Neuroscientist Chris...

By Maria Popova “Informationally speaking, the experience of being sad is a crystal, a fantastically complex shape in a space of a trillion dimensions that is qualitatively different from the brain state that gives rise to sadness.” “I wish you could know what it means to be me,” Nina Simone...

Billy Collins’s Advi...

By Maria Popova “Spotlessness is the niece of inspiration.” Every once in a while, amid the serious and often stern prose comprising the canon of great writers’ advice on writing, there glimmers an offering of wisdom no less weighty yet delivered with wondrous levity. A generation after...

Anna Deavere Smith o...

By Maria Popova “If I swim a mile, the first half hour might be drudgery, but somewhere in the middle it catches fire.” “Live immediately,” Seneca exhorted in his timeless 2,000-year-old meditation on the shortness of life. “Hurrying and delaying are alike ways of trying to resist the...

The Doom and Glory o...

By Maria Popova “An artist is a sort of emotional or spiritual historian. His role is to make you realize the doom and glory of knowing who you are and what you are.” “A society must assume that it is stable, but the artist must know, and he must let us know, that there is nothing stable...

A Laboratory for Fee...

By Maria Popova “Music is ‘significant form,’ and its significance is that of a symbol, a highly articulated sensuous object… Feeling, life, motion and emotion constitute its import.” “Music is at once the most wonderful, the most alive of all the arts… and the most sensual,” Susan...

In Their Lives: Grea...

By Maria Popova “The garden of life is strewn with such dormant seeds and so much of art blossoms from their unwilled and unwillable awakenings.” And now for something a bit out of the ordinary: When editor Andrew Blauner invited me to contribute to an anthology of essays by some of his...

Emily Dickinson’s He...

By Maria Popova An elegy for time and the mortality of beauty, composed with passionate patience and a sensuous cadence. In an era when the scientific establishment barred and bolted its gates to women, botany allowed Victorian women to enter science through the permissible backdoor of art,...

Power and Tenderness...

By Maria Popova “[Art] is the process by which, in imagining itself and the relation of individuals to one another and to it, a society comes to understand itself, and by understanding, discover its possibilities of growth.” “The poets (by which I mean all artists),” James Baldwin wrote in...