Is The Role of Incubators of Any Significance in The Indian Context?

Advertisements – My fav newsletter

welcome to this week’s edition of the newsletter by Maria Popova. If you missed last week’s digest — Seneca on how to live with presence and balance the existential calculus of time; Emily Dickinson on spring; physicist Freeman Dyson on creativity — you can catch up right here. And if you are enjoying this labor of love, please consider supporting it with a donation – I spend innumerable hours and tremendous resources on it each week, and every little bit of support helps enormously. If you already donate: THANK YOU.

Amanda Palmer’s Haunting Reading of Adrienne Rich’s Poem About Love, Perspective, and the Hubble Space Telescope


“Mingle the starlight with your lives and you won’t be fretted by trifles,” the pioneering 19th-century astronomerMaria Mitchell, who paved the way for women in science, used to tell her Vassar students — America’s first class of women astronomers and the first generation of people trained in what we now call astrophysics: the combination of mathematical physics and observational astronomy.

At the Vassar observatory, both Mitchell’s home and her classroom, she held regular “dome parties” — evenings of telescopic star-study and conversation, during which her students composed poems about whatever they were pondering astronomically.


Maria Mitchell, standing at telescope, with her students at Vassar

A century after Mitchell’s death, humanity launched into the cosmos its most ambitious and versatile instrument yet: the Hubble Space Telescope. “We saw to the edge of all there is — so brutal and alive it seemed to comprehend us back,” the poet Tracy K. Smith wrote in her stunning ode to this triumph of human ingenuity and perseverance, on which her father was one of NASA’s first black engineers and which she read at the inaugural Universe in Verse, held on the telescope’s twenty-seventh birthday and dedicated to Maria Mitchell’s legacy.

Smith — who has since been elected Poet Laureate of the United States — was the age of Maria Mitchell’s students when the Hubble returned its first, enthusiastically awaited images of the cosmos: grainy, fuzzy photographs that were in one sense deeply disappointing to the engineers who had labored on the instrument for years, but in another absolutely thrilling: an unprecedented glimpse of the vast unknown beckoning from the unfathomed depths of the universe.

In the decades since its launch on April 24, 1990, the Hubble Space Telescope has helped make landmark discoveries advancing our understanding of the universe and has enchanted humanity with the most beguiling images of the cosmos we have yet seen. It has shown us otherworldly glimpses of galaxies and nebulae. It has studied the light of orphaned stars to illuminate the mysteries of dark matter. It has resolved a longstanding perplexity about the growth rate of the universe and detected the first known interstellar object to visit our solar system. It has challenged us as never before to imagine what may lie beyond the horizons of our own imagination.


“Pillars of Creation,” one of the most recognizable Hubble images, depicting the interstellar gas and cosmic dust of the Eagle Nebula some 7,000 lightyears away from Earth, simultaneously creating new stars and being destroyed by the light of nearby newborn stars. (Photograph: NASA)

Fifteen years into the Hubble’s lifetime, another great poet, Adrienne Rich (May 16, 1929–March 27, 2012), contemplated the existential undertones of its scientific triumphs in another stunning poem: “Hubble Photographs: After Sappho,” which musician, poetry lover, and my dear friend Amanda Palmer read in a haunting performance at the third annual Universe in Verse, held on the eve of the Hubble’s twenty-ninth birthday and benefiting the endeavor to build New York City’s first public observatory.


The third annual Universe in Verse. (Photograph: Walter Wlodarczyk.)

In this lovely animation created for the occasion, artist Kelli Anderson brings Rich’s words and Amanda’s voice to life with an inventive animation technique, using a vintage NASA manual to print words and galactic-textured images directly onto the archival paper.


