Brain Pickings

C. S. Lewis on the Secret of Happiness

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“A good toe-nail is not an unsuccessful attempt at a hair.”

Though a slim collection, C. S. Lewis: Letters to Children shines with the enormity of Lewis’s compassion and wisdom in responding to fan mail from his young readers, often imbuing his correspondence with a kind of subtle but profound advice on life, delivered unassumingly but full of wholehearted conviction.

Adding to his insight on duty and “the three things anyone need ever do” is this beautiful response to a boy named Hugh, who asked for a definition of “gaiety,” in a letter dated April 5, 1961.

A creature can never be a perfect being, but may be a perfect creature — e.g. a good angel or a good apple-tree. Gaiety at its highest may be an (intellectual) creature’s delighted recognition that its imperfection as a being may constitute part of its perfection as an element in the whole hierarchical order of creation. I mean, while it is a pity there sh[oul]d be bad men or bad dogs, part of the excellence of a good man is that he is not an angel, and of a good dog that it is not a man. This is the extension of what St. Paul says about the body & the members. A good toe-nail is not an unsuccessful attempt at a hair; and if it were conscious it w[oul]d delight in being simply a good toe-nail.

Half a century later, researcher-storyteller Brené Brown articulated a similar sentiment, making an eloquent case for the gifts of imperfection, and Alain de Botton cautioned us that these ideals we contort so hard to conform to may not even be our own. Perhaps at the end of the day “gaiety” is simply the ability to be our own imperfect being and fully inhabit its beingness.

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A Visual Antidote to Cynicism

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‘You deserve GOOD things.’

Earlier this week, E. B. White reminded us that “some writers have lost their sense of proportion, their sense of humor, and their sense of appreciation.” The same can said of much of today’s visual culture, whose currencies have become the grim and the sensationalistic. You might recall a charming antidote: Everything Is Going to Be OK, the lovely pocket-sized anthology of positive artwork. Now, it’s available as equally lovely 20 different note cards, featuring artists like Gemma Correll, Jessica Swift, Danna Ray, and Amy Borrell. And while it’s easy to let cynicism take hold, E. B. White said it best:

I think I would lose what little value I may have as a writer if I were to refuse, as a matter of principle, to accept the warming rays of the sun, and to report them, whenever, and if ever, they happen to strike me.

'You deserve GOOD things' by Gemma Correll

'You are so loved' by Jessica Swift

'Be present every day' by Danna Ray

'NICE' by Amy Borrell

'I think you're lovely. (It's true.)' by Gemma Correll

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If Darth Vader Actually Raised Luke Skywalker

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“Er, he looks just like you, Lord Vader!”

What if “Luke, I am your father” wasn’t the beginning and end of pop culture’s tensest father-son relationship? That’s the premise of comic artist Jeffrey Brown’s Darth Vader and Son — a sweet, funny, charmingly illustrated story that imagines an alternate universe in which the Dark Lord of the Sith actually raises his son. From potty training to lightsaber batting practice to ice cream runs, the endearing absurdity of the duo’s dynamic makes for a remix treat of the most entertaining variety.

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