A Bach cello piece played atop a mountain is as exhilarating as you’d expect | Aeon Videos

‘What’s essential is, I must understand’: a rare candid interview with Hannah Arendt | Aeon Videos

Did you know..

Did you know…

… that today is Pencil Eraser Day? On this day in 1858, Hyman Lipman patented a pencil with an attached eraser. Yes, folks, we can all thank Hyman for allowing us to erase our mistakes! What’s interesting is the eraser was actually installed “within” the wood of the pencil opposite from the writing end so the pencil could be sharpened on both ends to refresh either the graphite core or the eraser.


Today’s Inspirational Quote:

“Change is risky but nothing is as risky as staying stuck where you are.”

— Author Unknown

Your auto-debit payments for bills, subscriptions may fail from April 1. Here’s why – Latest News Headlines l Politics, Cricket, Finance, Technology, Celebrity, Business & Gadgets


NOW STOP THE AUTO-RENEW BY DIFFERENT APPS TOO which is done without permission and customers are cheated year on year.


“Change is constant, but no amount of change will turn the attitude of vulture to that of eagle.” ― Bamigboye Olurotimi Over the past several decades, while the United States was busy with unnecessary wars and the European Union was hoping to bring China into the democratic fold, China single-mindedly continued on it’s economic path. Its leaders […]



You can’t control how people treat you, but you can control how you react.
How people treat you is their karma; how you react is yours. (Wayne Dyer)
You can’t overcome fear by thinking about it. Face it head on.
If you want to conquer fear, don’t sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy. (Dale Carnegie)


Thomas Fuller“In fair weather prepare for foul.”

via Today’s Quote https://ift.tt/2TRX8H0 March 22, 2021 at 10:57AM
via RSS Feed https://www.brainyquote.com/authors/thomas-fuller-quotes
Woodrow Wilson“The man who is swimming against the stream knows the strength of it.”

via Today’s Quote https://ift.tt/2WAs5CY March 23, 2021 at 10:57AM
via RSS Feed https://www.brainyquote.com/authors/woodrow-wilson-quotes
Victor Hugo“There is nothing like a dream to create the future.”

via Today’s Quote https://ift.tt/2q26FAp March 24, 2021 at 10:57AM
via RSS Feed https://www.brainyquote.com/authors/victor-hugo-quotes
Benjamin Disraeli“Silence is the mother of truth.”

via Today’s Quote https://ift.tt/2M3TIyb March 26, 2021 at 10:57AM
via RSS Feed https://www.brainyquote.com/authors/benjamin-disraeli-quotes
Wilson Mizner“The best way to keep your friends is not to give them away.”

via Today’s Quote https://ift.tt/2YBCKus March 27, 2021 at 10:57AM
via RSS Feed https://www.brainyquote.com/authors/wilson-mizner-quotes
Charles Baudelaire“Everything that is beautiful and noble is the product of reason and calculation.”

via Today’s Quote https://ift.tt/2o1zqg5 March 28, 2021 at 10:57AM
via RSS Feed https://www.brainyquote.com/authors/charles-baudelaire-quotes
Alphonse Karr“The more things change, the more they are the same.”

via Today’s Quote https://ift.tt/3098ImB March 29, 2021 at 10:57AM
via RSS Feed https://www.brainyquote.com/authors/alphonse-karr-quotes
Rudyard Kipling“Words are, of course, the most powerful drug used by mankind.”

via Today’s Quote https://ift.tt/33jw0of March 30, 2021 at 10:57AM
via RSS Feed https://www.brainyquote.com/authors/rudyard-kipling-quotes

Seasoned Quotable – via PNUTs Newsletter

“… no matter the call—the loud party next door, the permit for a parade, the expired car tags, the escort for a funeral procession, the elderly welfare check, the frolickers barbecuing in the park, the schoolyard fight, the opioid overdose, the homeless person outside in the cold, the stray dog—the state’s answer is to respond with armed agents blessed with the near unimpeachable right to kill” — Josie Duffy Rice

Scatter Contents Calendar March 2021

Scatter Calendar March 2021 


March marks the gateway to the start of summer – a summer that many hope will be better than the last. So, as temperatures start to rise across the country, make sure to cash in on the month’s hot topics – from World Theater Day to World Wildlife Day – and initiate meaningful conversations with your audience. 

What’s new in March 2021?  

EPFO to declare PF interest rate for 2020-21 on March 4 

EPFO Interest rate

Content marketing ideas:     

  • Listicle idea: How much should you contribute to your PF? 
  • Infographic idea: A look at the changing Provident Fund rates over the years 
  • Video idea: How do governments across the world prepare their citizens for retirement? 
  • Podcast idea: What are the best instruments to plan your retirement? 

The validity of expired driver’s license and vehicle documents extended to 31 March 2021 

Content marketing ideas:     

  • Listicle idea: Steps to renew your driver’s license 
  • Infographic idea: What are the documents you need to carry while driving? 
  • Video idea: What should you know to pass your driving test? 
  • Podcast idea: How do driving laws differ around the world? 

Fixed days:  

Zero Discrimination Day – 1 March 

This day is celebrated annually to promote gender equality in all walks of life by the member countries of the UN. 

Content marketing ideas:     

  • Listicle idea: How can you support your non-binary kid? 
  • Infographic idea: Countries that are successfully bridging the wage gap  
  • Video idea: Here’s what COVID-19 has taught us about championing gender equality 
  • Podcast idea: Is entrepreneurship the only way to empower housewives?  

World Wildlife Day – 3 March 

This day champions the theme ‘sustaining all life on earth’ and aims to raise awareness of the biodiversity surrounding us. 

Content marketing ideas:     

  • Listicle idea: X Ways to get young people involved in wildlife conservation  
  • Infographic idea: The most moving portrayals of wildlife in books and movies 
  • Video idea: How wildlife conservation reduce the chances of disease transmission to humans 
  • Podcast idea: A day in the life of a wildlife conservationist  

Brand campaign that worked:  

This video by Sony Alpha shows the majesty of wildlife taken through the camera’s lens and shows what it takes to capture the perfect shot. 

World Hearing Day – 3 March 

This day is observed by the UN to spread awareness about the prevention of hearing loss and to promote hearing care around the world. 

Content marketing ideas:     

  • Listicle idea: How can you take care of your hearing aid? 
  • Infographic idea: Are you cleaning your ears the right way?  
  • Video idea: A beginner’s guide to sign language 
  • Podcast idea: How should you raise a hard-of-hearing child? 

National Security Day – 4 March 

This day is observed to appreciate and praise the work of the security forces of our country. 

Content marketing ideas:     

  • Listicle idea: Inspiring tales from the world’s most daunting battles 
  • Infographic idea: Countries with the highest military expenditure 
  • Video idea: What are the different divisions of the Indian Army? 
  • Podcast idea: Technology – the invisible threat and guardian of security 

International Women’s Day – 8 March 

This day is the focal point for the movement for women’s rights and equality globally. 

Content marketing ideas:     

  • Listicle idea: Here’s how you can celebrate International Women’s Day at your workplace  
  • Infographic idea: How long will it take for the gender pay gap to close? 
  • Video idea: How far have we come since the Me Too movement? 
  • Podcast idea: It’s time we stopped pitting women against women  

Brand campaign that worked:  

This ad by Viviana Mall shows that it’s the responsibility of each of us to speak up and ensure that women are safe and not subjected to harassment. 

International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination – 21 March 

This day aims to mitigate racism around the world to reduce discrimination in all forms. 

Content marketing ideas:     

  • Listicle idea: How did Black Lives Matter become a global movement?  
  • Infographic idea: X Must-watch movies to educate yourself about racism 
  • Video idea: Combating racism in a world of hashtag activism  
  • Podcast idea: How to address the shades of racism in a brown household  

Brand campaign that worked:  

This ad by P&G shows how African-American people are discriminated against in America solely based on the color of their skin – even if they hold offices of power. 

World Down Syndrome Day – 21 March 

This day is celebrated to raise awareness about Down Syndrome and celebrate the uniqueness of the chromosome that causes it. 

Content marketing ideas:     

  • Listicle idea: Lessons on raising a child with Down syndrome  
  • Infographic idea: The best countries for neurodivergent people to live in 
  • Video idea: Sorry not sorry: What people with Down syndrome want you to know  
  • Podcast idea: Creating inclusive workplaces for colleagues with Down syndrome  

Brand campaign that worked:  

This video addresses the concerns of an expectant mother of a child with Down syndrome and reassures her that her child will be able to do everything its peers do. 

International Day of Forests – 21 March 

This day is celebrated to raise awareness about different kinds of forests and their conservation. 

Content marketing ideas:     

  • Listicle idea: X Movements that are geared towards protecting forests 
  • Infographic idea: How many trees do we need to plant every year to reclaim depleting forest cover? 
  • Video idea: A look at the most diverse forest ecosystems 
  • Podcast idea: Is afforestation enough to avert climate change?  

Brand campaign that worked:  

This ad by Unilever shows us the fictional story of a tree that makes its way from the forest to the city because it realizes that it’s safer there. 

World Water Day – 22 March 

This day aims to promote judicious use of water and to create awareness about its importance. 

Content marketing ideas:     

  • Listicle idea: Innovative ideas to conserve water in your daily life  
  • Infographic idea: X Easy ways to reuse waste water from your RO system 
  • Video idea: How certain industries are extending the life cycle of water 
  • Podcast idea: Can affordable desalination eradicate water shortage?  

Brand campaign that worked:  

This ad by M-seal shoes how the actions of a small boy to fix a leaking tap makes an impact on others and makes them rethink their own water consumption. 

World Meteorological Day – 23 March 

This day marks the anniversary of the establishment of World Meteorological Day and its contribution towards ensuring the safety and well-being of society. 

Content marketing ideas:     

  • Listicle idea: All you need to know about making a career as a meteorologist 
  • Infographic idea: X Things that should be a part of a disaster management kit 
  • Video idea: Do you know how weather forecasts are made? 
  • Podcast idea: Encouraging and supporting the youth climate movement 

World Tuberculosis Day – 24 March 

This day aims to raise awareness about the global epidemic of tuberculosis (TB), and its prevention, treatment, and after-effects. 

Content marketing ideas:     

  • Listicle idea: Dos and don’ts while recovering from TB 
  • Infographic idea: Are you at risk of contracting TB? 
  • Video idea: What are the different stages of TB? 
  • Podcast idea: How do you differentiate between TB and COVID-19? 

