Neuroeconomics sits at the intersection of neuroscience, psychology and economics and uses technology like fMRI to predict behavior. Can you see policymakers and executives using it to inform communication strategies?

Neuroeconomics sits at the intersection of neuroscience, psychology and economics and uses technology like fMRI to predict bevavior. Can you see policymakers and executives using it to inform communication strategies?

The lure of executing multiple ideas at the same time? Is it good, bad, or dangerous for all of the startups? — Clarity

The lure of executing multiple ideas at the same time? Is it good, bad, or dangerous for all of the startups?
Everyone knows idea worth a dime but having how many are too many? Also, should we serve multiple ideas at the same time? What are the things you would watch going down this path? tactics to stay laser-focused…
Filed under: Start-ups: Ideas Development, Entrepreneurship

Jason Dainter, International Doer of Things answered:
Simple answer. Yes. Do less. Kick ass at the things you do.

I too was very much a doer of everything when I started out, and learned the painful way that one of the most successful traits I see across the successful entrepreneurs I meet daily is FOCUS.

Try to start with the big questions. What problem are you solving, for who? What are your own personal goals (do you want to sell the company? reach a certain revenue level? etc) Then work backwards and work out the minimum things you need to do to achieve that. Then say a firm no to everything that comes your way. Its hard, a lot harder than saying yes but saying no is a highly underrated strategy that is well worth investing in.

Cut out all pointless calls. Cut out all pointless meetings. Free up your calendar so you have time to breathe and think, and to focus on the (real) priorities.

Don’t fool yourself into being busy. Working hard doesn’t actually achieve success despite what media mumbo jumbo will try to tell you. Working smart does.

Happy to share more in a call including some practical tips and tricks I’ve learned along the way from a fairly unfocused entrepreneurs to a much more more focused one.

via The lure of executing multiple ideas at the same time? Is it good, bad, or dangerous for all of the startups? — Clarity

Top work trends for 2020

via Top work trends for 2020

Four ways work will change in 2020

From freelance and flexible work to chatbots, 2020 is poised to be a year of continued change.

Four ways work will change in 2020
[Photos: Franck V./Unsplash; Ricardo Gomez Angel/Unsplash; Tat’yana Andreyeva/iStock; Pakpoom Makpan/iStock]

Over the past few years, the workplace has changed almost beyond recognition. With an increase in freelancers, more remote workers than ever, and advances in technology all shaping the way we work, the coming year is set to be big. Here are some of the key trends.


The past few years have seen a dramatic increase in the number of people taking part in the gig economy by trading in one long-term position for shorter-term or more flexible work.

Temps, contractors, freelancers and remote workers all fall into this category, often working for companies for shorter amounts of time, on project-based or ad hoc work. For some, this is a way to build a more flexible life, working outside of traditional working hours, or working for multiple companies at once. Intuit actually estimates that by 2020, over 40% of U.S. workers will be independent contractors.

It’s not just how people work but where that’s changing. There has been a huge shift over the past few years in terms of remote working. A survey by the Global Workplace Analytics and FlexJobs found that remote work has grown 91% over the last 10 years, and various research has concluded that by 2020, half of us will be working remotely in some form.

Some companies now operate entirely remotely, with no communal office space and employees spanning multiple time zones, some companies have one or two remote team members, and some offer all employees the option to work remotely for a day or two per week.

This kind of work has a huge impact on HR, from the hiring/onboarding process to company structure to communication practices when dealing with part-time workers. While this undoubtedly means there are challenges to overcome, this ever-increasing flexible working trend isn’t going anywhere. HR leaders need to take a look at just what the gig economy means for their company, and how best to cope with the demands of short-term, flexible, and freelance workers. This can be through the increased use of performance management tools, regular team-wide video conference sessions, or revamping onboarding processes.


People enablement was highlighted as one of our 2019 trends, and it’s still set to have a huge impact in 2020. This more holistic, less top-down focused approach enables employees to unleash their potential and progress in their own way.