2e292385-dc1c-4cfe-b95e-845f6f98c2ec.pngHUBBLE PHOTOGRAPHS: AFTER SAPPHO
by Adrienne Rich (2005)

It should be the most desired sight of all
the person with whom you hope to live and die

walking into a room, turning to look at you, sight for sight
Should be yet I say there is something

more desirable:       the ex-stasis of galaxies
so out from us there’s no vocabulary

but mathematics and optics
equations letting sight pierce through time

into liberations, lacerations of light and dust
exposed like a body’s cavity, violet green livid and venous, gorgeous

—beyond good and evil as ever stained into dream
beyond remorse, disillusion, fear of death

or life, rage
for order, rage for destruction

beyond this love which stirs
the air every time she walks into the room

These impersonae, however we call them
won’t invade us as on movie screens

they are so old, so new, we are not to them
we look at them or don’t from within the milky gauze

of our tilted gazing
but they don’t look back and we cannot hurt them

Below is Amanda’s full performance, including her poetic prefatory meditation on art, science, and life:


“Hubble Photographs: After Sappho” comes from Adrienne Rich’s indispensable Collected Poems: 1950–2012 (public library). Complement it with Rich’s poem “Planetarium”, read by astrophysicist Janna Levin at the inaugural Universe in Verse, and her tribute to Marie Curie, read by Grammy-winning musician Rosanne Cash, then revisit Kelli Anderson’s stop-motion animation of Jane Hirshfield’s poem “Optimism,” celebrating nature’s astonishing, humble resilience.

More highlights from the show can be savored here, including Amanda Palmer’s readings of Neil Gaiman’s tribute to Rachel Carson and his feminist history of science, both composed for The Universe in Verse.



I pour tremendous time, thought, heart, and resources into Brain Pickings, which remains free and ad-free, and is made possible by patronage. If you find any joy, stimulation, and consolation in my labor of love, please consider supporting it with a donation. And if you already donate, from the bottom of my heart: THANK YOU.

monthly donation

You can become a Sustaining Patron with a recurring monthly donation of your choosing, between a cup of tea and a Brooklyn lunch.

one-time donation

Or you can become a Spontaneous Supporter with a one-time donation in any amount.

Start Now Give Now

The Complementarity of Multiple Loves: The Victorian Philosopher Edward Carpenter on How Freedom Strengthens Togetherness in Long-Term Relationships


“A friend is not to be found in the world such as one can conceive of, such as one needs, for no human being unites so many of the attributes of God as we feel our nature requires,” the pioneering astronomer Maria Mitchell wrote as she devised her lovely theory of complementarity in intimate relationships, insisting that rather than burdening one person with the expectation of meeting our every expectation, we ought to scatter our needs and desires across a range of intimates, each chosen for their natural and unstrained ability to meet a particular need.

Curiously, while most of us are able to see the clear and radiant truth of this theory when it comes to our friendships, our cultural mythologies, sculpted by millennia of religious dogma, still hold romantic love to the impossible expectation of having one person meet our every need. We speak easily and gladly of a circle of friends, but in romance we contract the circle to the unitary locus of the idealized lover.

Long before the notion of polyamory entered our lexicon and became an acceptable frontier of the heart’s imagination, the philosopher, poet, and early LGBT rights activist Edward Carpenter (August 29, 1844–June 28, 1929) offered an antidote to this limiting cultural mythology in his uncommonly insightful 1912 book The Drama of Love and Death: A Study of Human Evolution and Transfiguration (public library), which also gave us Carpenter on how to survive the agony of falling in love.


Edward Carpenter, 1900

Two decades after meeting the love of his own life, with whom he would spend the remainder of his days, Carpenter — a contemporary of Mitchell’s who, like her, was ahead of his time in myriad ways — writes:

2e292385-dc1c-4cfe-b95e-845f6f98c2ec.pngSympathy with and understanding of the person one lives with must be cultivated to the last degree possible, because it is a condition of any real and permanent alliance. And it may even go so far (and should go so far) as a frank understanding and tolerance of such person’s other loves. After all, it seldom happens, with any one who has more than one or two great interests in life, that he finds a mate who can sympathize with or understand them all. In that case a certain portion of his personality is left out in the cold, as it were; and if this is an important portion it seems perfectly natural for him to seek for a mate or a lover on that side too. Two such loves are often perfectly compatible and reconcilable — though naturally one will be the dominant love, and the other subsidiary, and if such secondary loves are good-humoredly tolerated and admitted, the effect will generally be to confirm the first and original alliance all the more.


