Indian salesman – a WhatsApp friendly forward received

An Indian left his job and joined salesman’s job in a big department stores in Canada.

Boss :- Do you have any experience?

Indian : Yes a little too much…

On the first day, that Indian worked with full mind.

At 6 pm the Boss :- How many sales did you sell on the first day today?

Indian : Sir I sold 1

Boss : Only 1 sale ??? Usually every salesman working here does 20 to 30 sales daily. Well, tell me how much money did you sell ???

Indian : $93300 dollars.

Boss : What ??? But how did you do it?

Indian : 1 person came and I sold him a small fishing hook.
Then a mazola and then finally sold a big hook. Then I sold him 1 big fishing rods and some fishing gear.

Then I asked him where do you go to catch fish and he said in the coastal area….

Then I said it would need a boat. So I took him down to the boat department and sold him a 20 ft double engine scooner boat.

When he said this boat won’t come in his Volkas Wagon, I took him to the auto mobile section and sold him the new Deluxe 4 x 4 blazer to carry the boat.
And when I asked him where would be going fishing ??? He didn’t plan anything. So I took him to the camping section and sold him a six sleeper camper tent.

And then he said when he took all that he would take $ 200 groceries and 2 cases of beer.

Now the boss took 2 steps back and asked in a very rude way :- You sold all this to the man who came to buy only 1 fish hook???

Indian : “NO, SIR…” He only came to take 1 tablet for the headache…. I explained to him that fishing is the best way to get rid of headaches.

Boss : Where did you work before ??? In India???

Indian : Yes, I was a doctor in a private hospital : On a minor complaint of panic, we get the patients tested for pathology, ECO, ECG, TMT, CT scan, X-ray, MRI etc.

Boss : You sit on my chair. I am going to join a private hospital for training in India.

$265Billion Dollar Economic Package instalment 10% of Indian GDP announced.

Someone summarised PM’s speech for me as I found the PM address full of Hindi, Sanskrit, english jargons which a layman, a man on the street, a common man can never understand. Or perhaps Narendra Modi did not wish them to address.
Such a disjointed/ In-silo effort at speech making – even when BJP has such stalwarts as wonderful Editors like M J Akbar to name a few…. who could have helped make a simple impactful speech. But bygones are bygones. Here is the Excerpt:
Honorable PM address to the Nation 🇮🇳 12.05.2020@ 8.00 pm. Highlights(33 minutes)

✅COVID19 virus has destroyed the entire world
✅COVID19 crisis is unprecedented
✅we must save lives and move forward
✅will have to take firm oath,move
✅Need to move ahead with protection
✅Self Reliant India ,the way ahead. Self Reliance has a new meaning now
✅Before covid we didn’t produce PPEs
✅Now we make 2.00 lakhs PPEs daily
✅The world view of India has changed
✅World has hope in our Capabilities -world believe India
✅Walking on the path Global welfare
✅INDIA has best resources
✅Nothing is difficult to India and Indians
✅5 pillar of India’s self reliance
Economy,Infrastructure,Tech driven-System,Demography,Demand
✅ Special Economic package announced (Rs20.00 Lakhs crore)10% of India’s GDP
✅ Aatmanirbhar Bharath relief package
✅Fiance Ministry will issue detailed guidelines on special package
✅ Give prominence/promote to products manufactured in India. Request to all to buy products manufactured in India
✅ Lockdown 4.0 details will be announced before 18th May 2020(State specific)
✅Respect and honour to all the people who are helped/ helping to fight COVID19

Thank you all 🇮🇳🙏

When leaders forget what audience they are addressing,

When they forget the impact it makes on their audience, the masses,

They speak floral, literary or JARGON FILLED language.

Someone behind the scenes also wishes to DILUTE the PM and his image by making him appear in such quick succession as if they have his succession (God forbid) Plan ready. Sad.

The HM as usual is dragging his feet with his procrastinating, definition loving Bureaucrazy Secretaries and not ready with the Graded Lockdown 4.0 announcements and PM could have therefore avoided even a mention about it as it is likely to come on 1or before 18th so let HM do it, No?

Why take out the LAST THUNDER of this inefficient FM of India by stealing her last attempt at providing ECONOMIC PACKAGE calling it Party’s or BJP’s or NDAs or PMs rather than RBI’s. – PM Could well have avoided the mention as he is not a Hype creator for FM but someone people of India look up to with respect for COMMUNICATING DECISIONS.

All in all, I personally was very disappointed and disgusted at the poor media management by BJP and Government as they ended up Diluting the Best TRUMP CARD they have till 2024 Elections.

As a senior Citizen – I have lost my Interest income 45% in past 7 years of Modi Government and continued to pay taxes.  I am still unclear, WHAT IS IN THIS PACKAGE FOR ME AND MY ilk of 12. 1 Crore Senior citizens, veterans in India. We are also 10% of Indian population – well, nearly.

Idiom Poem©

A Promise Now Broken

Is Best Not Spoken.


A Mind Like A Circus.

Cleaning With Mud.

Like Racing A Snail.

Like Screaming In Space.

Daily DHANPARK by DhAnAnjAyA jAy PArkhe

Worth Thinking About

“It took me years and years to realize a very simple thing, which is that when you write fiction you’re raising questions, and a lot of people think you’re playing a little game with them and that actually you know the answers to the questions. They read your question. They don’t know how to answer correctly. And they think that if they could only meet you personally and look into your eyes, you could give them the answers.”

― Ann Beattie

Part of speech: noun
Origin: English, 1894



A manipulative person with sinister motives


Someone attempting to dominate another to do their bidding

Examples of Svengali in a sentence

“You thought she was your mentor, but she turned into a svengali and tried to keep you from a promotion.”

“The business partnership went sour when the investor was revealed to be a svengali.”

3. Scott Adams Quote
“Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep.”

4. Henry Ward Beecher Quote
“The art of being happy lies in the power of extracting happiness from common things.”

5.Did you know…
… that today is Bad Trade Day? In 1920, the Boston Red Sox traded Babe Ruth to the New York Yankees — probably the worst baseball trade ever made! The Yankees, who had never won a pennant before, became perennial American League and World Series champions. The Red Sox did not win another World Series until 2004.
Today’s Inspirational Quote:
“You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”
— Buckminster Fuller

Nik’s Book of summaries Newsletter I recommend.

Heyo, Nik here with our first batch of summaries for 2020!

In order to not overwhelm you, we’ve decided to continue highlighting our 3 best summaries each week. We’ll add the titles, authors, and 1-sentence-summaries for the remaining titles below.

We hope this’ll help you pick and click and not get lost in a sea of options. Since the year is just 3 days old, here are our first 3!

First, we’ve got Malcolm Gladwell’s genius and already best-selling Talking to Strangers. The book helps us assess, judge, and trust the people we don’t know so we can have meaningful interactions with them.

Next, Brian Tracy, author of Eat That Frog, will get you into high-achievement mode with No Excuses! This one’s perfect to knock out your goals this year!

Finally, John C. Maxwell, who brought us The 21 Irrefutable Laws Of Leadership, explains what it takes to have positive influence on those you lead.

Let’s go!

Talking to Strangers by Malcolm Gladwell

1-Sentence-Summary: Talking To Strangers helps you better understand and accurately judge the people you don’t know while staying patient and tolerant with others.

  1. You are overestimating your ability to read what people are thinking or feeling.
  2. Humans naturally default to believing that others are telling the truth and are incapable of telling when someone is lying.
  3. One reason you’re so bad at judging people is that everybody expresses their emotions and thoughts differently.

If you want to improve your ability to understand the actions of those around you and master the art of talking to strangers, this book is for you.

No Excuses! by Brian Tracy

1-Sentence-Summary: No Excuses! teaches us that self-discipline is the key to success and gives us practical advice to master it and achieve self-actualization, happy relationships, and financial security.

  1. To become a high achiever, plan your tasks with The Seven-Step Method and keep learning every day.
  2. Happiness is a by-product of self-discipline and has 5 ingredients.
  3. You can practice taking action despite fear by using the Disaster Report.

If you want some help to stop making excuses when it comes to your new year’s resolutions, this book is for you.

The 5 Levels of Leadership by John C. Maxwell

1-Sentence-Summary: The 5 Levels Of Leadership will teach you how to lead others with lasting influence by focusing on your people instead of your position.

  1. Your management position means nothing to those you lead when compared to the power of your personality and values.
  2. Developing relationships of trust is one of the most important things you can do to have a long-term impact for good.
  3. To make the biggest difference in your company and the lives of your people, you must train others to be leaders themselves.

If you want to be a great leader and help other people become their best selves, this book book is for you.

That’s it for now, hope your first week of 2020 is amazing!

Happy reading,

Want summaries daily, right in your inbox? Join our daily feed.

Mastery in Servitude – for Humanity – 2020.

The world constantly wants you to behave or think in a certain way. Ralph Waldo Emerson said it best:

“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.”

To me, Learning is Forever, Precious like Diamonds. It never ends, its value never diminishes. After my Cardiac Issues in 2014, I felt I was given a new Lease of LIfe by God, I felt as if I am reborn.

I began learning to draw and paint as a hobby and spent the past 5-6 years pursuing it. My wife Madhura Parkhe​ became my mentor here. The thought to start this came from Dr. A.P. Bhupatkar of IMDR who asked me to pursue my childhood hobbies.

I realized I have many Knowledge Gaps too. I found Udemy online courses that are economical, short, swift, crisp and from the Best Trainers in the World. On my morning walks; instead of watching a video, I heard the audio and it helped me fill my knowledge gaps. There was help from the trainers on Speaking skills, Story Telling skills, Voice skills, Body language/ Gestures skills too. I also got over 150 Certificates. The trainers offer personalized coaching and mentoring and one is lucky to find them in life. A Class Apart!

In 2018 – Aug-Sept I joined The Toastmasters Internationa and began to learn Speaking Skills all over again. It was a struggle speaking with a strict time limit and also fill my Skills gaps in Voice/ Body language. I was fortunate to find 4 Worldclass mentors and they helped me go on the Pathways Path and I am now doing my 4th Path.

Along the way, came to many Mentees/ Mentorees/ Protege’ to learn and pick my brains and I remembered this :
““To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.”
I let my Mentees, Mentorees/ Protege’ BE as they are. With help to bridge their knowledge, skills gaps, coaching on their best strengths to get better, still better helped many of them. They also got featured in different magazines, Websites and were interviewed. It was my Moment of Truth, Their Accolades earned made my day.

In 2020, I shall stop Coaching/ Mentoring and focus on Writing/ Speaking/ Painting. It is not my New year resolution – it is a conscious resolve. Yes. along the way if there are Paid consulting, Paid Speaking opportunities – they will be welcome as much of these earnings go into my favorite charities that I assist, as they help Humanity.

The larger goal of life remains – Master – Attain Mastery in Servitude – Service with an Attitude – In service of Humanity.

Wish me luck.

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Best Newsletter of 2019 –

This is a special annual edition of the Brain Pickings newsletter by Maria Popova. The regular Sunday edition will be with you predictably and reliably this weekend. If you missed the two annual specials of the year’s loveliest children’s books and overall favorite books, they are here and here. And if you find any value and joy in my labor of love, please consider supporting it with a donation – this year, like every year for the past thirteen, I have invested countless hours and tremendous resources in Brain Pickings, and every little bit of support helps keep it going. If you already donate: THANK YOU.

The Best of Brain Pickings 2019

In this annual review, following the annual selections of the year’s loveliest children’s books and overall favorite books, “best” is as usual a composite measure of what I most enjoyed thinking and writing about over the course of the year, and what you most ardently read and shared.

It has been curious to observe, in this most difficult year of my life, the patterns that emerge — strong women’s voices, the healing power of natureof poetry, and of kindnessthe necessity of unselfish loveof friendship, and of solitude; and lots and lots and lots of tress — and how they illuminate the things that help me, and perhaps you, survive. Thrive, even.


Enjoy, and may we face the coming year with the steady serenity of a tree — that supreme lover of light, always reaching both higher and deeper, rooted in a network of kinship and ringed by a more patient view of time.

The More Loving One: Astrophysicist Janna Levin Reads W.H. Auden’s Sublime Ode to Our Unrequited Love for the Universe


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13 Life-Learnings from 13 Years of Brain Pickings


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The Healing Power of Gardens: Oliver Sacks on the Psychological and Physiological Consolations of Nature


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Hannah Arendt on Love and How to Live with the Fundamental Fear of Loss


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Trees at Night: Stunning Rorschach Silhouettes from the 1920s


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I Like You: An Almost Unbearably Lovely Vintage Illustrated Ode to Friendship


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Kahlil Gibran on Silence, Solitude, and the Courage to Know Yourself


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After Silence: Amanda Palmer Reads Neil Gaiman’s Stunning Poem Celebrating Rachel Carson’s Legacy of Culture-Shifting Courage


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Salvation by Words: Iris Murdoch on Language as a Vehicle of Truth and Art as a Force of Resistance to Tyranny


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Rebecca Solnit’s Lovely Letter to Children About How Books Solace, Empower, and Transform Us


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Planting Trees as Resistance and Empowerment: The Remarkable Illustrated Story of Wangari Maathai, the First African Woman to Win the Nobel Peace Prize


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Rachel Carson’s Bittersweet Farewell to the World: Timeless Advice to the Next Generations from the Woman Who Catalyzed the Environmental Movement


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Hermann Hesse on Solitude, the Value of Hardship, the Courage to Be Yourself, and How to Find Your Destiny


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“Little Prince” Author Antoine de Saint-Exupéry on Losing a Friend


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Leo Tolstoy on Kindness and the Measure of Love


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On Children: Poignant Parenting Advice from Kahlil Gibran


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Middle Age and the Art of Self-Renewal: An Extraordinary Letter from Pioneering Education Reformer Elizabeth Peabody


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The Lost Words: An Illustrated Dictionary of Poetic Spells Reclaiming the Language of Nature


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The Fascinating Science of How Trees Communicate, Animated


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Harriet Hosmer on Art and Ambition: The World’s First Successful Woman Sculptor on What It Takes to Be a Great Artist


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Is There a God? Stephen Hawking Gives the Definitive Answer to the Eternal Question


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Year of the Monkey: Patti Smith on Dreams, Loss, Love, and Mending the Broken Realities of Life


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Amanda Palmer Reads “When I Am Among the Trees” by Mary Oliver


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The Astronomical Art of Maria Clara Eimmart: Stunning 17th-Century Drawings of Comets, Planets, and Moon Phases by a Self-Taught Artist and Astronomer


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You Can’t Have It All


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My Heart: An Emotional Intelligence Primer in the Form of an Uncommonly Tender Illustrated Poem About Our Capacity for Love


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In 2019, the 13th year of Brain Pickings, I poured tremendous time, thought, love, and resources into this labor of love, which remains free and is made possible by patronage. If you found any joy and solace here this year, please consider supporting it with a donation. And if you already donate, from the bottom of my heart: THANK YOU.

