies that contain them..
‘it is hard to be finite upon an infinite subject, and all subjects are infinite’ melville had written at the end of his amorous review of hawthorne – a profound sentiment rooted in the legacy of ancient greek mathematics, harking back to archimedes.. a pioneer of an illuminating physical reality thru math, archimedes derived the first accurate approx of pi.. in setting out to estimate the grains of sand the universe could hold, he was arguably the first to propose that the universe is finite rather than infinite – a notion that has remained radical for two millennia, even as.. janna levin (astrophysicist) reminded us at the dawn of the 21st cent that although infinity is a thrilling plaything of abstract maths, no infinity has ever been observed in nature ‘we’re all intrinsically of the same substance.. the fabric of the universe is just a coherent weave from the same threads that make our bodies.. how much more absurd it becomes to believe that the universe, space and time could possibly be infinite when all of us are finite’
maria mitchell: ‘w reach forth and strain every nerve, but we seize only a bit of the curtain that hides the infinite from us’..t
thoreau: my life partakes of infinity’..
it takes a great sobriety of spirit to fathom one’s depths – and one’s limits..
5 – to figure and transfigure
sommerville didn’t merely translate the math, but expanded up on it and made it comprehensible to lay readers.. she had popularized laplace’s esoteric ideas..
wislawa szymborska’s wonderful notion of ‘that rare miracle when a translation stops being a translation and becomes.. a second original’
somerville possessed the defining mark of the great scientist/human-being – the ability to hold one’s opinions w firm but unfisted fingers remaining receptive to novel theories and willing to change one’s mind in light of new evidence..t
the poem’s – unapologetic insistence on the impossibility of disentwining art and life
6 – the much that calls for more
love this bit on their (feynman and arline) love .. ie: he.. on the precipice of a brilliant scientific career at 27, was terminally in love
the wake of loss has a way of tranquilizing grief w the pressing demands of practical arrangements – a tranquilizer we take willingly, almost gratefully..
the following morning, feynman arranged for his beloved’s cremation, methodically collected her personal belongings. on the final page of the small spiral notebook in which she recorded her symptoms, he logged w scientific remove: ‘june 16, death’..
everything that appeared mystical, feynman believed, was simply an insufficiently explained mystery w a physical answer not yet found
then his letter to her 2 yrs after she died..
elizabeth barrett browning captured the disorientation of loss and the impulse to commune w the death that impelled feynman to write to a no-longer-arline:
death quite unfellows us, sets dreadful odds betwixt the live and dead, and makes us part as those at babel did, thru sudden ignorance of a common language.. t
goethe: nowhere would anyone grant that science and poetry can be united. they forgot that science arose from poetry, and did not see that when times change the two can meet again on a higher level as friends
emerson: ‘marriage should be a temp relation, it should have its natural birth, climax and decay, w/o violence of any kind – violence to bind or violence to rend. when each of two souls had exhausted the other of that good which each held for the other, they should part in the same peace in which they met, not parting form each other, but drawn to new society. the new love is the balm to prevent a wound from forming where the old love was detached.
7 – to brave the light of the world
most radical of all was her choice to teach not by lecture but by conversation.. her experimental school made peabody a central figure in boston’s cultural landscape..
fuller’s greatest gift (10 yrs after peabody).. to the girls lay in drawing out their minds thru the art of convo, a faculty she lamented as atrophied in women amid a culture that required them to be receptacles of male wisdom, perennially on the receiving end of what we now call ‘mansplaining’ – a term inspired by rebecca solnit, who is in many ways fuller’s 21st cent counterpart.. fuller redesigned classrooms for lectures into spaces for convo.. participation in which had only one rule: the girls must be willing to speak their minds freely
on emerson – life, he argued – and not the ivory tower of the academy – was the best teacher..t
despite her disappointing experience w the girls in her class, fuller was not ready to relinquish her conviction that convo was indeed what best loosened the ligaments of thought and trained the mind to leap
‘words are events’ ursula le guin would write a century and a half later ‘they do things, change things. they transform bother speaker/hearer; they feed energy/understanding/emotion back and forth and amplify it.’
it was fuller who *formalized convo as the supreme intellectual instrument of transcendentalism and made the free flowing exchange of words the electric current that charged the women’s emancipation movement..t
she (fuller) reasoned that because women’s opinions were dismissed by default, they never properly learned the tools of critical thinking that would allow them to transfigure ‘impressions into thought’.. she resolved to eradicate the small talk and gossip to which society had conditioned women’s convo, instead leading the group to ‘review the depths of thought/knowledge, and to endeavor to replace them in due relation to one another’.. that is .. to cultivate the capacity for relational insight and dot connecting that transmutes mere info into illumination.. *the chief object would be to figure out ‘how we may make best use of our means for building up the life of thought upon the life of action’
but like most forces of cultural transformation.. the series w which fuller was about to revolutionize culture had deeply personal roots..
