Beyond Geopolitics > World Economic Forum Annual Meeting | World Economic Forum


via Beyond Geopolitics > World Economic Forum Annual Meeting | World Economic Forum

Did you know…


Did you know…

… that today is the birthday of Lobster Thermidor? In 1894, Lobster Thermidor was created by Marie’s, a Paris restaurant near the theatre Comedie Francaise, to honor the opening of the play Thermidor by Victorien Sardou. Lobster Thermidor is a French dish consisting of a creamy mixture of cooked lobster meat, egg yolks, and cognac or brandy, stuffed into a lobster shell, and optionally served with an oven-browned cheese crust, typically Gruyere.

~~~

Today’s Inspirational Quote:

“I’m a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work the more of it I have.”

— Thomas Jefferson

Brené Brown: The power of vulnerability | TED Talk


via Brené Brown: The power of vulnerability | TED TalkBrené Brown studies human connection — our ability to empathize, belong, love. In a poignant, funny talk, she shares a deep insight from her research, one that sent her on a personal quest to know herself as well as to understand humanity. A talk to share.

Chrystia Freeland: The rise of the new global super-rich | TED Talk


via Chrystia Freeland: The rise of the new global super-rich | TED Talk

Technology is advancing in leaps and bounds — and so is economic inequality, says writer Chrystia Freeland. In an impassioned talk, she charts the rise of a new class of plutocrats (those who are extremely powerful because they are extremely wealthy), and suggests that globalization and new technology are actually fueling, rather than closing, the global income gap. Freeland lays out three problems with plutocracy … and one glimmer of hope.

France: French anti-corruption agency running checks on Renault


via France: French anti-corruption agency running checks on Renault

Ethical Alliance Daily News 

France: French anti-corruption agency running checks on Renault
Jan 23, 2020 08:00 pm

Renault said on Wednesday that France’s anti-corruption agency AFA was carrying out checks at the firm, confirming a report in French magazine Challenges, although a source at the carmaker added that the inspection was a routine matter. Challenges did not…
Read More   

United States: Former Baltimore lawmaker pleads guilty to bribery, fraud
Jan 23, 2020 07:30 pm

A former Maryland state lawmaker and leading advocate of marijuana legalization pleaded guilty Wednesday to bribery and fraud charges after being accused of accepting more than $33,000 in exchange for granting various legislative favors, including work relevant to the pot…
Read More   

Angola: PwC executive leaves firm after Dos Santos revelations
Jan 23, 2020 07:00 pm

A top PWC executive has left the firm after revelations of PwC links with Isabel Dos Santos, who is under investigation for corruption. PWC declined to comment on the departure and says it has launched its own investigation. Ms Dos…
Read More   

United States: Mother pleads guilty in college bribery scandal to paying company $9,000 to take online classes for her son at Georgetown University
Jan 23, 2020 06:30 pm

A mother has pleaded guilty in the college bribery scandal to paying a company $9,000 to take online classes for her son at Georgetown University and then demanding a discount when he received a C. Karen Littlefair, 57, pleaded guilty…
Read More   

Israel: Minister’s aide questioned as suspect in corruption case
Jan 23, 2020 06:00 pm

A public servant was detained Wednesday morning and taken for questioning under caution on suspicion of corruption, the Israel Police said. Hebrew-language media reported that the suspect is an aide to a minister. The case branched out from a separate…
Read More   

Malawi: Prominent Malawi banker arrested for suspected attempted bribery in rigged-poll case
Jan 23, 2020 05:30 pm

A prominent Malawi banker has been arrested in connection with a suspected attempt to bribe a panel of five judges presiding over the country’s presidential election vote-rigging case, the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) said on Wednesday. Malawi opposition parties are challenging…
Read More   
Join the conversation, follow us:
Copyright © 2020 Ethical Alliance, by ethiXbase, All rights reserved.
You are receiving this email because you opted in to the Ethical Alliance Daily.

Our mailing address is:
Ethical Alliance by ethiXbase
151 Chin Swee Road
#02-20 Manhattan House
Singapore 169876
Singapore

WORD OF THE DAY


WORD OF THE DAY
Parasynonym
pair-ə-SIN-oh-nim
Part of speech: noun
Origin: English, 1960s
1

A linguistic term to describe words with close similarities, but not exactly matching definitions

Examples of Parasynonym in a sentence

“When learning a foreign language it can be easy to get confused by a parasynonym.”

“For his thesis he wrote a paper describing the linguistic function of the parasynonym.”

My fav Newsletters – Nik’s Awesome Summaries.


Heyo, it’s Nik with 7 more awesome summaries!

By the way, if you’re looking to get more out of everything you read, whether it’s our free summaries, articles online, or full books, consider our reading guide.