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Kindness to friends/ Family – One day at a time. :)

  1. Take someone to lunch.
  2. Leave a nice note on someone’s desk.
  3. Buy the next round of drinks at happy hour.
  4. Support someone’s charity or campaign.
  5. Pay for someone else’s coffee.
  6. Compliment someone.
  7. Make someone a playlist.
  8. Bake something and share with a group.
  9. Participate in a fundraiser.
  10. Write a thank you letter to someone who has helped you out.
  11. Be a mentor for someone who needs it.
  12. Hide a love note in someone’s purse or pocket.
  13. Babysit for free.
  14. Do a friend’s pile of laundry.
  15. Send a care package to a soldier.
  16. Help someone with their homework.
  17. Wash someone’s dishes.
  18. Help someone look for a job.
  19. Take your neighbor’s dog for a walk.
  20. Read a book to someone.
  21. Make a video to cheer someone up.
  22. Spend time with the elderly.
  23. Leave a funny note on a random car.
  24. Run an errand for someone.
  25. Leave flowers on someone’s doorstep.
  26. Make someone a gratitude journal they can write in.
  27. Join a kindness challenge.
  28. Run or walk for a cause.
  29. Cook a meal for a family with a new baby.
  30. Teach someone how to cook a healthy meal.
  31. Organize a fun family reunion.
  32. Mow your neighbors lawn after mowing your own.

My fav Newsletter of 2019

welcome to this week’s edition of the newsletter by Maria Popova. If you missed last week’s edition — Dostoyevsky, just after his death sentence was repealed, on the meaning of life; Sarah Kay reads Walt Whitman; David Abram on the language of nature — you can catch up right here; if you missed the two annual specials of the year’s loveliest children’s books and overall favorite books, they are here and here. And if you are enjoying this labor of love, please consider supporting it with a donation – for thirteen years, I have been spending innumerable hours and tremendous resources on it each week, and every little bit of support helps enormously. If you already donate: THANK YOU.

How Kepler Invented Science Fiction and Defended His Mother in a Witchcraft Trial While Revolutionizing Our Understanding of the Universe

This essay is adapted from Figuring.

figuring_jacket_final.jpgThis is how I picture it:

A spindly middle-aged mathematician with a soaring mind, a sunken heart, and bad skin is being thrown about the back of a carriage in the bone-hollowing cold of a German January. Since his youth, he has been inscribing into family books and friendship albums his personal motto, borrowed from a verse by the ancient poet Perseus: “O the cares of man, how much of everything is futile.” He has weathered personal tragedies that would level most. He is now racing through the icy alabaster expanse of the countryside in the precarious hope of averting another: Four days after Christmas and two days after his forty-fourth birthday, a letter from his sister has informed him that their widowed mother is on trial for witchcraft — a fact for which he holds himself responsible.

He has written the world’s first work of science fiction — a clever allegory advancing the controversial Copernican model of the universe, describing the effects of gravity decades before Newton formalized it into a law, envisioning speech synthesis centuries before computers, and presaging space travel three hundred years before the Moon landing. The story, intended to counter superstition with science through symbol and metaphor inviting critical thinking, has instead effected the deadly indictment of his elderly, illiterate mother.

The year is 1617. His name is Johannes Kepler (December 27, 1571–November 15, 1630) — perhaps the unluckiest man in the world, perhaps the greatest scientist who ever lived.


Johannes Kepler

He inhabits a world in which God is mightier than nature, the Devil realer and more omnipresent than gravity. All around him, people believe that the sun revolves around the Earth every twenty-four hours, set into perfect circular motion by an omnipotent creator; the few who dare support the tendentious idea that the Earth rotates around its axis while revolving around the sun believe that it moves along a perfectly circular orbit. Kepler would disprove both beliefs, coin the word orbit, and quarry the marble out of which classical physics would be sculpted. He would be the first astronomer to develop a scientific method of predicting eclipses and the first to link mathematical astronomy to material reality — the first astrophysicist — by demonstrating that physical forces move the heavenly bodies in calculable ellipses. All of this he would accomplish while drawing horoscopes, espousing the spontaneous creation of new animal species rising from bogs and oozing from tree bark, and believing the Earth itself to be an ensouled body that has digestion, that suffers illness, that inhales and exhales like a living organism. Three centuries later, the marine biologist and writer Rachel Carson would reimagine a version of this view woven of science and stripped of mysticism as she makes ecology a household word.

Kepler’s life is a testament to how science does for reality what Plutarch’s thought experiment known as “the Ship of Theseus” does for the self. In the ancient Greek allegory, Theseus — the founder-king of Athens — sailed triumphantly back to the great city after slaying the mythic Minotaur on Crete. For a thousand years, his ship was maintained in the harbor of Athens as a living trophy and was sailed to Crete annually to reenact the victorious voyage. As time began to corrode the vessel, its components were replaced one by one — new planks, new oars, new sails — until no original part remained. Was it then, Plutarch asks, the same ship? There is no static, solid self. Throughout life, our habits, beliefs, and ideas evolve beyond recognition. Our physical and social environments change. Almost all of our cells are replaced. Yet we remain, to ourselves, “who” “we” “are.”

So with science: Bit by bit, discoveries reconfigure our understanding of reality. This reality is revealed to us only in fragments. The more fragments we perceive and parse, the more lifelike the mosaic we make of them. But it is still a mosaic, a representation — imperfect and incomplete, however beautiful it may be, and subject to unending transfiguration. Three centuries after Kepler, Lord Kelvin would take the podium at the British Association of Science in the year 1900 and declare: “There is nothing new to be discovered in physics now. All that remains is more and more precise measurement.” At the same moment in Zurich, the young Albert Einstein is incubating the ideas that would converge into his revolutionary conception of spacetime, irreversibly transfiguring our elemental understanding of reality.

Even the farthest seers can’t bend their gaze beyond their era’s horizon of possibility, but the horizon shifts with each incremental revolution as the human mind peers outward to take in nature, then turns inward to question its own givens. We sieve the world through the mesh of these certitudes, tautened by nature and culture, but every once in a while — whether by accident or conscious effort — the wire loosens and the kernel of a revolution slips through.


Painting of the Moon by the 17th-century German self-taught astronomer and artist Maria Clara Eimmart. (Available as a print.)

Kepler first came under the thrall of the heliocentric model as a student at the Lutheran University of Tübingen half a century after Copernicus published his theory. The twenty-two-year-old Kepler, studying to enter the clergy, wrote a dissertation about the Moon, aimed at demonstrating the Copernican claim that the Earth is moving simultaneously around its axis and around the sun. A classmate by the name of Christoph Besold — a law student at the university — was so taken with Kepler’s lunar paper that he proposed a public debate. The university promptly vetoed it. A couple of years later, Galileo would write to Kepler that he’d been a believer in the Copernican system himself “for many years” — and yet he hadn’t yet dared to stand up for it in public and wouldn’t for more than thirty years.

Kepler’s radical ideas rendered him too untrustworthy for the pulpit. After graduation, he was banished across the country to teach mathematics at a Lutheran seminary in Graz. But he was glad — he saw himself, mind and body, as cut out for scholarship. “I take from my mother my bodily constitution,” he would later write, “which is more suited to study than to other kinds of life.” Three centuries later, Walt Whitman would observe how beholden the mind is to the body, “how behind the tally of genius and morals stands the stomach, and gives a sort of casting vote.”

While Kepler saw his body as an instrument of scholarship, other bodies around him were being exploited as instruments of superstition. In Graz, he witnessed dramatic exorcisms performed on young women believed to be possessed by demons — grim public spectacles staged by the king and his clergy. He saw brightly colored fumes emanate from one woman’s belly and glistening black beetles crawl out of another’s mouth. He saw the deftness with which the puppeteers of the populace dramatized dogma to wrest control — the church was then the mass media, and the mass media were as unafraid of resorting to propaganda as they are today.

As religious persecution escalated — soon it would erupt into the Thirty Years’ War, the deadliest religious war in the Continent’s history — life in Graz became unlivable. Protestants were forced to marry by Catholic ritual and have their children baptized as Catholics. Homes were raided, heretical books confiscated and destroyed. When Kepler’s infant daughter died, he was fined for evading the Catholic clergy and not allowed to bury his child until he paid the charge. It was time to migrate — a costly and trying endeavor for the family, but Kepler knew there would be a higher price to pay for staying:

2e292385-dc1c-4cfe-b95e-845f6f98c2ec.pngI may not regard loss of property more seriously than loss of opportunity to fulfill that for which nature and career have destined me.

Returning to Tübingen for a career in the clergy was out of the question:

2e292385-dc1c-4cfe-b95e-845f6f98c2ec.pngI could never torture myself with greater unrest and anxiety than if I now, in my present state of conscience, should be enclosed in that sphere of activity.

Instead, Kepler reconsidered something he had initially viewed merely as a flattering compliment to his growing scientific reputation: an invitation to visit the prominent Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe in Bohemia, where he had just been appointed royal mathematician mathematician to the Holy Roman Emperor.


Tycho Brahe

Kepler made the arduous five-hundred-kilometer journey to Prague. On February 4, 1600, the famous Dane welcomed him warmly into the castle where he computed the heavens, his enormous orange mustache almost aglow with geniality. During the two months Kepler spent there as guest and apprentice, Tycho was so impressed with the young astronomer’s theoretical ingenuity that he permitted him to analyze the celestial observations he had been guarding closely from all other scholars, then offered him a permanent position. Kepler accepted gratefully and journeyed back to Graz to collect his family, arriving in a retrograde world even more riven by religious persecution. When the Keplers refused to convert to Catholicism, they were banished from the city — the migration to Prague, with all the privations it would require, was no longer optional. Shortly after Kepler and his family alighted in their new life in Bohemia, the valve between chance and choice opened again, and another sudden change of circumstance flooded in: Tycho died unexpectedly at the age of fifty-four. Two days later, Kepler was appointed his successor as imperial mathematician, inheriting Tycho’s data. Over the coming years, he would draw on it extensively in devising his three laws of planetary motion, which would revolutionize the human understanding of the universe.

How many revolutions does the cog of culture make before a new truth about reality catches into gear?

Three centuries before Kepler, Dante had marveled in his Divine Comedy at the new clocks ticking in England and Italy: “One wheel moves and drives the other.” This marriage of technology and poetry eventually gave rise to the metaphor of the clockwork universe. Before Newton’s physics placed this metaphor at the ideological epicenter of the Enlightenment, Kepler bridged the poetic and the scientific. In his first book, The Cosmographic Mystery, Kepler picked up the metaphor and stripped it of its divine dimensions, removing God as the clockmaster and instead pointing to a single force operating the heavens: “The celestial machine,” he wrote, “is not something like a divine organism, but rather something like a clockwork in which a single weight drives all the gears.” Within it, “the totality of the complex motions is guided by a single magnetic force.” It was not, as Dante wrote, “love that moves the sun and other stars” — it was gravity, as Newton would later formalize this “single magnetic force.” But it was Kepler who thus formulated for the first time the very notion of a force — something that didn’t exist for Copernicus, who, despite his groundbreaking insight that the sun moves the planets, still conceived of that motion in poetic rather than scientific terms. For him, the planets were horses whose reins the sun held; for Kepler, they were gears the sun wound by a physical force.

In the anxious winter of 1617, unfigurative wheels are turning beneath Johannes Kepler as he hastens to his mother’s witchcraft trial. For this long journey by horse and carriage, Kepler has packed a battered copy of Dialogue on Ancient and Modern Music by Vincenzo Galilei, his sometime friend Galileo’s father — one of the era’s most influential treatises on music, a subject that always enchanted Kepler as much as mathematics, perhaps because he never saw the two as separate. Three years later, he would draw on it in composing his own groundbreaking book The Harmony of the World, in which he would formulate his third and final law of planetary motion, known as the harmonic law — his exquisite discovery, twenty-two years in the making, of the proportional link between a planet’s orbital period and the length of the axis of its orbit. It would help compute, for the first time, the distance of the planets from the sun — the measure of the heavens in an era when the Solar System was thought to be all there was.

As Kepler is galloping through the German countryside to prevent his mother’s execution, the Inquisition in Rome is about to declare the claim of Earth’s motion heretical — a heresy punishable by death.

Behind him lies a crumbled life: Emperor Rudolph II is dead — Kepler is no longer royal mathematician and chief scientific adviser to the Holy Roman Emperor, a job endowed with Europe’s highest scientific prestige, though primarily tasked with casting horoscopes for royalty; his beloved six-year-old son is dead — “a hyacinth of the morning in the first day of spring” wilted by smallpox, a disease that had barely spared Kepler himself as a child, leaving his skin cratered by scars and his eyesight permanently damaged; his first wife is dead, having come unhinged by grief before succumbing to the pox herself.

Before him lies the collision of two worlds in two world systems, the spark of which would ignite the interstellar imagination.


In 1609, Johannes Kepler finished the first work of genuine science fiction — that is, imaginative storytelling in which sensical science is a major plot device. Somnium, or The Dream, is the fictional account of a young astronomer who voyages to the Moon. Rich in both scientific ingenuity and symbolic play, it is at once a masterwork of the literary imagination and an invaluable scientific document, all the more impressive for the fact that it was written before Galileo pointed the first spyglass at the sky and before Kepler himself had ever looked through a telescope.

Kepler knew what we habitually forget — that the locus of possibility expands when the unimaginable is imagined and then made real through systematic effort. Centuries later, in a 1971 conversation with Carl Sagan and Arthur C. Clarke about the future of space exploration, science fiction patron saint Ray Bradbury would capture this transmutation process perfectly: “It’s part of the nature of man to start with romance and build to a reality.” Like any currency of value, the human imagination is a coin with two inseparable sides. It is our faculty of fancy that fills the disquieting gaps of the unknown with the tranquilizing certitudes of myth and superstition, that points to magic and witchcraft when common sense and reason fail to unveil causality. But that selfsame faculty is also what leads us to rise above accepted facts, above the limits of the possible established by custom and convention, and reach for new summits of previously unimagined truth. Which way the coin flips depends on the degree of courage, determined by some incalculable combination of nature, culture, and character.

In a letter to Galileo containing the first written mention of The Dream’s existence and penned in the spring of 1610 — a little more than a century after Columbus voyaged to the Americas — Kepler ushers his correspondent’s imagination toward fathoming the impending reality of interstellar travel by reminding him just how unimaginable transatlantic travel had seemed not so long ago:

2e292385-dc1c-4cfe-b95e-845f6f98c2ec.pngWho would have believed that a huge ocean could be crossed more peacefully and safely than the narrow expanse of the Adriatic, the Baltic Sea or the English Channel?

Kepler envisions that once “sails or ships fit to survive the heavenly breezes” are invented, voyagers would no longer fear the dark emptiness of interstellar space. With an eye to these future explorers, he issues a solidary challenge:

2e292385-dc1c-4cfe-b95e-845f6f98c2ec.pngSo, for those who will come shortly to attempt this journey, let us establish the astronomy: Galileo, you of Jupiter, I of the moon.


Painting of the Moon by the 17th-century German self-taught astronomer and artist Maria Clara Eimmart. (Available as a print.)

Newton would later refine Kepler’s three laws of motion with his formidable calculus and richer understanding of the underlying force as the foundation of Newtonian gravity. In a quarter millennium, the mathematician Katherine Johnson would draw on these laws in computing the trajectory that lands Apollo 11 on the Moon. They would guide the Voyager spacecraft, the first human-made object to sail into interstellar space.

In The Dream, which Kepler described in his letter to Galileo as a “lunar geography,” the young traveler lands on the Moon to find that lunar beings believe Earth revolves around them — from their cosmic vantage point, our pale blue dot rises and sets against their firmament, something reflected even in the name they have given Earth: Volva. Kepler chose the name deliberately, to emphasize the fact of Earth’s revolution — the very motion that made Copernicanism so dangerous to the dogma of cosmic stability. Assuming that the reader is aware that the Moon revolves around the Earth — an anciently observed fact, thoroughly uncontroversial by his day — Kepler intimates the unnerving central question: Could it be, his story suggests in a stroke of allegorical genius predating Edwin Abbott Abbott’s Flatland by nearly three centuries, that our own certitude about Earth’s fixed position in space is just as misguided as the lunar denizens’ belief in Volva’s revolution around them? Could we, too, be revolving around the sun, even though the ground feels firm and motionless beneath our feet?