Brand campaign that worked:  

This PSA ad featuring Amitabh Bachchan tells us that it’s important to take even a simple cough seriously if it has been going on for a while, because it could be one of the signs of the deadly TB. 

International Day for the Right to the Truth concerning Gross Human Rights Violations and for the Dignity of Victims – 24 March 

Content marketing ideas:     

  • Listicle idea: X Everyday items of torture you had no idea about 
  • Infographic idea: Which countries have the most prisoners of war?  
  • Video idea: X Torture practices that still haven’t been outlawed 
  • Podcast idea: How can we balance justice with mercy? 

International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade – 25 March 

This day aims to increase awareness about the victims of brutal slavery and the dangers of prejudice and racism in today’s society. 

Content marketing ideas:    

  • Listicle idea: Modern ways to honor those who fought against slavery 
  • Infographic idea: X Famous descendants of slaves  
  • Video idea: What constitutes modern slavery? 
  • Podcast idea: Tracing the descendants of Indian slaves across the world 

International Day of Solidarity with Detained and Missing Staff Members – 25 March 

This day applauds the work of UN staff and peacekeepers, and commemorates those who lost their lives while working towards global peace. 

Content marketing ideas:     

  • Listicle idea: Courses you can take if you wish to work at the UN 
  • Infographic idea: What are the most dangerous zones for UN members to work in? 
  • Video idea: What are the different branches of the UN? 
  • Podcast idea: Steps to take for your safety when you are in a dangerous zone 

Earth Hour – 27 March 

Content marketing ideas:     

  • Listicle idea: X Resolutions to take with your family this Earth Hour 
  • Infographic idea: Here’s how the world has changed since the 1980s 
  • Video idea: A look at earth from space during Earth Hour 
  • Podcast idea: How does turning lights off for an hour help the planet? 

Brand campaign that worked:  

This official video by Earth Hour takes us around the world with people who explain why it is so impactful. 

Fun days:  

Pi Day – 14 March 

World Sleep Day – 19 March 

World Sparrow Day – 20 March 

World Storytelling Day – 20 March 

International Day of Happiness – 20 March 

World Poetry Day – 21 March 

World Theater Day – 21 March 

Content marketing ideas:     

  • Listicle idea: X Works of powerful 20th century poetry 
  • Infographic idea: How should you choose a bed for the best sleep? 
  • Video idea: X Movies that will instantly put a smile on your face 
  • Podcast idea: What is the best storytelling method? 


International Yoga Festival – 1 March to 7 March 

Shivaratri – 11 March 

International Day of Nowruz – 21 March 

Holi – 28 March 

Gangaur – 29 March to 15 April 

Content marketing ideas:     

  • Listicle idea: X Food ideas for Shivaratri 
  • Infographic idea: X Yoga poses for beginners 
  • Video idea: X ways to create eco-friendly rangoli at home 
  • Podcast idea: Why and how is Nowruz celebrated? 


Justin Bieber – 1 March  

Mary Kom – 1 March  

Shahid Afridi – 1 March  

Dr Seuss – 2 March  

Jon Bon Jovi – 2 March  

Chris Martin – 2 March  

Daniel Craig – 2 March  

Tiger Shroff – 2 March  

Camila Cabello – 3 March  

Alexander Graham Bell – 3 March  

Shankar Mahadevan – 3 March  

Anupam Kher – 7 March  

Zakir Hussain – 9 March  

Carrie Underwood – 10 March  

Chuck Norris – 10 March  

Olivia Wilde – 10 March  

Shreya Ghoshal – 12 March  

Atif Aslam – 12 March  

Albert Einstein – 14 March  

Aamir Khan – 14 March  

Will.i.am – 15 March  

Eva Longoria – 15 March  

Alia Bhatt – 14 March  

Yo Yo Honey Singh – 15 March  

Abhay Deol – 15 March  

Alexander McQueen – 17 March  

Kalpana Chawla – 17 March  

Saina Nehwal – 17 March  

Adam Levine – 18 March  

Shashi Kapoor – 18 March  

Ronaldinho – 21 March  

Rani Mukherji – 21 March  

Shobana – 21 March  

Reese Witherspoon – 22 March  

Kangana Ranaut – 23 March  

Tommy Hilfiger – 24 March  

Elton John – 25 March  

Keira Knightley – 26 March  

Mariah Carey – 27 March  

Quentin Tarantino – 27 March  

Lady Gaga – 28 March  

Celine Dion – 30 March  

Vincent van Gogh – 30 March  

Johann Sebastian Bach – 31 March  

Content marketing ideas:     

  • Listicle idea: X Fashion trends started by Alexander McQueen 
  • Infographic idea: X Sports records broken by Ronaldinho 
  • Video idea: X Performances by Alia Bhatt that are a must-watch 
  • Podcast idea: How has Sir Elton John increased the visibility of LGBTQ+ people in the media? 

Relevant Links:

  1. https://scatter.co.in/marketing-automation-to-harmonize-cx-journeys/
  2. https://scatter.co.in/?p=10023&preview=true

Did you know…

Did you know…

… that today is the birthday of John Tyler? John Tyler, the tenth President of the United States, was born on March 29, 1790, in Greenway, Virginia. Trivia buffs: Tyler was called The Accidental President because he was the first to succeed to the office following the death of a predecessor. And he had 15 children!


Today’s Inspirational Quote:

“The people who get on in this world are the people who get up and look for the circumstances they want, and, if they can’t find them, make them.”

— George Bernard Shaw


Did you know…

… that today is National Quirky Country Music Song Titles Day? If you are listening to “Did I shave my legs for this?” or “She thinks my tractor’s sexy” right now, then you just might be celebrating this special day. Enjoy the lyrics of some country music songs with creative titles and try to make up some of your own!


Today’s Inspirational Quote:

“Life can be an ol’ briar patch, gotta dance your way through it sometimes.”

— Thomas Rhett


AsterismAST-uh-riz-əmPart of speech: nounOrigin: Greek, late 16th century
1a prominent pattern or group of stars, typically having a popular name but smaller than a constellation2A group of three asterisks (⁂) drawing attention to following text.
Examples of Asterism in a sentence “Eagle-eyed astronomers will easily be able to pick out several asterisms tonight.” “I saw a flashing light to the left of that asterism.”

The people’s ambassadress: the forgotten diplomacy of Ivy Litvinov | Aeon Essays

Eccentrics, artists and Luddites find community on a remote Scottish peninsula | Aeon Videos

Seasoned Quotable quote by Daily PNUTS newsletter – What is War?

“War is merely the continuation of politics by other means”

“No one starts a war–or rather, no one in his sense ought to do so–without first being clear in his mind what he intends to achieve by the war and how he intends to conduct it.”

– Carl Von Clausewitz

W.O.T.D .


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

1a prominent pattern or group of stars, typically having a popular name but smaller than a constellation
2A group of three asterisks (⁂) drawing attention to following text.
Examples of Asterism in a sentence 
“Eagle-eyed astronomers will easily be able to pick out several asterisms tonight.” “I saw a flashing light to the left of that asterism.”

Did you know…

Did you know…

… that today is National Black Forest Cake Day? Layers of chocolate cake, with whipped cream and cherries between each layer… Seriously, what’s not to love!? Trivia fans: The record for the world’s largest authentic black forest cake, weighing over 6,600 pounds, was set at Europa Park, Germany on July 16, 2006, by K&D Bakery. Yum!


Today’s Inspirational Quote:

“You look in the mirror and sometimes see a mess of a human being. But you don’t see the lives you’ve touched, or the people you’ve saved. You don’t see all the love you’ve given freely, or the extraordinary memories you’ve made. You are a book of beautiful moments and feelings.”

— Author Unknown

via Seth Godin’s Newsletter

* Celebrity Art (priceless/worthless) [ https://feeds.feedblitz.com/~/647816932/0/sethsblog/posts~Celebrity-Art-pricelessworthless/ ]

Why are some paintings so valuable?

Works by Rothko or Matisse are worth millions. The Mona Lisa is truly priceless.

There are four reasons, all working together, all quite relevant today as we remake our culture around digital goods:

Beauty/decoration. Since before the 20,000 year old cave paintings in France, we’ve been putting things on our walls. Things that are beautiful, or remind us of important stories, or simply our humanity. It happens regardless of income or culture.

Status/scarcity. When gold became revered for its scarcity, it began to show up in the decorations of households that aspired to be seen as high status. The same happened with spiritual relics and items from antiquity. A decoration that is scarce and in demand acquires a sort of cultural beauty that some people seek out.

The printing press. Until 500 years ago, no given painting (or tapestry) was seen by many people. And then, quite suddenly, images began to spread. Durer sold many thousands of the eight editions of his woodcut, and it was one of the first famous pieces of art. And the Mona Lisa? It’s so valuable because it was stolen just as newspapers (in color!) were becoming widespread. Her face was on the front page of newspapers around the world, ensuring her celebrity for generations.

While the fame and cultural currency that the printing press created was a boon for artists, art collectors and dealers, it was also a huge problem. If a print could be had for a few dollars, what good is the original? How to satisfy those that sought status from the decoration on their walls?

First and best version. And thus the last pillar. An original oil painting is truly different from a signed print, which is different from the mass market poster. People wait in line to see a famous painting. They gasp in its presence. They take selfies with it, and it elevates the way they feel about themselves and the world.

Museums exist to show us what we all own, our shared cultural heritage, the output of our culture in the form of original work created by artists with something to say.

I’ve sat in the Art Institute for hours, simply breathing the same air as a Magritte. I grew up at the Albright Knox in Buffalo, with the DeBuffet’s, the O’Keefe’s and the Still’s. The Marisol is an old friend. They were worth the trip.

There used to be museums that forbid people from taking photographs. Over time, they’ve come to realize that this is foolish, because sharing the photographs don’t take anything away from the value of the painting, they add to it (though the sometimes annoying act of the person with a flash or a shutter click is a different story).

The top of the painting market is 50 billion dollars or more a year. Wealthy people and institutions trading scarce originals, and sometimes, perhaps, exhibiting them, for the public or for people who come over for dinner. When there’s a huge signed Jill Greenberg on the other side of the dining room table from you, it’s unforgettable.

But now, we’ve taken the printing press to a whole new level. That has made some existing paintings more famous than ever. But it has also created a billion images that were never paintings in the first place.

There are millions of painters who aspire to be at the most expensive tier of working artist creating for the auction houses and collectors, but very few achieve this goal every year. And there are countless collectors who buy paintings hoping that there value will soar, but most fail to succeed.

