China Is Imprisoning the Scientist Who Gene-Edited Babies

via China Is Imprisoning the Scientist Who Gene-Edited Babies

Wisdom Quotes

Be at ease in your own skin for you cannot shed it like a snake.

Try to be like the turtle – at ease in your own shell. (Bill Copeland)

This very moment is your life, so make it a moment worth living.
Be happy for this moment. This moment is your life. (Omar Khayyam)

I am mournful beyond the wind

I am mournful beyond the wind

Sinister and glowing under the tomb
We examine transparent devils against the air
Alass! The devil continues
Weird and sinning beside the sky
You invoke dream-like fangs in the ground
Heavy! The birth is vanishing
I am mournful beyond the wind
I invoke florescent gems beyond the mist
Way cool! The Queen is done
wary awake
fading slowly
no words left
In whose heart
a stranger
ask his way
in the late light

What is your Motto?

For the people, for the realm.
Dream, hope, aspire.
Now our enemies rest.
Faith grants us strength.
As one, we raise ourselves higher.
Love of the people, strength of the nation.
Now our enemies rest.
Wealth of the land.
Wealth of the land.
Taste for battle.

Ethical Alliance Daily

Do you Ski?


Free verse by jay

How happy are only boarders!
Never forget the lone and lonesome boarders.

Pay attention to the toboggan,
the toboggan is the most plastic sleigh of all.
A toboggan is moldable. a toboggan is fictile,
a toboggan is impressionable, however.

When I think of the snowmobile, I see a red step.
Never forget the littler and miniscule snowmobile.

Just like a temperate past, is the alpine.
Down, down, down into the darkness of the alpine,
Gently it goes – the ingenious, the cute, the artful.

Word of the day

Part of speech: noun
Origin: Greek, early 16th century

A brief, instructive saying


A succinct statement of a general truth or observation

Examples of Aphorism in a sentence

“We all groaned every time Dad tried to give a life lesson by saying an aphorism.”

“‘Actions speak louder than words’ is a good aphorism to employ in your friendships.”

Quotes of the Week

Charles Kingsley

“There’s no use doing a kindness if you do it a day too late.”

via Today’s Quote December 23, 2019 at 11:57AM
via RSS Feed

Dr. Seuss

“Maybe Christmas, the Grinch thought, doesn’t come from a store.”

via Today’s Quote December 24, 2019 at 11:50AM
via RSS Feed

Charles Dickens

“I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year.”

via Today’s Quote December 25, 2019 at 11:50AM
via RSS Feed

Joseph Brodsky

“Cherish your human connections: your relationships with friends and family.”

via Today’s Quote December 26, 2019 at 11:50AM
via RSS Feed

Pearl S. Buck

“One faces the future with one’s past.”

via Today’s Quote December 27, 2019 at 11:43AM
via RSS Feed

Pauline Phillips

“The less you talk, the more you’re listened to.”

via Today’s Quote December 28, 2019 at 11:43AM
via RSS Feed

Stephen Jay Gould

“We pass through this world but once.”

via Today’s Quote December 29, 2019 at 11:43AM
via RSS Feed

RSS Feed

Email me famous quotes every Monday at 8AM.

Riddle of the day

Of the king I am blue and of the peasant I am red. Of the frog I am cold and of the dog I am hot. What am I?

The answer is: Blood

I never was, am always to be. No one ever saw me, nor ever will. And yet I am the confidence of all, to live and breath on this terrestrial ball. What am I?

The answer is: Tomorrow/The future

Mastery in Servitude – for Humanity – 2020.

The world constantly wants you to behave or think in a certain way. Ralph Waldo Emerson said it best:

“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.”

To me, Learning is Forever, Precious like Diamonds. It never ends, its value never diminishes. After my Cardiac Issues in 2014, I felt I was given a new Lease of LIfe by God, I felt as if I am reborn.

I began learning to draw and paint as a hobby and spent the past 5-6 years pursuing it. My wife Madhura Parkhe​ became my mentor here. The thought to start this came from Dr. A.P. Bhupatkar of IMDR who asked me to pursue my childhood hobbies.

I realized I have many Knowledge Gaps too. I found Udemy online courses that are economical, short, swift, crisp and from the Best Trainers in the World. On my morning walks; instead of watching a video, I heard the audio and it helped me fill my knowledge gaps. There was help from the trainers on Speaking skills, Story Telling skills, Voice skills, Body language/ Gestures skills too. I also got over 150 Certificates. The trainers offer personalized coaching and mentoring and one is lucky to find them in life. A Class Apart!

In 2018 – Aug-Sept I joined The Toastmasters Internationa and began to learn Speaking Skills all over again. It was a struggle speaking with a strict time limit and also fill my Skills gaps in Voice/ Body language. I was fortunate to find 4 Worldclass mentors and they helped me go on the Pathways Path and I am now doing my 4th Path.

Along the way, came to many Mentees/ Mentorees/ Protege’ to learn and pick my brains and I remembered this :
““To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.”
I let my Mentees, Mentorees/ Protege’ BE as they are. With help to bridge their knowledge, skills gaps, coaching on their best strengths to get better, still better helped many of them. They also got featured in different magazines, Websites and were interviewed. It was my Moment of Truth, Their Accolades earned made my day.

In 2020, I shall stop Coaching/ Mentoring and focus on Writing/ Speaking/ Painting. It is not my New year resolution – it is a conscious resolve. Yes. along the way if there are Paid consulting, Paid Speaking opportunities – they will be welcome as much of these earnings go into my favorite charities that I assist, as they help Humanity.

The larger goal of life remains – Master – Attain Mastery in Servitude – Service with an Attitude – In service of Humanity.

Wish me luck.

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Best Newsletter of 2019 –

This is a special annual edition of the Brain Pickings newsletter by Maria Popova. The regular Sunday edition will be with you predictably and reliably this weekend. If you missed the two annual specials of the year’s loveliest children’s books and overall favorite books, they are here and here. And if you find any value and joy in my labor of love, please consider supporting it with a donation – this year, like every year for the past thirteen, I have invested countless hours and tremendous resources in Brain Pickings, and every little bit of support helps keep it going. If you already donate: THANK YOU.

The Best of Brain Pickings 2019

In this annual review, following the annual selections of the year’s loveliest children’s books and overall favorite books, “best” is as usual a composite measure of what I most enjoyed thinking and writing about over the course of the year, and what you most ardently read and shared.

It has been curious to observe, in this most difficult year of my life, the patterns that emerge — strong women’s voices, the healing power of natureof poetry, and of kindnessthe necessity of unselfish loveof friendship, and of solitude; and lots and lots and lots of tress — and how they illuminate the things that help me, and perhaps you, survive. Thrive, even.


Enjoy, and may we face the coming year with the steady serenity of a tree — that supreme lover of light, always reaching both higher and deeper, rooted in a network of kinship and ringed by a more patient view of time.

The More Loving One: Astrophysicist Janna Levin Reads W.H. Auden’s Sublime Ode to Our Unrequited Love for the Universe


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13 Life-Learnings from 13 Years of Brain Pickings


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The Healing Power of Gardens: Oliver Sacks on the Psychological and Physiological Consolations of Nature


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Hannah Arendt on Love and How to Live with the Fundamental Fear of Loss


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Trees at Night: Stunning Rorschach Silhouettes from the 1920s


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I Like You: An Almost Unbearably Lovely Vintage Illustrated Ode to Friendship


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Kahlil Gibran on Silence, Solitude, and the Courage to Know Yourself


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After Silence: Amanda Palmer Reads Neil Gaiman’s Stunning Poem Celebrating Rachel Carson’s Legacy of Culture-Shifting Courage


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Salvation by Words: Iris Murdoch on Language as a Vehicle of Truth and Art as a Force of Resistance to Tyranny


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Rebecca Solnit’s Lovely Letter to Children About How Books Solace, Empower, and Transform Us


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Planting Trees as Resistance and Empowerment: The Remarkable Illustrated Story of Wangari Maathai, the First African Woman to Win the Nobel Peace Prize


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Rachel Carson’s Bittersweet Farewell to the World: Timeless Advice to the Next Generations from the Woman Who Catalyzed the Environmental Movement


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Hermann Hesse on Solitude, the Value of Hardship, the Courage to Be Yourself, and How to Find Your Destiny


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“Little Prince” Author Antoine de Saint-Exupéry on Losing a Friend


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Leo Tolstoy on Kindness and the Measure of Love


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On Children: Poignant Parenting Advice from Kahlil Gibran


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Middle Age and the Art of Self-Renewal: An Extraordinary Letter from Pioneering Education Reformer Elizabeth Peabody


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The Lost Words: An Illustrated Dictionary of Poetic Spells Reclaiming the Language of Nature


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The Fascinating Science of How Trees Communicate, Animated


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Harriet Hosmer on Art and Ambition: The World’s First Successful Woman Sculptor on What It Takes to Be a Great Artist


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Is There a God? Stephen Hawking Gives the Definitive Answer to the Eternal Question


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Year of the Monkey: Patti Smith on Dreams, Loss, Love, and Mending the Broken Realities of Life


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Amanda Palmer Reads “When I Am Among the Trees” by Mary Oliver


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The Astronomical Art of Maria Clara Eimmart: Stunning 17th-Century Drawings of Comets, Planets, and Moon Phases by a Self-Taught Artist and Astronomer


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You Can’t Have It All


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My Heart: An Emotional Intelligence Primer in the Form of an Uncommonly Tender Illustrated Poem About Our Capacity for Love


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In 2019, the 13th year of Brain Pickings, I poured tremendous time, thought, love, and resources into this labor of love, which remains free and is made possible by patronage. If you found any joy and solace here this year, please consider supporting it with a donation. And if you already donate, from the bottom of my heart: THANK YOU.