The Dream was intended to gently awaken people to the truth of Copernicus’s disconcerting heliocentric model of the universe, defying the long-held belief that Earth is the static center of an immutable cosmos. But earthlings’ millennia-long slumber was too deep for The Dream — a deadly somnolence, for it resulted in Kepler’s elderly mother’s being accused of witchcraft. Tens of thousands of people would be tried for witchcraft by the end of the persecution in Europe, dwarfing the two dozen who would render Salem synonymous with witchcraft trials seven decades later. Most of the accused were women, whose inculpation or defense fell on their sons, brothers, and husbands. Most of the trials ended in execution. In Germany, some twenty-five thousand were killed. In Kepler’s sparsely populated hometown alone, six women had been burned as witches just a few weeks before his mother was indicted.

An uncanny symmetry haunts Kepler’s predicament — it was Katharina Kepler who had first enchanted her son with astronomy when she took him to the top of a nearby hill and let the six-year-old boy gape in wonderment as the Great Comet of 1577 blazed across the sky.


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

By the time he wrote The Dream, Kepler was one of the most prominent scientists in the world. His rigorous fidelity to observational data harmonized with a symphonic imagination. Drawing on Tycho’s data, Kepler devoted a decade and more than seventy failed trials to calculating the orbit of Mars, which became the yardstick for measuring the heavens. Having just formulated the first of his laws, demolishing the ancient belief that the heavenly bodies obey uniform circular motion, Kepler demonstrated that the planets orbit the sun at varying speeds along ellipses. Unlike previous models, which were simply mathematical hypotheses, Kepler discovered the actual orbit by which Mars moved through space, then used the Mars data to determine Earth’s orbit. Taking multiple observations of Mars’s position relative to Earth, he examined how the angle between the two planets changed over the course of the orbital period he had already calculated for Mars: 687 days. To do this, Kepler had to project himself onto Mars with an empathic leap of the imagination. The word empathy would come into popular use three centuries later, through the gateway of art, when it entered the modern lexicon in the early twentieth century to describe the imaginative act of projecting oneself into a painting in an effort to understand why art moves us. Through science, Kepler had projected himself into the greatest work of art there is in an effort to understand how nature draws its laws to move the planets, including the body that moves us through space. Using trigonometry, he calculated the distance between Earth and Mars, located the center of Earth’s orbit, and went on to demonstrate that all the other planets also moved along elliptical orbits, thus demolishing the foundation of Greek astronomy — uniform circular motion — and effecting a major strike against the Ptolemaic model.


The orbital motion of Mars, from Kepler’s Astronomia Nova. (Available as a print.)

Kepler published these revelatory results, which summed up his first two laws, in his book Astronomia nova — The New Astronomy. That is exactly what it was — the nature of the cosmos had forever changed, and so had our place in it. “Through my effort God is being celebrated in astronomy,” Kepler wrote to his former professor, reflecting on having traded a career in theology for the conquest of a greater truth.

By the time of Astronomia nova, Kepler had ample mathematical evidence affirming Copernicus’s theory. But he realized something crucial and abiding about human psychology: The scientific proof was too complex, too cumbersome, too abstract to persuade even his peers, much less the scientifically illiterate public; it wasn’t data that would dismantle their celestial parochialism, but storytelling. Three centuries before the poet Muriel Rukeyser wrote that “the universe is made of stories, not of atoms,” Kepler knew that whatever the composition of the universe may be, its understanding was indeed the work of stories, not of science — that what he needed was a new rhetoric by which to illustrate, in a simple yet compelling way, that the Earth is indeed in motion. And so The Dream was born.

Even in medieval times, the Frankfurt Book Fair was one of the world’s most fecund literary marketplaces. Kepler attended it frequently in order to promote his own books and to stay informed about other important scientific publications. He brought the manuscript of The Dream with him to this safest possible launchpad, where the other attendees, in addition to being well aware of the author’s reputation as a royal mathematician and astronomer, were either scientists themselves or erudite enough to appreciate the story’s clever allegorical play on science. But something went awry: Sometime in 1611, the sole manuscript fell into the hands of a wealthy young nobleman and made its way across Europe. By Kepler’s account, it even reached John Donne and inspired his ferocious satire of the Catholic Church, Ignatius His Conclave. Circulated via barbershop gossip, versions of the story had reached minds far less literary, or even literate, by 1615. These garbled retellings eventually made their way to Kepler’s home duchy.

“Once a poem is made available to the public, the right of interpretation belongs to the reader,” young Sylvia Plath would write to her mother three centuries later. But interpretation invariably reveals more about the interpreter than about the interpreted. The gap between intention and interpretation is always rife with wrongs, especially when writer and reader occupy vastly different strata of emotional maturity and intellectual sophistication. The science, symbolism, and allegorical virtuosity of The Dream were entirely lost on the illiterate, superstitious, and vengeful villagers of Kepler’s hometown. Instead, they interpreted the story with the only tool at their disposal — the blunt weapon of the literal shorn of context. They were especially captivated by one element of the story: The narrator is a young astronomer who describes himself as “by nature eager for knowledge” and who had apprenticed with Tycho Brahe. By then, people far and wide knew of Tycho’s most famous pupil and imperial successor. Perhaps it was a point of pride for locals to have produced the famous Johannes Kepler, perhaps a point of envy. Whatever the case, they immediately took the story to be not fiction but autobiography. This was the seedbed of trouble: Another main character was the narrator’s mother — an herb doctor who conjures up spirits to assist her son in his lunar voyage. Kepler’s own mother was an herb doctor.

Whether what happened next was the product of intentional malevolent manipulation or the unfortunate workings of ignorance is hard to tell. My own sense is that one aided the other, as those who stand to gain from the manipulation of truth often prey on those bereft of critical thinking. According to Kepler’s subsequent account, a local barber overheard the story and seized upon the chance to cast Katharina Kepler as a witch — an opportune accusation, for the barber’s sister Ursula had a bone to pick with the elderly woman, a disavowed friend. Ursula Reinhold had borrowed money from Katharina Kepler and never repaid it. She had also confided in the old widow about having become pregnant by a man other than her husband. In an act of unthinking indiscretion, Katharina had shared this compromising information with Johannes’s younger brother, who had then just as unthinkingly circulated it around the small town. To abate scandal, Ursula had obtained an abortion. To cover up the brutal corporeal aftermath of this medically primitive procedure, she blamed her infirmity on a spell — cast against her, she proclaimed, by Katharina Kepler. Soon Ursula persuaded twenty-four suggestible locals to give accounts of the elderly woman’s sorcery — one neighbor claimed that her daughter’s arm had grown numb after Katharina brushed against it in the street; the butcher’s wife swore that pain pierced her husband’s thigh when Katharina walked by; the limping schoolmaster dated the onset of his disability to a night ten years earlier when he had taken a sip from a tin cup at Katharina’s house while reading her one of Kepler’s letters. She was accused of appearing magically through closed doors, of having caused the deaths of infants and animals. The Dream, Kepler believed, had furnished the superstition-hungry townspeople with evidence of his mother’s alleged witchcraft — after all, her own son had depicted her as a sorcerer in his story, the allegorical nature of which eluded them completely.

For her part, Katharina Kepler didn’t help her own case. Prickly in character and known to brawl, she first tried suing Ursula for slander — a strikingly modern American approach but, in medieval Germany, effective only in stoking the fire, for Ursula’s well-connected family had ties to local authorities. Then she tried bribing the magistrate into dismissing her case by offering him a silver chalice, which was promptly interpreted as an admission of guilt, and the civil case was escalated to a criminal trial for witchcraft.

In the midst of this tumult, Kepler’s infant daughter, named for his mother, died of epilepsy, followed by another son, four years old, of smallpox.

Having taken his mother’s defense upon himself as soon as he first learned of the accusation, the bereaved Kepler devoted six years to the trial, all the while trying to continue his scientific work and to see through the publication of the major astronomical catalog he had been composing since he inherited Tycho’s data. Working remotely from Linz, Kepler first wrote various petitions on Katharina’s behalf, then mounted a meticulous legal defense in writing. He requested trial documentation of witness testimonies and transcripts of his mother’s interrogations. He then journeyed across the country once more, sitting with Katharina in prison and talking with her for hours on end to assemble information about the people and events of the small town he had left long ago. Despite the allegation that she was demented, the seventy-something Katharina’s memory was astonishing — she recalled in granular detail incidents that had taken place years earlier.

Kepler set out to disprove each of the forty-nine “points of disgrace” hurled against his mother, using the scientific method to uncover the natural causes behind the supernatural evils she had allegedly wrought on the townspeople. He confirmed that Ursula had had an abortion, that the teenaged girl had numbed her arm by carrying too many bricks, that the schoolmaster had lamed his leg by tripping into a ditch, that the butcher suffered from lumbago.

None of Kepler’s epistolary efforts at reason worked. Five years into the ordeal, an order for Katharina’s arrest was served. In the small hours of an August night, armed guards barged into her daughter’s house and found Katharina, who had heard the disturbance, hiding in a wooden linen chest — naked, as she often slept during the hot spells of summer. By one account, she was permitted to clothe herself before being taken away; by another, she was carried out disrobed inside the trunk to avoid a public disturbance and hauled to prison for another interrogation. So gratuitous was the fabrication of evidence that even Katharina’s composure through the indignities was held against her — the fact that she didn’t cry during the proceedings was cited as proof of unrepentant liaison with the Devil. Kepler had to explain to the court that he had never seen his stoic mother shed a single tear — not when his father left in Johannes’s childhood, not during the long years Katharina spent raising her children alone, not in the many losses of old age.

Katharina was threatened with being stretched on a wheel — a diabolical device commonly used to extract confessions — unless she admitted to sorcery. This elderly woman, who had outlived her era’s life expectancy by decades, would spend the next fourteen months imprisoned in a dark room, sitting and sleeping on the stone floor to which she was shackled with a heavy iron chain. She faced the threats with self-possession and confessed nothing.


The breaking wheel

In a last recourse, Kepler uprooted his entire family, left his teaching position, and traveled again to his hometown as the Thirty Years’ War raged on. I wonder if he wondered during that dispiriting journey why he had written The Dream in the first place, wondered whether the price of any truth is to be capped at so great a personal cost.

Long ago, as a student at Tübingen, Kepler had read Plutarch’s The Face on the Moon — the mythical story of a traveler who sails to a group of islands north of Britain inhabited by people who know secret passages to the Moon. There is no science in Plutarch’s story — it is pure fantasy. And yet it employs the same simple, clever device that Kepler himself would use in The Dream fifteen centuries later to unsettle the reader’s anthropocentric bias: In considering the Moon as a potential habitat for life, Plutarch pointed out that the idea of life in saltwater seems unfathomable to air-breathing creatures such as ourselves, and yet life in the oceans exists. It would be another eighteen centuries before we would fully awaken not only to the fact of marine life but to the complexity and splendor of this barely fathomable reality when Rachel Carson pioneered a new aesthetic of poetic science writing, inviting the human reader to consider Earth from the nonhuman perspective of sea creatures.

Kepler first read Plutarch’s story in 1595, but it wasn’t until the solar eclipse of 1605, the observations of which first gave him the insight that the orbits of the planets were ellipses rather than circles, that he began seriously considering the allegory as a means of illustrating Copernican ideas. Where Plutarch had explored space travel as metaphysics, Kepler made it a sandbox for real physics, exploring gravity and planetary motion. In writing about the takeoff of his imaginary spaceship, for instance, he makes clear that he has a theoretical model of gravity factoring in the demands that breaking away from Earth’s gravitational grip would place on cosmic voyagers. He goes on to add that while leaving Earth’s gravitational pull would be toilsome, once the spaceship is in the gravity-free “aether,” hardly any force would be needed to keep it in motion — an early understanding of inertia in the modern sense, predating by decades Newton’s first law of motion, which states that a body will move at a steady velocity unless acted upon by an outside force.

In a passage at once insightful and amusing, Kepler describes the physical requirements for his lunar travelers — a prescient description of astronaut training:

2e292385-dc1c-4cfe-b95e-845f6f98c2ec.pngNo inactive persons are accepted…no fat ones; no pleasure-loving ones; we choose only those who have spent their lives on horseback, or have shipped often to the Indies and are accustomed to subsisting on hardtack, garlic, dried fish and unpalatable fare.

Three centuries later, the early polar explorer Ernest Shackleton would post a similar recruitment ad for his pioneering Antarctic expedition:

2e292385-dc1c-4cfe-b95e-845f6f98c2ec.pngMen wanted for hazardous journey, small wages, bitter cold, long months of complete darkness, constant danger, safe return doubtful, honor and recognition in case of success.

When a woman named Peggy Peregrine expressed interest on behalf of an eager female trio, Shackleton dryly replied: “There are no vacancies for the opposite sex on the expedition.” Half a century later, the Russian cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova would become the first woman to exit Earth’s atmosphere on a spacecraft guided by Kepler’s laws.

After years of exerting reason against superstition, Kepler ultimately succeeded in getting his mother acquitted. But the seventy-five-year-old woman never recovered from the trauma of the trial and the bitter German winter spent in the unheated prison. On April 13, 1622, shortly after she was released, Katharina Kepler died, adding to her son’s litany of losses. A quarter millennium later, Emily Dickinson would write in a poem the central metaphor of which draws on Kepler’s legacy:

2e292385-dc1c-4cfe-b95e-845f6f98c2ec.pngEach that we lose takes part of us;
A crescent still abides,
Which like the moon, some turbid night,
Is summoned by the tides.


Partial eclipse of the Moon — one of French artist Étienne Léopold Trouvelot’s astronomical drawings. (Available as a print.)

A few months after his mother’s death, Kepler received a letter from Christoph Besold — the classmate who had stuck up for his lunar dissertation thirty years earlier, now a successful attorney and professor of law. Having witnessed Katharina’s harrowing fate, Besold had worked to expose the ignorance and abuses of power that sealed it, procuring a decree from the duke of Kepler’s home duchy prohibiting any other witchcraft trials unsanctioned by the Supreme Court in the urban and presumably far less superstitious Stuttgart. “While neither your name nor that of your mother is mentioned in the edict,” Besold wrote to his old friend, “everyone knows that it is at the bottom of it. You have rendered an inestimable service to the whole world, and someday your name will be blessed for it.”

Kepler was unconsoled by the decree — perhaps he knew that policy change and cultural change are hardly the same thing, existing on different time scales. He spent the remaining years of his life obsessively annotating The Dream with two hundred twenty-three footnotes — a volume of hypertext equal to the story itself — intended to dispel superstitious interpretations by delineating his exact scientific reasons for using the symbols and metaphors he did.

In his ninety-sixth footnote, Kepler plainly stated “the hypothesis of the whole dream”: “an argument for the motion of the Earth, or rather a refutation of arguments constructed, on the basis of perception, against the motion of the Earth.” Fifty footnotes later, he reiterated the point by asserting that he envisioned the allegory as “a pleasant retort” to Ptolemaic parochialism. In a trailblazing systematic effort to unmoor scientific truth from the illusions of commonsense perception, he wrote:

2e292385-dc1c-4cfe-b95e-845f6f98c2ec.pngEveryone says it is plain that the stars go around the earth while the Earth remains still. I say that it is plain to the eyes of the lunar people that our Earth, which is their Volva, goes around while their moon is still. If it be said that the lunatic perceptions of my moon-dwellers are deceived, I retort with equal justice that the terrestrial senses of the Earth-dwellers are devoid of reason.