The concept relies on three core pillars:

  • Professional growth: accelerating the speed at which managers and individuals learn and grow
  • Clarity and alignment: keeping everyone aligned on strategy, objectives, and process
  • Value and impact: building a culture where everyone feels valued and receives recognition

By implementing all three of these things, companies can ensure their people feel in control of their work and progression, increasing overall engagement, growth, and productivity. People enablement has a major impact on the employee experience, something that helps companies outperform those with less people-focused practices.


The use of chatbots may already be common in many HR departments, as well as IT help and customer service type roles, but there will be a big increase in this type of communication in 2020.

Using chatbots can be an incredibly useful practice for HR. These automated conversational tools can field the low-level, FAQ inquiries, and processes such as candidate screening, and help HR free up valuable time to focus on more in-depth conversations and interactions.

Using chatbots for initial interactions also means that the average response time is quicker, considerably speeding up processes by swiftly taking care of smaller issues or queries that arise. There is also a potential for them to be used in an interview capacity to replace the traditional screening phone interview, for example. The bots can ask potential candidates some initial questions, which HR can then analyze the answers to, before deciding who to invite to interview in person.


Last year, we shared that HR in 2019 would focus on more data-driven decisions, with analytics informing more and more of the work done. HR is inherently people-focused, so there’s a lot of data, and it’s key to make the most of it all so that everyone gets the best experience possible.

This still holds true for 2020 as there is an ever-growing focus on more automated approaches. Except it’s not just data analysis now. Newer practices are being introduced which increase automation across the board. Research from Gartner actually predicts that in 2020, one in five workers engaged mainly in non-routine tasks will rely on artificial intelligence to help them do their jobs.

AI will likely never entirely take over the more ‘human’ side of HR, but it will require striking the balance between human and technological processes, particularly in the recruitment phase. The idea isn’t to remove the human element but to establish a more streamlined approach where AI is used as a tool to assist with and elevate
current processes, elevating efficiency with tasks such as candidate screening, onboarding, and administrative tasks such as holiday requests, interview scheduling, and analytics.

All of these trends will likely have a big impact on the next few years in HR. However, it’s always important to focus on what works for your company and its people. Every company is unique and requires different practices. Keep in mind what works for your organization and what will help, not hinder, HR and the human connection.

Bas Kohnke is the founder and CEO of Impraise, the People Enablement Platform.

Did you know…

… that today is Colo the Gorilla’s Birthday? In 1956, Colo, the first gorilla born in captivity, was born at the Columbus, Ohio, zoo. Colo, the oldest gorilla in captivity in the world, was briefly called Cuddles before a contest was held to officially name her. Colo’s name is derived from the place of her birth, Columbus.

Today’s Inspirational Quote:

“Love is not patronizing and charity isn’t about pity, it is about love. Charity and love are the same — with charity you give love, so don’t just give money but reach out your hand instead.”

— Mother Teresa

Inc42 Newsletter

Today’s Top Story
Ecommerce Takes A Hit As Indians Fight CAA
As Indian is burning with the series of protests against the Citizen Amendment Act (CAA) taking place all across the country, the ecommerce businesses have taken a major hit, especially with the Indian government rapidly snapping off the internet services in various states.
More Stories
India Shuts Down Internet More Than Any Country In The World: Report
India has the second-highest number of internet users after China and is fast shifting towards digitisation in every arena. Ironically, the country also has the highest number of internet shutdowns in the world.
Yamaha Studying Indian EV Prices, Policies: Likely To Enter Market?
Before making any decision on entering the Indian EV market, Yamaha is doing its homework right. Yamaha Motors India chairman Motofumi Shitara said that the company is conducting feasibility studies before making any decision on the launch of its electric two-wheelers in India.
Wipro, Nasscom Collaborate To Skill Indian Students In AI, IoT
Indian multinational corporation Wipro, in collaboration with the Nasscom, will be setting up a platform to train students in emerging technologies — artificial intelligence (AI), data science, internet of things (IoT) and cyber securities.
Sundar Pichai Gets Hefty Pay Raise As Alphabet CEO
Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai will receive $240 Mn in stock awards over the next three years if he hits all of his performance targets and a $2 Mn annual salary beginning in 2020, according to the company’s filings.
Featured Stories
Can A Blockchain Startup Help Smash Patriarchy In Indian Society?
“Technology doesn’t do anything on its own. But it is something that needs to be shaped for and by women and feminists of all genders. It’s not that women aren’t adapted to tech. It’s that tech is too dominated by male workers. ”
2019 In Review: 12 Indian Startups Which Shut Shop This Year
While in the previous years, dearth of funding and lack of originality were major reasons for startups to shut down businesses, this year regulatory hurdles caused major issues too. Here’s a list of 12 Indian startups that shut shop in 2019…
Kerala’s Startup Growth Testimony To Catching Innovation Early In Its Life Cycle
In addition to that, Kerala is also focussing on student entrepreneurs and aspiring entrepreneurs are also benefiting from the state-wide IEDCs and Atal Tinkering Labs and more. Thanks to all these efforts there are many startups from various sectors have received the right push. Here is a quick look at the top startups that are taking the Kerala startup ecosystem’s story forward…