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Did you know…

Did you know…

… that today is the Festival of Enormous Changes at the Last Minute? On the next to last day of the year, before you must begin work on your new resolutions, take time out today to complete work on your previous year’s resolutions. Make those changes! 😉


Today’s Inspirational Quote:

“Most of us need to be reminded that we are good, that we are lovable, that we belong. If we knew just how powerfully our thoughts, words, and actions affected the hearts of those around us, we’d reach out and join hands again and again. Our relationships have the potential to be a sacred refuge, a place of healing and awakening. With each person we meet, we can learn to look behind the mask and see the one who longs to love and be loved.”

— Tara Brach

Word of the day

Part of speech: adjective
Origin: Latin, 14th century

Having intense feelings of enthusiasm or support


Fiery or burning

Examples of Ardent in a sentence

“She was such an ardent fan of the football team that she bought season tickets for her whole family.”

“The warmth of an ardent fireplace is welcome on a cold night.”

Quotes of the Week

Charles Kingsley

“There’s no use doing a kindness if you do it a day too late.”

via Today’s Quote December 23, 2019 at 11:57AM
via RSS Feed

Dr. Seuss

“Maybe Christmas, the Grinch thought, doesn’t come from a store.”

via Today’s Quote December 24, 2019 at 11:50AM
via RSS Feed

Charles Dickens

“I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year.”

via Today’s Quote December 25, 2019 at 11:50AM
via RSS Feed

Joseph Brodsky

“Cherish your human connections: your relationships with friends and family.”

via Today’s Quote December 26, 2019 at 11:50AM
via RSS Feed

Pearl S. Buck

“One faces the future with one’s past.”

via Today’s Quote December 27, 2019 at 11:43AM
via RSS Feed

Pauline Phillips

“The less you talk, the more you’re listened to.”

via Today’s Quote December 28, 2019 at 11:43AM
via RSS Feed

Stephen Jay Gould

“We pass through this world but once.”

via Today’s Quote December 29, 2019 at 11:43AM
via RSS Feed

RSS Feed

Email me famous quotes every Monday at 8AM.

Riddles of the day

Born underground, raised by the sun, a host for the living, caterer of fun. What am I?






The answer is: A tree.

I am light as a feather and I can be strong, short and deep. I bring life, but none can hold me for long. What am I?










The answer is: Breath.

Kindness to friends/ Family – One day at a time. :)

  1. Take someone to lunch.
  2. Leave a nice note on someone’s desk.
  3. Buy the next round of drinks at happy hour.
  4. Support someone’s charity or campaign.
  5. Pay for someone else’s coffee.
  6. Compliment someone.
  7. Make someone a playlist.
  8. Bake something and share with a group.
  9. Participate in a fundraiser.
  10. Write a thank you letter to someone who has helped you out.
  11. Be a mentor for someone who needs it.
  12. Hide a love note in someone’s purse or pocket.
  13. Babysit for free.
  14. Do a friend’s pile of laundry.
  15. Send a care package to a soldier.
  16. Help someone with their homework.
  17. Wash someone’s dishes.
  18. Help someone look for a job.
  19. Take your neighbor’s dog for a walk.
  20. Read a book to someone.
  21. Make a video to cheer someone up.
  22. Spend time with the elderly.
  23. Leave a funny note on a random car.
  24. Run an errand for someone.
  25. Leave flowers on someone’s doorstep.
  26. Make someone a gratitude journal they can write in.
  27. Join a kindness challenge.
  28. Run or walk for a cause.
  29. Cook a meal for a family with a new baby.
  30. Teach someone how to cook a healthy meal.
  31. Organize a fun family reunion.
  32. Mow your neighbors lawn after mowing your own.

My fav Newsletter of 2019

welcome to this week’s edition of the newsletter by Maria Popova. If you missed last week’s edition — Dostoyevsky, just after his death sentence was repealed, on the meaning of life; Sarah Kay reads Walt Whitman; David Abram on the language of nature — you can catch up right here; if you missed the two annual specials of the year’s loveliest children’s books and overall favorite books, they are here and here. And if you are enjoying this labor of love, please consider supporting it with a donation – for thirteen years, I have been spending innumerable hours and tremendous resources on it each week, and every little bit of support helps enormously. If you already donate: THANK YOU.

How Kepler Invented Science Fiction and Defended His Mother in a Witchcraft Trial While Revolutionizing Our Understanding of the Universe

This essay is adapted from Figuring.

figuring_jacket_final.jpgThis is how I picture it:

A spindly middle-aged mathematician with a soaring mind, a sunken heart, and bad skin is being thrown about the back of a carriage in the bone-hollowing cold of a German January. Since his youth, he has been inscribing into family books and friendship albums his personal motto, borrowed from a verse by the ancient poet Perseus: “O the cares of man, how much of everything is futile.” He has weathered personal tragedies that would level most. He is now racing through the icy alabaster expanse of the countryside in the precarious hope of averting another: Four days after Christmas and two days after his forty-fourth birthday, a letter from his sister has informed him that their widowed mother is on trial for witchcraft — a fact for which he holds himself responsible.

He has written the world’s first work of science fiction — a clever allegory advancing the controversial Copernican model of the universe, describing the effects of gravity decades before Newton formalized it into a law, envisioning speech synthesis centuries before computers, and presaging space travel three hundred years before the Moon landing. The story, intended to counter superstition with science through symbol and metaphor inviting critical thinking, has instead effected the deadly indictment of his elderly, illiterate mother.

The year is 1617. His name is Johannes Kepler (December 27, 1571–November 15, 1630) — perhaps the unluckiest man in the world, perhaps the greatest scientist who ever lived.


Johannes Kepler

He inhabits a world in which God is mightier than nature, the Devil realer and more omnipresent than gravity. All around him, people believe that the sun revolves around the Earth every twenty-four hours, set into perfect circular motion by an omnipotent creator; the few who dare support the tendentious idea that the Earth rotates around its axis while revolving around the sun believe that it moves along a perfectly circular orbit. Kepler would disprove both beliefs, coin the word orbit, and quarry the marble out of which classical physics would be sculpted. He would be the first astronomer to develop a scientific method of predicting eclipses and the first to link mathematical astronomy to material reality — the first astrophysicist — by demonstrating that physical forces move the heavenly bodies in calculable ellipses. All of this he would accomplish while drawing horoscopes, espousing the spontaneous creation of new animal species rising from bogs and oozing from tree bark, and believing the Earth itself to be an ensouled body that has digestion, that suffers illness, that inhales and exhales like a living organism. Three centuries later, the marine biologist and writer Rachel Carson would reimagine a version of this view woven of science and stripped of mysticism as she makes ecology a household word.

Kepler’s life is a testament to how science does for reality what Plutarch’s thought experiment known as “the Ship of Theseus” does for the self. In the ancient Greek allegory, Theseus — the founder-king of Athens — sailed triumphantly back to the great city after slaying the mythic Minotaur on Crete. For a thousand years, his ship was maintained in the harbor of Athens as a living trophy and was sailed to Crete annually to reenact the victorious voyage. As time began to corrode the vessel, its components were replaced one by one — new planks, new oars, new sails — until no original part remained. Was it then, Plutarch asks, the same ship? There is no static, solid self. Throughout life, our habits, beliefs, and ideas evolve beyond recognition. Our physical and social environments change. Almost all of our cells are replaced. Yet we remain, to ourselves, “who” “we” “are.”

So with science: Bit by bit, discoveries reconfigure our understanding of reality. This reality is revealed to us only in fragments. The more fragments we perceive and parse, the more lifelike the mosaic we make of them. But it is still a mosaic, a representation — imperfect and incomplete, however beautiful it may be, and subject to unending transfiguration. Three centuries after Kepler, Lord Kelvin would take the podium at the British Association of Science in the year 1900 and declare: “There is nothing new to be discovered in physics now. All that remains is more and more precise measurement.” At the same moment in Zurich, the young Albert Einstein is incubating the ideas that would converge into his revolutionary conception of spacetime, irreversibly transfiguring our elemental understanding of reality.

Even the farthest seers can’t bend their gaze beyond their era’s horizon of possibility, but the horizon shifts with each incremental revolution as the human mind peers outward to take in nature, then turns inward to question its own givens. We sieve the world through the mesh of these certitudes, tautened by nature and culture, but every once in a while — whether by accident or conscious effort — the wire loosens and the kernel of a revolution slips through.


Painting of the Moon by the 17th-century German self-taught astronomer and artist Maria Clara Eimmart. (Available as a print.)

Kepler first came under the thrall of the heliocentric model as a student at the Lutheran University of Tübingen half a century after Copernicus published his theory. The twenty-two-year-old Kepler, studying to enter the clergy, wrote a dissertation about the Moon, aimed at demonstrating the Copernican claim that the Earth is moving simultaneously around its axis and around the sun. A classmate by the name of Christoph Besold — a law student at the university — was so taken with Kepler’s lunar paper that he proposed a public debate. The university promptly vetoed it. A couple of years later, Galileo would write to Kepler that he’d been a believer in the Copernican system himself “for many years” — and yet he hadn’t yet dared to stand up for it in public and wouldn’t for more than thirty years.