It’s a beautiful, 20-page PDF that explains the science of how to remember more, better, and longer from reading. Great way to support us too! You can learn more about it here.

Alright, let’s take a look at this week’s life-changing books!


A More Beautiful Question by Warren Berger

1-Sentence-Summary: A More Beautiful Question will teach you how to ask more and better questions, showing you the power that the right questions have to transform your life for the better.

  1. Asking questions makes us more creative and intelligent, but school takes this away from us at a young age.
  2. Questioning “why?” is good, but when you ask “why not?” you open hidden doors and find solutions to your problems.
  3. “What if?” questions help you combine ideas to form better ones, and wondering “how?” helps you start acting on them.

If you want to discover new opportunities and ways to make your life better, this book is for you


A Return to Love by Marianne Williamson

1-Sentence-Summary: A Return To Love will help you let go of resentment, fear, and anger to have happier and healthier jobs and relationships by teaching you how to embrace the power of love.

  1. Whatever you think is causing your unhappiness, it always comes back to a root feeling of fear.
  2. Let a higher power guide your career path to have a more enjoyable time at work and make a difference in the world too.
  3. People who are grumpy are most likely only trying to shield themselves from the pain of trauma, and they just need some love.

If you want to rise above the hatred that is so prevalent in our world today, this book is for you.


60 Seconds & You’re Hired! by Robin Ryan

1-Sentence-Summary: 60 Seconds & You’re Hired! is a guide to getting your dream job that will help you feel confident in your next interview by teaching you how to impress your interviewer with being concise, focusing on your strengths, and knowing what to do at every step of the process.

  1. Constantly refer to your top 5 skills throughout the interview to help your interviewer remember what makes you a good fit.
  2. Preparing beforehand will eliminate your fear and help you be as confident as possible when answering each question.
  3. Take advantage of the golden opportunity to reveal your true character that interviewer gives you when they ask if you have any questions.

If you want to become an expert at job interviews and land your dream job, this book book is for you.


What other books did we summarize this week?

23 Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism by Ha-Joon Chang will help you think more clearly about our current economic state by uncovering the hidden consequences of free market capitalism and offering solutions that could give us all a more fair world.

A Universe From Nothing by Lawrence M. Krauss will enlarge your knowledge of our expanding universe by showing you how it began, what we’re learning about it now, and what will happen to it in the future.

A History of the World in 6 Glasses by Tom Standage will give you some great conversation starters at your next party by teaching you the origins and impact of the worlds six favorite drinks, including beer, wine, alcoholic spirits, tea, coffee, and soda.

Call Sign Chaos by Jim Mattis is a review of US foreign policy through the eyes of General Jim Mattis, who led forces in Afghanistan and Iraq.

That’s everything for this week!

Happy reading,

My fav newsletter


 This is the weekly Brain Pickings newsletter by Maria Popova. If you missed last week’s edition — gorgeous illustrations from the world’s first encyclopedia of trees, Kahlil Gibran on time, Neil Gaiman reads his humanistic poem for refugees — you can catch up right here; if you missed the annual summary of the best of Brain Pickings 2019, you can find it here. And if you find any value and joy in my labor of love, please consider supporting it with a donation – I spend innumerable hours and tremendous resources on it each week, as I have been for more than thirteen years, and every little bit of support helps enormously. If you already donate: THANK YOU.

Calculating the Incalculable: Thoreau on the True Value of a Tree

thoreauandthelangaugeoftrees.jpg?fit=320%2C431

More than two years after a fire started by a teenage boy destroyed 47,000 acres of old-growth forest in Oregon’s Columbia River Gorge, having just resolved to face the new year like a tree, I found myself on the brink of tears before the blackened trunk of an ancient ponderosa pine as I walked the sylvan scar tissue of the tragedy. A conversation with my hiking companion — a dear friend currently working with the Navajo Nation on preserving and learning from their own ecological inheritance — led to the impossible question of how we can even begin to measure the loss: What is a tree worth? Not its timber, not its carbon offset value, but its treeness — the source of the existential wisdom Whitman celebrated, the mirror Blake believed it holds up to a person’s character, its silent teachings about how to love and how to live and what optimism really means.

The teenager who decimated this green tapestry of belonging was ordered to pay $36.6 million in restitution — a number that staggers at first, but only until one considers the nearly 4,000,000 leaved and rooted victims of the crime, and the many more millions of creatures for whom the forest was home, and even the occasional insignificant human animals who, like my friend and I, bathed in these ancient trees to wash away the sorrows of living.

The contemplation of this impossible question called to mind a fragment from the diaries of Henry David Thoreau (July 12, 1817–May 6, 1862) — he who saw nature as a form of prayer, who once mourned a tree like one mourns a friend, and who asked: “What would human life be without forests, those natural cities?”