First let’s read the below quote I like.

“Take someone who doesn’t keep score, who’s not looking to be richer, or afraid of losing, who has not the slightest interest even in his own personality: he’s free.”

— Rumi Jalalu’l-Din

When I do Free Mentoring/ Pro-Bono Mentoring - This is what I mean, this is what I do.   But....

I make you keep the score as mentee

I wish . you riches

I wish you success

I am most interested in your reputation Building. 

I am your Mentor - Jay.


Plot Thickens:

Meaning: A situation that has gotten way more serious or interesting due to recent complexities or developments.

I am a WayFarer with feet firmly on the Ground. I wish to help people, I am a social entrepreneur advisor and a life coach. I love to write original quotes about life, disappointments, triumphs, relationships and everything in between.

I wanted to start a blog where the Plot Thickens Logo.pngsituation that has gotten way more serious or interesting due to recent complexities or developments and people need instant answers. I  motivate and impact people.

This blog is to Inspire, Influence and Impacts people Positively so they bring out their latent Strengths to the fore. Strengths come to light. monetize them. Live Life Well. Inspire others. Life is wonderful.

I hope all blog readers can join me on this journey.

Dhananjay Parkhe and his Mentoring Strategies :

JayMentor Compares his strategic advice for the Advanced Level ( C-Level Executives) with world’s Best Martial Arts in this series.

Offensive and Defensive Strategies – Using metaphors from Martial Arts techniques around the World.

Jay was attracted towards Martial Arts techniques. Call it his own survival instinct as a child – raised by a poor single parent mother, his obesity, lack of friends in a new school, no town, dependence on uncle as major support system and lack of academic help.

He learnt a few of them in NCC and in RSS and other places with different and toughest of Gurus, Ustaads and Mentors.  They first conditioned him into discipline before teaching him – let alone allowing him to practice any of them.

Jay’s interest grew and continued in these arts and he often compares them in his C-Level Executive Coaching/ C-Level aspirant’s coaching as he prepares them to be -( as he calls it “To become Better, still better to be able to beat the Best! “) as essence of his Coaching/ Mentoring exercises which are often tough due to his kickass nature, his strong use of words (  No slang, no abuse for Jay! ) in his stickler discipline which makes quite a few of them to quit as they can not go thru the mental discipline required at these levels.

Let us look at the First of such Martial Arts.

Kekil is a defensive and offensive martial art that focuses on beating your opponent by using every stronger point of your body as a possible weapon. The primary focus lies on both open hand techniques and choke holds and it often relies on the quick thinking and flexibility of yourself.

The biggest strength of Kekil is the ability to be both light footed and agile, as well as steady and unmovable. By manipulating the sense of balance of both fighters your opponent tends to become frustrated as none of their strikes hit, further giving you leverage to work with.

On the other hand the biggest weakness of Kekil is that opposite styles tend to gain the upper hand more easily. So if facing such an opponent all you can do is try to force your opponent into a position you can dominate from.


Did you know…

Did you know…

… that today is Elvis in the Army Day? On this day in 1957, Elvis Presley received his U.S. Army draft notice. Elvis had both the opportunity to be excused from the military and the ability to get special dispensation, but instead, Elvis chose to enter the U.S. Army as a regular soldier.