that summer as she was preparing to launch the convo salons that would seal her public image, her private world was in tumult.. no one 100% male/female
nov 1839 margaret fuller convened the first of what would become known as her ‘conversations’ which would seed the ideas harvested by the feminist movement of the 20th cent.. fuller was 29 the age at which maria mitchell discovered her comet.. fuller was intent on making the women in the room feel that their minds mattered and their private thoughts were worthy of public expression
on the prospectus printed on the back of the inaugural issue, published on july 4 1840 – just after her 30th bday – she (fuller – on magazine she did w emerson) vowed to aim ‘not at leading public opinion but at stimulating each man to judge for himself, and to think more deeply and more nobly, by letting him see how some minds are kept alive by a peculiar self-trust’.. it was an echo of the wakeful aliveness by self trust she had sought to inspire in the women taking part in her ‘conversations’.. – century and a half before the ted conference ‘ideas worth spreading’ motto, this was the dial’s sole missions
fuller: ‘those who seem overladen w electricity frighten those around them’.. t
8 – that which exhausts and exalts
waldo bonded w margaret in a way that he would with no one else – not even his wife and children. ‘most of the persons whom i see in my own house i see across a gulf’ he anguished in his own journal. ‘i cannot go to them nor they come to me’.. he and margaret found themselves on one side of an invisible wall, the rest of the world on the others.. but neither knew what to make of this uncommon bond that didn’t conform to any existing template.
the richest relationships are often those that don’t fit neatly into the preconceived slots we have made for the archetypes we imagine would populate our lives
– the friend, the lover the parent, the sibling, the mentor, the muse. we meet people who belong to no single slot, who figure in to multiple categories at different times and in diff magnitudes. we then must either stretch ourselves to create new slots shaped after these singular relationships, enduring the growing pains of self expansion, or petrify..
to hold space for complexity, to resist the violence of containing and classifying what transcends familiar labels, takes patience and a certain kind of moral courage, which waldo seemed unable – or unwilling – to conjure up..
this false notion of the body as the testing ground for intimacy has long warped our understanding of what constitutes a romantic relationship.. the measure of intimacy is not the quotient of friction between skin and skin, but something else entirely – something of the love and trust, the joy and ease that flow between two people as they inhabit that private world walled off from everything and everyone else..
9 – merely the beautiful
(w/in all the comparisons of fuller to beethoven, thoreau, emerson..) pacing the periphery of walden pond while philosophizing about the life of the mind is not quite the same thing as marching into prisons asylums, and orphanages to uncover abuse and incite the public to demand change.. of the transcendentalists, fuller was the only one who left the sanctuary of nature and tested her ideas against the real world.. using her pen to bring life as it was being lived a little closer to life as she believed it ought to be lived in a just society.. (negro voting rights, prison reform, miner’s poor horses, homeless, asylums)
whitman so admired fuller that clippings of her tribune columns were found among his papers after his death..
50 + years after fuller’s untimely death, julia ward howe would applaud her as a woman who ‘dared to recognize her own mental and moral power’ .. howe same age as whitman and melville..
husband – 18 yrs older – threatened by julia’s ambition, did his best to quash her literary aspirations.. four yrs after she rose to renown by authoring ‘the battle hymn of the republic’ and 22 yrs into the marriage she would reflect: in the course of this time i have never known my husband to approve of any act of mine which i myself valued. books – poems- essays – everything has been contemptible or contraband in his eyes..
they took double honey moon w peabody – who had just married.. horace mann ed reformer.. the felicity that was mine.. alongside he on the deck, julia ward howe was entering into a thoroughly diff marriage that w/in a decade would drive he to sorrow over her fate as ‘a comet dire and strange’ ..10 yrs into her suffocating marriage.. 34 yr old howe describe herself in a letter to auguste comte as ‘an ardent sentimental, misunderstood and misplaced woman’..
enraged upon finding out his wife had dared to exercise such agency of mind, he grasped for control of her body w an ultimatum – they must resume sexual relations or he would throw her out of the house.. after enduring the faustian form of rape, howe wrote to her sister: ‘i made the greatest sacrifice i can ever be called up on to make’ – a sacrifice that resulted in yet another pregnancy..