spiritofthewoods_stonepine_s6.jpg?resize=680%2C996

Stone pine by Rebecca Hey from the world’s first tree encyclopedia. Available as a print.

Noting the disappearance of Maine’s white pines, Thoreau laments how these majestic trees, each endowed with a living spirit as immortal as his own, are vanishing because the men who cut them down for lumber have failed to see their true value. In a passage included in the altogether revitalizing Thoreau and the Language of Trees (public library), he writes:

2e292385-dc1c-4cfe-b95e-845f6f98c2ec.pngCan he who has discovered only some of the values of whalebone and whale oil be said to have discovered the true use of the whale? Can he who slays the elephant for his ivory be said to have “seen the elephant”? These are petty and accidental uses; just as if a stronger race were to kill us in order to make buttons and flageolets of our bones; for everything may serve a lower as well as a higher use.

[…]

I have been into the lumber-yard, and the carpenter’s shop, and the tannery, and the lampblack factory, and the turpentine clearing; but when at length I saw the tops of the pines waving and reflecting the light at a distance high over all the rest of the forest, I realized that the former were not the highest use of the pine. It is not their bones or hide or tallow that I love most. It is the living spirit of the tree, not its spirit of turpentine, with which I sympathize, and which heals my cuts. It is as immortal as I am, and perchance will go to as high a heaven, there to tower above me still.

artyoung_treesatnight1.jpg?resize=680%2C1074

Art from Trees at Night — Art Young’s tree silhouettes from the 1920s. Available as a print

Thoreau cherished trees not only in the forest but also in the city. In a journal entry penned at the vibrant height of autumn and included in the indispensable Excursions (free ebook | public library) — the volume that gave us Thoreau on finding inner warmth in the cold season — he considers the democratizing value of the maples hemming his local Main Street:

2e292385-dc1c-4cfe-b95e-845f6f98c2ec.pngLittle did the fathers of the town anticipate this brilliant success, when they caused to be imported from farther in the country some straight poles with their tops cut off, which they called Sugar-Maples; and, as I remember, after they were set out, a neighboring merchant’s clerk, by way of jest, planted beans about them. Those which were then jestingly called bean-poles are to-day far the most beautiful objects noticeable in our streets. They are worth all and more than they have cost, — though one of the selectmen, while setting them out, took the cold which occasioned his death, — if only because they have filled the open eyes of children with their rich color unstintedly so many Octobers. We will not ask them to yield us sugar in the spring, while they afford us so fair a prospect in the autumn. Wealth in-doors may be the inheritance of few, but it is equally distributed on the Common. All children alike can revel in this golden harvest.

spiritofthewoods_CommonMaple_s6.jpg?resize=680%2C922

Common maple by Rebecca Hey from the world’s first tree encyclopedia. Available as a print.

Complement with philosopher Martin Buber on what trees teach us about seeing one another and the emboldening illustrated story of Wangari Maathai’s movement to plant trees as resistance and empowerment, which made her the first African woman to receive the Nobel Peace Prize, then revisit Thoreau on the long cycles of social change and the difference between an artisan, an artist, and a genius.

FORWARD TO A FRIEND/READ ONLINE/Like https://www.brainpickings.org/2020/01/20/thoreau-trees/ on Facebook

donating=loving

Every week for more than 13 years, I have been pouring tremendous time, thought, love, and resources into Brain Pickings, which remains free and is made possible by patronage. If you find any joy and solace in my labor of love, please consider supporting it with a donation. And if you already donate, from the bottom of my heart: THANK YOU.

monthly donation

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

one-time donation

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

Start Now Give Now

My Mother’s Eyes: A Soulful Animated Short Film About Loss and the Unbreakable Bonds of Love

Kepler may not have revolutionized our understanding of the universe had his illiterate mother not ignited his love of astronomy by taking him to see a comet as a six-year-old boy in 1536. “Every man or woman who is sane, every man or woman who has the feeling of being a person in the world, and for whom the world means something, every happy person, is in infinite debt to a woman,” the trailblazing psychologist Donald Winnicott observed four centuries later in his landmark manifesto for motherhood. That debt is perhaps the tenderest, strongest, most complex thread on the enchanted loom of existence.

Animator, illustrator, and director Jenny Wright was midway through her university studies at Central Saint Martin’s College in London when her mother died. In consonance with Borges’s insistence that “all that happens to us… is given to us as raw material, as clay, so that we may shape our art,” she transmuted her grief — that slippery, noxious, all-pervading mercury of sorrow which words can never fully hold — into a soulful animated short film titled “My Mother’s Eyes,” which became her graduation thesis. Simple, tenderly expressive line drawings unspool a complex, inexpressible universe of feeling as this deeply personal memorial unlatches the floodgates to a universal human emotion.