The art market has shifted from something that supports art to something that is mostly a market. Some collectors bought art they didn’t like, simply because they were persuaded that the system would make it increase in value or that their perception of status was so shaky that they needed the next big thing. Some painters were pushed to create painting that would go up in value instead of work they believed in. Museums ended up with tens of thousands of paintings in storage. Wealthy collectors put priceless paintings into tax-free havens, simply as a hedge, not for any of the emotions that painting originally set out to produce.

And now, if you’re a fine artist, hoping to make a living selling canvases for far more than they cost to produce, beauty is insufficient. The market for this sort of status is demanding curation and approval and yes, celebrity.

And if you’re a cyber-person, intent on pushing NFTs (the abbreviation for Non-Fungible Token, unhelpful shorthand for ‘an unduplicatable digital code that’s easy to trade and speculate on’) then it’s worth noting:

Digital tokens aren’t beautiful.

Digital tokens will never make someone gasp.

No one wants to see your hard drive.

It’s quite difficult to display the status or beauty of something that isn’t connected to 20,000 years of cultural expectations, institutional embrace and design evolution. And if you can’t display your status or enjoy the beauty, then it’s simply a speculative trade.

People buy and trade stocks in order to make a profit. Most of them are largely indifferent to what the stock certificate looks like.

I think we’re always going to be hooked on status, and we’re always going to seek beauty. I’m not sure, though, that just because we can marketize and digitize something that it will inherit so many of the cultural tropes that are at the core of the human experience.

Nettle Tea in a Kettle

The Nettle And Brittle Kettle

A Poem by jay

Whose Kettle is that? I think I know.
Its owner is quite angry though.
She was cross like a dark potato.
I watch her pace. I cry hello.

She gives her Kettle a shake,
And screams I’ve made a bad mistake.
The only other sound’s the break,
Of distant waves and birds awake.

The Kettle is Nettle, Brittle and deep,
But she has promises to keep,
Tormented with nightmares she never sleeps.
Revenge is a promise a girl should keep.

She rises from her cursed bed,
With thoughts of violence in her head,
A flash of rage and she sees red.
Without a pause I turned and fled.

With thanks to the poet, Robert Frost, for the underlying structure.

BrainPickings.org newsletter

This is the weekly email digest of the daily online journal Brain Pickings by Maria Popova. If you missed last week’s edition — Alan Watts on love, the essence of freedom, and the antidote to fear; Eula Biss on immunity, sanity, and health as communal trust; Newton and trees — you can catch up right here. If my labor of love enriches your life in any way, please consider supporting it with a donation – for a decade and a half, I have spent tens of thousands of hours, made many personal sacrifices, and invested tremendous resources in Brain Pickings, which remains free and ad-free and alive thanks to reader patronage. If you already donate: THANK YOU.

Of Trees, Tenderness, and the Moon: Hasui Kawase’s Stunning Japanese Woodblock Prints from the 1920s-1950s

“After you have exhausted what there is in business, politics, conviviality, love, and so on — have found that none of these finally satisfy, or permanently wear — what remains?” the aging Walt Whitman asked in his diary as he contemplated what makes life worth living while recovering from a paralytic stroke, then answered: “Nature remains… the trees, fields, the changes of seasons — the sun by day and the stars of heaven by night.”

A century after Whitman’s birth, on the other side of a globe newly disillusioned with its own humanity after the First World War, a young Japanese man was embarking on a life of celebrating the inexhaustible consolations of nature in uncommonly poetic visual art.hasuikawase2.jpg?resize=680%2C1025

Moon at Magome, 1930. (Available as a print.)

Born into a Tokyo family of rope and thread merchants, Hasui Kawase (May 18, 1883–November 7, 1957) grew up dreaming of becoming an artist. His parents pressed him to continue in their path, but he persisted in following his own, drawing quiet inspiration from the example of his maternal uncle — the creator of the first manga magazine.

He did take over the family business, but he was moonlighting in art while running it — sketching from nature, copying one master’s woodblock prints, learning brush painting from another.hasuikawase5.jpg?resize=680%2C454

Sunset at Ichinokura, 1928. (Available as a print.)

When the business went bankrupt in the early twentieth century, the twenty-six-year-old Kawase devoted himself wholly to art, applying to apprentice with one of the great masters of transitional Japanese woodblock printing. The master rejected him, encouraging him to broaden his sensibility and to develop his style by studying Western painting first. The young man obliged.

Two years later, he applied again.

The master accepted him, conferring upon him the lyrical name Hasui — an ideogram of his family name fused with the name of his boyhood school, most closely translated translated as “water springing from the source.”hasuikawase1.jpg?resize=680%2C1014

Spring Moon at Ninomiya Beach, 1931. (Available as a print.)

Hasui was thirty-five — the age Whitman was when he staggered the world with his Leaves of Grass — when he made his artistic debut with a series of experimental woodblock prints, depicting the mostly empty streets of Tokyo and the unpeopled landscapes of the countryside.

As he began his next series, nature and night beckoned to him more and more .hasuikawase9.jpg?resize=680%2C1056

Moon Over Akebi Bridge, 1935. (Available as a print.)

And then, on an otherwise ordinary Saturday the autumn after his fortieth birthday, the convergence boundary between two tectonic plates deep in the body of the Earth ruptured, unleashing the Great Kantō earthquake of 1923. It leveled his workshop, destroying the finished woodblocks and fomenting in him an even more intimate sense of the sublimity of nature.hasuikawase_rainbow.jpg?resize=680%2C453

Autumn Rainbow at Hatta, Kaga, 1924. (Available as a print.)

Over the next thirty-five years, Hasui became a master of shin hanga — the “new prints” movement fusing traditional Japanese art, the art of shadows, with the Western aesthetics of light and the European novelty of perspective. He went on to create several hundred consummate woodblock prints, watercolors, oil paintings, and hanging scrolls, animated by a tender reverence for the beauty and majesty of nature. One hundred of them are collected in the lavish annotated volume Visions of Japan: Kawase Hasui’s Masterpieces (public library).

Hasui captured the enchantment of snowfall with especial loveliness, his intricate lines challenging the artisans he employed in carving his woodblock designs to rise to new levels of craftsmanship.hasuikawase_snow.jpg?resize=680%2C904

Snow on Lake, 1922. (Available as a print.)

But among all of nature’s beauties, nothing inspired him more than trees — those eternal muses of scientistsartistsphilosophers, and poets alike — and what Margaret Fuller so unforgettably called “that best fact, the Moon.”hasuikawase3.jpg?resize=680%2C1005

Winter Moon at Toyamagahara, 1931. (Available as a print.)hasuikawase8.jpg?resize=680%2C1005

Spring Night at Inokashira, 1931. (Available as a print.)

In landscape after landscape, the majestic silhouettes of the matsu (Japan’s iconic pine trees, symbols of fortitude and courage) and the sugi (the enormous old-growth cedars, symbols of power and longevity) reach into the noctrune toward the crescent and lean into the gloaming hour, backlit by the full Moon.hasuikawase4.jpg?resize=680%2C1002

Crescent Moon and Tea Houses, Kanazawa, 1920s. (Available as a print.)hasuikawase7.jpg?resize=680%2C1020

Hikawa Park in Omiya, 1930. (Available as a print.)hasuikawase6.jpg?resize=680%2C1003

Moon over Arakawa River, 1929. (Available as a print.)

In the final year of his life, the Japanese government classified Hasui as a Living National Treasure. Comparable to the American National Medal of Arts and Humanities, Japan’s highest civilian honor is bestowed upon those whose life’s work renders them, in what may be the most poetic government certification in any language, “Preservers of Important Intangible Cultural Properties.”hasuikawase_11.jpg?resize=680%2C455

Kankai Pavilion at Wakaura Beach, 1950. (Available as a print.)

Complement with Japanese-American artist Chiura Obata’s stunning paintings of Yosemite from the same era, then revisit a very different take on tree silhouettes from Hasui’s American contemporary Art Young.

donating=lovingFor 15 years, I have been spending hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars each month to keep Brain Pickings going. It has remained free and ad-free and alive thanks to patronage from readers. I have no staff, no interns, no assistant — a thoroughly one-woman labor of love that is also my life and my livelihood. If this labor makes your life more livable in any way, please consider aiding its sustenance with a donation. Your support makes all the difference.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: 197usDS6AsL9wDKxtGM6xaWjmR5ejgqem7

Secrets from the Center of the World: Poet Joy Harjo’s Reflections on Science and Meaning in Response to an Astronomer’s Otherworldly Photographs of Earth


“Place and a mind may interpenetrate till the nature of both is altered,” the trailblazing Scottish mountaineer and poet Nan Shepherd wrote into the void of self-elected obscurity decades before her work was posthumously rediscovered as a rare masterpiece of landscape poetics irradiated by the human search for meaning. A generation later, another trailblazing woman of uncommon poetic sensibility and intimate relationship to the land echoed the sentiment in her own art, into her native canyons of the American Southwest: “It’s true that landscape forms the mind. If I stand here long enough I’ll learn how to sing.”

In 1989, long before she became Poet Laureate of the United States, Joy Harjo entwined visions with the astronomer and photographer Stephen Strom in Secrets from the Center of the World (public library) — a slender, splendid installment in the University of Arizona’s wonderful Sun Tracks series, celebrating Native American literary art long before Native representation rose to the fore of the American mainstream, long before the English language awakened to how deeply its etymological reliance on the Earth permeates words as mundane as mainstream.

Emerging from the lovely call-and-response between Strom’s photographs and Harjo’s short lyrical reflection is a subtle meditation on the interpenetration of place and mind, of landscape and the human spirit. Contemplating the ochre canyons and the golden valleys, the pleated sierras and the billowing mudhills, the frosty branches of the winter trees and the summer-blazed strata of sandstone, she unfolds the origami of deep time into a note some ghost-mother left for her ghost-child long ago on the edge of the kitchen table, on the edge of the world, inscribed with the meaning of being human.BluffHogan.jpg?resize=600%2C600

Abandoned hogan south of Bluff, UT by Stephen Strom

2e292385-dc1c-4cfe-b95e-845f6f98c2ec.pngThis land is a poem of ochre and burnt sand I could never write, unless paper were the sacrament of sky, and ink the broken line of wild horses staggering the horizon several miles away. Even then, does anything written ever matter to the earth, wind, and sky?


Mudhills, Beautiful Valley by Stephen Strom

2e292385-dc1c-4cfe-b95e-845f6f98c2ec.pngIf all events are related, then what story does a volcano erupting in Hawaii, the birth of a woman’s second son near Gallup, and this shoulderbone of earth made of a mythic monster’s anger construct? Nearby a meteor crashes. Someone invents aerodynamics, makes wings. The answer is like rushing wind: simple faith.