Copernicus’s heliocentric universe, 1543.

In another footnote, Kepler defined gravity as “a power similar to magnetic power — a mutual attraction,” and described its chief law:

2e292385-dc1c-4cfe-b95e-845f6f98c2ec.pngThe attractive power is greater in the case of two bodies that are near to each other than it is in the case of bodies that are far apart. Therefore, bodies more strongly resist separation one from the other when they are still close together.

A further footnote pointed out that gravity is a universal force affecting bodies beyond the Earth, and that lunar gravity is responsible for earthly tides: “The clearest evidence of the relationship between earth and the moon is the ebb and flow of the seas.” This fact, which became central to Newton’s laws and which is now so commonplace that schoolchildren point to it as plain evidence of gravity, was far from accepted in Kepler’s scientific community. Galileo, who was right about so much, was also wrong about so much — something worth remembering as we train ourselves in the cultural acrobatics of nuanced appreciation without idolatry. Galileo believed, for instance, that comets were vapors of the earth — a notion Tycho Brahe disproved by demonstrating that comets are celestial objects moving through space along computable trajectories after observing the very comet that had made six-year-old Kepler fall in love with astronomy. Galileo didn’t merely deny that tides were caused by the Moon — he went as far as to mock Kepler’s assertion that they do. “That concept is completely repugnant to my mind,” he wrote — not even in a private letter but in his landmark Dialogue on the Two Chief World Systems — scoffing that “though [Kepler] has at his fingertips the motions attributed to the Earth, he has nevertheless lent his ear and his assent to the Moon’s dominion over the waters, to occult properties, and to such puerilities.”

Kepler took particular care with the portion of the allegory he saw as most directly responsible for his mother’s witchcraft trial — the appearance of nine spirits, summoned by the protagonist’s mother. In a footnote, he explained that these symbolize the nine Greek muses. In one of the story’s more cryptic sentences, Kepler wrote of these spirits: “One, particularly friendly to me, most gentle and purest of all, is called forth by twenty-one characters.” In his subsequent defense in footnotes, he explained that the phrase “twenty-one characters” refers to the number of letters used to spell Astronomia Copernicana. The friendliest spirit represents Urania — the ancient Greek muse of astronomy, which Kepler considered the most reliable of the sciences:

2e292385-dc1c-4cfe-b95e-845f6f98c2ec.pngAlthough all the sciences are gentle and harmless in themselves (and on that account they are not those wicked and good-for-nothing spirits with whom witches and fortune-tellers have dealings…), this is especially true of astronomy because of the very nature of its subject matter.


Urania, the ancient Greek muse of astronomy, as depicted in an 1885 Italian book of popular astronomy. (Available as a print.)

When the astronomer William Herschel discovered the seventh planet from the sun a century and a half later, he named it Uranus, after the same muse. Elsewhere in Germany, a young Beethoven heard of the discovery and wondered in the marginalia of one of his compositions: “What will they think of my music on the star of Urania?” Another two centuries later, when Ann Druyan and Carl Sagan compose the Golden Record as a portrait of humanity in sound and image, Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony sails into the cosmos aboard the Voyager spacecraft alongside a piece by the composer Laurie Spiegel based on Kepler’s Harmony of the World.

Kepler was unambiguous about the broader political intent of his allegory. The year after his mother’s death, he wrote to an astronomer friend:

2e292385-dc1c-4cfe-b95e-845f6f98c2ec.pngWould it be a great crime to paint the cyclopian morals of this period in livid colors, but for the sake of caution, to depart from the earth with such writing and secede to the moon?

Isn’t it better, he wonders in another stroke of psychological genius, to illustrate the monstrosity of people’s ignorance by way of the ignorance of imaginary others? He hoped that by seeing the absurdity of the lunar people’s belief that the Moon is the center of the universe, the inhabitants of Earth would have the insight and integrity to question their own conviction of centrality. Three hundred fifty years later, when fifteen prominent poets are asked to contribute a “statement on poetics” for an influential anthology, Denise Levertov — the only woman of the fifteen — would state that poetry’s highest task is “to awaken sleepers by other means than shock.” This must have been what Kepler aimed to do with The Dream — his serenade to the poetics of science, aimed at awakening.

In the wake of his mother’s witchcraft trial, Kepler made another observation centuries ahead of its time, even ahead of the seventeenth-century French philosopher François Poullain de la Barre’s landmark assertion that “the mind has no sex.” In Kepler’s time, long before the discovery of genetics, it was believed that children bore a resemblance to their mothers, in physiognomy and character, because they were born under the same constellation. But Kepler was keenly aware of how different he and Katharina were as people, how divergent their worldviews and their fates — he, a meek leading scientist about to turn the world over; she, a mercurial, illiterate woman on trial for witchcraft. If the horoscopes he had once drawn for a living did not determine a person’s life-path, Kepler couldn’t help but wonder what did — here was a scientist in search of causality. A quarter millennium before social psychology existed as a formal field of study, he reasoned that what had gotten his mother into all this trouble in the first place — her ignorant beliefs and behaviors taken for the work of evil spirits, her social marginalization as a widow — was the fact that she had never benefited from the education her son, as a man, had received. In the fourth section of The Harmony of the World — his most daring and speculative foray into natural philosophy — Kepler writes in a chapter devoted to “metaphysical, psychological, and astrological” matters:

2e292385-dc1c-4cfe-b95e-845f6f98c2ec.pngI know a woman who was born under almost the same aspects, with a temperament which was certainly very restless, but by which she not only has no advantage in book learning (that is not surprising in a woman) but also disturbs the whole of her town, and is the author of her own lamentable misfortune.

In the very next sentence, Kepler identifies the woman in question as his own mother and proceeds to note that she never received the privileges he did. “I was born a man, not a woman,” he writes, “a difference in sex which the astrologers seek in vain in the heavens.” The difference between the fate of the sexes, Kepler suggests, is not in the heavens but in the earthly construction of gender as a function of culture. It was not his mother’s nature that made her ignorant, but the consequences of her social standing in a world that rendered its opportunities for intellectual illumination and self-actualization as fixed as the stars.

Read other excerpts from Figuring here; read more about the book’s overarching aboutness here.



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Did you know…

Did you know…

… that today is Texas Admission Day? Texas became the 28th state of the United States in 1845. Trivia fans: The official state flag of Texas, called the Lone Star Flag, was adopted when Texas was admitted. The colors represent bravery (red), purity (white), and loyalty (blue). The large white star was first used on Texas flags in the 1830s during the battles between Texas and Mexico.


Today’s Inspirational Quote:

“The bad news is time flies. The good news is you’re the pilot.”

— Michael Altshuler

WhatsApp Forward – Modi Destroying….

A friend forwarded this on WhatsApp.

I was never a fan of Mark Tully when he was on BBC.

I CAN not confirm or deny whether this article was actually written by him or the content was ascribed to him deliberately.  But, I agree with some of the points here and hence reproducing it.

Quote, “Modi destroying termite ridden old Banyan tree”
-Mark Tully on Modi

Mark Tully the BBC correspondent for India for many decades writes about changes happening in MODI’S regime.

In his Book “No Full Stops in India,” while discussing about change writes –
In India change takes a lot more time.The birth will be slow and perhaps painful. I believe it could be the birth of a new order which is not held up by the crumbling colonial pillars left behind by the Raj but is GENUINELY Indian ; a GC modern order, but ”not a slavish imitation of other modern orders”.

He goes on to say that – “For all its great achievements, the Nehru dynasty has stood like a Banyan tree, overshadowing the people and the institutions of India, and all Indians know that nothing grows under the Banyan tree”.

As Mark said , Change will be slow and painful, therefore for someone who doesn’t read and makes judgement based on perception will for quite some time not be able to see the change taking place or will pretend as if nothing is changing.

The way changes are coming in Railways, Power sector, Defense Production and in governance and at the same time accompanied by the resentment of the old forces indicate that the process of change has begun albeit slowly but firmly and is going to be painful.

Let us not undermine the capabilities of this termite ridden old Banyan tree which will still try its best to stop any one growing to the extent that it may even turn the soil upside down before falling down.

For a year or so we may witness more of Dadris, more of Kaniyahas, more of Owaisi style shouting but finally if the Society keeps its cool, acts maturely and continues to perform we will sail through and the old forces will die a natural death.

LET ME ADD to this – every day the new stir media throws in your face is all doctored by forces who wish to topple Modi Govt as Modi has uprooted them and they are like fish out of the water.

The time has come to continue to support the man and keep your faith intact and we will see new India for sure – bigger, better, stronger, corruption free , peaceful , prosperous than ever before with people having better quality of life..
– Mark Tully.” End Quote.


Random Acts of Kindness

  1. Remember that friend you haven’t seen for ages? Give them a call
  2. We walk past homeless people every day; can you spare them 5 minutes of your time?
  3. We rarely listen to others – ask someone about their day
  4. Offer to help your neighbours/friends with chores
  5. Old laptop or mobile lying around? Donate it

How an English Energy Crisis Helped Create Champagne – Gastro Obscura

via How an English Energy Crisis Helped Create Champagne – Gastro Obscura

How an English Energy Crisis Helped Create Champagne

Desperate English bottle-makers turning to a new fuel resulted in a sparkling innovation.

This Champagne inspector wears a mask to protect her face from shattering bottles.

This Champagne inspector wears a mask to protect her face from shattering bottles. BETTMANN/GETTY IMAGES

IN THE EARLY 17TH CENTURY, the kingdom of England was in the grip of the world’s first energy crisis. Decades of population growth, rapid urbanization, countless foreign wars, and myriad voyages of discovery to the New World under the capricious Tudors decimated the country’s forests and its timber supply.

King James I was terrified. No trees for timber meant no ships for the navy, and no navy meant leaving the country wide open and undefended against England’s enemies—which, at this time, was pretty much all of the rest of Europe. This lack of timber was nothing short of an existential threat to England itself.

A panicked Royal proclamation was swiftly issued in 1615 to stem the tide. It bemoaned the increasing dearth of good old English wood, “great and large in height and bulk” with “toughness and heart,” which is “of excellent use for shipping,” and it set out a series of drastic restrictions for its use for anything but absolutely essential purposes. In particular, the proclamation explicitly forbade that anyone should be so wasteful as to “melt, make or causeth to be melted or made, any kind, form or fashion of Glass or Glasses whatsoever, with Timber, or wood, or any Fewell made of Timber of wood.”

In this 18th-century print, English workers make bottles in "A Glass House."
In this 18th-century print, English workers make bottles in “A Glass House.” HULTON ARCHIVE/GETTY IMAGES

No timber as fuel to make glass? The country’s glass-makers were outraged. They had been burning timber for centuries to make their product: an almost alchemical process of using fearsome heat to melt a mixture of potash and sand. What on earth were they to do now?

While craftsmen around the country were up in arms about this new prohibition, the attentions of the London upper class were engrossed with a decadent new product.

English wine has long been maligned. The ancient historian Tacitus wrote that Britain was “hostile and unsuitable for the growing of grapes,” but it was his fellow Romans who brought their vines to Britain two millennia ago to sustain them in their drafty villas. A thousand years later, the Domesday Book listed 45 working vineyards in the country. And, in the 1600s, a new type of wine was being produced on the shores of England: refined and unique in character, to cater to the tastes of the affluent and upwardly mobile individuals who had flocked to the capital. And, for that, we turn to Christopher Merrett.

Champagne's sweet taste and bubbles quickly made it a go-to festive occasions, even for this group in the countryside.
Champagne’s sweet taste and bubbles quickly made it a go-to festive occasions, even for this group in the countryside. UNIVERSAL HISTORY ARCHIVE/GETTY IMAGES

Sir Christopher Merrett was possessed by an insatiable curiosity. A librarian, gentleman scholar, physician and, in the terminology of the time, a ‘natural philosopher’, Merrett was one of the founding members of the Royal Society: the ‘invisible college’ where the greatest minds of the age investigated the minutiae of the known world. His output was extraordinary. He even produced an exhaustively comprehensive book attempting to list all the fauna, flora and minerals of England.

But it’s his 1662 paper, Some Observations Concerning the Ordering of Wines, that has had the longest legacy. ”Our Wine-coopers of latter times use vast quantities of Sugar and Melosses to all sorts of Wines,” he wrote, “to make them drink brisk and sparkling and to give them Spirits.”

What Merrett was describing was the méthode champenoise, the act of secondary fermentation where still table wines are loaded up with sugar and molasses to get the yeast going again, then sealed in a bottle to produce an effervescent, bubbling concoction. It is a method made famous, as the name suggests, by the French in the Champagne region. But here is the first known description of making ‘sparkling’ wine⁠—and Merrett writing that British vintners had been doing this for years.

The problem with this new liquid, “brisk with spirits,” was that it generated an incredible amount of pressure. In a standard bottle of sparkling wine today, the internal pressure is at around six times that of atmospheric pressure—three times that of a car tire. That’s the equivalent to over five kilograms of weight pushing hard against every square centimeter of glass. Only an especially strong bottle could withstand this sort of pressure. Thankfully, England’s glass-makers were prepared.

After the royal proclamation a few years before, English glass-makers had reluctantly turned to coal. While wood was thought of as a noble fuel, across Europe coal was historically considered undesirable and dirty, and the act itself of mining it had been likened to to vandalism or burglary from the earth ever since Roman times. Even though it was well known that rich seams of coal ran across England, these were left largely untouched for centuries.

Nonetheless, once laborers started begrudgingly using this coal to heat their furnaces, they overcame their reservations. Sure, coal gave off fumes and toxins, but it also reached a much higher temperature than timber, creating stronger, more durable, and thicker glass. Over time, artisans honed new industrial methods to take advantage of this discovery. While European counterparts were still using wood, the Champagne bottle as we know it was born in the furnaces of England.

Not only did these new bottles help spawn an embryonic wine industry, but they became status objects themselves. Samuel Pepys, in his Diaries, writes excitedly about visiting his local vintner to see “some of my new bottles made, with my crest upon them, filled with wine, about five or six dozen.” The introduction of lead oxide later in the century made the bottles even stronger, and catapulted England’s craftsman to the pinnacle of European glass-makers.

Often, the discovery of Champagne is attributed to the monk Dom Pérignon, depicted here with a bubbling bottle.
Often, the discovery of Champagne is attributed to the monk Dom Pérignon, depicted here with a bubbling bottle. CORBIS HISTORICAL/GETTY IMAGES

But what of Dom Pérignon⁠—the French Benedictine monk who, as the story goes, first created this beverage that would become known around the world as Champagne? “Come quickly, I am tasting the stars!” he is said to have cried out. One can imagine the other monks rushing over to make merry with this novel and effervescent liquid that had just burst from its bottle.

But that thick, stout bottle⁠—the one memorialized in a grand statue of Dom Pérignon that now stands on the lawn at the House of Moet & Chandon on the Avenue de Champagne⁠—could not have existed anywhere but Britain at the time. And, what’s more, Merrett’s paper on the secondary fermentation of wine was submitted to the Royal Academy in 1663, five years before Dom Pérignon even arrived at the abbey in which his famous invention was said to have been born. And decades before the famous saying could have been uttered.

