Did you know…

Did you know…

… that today is Dunce Day? Today, we remember Duns Scotus of Duns, Scotland, a medieval scholar who believed that cone-shaped hats increased learning potential and that knowledge would flow from the point of the cap down and into the head of the wearer, making that person smarter. 😉


Today’s Inspirational Quote:

“If I were given the opportunity to present a gift to the next generation, it would be the ability for each individual to learn to laugh at himself.”

— Charles Schulz

Principle is inconvenient

Principle is inconvenient

A principle is an approach you stick with even if you know it might lead to a short-term outcome you don’t prefer. Especially then.

It’s this gap between the short-term and the long-term that makes a principle valuable. If your guiding principle is to do whatever benefits you right now, you don’t have principles of much value.

But it’s the valuable principles that pay off, because they enable forward motion, particularly when it feels like there are few alternatives. We embrace a culture based on principles because it’s that structure and momentum that enables connection and progress to happen in the first place.

Courtesy: SEth Godin’s Newsletter

What am I thinking about today…

The alarm went off and Jay rose awake. Rising early had become a daily ritual, one that he could not fully explain. From the outside, it was a wonder that he was able to get up so early each morning for someone who had absolutely no plans to be productive during the entire day.

Today’s Inspirational Quote:

Today’s Inspirational Quote:

“The best way to not feel hopeless is to get up and do something. Don’t wait for good things to happen to you. If you go out and make some good things happen, you will fill the world with hope, you will fill yourself with hope.”

— Barack Obama

In an Irish pub, the switch from analogue to digital TV raises deep questions | Aeon Videos

The Indian epic Mahabharata imparts a dark, nuanced moral vision | Aeon Essays

Emotional synchrony is at the core of what it means to be human | Aeon Essays

A cyclical, forgetful Universe – Nobel prizewinner Roger Penrose details an astonishing origin hypothesis | Aeon Videos

Is the sublime a hopelessly old-fashioned Euro-Romantic ideal? | Psyche Ideas

Brainpickings.org Newsletter

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 — Love After Love: Derek Walcott’s poetic ode to relearning to be at home in ourselves after heartbreak — 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 | John Steinbeck on Good and Evil, the Necessary Contradictions of the Human Nature, and Our Grounds for Lucid HopeThere are events in our personal lives and our collective history that seem categorically irredeemable, moments in which the grounds for gratefulness and hope have sunk so far below the sea level of sorrow that we have ceased to believe they exist. But we have within us the consecrating capacity to rise above those moments and behold the bigger picture in all of its complexity, complementarity, and temporal sweep, and to find in what we see not illusory consolation but the truest comfort there is: that of perspective.John Steinbeck (February 27, 1902–December 20, 1968) embodies this difficult, transcendent willingness in an extraordinary letter to his friend Pascal Covici — who would soon become his literary fairy godfather of sorts — penned on the first day of 1941, as World War II was raging and engulfing humanity in unbearable darkness. Found in Steinbeck: A Life in Letters (public library) — which also gave us the beloved writer on the difficult art of the friend breakup, his comical account of a dog-induced “computer crash” decades before computers, and his timeless advice on falling in love — the letter stands as a timeless testament to the consolatory power of rehabilitating nuance, making room for fertile contradiction, and taking a wider perspective.johnsteinbeck.jpg?zoom=2&w=680John SteinbeckSteinbeck writes on January 1, 1941:2e292385-dc1c-4cfe-b95e-845f6f98c2ec.pngSpeaking of the happy new year, I wonder if any year ever had less chance of being happy. It’s as though the whole race were indulging in a kind of species introversion — as though we looked inward on our neuroses. And the thing we see isn’t very pretty… So we go into this happy new year, knowing that our species has learned nothing, can, as a race, learn nothing — that the experience of ten thousand years has made no impression on the instincts of the million years that preceded.But Steinbeck, who devoted his life to defending the disenfranchised and celebrating the highest potentiality of the human spirit, refuses to succumb to what Rebecca Solnit has so aptly termed the “despair, defeatism, cynicism[,] amnesia and assumptions” to which we reflexively resort in maladaptive self-defense against overwhelming evil. Instead, fifteen centuries after Plato’s brilliant charioteer metaphor for good and evil, Steinbeck quickly adds a perceptive note on the indelible duality of human nature and the cyclical character of the civilizational continuity we call history:2e292385-dc1c-4cfe-b95e-845f6f98c2ec.pngNot that I have lost any hope. All the goodness and the heroisms will rise up again, then be cut down again and rise up. It isn’t that the evil thing wins — it never will — but that it doesn’t die. I don’t know why we should expect it to. It seems fairly obvious that two sides of a mirror are required before one has a mirror, that two forces are necessary in man before he is man. I asked [the influential microbiologist] Paul de Kruif once if he would like to cure all disease and he said yes. Then I suggested that the man he loved and wanted to cure was a product of all his filth and disease and meanness, his hunger and cruelty. Cure those and you would have not man but an entirely new species you wouldn’t recognize and probably wouldn’t like.Steinbeck’s point is subtle enough to be mistaken for moral relativism, but is in fact quite the opposite — he suggests that our human foibles don’t negate our goodness or our desire for betterment but, rather, provide both the fuel for it and the yardstick by which we measure our moral progress.He wrests out this inevitable interplay of order and chaos the mortal flaw of the Nazi regime and the grounds for hope toward surviving the atrocity of WWII, which, lest we forget, much of the world feared was unsurvivable in toto:2e292385-dc1c-4cfe-b95e-845f6f98c2ec.pngIt is interesting to watch the German efficiency, which, from the logic of the machine is efficient but which (I suspect) from the mechanics of the human species is suicidal. Certainly man thrives best (or has at least) in a state of semi-anarchy. Then he has been strong, inventive, reliant, moving. But cage him with rules, feed him and make him healthy and I think he will die as surely as a caged wolf dies. I should not be surprised to see a cared for, thought for, planned for nation disintegrate, while a ragged, hungry, lustful nation survived. Surely no great all-encompassing plan has ever succeeded.Mercifully, Steinbeck was right — the Nazis’ grim world domination plan ultimately failed, humanity as a whole survived these unforgivable crimes against it (though we continually fail to sufficiently reflect upon them), and we commenced another revolution around the cycle of construction and destruction, creating great art and writing great literature and making great scientific discoveries, all the while carrying our parallel capacities for good and evil along for the ride, as we are bound to always do.So when we witness evil punctuate the line of our moral and humanitarian progress, as we periodically do, may we remember, even within the most difficult moments of that periodicity, Steinbeck’s sobering perspective and lucid faith in the human spirit.Complement this particular fragment of the wholly magnificent Steinbeck: A Life in Letters with Albert Camus on strength of character amid difficulty, Hannah Arendt on how we humanize each other, Joseph Brodsky on the greatest antidote to evil, Toni Morrison on the artist’s task in troubled times, and Rebecca Solnit on our grounds for hope in the dark.FORWARD TO A FRIEND/READ ONLINE/donating=lovingEvery week since 2006, 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. (If you’ve had a change of heart or circumstance and wish to rescind your support, you can do so at this link.)monthly donationYou can become a Sustaining Patron with a recurring monthly donation of your choosing, between a cup of tea and a Brooklyn lunch. one-time donationOr you can become a Spontaneous Supporter with a one-time donation in any amount.Partial to Bitcoin? You can beam some bit-love my way: 197usDS6AsL9wDKxtGM6xaWjmR5ejgqem7RELATED READING:Zadie Smith on Optimism and Despair* * *The Banality of Evil: Hannah Arendt on the Normalization of Human Wickedness and Our Only Effective Antidote to It* * *Essential Life-Learnings from 14 Years of Brain Pickings