Art by Maurice Sendak from Open House for Butterflies by Ruth Krauss

More than a decade before Virginia Woolf offered her succinct, incisive recipe forwhat makes love last across the long sweep of time and habituation, Carpenter offers his:

2e292385-dc1c-4cfe-b95e-845f6f98c2ec.pngTwo people, after years, cease to exchange their views and opinions with the same vitality as at first; they lose their snap and crackle with regard to each other — and naturally, because they now know each other’s minds perfectly, and have perhaps modified them mutually to the point of likeness. But this only means, or should mean in a healthy case, that their interest in each other has passed into another plane, that the venue of Love has been removed to another court. If something has been lost in respect of the physical rush and torrent, and something in respect of the mental breeze and sparkle, great things have been gained in the ever-widening assurance and confidence of spiritual unity, and a kind of lake-like calm which indeed reflects the heavens. And under all, still in the depths, one may be conscious of a subtle flow and interchange, yet going on between the two personalities and relating itself to some deep and unseen movements far down in the heart of Nature.

Beyond this shared attunement to the pulse of nature, Carpenter argues that the coremost element in an enduring love relationship is not merely tolerance for but a largehearted welcoming of the partner’s other loves and interests, buoyed by the understanding that they enrich rather than impoverish the primary relationship:

2e292385-dc1c-4cfe-b95e-845f6f98c2ec.pngOf course for this continuance and permanence of love there must be a certain amount of continence, not only physical, but on the emotional plane as well… New subjects of interest, and points of contact, must be sought; temporary absences rather encouraged than deprecated; and lesser loves, as we have already hinted, not turned into gages of battle. Few things, in fact, endear one to a partner so much as the sense that one can freely confide to him or her one’s affaires de cœur; and when a man and wife have reached this point of confidence in their relation to each other, it may fairly then be said (however shocking this may sound to the orthodox) that their union is permanent and assured.

Complement this excerpt of Carpenter’s altogether visionary The Drama of Love and Death with Anna Dostoyevskaya on the secret to a happy marriage, Rilke on the balance between freedom and togetherness in a long-term love, and Esther Perel on surrender and autonomy as the two pillars of romance, then revisit Hannah Arendt on how to live with love’s fundamental fear of loss.


Pioneering Jamaican-American Illustrator and Designer Jacqueline Ayer’s Lovely Vintage Children’s Book About Loss, Hope, and Homecoming, Inspired by Thailand


In the late 1950s, the Jamaican-American illustrator and designer Jacqueline Ayer (May 2, 1930–May 20, 2012) moved halfway around the world to present-day Thailand, then Siam, to expand her already pioneering creative career and start a family. Ayer had grown up alongside the great graphic designer Milton Glaser at the “Coops” — the first interracial housing in the United States, a communist-inspired cooperative for garment workers in the Bronx. After graduating from Harlem’s iconic public High School of Music & Art, she attained a degree in fine art from Syracuse University and continued her studies in Paris, where her work attracted the attention of Christian Dior and got her editorial appointments for Vogue magazine. In Paris, she fell in love with a young American man who had just returned from Burma and who ignited in her a passion for the cultures of the Far East.


Jacqueline Ayer with her daughter Margot

Not yet thirty, Ayer moved to Bangkok with her new husband, where they raised their two daughters and she launched a fashion company using traditional Thai craftsmanship to print her vibrant designs onto silk and cotton. Her fabrics made their way into New York and London’s glamorous department stores, and she went on to help Indira Gandhi’s government develop India’s traditional textile crafts.

Before the apogee of the civil rights movement, before the second wave of feminism, before globalization as we know it today, Jacqueline Ayer became a successful creative entrepreneur in a faraway land and a champion of the arts as a force of empowerment.