howe gave birth to her sixth e and final child at forty, in the year darwin published on the origin of species.. she endured another 17 yrs of her nightmarish marriage, ‘my books are all that kept me alive’.. the day of her husband’s funeral, 33 yrs into their marriage, she recorded in her diary: ‘began my new life today’.. a life the remainder of which she would devote to he project of equality thru abolition and women’s rights, hoping that her writings and lectures would transmit ‘the message of the good hope of humanity, despite the faults and limitations of individuals
howe visited in the spring of 1875 to deliver a lecture titled ‘is polite society polite?’.. in it, she issued an indictment against a society that had become so drunk on ambition and outward achievement that it had come to mistake the surface polish and posturing of the ‘inward grace of good feeling’ that constitutes true kindness..
a greater understanding of this distinction, she argued, ‘would ave us from the vulgarity of worshipping rank and wealth.’ what makes the america people ‘polite’ how suggested to the women gather under the dome, is a *combo of democratic idealism and an unselfish impulse toward equality… ‘the assumption of special merit, either by an individual or a class is not polite.. those who inherit or marry money are allowed to place themselves above those who **earn it
rather.. *combo of 2 missing pieces
howe and maria mitchell.. a woman devoid of all insincerity uninterested in any pretense.. conceived the month maria was born.. howe would eventually become, a year before the astronomer’s death, her first official biographer and would celebrate her as a ‘sister planet’.. both women look back on their lives and recognize the pathbreaking influence of margaret fuller and her woman
10 – divided, indivisible
language is not the content of thought but the vessel into which we pour the ambivalences and contradictions of our thinking, afloat on the current of time.
maria mitchell (mid 1840s) detested the grading that the college required and refused to do it. ‘i cannot express the intellect in numbers‘, she wrote defiantly. for all her faith in figures, she knew their limitations – more than a century before iq tests became the battleground for psychologists who exposed the fool’s gold of quantifying general intelligence, mitchell boldly asserted that ‘there is no intellectual unit‘..
every once in a while pure chance intercedes to remind us that whatever structure of control we may put into place, however much we may mistake the illusion of choice for the fact of choice, randomness is the reigning monarch of the universe..
11 – between sinew and spirit
(on fuller’s love for/with ossoli) she was beginning to realize that no amount of genius ever compensates for, no excuses, a paucity of kindness integrity, and unconflicted devotion
mickiewicz to fuller: ‘live and act as you write.. i saw you, w all you knowledge and your imagination and all your literary reputation, living in bondage worse than a servant.. you have persuaded yourself that all you need is to express your feelings and ideas in books.. the relationships which suit you are those which develop and free your spirit, responding to the legitimate needs of your organism and leaving you free at all times.. literature is not the whole of life’
are we to despair or rejoice over the fact that even the greatest loves exist only ‘for a time’?.. the time scales are elastic contracting and expanding w the depth and magnitude of each love, but they are always finite – like books, like lives, like the universe itself.. the triumph of love is in the courage and integrity w which we inhabit the transcendent transience..
.. that binds two people for the time it binds them, before letting go w equal courage and integrity.. .. and yet some fragment of the magnet that once pulled two people together always lodges itself in each of their hearts..
fuller: ‘spirits that have once been sincerely united and tended together a sacred flame, never become entirely stranger to one another’s life. when the attention of one is turned upon the other, a responsive thrill is felt’
at watershed moments of upheaval and transformation, we anticipate w terror the absence of the familiar parts of life and of ourselves that are being washed away by the current of change.. but we fail to envision the unfamiliar gladnesses and gratifications the new tide would bring, the unfathomed presences or our imaginations are bounded by our experience..
to be a revolutionary is to be in possession of an imagination capable of leaping across the frontier of the familiar to envision a new order in which what is gained eclipses the ill-serving comforts of what is lost..t
12 – between art and life
fuller once again contemplated the countercultural idea that the richness of a bond need not correlate w its permanence, that permanence is a self defeating measure of any real love that slakes a particular thirst at a particular time..
bruised again and again in the hesitant hands of almost lovers who met her longing for ‘fulness of being’ w only half of themselves, people who se hearts thrashed about in the self erected cages of intellectual ambition, she at last comes to recognize that the most exalted qualities of character – those that make for ‘the life, the life’ are not of the mind but of the heart and spirit: integrity, unaffected kindness, constancy of affection..
what solidity of sentiment it takes not to let an awareness of the moment’s impermanence dilute its richness, its sweetness, but purify it and saturate it w the utmost ‘fulness of being’
(on her son): ‘i find satisfaction for the first time, to the deep wants of my heart. yet thinking of those other sweet ones fled, i must look upon him as a treasure only lent’.. ‘he is to me a source of ineffable joys, far purer, deeper than any thing i ever felt before, like what nature had sometime given, but more intimate, more sweet. he loves me very much, his little heart clings to mine. i trust , i she lives, to sow there no seeds which are not good, to be always growing better for his sake..’
few things elate more than the discovery of new chambers of one’s own heart..t.. motherhood had unlatched something entirely new w/in fuller.. ‘the first unalloyed quiet joy i have ever know’.. ‘before i had felt so much love that seemed so holly and soft, what longed to purify, to protect, to solace infinitely; but it was nothing to what i feel now, and that sense of pure nature, for the eager, spontaneous life of childhood, was very partial in me before..’..