Today’s Inspirational Quote:

“Never limit yourself because of others’ limited imagination; never limit others because of your own limited imagination.”

— Mae Jemison

What is your Motto

In service of god.
Eternal prime.
Following in the footsteps of our ancestors.
All good comes from above.
Eternal prime.
Protect, serve, progress.
Pride and prosperity.
Roots of the earth.
Forwards, ever forwards.
From the grounds to the skies.

Did you know…

Did you know…

… that today is the birthday of Andy Dick (1966); Phil Donahue, talk show host (1935); Jane Fonda (1937); Samuel L Jackson (1948); Ray Romano (1957); and Frank Zappa, rock star (1940). Happy birthday to all!


Today’s Inspirational Quote:

“I have been impressed with the urgency of doing. Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Being willing is not enough; we must do.”

— Leonardo da Vinci

Random Acts of Kindness

  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. Send your boss an email about a co-worker’s hard work.
  7. Compliment someone.
  8. Make someone a playlist.
  9. Bake something and share with a group.
  10. Participate in a fundraiser.
  11. Write a thank you letter to someone who has helped you out.
  12. Be a mentor for someone who needs it.
  13. Invite a new co-worker to lunch.
  14. Hide inspirational messages on sticky notes around the office.
  15. Surprise the office with donuts or cupcakes.
  16. Leave a funny on the white board in the conference room.
  17. Hold the elevator door open for someone who is running late.
  18. Introduce a co-worker to a professional contact. Newsletter

 welcome to this week’s edition of the newsletter by Maria Popova. If you missed last week’s edition — Margaret Atwood on marriage, Shelley on animal rights, an illustrated invitation to presence with the passage of time on the shortest day of the year — 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.

Dostoyevsky, Just After His Death Sentence Was Repealed, on the Meaning of Life


“I mean to work tremendously hard,” the young Fyodor Dostoyevsky (November 11, 1821–February 9, 1881) resolved in contemplating his literary future, beseeching his impoverished mother to buy him books. At the age of twenty-seven, he was arrested for belonging to a literary society that circulated books deemed dangerous by the tsarist regime. He was sentenced to death. On December 22, 1849, he was taken to a public square in Saint Petersburg, alongside a handful of other inmates, where they were to be executed as a warning to the masses. They were read their death sentence, put into their execution attire of white shirts, and allowed to kiss the cross. Ritualistic sabers were broken over their heads. Three at a time, they were stood against the stakes where the execution was to be carried out. Dostoyevsky, the sixth in line, grew acutely aware that he had only moments to live.

And then, at the last minute, a pompous announcement was made that the tsar was pardoning their lives — the whole spectacle had been orchestrated as a cruel publicity stunt to depict the despot as a benevolent ruler. The real sentence was then read: Dostoyevsky was to spend four years in a Siberian labor camp, followed by several years of compulsory military service in the tsar’s armed forces, in exile. He would be nearly forty by the time he picked up the pen again to resume his literary ambitions. But now, in the raw moments following his close escape from death, he was elated with relief, reborn into a new cherishment of life.


Portrait of Fyodor Dostoyevsky by Vasily Perov, 1871

He poured his exultation into a stunning letter to his brother Mikhail, penned hours after the staged execution and found in the first volume of the out-of-print collection of his complete correspondence, the 1988 treasure Dostoevsky Letters (public library).

A century before Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl offered his hard-won assurance that “everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms — to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances,” Dostoyevsky writes:

2e292385-dc1c-4cfe-b95e-845f6f98c2ec.pngBrother! I’m not despondent and I haven’t lost heart. Life is everywhere, life is in us ourselves, not outside. There will be people by my side, and to be a human being among people and to remain one forever, no matter in what circumstances, not to grow despondent and not to lose heart — that’s what life is all about, that’s its task. I have come to recognize that. The idea has entered my flesh and blood… The head that created, lived the higher life of art, that recognized and grew accustomed to the higher demands of the spirit, that head has already been cut from my shoulders… But there remain in me a heart and the same flesh and blood that can also love, and suffer, and pity, and remember, and that’s life, too!