Jacqueline Ayer at work

While living in Thailand, Ayer began writing and illustrating a series of children’s books celebrating the values and sensibilities of the local culture while exploring the most universal themes of human experience — heartbreak, hope, the power of the imagination to transform and redeem. These uncommonly poetic, stunningly illustrated treasures, The Paper-Flower Tree among them, earned Ayer the 1961 Gold Medal of the Society of Illustrators, considered the Academy Award of illustration — a landmark achievement for women and artists of color.


Jacqueline Ayer’s 1961 Society of Illustrators medal

The series began with Nu Dang and His Kite (public library), originally published in 1959 and reissued for the first time nearly six decades later by Brooklyn-based independent powerhouse Enchanted Lion.

Ayer’s lovely, lyrical prose spills from her beautifully illustrated pages to the tell the transportive story of a little boy — “the happiest boy in the world” — and his beloved kite, a story of loss, hope, and homecoming.





2e292385-dc1c-4cfe-b95e-845f6f98c2ec.pngIn a sunny, sleepy place halfway around the world in Siam, on the banks of a long brown river, there once lived a little boy whose name was Nu Dang.

He loved more than anything else — more than swimming in the cool river on a hot day, more than orange ice, even more than two orange ices — most and best Nu Dang loved to fly his kite.

Whenever the day was right for kites — when the wind was strong, the sky clear, and the sun shining brightly — Nu Dang and his friends would come with their kites to a grassy field.

Nu Dang’s kite was the boldest and the bravest of them all. It ran swiftly with the wind and chased the birds that flew around the sun.

Nu Dang was the happiest boy in the grassy field.

He was the happiest boy in Siam.

He was the happiest boy in the world.


But this soaring bliss plummets into heartbreak one windy day when Nu Dang’s kite slips out of his hand — “just like that!” — and disappears into the clear blue skies, leaving the little boy bereft.

He climbs onto his small boat on the river and sits quietly for a while, reminiscing about his brave, beautiful, irreplaceable kite.


Unwilling to lose hope, Nu Dang sets off to find his vanished joy.

Paddling down the wide brown river, he asks everyone he encounters whether they have seen his kite — the vendor of sweet cakes, the boatman hauling a pile of fresh hay for his oxen, the young monks he greets with a bow, the bustling crowds of the “Floating Market.”




2e292385-dc1c-4cfe-b95e-845f6f98c2ec.pngEveryone was brisk and busy and had no time for a small boy with questions about a kite.

Still, he asked everyone: the vendor of lotus and jasmine, and the vendor of curry sauce and chilies. He asked the pineapple, pomelo, and papaya boat; the chickpea-green bean boat; the “all kinds of fresh fish” boat. And they all said, “No!” They hadn’t seen his kite.

On and on he goes along the river, stopping by restaurants and shops and farmhouses, asking everyone and receiving the same disheartening answer, until he finally arrives home, crestfallen and vacant of hope.




And then, with disbelieving elation, Nu Dang discovers his kite bobbing gently on the ground by his own house, deposited by the day’s downstream wind — a touching testament to John Steinbeck’s conviction that “nothing good gets away.”




Complement Nu Dang and His Kite with The Blue Songbird — a kindred parable of homecoming also inspired by Asian aesthetics — then revisit other Enchanted Lion gems: Jerome by HeartBig Wolf & Little WolfCry, Heart, But Never BreakThe Lion and the Bird, and Bertolt.



I pour tremendous time, thought, heart, and resources into Brain Pickings, which remains free and ad-free, and is made possible by patronage. If you find any joy, stimulation, and consolation in my labor of love, please consider supporting it with a donation. And if you already donate, from the bottom of my heart: THANK YOU.

monthly donation

You can become a Sustaining Patron with a recurring monthly donation of your choosing, between a cup of tea and a Brooklyn lunch.

one-time donation

Or you can become a Spontaneous Supporter with a one-time donation in any amount.

Start Now Give Now