‘babies seem amazed at one another, they are not in haste to make acquaintance, probably they still feel that a world lies hidden in each person, they are not yet made callous by those habits of hasty unfeeling intercourse soon formed by what is called society‘ – fuller..t
‘as to marriage i think the intercourse of heart and mind may be full enjoyed w/o entering in this particular partnership of daily life, still i do not find it burdensome’
‘ossoli diffuses such a peace and sweetness over every day, that i cannot endure to think yet of our future
13 – the banality of survival
(while writing of fuller at sea w sick son – but now on darwin’s 9 yr old daughter dying) – a natural history and travel guide from the era described the craze of sea bathing at ramsgate ‘ a sudden plunge into the ocean cause the blood to circulate briskly, and promotes the threat of the body.’.. it was to ramsgate that the darwins first sent annie, hoping for maritime recovery. but her illness only escalated into fever and headaches..
sophia peabody’s history illustrates the limits of 19th cent med’s promised.. treated w mercury as an infant.. rendered her so sensitive to noise.. these excruciating headaches.. out of body confusion, syncopating pain, and occasional delirium.. her father.. harvard trained physician.. set about treating sophia trying to siphon out the ‘humors’ the bodily fluids at the basis of ancient greek and roman system of medicine – believe to be causing the malady.. she was not yet 17
fluids.. cold water shock.. et al
a year earlier, the darwins had traveled to the spa village of malvern, where charles was to try a new ‘cold water cure’ devised by a dr james gully. darwins’ chronic illness at times manifested as insomnia, at other times as ‘dreadful vomiting every week’.. it was never accurately diagnosed nor treated, and he was desperate for relief.. one contemp theory holds he suffered from an acute anxiety disorder.. darwin set his sci skepticism aside and wrote to the physician.. willing to try his treatment .. dr gully’s treatment developed in response to he 2 yr old daughters’ death.. the little girl had been treated w every known drug at the time.. his hydropathy drew such famous patients ad lord tennyson and florence nightengale and now darwin.. (and dickens’ wife)
sacks: ‘some patients i could help w drugs, and some w hr magic of attention and interest. the most severely afflicted patients defeated my therapeutic endeavors until i started to enquire minutely and persistently into their emotional lives. it now became apparent to me that many migraine attacks were drenched in emotional significance, and could not be usefully considered, let alone treated, unless their emotional antecedents and effects were exposed in detail.. i thus found it necessary to employ a sort of continuous double vision, simultaneously envisaging migraine as a structure whose forms were implicit in the repertoire of the nervous system, and a strategy which might be employed to any emotional or indeed biological end’
in his foundational treatise on migraines, sacks argued for darwinian basis of the interplay between emotions and the body in chronic headaches darwin had described an alt reaction some organisms have to the classify fight flight instinct – a response of immobilization and paralysis in the face of threat – and had contrasted these two modes as ‘active fear (terror)’ and ‘passive fear (dread)’.. migraines, sacks argues, evolved from the latter response mech and ‘have become w the elaboration of human nervous systems and human needs, progressively differentiated and refined’
darwin’s daughter ill – despite darwin’s elation over the effect of the ‘cold water treatment ‘ on his own health (all ills gone after).. when annie fell gravely ill, he couldn’t set aside his scientific doubts about dr gully’s dubious beliefs in clairvoyance, homeopathy and other psuedoscience..
later tried – but water cure didn’t work on annie.. intermittent signs of improvement.. enough to give the anxious parents hope.. but her health decline over the longer span of weeks..