Kepler’s radical ideas rendered him too untrustworthy for the pulpit. After graduation, he was banished across the country to teach mathematics at a Lutheran seminary in Graz. But he was glad — he saw himself, mind and body, as cut out for scholarship. “I take from my mother my bodily constitution,” he would later write, “which is more suited to study than to other kinds of life.” Three centuries later, Walt Whitman would observe how beholden the mind is to the body, “how behind the tally of genius and morals stands the stomach, and gives a sort of casting vote.”

While Kepler saw his body as an instrument of scholarship, other bodies around him were being exploited as instruments of superstition. In Graz, he witnessed dramatic exorcisms performed on young women believed to be possessed by demons — grim public spectacles staged by the king and his clergy. He saw brightly colored fumes emanate from one woman’s belly and glistening black beetles crawl out of another’s mouth. He saw the deftness with which the puppeteers of the populace dramatized dogma to wrest control — the church was then the mass media, and the mass media were as unafraid of resorting to propaganda as they are today.

As religious persecution escalated — soon it would erupt into the Thirty Years’ War, the deadliest religious war in the Continent’s history — life in Graz became unlivable. Protestants were forced to marry by Catholic ritual and have their children baptized as Catholics. Homes were raided, heretical books confiscated and destroyed. When Kepler’s infant daughter died, he was fined for evading the Catholic clergy and not allowed to bury his child until he paid the charge. It was time to migrate — a costly and trying endeavor for the family, but Kepler knew there would be a higher price to pay for staying:

2e292385-dc1c-4cfe-b95e-845f6f98c2ec.pngI may not regard loss of property more seriously than loss of opportunity to fulfill that for which nature and career have destined me.

Returning to Tübingen for a career in the clergy was out of the question:

2e292385-dc1c-4cfe-b95e-845f6f98c2ec.pngI could never torture myself with greater unrest and anxiety than if I now, in my present state of conscience, should be enclosed in that sphere of activity.

Instead, Kepler reconsidered something he had initially viewed merely as a flattering compliment to his growing scientific reputation: an invitation to visit the prominent Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe in Bohemia, where he had just been appointed royal mathematician mathematician to the Holy Roman Emperor.


Tycho Brahe

Kepler made the arduous five-hundred-kilometer journey to Prague. On February 4, 1600, the famous Dane welcomed him warmly into the castle where he computed the heavens, his enormous orange mustache almost aglow with geniality. During the two months Kepler spent there as guest and apprentice, Tycho was so impressed with the young astronomer’s theoretical ingenuity that he permitted him to analyze the celestial observations he had been guarding closely from all other scholars, then offered him a permanent position. Kepler accepted gratefully and journeyed back to Graz to collect his family, arriving in a retrograde world even more riven by religious persecution. When the Keplers refused to convert to Catholicism, they were banished from the city — the migration to Prague, with all the privations it would require, was no longer optional. Shortly after Kepler and his family alighted in their new life in Bohemia, the valve between chance and choice opened again, and another sudden change of circumstance flooded in: Tycho died unexpectedly at the age of fifty-four. Two days later, Kepler was appointed his successor as imperial mathematician, inheriting Tycho’s data. Over the coming years, he would draw on it extensively in devising his three laws of planetary motion, which would revolutionize the human understanding of the universe.

How many revolutions does the cog of culture make before a new truth about reality catches into gear?

Three centuries before Kepler, Dante had marveled in his Divine Comedy at the new clocks ticking in England and Italy: “One wheel moves and drives the other.” This marriage of technology and poetry eventually gave rise to the metaphor of the clockwork universe. Before Newton’s physics placed this metaphor at the ideological epicenter of the Enlightenment, Kepler bridged the poetic and the scientific. In his first book, The Cosmographic Mystery, Kepler picked up the metaphor and stripped it of its divine dimensions, removing God as the clockmaster and instead pointing to a single force operating the heavens: “The celestial machine,” he wrote, “is not something like a divine organism, but rather something like a clockwork in which a single weight drives all the gears.” Within it, “the totality of the complex motions is guided by a single magnetic force.” It was not, as Dante wrote, “love that moves the sun and other stars” — it was gravity, as Newton would later formalize this “single magnetic force.” But it was Kepler who thus formulated for the first time the very notion of a force — something that didn’t exist for Copernicus, who, despite his groundbreaking insight that the sun moves the planets, still conceived of that motion in poetic rather than scientific terms. For him, the planets were horses whose reins the sun held; for Kepler, they were gears the sun wound by a physical force.

In the anxious winter of 1617, unfigurative wheels are turning beneath Johannes Kepler as he hastens to his mother’s witchcraft trial. For this long journey by horse and carriage, Kepler has packed a battered copy of Dialogue on Ancient and Modern Music by Vincenzo Galilei, his sometime friend Galileo’s father — one of the era’s most influential treatises on music, a subject that always enchanted Kepler as much as mathematics, perhaps because he never saw the two as separate. Three years later, he would draw on it in composing his own groundbreaking book The Harmony of the World, in which he would formulate his third and final law of planetary motion, known as the harmonic law — his exquisite discovery, twenty-two years in the making, of the proportional link between a planet’s orbital period and the length of the axis of its orbit. It would help compute, for the first time, the distance of the planets from the sun — the measure of the heavens in an era when the Solar System was thought to be all there was.

As Kepler is galloping through the German countryside to prevent his mother’s execution, the Inquisition in Rome is about to declare the claim of Earth’s motion heretical — a heresy punishable by death.

Behind him lies a crumbled life: Emperor Rudolph II is dead — Kepler is no longer royal mathematician and chief scientific adviser to the Holy Roman Emperor, a job endowed with Europe’s highest scientific prestige, though primarily tasked with casting horoscopes for royalty; his beloved six-year-old son is dead — “a hyacinth of the morning in the first day of spring” wilted by smallpox, a disease that had barely spared Kepler himself as a child, leaving his skin cratered by scars and his eyesight permanently damaged; his first wife is dead, having come unhinged by grief before succumbing to the pox herself.

Before him lies the collision of two worlds in two world systems, the spark of which would ignite the interstellar imagination.


In 1609, Johannes Kepler finished the first work of genuine science fiction — that is, imaginative storytelling in which sensical science is a major plot device. Somnium, or The Dream, is the fictional account of a young astronomer who voyages to the Moon. Rich in both scientific ingenuity and symbolic play, it is at once a masterwork of the literary imagination and an invaluable scientific document, all the more impressive for the fact that it was written before Galileo pointed the first spyglass at the sky and before Kepler himself had ever looked through a telescope.

Kepler knew what we habitually forget — that the locus of possibility expands when the unimaginable is imagined and then made real through systematic effort. Centuries later, in a 1971 conversation with Carl Sagan and Arthur C. Clarke about the future of space exploration, science fiction patron saint Ray Bradbury would capture this transmutation process perfectly: “It’s part of the nature of man to start with romance and build to a reality.” Like any currency of value, the human imagination is a coin with two inseparable sides. It is our faculty of fancy that fills the disquieting gaps of the unknown with the tranquilizing certitudes of myth and superstition, that points to magic and witchcraft when common sense and reason fail to unveil causality. But that selfsame faculty is also what leads us to rise above accepted facts, above the limits of the possible established by custom and convention, and reach for new summits of previously unimagined truth. Which way the coin flips depends on the degree of courage, determined by some incalculable combination of nature, culture, and character.

In a letter to Galileo containing the first written mention of The Dream’s existence and penned in the spring of 1610 — a little more than a century after Columbus voyaged to the Americas — Kepler ushers his correspondent’s imagination toward fathoming the impending reality of interstellar travel by reminding him just how unimaginable transatlantic travel had seemed not so long ago:

2e292385-dc1c-4cfe-b95e-845f6f98c2ec.pngWho would have believed that a huge ocean could be crossed more peacefully and safely than the narrow expanse of the Adriatic, the Baltic Sea or the English Channel?

Kepler envisions that once “sails or ships fit to survive the heavenly breezes” are invented, voyagers would no longer fear the dark emptiness of interstellar space. With an eye to these future explorers, he issues a solidary challenge:

2e292385-dc1c-4cfe-b95e-845f6f98c2ec.pngSo, for those who will come shortly to attempt this journey, let us establish the astronomy: Galileo, you of Jupiter, I of the moon.


Painting of the Moon by the 17th-century German self-taught astronomer and artist Maria Clara Eimmart. (Available as a print.)

Newton would later refine Kepler’s three laws of motion with his formidable calculus and richer understanding of the underlying force as the foundation of Newtonian gravity. In a quarter millennium, the mathematician Katherine Johnson would draw on these laws in computing the trajectory that lands Apollo 11 on the Moon. They would guide the Voyager spacecraft, the first human-made object to sail into interstellar space.

