Brain Pickings

Posts Tagged ‘happiness’

25 OCTOBER, 2010

On Gratitude: 51 Micro-Essays on Life’s Blessings


There is plenty of evidence that practicing gratitude dramatically increases our sense of well-being, yet we consistently fail to acknowledge our blessings and instead choose to fixate on misfortune. On Gratitude, a lovely new book by Todd Aaron Jensen, reels us back from our dystopian mental habits by reminding us of the blessings big and small, from pajamas to parents to perfect timing, that make life worth living. The anthology features 51 micro-essays by musicians, artists, actors and other public figures, from B. B. King to Ann Rice to Francis Ford Coppola, that unequivocally disarm our typical dislike of celebrity culture as generally lacking in substance and instead present us with slices of sincerity as thoughtful and profoundly human as they come.

I always say that writing, for me, is like going to church. When I’m out of my way, when my ego is hushed, when my propensity for judging myself and editing myself is silenced for a moment, I’m feeling pretty close to God and everything that’s good.” ~ Sheryl Crow

Creation of the ladies is the greatest creation ever. I still think that today. Nothing better.” ~ B. B. King

Without empathy, you’ve got nothing.” ~ Ricky Gervais

Breath and life, and the opportunity to try. If you have nothing more, you always have that.” ~ Alicia Keys

On Gratitude is a delectable treat of humanity and humility. Sample it with a free Kindle download of Alicia Keys’ chapter or go ahead and grab the real thing — you’ll be grateful you did.

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25 OCTOBER, 2010

The School of Life


The classes you actually wanted to take in college, or how to master coolness while munching on a caramel bar.

We’re always thrilled to discover creative ways of organizing information in a novel educational experience and never omit to rave about it. Today, we’re particularly excited to uncover an educational social enterprise that aims to address the fundamental needs of the modern self.

In London’s Bloomsberry, between hairdressing saloons and restaurants — the location is an accidental metaphor for where true wisdom is found — sprouts a small, old-fashioned shop with a sign that humbly reads “The School Of Life.” Founded in September 2008 by an eclectic group of London writers, artists and friends, amongst whom the philosopher Alain de Botton, it offers night classes on a variety of topics with the unifying goal to satisfy its students’ hunger for a more meaningful life. For £30.00 and three hours of your evening, you could contemplate whether being single really is the end of the world in How Necessary Is A Relationship, find out what the mysterious virtues of coolness are in How To Be Cool, or learn to reduce the superficial chit chat of your life in How To Have Better Conversations.

The classes are centered around traditional lectures using various tools and resources, from movies to books and art to active discussions to humor. The school also offers additional weekend activities, daily curated bookshelves (selections vary from How To Enjoy Your Own Company to For Those Feeling the Credit Crunch), conversational menus (prompting you to ponder why you haven’t achieved your goals), and Sunday secular sermons, from Alain de Botton on pessimism to Barbara Ehrenreich on optimism to Ruby Wax’s brilliant, hilarious and insightful On Loving Your Ego. Oh, and Milk-Chocolate Coated Caramel bars, of course.

Most importantly, unlike the competitive and often cold atmosphere of traditional university education, The School Of Life offers the comforting environment of a community of people gathered not to memorize facts, evaluate each other or impose dogmas, but to help understand, explore and improve each other’s lives. Because, as Alain de Botton puts it:

The point of learning is not snobbery, not sounding clever, not passing an exam — it’s to help you live.”

Teddy Zareva is a young filmmaker and photographer currently located in Sofia, Bulgaria. She is prone to excessive dancing and impulsive traveling. Her favorite activities are eating chocolate, hunting for music, and shooting humans.

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14 OCTOBER, 2010

And The Pursuit of Happiness: Maira Kalman Illustrates Democracy


Yes, we love Maira Kalman. Last year, the iconic illustrator published a wonderful and quirky illustrated 12-part meditation on democracy in her New York Times blog and today, the series is released as an equally wonderful illustrated book.

And the Pursuit of Happiness begins with Barack Obama’s inauguration on Chapter One, with each subsequent chapter representing a month in Kalman’s yearlong quest to explore the underpinnings of contemporary democracy.

In February, she travels to both costs, so the respective chapter is dedicated to Abraham Lincoln. In March, she goes to an actual town meeting, the quintessential haven of democracy. In April, she visits the Supreme Court and the office of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, which prompts a rumination on women breaking social barriers. For December, she concludes with a chapter on George Washington and a thoughtful reflection on happiness itself.

Brimming with Kalman’s childlike aesthetic, delightfully kooky typography and subtle wordplay, And the Pursuit of Happiness takes you on a playful yet philosophical journey into the human side of politics and democracy — a genuine treat for eye, mind and heart.

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27 SEPTEMBER, 2010

Bad News: A Media Fiction


Can bad news become a self-fulfilling prophecy? That’s exactly what motion graphics trio Bastian Boehm, Felipe Lima and Tom Duscher explore in their graduation film, Bad News – A Media Fiction. Through the metaphor of a 1950’s newspaper that self-destructs as it reports on an apocalyptic comet, the film offers timely cultural commentary on the potential sociocultural consequences of today’s media negativism and sensationalism. Is Rupert Murdoch the Dorian Grey of our worldview?

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