Strom — who received his doctoral degree from Harvard, studied the formation of star and planetary systems at the National Optical Astronomy Observatory, taught astronomy in Emily Dickinson’s hometown for a decade and a half, and spent three decades photographing the Southwest — renders Earth otherworldly in his photographs, spare and solitary, edged in by invisible implied horizons, the way the desert implies life, the way poetry makes life visible. Revealing the fractal patterning of nature, his subtle geometries of shape and color reach beyond the three spatial dimensions to intimate the dimension of time.BurnhamMudhills.jpg?resize=600%2C600

Near Burnham, Bisti Badlands by Stephen Strom

2e292385-dc1c-4cfe-b95e-845f6f98c2ec.pngThese smoky bluffs are old traveling companions, making their way through millennia. Ask them if you want to know about the true meaning of history. You’ll have to offer them something more than one good story, and need to understand the patience of stones.

Harjo — a member of the Creek Nation — meets the cosmological sensibility of the photographs with a private cosmogony drawn from that ancient human impulse to locate ourselves in relation to the universe, to make meaning in the sliver of spacetime on which chance has perched us to live out our lives between the scale of protozoa and the scale of galaxies. She envelops each photograph in a short prose-poem that takes the image as its origin point of contemplation, then radiates centrifugally into a miniature universe of metaphor and meaning-making — the mark of all great poetry.NearRoundRock.jpg?resize=600%2C600

Desert Floor near Round Rock, AZ by Stephen Strom

2e292385-dc1c-4cfe-b95e-845f6f98c2ec.pngNear Round Rock is a point of balance between two red stars. Here you may enter galactic memory, disguised as a whirlpool of sand, and discover you are pure event mixed with water, occurring in time and space, as sheep, a few goats, graze, keep watch nearby.


Junction Overlook, Canyon de Chelly by Stephen Strom

2e292385-dc1c-4cfe-b95e-845f6f98c2ec.pngMy house is the red earth; it could be the center of the world. I’ve heard New York, Paris, or Tokyo called the center of the world, but I say it is magnificently humble. You could drive by and miss it. Radio waves can obscure it. Words cannot construct it, for there are some sounds left to sacred wordless form. For instance, that fool crow, picking through trash near the corral, understands the center of the world as greasy strips of fat. Just ask him. He doesn’t have to say that the earth has turned scarlet through fierce belief, after centuries of heartbreak and laughter — he perches on the blue bowl of the sky, and laughs.


Overlook, evening, Bluff, UT by Stephen Strom

2e292385-dc1c-4cfe-b95e-845f6f98c2ec.pngThis earth has dreamed me to stand on the rise of this highway, to admire who she has become.


Desert floor near Shiprock, NM by Stephen Strom

2e292385-dc1c-4cfe-b95e-845f6f98c2ec.pngMy cheek is flat against memory described by stone and lichen. The center of the world is within reach. It is as familiar as your name, as strange as monsters in your sleep.

Harjo looks at the Moon and sees “an ancient mountain lion who shifts his bones on a starry branch,” looks at the branches of the tamaracks and sees crows “leaning over the edge of the world, tasting the wind blown up from a pool of newly born planets,” looks at the land and sees its elemental poetry, sees how it humbles her own art, her own existence, every human existence and all of our art.GanadotoChinleWinter.jpg?resize=600%2C600

East of Nazlini, going up toward Fort Defiance Plateau, winter by Stephen Strom

2e292385-dc1c-4cfe-b95e-845f6f98c2ec.pngIn winter it is easier to see what my death might look like, over there, disappearing into the misty, spotted rocks.


Mudhills near Nazlini by Stephen Strom

2e292385-dc1c-4cfe-b95e-845f6f98c2ec.pngI can hear the sizzle of newborn stars, and know anything of meaning, of the fierce magic emerging here. I am witness to flexible eternity, the evolving past, and I know we will live forever, as dust or breath in the face of stars, in the shifting pattern of winds.

Complement Secrets from the Center of the World with poet Mark Strand’s kindred collaboration with painter Wendy Mark around the landscape of the sky, 89 Clouds, then revisit painter, poet, and philosopher Etel Adnan’s Journey to Mount Tamalpais — her stunning landscape-lensed meditation on time, self, impermanence, and transcendence.


Our Greatest Misunderstanding About Love: Philosopher-Psychiatrist Esther Perel on Modern Loneliness as Ambiguous Loss and the Essential Elements of Healthy Relationships

In his revelatory 1956 classic The Art of Loving, the humanistic philosopher and psychologist Erich Fromm (March 23, 1900–March 18, 1980) dared defy millennia of cultural distortion, setting out to heal our most damaging inheritance from the Romantics and to correct Freud’s limited, limiting theories with a new lens on love, radical and realistic: For centuries, our culture conditioned us to “see the problem of love primarily as that of being loved, rather than that of loving,” which in turn conditioned us to believe that the hardest thing about love is finding the right person to love us, but once we do, love is easy.artyoung_treesatnight6.jpg?resize=680%2C1061

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

Fromm inverted this equation.

Drawing on his work with patients and on emerging ideas in humanistic philosophy that had only just begun revising the old narratives of religion and Romanticism, he observed that the key to love is to treat it not as a noun — a state to be found and possessed — but as a verb — a practice to be mastered. The difficult work is the mastering, which then confers ease upon love between those who have done this work — the work which Rilke well knew “is perhaps the most difficult of all our tasks… the work for which all other work is but preparation.”margaretcook_leavesofgrass10.jpg?resize=680%2C899

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

An inheritor to Fromm’s work born a century after the publication his masterpiece, the Belgian-American philosopher-psychotherapist Esther Perel — author of the modern classic Mating in Captivity, creator of the insightful and pleasantly disquieting Where Should We Begin? “podcast for anyone who has ever loved” — picks up where Fromm left off in this lovely animated adaptation of her On Being interview, exploring the essential elements of love as a practice, the delicate relationship between play and risk, the cyclical nature of passion, the osmosis of desire and self-worth, and how the concept of ambiguous loss illuminates the modern experience of loneliness:


Complement with Fromm on what self-love really means, his six rules of intimate listening, and Alain de Botton on remedying our central error of logic in love, then broaden the lens with an ancient Eastern perspective in the great Zen Buddhism teacher Thich Nhat Hanh’s field guide to the skill of loving.

How psychology fills the gap from the disenchantment of the world | Aeon Essays


NodusNO-dəsPart of speech: nounOrigin: Late Middle English, late 14th century
1a problem, difficulty, or complication
Examples of Nodus in a sentence “The team hadn’t expected to encounter a nodus this early into the project.” “Despite the nodus of the car not starting, they both managed to get to work on time.”


Did you know…

… that today is Make Up Your Own Holiday Day? Let your imagination run wild and create your own holiday! Be inventive; celebrate your favorite food, your favorite person, your favorite hobby, your favorite anything. Enjoy your new holiaday!


Today’s Inspirational Quote:

“I don’t need a friend who changes when I change and who nods when I nod; my shadow does that much better.”

— Plutarch


Coevalkoh-EE-vəlPart of speech: adjectiveOrigin: Latin, early 17th century
1a person of roughly the same age as oneself; a contemporary
Examples of Coeval in a sentence “It was hard to believe that level-headed Margaret is a coeval to those wild children.” “Only your coevals would understand that pop culture reference.”

Wisdom Quotes

The more you know the more there is to enjoy.
The larger the island of knowledge, the longer the shoreline of wonder. (Ralph W. Sockman)
Don’t try to be better than everyone else, be better than you were yesterday.
I don’t believe you have to be better than everybody else. I believe you have to be better than you ever thought you could be. (Ken Venturi)


Unless you can walk on water it’ll take more to cross an ocean than walking on your feet.
You can’t cross the sea merely by standing and staring at the water. (Rabindranath Tagore)
Be happy and those around you will be happier for it.
Whoever is happy will make others happy too. (Anne Frank)

Marshall Goldsmith Newsletter


My mission is simple. I want to help successful people achieve positive, lasting change in behavior; for themselves, their people, and their teams. I want to help you make your life a little better. Thank you for subscribing! Life is good.

The Secret to Becoming the Person You Want to Be
These are the choices. Some are more dynamic, glamorous, and fun than others, but they’re equal in importance. And three of them are more labor-intensive than we imagine.

Marshall Goldsmith
Mar 25

For many of us, change is impossible because we are so optimistic (and delusional) that we try to change everything at once. We quickly overwhelm ourselves with becoming the “new Me”, and when it doesn’t happen as quickly as we’d like, people don’t notice that we’ve made a change, or some obstacle presents itself, we give up.
Discouraged by our failure, overwhelmed and disheartened, it’s hard to commit to change again. So, we become geniuses at coming up with reasons to avoid change. We make excuses. We rationalize. We harbor beliefs that trigger all manner of denial and resistance—and we end up changing nothing. Ever. We fail to become the person we want to be.
So, seeing our frailties in the face of behavioral change what do we do?
For many years now, I’ve been using “The Wheel of Change” to help clients decide what to change and where to put their efforts. I’ve taken teams, organizations, friends, and peers through this process, and I’ve even use it myself. It is one of the most helpful tools for behavioral change that I’ve ever found.
The Wheel of Change illustrates the interchange of two dimensions that we need to sort out before we can become the person we want to be.