85c36085-965c-4e49-943a-a663c0a82594.png

Complement with some beautiful advice to a daughter from pioneering political philosopher Mary Wollstonecraft, who died birthing her own daughter, then revisit poet Meghan O’Rourke’s sensitive and trenchant meditation on how to live with loss, composed after her mother’s death.

FORWARD TO A FRIEND/READ ONLINE/Like https://www.brainpickings.org/2020/01/22/my-mothers-eyes-jenny-wright/ on Facebook

The Haunting Beauty of Snowflakes: Wilson Bentley’s Pioneering 19th-Century Photomicroscopy of Snow Crystals

wilsonbentley_snowflakes.jpg?fit=320%2C418

Hardly any scientific finding has permeated popular culture more profoundly, transmuted its truth into a more pervasive cliché, or inspired more uninspired college application essays than the fact that no two snowflakes are alike. But for the vast majority of human history, the uniqueness of snowflakes was far from an established fact.

In the early seventeenth century, while revolutionizing science with the celestial mechanics of the macro scale that would land his mother in a witchcraft trial, Johannes Kepler turned his inquisitive imagination to the micro scale with a rather unusual Christmas present he made for a friend — a booklet titled The Six-Cornered Snowflake, exploring in a playful and poetic way the science of why snowflakes have six sides. When one landed on his sleeve in the bitter Prague winter, Kepler found himself wondering why snowflakes “always come down with six corners and with six radii tufted like feathers” — and not, say, with five or seven. Centuries before the advent of crystallography, the visionary astronomer became the first to invite science into this ancient dwelling place of beauty and to ask, essentially, why snowflakes are the way they are. But it would be another two centuries before this intersection of science and splendor enraptures the popular imagination with the nexus of truth and beauty in the form of ice crystals — a task that would fall on a teenage farm-boy in Vermont.

wilsonbentley_snowflakes22.jpg?resize=680%2C820

Wilson Bentley (February 9, 1865–December 23, 1931) was fifteen when his mother, aware of her son’s sensitive curiosity and artistic bent, strained the family’s means to give him a microscope for his birthday. Over the next four years, while Walt Whitman was exulting a state over that “a leaf of grass is no less than the journey work of the stars,” Wilson placed every curio he could find under his microscope: blades of grass, pebbles, insects. The day he managed to place a snowflake on the glass plate and to savor its microscopic perfection before it melted, he was besotted. Snowflakes became his life. “Miracles of beauty,” he called them. He began sketching what he saw through his microscope, but felt that his drawings failed to capture the full miraculousness before it vanished into liquid erasure. Although his father was already irate with the boy’s artistic deviation from farm labor, “fussing with snowflakes” rather than pulling potatoes, Wilson somehow persuaded him to invest in a camera.

Weeks before his twentieth birthday, he mounted his new 1.5-inch microscope eyepiece to the lens of his enormous view camera with its accordion-like body fully extended. On January 15, 1880, Wilson Bentley took his first photograph of a snowflake. Mesmerized by the beauty of the result, he transported his equipment to the unheated wooden shed behind the farmhouse and began recording his work in two separate sets of notebooks — one filled with sketches and dedicated to refining his artistic photomicroscopy; the other filled with weather data, carefully monitoring the conditions under which various snowflakes were captured.

wilsonbentley_snowflakes24.jpg?resize=680%2C816

wilsonbentley_snowflakes23.jpg?resize=680%2C806

wilsonbentley_snowflakes19.jpg?resize=680%2C814

For forty-six winters to come, this slender quiet boy, enchanted by the wonders of nature and attentive to its minutest manifestations, would hold his breath over the microscope-camera station and take more than 5,000 photographs of snow crystals — each a vanishing masterpiece with the delicacy of a flower and the mathematical precision of a honeycomb, a ghost of perfection melting onto the glass plate within seconds, a sublime metaphor for the ecstasy and impermanence of beauty, of life itself. A generation after the invention of photography recalibrated our relationship to impermanence, Wilson Bentley devoted his life to popularizing the uniqueness of snowflakes and helping others appreciate the ephemeral “masterpiece of design” that each snowflake is, its singular and fleeting existence never to be replicated, its beauty gone “without leaving any record behind.”

wilsonbentley.jpg?resize=680%2C737

Wilson Bentley at work

In his later years, he reflected on the adolescent passion that would become his life’s work:

2e292385-dc1c-4cfe-b95e-845f6f98c2ec.pngI became possessed with a great desire to show people something of this wonderful loveliness, an ambition to become, in some measure, its preserver.

And so he did. Wilson Bentley, who comes alive in Duncan Blanchard’s wonderful 1998 biography The Snowflake Man (public library), grew famous as Snowflake Bentley, establishing himself as the world’s first snowflake photographer and enrapturing vast audiences with nature’s masterworks of ephemeral perfection.

