Brain Pickings

Maira Kalman on Identity, Happiness, and Existence

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“How are we so optimistic, so careful not to trip and yet do trip, and then get up and say OK?”

In this wonderful short video, Maira Kalman — the remarkable artist, prolific author, unmatched storyteller, and one of my favorite hearts and minds in the world — shares some wisdom on identity, happiness, and existence. Watch and take notes.

The idea that you’d have to say ‘goodbye’ to all this — even though it’s infuriating and maddening and frightening and horrible, some of the time — is even more infuriating and maddening and horrible: How do you spend this time without perpetually being so broken-hearted about saying the eventual goodbye? I usually say, in the end, okay, it’s love and it’s work — what else could there possibly be?

Speaking to the fluidity of character and the myth of fixed personality, Kalman observes:

How do you know who you are? There are many parts to who you are, so there isn’t one static place. And then, the other part of that is that things keep changing.

Here are some of the beautiful, poignant quotes Kalman reads and shows from her published works.

From And The Pursuit of Happiness:

From The Principles of Uncertainty:

How do you know who you are?

How are we so optimistic, so careful Not to trip and yet Do trip, and then GET up and say O.K. Why do I feel so sorry for everyone and so PROUD?

What can I tell you? The realization that we are ALL (you, me) going to die and the attending disbelief — isn’t that the central premise of EVERYTHING? It stops me DEAD in my tracks a DOZEN times a day. Do you think I remain FROZEN? NO. I spring into action. I find meaningful distraction.

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