In The Dream, which Kepler described in his letter to Galileo as a “lunar geography,” the young traveler lands on the Moon to find that lunar beings believe Earth revolves around them — from their cosmic vantage point, our pale blue dot rises and sets against their firmament, something reflected even in the name they have given Earth: Volva. Kepler chose the name deliberately, to emphasize the fact of Earth’s revolution — the very motion that made Copernicanism so dangerous to the dogma of cosmic stability. Assuming that the reader is aware that the Moon revolves around the Earth — an anciently observed fact, thoroughly uncontroversial by his day — Kepler intimates the unnerving central question: Could it be, his story suggests in a stroke of allegorical genius predating Edwin Abbott Abbott’s Flatland by nearly three centuries, that our own certitude about Earth’s fixed position in space is just as misguided as the lunar denizens’ belief in Volva’s revolution around them? Could we, too, be revolving around the sun, even though the ground feels firm and motionless beneath our feet?

The Dream was intended to gently awaken people to the truth of Copernicus’s disconcerting heliocentric model of the universe, defying the long-held belief that Earth is the static center of an immutable cosmos. But earthlings’ millennia-long slumber was too deep for The Dream — a deadly somnolence, for it resulted in Kepler’s elderly mother’s being accused of witchcraft. Tens of thousands of people would be tried for witchcraft by the end of the persecution in Europe, dwarfing the two dozen who would render Salem synonymous with witchcraft trials seven decades later. Most of the accused were women, whose inculpation or defense fell on their sons, brothers, and husbands. Most of the trials ended in execution. In Germany, some twenty-five thousand were killed. In Kepler’s sparsely populated hometown alone, six women had been burned as witches just a few weeks before his mother was indicted.

An uncanny symmetry haunts Kepler’s predicament — it was Katharina Kepler who had first enchanted her son with astronomy when she took him to the top of a nearby hill and let the six-year-old boy gape in wonderment as the Great Comet of 1577 blazed across the sky.


Art from The Comet Book, 1587. (Available as a print.)

By the time he wrote The Dream, Kepler was one of the most prominent scientists in the world. His rigorous fidelity to observational data harmonized with a symphonic imagination. Drawing on Tycho’s data, Kepler devoted a decade and more than seventy failed trials to calculating the orbit of Mars, which became the yardstick for measuring the heavens. Having just formulated the first of his laws, demolishing the ancient belief that the heavenly bodies obey uniform circular motion, Kepler demonstrated that the planets orbit the sun at varying speeds along ellipses. Unlike previous models, which were simply mathematical hypotheses, Kepler discovered the actual orbit by which Mars moved through space, then used the Mars data to determine Earth’s orbit. Taking multiple observations of Mars’s position relative to Earth, he examined how the angle between the two planets changed over the course of the orbital period he had already calculated for Mars: 687 days. To do this, Kepler had to project himself onto Mars with an empathic leap of the imagination. The word empathy would come into popular use three centuries later, through the gateway of art, when it entered the modern lexicon in the early twentieth century to describe the imaginative act of projecting oneself into a painting in an effort to understand why art moves us. Through science, Kepler had projected himself into the greatest work of art there is in an effort to understand how nature draws its laws to move the planets, including the body that moves us through space. Using trigonometry, he calculated the distance between Earth and Mars, located the center of Earth’s orbit, and went on to demonstrate that all the other planets also moved along elliptical orbits, thus demolishing the foundation of Greek astronomy — uniform circular motion — and effecting a major strike against the Ptolemaic model.


The orbital motion of Mars, from Kepler’s Astronomia Nova. (Available as a print.)

Kepler published these revelatory results, which summed up his first two laws, in his book Astronomia nova — The New Astronomy. That is exactly what it was — the nature of the cosmos had forever changed, and so had our place in it. “Through my effort God is being celebrated in astronomy,” Kepler wrote to his former professor, reflecting on having traded a career in theology for the conquest of a greater truth.

By the time of Astronomia nova, Kepler had ample mathematical evidence affirming Copernicus’s theory. But he realized something crucial and abiding about human psychology: The scientific proof was too complex, too cumbersome, too abstract to persuade even his peers, much less the scientifically illiterate public; it wasn’t data that would dismantle their celestial parochialism, but storytelling. Three centuries before the poet Muriel Rukeyser wrote that “the universe is made of stories, not of atoms,” Kepler knew that whatever the composition of the universe may be, its understanding was indeed the work of stories, not of science — that what he needed was a new rhetoric by which to illustrate, in a simple yet compelling way, that the Earth is indeed in motion. And so The Dream was born.

Even in medieval times, the Frankfurt Book Fair was one of the world’s most fecund literary marketplaces. Kepler attended it frequently in order to promote his own books and to stay informed about other important scientific publications. He brought the manuscript of The Dream with him to this safest possible launchpad, where the other attendees, in addition to being well aware of the author’s reputation as a royal mathematician and astronomer, were either scientists themselves or erudite enough to appreciate the story’s clever allegorical play on science. But something went awry: Sometime in 1611, the sole manuscript fell into the hands of a wealthy young nobleman and made its way across Europe. By Kepler’s account, it even reached John Donne and inspired his ferocious satire of the Catholic Church, Ignatius His Conclave. Circulated via barbershop gossip, versions of the story had reached minds far less literary, or even literate, by 1615. These garbled retellings eventually made their way to Kepler’s home duchy.

“Once a poem is made available to the public, the right of interpretation belongs to the reader,” young Sylvia Plath would write to her mother three centuries later. But interpretation invariably reveals more about the interpreter than about the interpreted. The gap between intention and interpretation is always rife with wrongs, especially when writer and reader occupy vastly different strata of emotional maturity and intellectual sophistication. The science, symbolism, and allegorical virtuosity of The Dream were entirely lost on the illiterate, superstitious, and vengeful villagers of Kepler’s hometown. Instead, they interpreted the story with the only tool at their disposal — the blunt weapon of the literal shorn of context. They were especially captivated by one element of the story: The narrator is a young astronomer who describes himself as “by nature eager for knowledge” and who had apprenticed with Tycho Brahe. By then, people far and wide knew of Tycho’s most famous pupil and imperial successor. Perhaps it was a point of pride for locals to have produced the famous Johannes Kepler, perhaps a point of envy. Whatever the case, they immediately took the story to be not fiction but autobiography. This was the seedbed of trouble: Another main character was the narrator’s mother — an herb doctor who conjures up spirits to assist her son in his lunar voyage. Kepler’s own mother was an herb doctor.

Whether what happened next was the product of intentional malevolent manipulation or the unfortunate workings of ignorance is hard to tell. My own sense is that one aided the other, as those who stand to gain from the manipulation of truth often prey on those bereft of critical thinking. According to Kepler’s subsequent account, a local barber overheard the story and seized upon the chance to cast Katharina Kepler as a witch — an opportune accusation, for the barber’s sister Ursula had a bone to pick with the elderly woman, a disavowed friend. Ursula Reinhold had borrowed money from Katharina Kepler and never repaid it. She had also confided in the old widow about having become pregnant by a man other than her husband. In an act of unthinking indiscretion, Katharina had shared this compromising information with Johannes’s younger brother, who had then just as unthinkingly circulated it around the small town. To abate scandal, Ursula had obtained an abortion. To cover up the brutal corporeal aftermath of this medically primitive procedure, she blamed her infirmity on a spell — cast against her, she proclaimed, by Katharina Kepler. Soon Ursula persuaded twenty-four suggestible locals to give accounts of the elderly woman’s sorcery — one neighbor claimed that her daughter’s arm had grown numb after Katharina brushed against it in the street; the butcher’s wife swore that pain pierced her husband’s thigh when Katharina walked by; the limping schoolmaster dated the onset of his disability to a night ten years earlier when he had taken a sip from a tin cup at Katharina’s house while reading her one of Kepler’s letters. She was accused of appearing magically through closed doors, of having caused the deaths of infants and animals. The Dream, Kepler believed, had furnished the superstition-hungry townspeople with evidence of his mother’s alleged witchcraft — after all, her own son had depicted her as a sorcerer in his story, the allegorical nature of which eluded them completely.

For her part, Katharina Kepler didn’t help her own case. Prickly in character and known to brawl, she first tried suing Ursula for slander — a strikingly modern American approach but, in medieval Germany, effective only in stoking the fire, for Ursula’s well-connected family had ties to local authorities. Then she tried bribing the magistrate into dismissing her case by offering him a silver chalice, which was promptly interpreted as an admission of guilt, and the civil case was escalated to a criminal trial for witchcraft.

In the midst of this tumult, Kepler’s infant daughter, named for his mother, died of epilepsy, followed by another son, four years old, of smallpox.

Having taken his mother’s defense upon himself as soon as he first learned of the accusation, the bereaved Kepler devoted six years to the trial, all the while trying to continue his scientific work and to see through the publication of the major astronomical catalog he had been composing since he inherited Tycho’s data. Working remotely from Linz, Kepler first wrote various petitions on Katharina’s behalf, then mounted a meticulous legal defense in writing. He requested trial documentation of witness testimonies and transcripts of his mother’s interrogations. He then journeyed across the country once more, sitting with Katharina in prison and talking with her for hours on end to assemble information about the people and events of the small town he had left long ago. Despite the allegation that she was demented, the seventy-something Katharina’s memory was astonishing — she recalled in granular detail incidents that had taken place years earlier.