Art by Shaun Tan from A Velocity of Being: Letters to a Young Reader. Available as a print.

Still, even through this elation, the animating force of his being — his identity as a writer — grounds him into a depth of despair. “Can it be that I’ll never take pen in hand?” he asks in sullen anticipation of the next four years at the labor camp. “If I won’t be able to write, I’ll perish. Better fifteen years of imprisonment and a pen in hand!” But he quickly recovers his electric gratitude for the mere fact of being alive and, reassuring his brother not to grieve for him, continues:

2e292385-dc1c-4cfe-b95e-845f6f98c2ec.pngI haven’t lost heart, remember that hope has not abandoned me… After all I was at death’s door today, I lived with that thought for three-quarters of an hour, I faced the last moment, and now I’m alive again!


Art by Margaret C. Cook from a rare 1913 edition of Whitman’s Leaves of Grass. (Available as a print.)

In a beautiful testament to the elemental fact that when all the static of our self-righteousness dies down, what remains between good people is only love, he writes:

2e292385-dc1c-4cfe-b95e-845f6f98c2ec.pngIf anyone remembers me with malice, and if I quarreled with anyone, if I made a bad impression on anyone — tell them to forget about that if you manage to see them. There is no bile or spite in my soul, I would like to so love and embrace at least someone out of the past at this moment.


When I look back at the past and think how much time was spent in vain, how much of it was lost in delusions, in errors, in idleness, in the inability to live; how I failed to value it, how many times I sinned against my heart and spirit — then my heart contracts in pain. Life is a gift, life is happiness, each moment could have been an eternity of happiness. Si jeunesse savait! [If youth knew!]


Art by Jean-Pierre Weill from The Well of Being.

Half a century before Oscar Wilde penned his extraordinary letter about suffering as a force of transformation and transcendence from prison, where he was interned for having loved whom he loved, Dostoyevsky adds:

2e292385-dc1c-4cfe-b95e-845f6f98c2ec.pngNow, changing my life, I’m being regenerated into a new form. Brother! I swear to you that I won’t lose hope and will preserve my heart and spirit in purity. I’ll be reborn for the better. That’s my entire hope, my entire consolation.

Life in the casemate has already sufficiently killed off in me the needs of the flesh that were not completely pure; before that I took little care of myself. Now deprivations no longer bother me in the slightest, and therefore don’t be afraid that material hardship will kill me.

Having spent years in material privation myself — though never, mercifully, nearly to the extent Dostoyevsky endured — and being always grateful for how those times annealed me, how they made me less afraid of poverty and hardship, more willing to take risks others might not, to take less materially secure paths in life (one resulting in the birth of Brain Pickings), I can’t help but wonder how much this harrowing experience fomented Dostoyevsky’s extraordinary perseverance as an artist against the tides of convention and the constant specter of poverty. It certainly reverberates throughout Notes from the UndergroundCrime and Punishment, and especially The Brothers Karamazov; it certainly informed his ideas about the meaning of life, set forth decades later in the guise of a dream, and inspired his insistence upon the existential duty of seeing the goodness in people “despite the abundance of all sorts of wretches.”

Complement with a young neurosurgeon on the meaning of life as he faces his death and Walt Whitman on what makes life worth living, then revisit Anna — the love of Dostoyevsky’s life, who saved him from poverty and debtor’s prison — on the secret to a happy marriage.



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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The Universe in Verse: Sarah Kay Reads Whitman and Performs Her Splendid Song-Poem “Astronaut”


“A leaf of grass is no less than the journey work of the stars,” Walt Whitman bellowed from the golden age of American astronomy, through which he lived wide-eyed with wonder and ablaze with a belief in the unity of everything, the interconnectedness and inter-belonging of everything — the telescopic and the microscopic, the wondrous and the wretched. A century and a half later, his soul-salving poems continue to welcome the beautiful and the terrible equally as particles of our humanity, for he knew that they were particles of his. He called himself a “kosmos”; across epochs and generations, across space and time, he continues to speak to the universe in each of us.