wilsonbentley_snowflakes25.jpg?resize=680%2C820

wilsonbentley_snowflakes2.jpg?resize=680%2C823

wilsonbentley_snowflakes21.jpg?resize=680%2C806

wilsonbentley_snowflakes1.jpg?resize=680%2C817

Half a century after he first grew enchanted with the photomicroscopy of snowflakes, in a 1922 article for Popular Mechanics, Bentley extolled the rewards of this art purchased by physical hardship in below-freezing temperatures:

2e292385-dc1c-4cfe-b95e-845f6f98c2ec.pngEvery snowflake has an infinite beauty which is enhanced by knowledge that the investigator will, in all probability, never find another exactly like it. Consequently, photographing these transient forms of Nature gives to the worker something of the spirit of a discoverer. Besides combining her greatest skill and artistry in the production of snowflakes, Nature generously fashions the most beautiful specimens on a very thin plane so that they are specially adapted for photomicrographical study.

wilsonbentley_snowflakes20.jpg?resize=680%2C820

wilsonbentley_snowflakes18.jpg?resize=680%2C820

wilsonbentley_snowflakes17.jpg?resize=680%2C845

wilsonbentley_snowflakes16.jpg?resize=680%2C818

wilsonbentley_snowflakes15.jpg?resize=680%2C817

Months before his death, his life’s work was finally published under the title Snow Crystals — a scrumptious monograph of 2,500 of his most beguiling photographs, which remains in print today as Snowflakes in Photographs (public library).

wilsonbentley_snowflakes13.jpg?resize=680%2C831

wilsonbentley_snowflakes12.jpg?resize=680%2C823

wilsonbentley_snowflakes11.jpg?resize=680%2C811

wilsonbentley_snowflakes10.jpg?resize=680%2C821

wilsonbentley_snowflakes9.jpg?resize=680%2C825

wilsonbentley_snowflakes8.jpg?resize=680%2C830

wilsonbentley_snowflakes7.jpg?resize=680%2C812

wilsonbentley_snowflakes6.jpg?resize=680%2C826

wilsonbentley_snowflakes5.jpg?resize=680%2C816

wilsonbentley_snowflakes14.jpg?resize=680%2C824

wilsonbentley_snowflakes3.jpg?resize=680%2C816

Complement with artist Rose-Lynn Fisher’s haunting photomicroscopy of tears cried under various emotions and these gorgeous vintage illustrations of scientific process and phenomena — including an early diagram of snowflake geometries — from a French physics textbook predating the widespread application of photography, then revisit the story of how, a generation before Bentley, the young photographer John Adams Whipple changed our relationship to impermanence with his pioneering astrophotography.

FORWARD TO A FRIEND/READ ONLINE/Like https://www.brainpickings.org/2020/01/19/wilson-bentley-snowflakes/ on Facebook

donating=loving

Every week for more than 13 years, I have been pouring tremendous time, thought, love, and resources into Brain Pickings, which remains free and is made possible by patronage. If you find any joy and solace in my labor of love, please consider supporting it with a donation. And if you already donate, from the bottom of my heart: THANK YOU.

monthly donation

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

one-time donation

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

Start Now Give Now
---

My fav newsletter


 This is the weekly Brain Pickings newsletter by Maria Popova. If you missed last week’s edition — gorgeous illustrations from the world’s first encyclopedia of trees, Kahlil Gibran on time, Neil Gaiman reads his humanistic poem for refugees — you can catch up right here; if you missed the annual summary of the best of Brain Pickings 2019, you can find it here. And if you find any value and joy in my labor of love, please consider supporting it with a donation – I spend innumerable hours and tremendous resources on it each week, as I have been for more than thirteen years, and every little bit of support helps enormously. If you already donate: THANK YOU.

Calculating the Incalculable: Thoreau on the True Value of a Tree

thoreauandthelangaugeoftrees.jpg?fit=320%2C431

More than two years after a fire started by a teenage boy destroyed 47,000 acres of old-growth forest in Oregon’s Columbia River Gorge, having just resolved to face the new year like a tree, I found myself on the brink of tears before the blackened trunk of an ancient ponderosa pine as I walked the sylvan scar tissue of the tragedy. A conversation with my hiking companion — a dear friend currently working with the Navajo Nation on preserving and learning from their own ecological inheritance — led to the impossible question of how we can even begin to measure the loss: What is a tree worth? Not its timber, not its carbon offset value, but its treeness — the source of the existential wisdom Whitman celebrated, the mirror Blake believed it holds up to a person’s character, its silent teachings about how to love and how to live and what optimism really means.

The teenager who decimated this green tapestry of belonging was ordered to pay $36.6 million in restitution — a number that staggers at first, but only until one considers the nearly 4,000,000 leaved and rooted victims of the crime, and the many more millions of creatures for whom the forest was home, and even the occasional insignificant human animals who, like my friend and I, bathed in these ancient trees to wash away the sorrows of living.