Kepler set out to disprove each of the forty-nine “points of disgrace” hurled against his mother, using the scientific method to uncover the natural causes behind the supernatural evils she had allegedly wrought on the townspeople. He confirmed that Ursula had had an abortion, that the teenaged girl had numbed her arm by carrying too many bricks, that the schoolmaster had lamed his leg by tripping into a ditch, that the butcher suffered from lumbago.

None of Kepler’s epistolary efforts at reason worked. Five years into the ordeal, an order for Katharina’s arrest was served. In the small hours of an August night, armed guards barged into her daughter’s house and found Katharina, who had heard the disturbance, hiding in a wooden linen chest — naked, as she often slept during the hot spells of summer. By one account, she was permitted to clothe herself before being taken away; by another, she was carried out disrobed inside the trunk to avoid a public disturbance and hauled to prison for another interrogation. So gratuitous was the fabrication of evidence that even Katharina’s composure through the indignities was held against her — the fact that she didn’t cry during the proceedings was cited as proof of unrepentant liaison with the Devil. Kepler had to explain to the court that he had never seen his stoic mother shed a single tear — not when his father left in Johannes’s childhood, not during the long years Katharina spent raising her children alone, not in the many losses of old age.

Katharina was threatened with being stretched on a wheel — a diabolical device commonly used to extract confessions — unless she admitted to sorcery. This elderly woman, who had outlived her era’s life expectancy by decades, would spend the next fourteen months imprisoned in a dark room, sitting and sleeping on the stone floor to which she was shackled with a heavy iron chain. She faced the threats with self-possession and confessed nothing.


The breaking wheel

In a last recourse, Kepler uprooted his entire family, left his teaching position, and traveled again to his hometown as the Thirty Years’ War raged on. I wonder if he wondered during that dispiriting journey why he had written The Dream in the first place, wondered whether the price of any truth is to be capped at so great a personal cost.

Long ago, as a student at Tübingen, Kepler had read Plutarch’s The Face on the Moon — the mythical story of a traveler who sails to a group of islands north of Britain inhabited by people who know secret passages to the Moon. There is no science in Plutarch’s story — it is pure fantasy. And yet it employs the same simple, clever device that Kepler himself would use in The Dream fifteen centuries later to unsettle the reader’s anthropocentric bias: In considering the Moon as a potential habitat for life, Plutarch pointed out that the idea of life in saltwater seems unfathomable to air-breathing creatures such as ourselves, and yet life in the oceans exists. It would be another eighteen centuries before we would fully awaken not only to the fact of marine life but to the complexity and splendor of this barely fathomable reality when Rachel Carson pioneered a new aesthetic of poetic science writing, inviting the human reader to consider Earth from the nonhuman perspective of sea creatures.

Kepler first read Plutarch’s story in 1595, but it wasn’t until the solar eclipse of 1605, the observations of which first gave him the insight that the orbits of the planets were ellipses rather than circles, that he began seriously considering the allegory as a means of illustrating Copernican ideas. Where Plutarch had explored space travel as metaphysics, Kepler made it a sandbox for real physics, exploring gravity and planetary motion. In writing about the takeoff of his imaginary spaceship, for instance, he makes clear that he has a theoretical model of gravity factoring in the demands that breaking away from Earth’s gravitational grip would place on cosmic voyagers. He goes on to add that while leaving Earth’s gravitational pull would be toilsome, once the spaceship is in the gravity-free “aether,” hardly any force would be needed to keep it in motion — an early understanding of inertia in the modern sense, predating by decades Newton’s first law of motion, which states that a body will move at a steady velocity unless acted upon by an outside force.

In a passage at once insightful and amusing, Kepler describes the physical requirements for his lunar travelers — a prescient description of astronaut training:

2e292385-dc1c-4cfe-b95e-845f6f98c2ec.pngNo inactive persons are accepted…no fat ones; no pleasure-loving ones; we choose only those who have spent their lives on horseback, or have shipped often to the Indies and are accustomed to subsisting on hardtack, garlic, dried fish and unpalatable fare.

Three centuries later, the early polar explorer Ernest Shackleton would post a similar recruitment ad for his pioneering Antarctic expedition:

2e292385-dc1c-4cfe-b95e-845f6f98c2ec.pngMen wanted for hazardous journey, small wages, bitter cold, long months of complete darkness, constant danger, safe return doubtful, honor and recognition in case of success.

When a woman named Peggy Peregrine expressed interest on behalf of an eager female trio, Shackleton dryly replied: “There are no vacancies for the opposite sex on the expedition.” Half a century later, the Russian cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova would become the first woman to exit Earth’s atmosphere on a spacecraft guided by Kepler’s laws.

After years of exerting reason against superstition, Kepler ultimately succeeded in getting his mother acquitted. But the seventy-five-year-old woman never recovered from the trauma of the trial and the bitter German winter spent in the unheated prison. On April 13, 1622, shortly after she was released, Katharina Kepler died, adding to her son’s litany of losses. A quarter millennium later, Emily Dickinson would write in a poem the central metaphor of which draws on Kepler’s legacy:

2e292385-dc1c-4cfe-b95e-845f6f98c2ec.pngEach that we lose takes part of us;
A crescent still abides,
Which like the moon, some turbid night,
Is summoned by the tides.


Partial eclipse of the Moon — one of French artist Étienne Léopold Trouvelot’s astronomical drawings. (Available as a print.)

A few months after his mother’s death, Kepler received a letter from Christoph Besold — the classmate who had stuck up for his lunar dissertation thirty years earlier, now a successful attorney and professor of law. Having witnessed Katharina’s harrowing fate, Besold had worked to expose the ignorance and abuses of power that sealed it, procuring a decree from the duke of Kepler’s home duchy prohibiting any other witchcraft trials unsanctioned by the Supreme Court in the urban and presumably far less superstitious Stuttgart. “While neither your name nor that of your mother is mentioned in the edict,” Besold wrote to his old friend, “everyone knows that it is at the bottom of it. You have rendered an inestimable service to the whole world, and someday your name will be blessed for it.”

Kepler was unconsoled by the decree — perhaps he knew that policy change and cultural change are hardly the same thing, existing on different time scales. He spent the remaining years of his life obsessively annotating The Dream with two hundred twenty-three footnotes — a volume of hypertext equal to the story itself — intended to dispel superstitious interpretations by delineating his exact scientific reasons for using the symbols and metaphors he did.

In his ninety-sixth footnote, Kepler plainly stated “the hypothesis of the whole dream”: “an argument for the motion of the Earth, or rather a refutation of arguments constructed, on the basis of perception, against the motion of the Earth.” Fifty footnotes later, he reiterated the point by asserting that he envisioned the allegory as “a pleasant retort” to Ptolemaic parochialism. In a trailblazing systematic effort to unmoor scientific truth from the illusions of commonsense perception, he wrote:

2e292385-dc1c-4cfe-b95e-845f6f98c2ec.pngEveryone says it is plain that the stars go around the earth while the Earth remains still. I say that it is plain to the eyes of the lunar people that our Earth, which is their Volva, goes around while their moon is still. If it be said that the lunatic perceptions of my moon-dwellers are deceived, I retort with equal justice that the terrestrial senses of the Earth-dwellers are devoid of reason.


Copernicus’s heliocentric universe, 1543.

In another footnote, Kepler defined gravity as “a power similar to magnetic power — a mutual attraction,” and described its chief law:

2e292385-dc1c-4cfe-b95e-845f6f98c2ec.pngThe attractive power is greater in the case of two bodies that are near to each other than it is in the case of bodies that are far apart. Therefore, bodies more strongly resist separation one from the other when they are still close together.

A further footnote pointed out that gravity is a universal force affecting bodies beyond the Earth, and that lunar gravity is responsible for earthly tides: “The clearest evidence of the relationship between earth and the moon is the ebb and flow of the seas.” This fact, which became central to Newton’s laws and which is now so commonplace that schoolchildren point to it as plain evidence of gravity, was far from accepted in Kepler’s scientific community. Galileo, who was right about so much, was also wrong about so much — something worth remembering as we train ourselves in the cultural acrobatics of nuanced appreciation without idolatry. Galileo believed, for instance, that comets were vapors of the earth — a notion Tycho Brahe disproved by demonstrating that comets are celestial objects moving through space along computable trajectories after observing the very comet that had made six-year-old Kepler fall in love with astronomy. Galileo didn’t merely deny that tides were caused by the Moon — he went as far as to mock Kepler’s assertion that they do. “That concept is completely repugnant to my mind,” he wrote — not even in a private letter but in his landmark Dialogue on the Two Chief World Systems — scoffing that “though [Kepler] has at his fingertips the motions attributed to the Earth, he has nevertheless lent his ear and his assent to the Moon’s dominion over the waters, to occult properties, and to such puerilities.”

Kepler took particular care with the portion of the allegory he saw as most directly responsible for his mother’s witchcraft trial — the appearance of nine spirits, summoned by the protagonist’s mother. In a footnote, he explained that these symbolize the nine Greek muses. In one of the story’s more cryptic sentences, Kepler wrote of these spirits: “One, particularly friendly to me, most gentle and purest of all, is called forth by twenty-one characters.” In his subsequent defense in footnotes, he explained that the phrase “twenty-one characters” refers to the number of letters used to spell Astronomia Copernicana. The friendliest spirit represents Urania — the ancient Greek muse of astronomy, which Kepler considered the most reliable of the sciences:

2e292385-dc1c-4cfe-b95e-845f6f98c2ec.pngAlthough all the sciences are gentle and harmless in themselves (and on that account they are not those wicked and good-for-nothing spirits with whom witches and fortune-tellers have dealings…), this is especially true of astronomy because of the very nature of its subject matter.