Whitman’s animating ethos and its cosmic inspirations were the subject of a special miniature edition of The Universe in Verse I hosted on Governors Island, titled The Astronomy of Walt Whitman — a dual celebration of the beloved poet’s bicentennial and the endeavor to build New York City’s first public observatory at Pioneer Works, just across the East River, which the poet himself traversed daily aboard the ferries he cherished as “great living poems.”

Among the performers was chemistry major turned poet and spoken-word maestra Sarah Kay, co-founder of Project VOICE — a wonderful initiative working with students from kindergarten to university around the world, using poetry as a portal of delight and a tool of empowerment to give young people not only a language of self-expression but a mode of self-understanding — which is, of course, the foundation of other-understanding and of all the values Whitman so cherished and celebrated in his verse: democracy, love, justice, self-acceptance, social harmony. What joy it would have been for Whitman, who so frequently addressed the poets of the future, to hear one such poet of uncommon talent channel his immortal words epochs after he returned his borrowed stardust to the universe.


2e292385-dc1c-4cfe-b95e-845f6f98c2ec.png#31 FROM “SONG OF MYSELF”
by Walt Whitman

I believe a leaf of grass is no less than the journey work of the stars,
And the pismire is equally perfect, and a grain of sand, and the egg
of the wren,
And the tree-toad is a chef-d’oeuvre for the highest,
And the running blackberry would adorn the parlors of heaven,
And the narrowest hinge in my hand puts to scorn all machinery,
And the cow crunching with depress’d head surpasses any statue,
And a mouse is miracle enough to stagger sextillions of infidels.

I find I incorporate gneiss, coal, long-threaded moss, fruits,
grains, esculent roots,
And am stucco’d with quadrupeds and birds all over,
And have distanced what is behind me for good reasons,
But call any thing back again when I desire it.

In vain the speeding or shyness,
In vain the plutonic rocks send their old heat against my approach,
In vain the mastodon retreats beneath its own powder’d bones,
In vain objects stand leagues off and assume manifold shapes,
In vain the ocean settling in hollows and the great monsters lying low,
In vain the buzzard houses herself with the sky,
In vain the snake slides through the creepers and logs,
In vain the elk takes to the inner passes of the woods,
In vain the razor-bill’d auk sails far north to Labrador,
I follow quickly, I ascend to the nest in the fissure of the cliff.

As a complement to the Whitman classic and the astronomical overtone of the show, I asked Sarah to read one of her own poems as well — a perspectival masterpiece titled “Astronaut” and found in her altogether splendid and splendidly titled poetry collection No Matter the Wreckage (public library). That she performed it hours after the first-ever all-female spacewalk only adds to the cascading loveliness of the occasion — in Whitman’s day, women could hardly walk to the opera without a male escort; how delighted he would have been, given his ardent insistence on women’s equality as a pillar of democracy and his proclamation that “the universe has nothing better than the best womanhood,” to see three female astronauts walk boldly into interplanetary space.


by Sarah Kay

I see the moon, the moon sees me. The moon sees somebody I don’t see.
God bless the moon, and God bless me. And God bless the somebody that I don’t see.
If I get to heaven before you do, I’ll make a hole and pull you through.
I’ll write your name on every star. And that way the world won’t seem so far.

The astronaut will not be at work today. He has called in sick.
He has turned off his cell phone, his pager, his laptop, his alarm clock.

There is a fat yellow cat asleep on his couch, rain against his windows,
and not even a hint of coffee in the kitchen air.

Everybody is in a tizzy.

The engineers on the fifteenth floor have stopped working
on the particle machine, the anti-gravity room is leaking,
and even the freckled kid with glasses (whose only job is to clean
out the trash) is nervous: fumbles the bag, spills a banana peel
and a paper cup. Nobody notices.

They are too busy calculating how much this will mean for lost time.
How many galaxies are we losing per minute;
and how long before the rocket can be launched?

An electron flies off the energy cloud.
A black hole has erupted.
A mother finishes setting the table for dinner.
Law & Order marathon is starting.

The astronaut is asleep.