The contemplation of this impossible question called to mind a fragment from the diaries of Henry David Thoreau (July 12, 1817–May 6, 1862) — he who saw nature as a form of prayer, who once mourned a tree like one mourns a friend, and who asked: “What would human life be without forests, those natural cities?”

spiritofthewoods_stonepine_s6.jpg?resize=680%2C996

Stone pine by Rebecca Hey from the world’s first tree encyclopedia. Available as a print.

Noting the disappearance of Maine’s white pines, Thoreau laments how these majestic trees, each endowed with a living spirit as immortal as his own, are vanishing because the men who cut them down for lumber have failed to see their true value. In a passage included in the altogether revitalizing Thoreau and the Language of Trees (public library), he writes:

2e292385-dc1c-4cfe-b95e-845f6f98c2ec.pngCan he who has discovered only some of the values of whalebone and whale oil be said to have discovered the true use of the whale? Can he who slays the elephant for his ivory be said to have “seen the elephant”? These are petty and accidental uses; just as if a stronger race were to kill us in order to make buttons and flageolets of our bones; for everything may serve a lower as well as a higher use.

[…]

I have been into the lumber-yard, and the carpenter’s shop, and the tannery, and the lampblack factory, and the turpentine clearing; but when at length I saw the tops of the pines waving and reflecting the light at a distance high over all the rest of the forest, I realized that the former were not the highest use of the pine. It is not their bones or hide or tallow that I love most. It is the living spirit of the tree, not its spirit of turpentine, with which I sympathize, and which heals my cuts. It is as immortal as I am, and perchance will go to as high a heaven, there to tower above me still.

artyoung_treesatnight1.jpg?resize=680%2C1074

Art from Trees at Night — Art Young’s tree silhouettes from the 1920s. Available as a print

Thoreau cherished trees not only in the forest but also in the city. In a journal entry penned at the vibrant height of autumn and included in the indispensable Excursions (free ebook | public library) — the volume that gave us Thoreau on finding inner warmth in the cold season — he considers the democratizing value of the maples hemming his local Main Street:

2e292385-dc1c-4cfe-b95e-845f6f98c2ec.pngLittle did the fathers of the town anticipate this brilliant success, when they caused to be imported from farther in the country some straight poles with their tops cut off, which they called Sugar-Maples; and, as I remember, after they were set out, a neighboring merchant’s clerk, by way of jest, planted beans about them. Those which were then jestingly called bean-poles are to-day far the most beautiful objects noticeable in our streets. They are worth all and more than they have cost, — though one of the selectmen, while setting them out, took the cold which occasioned his death, — if only because they have filled the open eyes of children with their rich color unstintedly so many Octobers. We will not ask them to yield us sugar in the spring, while they afford us so fair a prospect in the autumn. Wealth in-doors may be the inheritance of few, but it is equally distributed on the Common. All children alike can revel in this golden harvest.

spiritofthewoods_CommonMaple_s6.jpg?resize=680%2C922

Common maple by Rebecca Hey from the world’s first tree encyclopedia. Available as a print.

Complement with philosopher Martin Buber on what trees teach us about seeing one another and the emboldening illustrated story of Wangari Maathai’s movement to plant trees as resistance and empowerment, which made her the first African woman to receive the Nobel Peace Prize, then revisit Thoreau on the long cycles of social change and the difference between an artisan, an artist, and a genius.

FORWARD TO A FRIEND/READ ONLINE/Like https://www.brainpickings.org/2020/01/20/thoreau-trees/ on Facebook

donating=loving

Every week for more than 13 years, I have been pouring tremendous time, thought, love, and resources into Brain Pickings, which remains free and is made possible by patronage. If you find any joy and solace in my labor of love, please consider supporting it with a donation. And if you already donate, from the bottom of my heart: THANK YOU.

monthly donation

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

one-time donation

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

Start Now Give Now

My Mother’s Eyes: A Soulful Animated Short Film About Loss and the Unbreakable Bonds of Love

Kepler may not have revolutionized our understanding of the universe had his illiterate mother not ignited his love of astronomy by taking him to see a comet as a six-year-old boy in 1536. “Every man or woman who is sane, every man or woman who has the feeling of being a person in the world, and for whom the world means something, every happy person, is in infinite debt to a woman,” the trailblazing psychologist Donald Winnicott observed four centuries later in his landmark manifesto for motherhood. That debt is perhaps the tenderest, strongest, most complex thread on the enchanted loom of existence.