The positive to negative axis tracks the elements that either help us or hold us back. The change to keep axis tracks the elements that we determine to change or keep in the future. Thus, in pursuing any behavioral change we have four options: change or keep the positive elements, change or keep the negative.
Here’s a brief description of each of these options.
1. Creating represents the positive elements that we want to create in our future. Creating is the glamorous poster child of behavioral change. When we imagine ourselves behaving better, we think of it as an exciting process of self-invention. We’re creating a “new me.” It’s appealing and seductive. We can be anyone we choose to be. The challenge is to do it by choice, not as a bystander. Are we creating ourselves, or wasting the opportunity and being created by external forces instead?
2. Preserving represents the positive elements that we want to keep in the future. Preserving sounds passive and mundane, but it’s a real choice. It requires soul-searching to figure out what serves us well, and discipline to refrain from abandoning it for something new and shiny and not necessarily better. We don’t practice preserving enough.
3. Eliminating represents the negative elements that we want to eliminate in the future. Eliminating is our most liberating, therapeutic action—but we make it reluctantly. Like cleaning out an attic or garage, we never know if we’ll regret jettisoning a part of us. Maybe we’ll need it in the future. Maybe it’s the secret of our success. Maybe we like it too much.
4. Accepting represents the negative elements that we need to accept in the future. Most of us tend to commit to the other three four elements in the wheel of change with greater enthusiasm—creating is innovating and exciting, preserving makes sense as we focus on not losing sight of the good things about ourselves, eliminating appeals to the “do-or-die” element of our natures as we commit to stop doing things that no longer serve us, but accepting is a more difficult pill to swallow. Acceptance is an odd player in the process of change—it feels like admitting defeat, it’s equated by many to acquiescence. Acceptance is incredibly valuable when we are powerless to make a difference. Yet our ineffectuality is precisely the condition that we are most loath to accept. This truth triggers our finest moments of counterproductive behavior.
These are the choices. Some are more dynamic, glamorous, and fun than others, but they’re equal in importance. And three of them are more labor-intensive than we imagine.
And, that’s the simple beauty of the wheel. When we bluntly challenge ourselves to figure out what we can change and what we can’t, what to lose and what to keep, we often surprise ourselves with the bold simplicity of our answers and can thus take significant, real steps towards becoming the person we really want to be.
Thank you for reading! I hope this is helpful to you and those around you.
Life is good. Marshall.


SheepshankSHEEP-shangkPart of speech: nounOrigin: Unknown, mid 17th century
1a kind of knot used to shorten a rope temporarily
Examples of Sheepshank in a sentence “Killian was glad he remembered a few knots, like a sheepshank, from his Boy Scout days.” “The sailor quickly tied some sheepshanks to keep the rope out of the way.”

JAMES CLEAR Newsletter

3-2-1 Newsletter by James Clear“The most wisdom per word of any newsletter on the web.”

3-2-1: On obsessing over details, how to elicit feedback, and seeking what is significant

read onJAMESCLEAR.COM | MARCH 25, 2021

Happy 3-2-1 Thursday,

Here are 3 ideas, 2 quotes, and 1 question to consider for the week…

3 Ideas From Me


“Italy is known for tomatoes. Thailand for chilies. Germany for sauerkraut.

But tomatoes originated in Peru. Thailand imported chilies from Central America. Sauerkraut started in China.

Everything is a remix—and the world is better for it. Share what you know. Learn from others.”


A reminder from Atomic Habits:

“Habits are the compound interest of self-improvement.

A small habit—when repeated consistently—grows into something significant.”

(Share this on Twitter)​


“People who excel tend to obsess over the details.

People who struggle also tend to obsess over the details.

The difference is what details they focus on. Minutiae vs polish.

Most things don’t matter—but when it does, you want to get the details right.”

(Share this on Twitter)​

2 Quotes From Others


Psychologist Adam Grant on how to elicit feedback:

“When people hesitate to give honest feedback on an idea, draft, or performance, I ask for a 0-10 score.

No one ever says 10. Then I ask how I can get closer to a 10.

It motivates them to start coaching me – and motivates me to be coachable. I want to learn how to close the gap.”

Source: Twitter


Linguist and philosopher Noam Chomsky on seeking what is significant:

“You can’t expect somebody to become a biologist by giving them access to the Harvard University biology library and saying, “Just look through it.” That will give them nothing. The internet is the same, except magnified enormously.

The person who wins the Nobel Prize in biology is not the person who read the most journal articles and took the most notes on them. It’s the person who knew what to look for.

Cultivating that capacity to seek what’s significant, always willing to question whether you’re on the right track, that’s what education is going to be about, whether it’s using computers and internet, or pencil and paper and books.”

Source: The Purpose of Education (hat tip to Bret Victor)

1 Question For You

Does the amount of attention I’m giving this match its importance?

If you enjoyed that, please share with others.

Share this newsletter on TwitterFacebookLinkedInWhatsApp, or via email.

Did you know…

Did you know…

… that today is International Waffle Day? A day celebrating eating waffles is our kind of holiday! Originally celebrated in Sweden (thank you!), the world now embraces International Waffle Day. Trivia fans: The Pilgrims brought the first waffles to America and Thomas Jefferson came back from France with the first waffle irons. Now go out and enjoy some waffles!


Today’s Inspirational Quote:

“It is the possibility that keeps me going, and though you may call me a dreamer or a fool or any other thing, I believe that anything is possible.”

— Nicholas Sparks

Wisdom Quotes

Old is whatever’s a decade older than I am.
I will never be an old man. To me, old age is always 15 years older than I am. (Francis Bacon)
Nobody is born with wisdom, but only those who seek it will find it.
We are all born ignorant, but one must work hard to remain stupid. (Benjamin Franklin)


Did you know…

… that today is Dark Side of the Moon Day? On this day in 1973, Pink Floyd released Dark Side of the Moon in the U.K. They had released the album a week earlier in the United States on March 17. Since then there have been between 50 and 70 million copies sold!


Today’s Inspirational Quote:

“The most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion that stands at the cradle of true art and true science.”

— Albert Einstein


LeitmotifLAYT-mo-teefPart of speech: nounOrigin: German, late 19th century
1a recurrent theme throughout a musical or literary composition, associated with a particular person, idea, or situation
Examples of Leitmotif in a sentence “Alexander Hamilton’s life and philosophical outlook is the leitmotif of this particular musical.” “The writers revisited the leitmotif of wealth leading to corruption as the play progressed.”

This day applauds the work of UN staff and peacekeepers, and commemorates those who lost their lives while working towards global peace. 

Content marketing ideas:     

  • Listicle idea: Courses you can take if you wish to work at the UN 
  • Infographic idea: What are the most dangerous zones for UN members to work in? 
  • Video idea: What are the different branches of the UN? 
  • Podcast idea: Steps to take for your safety when you are in a dangerous zone 

Earth Hour – 27 March 

Content marketing ideas:     

  • Listicle idea: X Resolutions to take with your family this Earth Hour 
  • Infographic idea: Here’s how the world has changed since the 1980s 
  • Video idea: A look at earth from space during Earth Hour 
  • Podcast idea: How does turning lights off for an hour help the planet? 

EU, US, Canada, and UK sanction Chinese officials for human rights violations in Xinjiang – ICIJ

Suicide in Medieval England was not simply a crime or sin | Psyche Ideas

The sprawling, stinking marvels of a natural history museum’s specimens | Aeon Videos

Seasoned Nuts Quotable via PNUTs Newsletter

“All obstructions to the execution of the laws, all combinations and associations, under whatever plausible character, with the real design to direct, control, counteract, or awe the regular deliberation and action of the constituted authorities, are destructive of this fundamental principle, and of fatal tendency. They serve to organize faction, to give it an artificial and extraordinary force; to put, in the place of the delegated will of the nation the will of a party, often a small but artful and enterprising minority of the community; and, according to the alternate triumphs of different parties, to make the public administration the mirror of the ill-concerted and incongruous projects of faction, rather than the organ of consistent and wholesome plans digested by common counsels and modified by mutual interests.” ― George Washington, on how political parties might abuse US government systems for their own advantage.


Even the path of ten thousand miles begins with a single step.
The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step. (Lao Tzu)
Don’t wait for the perfect moment to strike, strike in the current moment and make it perfect.
Do not wait to strike till the iron is hot; but make it hot by striking. (William Butler Yeats)


LagomorphLA-gə-morfPart of speech: nounOrigin: Latin, 1880s
1a mammal of the order Lagomorpha; a hare, rabbit, or pika.
Examples of Lagomorph in a sentence “The professor clarified that he only studied lagomorphs, not other rodents.” “The meadow was empty save for a lone lagomorph grazing at the edge of the woods.”

Did you know..

Did you know…

… that today is National Chip and Dip Day? Grab your favorite chips and your tastiest dip and celebrate the day!


Today’s Inspirational Quote:

“There is an eagle in me that wants to soar, and there is a hippopotamus in me that wants to wallow in the mud.”

— Carl Sandburg

24th March International Day for the Right to the Truth

International Day for the Right to the Truth concerning Gross Human Rights Violations and for the Dignity of Victims – 24 March 

Content marketing ideas:     

  • Listicle idea: X Everyday items of torture you had no idea about 
  • Infographic idea: Which countries have the most prisoners of war?  
  • Video idea: X Torture practices that still haven’t been outlawed 
  • Podcast idea: How can we balance justice with mercy? 
  • Listicle idea: Modern ways to honor those who fought against slavery 
  • Infographic idea: X Famous descendants of slaves  
  • Video idea: What constitutes modern slavery? 
  • Podcast idea: Tracing the descendants of Indian slaves across the world 

Why are NASA engineers borrowing techniques from origami artists? | Aeon Videos

Did you know…

Did you know…

… that today is As Young as You Feel Day? Let spring add a spring to your step. Start acting younger than you are because you are as young as you feel!


Today’s Inspirational Quote:

“A rose is not its thorns, a peach is not its fuzz, and a human being is not his or her crankiness.”

— Lisa Kogan

23rd March World Meteorological Day

World Meteorological Day – 23 March 

This day marks the anniversary of the establishment of World Meteorological Day and its contribution towards ensuring the safety and well-being of society. 

Content marketing ideas:     

  • Listicle idea: All you need to know about making a career as a meteorologist 
  • Infographic idea: X Things that should be a part of a disaster management kit 
  • Video idea: Do you know how weather forecasts are made? 
  • Podcast idea: Encouraging and supporting the youth climate movement 

World Tuberculosis Day – 24 March 

This day aims to raise awareness about the global epidemic of tuberculosis (TB), and its prevention, treatment, and after-effects. 

Content marketing ideas:     

  • Listicle idea: Dos and don’ts while recovering from TB 
  • Infographic idea: Are you at risk of contracting TB? 
  • Video idea: What are the different stages of TB? 
  • Podcast idea: How do you differentiate between TB and COVID-19? 

Brand campaign that worked:  

This PSA ad featuring Amitabh Bachchan tells us that it’s important to take even a simple cough seriously if it has been going on for a while, because it could be one of the signs of the deadly TB. 