The founding myth of Dom Pérignon has played a vital part in transforming Champagne into one of the richest and most fiercely protected global food and drink regions. It is a convenient, if apocryphal, ‘first-to-market’ story that has successfully given authority to the Champagne region over every other wine producing area. It was actually the infamous English sweet-tooth and the Londoner’s predilection for bubbles that first gave the wine-makers of Champagne inspiration; they just needed to work out how to create the right sort of bottle, like that of their cross-Channel cousins, in order to capitalize on the new potential market.

A statue on the Avenue de Champagne lauds Dom Pérignon (and the humble bottle.)
A statue on the Avenue de Champagne lauds Dom Pérignon (and the humble bottle.) VICTOR GRIGAS/CC BY-SA 4.0

This, however, took some time. Replacing wood with coal in the bottle-making process was not adopted in France until after 1700, to imitate and reproduce bottles à la façon d’Angleterre (‘in the English fashion’). But change was so gradual that, as late as 1784, French entrepreneurs were after the industrial ‘secret’ of English bottle-making. And still, in 1833, when Cyrus Redding published his A History and Description of Modern Wines, anywhere between four to 40 percent of the Champagne region’s wine was lost to exploding bottles every year. The bodily danger was so great, Redding wrote that “workmen [were] obliged to enter the cellars with wire masks, to guard against the fragments of glass when the breakage is frequent.”

It was not until the Industrial Revolution reached France that bottles could be produced with enough precision and standardization to withstand the pressure. By then, Champagne’s reputation was assured. For that, we have to thank both the English bottle and the world’s first energy crisis.

Gastro Obscura covers the world’s most wondrous food and drink.


Riddles of the day

What binds two people yet touches only one?






The answer is: A wedding ring.

I last forever and you might have too much or too little of me, either way you will run out of me eventually. What am I?






The answer is: Time.

The Art and Science of Falling in Love With Joshua Trees – Atlas Obscura

via The Art and Science of Falling in Love With Joshua Trees – Atlas Obscura

The Art and Science of Falling in Love With Joshua Trees

“HeyJTree” is built like a dating site, but it matches readers with the charismatic, threatened plants.

It's hard to picture Joshua Tree without its goofy namesakes, but they're in trouble.

It’s hard to picture Joshua Tree without its goofy namesakes, but they’re in trouble. PEDRO SZEKELY / CC BY-SA 2.0

IF YOU’RE PRONE TO ANTHROPOMORPHIZING the natural world, you’ll find a lot to love in Joshua Tree National Park. Introduce yourself to the shaggy trees that lend the park its name, and you might notice charming and distinct characters: You can imagine one talking with a baritone croak, maybe, and another in a high-pitched warble. The residents of this patch of California’s Mojave Desert are charismatic, like sedentary Muppets with root systems. It’s hard to imagine the fantastical, boulder-strewn landscape without big, goofy stands of them. But as the world warms, the trees are losing ground.

Researchers have consistently found that Joshua trees, or Yucca brevifolia, are struggling in a changing climate. For one thing, while adult trees can rely on stored water during triple-digit summer temperatures, seedlings aren’t surviving them, KQED reported. A temperature increase of 3° Celsius would curb the trees’ range by as much as 90 percent, according to the research ecologist Cameron Barrows. He has canvassed the park in search of refugia—higher, cooler spots where young trees might be able to hang on—but those aren’t a guaranteed lifeline. Joshua Tree is the southernmost edge of the plants’ range, and it’s getting too hot and too dry. The trees are often flanked by grasses that can go up in flames during wildfires, and the trees struggle to successfully spring back after burns. “It doesn’t look good for the trees,” says ecologist and artist Juniper Harrower.

Juniper Harrower conducted a lot of a field work with her son and mom in tow.
Juniper Harrower conducted a lot of a field work with her son and mom in tow. COURTESY JUNIPER HARROWER

Harrower, who grew up roughly 20 minutes from the park, wants people to fall in love with Joshua trees—and to get curious about interspecies relationships between the trees, moths, and underground fungi that might help keep them healthy. Harrower recently finished her PhD at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and has launched a collaborative digital project called “Hey JTree,” a science-communication effort inspired by dating apps.

Sixteen trees throughout the park get the Tinder treatment, with cute portraits, location information, and coy little profiles peppered with made-up names (say hi to JeromeEleanorShorty, and Marty) and real-world data, including the local temperature; soil moisture; tree height; elevation; number of seeds; and sightings of yucca moths, which pollinate the Joshua tree and lay their eggs in its blossoms. (Harrower performed much of this field work while pregnant or with her infant son in tow, with a truck and ladder borrowed from her parents, and her mom helping out as an assistant and lunch-packer.) Atlas Obscura talked to Harrower about the project, and what the trees are up against.

What threats are the trees facing in the park right now?

It’s an issue of reproducing, but also, the trees that are standing just getting too hot, too dry, and starting to lose limbs and collapse. When we think about climate change and how it impacts Joshua trees, you also have to think about all these other players: Joshua trees and yucca moths have tightly coevolved over millions of years, and you can’t have one without the other. If the moths are responding to climate in a certain way, and it takes out the moth sooner, that’s it for Joshua trees in terms of reproduction.

Yucca moths pollinate Joshua trees, then lay their eggs on the plant. The caterpillars eat the seeds, and the cycle continues.
Yucca moths pollinate Joshua trees, then lay their eggs on the plant. The caterpillars eat the seeds, and the cycle continues. STACY EGAN/CC BY 2.0

Why draw inspiration from dating apps?

As a biologist, I’m interested in all kinds of species, for all kinds of reasons. But Joshua trees—people love Joshua trees. It was a way I could get people to listen to what I’m saying. Visitation rates in the park have skyrocketed over the last 20 years, and especially the last 10 and five years, and part of that is driven by Instagram culture. Joshua Tree is so photogenic.

I grew up as a really young kid hanging out in the park, and I’m just seeing the explosion of phones out—lots of people, lots of phones in the air. So I thought, this is a way I can engage with phone culture. Also, it’s catchy. I’ve given talks before, and university students are sitting in the back with headphones on. As soon as I say “dating site,” headphones are popped off. All this stuff is really heavy, so here’s a way that we can be playful with it but still have some important conversations.

How did you settle on these specific trees to profile?

I look at it across a climate gradient. Across the park, landscapes, ecosystems, temperature, and rainfall patterns vary dramatically. At the highest sites, you get snow every year. Out of the park, and even in the park at the highest elevation sites, it’s really cold and windy. As you start to go down in elevation, it changes. There are areas in a little valleys that are protected, then places that might be exposed to certain cold wind patterns. You definitely get microclimates.

When I was thinking about what trees I wanted to include in this project, I really wanted to make sure that they were accessible to people. I didn’t want people to have to be, like, tromping through cryptobiotic crusts, these amazing ancient soils that have all of this life. When you step on them, that destroys it. So I picked trees that were close to parking lots and could be accessible to people with disabilities, or really close to trails. I picked trees that looked like they had different personalities. I’ve always been really intrigued by the form an organism takes, and how it’s responding to environmental conditions and also genetic cues.

Would you swipe right on any of these fine Joshua trees?
Would you swipe right on any of these fine Joshua trees? COURTESY JUNIPER HARROWER

Do the trees seem to have a sweet spot in the park?

Across all of the measurements that I looked at, there was this one happy area where trees were really big and large, there were lots of them, they were reproducing, there were lots of moths. Things were just looking good. That was really interesting to see, like, “Oh yeah, everybody’s kind of happy around this mid-level elevation.” There’s a good example on out on the Cap Rock Trail, a little loop.

Why do the trees like it there?

Joshua trees need really specific patterns to be able to thrive and flower. If you don’t flower, you don’t set seed, and you don’t have the next generation of Joshua trees. They need a cold snap to get the plant to flower, and they also need enough water. The precipitation pattern needs to bring them enough water to survive through the years. I mean, it’s a desert plant; it’s evolved to be able to take a little bit of hardship.

Lookin' good!
Lookin’ good! CHUCK HOLLAND / CC BY 2.0

Assuming someone does not literally go out and woo a tree, what are you aiming to accomplish?

The most basic thing is just interest in our natural world. I see a lot of kids and a lot of people so focused inward, and downward on their phone, and these kind of internal, technological worlds. It bums me out. I really hope that people can find the magic that is in our natural world.

You’ll hear scientists say, “I don’t really want to get political because we want to keep science separate from politics, to preserve its dignity or believability.” Over time, I realized we don’t have the luxury of not being political anymore. I firmly believe you can do really solid science, and when people understand how the science process works, you can recognize good science from bad science—and it’s peer-reviewed and held to high standards. And you can also be really politically outspoken and say, “We can’t continue to consume at the levels we’re consuming.” People need to understand that there’s value in our natural world outside of just, “extract all the resources you can get from it and then make as much money to buy a bunch of stuff that’s gonna destroy our environment and us.”

Harrower's site includes navigation instructions, so anyone can go have a little facetime with the trees.
Harrower’s site includes navigation instructions, so anyone can go have a little facetime with the trees. COURTESY JUNIPER HARROWER

Do you remember the first time you saw a Joshua tree? Was it love at first sight?

I was born in the Palm Springs area, and we moved up to the High Desert when I was six or seven. We lived on five acres, down a bumpy dirt road. There are very, very few Joshua trees in this area because the elevation is too low, but we had one in the backyard, and it was totally weird. It was really special to us. My dad is a landscape architect, and so we always thought about our plant friends in the area.

I was the oldest of four kids—four kids, and lots of dogs. Every time one of our dogs would pass away, we would bury it under the Joshua tree. It became this kind of mythological place in the backyard. I think at this point there are like seven dog skeletons underneath the giant tree. I always kind of fantasize about doing a painting of what it looks like underground. Roots seek out nitrogen and carbon, so I’m sure that the roots wind along dog spines and rib cages. It’s probably really macabre, but it’s incredibly beautiful to imagine the symbiosis.

This interview has been edited and condensed.


Via Nik’s Four Minute Book Summaries Newsletter, I subscribe

The Uninhabitable Earth by David Wallace-Wells

1-Sentence-Summary: The Uninhabitable Earth explains how humanity’s complacency and negligence have put this world on a course to soon be unlivable unless we each do our small part to improve how we care for this beautiful planet we live on.

  1. Even enacting all the policy changes agreed to in Paris, we will still exceed the threshold where disaster begins.
  2. Without emissions reduction, we will see our oceans rise to fatal levels, putting major cities underwater.
  3. Unless we change our ways, bacteria of ancient diseases in melting Arctic ice sheets will begin a global health crisis.

If you want to know what the effects of climate change will be if we don’t change our ways, this book is for you.

Random Acts of Kindness

  1. Open the door for someone
  2. Bake something for your family/friends
  3. Read a good book recently? Pass it on to someone else
  4. Share today’s food with your neighbour!
  5. Purchase ethical goods

Random Acts of Kindness

  1. Make a hot beverage for a friend/family
  2. Help someone carry their pushchair up/down the stairs
  3. Lend a friend a book you think they’d like
  4. Purchase ethical goods
  5. Help someone improve, give them constructive feedback

Word of the Month

Word of the month
Movement of products from a production facility to a warehouse or courier managing delivery to the end user

The Way You Love (The Stuttering, Stammering And Halting Girl Song)

The Way You Love (The Stuttering, Stammering And Halting Girl Song)

By jay

A Rhyming Song

You find so many people are far too hasty
But you are simply tasty

I like the way you Love.
I like the way you Smile.
I like the way you Eternity.

You find so many people are far too hasty
But you are simply tasty

I love the way you wear your hair,
Spreading your style everywhere.
You’re like a style fountain.
Enough jazz for a whole mountain.

You find so many people are far too hasty
But you are simply tasty

You’re the perfect girl.
Leaving me in such a whirl.

You find so many people are far too hasty
But you are simply tasty

Stuttering, Stammering, and Halting,
Speaking and Singing too,
Are the qualities of you

You find so many people are far too hasty
But you are simply tasty

Random Acts of Kindness

  1. Google ‘survey for charity’ and complete one. They receive money for every one you fill out!
  2. Make amends with someone you may have wronged
  3. Surroundings looking messy? Tidy up the area around you
  4. Let someone know how much you appreciate them
  5. Wardrobe overflowing? Donate clothes to a charity

Dark Poetry by Jay©

Sadness is but a wall between two gardens

You once promised for eternity
shed not a tear
for it is written,
an instant, in a flash
for soulless you

Me? A tormented heart


We lived in Bhopal the State Capital of a Newly carved state in 1958.  My father was a Government servant and mother a housewife.  She has passed Intermediate and was trained Montessori Teacher but had never practised.

She and her friend Tai Nafde found a need in the new township of T.T. Nagar for a kindergarten / pre-school / play school cum creche’ in this developing cosmopolitan suburb full of Government employees transferred from Maharashtra, UP, Bihar, Southern India.

The Old town had its own system of education and there were developed systems.  The two ladies spoke to the neighborhood and decided to start a ‘BALAK MANDIR’ – initially a playschool cum creche’ and slowly began admitting students for nursery and kindergarten.  They had just about 30 kids to begin with.  The timings were from 10 AM till 5pm and if parents wished to take kids home early they were flexible.

The fees were nominal INR 2 per month which was affordable and they did not provide any food or milk/ vegetables – it was to be provided by the parents.

This was our first experience of Entrepreneurship. I was 5 years of age and was preparing to go to the school when this venture started. It worked very well and began getting famous and growing so much so that my mother and her friend both began running independent Balak Mandirs at their own homes and the demand was still growing.

One day, my aunt who was a Director of Tribal Welfare landed into our home with her beautiful smart looking lady friend who arrived in a long Impala ( Chevrolet) or something like that of a car I remember it was open hood and very long with a chauffeur).  They discussed with my mum and her friend for an hour and by evening my mother decided to give up the Balak Mandir to her friend as she was Offered a Job in the Government’s Education Department as a Teacher for KinderGarten project which the State was starting.  The lady was Director of Public Instructions DPI as she was called – was an ex-Royal from Bhopal family and a powerful persona.

This was my earliest memory and inception into Entrepreneurship.  My mother continued in Government service and post-retirement worked for Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram and Shabri Kanya Ashram in Raipur and interior Chhattisgarh teaching small children till the end.  That was her mission and purpose of life and she dedicated it for the cause.  I met several girls from age 2 -22 in her hostel who were mainly from NorthEast and my mum was their Didi/ Teacher/ Friend/ philosopher and guide.

The mother’s friend continued with her Balak Mandir and did it without many expansions – she was content having a batch of 30-35 children which she could manage with the help of two young teachers/ help.  She also did it for many years.

No financial help from anyone,  much to the chagrin of my father and uncle ( my mothers; friends husband the two ladies decided a course – and became successful entrepreneurs.  They also helped many ladies to start similar outfits in other localities as mentors free of charge.

I learnt my second lesson – Mentoring is Free.

A startup is a new company. A startup may be a tech company. A startup is generally a new tech company. A startup is a new, small, tech company.

These are the kind of things we hear every day about startups. Everybody talks about startups but nobody really knows what they are, what their goals are, ect… This is why today, I’m going to define with you

What is a Startup?

In my opinion, a startup is a business, that focuses on growth. This is what the ‘Up’ of Startup means: going up, growth.

Steve Blank defined a startup as an organization made to search for a scalable and repeatable business model and I agree with it.

The size of your business doesn’t define whether you are a startup. You could have a business of 2 or 3 people, that would not make you a startup. You could be a tech company and not being a startup. Why? Because growth isn’t your goal. Growth is what defines startups.