He has forgotten to turn off his watch,
which ticks against his wrist like a metal pulse.

He does not hear it.

He dreams of coral reefs and plankton.
His fingers find the pillowcases sailing masts.
He turns on his side, opens his eyes once.

He thinks that scuba divers must have the most wonderful job in the word.

So much water
to glide through.

For more wonders from The Universe in Verse, savor astrophysicist Janna Levin reading Whitman’s classic “When I Heard the Learn’d Astronomer,” Adrienne Rich’s “Planetarium,” and Maya Angelou’s “A Brave and Startling Truth,” which soared to the stars aboard the Orion spacecraft, then revisit Neil Gaiman’s touching poetic tribute to the Quaker astronomer who confirmed relativity and catapulted Einstein into celebrity, uniting war-torn humanity under one cosmic dome of truth.

Lovely Whitman-era portraiture by Brooklyn Tintype


Ecologist and Philosopher David Abram on the Language of Nature and the Secret Wisdom of the More-Than-Human World


“We need another and a wiser and perhaps a more mystical concept of animals,” the great nature writer Henry Beston wrote in 1928 as he contemplated belonging and the web of life. “In a world older and more complete than ours they move finished and complete, gifted with extensions of the senses we have lost or never attained, living by voices we shall never hear.” The geologist Hans Cloos, a contemporary of Beston’s, complemented the sentiment beautifully in reflecting on our conversations with the planet: “We translate the earth’s language into our own, and enrich the already bright and colorful surface of the present with the knowledge of the inexhaustible abundance of the past.”

As we learn to translate the language of nature, there is more than mere astonishment at what we uncover; at the knowledge — nascent to science, ancient to native cultures the world over — of what trees feel and how they communicate, or of how other animal consciousnesses experience the world. There is magic — the realest, rawest form of magic we can access in an unsuperstitious world grounded in science but willing to soar beyond it, into other, non-materialist modes of perception.

That is what ecologist and philosopher David Abram explores with equal parts scientific curiosity and reverence for native wisdom in The Spell of the Sensuous: Perception and Language in a More-Than-Human World (public library).


Art by Jackie Morris from The Lost Words by Robert MacFarlane — a visual dictionary of poetic spells reclaiming nature’s language

Abram writes:

2e292385-dc1c-4cfe-b95e-845f6f98c2ec.pngMagic… in its perhaps most primordial sense, is the experience of existing in a world made up of multiple intelligences, the intuition that every form one perceives — from the swallow swooping overhead to the fly on a blade of grass, and indeed the blade of grass itself — is an experiencing form, an entity with its own predilections and sensations, albeit sensations that are very different from our own.


Caught up in a mass of abstractions, our attention hypnotized by a host of human-made technologies that only reflect us back to ourselves, it is all too easy for us to forget our carnal inherence in a more-than-human matrix of sensations and sensibilities. Our bodies have formed themselves in delicate reciprocity with the manifold textures, sounds, and shapes of an animate earth — our eyes have evolved in subtle interaction with other eyes, as our ears are attuned by their very structure to the howling of wolves and the honking of geese. To shut ourselves off from these other voices, to continue by our lifestyles to condemn these other sensibilities to the oblivion of extinction, is to rob our own senses of their integrity, and to rob our minds of their coherence. We are human only in contact, and conviviality, with what is not human.


Illustration by Arthur Rackham for a rare 1917 edition of the Brothers Grimm fairy tales. (Art available as a print.)

And yet a defining feature of what makes us human — our imagination — is predicated on a recognition of this sensorial interrelation. Two centuries after William Blake wrote in his searing defense of the imagination that “the tree which moves some to tears of joy is in the eyes of others only a green thing which stands in the way, [for] as a man is, so he sees,” Abram writes:

2e292385-dc1c-4cfe-b95e-845f6f98c2ec.pngThat which we call imagination is from the first an attribute of the senses themselves; imagination is not a separate mental faculty (as we so often assume) but is rather the way the senses themselves have of throwing themselves beyond what is immediately given, in order to make tentative contact with the other sides of things that we do not sense directly, with the hidden or invisible aspects of the sensible.