Best Quotes of the Week

John Burroughs“The secret of happiness is something to do.”

via Today’s Quote https://ift.tt/2MT5Sfy March 15, 2021 at 10:57AM
via RSS Feed https://www.brainyquote.com/authors/john-burroughs-quotes
William Butler Yeats“Think where man’s glory most begins and ends, and say my glory was I had such friends.”

via Today’s Quote https://ift.tt/2qxK3s0 March 17, 2021 at 10:57AM
via RSS Feed https://www.brainyquote.com/authors/william-butler-yeats-quotes
Dwight D. Eisenhower“Peace and justice are two sides of the same coin.”

via Today’s Quote https://ift.tt/39bI523 March 18, 2021 at 10:57AM
via RSS Feed https://www.brainyquote.com/authors/dwight-d-eisenhower-quotes
Aesop“Plodding wins the race.”

via Today’s Quote https://ift.tt/2rDJrl9 March 19, 2021 at 10:57AM
via RSS Feed https://www.brainyquote.com/authors/aesop-quotes
Voltaire“To hold a pen is to be at war.”

via Today’s Quote https://ift.tt/2KXuKiP March 20, 2021 at 10:57AM
via RSS Feed https://www.brainyquote.com/authors/voltaire-quotes
Margaret Thatcher“Pennies do not come from heaven. They have to be earned here on earth.”

via Today’s Quote https://ift.tt/2o8cH1j March 21, 2021 at 10:57AM
via RSS Feed https://www.brainyquote.com/authors/margaret-thatcher-quotes


VernalVER-nlPart of speech: adjectiveOrigin: Latin, mid 16th century
1of, in, or appropriate to spring
Examples of Vernal in a sentence “Justine paused her hike to admire the vernal forest view.” “I have a particular affection for vernal flowers, especially daffodils and tulips.”

Did you know…

Did you know…

… that today is the anniversary of the Selma Freedom March? On March 21, 1965, one of the most significant civil rights marches took place as more than 3,000 civil rights demonstrators led by Martin Luther King Jr. marched from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama.


Today’s Inspirational Quote:

“Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.”

— Martin Luther King, Jr.

Thanks to BrainPickings.org newsletter

This is the weekly email digest of the daily online journal Brain Pickings by Maria Popova. If you missed last week’s edition — a visual poem inspired by trees and living with uncertainty, Krista Tippett reads Wendell Berry’s poetic antidote to despair, the forgotten visionary Dorothy Lathrop’s 100-year-old dreamscapes — you can catch up right here. If my labor of love enriches your life in any way, please consider supporting it with a donation – for a decade and a half, I have spent tens of thousands of hours, made many personal sacrifices, and invested tremendous resources in Brain Pickings, which remains free and ad-free and alive thanks to reader patronage. If you already donate: THANK YOU.

Alan Watts on Love, the Meaning of Freedom, and the Only Real Antidote to Fear


“Fearlessness is what love seeks,” Hannah Arendt wrote in her superb 1929 meditation on love and how to live with the fundamental fear of loss. “Such fearlessness exists only in the complete calm that can no longer be shaken by events expected of the future… Hence the only valid tense is the present, the Now.”

Half a century before her, Leo Tolstoy — who befriended a Buddhist monk late in life and became deeply influenced by Buddhist philosophy — echoed these ancient truths as he contemplated the paradoxical nature of love: “Future love does not exist. Love is a present activity only.”

That in love and in life, freedom from fear — like all species of freedom — is only possible within the present moment has long been a core teaching of the most ancient Eastern spiritual and philosophical traditions. It is one of the most elemental truths of existence, and one of those most difficult to put into practice as we move through our daily human lives, so habitually inclined toward the next moment and the mentally constructed universe of expected events — the parallel universe where anxiety dwells, where hope and fear for what might be eclipse what is, and where we cease to be free because we are no longer in the direct light of reality.

The relationship between freedom, fear, and love is what Alan Watts (January 6, 1915–November 16, 1973) explores in one of the most insightful chapters of The Wisdom of Insecurity: A Message for an Age of Anxiety (public library) — his altogether revelatory 1951 classic, which introduced Eastern philosophy to the West with its lucid and luminous case for how to live with presence.alanwatts.jpg?zoom=2&w=680

Alan Watts, early 1970s (Image courtesy of Everett Collection)

Drawing on his admonition against the dangers of the divided mind — the mindset that divides us into interior self-awareness and external reality, into ego and universe, which is the mindset the whole of Western culture has instilled in us — he writes:

2e292385-dc1c-4cfe-b95e-845f6f98c2ec.pngThe meaning of freedom can never be grasped by the divided mind. If I feel separate from my experience, and from the world, freedom will seem to be the extent to which I can push the world around, and fate the extent to which the world pushes me around. But to the whole mind there is no contrast of “I” and the world. There is just one process acting, and it does everything that happens. It raises my little finger and it creates earthquakes. Or, if you want to put it that way, I raise my little finger and also make earthquakes. No one fates and no one is being fated.

This model of freedom is orthogonal to our conditioned view that freedom is a matter of bending external reality to our will by the power of our choices — controlling what remains of nature once the “I” is separated out. Watts draws a subtle, crucial distinction between freedom and choice:

2e292385-dc1c-4cfe-b95e-845f6f98c2ec.pngWhat we ordinarily mean by choice is not freedom. Choices are usually decisions motivated by pleasure and pain, and the divided mind acts with the sole purpose of getting “I” into pleasure and out of pain. But the best pleasures are those for which we do not plan, and the worst part of pain is expecting it and trying to get away from it when it has come. You cannot plan to be happy. You can plan to exist, but in themselves existence and non-existence are neither pleasurable nor painful.


Art by Thomas Wright from his Original Theory or New Hypothesis of the Universe, 1750. (Available as a print and as a face mask.)

Stripped of the paraphernalia of circumstance and interpretation, our internal experience of being unfree stems from attempting impossible things — things that resist reality and refuse to accept the present moment on its own terms. Watts writes:

2e292385-dc1c-4cfe-b95e-845f6f98c2ec.pngThe sense of not being free comes from trying to do things which are impossible and even meaningless. You are not “free” to draw a square circle, to live without a head, or to stop certain reflex actions. These are not obstacles to freedom; they are the conditions of freedom. I am not free to draw a circle if perchance it should turn out to be a square circle. I am not, thank heaven, free to walk out of doors and leave my head at home. Likewise I am not free to live in any moment but this one, or to separate myself from my feelings.

Without the motive forces of pleasure and pain, it might at first appear paradoxical to make any decisions at all — a contradiction that makes it impossible to choose between options as we navigate even the most basic realities of life: Why choose to take the umbrella into the downpour, why choose to eat this piece of mango and not this piece of cardboard? But Watts observes that the only real contradiction is of our own making as we cede the present to an imagined future. More than half a century before psychologists came to study how your present self is sabotaging your future happiness, Watts offers the personal counterpart to Albert Camus’s astute political observation that “real generosity toward the future lies in giving all to the present,” and writes:

2e292385-dc1c-4cfe-b95e-845f6f98c2ec.pngI fall straight into contradiction when I try to act and decide in order to be happy, when I make “being pleased” my future goal. For the more my actions are directed towards future pleasures, the more I am incapable of enjoying any pleasures at all. For all pleasures are present, and nothing save complete awareness of the present can even begin to guarantee future happiness.


You can only live in one moment at a time, and you cannot think simultaneously about listening to the waves and whether you are enjoying listening to the waves. Contradictions of this kind are the only real types of action without freedom.


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

Only with such a recalibration of our reflexive view of freedom does James Baldwin’s insistence that “people are as free as they want to be” begin to unfold its layered meaning like a Zen koan, to be turned over in the mind until the deceptively simple shape unfolds its origami-folded scroll of deep truth.

In what may be the most elegant refutation of the particular strain of hubris that embraces determinism in order to wring from it the self-permission for living with delirious freedom from responsibility, Watts writes:

2e292385-dc1c-4cfe-b95e-845f6f98c2ec.pngThere is another theory of determinism which states that all our actions are motivated by “unconscious mental mechanisms,” and that for this reason even the most spontaneous decisions are not free. This is but another example of split-mindedness, for what is the difference between “me” and “mental mechanisms” whether conscious or unconscious? Who is being moved by these processes? The notion that anyone is being motivated comes from the persisting illusion of “I.” The real man*, the organism-in-relation-to-the-universe, is this unconscious motivation. And because he is it, he is not being moved by it.


Events look inevitable in retrospect because when they have happened, nothing can change them. Yet the fact that I can make safe bets could prove equally well that events are not determined but consistent. In other words, the universal process acts freely and spontaneously at every moment, but tends to throw out events in regular, and so predictable, sequences.

Only by such a misapprehension of freedom, Watts observes, do we ever feel unfree: When we enter a state that causes us psychological pain, our immediate impulse is to get the “I” out of the pain, which is invariably a resistance to the present moment as it is; because we cannot will a different psychological state, we reach for an easy escape: a drink, a drug, a compulsive scroll through an Instagram feed. All the ways in which we try to abate our feelings of abject loneliness and boredom and inadequacy by escaping from the present moment where they unfold are motivated by the fear that those intolerable feelings will subsume us. And yet the instant we become motivated by fear, we become unfree — we are prisoners of fear. We are only free within the bounds of the present moment, with all of its disquieting feelings, because only in that moment can they dissipate into the totality of integrated reality, leaving no divide between us as feelers and the feelings being felt, and therefore no painful contrast between preferred state and actual state. Watts writes:

2e292385-dc1c-4cfe-b95e-845f6f98c2ec.pngSo long as the mind believes in the possibility of escape from what it is at this moment, there can be no freedom.


It sounds as if it were the most abject fatalism to have to admit that I am what I am, and that no escape or division is possible. It seems that if I am afraid, then I am “stuck” with fear. But in fact I am chained to the fear only so long as I am trying to get away from it. On the other hand, when I do not try to get away I discover that there is nothing “stuck” or fixed about the reality of the moment. When I am aware of this feeling without naming it, without calling it “fear,” “bad,” “negative,” etc., it changes instantly into something else, and life moves freely ahead. The feeling no longer perpetuates itself by creating the feeler behind it.


Art by Thomas Wright from his Original Theory or New Hypothesis of the Universe, 1750. (Available as a print and as a face mask.)

To dissolve into this total reality of the moment is the crucible of freedom, which is in turn the crucible of love. In consonance with Toni Morrison’s insistence that the deepest measure of freedom is loving anything and anyone you choose to love and with that classic, exquisite Adrienne Rich sonnet line — “no one’s fated or doomed to love anyone” — Watts considers the ultimate reward of this undivided mind:

2e292385-dc1c-4cfe-b95e-845f6f98c2ec.pngThe further truth that the undivided mind is aware of experience as a unity, of the world as itself, and that the whole nature of mind and awareness is to be one with what it knows, suggests a state that would usually be called love… Love is the organizing and unifying principle which makes the world a universe and the disintegrated mass a community. It is the very essence and character of mind, and becomes manifest in action when the mind is whole… This, rather than any mere emotion, is the power and principle of free action.