A lot of people say that Uber, AirBnB or Facebook are not startups because they are way too big.  I believe they are still startups because they still focus so much on growth. When Facebook reached 1 billion users, experts said that Facebook couldn’t grow much more. Since, they reached 2 billion users, they have Messenger with 1 billion users, Whatsapp with 1 billion users as well and Instagram with 700 million users. If this is not growth and having a startup mindset, what is it?

Soe What is a startup? This might seem like a stupid question but the answer is not that obvious. I work with startups regularly and find that many actors in the startup ecosystem don’t even know what a startup is. Indeed, we meet startup founders, people working in incubators or accelerators and even investors who don’t really understand what is a startup. This is why, today, I will try to answer some of the questions you may have about startups.

You can find startups emerging everywhere and anywhere you look around you. Now more than ever, startups are flooding the whole marketplace in different parts of the world. In fact, even students are being advised in schools and educational institutions not to wait for their graduation and look for a job. Instead, they are told to work as hard as possible while still studying so that they can make a name for themselves through investing their time in business innovations and startup.

These days, stories and tales of startup business owners and entrepreneurs are often found and seen on the front pages of newspapers and magazines which serve as an incentive or encouragement for more and more people to create and brainstorm ideas which are worthy to invest on.

People consider technological breakthroughs as things which can revolutionize the whole world and open more doors of abundant opportunities to people. This is the reason why more resources and funds are made readily available for the start of feasible businesses and startups.

If you are part of the technology industry or you are residing in a tech hub like Silicon Valley, New York or Hong Kong, chances are you are someone you know is already in the way of creating concepts or launching his/her very own startup. But, let’s be honest, even many people in big startup hubs don’t really understand the startup concept.

Startup: What Is It?

For the longest time, investors have looked at startups as just smaller versions of big corporations. However, this was actually a problem since there is an expansive ideological and even organizational difference between startups, small businesses and large corporations, which calls for varied KPIs and funding strategies.

According to a legend of Silicon Valley and serial entrepreneur, Steve Blank, startups can be best defined as temporary organizations made to search for a scalable and repeatable business model. Argued in the tech industry content, a startup must be short for scalable startup which aims not just to prove the business model but to do it quickly in such a way which will have a dramatic effect on the existing market.

Business startups, or otherwise called startup companies or simply startups, are companies at the initial stages of development of service or product which are believed by the business founders as in demand in the market. These companies are often financed by the founders themselves but since this type of funding cannot be sustained well into the future, it will need extra financing from venture capitalists and investors.

Even though this kind of companies exists in every type of business all over the globe, the term is primarily associated with information technology as well as the launch of numerous internet startups back in the 1990s during the dot-com bubble. Most of the internet startups went down to failure mainly because of the lack of sustainable revenue or significant flaws in the underlying business plans they used.

Some of the internet startups managed to survive even after the bubble burst. Good examples of these include the online bookseller Amazon and eBay, which remains as one of the leading online auction places. A big chunk of this startup activity came from a place in California called Silicon Valley which remains to have plenty of startup company activities up to this day.

A company will cease to be called a startup up once it has already gone through several developments, like being traded in public or being acquired or merged into a bigger corporation which puts a stop to it being an independent entity. However, during an unfortunate turn of event, a startup may fail and stop its operations altogether.

However, your company can still be called a startup even if you raised billions of dollars or if you are publicly traded. For instance, Uber, AirBnB or Facebook are worth billions but are still considered as startups because their pursuit of growth is still what defines them. What is a startup then? A company whose true north is pursuit of growth – no matter how big or how old they are. This is what the ‘up’ of ‘startup’ means: growth.

Kindly leave your Feedforward for us to improve further. Regards. Jay

My Mission©

Jay (Dhananjay Parkhe) has a simple mission. He wants to help successful executives and Startups achieve positive, sustainable change and behavior; for them, their people, and their teams. He helps you make life a little better, still better. With over 44 years of experience helping C-Level and below Executives and Beginner Entrepreneurs overcome limiting thoughts and behaviors and help them achieve great success, Jay does this work Pro-Bono as he believes Mentoring IS and should always be Free.  Jay loves helping people and it is his way of Giving Back to the Society.

As a C-Suite Mentor, StartUp Mentor, educator, artist, critic, Ex-MNC Director, Excellence Assessor, Ex-Mentor, Assessor for QSHE Standards and Social Accountability and Investor in People Standards with several Global and National Awards under his belt, Jay helps people understand how our thoughts and environment we operate gives us cues, prompts and tribbers that create negative vibes, thoughts, behaviours.  Through simple and practical advice Jay helps people achieve sustainable positive behavioral and business results.

3 D Printing – via Linkedin Newsletter

Future Of Work

Top 6 Most Amazing Ways 3D Printing Is Now Used In Practice

Newsletter cover image

Even though3D printing got its start in the 1980s when Chuck Hull designed and printed a small cup, it’s been in the last few years that the printers became cheaper to produce and therefore used in a variety of amazing ways. Also known as additive manufacturing, 3D printing is when objects are created when a printer lays down material in successive layers following the design from a digital file. Here are the top 6 most amazing ways 3D printing is now used in practice today.

1. Manufacturing

3D printing is reshaping the way we manufacture things in a wide range of industries. Thanks to innovations with 3D printing technology, materials, and equipment, costs have gone down, making it easier to be adopted for general manufacturing. 3D printing allows manufacturers to consider short-production runs and to create completely new components that wouldn’t be feasible in a traditional manufacturing environment. Manufacturers are also able to be nimble when they use 3D printing processes. McLaren Racing provides a great example of how 3D printing can impact an industry. They use 3D printing to develop steering wheels for their Formula One racing cars. Since they can print a wheel and allow drivers to handle various prototypes and offer feedback, the design process went much quicker than with traditional design and manufacturing processes. 3D printing is used to rapidly develop and create new parts and tools—even at the racetrack—that will hopefully enhance the performance of the cars.

2. Edible 3D printing

Who doesn’t like chocolate? One of the ways 3D printing is used today is to create objects out of edible material such as chocolate. Since chocolate hardens quickly at room temperature, it’s the perfect material for 3D printing and allows chocolatiers to create confections in any shape or form. This use of 3D printing will only get bigger as other edible materials are used, including ice cream, cookie dough, pizza, and even hamburger to make patties. Edible 3D printing is becoming popular for professionals and for personal use. Those that use 3D printers for edible creations find that it can be less time-consuming than traditional cooking, allows for more personalization and customization, and there’s no limit to creativity.

3. Musical instruments

The world has already experienced its first live concert, where only3D-printed instruments were used at Lund University in Sweden. 3D printing enables instruments and instrument parts to be created in complex shapes that aren’t possible in any other way. So far, there have been violins, flutes, keyboards, guitars, and drums created by 3D printing. While the craft of building a violin hasn’t changed since the 17th century, 3D printing offers another solution. Many 3D-printed instruments not only make beautiful music, but are visually stunning as well.

4. Dresses

3D printing in the world of fashion? Yes, it’s the next 3D printing frontier! Nike already has the capability to create trainers using 3D printing, but now designers are relying on the technology to create amazing dresses that couldn’t be fabricated in any other way. With 3D printing, fashion fuses with technology and the normal fashion rules do not apply.

5. Entire houses

Within 24 hours, an entire 400-square-foothouse was 3D printed in the suburbs of Moscow for only $10,000. In the last several years, other construction companies have put this technology of 3D printing concrete to use and made the price to create a 3D printed house drop as well. And the most advanced 3D printed building in the world is a futuristicoffice building in Dubai. The speed of construction for a 3D home is especially appealing when emergency shelters must be erected after natural or manmade disasters. Aside from expediency, 3D printing houses allow for unlimited creative opportunities that weren’t possible in traditional construction.

6.   Print body parts

One of the most amazing real-world examples of 3D printing is the technology’s use in healthcare and medicine. From bone structures that can be implanted in the human body to organs and heart and liver tissue, 3D printing is going to transform medicine and the future of mankind. These aren’t just prototypes; in many cases, these are actual working body parts. The medical school at Northwestern University even 3D printed ovaries for mice and allowed infertile mice to produce healthy offspring.

Thank you for reading my post. Here at LinkedIn and at Forbes I regularly write about management and technology trends. I have also written a new book about AI, click here for more information. To read my future posts simply join my network here or click ‘Follow’. Also feel free to connect with me via TwitterFacebookInstagramSlideshare or YouTube.

About Bernard Marr

Bernard Marr is an internationally best-selling author, popular keynote speaker, futurist, and a strategic business & technology advisor to governments and companies. He helps organisations improve their business performance, use data more intelligently, and understand the implications of new technologies such as artificial intelligencebig datablockchains, and the Internet of Things.

LinkedIn has ranked Bernard as one of the world’s top 5 business influencers. He is a frequent contributor to the World Economic Forum and writes a regular column for Forbes. Every day Bernard actively engages his 1.5 million social media followers and shares content that reaches millions of readers.


First let’s read the below quote I like.

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

— Rumi Jalalu’l-Din

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

I make you keep the score as mentee

I wish . you riches

I wish you success

I am most interested in your reputation Building. 

I am your Mentor - Jay.


Plot Thickens:

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

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

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

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

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

Dhananjay Parkhe and his Mentoring Strategies :

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

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

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

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

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

Let us look at the First of such Martial Arts.

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

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

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



Dear Reader,

Ø Are you at a point where you think you really need a mentor.

o You have a great staff, accountant, lawyer, and banker, but none of them has any experience as an entrepreneur.

o Though they help to balance your ambition and keep you grounded in reality, you need something more. For e.g. Your company is about 10 years old, with just over $2 million in sales and a staff of about 25. You are hoping you’ll make the Inc. 500 this year.

Ø It would be great to have a C-suite Mentor you could turn to for guidance. o Besides not knowing how to find one, you’re unsure how these relationships typically work. o Do people pay mentors, give them bonuses based on performance, or seek advice purely on goodwill?

Ø And what expectations should you have for a mentor? This is what I do: I treat Mentoring as my personal CSR. My personal Giving back to the Society which helped me to come up this far. From humble beginnings, studying with the help of Educational Freeship by charitable people, Merit and Merit cum poverty scholarships; to allowing me to work and earn while keeping my focus on learning, (Child labor was not a bad thing in the ‘60’s and ‘70’s) by doing part-time jobs, I feel that I owe it to Society and do something. Mentoring is a subject close to my heart.

I had some great mentors early in my career, and in recent past, I’ve been devoting well over half of my time to mentoring others. First, I think you should never have to pay a mentor. An adviser who asks to be paid is not a mentor. He or she is a consultant, and the relationship is a commercial one. ( I don’t indulge in Independent Consulting. Thus C-Suite Mentoring is different from my Advising, Directing and Educating.)

To me, the mentoring relationship is based strictly on mutual respect. As a mentor, I am motivated by nothing more than the desire to help. The person receiving the mentoring should be there to learn from my experience and advice.

While learning to be an Executive Coach, I learnt from my Coaches:

a. Some People would be Un-Coachable not because of them, because of ME. Leave them ASAP.

b. As a Coach Reveal yourself, Transparency is Key and Confidentiality makes it sustainable.

c. A Coach provokes. He / She chooses the timing and Methods when to and how to. Second, a mentor’s role is not to advise you but rather to give you a different way of thinking. I often have to remind my mentees that I’m not telling them what they should do. I’m simply offering another perspective, based on my experience. It’s critical that they consider what I say to them, but then make their own decisions. Otherwise, if things don’t work out, they will blame my advice—and miss out on the opportunity to learn from the best teacher of all: experience.

In that sense, a mentor is not so much an adviser but a sounding board. As for finding a mentor, there is no particular formula. I was lucky. My mentors came at different times in my life. They came from my within my extended family, My Teachers, Spiritual Gurus I was introduced to by my parents, Political leaders from different hues and colors whom I met and idolised early in my Teen years, Religious leaders who helped shape my thinking removing the Rituals and teaching me to Pray and Meditate, Friends and also my Bosses, Senior colleagues and some very worthy young talented people I met.

My mentees come from various sources—requests from students, friends, past colleagues, meetings, conferences, my Networks, my Linkedin Groups, responses to this blog or my Linkedin Group specially designed for C-Suite Mentors, community organisations, as also calls or emails which come out of the blue! I urge you to start slowly and let the relationship evolve. “You can simply ask for occasional counselling along the lines of: ‘Would you mind if I give you a call this week?” One of the Techniques I like in Mentoring are: Accountability Partners – which I learnt from the Global Coaching Guru – Dr Marshall Goldsmith.

Related articles FIND A MENTOR by @ThaboKgowana ( Mentoring (

Who Can Be A Mentor? (

Are You Too Old For A Mentor? (

Why You Aren’t Successful (And Never Will Be) (

Common Phases… (

Want A More Satisfying Career? Become A Mentor ( Mentor Coordinator – Desoto Youth Court (

Definitions of Mentoring ( Buddy VS Mentor (

Riddle of the day

When there is ____, people post more negatively on Facebook.

A. not any important news stories happening
B. an election happening
C. rain
D. a higher pollen count in the air
This may or may not be one of the big reasons we recently moved from Portland, Oregon to Austin, Texas. The answer is C: rain! This research found that when it rains, people publish more negative posts on Facebook. Each of those, in turn, negatively affects one to two other people. The negative posts spread like a contagion, negatively affecting people’s moods in cities without rainfall. Social networks magnify the synchronization of global moods.

Did you know…

Did you know…

… that today is Giant Panda Day? In 1936, Su-Lin, the first giant panda to come to the United States from China, arrived in San Francisco. The bear was sold to the Brookfield Zoo near Chicago for $8,750.


Today’s Inspirational Quote:

“Imagine you are walking in the woods and you see a small dog sitting by a tree. As you approach it, it suddenly lunges at you, teeth bared. You are frightened and angry. But then you notice that one of its legs is caught in a trap. Immediately your mood shifts from anger to concern: You see that the dog’s aggression is coming from a place of vulnerability and pain. This applies to all of us. When we behave in hurtful ways, it is because we are caught in some kind of trap. The more we look through the eyes of wisdom at ourselves and one another, the more we cultivate a compassionate heart.”

— Tara Brach

Riddle of the Day

____ is much more likely to encourage a customer to make a purchase.

A. A smile
B. A power pose
C. Mutual contact
D. A small gift

The answer is D., a small gift, another thing that really works in sales. This research found that if a sales agent brings their customer a small gift, the customer is much more likely to make a purchase. I would add onto this study that small gifts are good, but you know what is even better?

My fav Newsletter

This is a special annual edition of the Brain Pickings newsletter by Maria Popova. The regular Sunday edition will be with you predictably and reliably this weekend. NOTE: This is a long edition and your email program might have truncated it by default – if it appears so, click here to read it unsavaged. And if you are enjoying this labor of love, please consider supporting it with a donation – for thirteen years, I have been spending innumerable hours and tremendous resources on it each week, and every little bit of support helps enormously. If you already donate: THANK YOU.

Favorite Children’s Books of 2019

Great children’s books are really miniature cartographies of meaning, emissaries of the deepest existential wisdom that cut across all lines of division, scuttle past the many walls adulthood has sold us on erecting, and slip in through the backdoor of our consciousness to speak — in the language of children, which is the language of unselfconscious sincerity — the most timeless truths to the truest parts of us.