Urania, the ancient Greek muse of astronomy, as depicted in an 1885 Italian book of popular astronomy. (Available as a print.)

When the astronomer William Herschel discovered the seventh planet from the sun a century and a half later, he named it Uranus, after the same muse. Elsewhere in Germany, a young Beethoven heard of the discovery and wondered in the marginalia of one of his compositions: “What will they think of my music on the star of Urania?” Another two centuries later, when Ann Druyan and Carl Sagan compose the Golden Record as a portrait of humanity in sound and image, Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony sails into the cosmos aboard the Voyager spacecraft alongside a piece by the composer Laurie Spiegel based on Kepler’s Harmony of the World.

Kepler was unambiguous about the broader political intent of his allegory. The year after his mother’s death, he wrote to an astronomer friend:

2e292385-dc1c-4cfe-b95e-845f6f98c2ec.pngWould it be a great crime to paint the cyclopian morals of this period in livid colors, but for the sake of caution, to depart from the earth with such writing and secede to the moon?

Isn’t it better, he wonders in another stroke of psychological genius, to illustrate the monstrosity of people’s ignorance by way of the ignorance of imaginary others? He hoped that by seeing the absurdity of the lunar people’s belief that the Moon is the center of the universe, the inhabitants of Earth would have the insight and integrity to question their own conviction of centrality. Three hundred fifty years later, when fifteen prominent poets are asked to contribute a “statement on poetics” for an influential anthology, Denise Levertov — the only woman of the fifteen — would state that poetry’s highest task is “to awaken sleepers by other means than shock.” This must have been what Kepler aimed to do with The Dream — his serenade to the poetics of science, aimed at awakening.

In the wake of his mother’s witchcraft trial, Kepler made another observation centuries ahead of its time, even ahead of the seventeenth-century French philosopher François Poullain de la Barre’s landmark assertion that “the mind has no sex.” In Kepler’s time, long before the discovery of genetics, it was believed that children bore a resemblance to their mothers, in physiognomy and character, because they were born under the same constellation. But Kepler was keenly aware of how different he and Katharina were as people, how divergent their worldviews and their fates — he, a meek leading scientist about to turn the world over; she, a mercurial, illiterate woman on trial for witchcraft. If the horoscopes he had once drawn for a living did not determine a person’s life-path, Kepler couldn’t help but wonder what did — here was a scientist in search of causality. A quarter millennium before social psychology existed as a formal field of study, he reasoned that what had gotten his mother into all this trouble in the first place — her ignorant beliefs and behaviors taken for the work of evil spirits, her social marginalization as a widow — was the fact that she had never benefited from the education her son, as a man, had received. In the fourth section of The Harmony of the World — his most daring and speculative foray into natural philosophy — Kepler writes in a chapter devoted to “metaphysical, psychological, and astrological” matters:

2e292385-dc1c-4cfe-b95e-845f6f98c2ec.pngI know a woman who was born under almost the same aspects, with a temperament which was certainly very restless, but by which she not only has no advantage in book learning (that is not surprising in a woman) but also disturbs the whole of her town, and is the author of her own lamentable misfortune.

In the very next sentence, Kepler identifies the woman in question as his own mother and proceeds to note that she never received the privileges he did. “I was born a man, not a woman,” he writes, “a difference in sex which the astrologers seek in vain in the heavens.” The difference between the fate of the sexes, Kepler suggests, is not in the heavens but in the earthly construction of gender as a function of culture. It was not his mother’s nature that made her ignorant, but the consequences of her social standing in a world that rendered its opportunities for intellectual illumination and self-actualization as fixed as the stars.

Read other excerpts from Figuring here; read more about the book’s overarching aboutness here.



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Did you know…

Did you know…

… that today is Texas Admission Day? Texas became the 28th state of the United States in 1845. Trivia fans: The official state flag of Texas, called the Lone Star Flag, was adopted when Texas was admitted. The colors represent bravery (red), purity (white), and loyalty (blue). The large white star was first used on Texas flags in the 1830s during the battles between Texas and Mexico.


Today’s Inspirational Quote:

“The bad news is time flies. The good news is you’re the pilot.”

— Michael Altshuler

WhatsApp Forward – Modi Destroying….

A friend forwarded this on WhatsApp.

I was never a fan of Mark Tully when he was on BBC.

I CAN not confirm or deny whether this article was actually written by him or the content was ascribed to him deliberately.  But, I agree with some of the points here and hence reproducing it.

Quote, “Modi destroying termite ridden old Banyan tree”
-Mark Tully on Modi

Mark Tully the BBC correspondent for India for many decades writes about changes happening in MODI’S regime.

In his Book “No Full Stops in India,” while discussing about change writes –
In India change takes a lot more time.The birth will be slow and perhaps painful. I believe it could be the birth of a new order which is not held up by the crumbling colonial pillars left behind by the Raj but is GENUINELY Indian ; a GC modern order, but ”not a slavish imitation of other modern orders”.

He goes on to say that – “For all its great achievements, the Nehru dynasty has stood like a Banyan tree, overshadowing the people and the institutions of India, and all Indians know that nothing grows under the Banyan tree”.

As Mark said , Change will be slow and painful, therefore for someone who doesn’t read and makes judgement based on perception will for quite some time not be able to see the change taking place or will pretend as if nothing is changing.

The way changes are coming in Railways, Power sector, Defense Production and in governance and at the same time accompanied by the resentment of the old forces indicate that the process of change has begun albeit slowly but firmly and is going to be painful.

Let us not undermine the capabilities of this termite ridden old Banyan tree which will still try its best to stop any one growing to the extent that it may even turn the soil upside down before falling down.

For a year or so we may witness more of Dadris, more of Kaniyahas, more of Owaisi style shouting but finally if the Society keeps its cool, acts maturely and continues to perform we will sail through and the old forces will die a natural death.

LET ME ADD to this – every day the new stir media throws in your face is all doctored by forces who wish to topple Modi Govt as Modi has uprooted them and they are like fish out of the water.

The time has come to continue to support the man and keep your faith intact and we will see new India for sure – bigger, better, stronger, corruption free , peaceful , prosperous than ever before with people having better quality of life..
– Mark Tully.” End Quote.


So flying under the spirits

So flying under the spirits

So glowing behind the rain
We examine entrancing flames among the rain
Dig it! The twilight is no more
Sinful and flying within the ground
I destroy dream-like sensations beyond the gods
Alass! The day keeps going
So flying under the spirits
You swallow vaporous virgins near the air
I reach! The birth has vanished
wavering curious
out of control
an empty address book
Under what skies
our neighbour
come singing
while the world changed

Random Acts of Kindness

  1. Remember that friend you haven’t seen for ages? Give them a call
  2. We walk past homeless people every day; can you spare them 5 minutes of your time?
  3. We rarely listen to others – ask someone about their day
  4. Offer to help your neighbours/friends with chores
  5. Old laptop or mobile lying around? Donate it

How an English Energy Crisis Helped Create Champagne – Gastro Obscura

via How an English Energy Crisis Helped Create Champagne – Gastro Obscura

How an English Energy Crisis Helped Create Champagne

Desperate English bottle-makers turning to a new fuel resulted in a sparkling innovation.

This Champagne inspector wears a mask to protect her face from shattering bottles.

This Champagne inspector wears a mask to protect her face from shattering bottles. BETTMANN/GETTY IMAGES

IN THE EARLY 17TH CENTURY, the kingdom of England was in the grip of the world’s first energy crisis. Decades of population growth, rapid urbanization, countless foreign wars, and myriad voyages of discovery to the New World under the capricious Tudors decimated the country’s forests and its timber supply.

King James I was terrified. No trees for timber meant no ships for the navy, and no navy meant leaving the country wide open and undefended against England’s enemies—which, at this time, was pretty much all of the rest of Europe. This lack of timber was nothing short of an existential threat to England itself.

A panicked Royal proclamation was swiftly issued in 1615 to stem the tide. It bemoaned the increasing dearth of good old English wood, “great and large in height and bulk” with “toughness and heart,” which is “of excellent use for shipping,” and it set out a series of drastic restrictions for its use for anything but absolutely essential purposes. In particular, the proclamation explicitly forbade that anyone should be so wasteful as to “melt, make or causeth to be melted or made, any kind, form or fashion of Glass or Glasses whatsoever, with Timber, or wood, or any Fewell made of Timber of wood.”

In this 18th-century print, English workers make bottles in "A Glass House."
In this 18th-century print, English workers make bottles in “A Glass House.” HULTON ARCHIVE/GETTY IMAGES

No timber as fuel to make glass? The country’s glass-makers were outraged. They had been burning timber for centuries to make their product: an almost alchemical process of using fearsome heat to melt a mixture of potash and sand. What on earth were they to do now?

While craftsmen around the country were up in arms about this new prohibition, the attentions of the London upper class were engrossed with a decadent new product.