Echoing naturalist John Muir’s poetic observation that “when we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe” and philosopher Alan Watts’s admonition that “Life and Reality are not things you can have for yourself unless you accord them to all others,” Abram considers the relationship between perception, sensation, and reality beyond our isolated experience:

2e292385-dc1c-4cfe-b95e-845f6f98c2ec.pngThe “real world” in which we find ourselves, then — the very world our sciences strive to fathom — is not a sheer “object,” not a fixed and finished “datum” from which all subjects and subjective qualities could be pared away, but is rather an intertwined matrix of sensations and perceptions, a collective field of experience lived through from many different angles. The mutual inscription of others in my experience, and (as I must assume) of myself in their experiences, effects the interweaving of our individual phenomenal fields into a single, ever-shifting fabric, a single phenomenal world or “reality.”

And yet, as we know from our everyday experience, the phenomenal world is remarkably stable and solid; we are able to count on it in so many ways, and we take for granted much of its structure and character. This experienced solidity is precisely sustained by the continual encounter with others, with other embodied subjects, other centers of experience. The encounter with other perceivers continually assures me that there is more to any thing, or to the world, than I myself can perceive at any moment. Besides that which I directly see of a particular oak tree or building, I know or intuit that there are also those facets of the oak or building that are visible to the other perceivers that I see. I sense that that tree is much more than what I directly see of it, since it is also what the others whom I see perceive of it; I sense that as a perceivable presence it already existed before I came to look at it, and indeed that it will not dissipate when I turn away from it, since it remains an experience for others — not just for other persons, but… for other sentient organisms, for the birds that nest in its branches and for the insects that move along its bark, and even, finally, for the sensitive cells and tissues of the oak itself, quietly drinking sunlight through its leaves. It is this informing of my perceptions by the evident perceptions and sensations of other bodily entities that establishes, for me, the relative solidity and stability of the world.


Art from Trees at Night by Art Young, 1926. (Available as a print.)

This recognition of the reality of other experiences calls to mind the distinction philosopher Martin Buber drew nearly a century earlier between the I-It and I-Thou orientations toward what is other than oneself. And this recognition, Abram argues, is the key to redeeming our connection to the rest of nature and the more-than-human world, so artificially severed in modern Western culture. “We call it ‘Nature’; only reluctantly admitting ourselves to be ‘Nature’ too,” Denise Levertov captured this modern hijacking of our essence in her exquisite poem “Sojourns in the Parallel World.” Abram considers what it takes for us to heal the artificial severance into parallels and re-intersect our own experience with the manifold realities of that “other” world:

2e292385-dc1c-4cfe-b95e-845f6f98c2ec.pngDirect, prereflective perception is inherently synaesthetic, participatory, and animistic, disclosing the things and elements that surround us not as inert objects but as expressive subjects, entities, powers, potencies. And yet most of us seem, today, very far from such experience. Trees rarely, if ever, speak to us; animals no longer approach us as emissaries from alien zones of intelligence; the sun and the moon no longer draw prayers from us but seem to arc blindly across the sky.


We may acknowledge, intellectually, our body’s reliance upon those plants and animals that we consume as nourishment, yet the civilized mind still feels itself somehow separate, autonomous, independent of the body and of bodily nature in general. Only as we begin to notice and to experience, once again, our immersion in the invisible air do we start to recall what it is to be fully a part of this world… This breathing landscape is no longer just a passive backdrop against which human history unfolds, but a potentized field of intelligence in which our actions participate.

In the remainder of the altogether enchanting The Spell of the Sensuous, Abrams visits with various native cultures to learn from their wisdom and mirror it back through the lens of a more-than-scientific understanding of the world. Complement it with a lovely illustrated dictionary of poetic spells reclaiming the language of nature, then revisit the great marine biologist and poetic science writer Rachel Carson, who awakened the modern ecological conscience, on science and our spiritual bond with nature.



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Wisdom Quote

Don’t expect happiness to just fall into your lap, you have to go out and find it.

Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions. (Dalai Lama)

All it takes to change your world is to change the way you think.
Change your thoughts and you change your world. (Norman Vincent Peale)