Here are the loveliest such truthful, timeless treasures I savored this year. (And in this spirit of timelessness, here are their counterparts from years past: 20182017201620152014201320122011, and 2010.)


whatmissmitchellsaw.jpg“Mingle the starlight with your lives and you won’t be fretted by trifles,” Maria Mitchell (August 1, 1818–June 28, 1889) often told her Vassar students — the world’s first university class of professionally trained women astronomers — having herself become America’s first professional woman astronomer, thanks to her historic discovery of a new telescopic comet on October 1, 1847, after sixteen tenacious years of sweeping the sky night after night.

Mitchell (whose extraordinary life was the seed for what became Figuring and to whom the inaugural Universe in Verse was dedicated) not only went on to blaze the way for women in STEM but used her prominence — she was arguably America’s first true scientific celebrity, welcomed in England, Italy, and Russia as a dignitary of the New World — to become one of the nineteenth century’s most ardent advocates for social reform, advancing women’s rights and abolition.


The epoch-making discovery that became the platform for Mitchell’s modeling of possibility and far-reaching influence is the kernel of the lovely picture-book What Miss Mitchell Saw (public library) by author Hayley Barrett and illustrator Diana Sudyka — a splendid addition to the most inspiring picture-book biographies of cultural heroes.

Barrett’s lyrical prose opens with a clever and tender solution to the common pronunciation confusion — Mitchell’s first name is spelled like my own but pronounced the presently atypical traditional Latin way:


2e292385-dc1c-4cfe-b95e-845f6f98c2ec.pngOn the first day of August, in a house tucked away on the fog-wrapped island of Nantucket, a baby girl was born.

Like all babies, this baby was given a name.
Her parents whispered it to her like a gentle breeze, ma…RYE…ah

Names become a central creative trope in the book — the dignifying, truth-affirming act of calling all realities by their true names. We see the young Maria learn to recognize the ships of this whaling community by name and come to know the local shopkeepers by name.



Finally, after her father apprentices her as his astronomical assistant, she learns the stars by name — a testament to bryologist Robin Wall Kimmerer’s astute observation that “finding the words is another step in learning to see.”





Sudyka’s beautiful gouache-and-watercolor illustrations weave together hand-lettered words from the story with the three great animating forces of Mitchell’s early life: the enchantment of the cosmos, the whaling culture of Nantucket, and her family’s Quaker values. (In Figuring, writing about the factors that fomented Mitchell’s unexampled ascent above the common plane of possibility for women in her era, I point to the original use of the word genius in the term genius loci — Latin for “the spirit of a place” — and wonder whether, despite her incontrovertible natural gift for mathematics, she would have so soared had she not grown up in a secluded whaling community, where matriarchs ruled while men spent months and years on whaling trips, where Quakers lived by the then-countercultural ethos of equal education for boys and girls, where a barren landscape and long winter nights turned astronomy into cherished popular entertainment.)





The book ends with the motto emblazoned on the gold medal Mitchell received from the King of Denmark for her landmark discovery — “Not in vain do we watch the setting and the rising of the stars” — a sentiment that echoes the dying words of the great astronomer Tycho Brahe, which Adrienne Rich incorporated into her exquisite tribute to Caroline Herschel, the world’s first professional woman astronomer: “Let me not seem to have lived in vain.”

See more of it here.


laylashappiness.jpg“What is your idea of perfect happiness?” asks the famous Proust Questionnaire. Posed to David Bowie, he answered simply: “Reading.” Jane Goodall answered: “Sitting by myself in the forest in Gombe National Park watching one of the chimpanzee mothers with her family.” Proust himself answered: “To live in contact with those I love, with the beauties of nature, with a quantity of books and music, and to have, within easy distance, a French theater.”

The touching specificity of these answers and the subtle universality pulsing beneath them reveal the most elemental truth about happiness: that there are as many flavors of it as there are consciousnesses capable of registering it, and that it is a universally delicious necessity of life, which we crave from the day we are born until the day we die. And yet, as Albert Camus lamented, “happiness has become an eccentric activity. The proof is that we tend to hide from others when we practice it.”

Half a century later, as we wade through a world that gives us ample reason for sorrow, as existential credibility seems meted out on the basis of how loudly one broadcasts one’s disadvantage, the savoring of happiness has become an almost countercultural activity — an act of courage and resistance, and one the practice of which is a whole life’s work, as George Eliot well knew when she observed that “one has to spend so many years in learning how to be happy.” Why, then, not make the learning of happiness as essential a part of young people’s education as the learning of arithmetic? Or even stand with Elizabeth Barrett Browning in deeming it our moral obligation?


All of that — the personal nature of happiness, the daily practice of it, its centrality to participating meaningfully in the world — is what poet Mariahadessa Ekere Tallie explores in her vibrant and vitalizing picture-book debut, Layla’s Happiness (public library), illustrated by artist Ashleigh Corrin.

Like Sylvia Plath, who composed The Bed Book for her own children, Tallie — who describes herself in A Velocity of Being: Letters to a Young Reader as “the mother of three galaxies who look like daughters” — has written the book for her youngest galaxy, the book she wished she’d had to read to the elder two.

Tallie constructs the story like a good poem, where the personal is the most welcoming gateway to the universal. We see seven-year-old Layla — whose name means “night beauty” — tally her exuberant everyday sources of happiness.


Happiness leaps at Layla from the color purple, from the succulence of fresh plums, from the constellations of the night sky, from the mischievous delight of slurping spaghetti without a fork. It unspools from her lips as she hums while feeding the chickens at the community garden and names all the trees and greets the neighbors at the farmers’ market where she sells the vegetable she has grown from seeds. It pours forth from the poetry her mother reads to her under a makeshift tent and from the tales her father tells her of his own childhood in the South.





There is a heartening countercultural undertone to the book — these happinesses are not things to be purchased at the store or attained with a click, but embodiments of what Hermann Hesse held up as “the little joys” at the heart of a rich life lived with presence, the simple delights Wendell Berry’s childhood friend Nick savored even amid his hardship.





The book ends with an open question to the reader — a gentle bow to the sundry, deeply personal meaning of happiness.


See more of it here.


cinderellaliberator_rebeccasolnit.jpg“The good life is one inspired by love and guided by knowledge,” Bertrand Russell wrote in his 1925 treatise on the nature of happiness shortly after Freud asserted that love and work are the bedrock of our mental health and our very humanity. In the century since, this notion has been taken to a warped extreme — love has been industrialized into the one-note Hollywood model of romance and work has metastasized into aching workaholism. Russell, one of the deepest and most nuanced thinkers our civilization has produced, was closer to the subtler truth, which we as a culture are still struggling to enact: that, while love and work are central to the good life, romantic love is not the only or even necessarily the most rewarding pinnacle of love; that a sense of curiosity and purpose, rather than the mechanistic drive for reward in exchange of effort, is the richest animating force of work; and that these two faces of life-satisfaction must face each other. Just as work alone is not enough for a fulfilling life, love alone is not enough for a fulfilling relationship, romantic or otherwise. No partnership of equals — that is, no truly satisfying partnership — can be complete without each partner recognizing and respecting in the other a sense of purpose beyond the relationship, a contribution to the world that reflects and advances that person’s deepest values and most impassioned dreams, in turn adding creative, intellectual, and spiritual fuel to the shared fire of the relationship.

We may know this intuitively, and we may have even demonstrated it empirically — that is just what Harvard’s landmark 75-year study of what makes a good life indicated — yet we remain trapped in the millennia-old cultural mythologies that have permeated even our most enlightened and progressive belief systems so deeply and so invisibly that their precepts remain largely unquestioned.

Rebecca Solnit offers a mighty antidote to those limiting precepts in Cinderella Liberator (public library) — an empowered and empowering retelling of the ancient story, which dates back at least two millennia and has recurred in various guises across nearly every culture since, reflecting and perpetuating our most abiding cultural myths about love, work, gender, success, waste and want, the measure of prosperity, and the meaning of purpose.


Governed by her conviction that “key to the work of changing the world is changing the story” and by her lifelong love of books as “toolkits you take up to fix things, from the most practical to the most mysterious, from your house to your heart,” Solnit retells the classic story, illustrated with century-old silhouettes by the great Arthur Rackham from a 1919 edition of the tale, in a way that liberates each character from the constrictions imposed upon him or her by someone else’s story and confers upon each the dignity of a complete human being with agency and autonomous dreams. Emerging from these simply worded, profound, richly rewarding pages is Solnit the literary artist, Solnit the revolutionary, Solnit the enchanter, Solnit the subtle and endlessly delightful satirist, Solnit the sage.



In one of the loveliest passages in the book, she wrests from the sad small lives of the two stepsisters, Pearlita and Paloma — who are later redeemed as mere victims of a cultural hegemony, and liberated — insight into and liberation from some of our most limiting beliefs. In consonance with Frida Kahlo’s touching testament to how love amplifies beauty and with my own conviction that there are infinitely many kinds of beautiful lives, Solnit writes of the stepsisters’ preparations for the great ball:

2e292385-dc1c-4cfe-b95e-845f6f98c2ec.pngPearlita was doing her best to pile her hair as high as hair could go. She said that, surely, having the tallest hair in the world would make you the most beautiful woman, and being the most beautiful would make you the happiest.

Paloma was sewing extra bows onto her dress, because she thought that, surely, having the fanciest dress in the world would make you the most beautiful woman in the world, and being the most beautiful would make you the happiest. They weren’t very happy, because they were worried that someone might have higher hair or more bows than they did. Which, probably, someone did. Usually someone does.

But there isn’t actually a most beautiful person in the world, because there are so many kinds of beauty. Some people love roundness and softness, and other people love sharp edges and strong muscles. Some people like thick hair like a lion’s mane, and other people like thin hair that pours down like an inky waterfall, and some people love someone so much they forget what they look like. Some people think the night sky full of stars at midnight is the most beautiful thing imaginable, some people think it’s a forest in snow, and some people… Well, there are a lot of people with a lot of ideas about beauty. And love. When you love someone a lot, they just look like love.


There is love, then there is work: Along the way, we meet persons of various animations and occupations, unhinged from gender — the town blacksmith and the painter are each a “she,” the bird-doctor is a “he,” the dancing teacher is a “they,” and all are content making their particular contribution to the world. We learn that Cinderella is living with her evil stepmother because her own mother is a sea captain lost at sea. We see Cinderella and Prince Nevermind become friends rather than romantic partners, magnetized by a sincere curiosity about each other’s dreams rather than a possessive demand for romantic bondage. We find out that the prince would rather labor in an orchard than idle in a castle and Cinderella would rather open a farm-to-table cake shop that feeds refugee children from warring kingdoms than be court lady whose sole value is as a prince’s spouse and who has ceased to work because there are servants to do everything.

On the other side of the enchantment, the lizards-turned-footwomen and the mice-turned-horses and the rat-turned-coachwoman are each asked whether they actually want to remain footwomen and horses and a coachwoman for perpetuity — some do and some don’t, being individuals who dream different dreams and have different notions of self-actualization.


Solnit wrote the book for her beloved great-niece Ella, to whom her classic Men Explain Things to Me is also dedicated and whose name, Solnit realized with a shock only in the course of writing the story, is Cinderella liberated of the cinders. In the afterword to the book, on the cover of which Rackham’s cake-holding Cinderella resembles The Statue of Liberty and her torch, Solnit considers how these century-old silhouettes resonated with her broader motivations for the retelling:

2e292385-dc1c-4cfe-b95e-845f6f98c2ec.pngI was also touched by Rackham’s image of the ragged child at work and thought of unaccompanied minors from Central America and immigrant domestic workers, who are a strong presence where I live, of foster children, and of all the children who live without kindness and security in their everyday lives, all the people who are outsiders even at home, or for whom home is the most dangerous place, or who have no home.

I liked the spirit of the silhouette-girl that Rackham portrayed. Even in rags she is lively, and she labors with alacrity, and runs and frolics wholeheartedly. She is stranded but not defeated. When it came time to write her story for our time, it seemed to me that the solution to overwork and degrading work is not the leisure of the princess, passing off the work to others, but good, meaningful work with dignity and self-determination — and one of the things the cake shop gives Cinderella, aside from independence, is the power to benefit others, because it’s also a meeting place.


Solnit reflects on the more personal roots of her story, inspired also by her two grandmothers, “both of whom were motherless girls, neglected, undereducated; neither of whom quite escaped that formative immersion in being unloved and unvalued.” She writes of one of them, a real-life Cinderella of the most tragic kind:

2e292385-dc1c-4cfe-b95e-845f6f98c2ec.pngMy paternal grandmother, Ida, was an unaccompanied refugee child who, after years without parents, made it from the Russian-Polish borderlands to Los Angeles with her younger brothers when she was fifteen. There, her long-lost father and stepmother also treated her as a servant.

Their tragedies were a century ago and more, but this book is also with love and hope for liberation for every child who’s overworked and undervalued, every kid who feels alone — with hope that they get to write their own story, and make it come out with love and liberation.

See more of it here.


thefateoffausto_oliverjeffers.jpgIn his short and lovely poem penned at the end of his life, Kurt Vonnegut located the wellspring of happiness in a source so simple yet so countercultural in capitalist society: “The knowledge that I’ve got enough.”

A generation later, artist and author Oliver Jeffers — one of the most beloved and thoughtful storytellers of our time — picks up the message with uncommon simplicity of expression and profundity of sentiment in The Fate of Fausto (public library) — a “painted fable,” in that classic sense of moral admonition conveyed on the wings of enchantment, about how very little we and all of our striving matter in the grand scheme of time and being, and therefore how very much it matters to live with kindness, with generosity, in openhearted consanguinity with everything else that shares our cosmic blink of existence.

Inspired by Vonnegut’s poem, which appears on the final page of the book, the story follows a greedy suited man named Fausto, who decides he wants to own the whole world — from the littlest flower to the vastest ocean.


Building on Jeffers’s earlier illustrated meditation on the absurdity of ownership, the story is evocative of The Little Prince (which I continue to consider one of the greatest works of philosophy) and its archetypal characters, through whom Saint-Exupéry conveys his soulful existential admonition — the king who tries to make the Sun his subject; the businessman who, blind to the beauty of the stars, is busy tallying them in order to own them.

Perhaps Jeffers is paying deliberate homage to the beloved classic — the first two objects of Fausto’s hunger for ownership are a flower and a sheep.




One by one, he demands the surrender of sovereignty from all that he comes upon. The flower, being delicate and choiceless, assents to being owned by Fausto. The sheep, being sheepish, puts up no objection. Threatened, the tree bows down before him. (Oh how William Blake would have winced.)




When the lake questions Fausto’s self-appointed authority, he throws a tantrum to show the lake “who’s boss,” and the lake surrenders.



But when the mountain, grounded in her autonomy, refuses to move, Fausto flies into a fit of fury so menacing that even the mountain breaks down and submits to being owned.



Restless with not-enoughness, not content to own the flower and the sheep and the tree and the lake and the mountain, Fausto usurps a boat and heads for the open sea.



Alone amid the blue expanse, he bellows his claim of ownership. But the sea is silent. Fausto yells louder still, unsure quite where to aim his fury, for the sea stretches in all directions.



Finally, the sea responds, calmly questioning how Fausto can wish to own her if he doesn’t even love her. Oh but he does, he does, the riled Fausto insists. The sea, in consonance with the great humanistic philosopher and psychologist Erich Fromm’s observation that “understanding and loving are inseparable,” tells Fausto that he couldn’t possibly love her if he doesn’t understand her.

Anxious to stake his claim, Fausto scolds the sea for being wrong, barks that he understands her deeply, then swiftly demands that she submit to his ownership or he will show her who’s boss.