mary peabody (married to horace mann): never be afraid to love. surrender yourself to its sway, & even if it tears your earthly fibres to tatters, it will strengthen the heavenly ones. such love is the only proof of immortality
the essential banality of survival – we come unmoored, then buoy ourselves up w the flimsiest of lifeboats, cobble together out of any plank and rope we can grasp
14 – shadowing the light of immortality
15 – from romance to reason
nyt biographical sketch ‘the female astronomer’… on maria mitchell: ‘those about her saw something of the disadvantages of genius. it climbs to heights, but too often climbs alone, and it hears the sounds of cheerful voices on the plains below in conversations in which it cannot join
17 – from terror to transcendence
emily dickinson: ‘genius is the ignition of affection – not intellect – as is supposed – the exaltation of devotion and in proportion to our capacity for that, is our experience of genius’
in her 31st year, dickinson would suffer some unnamed and unnamable arson of affection. she would call it a ‘terror’ .. and would recast it throughout her 1,789 known poems.. the enigmatic devastation would send her into self elected seclusion
18 – unmastering
19 – the heart’s circumference
20 – bound by neither mind nor matter
21 – in the darkness of being
22 – searching for totality
23 – into the unfathomed
rachel carson writing of water/ocean
24 – where splendor dwells
25 – to live and to vanish
26 – between the scale of atoms and the scale of worlds
27 – between the time of monarchs and the time of stars
28 – tracing the thread of being
29 – from shoreless seeds to stardust
my fingers glide over the sixth line again, hen again – a haptic refrain: by genius belonging to the world. it strikes me, this existential ecology, as the simplest, most perfect measure of an actualized life – far fuller than fame and success, more generous than personal love and its greedy affinities, more precise than happiness and its confused aims..
e: one of the miracles about you is that you do (write long sentences) and you’ve gathered thousands of people around you who will read them
m: what gets people to say.. i understand this is the way people are doing it.. but i’m doing it this other way
m: the moment we begin to name things .. we lose
e: thank you for taking these people out of these portraits and putting them in the human heart
m: a lot of this book is about the blind spots of history
e: they made that work will in .. bodies.. lust, desire, .. pain
m: how much it takes to make progress.. and how little it takes to undo .. that’s why it’s so important to speak up when you see it happening
m: on refusing to give up on things that society say is an either/or.. i’m a believer on not giving up because society says just take one path
e: why is it so important to have a life animated by beauty rather than a search for beauty
m: beauty if a kind of foothold that focuses curiosity..magnetizes us toward it..
e: magnetize is the word you use most in the book other than the word the
m: electric affinities.. romantic chemistry.. drawn to one another with no understanding of why .. and no one can break it.. inseparable.. and now we’ve come to separate these things.. an artificial separation
e: we’re magnetized to things that bring us alive
m: stardust – used for coincidence and serendipity.. before the notion of synchronicity was coined.. ‘this is our stardust’
m: i think where a lot of greats slip.. confidence slips into hubris.. people are not all exceptions
e: a lot of people worship you..
m: there’s a line in the book.. worship is counterfeit love
e: ok.. they love you
e: emerson: there’s no terror like being known.. dickerson: wanted to be known and not exposed.. you are known and not known.. how do you do that.. why brainpickings
m: back to notion of being function of time/place.. i started brainpickings for me.. what i wanted to learn.. i just started keeping a record of what i was reading on my own.. and i was also going thru a depression
m: to this day.. i still write for me.. why so many read it.. chance? timing.. i kept doing it everyday.. an accumulation.. but also.. this banality of being human.. same set of joys/heartaches/aspirations.. because i turn to the past.. they also speak to other people.. because we are basically all similar
m: the question of chance and choice is probably the biggest theme in this book.. it’s absolute hubris to say ,.. i’m special.. and baby in bulgaria is less special.. no.. there’s so much chance
e: that is the necessity of humility
e: problem w rational world.. things happen w such magnitude that you find yourself searching for meaning.. and the rational thought doesn’t help..
m: emily lavine – maternal figure to me – died day book was published.. she intro’d me to poetry and made me fall in love w finding transcendence secularly
m: this chair will outlive all of us.. so lucky to be here.. to me that is the real miracle..
puts twist on ‘the shelf life of a shelf’
amanda: when you share info.. you’re in danger.. women who are shamelessly sharing info w one another and it’s infectious – (on necklace from elizabeth during a low time): ‘i will not let people walk thru my mind w their dirty feet’..
then she sang bigger on the inside.. love that song
m: first several years.. phantom form of things unknown.. then one day.. decided.. figuring.. w no subtitles.. no explanation
m: (on turning capital i to lower case i): we read for that.. to humble/embolden.. to cease to be.. to be reminded how insignificant we are and how common the human struggles.. recasting in the human family that you can’t do on your own.. any form of expansion beyond your locus of experience
g: there isn’t anybody that does what you do.. with such grace..i just love the titanium spine of you
imagine if we all had the freedom/bravery to do it.. everyday