Nik’s free ebook newsletter

Heya, Nik here with 3 more free and inspiring book summaries for you!

Next to our new book rating system (you can now rate each book at the bottom of its summary), we also found our Youtube publishing schedule:

Every Friday at 8 AM EST, we’ll post the new animated summary of the week.

This week, we haaaaave … The 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss. Take a look, and if you enjoy it, join our 300 subscribers.

By the way, we’re also integrating these into our summaries on the site. Soon, you’ll be able to enjoy our best titles in multiple formats all on one page!

Alright, on to our books of the week!

Words Can Change Your Brain by Andrew B. Newberg

1-Sentence-Summary: Words Can Change Your Brain is the ultimate guide to becoming an expert communicator, teaching you how to use psychology to your advantage to express yourself better, listen more, and create an environment of trust with anyone you speak with.

Top 3 Lessons:

  1. If you want to connect with others better when talking, make sure that your mind is relaxed, present, and quiet.
  2. Utilize the power of happy memories to get your smile just right.
  3. You must listen well, speak slower, and even say less to understand others better and have them understand you.

If you want to become closer to others by becoming an expert communicator, this book is for you.

Broke Millennial by Erin Lowry

1-Sentence-Summary: Broke Millennial shows those in their twenties and thirties how to manage their finances so that they can stop scraping by and instead begin to live more confidently when it comes to money.

Top 3 Lessons:

  1. Check your lifelong relationship with money to find the roadblocks in your way of managing it well.
  2. Use percentages to calculate how much you need to live and how much you can save.
  3. Don’t cut your credit cards, they are a valuable tool to build an important track record that you’ll need to make bigger purchases.

If you want to learn how not to be broke, this book is for you.

The Beautiful Cure by Daniel M. Davis

1-Sentence-Summary: The Beautiful Cure makes you smarter by showing you how your immune system works and how recent advancements in our understanding of it can help us improve our health like never before.

Top 3 Lessons:

  1. We have both an adaptive and innate immune system to fight against threats in the body.
  2. Cytokines coordinate the immune system’s response.
  3. We have the potential to beat all kinds of diseases by harnessing the power of the immune system.

If you want to learn how your immune system really works, this book is for you.

That’s everything for now, have a wonderful weekend!

Happy reading,

PS: The easiest way to support Four Minute Books is to try Blinkist risk-free for 7 days.

If you choose to keep your subscription, we’ll get a small commission for referring you at no extra cost to you – and you’ll get 35% off! This allows us to keep the site free to use and not have any annoying ads.

If you cancel after your trial, you’ll still have gotten access to 4,000+ book summaries and audios for 7 days for free. Not a bad deal, right?

Thank you for supporting Four Minute Books!

And a pony at your birthday party

And a pony at your birthday party

Do you remember your first birthday party? That’s pretty unlikely, even if you have pictures to remind you.

So what’s all the hoopla for? Why the cake and the pony and the rest?

It’s pretty clear that it wasn’t for you. It was for your parents and their circle of supporters and friends. A rite of passage and thanks and relief, all in one.

Many of the interactions we have that are ostensibly for us are actually for other people. Once we can see who it’s for, it’s a lot easier to do it well.

Courtesy: Seth Godin’s newsletter


Juveniliajoo-və-NIL-lee-əPart of speech: nounOrigin: Latin, early 17th century
1Works produced by an author or artist while still young.
Examples of Juvenilia in a sentence “Mozart’s impressive juvenilia was just a hint of the work to follow.” “It’s no surprise she won a Pulitzer Prize as an adult, especially since her juvenilia was incredibly popular.”