Brain Pickings

Posts Tagged ‘happiness’

27 JANUARY, 2010

Live Now: In-the-Moment Inspiration

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A true exercise in art therapy, or what all motivational posters should aspire to be.

It’s still January, and 2010 has already provided no shortage of loss, tragedy, and challenge. But amidst all of this digital distemper lies a website we love for its seemingly infinite supply of authenticity, hope, and optimism.

Live Now! is an art project whose mission is “powerfully pursuing the notion of ‘living now.’ Engaging participants to live meaningful lives & be happy!”

The homepage greets you with a lovely image reminding you of the importance of living in the moment. With messages like True happiness is giving it away and Practice happiness rendered in winsomely quirky typography, each click-through leads to another picture and message.

The images’ style varies, but they all share the kind of handmade energy in response to which you can’t really help but smile.

What confirms these sentiments as so much more than pablum — besides the artistry of their rendering — is the personal story of Live Now!‘s creator, designer and illustrator Eric Smith, who conceived of the project after being diagnosed with three different types of cancer.

Cancer changed the way I ate, slept, and most importantly the way I live. Before cancer I was like most folks, just cruising along. It was during my treatment, when starting to discover what cancer could give to me — the ability to absorb every moment as if each one were my whole life.

Since Live Now! launched, Davis has opened the experience to a host of other talented artists and designers (David Gibson, CD Ryan, and Kate Miss, among others); he also continues to take submissions. We were even more excited to learn that the project’s various messages are available in print form, allowing you to curate a changing rotation of inspirational messages for yourself.

Live Now! reminds us of another fantastic typographic project around personal growth and happiness, Things I Have Learned In My Life, by Brain Pickings favorite (and three-time TEDster) Stefan Sagmeister. Such collaborative initiatives augur an emerging pattern in graphic design work — call it the aesthetics of authentic life principles.

So put down the newspaper, close that Firefox CNN disaster report tab, let go of the earthquake hashtags, and swap them all for an early-morning shot of motivation and encouragement — because you can rarely have too much of either. To experience beautifully crafted messages of Carpe Diem visit Live Now!, well, now.

Kirstin Butler is writing an adaptation of Gogol for the Google era called Dead SULs, but when not working spends far, far too much time on Twitter. She currently lives in Cambridge, MA.

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30 DECEMBER, 2009

Tom Waits Reads Bukowski

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On finding light in darkness, knowing chances and the ownership of life.

Short and sweet, our 2010 wish to Brain Pickings readers, from the lips of Tom Waits reading “The Laughing Heart” by the great Charles Bukowski.

your life is your life
don’t let it be clubbed into dank submission.
be on the watch.
there are ways out.
there is a light somewhere.
it may not be much light but
it beats the darkness.
be on the watch.
the gods will offer you chances.
know them.
take them.
you can’t beat death but
you can beat death in life, sometimes.
and the more often you learn to do it,
the more light there will be.
your life is your life.
know it while you have it.
you are marvelous
the gods wait to delight
in you.

In 2009, we spent more than 200 hours a month bringing you Brain Pickings. That’s over 2,400 hours for the year — the equivalent of 24 feature-length films, 60 music albums or 800 bathroom visits. If you found any joy and inspiration here this year, please consider supporting us with a modest donation — it lets us know we’re doing something right and helps us pay the bills.





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29 DECEMBER, 2009

The Happiness Project: Gretchen Rubin Spends a Year in Pursuit

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A year’s worth of ideas, inspiration and innovation from culture’s collective brain.

Last week, we looked at Charles Spearin’s music-meets-philosophy experiment, The Happiness Project. Turns out, perhaps due to the universal relevance of the subject matter, that it has a doppelganger.

One rainy afternoon in 2006, New York magazine writer Gretchen Rubin was sitting on the bus, having one of those inevitable-for-everyone epiphanies about the fleeting nature of life, the importance of savoring the moment, and all that jazz. But instead of shrugging it off as a contrived existential truism, Rubin decided to undertake an ambitious task: To test the multitude of theories about what makes us happy, from ancient philosophies to pop culture prescriptions to the latest scientific studies, and to write about the experience. Her blog, clever and wryly written, full of weekly happiness tips, quickly struck a cultural chord and was syndicated across a slew of cultural merit validators — Slate, Yahoo, The Huffington Post, even Psychology Today.

Today, the blog congeals as The Happiness Project: Or, Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun — a wonderfully engaging memoir chronicling the project.

With its eloquent charisma and wit, the book successfully dodges the preachiness bullet, offering instead a captivating journey into the greatest human pursuit and the many, often crazy, ways in which we go about attaining that elusive holy grail. Both enlightening and entertaining, it’s the kind of read that takes you on a relentlessly fun ride and drops you off at a place of great insight, leaving you to marvel at how you got there without trekking through a jungle of discomfort and doubt.

For us, The Happiness Project is solid proof of our own credo: Do something out of passion and curiosity, and the rest — the syndication, the cultural traction, the “success” — will follow. The best cultural artifacts — the most compelling art, the smartest books, the most interesting films — didn’t begin with a business model, they began with a great idea, which in turn came from exploring the fringes of curiosity.

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28 DECEMBER, 2009

The Moment Jars

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A timecapsule of human existence, or what childbirth and a moose have in common.

We all have those moments — the rare ones so saturated with personal significance and impact, so rich in meaning and relevance that we want to savor them, to save them, to put them in a jar. The Moment Jars offers just that — a lovely record of being human.

The brainchild of four creatives from the advertising and design industries — writer Mark Freid, designers Jeff Matz and Paul Mastriani, and illustrator Kim Foxbury — the project is a digital repository for people’s most monumental moments, offered without context or explanation in their rawest, purest form.

Candid and deeply personal, the moments range from the questionable (shooting a moose) to the mundane yet inexplicably memorable (a foggy day in San Diego) to the expected (lots of babies, lots of first kisses). The latter — an overwhelming majority — strip life of its pretense and illustrate a simple truth: The moments we often dismiss as the most contrived cliches are actually the ones that move us most powerfully and memorably

The Moment Jars is a bittersweet reminder that even the best of moments pass us by, living on only as ephemeral ghosts in the treasure chest of our memory.

The team (of The Wishing Machine fame) is immortalizing the moments in a limited-edition 22-page illustrated book, which you can buy right here.

You can also add your own moment to the chronological archive of several hundred jars, with moments dating as far back as 1920.

via Swiss Miss

Correction: We got a lovely note of gratitude from Mark, who kindly pointed out that the book is actually based on a short story he’d written some time ago titled, unsurprisingly, The Moment Jars. The team is, however, toying with the idea of doing more with the moments people submitted and considering another book based on them.

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