Complement this fragment of the timelessly rewarding The Wisdom of Insecurity with Watts on learning not to think in terms of gain and loss and finding meaning by accepting the meaninglessness of life, then revisit Seneca on the antidote to anxiety and astronomer Rebecca Elson’s almost unbearably beautiful poem “Antidotes to Fear of Death.”

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The Herd, the Hive, and the Human Spirit: Eula Biss on Immunity, Sanity, and Health as Communal Trust


Months after Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring awakened humanity to the delicate interdependence of nature, Dr. King awakened humanity to our delicate dependence on each other. “We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality [and] whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly,” he wrote from his cell at the Birmingham City Jail.

When Robert Hooke looked at a piece of cork through an early handcrafted leather-and-gold microscope in 1665, he named the strange irregular “pores” of its honeycomb-like tissue structure cells, after the small adjacent spaces in which monks spend their voluntary solitary confinement. It would take another two centuries for scientists to discover that cells are the basic biological units of life, that they are in constant osmotic communication with one another, and that they replicate themselves to become new cells, each a whispered word from the language in which life talks to the future.RobertHooke_Micrographia_cork.jpg?resize=680%2C1007

Cork structure from Robert Hooke’s Micrographia, 1665. (Available as a print.)

Biological and social, our interdependence is a defining feature not only of our civilization, not only of our species and all living species, but of life itself — life the physiological process and life the psychosocial phenomenon. “Every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you,” Walt Whitman exulted in the golden age of chemistry — the new science he saw as “the elevating, beautiful, study… which involves the essences of creation.” Meanwhile, the development of cell theory was revolutionizing biology, making of this philosophical field as old as Aristotle an even newer science that illuminated the essence of life. Cells became to biology what atoms were to chemistry. Biology ushered in the revelation that every cell belonging to me as good — as healthy, as vital, as fit for replication — belongs to you.

That delicate interdependence of life and lives, with its tangled roots in biology and cultural history, is what Eula Biss explores in On Immunity: An Inoculation (public library) — a book of penetrating and poetic insight, drawn with that rare scholarship capable of correcting the warped cultural hindsight we call history; a book of staggering foresight, conceived in the wake of the H1N1 flu pandemic, yet speaking with astonishing prescience to the complex epidemiological realities and social dynamics of the COVID-19 pandemic unfolding more than five years after its publication.

For Biss — the daughter of a medical scientist and a poet — even her own biological inheritance as a universal donor with type O negative blood becomes a potent metaphor for the mechanism of vaccination, a lens through which to view the permeable membrane between the biological and social realities of immunity. With an eye to the blood banks that collect her donations to save other lives, she writes:

2e292385-dc1c-4cfe-b95e-845f6f98c2ec.pngIf we imagine the action of a vaccine not just in terms of how it affects a single body, but also in terms of how it affects the collective body of a community, it is fair to think of vaccination as a kind of banking of immunity. Contributions to this bank are donations to those who cannot or will not be protected by their own immunity. This is the principle of herd immunity, and it is through herd immunity that mass vaccination becomes far more effective than individual vaccination.

It is a rather unfortunate term for an unassailable scientific principle — we humans, especially in this culture of rugged individualism nursed on the Emersonian ideal of self-reliance, bristle at thinking of ourselves as members of a herd. In our long history of thinking with animals, herd animals have been the butt of our derogatory metaphors for mindless conformity.louisi_tallec00.jpg?zoom=2&w=680

Art by Olivier Tallec from Louis I, King of the Sheep

And yet inside the unfortunate linguistic container, an unfaltering biological reality resides: On large enough a scale, even a fairy ineffective vaccine that fails to produce immunity in some individuals will slow down the spread of infection in the community; as the virus fails to replicate itself in more and more new hosts, the vaccine will eventually halt it altogether. In consequence, even such a mediocre vaccine will protect all members of the community, even those for whom inoculation has not worked as intended on the individual level. This is why it is more dangerous to be the vaccinated animal amid a largely unvaccinated herd than the other way around. Biss writes:

2e292385-dc1c-4cfe-b95e-845f6f98c2ec.pngThe unvaccinated person is protected by the bodies around her, bodies through which disease is not circulating. But a vaccinated person surrounded by bodies that host disease is left vulnerable to vaccine failure or fading immunity. We are protected not so much by our own skin, but by what is beyond it. The boundaries between our bodies begin to dissolve here. Donations of blood and organs move between us, exiting one body and entering another, and so too with immunity, which is a common trust as much as it is a private account. Those of us who draw on collective immunity owe our health to our neighbors.

With an eye to the origin of herd immunity theory — a theory developed in the 1840s by a doctor treating smallpox, which has taken manyfold more human lives than any other infectious disease in the history of our species and which has since been eradicated — Biss proposes an alternative, both more poetic and more precise, to the imperfect term that so perfectly describes the biosocial reality:

2e292385-dc1c-4cfe-b95e-845f6f98c2ec.pngHerd immunity, an observable phenomenon, now seems implausible only if we think of our bodies as inherently disconnected from other bodies. Which, of course, we do.

The very expression herd immunity suggests that we are cattle, waiting, perhaps, to be sent to slaughter. And it invites an unfortunate association with the term herd mentality, a stampede toward stupidity. The herd, we assume, is foolish. Those of us who eschew the herd mentality tend to prefer a frontier mentality in which we imagine our bodies as isolated homesteads that we tend either well or badly. The health of the homestead next to ours does not affect us, this thinking suggests, so long as ours is well tended.

If we were to exchange the metaphor of the herd for a hive, perhaps the concept of shared immunity might be more appealing. Honeybees are matriarchal, environmental do-gooders who also happen to be entirely interdependent. The health of any individual bee, as we know from the recent epidemic of colony collapse, depends on the health of the hive.


Diagram of bee anatomy by French artist Paul Sougy, 1962. (Available as a print.)

Biss quotes a succinct summation by her father, a doctor:

2e292385-dc1c-4cfe-b95e-845f6f98c2ec.pngVaccination works by enlisting a majority in the protection of a minority.

No one person has done more to undermine this vital mutuality of protection than Andrew Wakefield — the British gastroenterologist who, in the 1990s, infected the hive mind with his causal claims linking vaccines and autism. Preying on the understandable human impulse toward concretizing blame for amorphous and ambiguous problems, the theory went viral before multiple subsequent studies debunked his results, before it was exposed that Wakefield was paid for his research by a lawyer readying a lawsuit against a vaccine maker, before the General Medical Council of the United Kingdom concluded its investigation with the verdict that Wakefield had been “irresponsible and dishonest” in conducting and publishing his work.

Despite the scientific and ethical denunciation of Wakefield’s study, its ideological meme had already spread beyond retrieval. (Richard Dawkins coined the word meme in 1976 by borrowing from biology — a word that came alive anew a quarter century later in the context of “viral” content on the internet, which has its own roots in epidemiology.) A quarter century later, echoes of Wakefield’s disproven falsehoods bellow with formidable vocality. That group of voices is often referred to as the anti-vaccination movement, but I find the term movement extremely ill-suited — such groupthink is not in movement but static, frozen in time and frozen with fear, petrified in the cultural amber of a time before the Age of Reason and lashed about by the same errors of magical thinking, willful blindness, and confusion of causation and correlation that made our medieval ancestors take comets for indisputable omens of future events and left-handedness for indisputable evidence of possession by the Devil.comet9.jpg?resize=680%2C798

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

Biss is more generous in her own assessment of anti-vaccination:

2e292385-dc1c-4cfe-b95e-845f6f98c2ec.pngThose who went on to use Wakefield’s inconclusive work to support the notion that vaccines cause autism are not guilty of ignorance or science denial so much as they are guilty of using weak science as it has always been used — to lend false credibility to an idea that we want to believe for other reasons.

Writing shortly after the birth of the Occupy movement — the self-described “99%” launching “an ongoing global protest of capitalism” — she considers a friend’s half-joke, half-koan about vaccination as a matter of “occupy immune system,” and reflects on the basic moral syllogism of anti-vaccination as a political stance claiming to protest the capitalist forces behind modern medicine:

2e292385-dc1c-4cfe-b95e-845f6f98c2ec.pngImmunity is a public space. And it can be occupied by those who choose not to carry immunity. For some… a refusal to vaccinate falls under a broader resistance to capitalism. But refusing immunity as a form of civil disobedience bears an unsettling resemblance to the very structure the Occupy movement seeks to disrupt — a privileged 1 percent are sheltered from risk while they draw resources from the other 99 percent.


We are justified in feeling threatened by the unlimited expansion of industry, and we are justified in fearing that our interests are secondary to corporate interests. But refusal of vaccination undermines a system that is not actually typical of capitalism. It is a system in which both the burdens and the benefits are shared across the entire population. Vaccination allows us to use the products of capitalism for purposes that are counter to the pressures of capital.


Emissary by Maria Popova

In a lovely antidote to the tragic human tendency toward cynicism — that touchingly misguided and ineffective effort at self-protection, that particularly virulent strain of cowardice to which our culture has grown increasingly hospitable as it has grown increasingly impatient with the slow and vulnerable work of nuance — Biss adds:

2e292385-dc1c-4cfe-b95e-845f6f98c2ec.pngThat so many of us find it entirely plausible that a vast network of researchers and health officials and doctors worldwide would willfully harm children for money is evidence of what capitalism is really taking from us. Capitalism has already impoverished the working people who generate wealth for others. And capitalism has already impoverished us culturally, robbing unmarketable art of its value. But when we begin to see the pressures of capitalism as innate laws of human motivation, when we begin to believe that everyone is owned, then we are truly impoverished.

Complement On Immunity — a redemptive and salutary read in its entirety — with Virginia Woolf on illness as a portal to self-understanding and Bessel van der Kolk on the science of how our minds and our bodies converge in healing, then revisit Adrienne Rich on resisting capitalism through the arts of the possible.


