… that today is Ballpoint Pen Sales Day? In 1945, the first ballpoint pen went on sale, 57 years after it was patented. New York’s Gimbels Department Store described the new pen as a “fantastic… miraculous fountain pen … guaranteed to write for two years without refilling!” On that first day of sales, Gimbels sold out its entire stock of 10,000 pens at $12.50 each.
This is the Brain Pickings midweek pick-me-up: Once a week, I plunge into my fourteen-year archive and choose something worth resurfacing and resavoring as timeless nourishment for heart, mind, and spirit. (If you don’t yet subscribe to the standard Sunday newsletter of new pieces published each week, you can sign up here — it’s free.) If you missed last week’s edition — Walt Whitman on the pillars of democracy and the courage of actionable optimism over cynicism as a mighty force of resistance — you can catch up right here. And if you find any solace, joy, and value in my labor of love, please consider supporting it with a donation – over these fourteen years, I have spent tens of thousands of hours and tremendous resources on Brain Pickings, and every little bit of support helps keep it – keep me – going. If you already donate: THANK YOU.FROM THE ARCHIVE | Love After Love: Derek Walcott’s Poetic Ode to Relearning to Be at Home in Ourselves After HeartbreakThe great Zen teacher Thich Nhat Hanh has written beautifully about why learning to love others begins with learning to love ourselves — a sentiment that the reactive modern cynic might dismiss as the vacant fodder of self-help books, but one which more considered reflection reveals to be deeply truthful and deeply uncomfortable. What, after all, does loving oneself even mean — particularly if we’re aspiring to be unselfish and generous, and to outgrow the illusory ego-shell we call a self?That’s what Caribbean poet and playwright Derek Walcott (January 23, 1930–March 17, 2017) — a writer of such extraordinary poetic prowess that his 1992 Nobel Prize in Literature appears a wholly inadequate measure of his mastery and mesmerism — addresses with a luminous sidewise gleam in a poem titled “Love After Love,” found in his Collected Poems: 1948–1984 (public library).Derek WalcottOn an archival On Being episode titled “Opening to Our Lives,” mindfulness pioneer Jon Kabat-Zinn reads Walcott’s masterpiece — undoubtedly one of the greatest, most soul-stretching poems ever written.
“Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing.” – Helen Keller, The Open Door
One is the sort where failure is not noticeable because failure means that you didn’t engage with an audience. If you do an art show and no one comes, no one realizes that your art show failed.
The other is harder to walk away from. You can’t put the toothpaste back in the tube. When you engineer credit default swaps that merge together mortgage streams, inextricably linking the healthy ones with the others, it’s a mistake with real consequences.
Confusing the two types of errors is a recipe for tragedy. If we can figure out how to organize and plan for the first type of resilient failure, it’s far easier to experiment.