Animator, illustrator, and director Jenny Wright was midway through her university studies at Central Saint Martin’s College in London when her mother died. In consonance with Borges’s insistence that “all that happens to us… is given to us as raw material, as clay, so that we may shape our art,” she transmuted her grief — that slippery, noxious, all-pervading mercury of sorrow which words can never fully hold — into a soulful animated short film titled “My Mother’s Eyes,” which became her graduation thesis. Simple, tenderly expressive line drawings unspool a complex, inexpressible universe of feeling as this deeply personal memorial unlatches the floodgates to a universal human emotion.

85c36085-965c-4e49-943a-a663c0a82594.png

Complement with some beautiful advice to a daughter from pioneering political philosopher Mary Wollstonecraft, who died birthing her own daughter, then revisit poet Meghan O’Rourke’s sensitive and trenchant meditation on how to live with loss, composed after her mother’s death.

FORWARD TO A FRIEND/READ ONLINE/Like https://www.brainpickings.org/2020/01/22/my-mothers-eyes-jenny-wright/ on Facebook

The Haunting Beauty of Snowflakes: Wilson Bentley’s Pioneering 19th-Century Photomicroscopy of Snow Crystals

wilsonbentley_snowflakes.jpg?fit=320%2C418

Hardly any scientific finding has permeated popular culture more profoundly, transmuted its truth into a more pervasive cliché, or inspired more uninspired college application essays than the fact that no two snowflakes are alike. But for the vast majority of human history, the uniqueness of snowflakes was far from an established fact.

In the early seventeenth century, while revolutionizing science with the celestial mechanics of the macro scale that would land his mother in a witchcraft trial, Johannes Kepler turned his inquisitive imagination to the micro scale with a rather unusual Christmas present he made for a friend — a booklet titled The Six-Cornered Snowflake, exploring in a playful and poetic way the science of why snowflakes have six sides. When one landed on his sleeve in the bitter Prague winter, Kepler found himself wondering why snowflakes “always come down with six corners and with six radii tufted like feathers” — and not, say, with five or seven. Centuries before the advent of crystallography, the visionary astronomer became the first to invite science into this ancient dwelling place of beauty and to ask, essentially, why snowflakes are the way they are. But it would be another two centuries before this intersection of science and splendor enraptures the popular imagination with the nexus of truth and beauty in the form of ice crystals — a task that would fall on a teenage farm-boy in Vermont.

wilsonbentley_snowflakes22.jpg?resize=680%2C820

Wilson Bentley (February 9, 1865–December 23, 1931) was fifteen when his mother, aware of her son’s sensitive curiosity and artistic bent, strained the family’s means to give him a microscope for his birthday. Over the next four years, while Walt Whitman was exulting a state over that “a leaf of grass is no less than the journey work of the stars,” Wilson placed every curio he could find under his microscope: blades of grass, pebbles, insects. The day he managed to place a snowflake on the glass plate and to savor its microscopic perfection before it melted, he was besotted. Snowflakes became his life. “Miracles of beauty,” he called them. He began sketching what he saw through his microscope, but felt that his drawings failed to capture the full miraculousness before it vanished into liquid erasure. Although his father was already irate with the boy’s artistic deviation from farm labor, “fussing with snowflakes” rather than pulling potatoes, Wilson somehow persuaded him to invest in a camera.

Weeks before his twentieth birthday, he mounted his new 1.5-inch microscope eyepiece to the lens of his enormous view camera with its accordion-like body fully extended. On January 15, 1880, Wilson Bentley took his first photograph of a snowflake. Mesmerized by the beauty of the result, he transported his equipment to the unheated wooden shed behind the farmhouse and began recording his work in two separate sets of notebooks — one filled with sketches and dedicated to refining his artistic photomicroscopy; the other filled with weather data, carefully monitoring the conditions under which various snowflakes were captured.

wilsonbentley_snowflakes24.jpg?resize=680%2C816

wilsonbentley_snowflakes23.jpg?resize=680%2C806

wilsonbentley_snowflakes19.jpg?resize=680%2C814

For forty-six winters to come, this slender quiet boy, enchanted by the wonders of nature and attentive to its minutest manifestations, would hold his breath over the microscope-camera station and take more than 5,000 photographs of snow crystals — each a vanishing masterpiece with the delicacy of a flower and the mathematical precision of a honeycomb, a ghost of perfection melting onto the glass plate within seconds, a sublime metaphor for the ecstasy and impermanence of beauty, of life itself. A generation after the invention of photography recalibrated our relationship to impermanence, Wilson Bentley devoted his life to popularizing the uniqueness of snowflakes and helping others appreciate the ephemeral “masterpiece of design” that each snowflake is, its singular and fleeting existence never to be replicated, its beauty gone “without leaving any record behind.”

wilsonbentley.jpg?resize=680%2C737

Wilson Bentley at work

In his later years, he reflected on the adolescent passion that would become his life’s work:

2e292385-dc1c-4cfe-b95e-845f6f98c2ec.pngI became possessed with a great desire to show people something of this wonderful loveliness, an ambition to become, in some measure, its preserver.