English wine has long been maligned. The ancient historian Tacitus wrote that Britain was “hostile and unsuitable for the growing of grapes,” but it was his fellow Romans who brought their vines to Britain two millennia ago to sustain them in their drafty villas. A thousand years later, the Domesday Book listed 45 working vineyards in the country. And, in the 1600s, a new type of wine was being produced on the shores of England: refined and unique in character, to cater to the tastes of the affluent and upwardly mobile individuals who had flocked to the capital. And, for that, we turn to Christopher Merrett.

Champagne's sweet taste and bubbles quickly made it a go-to festive occasions, even for this group in the countryside.
Champagne’s sweet taste and bubbles quickly made it a go-to festive occasions, even for this group in the countryside. UNIVERSAL HISTORY ARCHIVE/GETTY IMAGES

Sir Christopher Merrett was possessed by an insatiable curiosity. A librarian, gentleman scholar, physician and, in the terminology of the time, a ‘natural philosopher’, Merrett was one of the founding members of the Royal Society: the ‘invisible college’ where the greatest minds of the age investigated the minutiae of the known world. His output was extraordinary. He even produced an exhaustively comprehensive book attempting to list all the fauna, flora and minerals of England.

But it’s his 1662 paper, Some Observations Concerning the Ordering of Wines, that has had the longest legacy. ”Our Wine-coopers of latter times use vast quantities of Sugar and Melosses to all sorts of Wines,” he wrote, “to make them drink brisk and sparkling and to give them Spirits.”

What Merrett was describing was the méthode champenoise, the act of secondary fermentation where still table wines are loaded up with sugar and molasses to get the yeast going again, then sealed in a bottle to produce an effervescent, bubbling concoction. It is a method made famous, as the name suggests, by the French in the Champagne region. But here is the first known description of making ‘sparkling’ wine⁠—and Merrett writing that British vintners had been doing this for years.

The problem with this new liquid, “brisk with spirits,” was that it generated an incredible amount of pressure. In a standard bottle of sparkling wine today, the internal pressure is at around six times that of atmospheric pressure—three times that of a car tire. That’s the equivalent to over five kilograms of weight pushing hard against every square centimeter of glass. Only an especially strong bottle could withstand this sort of pressure. Thankfully, England’s glass-makers were prepared.

After the royal proclamation a few years before, English glass-makers had reluctantly turned to coal. While wood was thought of as a noble fuel, across Europe coal was historically considered undesirable and dirty, and the act itself of mining it had been likened to to vandalism or burglary from the earth ever since Roman times. Even though it was well known that rich seams of coal ran across England, these were left largely untouched for centuries.

Nonetheless, once laborers started begrudgingly using this coal to heat their furnaces, they overcame their reservations. Sure, coal gave off fumes and toxins, but it also reached a much higher temperature than timber, creating stronger, more durable, and thicker glass. Over time, artisans honed new industrial methods to take advantage of this discovery. While European counterparts were still using wood, the Champagne bottle as we know it was born in the furnaces of England.

Not only did these new bottles help spawn an embryonic wine industry, but they became status objects themselves. Samuel Pepys, in his Diaries, writes excitedly about visiting his local vintner to see “some of my new bottles made, with my crest upon them, filled with wine, about five or six dozen.” The introduction of lead oxide later in the century made the bottles even stronger, and catapulted England’s craftsman to the pinnacle of European glass-makers.

Often, the discovery of Champagne is attributed to the monk Dom Pérignon, depicted here with a bubbling bottle.
Often, the discovery of Champagne is attributed to the monk Dom Pérignon, depicted here with a bubbling bottle. CORBIS HISTORICAL/GETTY IMAGES

But what of Dom Pérignon⁠—the French Benedictine monk who, as the story goes, first created this beverage that would become known around the world as Champagne? “Come quickly, I am tasting the stars!” he is said to have cried out. One can imagine the other monks rushing over to make merry with this novel and effervescent liquid that had just burst from its bottle.

But that thick, stout bottle⁠—the one memorialized in a grand statue of Dom Pérignon that now stands on the lawn at the House of Moet & Chandon on the Avenue de Champagne⁠—could not have existed anywhere but Britain at the time. And, what’s more, Merrett’s paper on the secondary fermentation of wine was submitted to the Royal Academy in 1663, five years before Dom Pérignon even arrived at the abbey in which his famous invention was said to have been born. And decades before the famous saying could have been uttered.

The founding myth of Dom Pérignon has played a vital part in transforming Champagne into one of the richest and most fiercely protected global food and drink regions. It is a convenient, if apocryphal, ‘first-to-market’ story that has successfully given authority to the Champagne region over every other wine producing area. It was actually the infamous English sweet-tooth and the Londoner’s predilection for bubbles that first gave the wine-makers of Champagne inspiration; they just needed to work out how to create the right sort of bottle, like that of their cross-Channel cousins, in order to capitalize on the new potential market.

A statue on the Avenue de Champagne lauds Dom Pérignon (and the humble bottle.)
A statue on the Avenue de Champagne lauds Dom Pérignon (and the humble bottle.) VICTOR GRIGAS/CC BY-SA 4.0

This, however, took some time. Replacing wood with coal in the bottle-making process was not adopted in France until after 1700, to imitate and reproduce bottles à la façon d’Angleterre (‘in the English fashion’). But change was so gradual that, as late as 1784, French entrepreneurs were after the industrial ‘secret’ of English bottle-making. And still, in 1833, when Cyrus Redding published his A History and Description of Modern Wines, anywhere between four to 40 percent of the Champagne region’s wine was lost to exploding bottles every year. The bodily danger was so great, Redding wrote that “workmen [were] obliged to enter the cellars with wire masks, to guard against the fragments of glass when the breakage is frequent.”

It was not until the Industrial Revolution reached France that bottles could be produced with enough precision and standardization to withstand the pressure. By then, Champagne’s reputation was assured. For that, we have to thank both the English bottle and the world’s first energy crisis.

Gastro Obscura covers the world’s most wondrous food and drink.


China sends 5 lakh Muslim kids to boarding schools – Times of India

via China sends 5 lakh Muslim kids to boarding schools – Times of India

Do the pseudos of NHRC, Transparency International, Amnesty International or the Indian media pseudos, Sickular, Fiberals and Prestitutes ever take note?

No. They are #LoonCans who close their ears, put wool over their eyes and fill their mouth with filth and their fingers are conditioned to spew rot against BJP and RSS.


Word of the Day – Indolent

Part of speech: adjective
Origin: Latin, mid-17th century

Tending to laziness


In medicine, progressing or healing slowly

Examples of Indolent in a sentence

“The snowstorm was perfect for an indolent day full of hot cocoa and movies on the couch.”

“The indolent ulcer needed to be watched, but it wasn’t causing major problems.”

Riddles of the day

What binds two people yet touches only one?






The answer is: A wedding ring.

I last forever and you might have too much or too little of me, either way you will run out of me eventually. What am I?






The answer is: Time.

Wisdom Quotes

Being sane or insane is relative.

A question that sometimes drives me hazy: am I or are the others crazy? (Albert Einstein)

The intelligent know to belief only half of what they hear. The wise know which half.
An intelligent man believes only half of what he hears, a wise man knows which half. (Even Esar)

Word of the day

Part of speech: adjective
Origin: Latin, 16th century

Sad or gloomy


Exaggeratedly mournful

Examples of Lugubrious in a sentence

“The recent loss of their aunt cast a lugubrious shadow over the family gathering.”

“Her lugubrious attitude seemed more about getting attention than mourning any loss.”

What’s your Motto?

Faster, better, stronger.
Eternal shepherds.
Good life, good death.
Through the shadows we persevered.
Bound by nothing.
Conquered by none.
Faith grants us strength.
Serve and protect.
Alone we shall stand, alone we shall prosper.
We are and always will be.

The Art and Science of Falling in Love With Joshua Trees – Atlas Obscura

via The Art and Science of Falling in Love With Joshua Trees – Atlas Obscura

The Art and Science of Falling in Love With Joshua Trees

“HeyJTree” is built like a dating site, but it matches readers with the charismatic, threatened plants.

It's hard to picture Joshua Tree without its goofy namesakes, but they're in trouble.

It’s hard to picture Joshua Tree without its goofy namesakes, but they’re in trouble. PEDRO SZEKELY / CC BY-SA 2.0

IF YOU’RE PRONE TO ANTHROPOMORPHIZING the natural world, you’ll find a lot to love in Joshua Tree National Park. Introduce yourself to the shaggy trees that lend the park its name, and you might notice charming and distinct characters: You can imagine one talking with a baritone croak, maybe, and another in a high-pitched warble. The residents of this patch of California’s Mojave Desert are charismatic, like sedentary Muppets with root systems. It’s hard to imagine the fantastical, boulder-strewn landscape without big, goofy stands of them. But as the world warms, the trees are losing ground.

Researchers have consistently found that Joshua trees, or Yucca brevifolia, are struggling in a changing climate. For one thing, while adult trees can rely on stored water during triple-digit summer temperatures, seedlings aren’t surviving them, KQED reported. A temperature increase of 3° Celsius would curb the trees’ range by as much as 90 percent, according to the research ecologist Cameron Barrows. He has canvassed the park in search of refugia—higher, cooler spots where young trees might be able to hang on—but those aren’t a guaranteed lifeline. Joshua Tree is the southernmost edge of the plants’ range, and it’s getting too hot and too dry. The trees are often flanked by grasses that can go up in flames during wildfires, and the trees struggle to successfully spring back after burns. “It doesn’t look good for the trees,” says ecologist and artist Juniper Harrower.