A Cenotaph for Newton: The Poetry of Public Spaces, the Architecture of Shadow, and How Trees Inspired the World’s First Planetarium Design


Nineteen years after the publication of Isaac Newton’s epoch-making Principia — in England, in Latin — the prodigy mathematician Émilie du Châtelet set out to translate his ideas into her native French, making them more comprehensible in the process. Her more-than-translation — which includes several of her mathematical corrections and clarifications of Newton’s imprecisions, and which remains the only comprehensive edition in French to this day — popularized his ideas in France and, from this epicenter of the Enlightenment, spread them centripetally throughout the rest of the Continent, rendering Newton himself an emblem of the Enlightenment the sweep of which he never lived to see.blake_newton.jpg?zoom=2&w=680

Newton by William Blake (Tate Britain)

Not long after Du Châtelet’s untimely death, her legacy reached one of her most gifted compatriots — the visionary architect Étienne-Louis Boullée (February 12, 1728–February 4, 1799), who fell under Newton’s spell. Determined to honor Newton with a worthy cenotaph — a memorial tomb for a person buried elsewhere — he designed a sphere 500 feet in diameter, taller than the Pyramids of Giza, nested into a colossal pedestal and encircled by hundreds of cypress trees, giving it the transfixing illusion of being both half-buried into the Earth and hovering unmoored from gravity. It was also, in essence, the world’s first domed planetarium design.boullee_newtoncenotaph7.jpg?resize=680%2C411

Image courtesy of Bibliothèque nationale de France.

The cenotaph was a touching gesture in the first place — a Frenchman honoring a genius born of and interred in England, a nation with which Boullée’s own had been in near-ceaseless war for centuries, with those tensions at an all-time high at the time of his design, thanks to the American Revolutionary War. Doubly touching was his choice of a sphere: One of Newton’s most revolutionary contributions — the mathematical inference that because gravity is weaker at the equator, the shape of the Earth must be spherical — had defied France’s greatest son, René Descartes, who maintained that the Earth was egg-shaped. When Boullée was still a boy, a young Frenchman — Émilie du Châtelet’s mathematics tutor — had joined a perilous Arctic expedition to prove Newton correct. Two centuries later, in the wake of the world’s grimmest war yet, a queer Quaker Englishman would do the same, risking his life to defend the epoch-making theory of a German Jew — the theory of relativity that ultimately subverted Newton. Another world war later, Einstein himself would appeal to what he called “the common language of science” — that truth-seeking contact with nature and reality that transcends all borders and all nationalisms, the impulse that animated Boullée’s bold homage to Newton.boullee_newtoncenotaph5.jpg?resize=680%2C655

Cenotaph side cross-section. Image courtesy of Bibliothèque nationale de France.

While governed by the credo that “our buildings — and our public buildings in particular — should be to some extent poems,” Boullée also believed that science could magnify the poetry of public spaces, which must at bottom reflect the principles of the grand designer: Nature. A century before the teenage Virginia Woolf wrote that “all the Arts… imitate as far as they can the one great truth that all can see,” Boullée insisted:

2e292385-dc1c-4cfe-b95e-845f6f98c2ec.pngNo idea exists that does not derive from nature… It is impossible to create architectural imagery without a profound knowledge of nature: the Poetry of architecture lies in natural effects. That is what makes architecture an art and that art sublime.

Architecture in the modern sense was then a young art, because the art-science of perspective was so novel. Newton’s optics, derived directly from the laws of nature, had revolutionized it all. Boullée came to define architecture as “the art of creating perspectives by the arrangement of volumes,” but a highly poetic art:

2e292385-dc1c-4cfe-b95e-845f6f98c2ec.pngThe real talent of an architect lies in incorporating in his work the sublime attraction of Poetry.

The poetry of architecture, he argued, resides in using perspective and light in such a way that “our senses are reminded of nature.” He interpreted the laws of nature, as clarified by Newton’s optics and mathematics, to intimate that no shape embodies this serenade to the senses with greater power and precision than the sphere:

2e292385-dc1c-4cfe-b95e-845f6f98c2ec.pngA sphere is, in all respects, the image of perfection. It combines strict symmetry with the most perfect regularity and the greatest possible variety; its form is developed to the fullest extent and is the simplest that exists; its shape is outlined by the most agreeable contour and, finally, the light effects that it produces are so beautifully graduated that they could not possibly be softer, more agreeable or more varied. These unique advantages, which the sphere derives from nature, have an immeasurable hold over our senses.


Image courtesy of Bibliothèque nationale de France.

And so Boullée predicated his cenotaph for Newton on an enormous sphere that would convey his ultimate intent for the temple — to arouse in the visitor’s soul “feelings in keeping with religious ceremonies,” a sense of grandeur leaving them “moved by such an excess of sensibility… that all the faculties of our soul are disturbed to such an extent that we feel it is departing from our body” — an effect always best achieved not by an enormity of sheer size and space but by a considered contrast of scales. No building, he observed, “calls for the Poetry of architecture” more than a memorial to the dead. Believing that architecture, like all art, should ultimately serve to enlarge our sense of aliveness, and that we are never more alive than when we are rooted in our creaturely senses, Boullée insisted that the key to this sense of grandeur lies in applying the principles of nature’s mathematics with poetic subtlety — the principles laid bare in the Principia, the principles that “derive from order, the symbol of wisdom.” He wrote:

2e292385-dc1c-4cfe-b95e-845f6f98c2ec.pngSymmetry… is what results from the order that extends in every direction and multiplies them at our glance until we can no longer count them. By extending the sweep of an avenue so that its end is out of sight, the laws of optics and the effects of perspective given an impression of immensity; at each step, the objects appear in a new guise and our pleasure is renewed by a succession of different vistas. Finally, by some miracle which in fact is the result of our own movement but which we attribute to the objects around us, the latter seem to move with us, as if we had imparted Life to them.


Aerial cross-section. Image courtesy of Bibliothèque nationale de France.

But my favorite part of the story is that Boullée found his formative inspiration, not only for the Newton cenotaph and but for his entire creative philosophy, in an unusual encounter with trees — those profoundest of teachers.

One evening, heavy with grief, Boullée went for a walk along the edge of a forest. Under the moonlight, he noticed his shadow. He had seen his shadow a thousand times before, but the peculiar lens of his psychic state rendered it entirely new — a living artwork of “extreme melancholy.” Looking around, he saw the shadows of the trees in this new light, too, etching onto the ground the profound drama of life. The entire scene was suddenly awash in “all that is sombre in nature.” He had seen the state of his soul mirrored back by the natural world, as we so often do in those rawest moments when we are stripped to the base of our being, grounded into our creaturely senses.

This was the moment of Boullée’s artistic awakening — that moment of revelation when, as Virginia Woolf wrote in her exquisite account of her own artistic awakening, something lifts “the cotton wool of daily life” and we see the familiar world afresh. Boullée recounted:

2e292385-dc1c-4cfe-b95e-845f6f98c2ec.pngThe mass of objects stood out in black against the extreme wanness of the light. Nature offered itself to my gaze in mourning. I was struck by the sensations I was experiencing and immediately began to wonder how to apply this, especially to architecture. I tried to find a composition made up of the effect of shadows. To achieve this, I imagined the light (as I had observed it in nature) giving back to me all that my imagination could think of. That was how I proceeded when I was seeking to discover this new type of architecture.

He called this new architecture “the architecture of shadow.” His vision for Newton’s cenotaph was its grand testament:

2e292385-dc1c-4cfe-b95e-845f6f98c2ec.pngI attempted to create the greatest of all effects, that of immensity; for that is what gives us lofty thoughts as we contemplate the Creator and give us celestial sensations.

He attempted, more than that, to honor Newton on his own terms, by the essence of his genius:

2e292385-dc1c-4cfe-b95e-845f6f98c2ec.pngO Newton! With the range of your intelligence and the sublime nature of your Genius, you have defined the shape of the earth; I have conceived the idea of enveloping you with your discovery… your own self. How can I find outside you anything worthy of you?


Image courtesy of Bibliothèque nationale de France.

In a further homage to Newton’s legacy, with Boullée regarded as a “divine system” of laws, he chose to suspend a sole spherical lamp over the tomb as the only decoration in the entire monument — anything else, he felt, would be “committing sacrilege.” The contrast of scales — the smaller sphere of the lamp inside the enormous sphere of the building — would dramatize the contrast of light and shadow, just as the moonlight had done that fateful night of artistic revelation by the trees. This would give the visitor the sense that they are “as if by magic floating in the air, borne in the wake of images in the immensity of space.” Boullée considered the play of light the vital element in this enchantment:

2e292385-dc1c-4cfe-b95e-845f6f98c2ec.pngIt is light that produces impressions which arouse in us various contradictory sensations depending on whether they are brilliant or sombre. If I could manage to diffuse in my temple magnificent light effects I would fill the onlooker with joy; but if, on the contrary, my temple had only sombre effects, I would fill him with sadness. If I could avoid direct light and arrange for its presence without the onlooker being aware of its source, the ensuing effect of mysterious daylight would produce inconceivable impression and, in a sense, a truly enchanting magic quality.

At a time long before readily available electric light and light-projection, he leaned on Newton’s optics to envision something that was part Stonehenge and part Hayden Planetarium. A century and a half before the first modern planetarium dome, Boullée dotted the black interior of his dome with an intricate arrangement of tiny holes reflecting the positions of the constellations and the planets, streaming in daylight to create an enchanting nightscape inside. But unlike the modern counterpart, Boullée’s was a reversible planetarium — at night, the sole spherical light would irradiate the tiny holes from the other direction, making the dome appear as a self-contained universe if viewed from above. This, lest we forget, was the golden age of aeronautics, when hot-air balloons first defied gravity to lift the human animal into the sky.boullee_newtoncenotaph6.jpg?resize=680%2C412

Side cross-section. Image courtesy of Bibliothèque nationale de France.

Too visionary for its era, the cenotaph was never built, but Boullée’s ink-and-wash drawings circulated widely in the final decade of his life, eliciting both gasping admiration and merciless derision — the fate of the true visionary. With the publication of his impassioned and insightful writings nearly two centuries after his death, translated by Helen Rosenau, his vision went on to inspire generations of modern artists and architects with a new way of thinking about the poetry of public spaces and the relationship between nature and human creativity.

In a sentiment evocative of another pioneer’s lamentation — Harriet Hosmer’s astute remark that “if one knew but one-half the difficulties an artist has to surmount… the public would be less ready to censure him for his shortcomings or slow advancement” — Boullée wrote of his critics:

2e292385-dc1c-4cfe-b95e-845f6f98c2ec.pngNo one is more exacting than a man who is not conversant with a given art for he is unable to imagine all the difficulties the artist has to overcome.

His ultimate satisfaction was not the reception or execution of his designs, but the inexhaustible source of their inspiration — the elemental wellspring of the creative impulse behind all art and all science, that richest and readiest reward of our aliveness:

2e292385-dc1c-4cfe-b95e-845f6f98c2ec.pngThe artist… is always making discoveries and spends his life observing nature.