Brain Pickings

Posts Tagged ‘culture’

11 JANUARY, 2012

Einstein, Anne Lamott, and Steve Jobs on Intuition vs. Rationality

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What the libraries of yore have to do with today’s information economy and the heart’s will.

In putting together this recent reading list of nine essential books on reading and writing — a master-toolkit for a worthy New Year’s resolution to read more and write better — I found myself rereading Anne Lamott‘s Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life, one of my all-time favorite books.

A particular passage from it has stayed with me over the years, and reemerges by some uncanny, invisible mechanism at critical times of my life, as if to remind me where the truth lies:

You get your intuition back when you make space for it, when you stop the chattering of the rational mind. The rational mind doesn’t nourish you. You assume that it gives you the truth, because the rational mind is the golden calf that this culture worships, but this is not true. Rationality squeezes out much that is rich and juicy and fascinating.

A similar sentiment is attributed to, though likely a paraphrasing of, one of history’s most celebrated heroes of science — the alleged pinnacle of rationality, Albert Einstein:

The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift.

Steve Jobs reflects in Walter Isaacson’s much-discussed biography of him, one of the best biographies and memoirs of 2011:

The people in the Indian countryside don’t use their intellect like we do, they use their intuition instead, and the intuition is far more developed than in the rest of the world… Intuition is a very powerful thing, more powerful than intellect, in my opinion. That’s had a big impact on my work.

Western rational thought is not an innate human characteristic, it is learned and it is the great achievement of Western civilization. In the villages of India, they never learned it. They learned something else, which is in some ways just as valuable but in other ways is not. That’s the power of intuition and experiential wisdom.

In the olden days, librarians were expected to use intuition to categorize books. When did we lose this value system in how we think about the categorization — curation, systematization, organization — of today’s information sphere and, perhaps more importantly, of the heart’s sphere?

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11 JANUARY, 2012

The Future Belongs to the Curious: A Manifesto for Curiosity

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From my friends at Skillshare, who are out to revolutionize the paradigms of learning, comes this beautiful manifesto for the transformative power of curiosity — something very much at the heart of Brain Pickings.

We are all lifelong learners, from day one to twenty-thousand-and-one, and that’s why we keep exploring, wondering and discovering, yearning and learning, reaching with more than just our hands… The future belongs to the curious.”

I bet legendary physicist Richard Feynman would approve. (See also these 5 manifestos for the creative life.)

Ready to have your curiosity tickled? Explore Skillshare’s countless courses on everything from color theory to 3D printing to living rent-free in NYC.

For more on the future of curiosity and learning, see these 7 essential books on education.

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10 JANUARY, 2012

Les Très Riches Heures de Mrs Mole: A Real-Life Ronald Searle Love Story

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What a tender true love story has to do with medieval illuminated manuscripts and experimental medicine.

On New Year’s Eve 1969, Monica Searle was diagnosed with a rare and aggressive form of breast cancer. Experimental at the time, chemotherapy — the course of action Monica’s doctor recommended — was a leap of faith. After each treatment, her husband Ronald made Monica a Mrs. Mole drawing “to cheer every dreaded chemotherapy session and evoke the blissful future ahead.” The Mole idea came after the couple discovered a large cellar in the decrepit house they had just bought in the south of France. Les Très Riches Heures de Mrs Mole gathers 47 of these jewel-like drawings, full of love and light and glowing colors. The title of the book plays off the 15th-century illuminated manuscript Les Tres Riches Heures du Duc de Berry. Never intended for publication, these intimate visual vignettes exude contagious optimism and hope, a kind of earnestness completely and exuberantly devoid of Searle’s signature sardonic style.

Everything about them had to be romantic and perfect. I drew them originally for no one’s eyes except Mo’s, so she would look at them propped up against her bedside lamp and think: ‘When I’m better, everything will be beautiful.’ ~ Ronald Searle

This is love.

Monica passed away last summer, some forty years after her cancer diagnosis, and Ronald Searle joined his beloved last week at the age of 91.

via Austin Kleon HT @kirstinbutler

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