And so he did. Wilson Bentley, who comes alive in Duncan Blanchard’s wonderful 1998 biography The Snowflake Man (public library), grew famous as Snowflake Bentley, establishing himself as the world’s first snowflake photographer and enrapturing vast audiences with nature’s masterworks of ephemeral perfection.

wilsonbentley_snowflakes25.jpg?resize=680%2C820

wilsonbentley_snowflakes2.jpg?resize=680%2C823

wilsonbentley_snowflakes21.jpg?resize=680%2C806

wilsonbentley_snowflakes1.jpg?resize=680%2C817

Half a century after he first grew enchanted with the photomicroscopy of snowflakes, in a 1922 article for Popular Mechanics, Bentley extolled the rewards of this art purchased by physical hardship in below-freezing temperatures:

2e292385-dc1c-4cfe-b95e-845f6f98c2ec.pngEvery snowflake has an infinite beauty which is enhanced by knowledge that the investigator will, in all probability, never find another exactly like it. Consequently, photographing these transient forms of Nature gives to the worker something of the spirit of a discoverer. Besides combining her greatest skill and artistry in the production of snowflakes, Nature generously fashions the most beautiful specimens on a very thin plane so that they are specially adapted for photomicrographical study.

wilsonbentley_snowflakes20.jpg?resize=680%2C820

wilsonbentley_snowflakes18.jpg?resize=680%2C820

wilsonbentley_snowflakes17.jpg?resize=680%2C845

wilsonbentley_snowflakes16.jpg?resize=680%2C818

wilsonbentley_snowflakes15.jpg?resize=680%2C817

Months before his death, his life’s work was finally published under the title Snow Crystals — a scrumptious monograph of 2,500 of his most beguiling photographs, which remains in print today as Snowflakes in Photographs (public library).

wilsonbentley_snowflakes13.jpg?resize=680%2C831

wilsonbentley_snowflakes12.jpg?resize=680%2C823

wilsonbentley_snowflakes11.jpg?resize=680%2C811

wilsonbentley_snowflakes10.jpg?resize=680%2C821

wilsonbentley_snowflakes9.jpg?resize=680%2C825

wilsonbentley_snowflakes8.jpg?resize=680%2C830

wilsonbentley_snowflakes7.jpg?resize=680%2C812

wilsonbentley_snowflakes6.jpg?resize=680%2C826

wilsonbentley_snowflakes5.jpg?resize=680%2C816

wilsonbentley_snowflakes14.jpg?resize=680%2C824

wilsonbentley_snowflakes3.jpg?resize=680%2C816

Complement with artist Rose-Lynn Fisher’s haunting photomicroscopy of tears cried under various emotions and these gorgeous vintage illustrations of scientific process and phenomena — including an early diagram of snowflake geometries — from a French physics textbook predating the widespread application of photography, then revisit the story of how, a generation before Bentley, the young photographer John Adams Whipple changed our relationship to impermanence with his pioneering astrophotography.

FORWARD TO A FRIEND/READ ONLINE/Like https://www.brainpickings.org/2020/01/19/wilson-bentley-snowflakes/ on Facebook

donating=loving

Every week for more than 13 years, I have been pouring tremendous time, thought, love, and resources into Brain Pickings, which remains free and is made possible by patronage. If you find any joy and solace in my labor of love, please consider supporting it with a donation. And if you already donate, from the bottom of my heart: THANK YOU.

monthly donation

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

one-time donation

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

Start Now Give Now
---

Random Acts of Kindness


1. Allow a student to job shadow you.
2. Be a good driver.
3. Have a favorite book? Leave a brand new copy for someone in a waiting room.
4. Pay it forward with books. When you’re done reading a great book, leave it in a public place for someone else to find with a note.
5. Write a letter to a government official thanking them for their service.

Wisdom Quotes


It’s not the words you speak, but the way you say them that matters.

People may hear your words, but they feel your attitude. (John C. Maxwell)

Courage is to be terrified, but remain unaffected in your actions.
Courage is never to let your actions be influenced by your fears. (Arthur Koestler)

Sun Tzu Quotes


  1. “If he is secure at all points, be prepared for him. If he is in superior strength, evade him.”― Sun Tzu

  2. “Every animal with blood in its veins and horns on its head will fight when it is attacked.”― Sun Tzu

  3. “Know the enemy, know yourself and victory is never in doubt, not in a hundred battles.”― Sun Tzu

  4. “Those skilled in warfare move the enemy, and are not moved by the enemy.”― Sun Tzu

  5. “Knowing the enemy enables you to take the offensive, knowing yourself enables you to stand on the defensive.”― Sun Tzu