Juniper Harrower conducted a lot of a field work with her son and mom in tow.
Juniper Harrower conducted a lot of a field work with her son and mom in tow. COURTESY JUNIPER HARROWER

Harrower, who grew up roughly 20 minutes from the park, wants people to fall in love with Joshua trees—and to get curious about interspecies relationships between the trees, moths, and underground fungi that might help keep them healthy. Harrower recently finished her PhD at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and has launched a collaborative digital project called “Hey JTree,” a science-communication effort inspired by dating apps.

Sixteen trees throughout the park get the Tinder treatment, with cute portraits, location information, and coy little profiles peppered with made-up names (say hi to JeromeEleanorShorty, and Marty) and real-world data, including the local temperature; soil moisture; tree height; elevation; number of seeds; and sightings of yucca moths, which pollinate the Joshua tree and lay their eggs in its blossoms. (Harrower performed much of this field work while pregnant or with her infant son in tow, with a truck and ladder borrowed from her parents, and her mom helping out as an assistant and lunch-packer.) Atlas Obscura talked to Harrower about the project, and what the trees are up against.

What threats are the trees facing in the park right now?

It’s an issue of reproducing, but also, the trees that are standing just getting too hot, too dry, and starting to lose limbs and collapse. When we think about climate change and how it impacts Joshua trees, you also have to think about all these other players: Joshua trees and yucca moths have tightly coevolved over millions of years, and you can’t have one without the other. If the moths are responding to climate in a certain way, and it takes out the moth sooner, that’s it for Joshua trees in terms of reproduction.

Yucca moths pollinate Joshua trees, then lay their eggs on the plant. The caterpillars eat the seeds, and the cycle continues.
Yucca moths pollinate Joshua trees, then lay their eggs on the plant. The caterpillars eat the seeds, and the cycle continues. STACY EGAN/CC BY 2.0

Why draw inspiration from dating apps?

As a biologist, I’m interested in all kinds of species, for all kinds of reasons. But Joshua trees—people love Joshua trees. It was a way I could get people to listen to what I’m saying. Visitation rates in the park have skyrocketed over the last 20 years, and especially the last 10 and five years, and part of that is driven by Instagram culture. Joshua Tree is so photogenic.

I grew up as a really young kid hanging out in the park, and I’m just seeing the explosion of phones out—lots of people, lots of phones in the air. So I thought, this is a way I can engage with phone culture. Also, it’s catchy. I’ve given talks before, and university students are sitting in the back with headphones on. As soon as I say “dating site,” headphones are popped off. All this stuff is really heavy, so here’s a way that we can be playful with it but still have some important conversations.

How did you settle on these specific trees to profile?

I look at it across a climate gradient. Across the park, landscapes, ecosystems, temperature, and rainfall patterns vary dramatically. At the highest sites, you get snow every year. Out of the park, and even in the park at the highest elevation sites, it’s really cold and windy. As you start to go down in elevation, it changes. There are areas in a little valleys that are protected, then places that might be exposed to certain cold wind patterns. You definitely get microclimates.

When I was thinking about what trees I wanted to include in this project, I really wanted to make sure that they were accessible to people. I didn’t want people to have to be, like, tromping through cryptobiotic crusts, these amazing ancient soils that have all of this life. When you step on them, that destroys it. So I picked trees that were close to parking lots and could be accessible to people with disabilities, or really close to trails. I picked trees that looked like they had different personalities. I’ve always been really intrigued by the form an organism takes, and how it’s responding to environmental conditions and also genetic cues.

Would you swipe right on any of these fine Joshua trees?
Would you swipe right on any of these fine Joshua trees? COURTESY JUNIPER HARROWER

Do the trees seem to have a sweet spot in the park?

Across all of the measurements that I looked at, there was this one happy area where trees were really big and large, there were lots of them, they were reproducing, there were lots of moths. Things were just looking good. That was really interesting to see, like, “Oh yeah, everybody’s kind of happy around this mid-level elevation.” There’s a good example on out on the Cap Rock Trail, a little loop.

Why do the trees like it there?

Joshua trees need really specific patterns to be able to thrive and flower. If you don’t flower, you don’t set seed, and you don’t have the next generation of Joshua trees. They need a cold snap to get the plant to flower, and they also need enough water. The precipitation pattern needs to bring them enough water to survive through the years. I mean, it’s a desert plant; it’s evolved to be able to take a little bit of hardship.

Lookin' good!
Lookin’ good! CHUCK HOLLAND / CC BY 2.0

Assuming someone does not literally go out and woo a tree, what are you aiming to accomplish?

The most basic thing is just interest in our natural world. I see a lot of kids and a lot of people so focused inward, and downward on their phone, and these kind of internal, technological worlds. It bums me out. I really hope that people can find the magic that is in our natural world.

You’ll hear scientists say, “I don’t really want to get political because we want to keep science separate from politics, to preserve its dignity or believability.” Over time, I realized we don’t have the luxury of not being political anymore. I firmly believe you can do really solid science, and when people understand how the science process works, you can recognize good science from bad science—and it’s peer-reviewed and held to high standards. And you can also be really politically outspoken and say, “We can’t continue to consume at the levels we’re consuming.” People need to understand that there’s value in our natural world outside of just, “extract all the resources you can get from it and then make as much money to buy a bunch of stuff that’s gonna destroy our environment and us.”

Harrower's site includes navigation instructions, so anyone can go have a little facetime with the trees.
Harrower’s site includes navigation instructions, so anyone can go have a little facetime with the trees. COURTESY JUNIPER HARROWER

Do you remember the first time you saw a Joshua tree? Was it love at first sight?

I was born in the Palm Springs area, and we moved up to the High Desert when I was six or seven. We lived on five acres, down a bumpy dirt road. There are very, very few Joshua trees in this area because the elevation is too low, but we had one in the backyard, and it was totally weird. It was really special to us. My dad is a landscape architect, and so we always thought about our plant friends in the area.

I was the oldest of four kids—four kids, and lots of dogs. Every time one of our dogs would pass away, we would bury it under the Joshua tree. It became this kind of mythological place in the backyard. I think at this point there are like seven dog skeletons underneath the giant tree. I always kind of fantasize about doing a painting of what it looks like underground. Roots seek out nitrogen and carbon, so I’m sure that the roots wind along dog spines and rib cages. It’s probably really macabre, but it’s incredibly beautiful to imagine the symbiosis.

This interview has been edited and condensed.


Via Nik’s Four Minute Book Summaries Newsletter, I subscribe

The Uninhabitable Earth by David Wallace-Wells

1-Sentence-Summary: The Uninhabitable Earth explains how humanity’s complacency and negligence have put this world on a course to soon be unlivable unless we each do our small part to improve how we care for this beautiful planet we live on.

  1. Even enacting all the policy changes agreed to in Paris, we will still exceed the threshold where disaster begins.
  2. Without emissions reduction, we will see our oceans rise to fatal levels, putting major cities underwater.
  3. Unless we change our ways, bacteria of ancient diseases in melting Arctic ice sheets will begin a global health crisis.

If you want to know what the effects of climate change will be if we don’t change our ways, this book is for you.

I must go to the seas, Sea is lonely

I must go to the south, slippery seas, the stinky, smelly sea is lonely

, I must go to the strange, slender seas, the scary, slender sea is lonely

, I must go to the single, sad seasspiffing, the sweaty sea is lonely

, I must go to the stupid, small seassparkling, soft sea is lonely

, I must go to the sweaty, scrummy seassunny, the small sea is lonely

, I must go to the scary, stormy seassilent, slippery sea is lonely

, I must go to the smooth, sweet seas, the sweet, scrummy sea is lonely

, I must go to the sexy, smelly seassouth, stormy sea is lonely

, I must go to the slimy, sunny seas, the single, sexy sea is lonely

, I must go to the smart, spiffing seas, the super, southern sea is lonely

, I must go to the silent, southern seas, the silly, slow sea is lonely

, I must go to the super, slow seas, the slimy, smart sea is lonely

, I must go to the soft, silly seas, the smooth, stupid sea is lonely

, I must go to the stunning, stinky seasstunning, sad sea is lonely

, I must go to the strong, steep seas, the strong sea is lonely

, I must go to the south, slippery seas, the stinky, smelly sea is lonely
I must go to the seas, the sea is lonely
I must go to the seas, the sea is solitary

I must be swapping lonely for solitary

Wisdom Quotes

You will never succeed if you don’t do anything at all.

Action is the foundational key to all success. (Pablo Picasso)

Don’t wait for the perfect moment to strike, strike in the current moment and make it perfect.
Do not wait to strike till the iron is hot; but make it hot by striking. (William Butler Yeats)


  1. Don’t wait for opportunity. Create it.
  2. When you wish upon a star …you might be happier the way you are. – Phyllis Sugar
  3. Keep going. Everything you need will come to you at the perfect time.
  4. Everything you’ve ever wanted is on the other side of fear. — George Addair
  5. Choosing to be positive and having a grateful attitude is going to determine how you’re going to live your life. – Joel Osteen

Random Acts of Kindness

  1. Open the door for someone
  2. Bake something for your family/friends
  3. Read a good book recently? Pass it on to someone else
  4. Share today’s food with your neighbour!
  5. Purchase ethical goods