“And how will you do that?” asks the sea. By making a fist and stamping his foot, Fausto replies. With her primordial wisdom, having witnessed human folly since the dawn of humanity, the sea invites Fausto to show her just how he plans to stamp his foot, so she can understand. And Fausto, “in order to show his anger and omnipotence,” perches overboard and aims his foot at the sea.



Swiftly, inevitably, the laws of physics and human hubris take hold of Fausto, who disappears into the fathomless sea — a sinking testament to Ursula K. Le Guin’s cautionary charge that unbridled anger “feeds off itself, destroying its host in the process.” (How fitting, too, that Jeffers should choose the world of water — one of his supreme fixations as an artist, subject of some of his most haunting conceptual paintings — as the arena on which this final existential battle between the human animal and its ego plays out.)


Jeffers’s subtle, powerful message emerges with the tidal force of elemental truth: When all is said and done and sunk and swallowed, there is only the realization at which Dostoyevsky arrived in his stark brush with death: that “life is a gift, life is happiness, each moment could have been an eternity of happiness,” had it been lived with a sympathetic love of the world.

The sea, Jeffers tells us, feels sorry for Fausto, but goes on being a sea, as the mountain does being a mountain.



2e292385-dc1c-4cfe-b95e-845f6f98c2ec.pngAnd the lake and the forest,
the field and the tree,
the sheep and the flower,
carried on as before.

For the fate of Fausto
did not matter to them.

We are dropped safely ashore to contemplate the fundamental fact that our lives — along with all of our yearnings and fears, our most small-spirited grudges and most largehearted loves, our greatest achievements and deepest losses — will pass like the lives and loves and losses of everyone who has come before us and everyone who will come after. Temporary constellations of matter in an impartial universe of constant flux, we will come and go as living-dying testaments to Rachel Carson’s lyrical observation that “against this cosmic background the lifespan of a particular plant or animal appears, not as drama complete in itself, but only as a brief interlude in a panorama of endless change.” The measure of our lives — the worthiness or worthlessness of them — resides in the quality of being with which we inhabit the interlude.

See more of it here.


overtherooftops.jpg“You can be lonely anywhere, but there is a particular flavour to the loneliness that comes from living in a city, surrounded by millions of people,” Olivia Laing wrote in her lyrical exploration of loneliness and the search for belonging. Our need for belonging is indeed the warp thread of our humanity, and our locus of belonging — determined in part by our choices and in part by the cards chance has dealt us in what we were born as and where — is a pillar of our identity. For those who have migrated far from their homeland, and especially for those of us who have migrated alone, without the built-in social support structure of a community or a family unit, this rupture of belonging can be particularly disorienting and lonesome-making. “You only are free when you realize you belong no place — you belong every place,” Maya Angelou told Bill Moyers in their fantastic 1973 conversation about freedom — a freedom the conquest of which can be a whole life’s work.

Poet JonArno Lawson, author of the wondrous Sidewalk Flowers, and artist Nahid Kazemi take up these complex questions with great simplicity and thoughtful sensitivity in Over the Rooftops, Under the Moon (public library) — a spare, poetic meditation on belonging and what it means to be oneself as both counterpoint and counterpart to otherness, as a thinking, feeling, wakeful atom of life amid the constellation of other atoms.


We meet a melancholy young bird, lonesome even among the other birds, lonesome while soaring above the cityscape, above houses filled with innumerable lives that feel so impossibly distant and alien.




Lawson writes:

2e292385-dc1c-4cfe-b95e-845f6f98c2ec.pngYou can be far away inside,
and far away outside.

One day, something subtle but profound shifts in the bird — the gaze of a young girl sparks a quickening of heart, a certain opening to the possibility of belonging, a new curiosity about the nature of life — about what it means to be.



We see the bird’s plumage suddenly explode with color — the radiance of awakening, evocative of poet Jane Kenyon’s piercing line: “What hurt me so terribly all my life until this moment?”



2e292385-dc1c-4cfe-b95e-845f6f98c2ec.pngColor arrives,
sometimes when
you least expect it.

The story unfolds with a poet’s precision and economy of words, punctuated by Kazemi’s sprawling, stunning watercolors. What emerges is a gentle invitation to what Bertrand Russell so beautifully termed “a largeness of contemplation.”



The bird moves through seasons of change, floats wordlessly across landscapes of possibility, alighting at last to a vastly different world — more colorful, more alive. In this foreign-looking land, which Kazemi’s palm trees and Middle Eastern architecture contrast with the deciduous crowns and Western cityscapes of the melancholy world, the bird finds a homecoming among other birds — a newfound joy in being “alone and together, over the rooftops and under the moon.”


See more of it here.


myheart_luyken.jpg“How is your heart?” I recently asked a friend going through a trying period of overwork and romantic tumult, circling the event horizon of burnout while trying to bring a colossal labor of love to life. His answer, beautiful and heartbreaking, came swiftly, unreservedly, the way words leave children’s lips simple, sincere, and poetic, before adulthood has learned to complicate them out of the poetry and the sincerity with considerations of reason and self-consciousness: “My heart is too busy to be a heart,” he replied.

How does the human heart — that ancient beast, whose roars and purrs have inspired sonnets and ballads and wars, defied myriad labels too small to hold its pulses, and laid lovers and empires at its altar — unbusy itself from self-consciousness and learn to be a heart? That is what artist and illustrator Corinna Luyken explores in the lyrical and lovely My Heart (public library) — an emotional intelligence primer in the form of an uncommonly tender illustrated poem about the tessellated capacities of the heart, about love as a practice rather than a state, about how it can frustrate us, brighten us, frighten us, and ultimately expand us.



2e292385-dc1c-4cfe-b95e-845f6f98c2ec.pngMy heart is a window,
My heart is a slide.
My heart can be closed
or opened up wide.

Some days it’s a puddle.
Some days it’s a stain.
Some days it is cloudy
and heavy with rain.

Across the splendid spare verses, against the deliberate creative limitation of a greyscale-and-yellow color palette, a sweeping richness of emotional hues unfolds. What emerges is one of those rare, miraculous “children’s” books, in the tradition of The Little Prince, teaching kids about some elemental aspect of being human while inviting grownups to unlearn what we have learned in order to rediscover and reinhabit the purest, most innocent truths of our humanity.


2e292385-dc1c-4cfe-b95e-845f6f98c2ec.pngSome days it is tiny,
but tiny can grow…
and grow…
and grow.





2e292385-dc1c-4cfe-b95e-845f6f98c2ec.pngThere are days it’s a fence
between me and the world,
days it’s a whisper
that can barely be heard.

There are days it is broken,
but broken can mend,
and a heart that is closed
can still open again.




2e292385-dc1c-4cfe-b95e-845f6f98c2ec.pngMy heart is a shadow,
a light and a guide.
Closed or open…
I get to decide.


See more of it here.


crescendo_cover.jpg?zoom=2&resize=300%2C285“Every man or woman who is sane, every man or woman who has the feeling of being a person in the world, and for whom the world means something, every happy person, is in infinite debt to a woman,” the trailblazing psychologist Donald Winnicott observed in his landmark manifesto for the mother’s contribution to society. Inseparable from the psychological role of mothering is the biological reality of motherhood — a biology almost alien in its otherworldly strangeness as a cell becomes a being, with a heart and a mind and a whole life ahead.

That glorious strangeness is what Paola Quintavalle celebrates in Crescendo (public library) — an uncommon picture-poem about the science of pregnancy, evocative of Ursula K. Le Guin’s lovely insistence that “science describes accurately from outside, poetry describes accurately from inside [and] both celebrate what they describe.”



Unfolding across lyrical watercolors by Italian artist Alessandro Sanna — who painted the wordless masterpieces Pinocchio: The Origin Story and The River — the story follows the growth of an almost-being inside a mother’s womb over the nine months of gestation. As small as a sesame seed, it soon sprouts the buds that will blossom into arms and legs, grows its first organ — the heart — and develops its first senses, smell and sound.



By the third month, the fetus gets its fur coat, known as lanugo, and the first fragments of its miniature skeleton begin to form. By month four, fingerprints are being carved onto its tiny digits.





Visual metaphors drawing on the lives of other beings — a bird, a horse, a flower, a school of fish — populate Sanna’s watercolor score of Quintavalle’s spare, poetic chronicle of becoming, their geometry cleverly mirroring the curvature of the mother’s belly that frames the story.







What strikes me is that each of us has undergone this absolutely astonishing process, with no conscious memory of it at all, and yet somehow we don’t walk around in perpetual astonishment that this is how we came to be. Perhaps we should. I am reminded of the great poet and philosopher of science Loren Eiseley’s words: “We forget that nature itself is one vast miracle transcending the reality of night and nothingness. We forget that each one of us in his personal life repeats that miracle.”



See more of it here.


theshortestday_cooperellis.jpg“How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives,” Annie Dillard wrote in her timely exhortation for presence over productivity. It may be an elemental feature of our condition that the more scarce something is, the more precious it becomes. Just as the shortness of life calls, in that Seneca way, for filling each year with breadths of experience, so the shortness of the day calls for the fulness of each hour, each moment. No day concentrates and consecrates its elementary particles of time more powerfully than the shortest day of the year. With our awareness pointed to its brevity by ancient rites and modern calendars alike, as we “rage, rage against the dying of the light,” something rapturous happens — a kind of portal into heightened presence opens up as every minute ticks with a supra-consciousness of its passage, pulsates with an extra fulness of being, while at the same time attuning us to the cyclical seasonality of time, reminding us of the cycles of life and death.




That is what writer Susan Cooper and artist Carson Ellis celebrate in The Shortest Day (public library) — an illustrated resurrection of Cooper’s 1974 poem by the same title, originally composed for John Langstaff’s beloved Christmas Revel shows, which fuse medieval and modern music in grassroots theatrical productions across local communities.



Cooper’s buoyant verses and Ellis’s soulful, mirthful illustrations bring to life, across time and space and cultures and civilizations, the ardor with which our ancestors have welcomed the winter solstice since long before the astronomer Johannes Kepler coined the word orbit in an era when few dared believe that the Earth spins on its axis while revolving around the Sun. (It is a function of the tilt of Earth’s axis and the elliptical shape of its orbit — another radical contribution of Kepler’s, who debunked the millennia-old dogma of perfect circular motion — that when our planet’s axial tilt leans one pole as far away as it would go from our star, we are granted the shortest possible day and the longest possible night of the year.)



2e292385-dc1c-4cfe-b95e-845f6f98c2ec.pngSo the shortest day came, and the year died,
And everywhere down the centuries of the snow-white world
Came people singing, dancing,
To drive the dark away.


See more of it here.


whatif.jpg“The present is not a potential past; it is the moment of choice and action,” Simone de Beauvoir wrote. At bottom, choice and action always begin with “what if” — the mightiest spring for the utopian imagination, the fulcrum by which every revolution rolls into being. What if this world were freer, more beautiful, more just? “We will not know our own injustice if we cannot imagine justice. We will not be free if we do not imagine freedom,” Ursula K. Le Guin wrote in weighing the transformative power of the speculative imagination. “We cannot demand that anyone try to attain justice and freedom who has not had a chance to imagine them as attainable.”

That chance to imagine a better world is what French author Thierry Lenain and artist Olivier Tallec invite in What If… (public library), translated by Enchanted Lion founder Claudia Bedrick — a lovely celebration of our civilizational responsibility, in the beautiful words of the cellist Pablo Casals, “to make this world worthy of its children” and a testament to James Baldwin’s sobering insistence that “we made the world we’re living in and we have to make it over.”



Although we don’t yet know it, the story begins with an unborn child imagining himself into being as he imagines a better version of the world to be born into. Where he sees war, he imagines turning the soldiers’ guns into bird perches and shepherd’s flutes. Where he sees drought and famine, he imagines pulling rainclouds over the desert like enormous kites.




He places his child-body between the “gorging, ordering, shouting, and decreeing” orange-haired politician on the TV screen and the people mesmerized before it. He sits on the ocean shore and imagines it clean of human-inflicted pollution, buoying colorful fish.




He falls asleep on a mossy patch in the forest, listening to the wisdom of the trees. He sees heartache and tears, and imagines them salved by love.



2e292385-dc1c-4cfe-b95e-845f6f98c2ec.png“We have to hug,” he decided, “and not be afraid of kisses. What if we start saying ‘I love you,’ even if we’ve never heard it before?”

See more of it here.


listen_mcghee.jpg“To see takes time, like to have a friend takes time,” Georgia O’Keeffe wrote as she contemplated the art of seeing. To listen takes time, too — to learn to hear and befriend the world within and the world without, to attend to the quiet voice of life and heart alike. “If we were not so single-minded about keeping our lives moving, and for once could do nothing,” Pablo Neruda wrote in his gorgeous ode to quietude, “perhaps a huge silence might interrupt this sadness of never understanding ourselves.”

This inspiriting, sanctifying power of listening is what writer Holly M. McGhee and illustrator Pascal Lemaître explore in the simply titled, sweetly unfolding Listen (public library) — a serenade to the heart-expanding, life-enriching, world-ennobling art of attentiveness as a wellspring of self-understanding, of empathy for others, of reverence for the loveliness of life, evocative of philosopher Simone Weil’s memorable assertion that “attention, taken to its highest degree, is the same thing as prayer.”


Lemaître — who has previously illustrated the children’s book about kindness Toni Morrison co-wrote with her own son — brings McGhee’s buoyant words to life in his spare, infinitely tender lines and gentle washes of color.


to the sound of your feet —
the sound of all of us
and the sound of me.


2e292385-dc1c-4cfe-b95e-845f6f98c2ec.pngThe stars —
they are for you
and all of us.
They are for me.


The simple verses beckon the attention to envelop the whole world, from the immediacy of one’s own sensorial surroundings — the ground, the Sun, the air, the stars — to the widening awareness of our shared belonging and our intertwined fates. Radiating from them is Einstein’s notion of “widening circles of compassion” and Dr. King’s immortal insistence that “we are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality.”



Smell the air.
My air is yours and all of ours,
your air is mine.




2e292385-dc1c-4cfe-b95e-845f6f98c2ec.pngYour heart can hold everything.

Including the world —
its darkness and its light.

Including your story,
including my story —
including the story
of all of us…


See more of it here.


roarlikeadandelion.jpg“Her lovely and original poetry has a flexibility that allowed me the maximum of space to execute my fantasy variations on a Kraussian theme,” Maurice Sendak wrote of the great children’s book author and poet Ruth Krauss (July 25, 1901–July 10, 1993), with whom he collaborated on two of the loveliest, tenderest picture-books of all time.

A quarter century after the end of Krauss’s long life, lost fragments of her daring poetic imagination coalesced into a manuscript that alighted to the desk of one of the great picture-book artists of our own time: Sergio Ruzzier. The resulting collaboration, across lines of space and time and life and death, is the wondrously imaginative Roar Like a Dandelion (public library), the dedication of which, penned by Ruzzier in a spirit of creative kinship and reverence, reads simply: “To Maurice.”


Though structured as an ABC book, in a succession of short sentences each beginning with a consecutive letter of the alphabet, the book is rather an alphabetic catalogue of Krauss’s quirky, free-spirited, infinitely playfully, subtly profound prescriptions for joy and existential contentment.






“Vote for yourself,” Krauss urges under V, as a Ruzzier piglet is seen pledging allegiance to herself — that ultimate act of self-respect, the pillar of character.


“Roar like a dandelion,” she exhorts in the line that lent the book its title, which sits like a Zen koan, to be contemplated from a thousand directions before it can be cracked, suggesting maybe that the mightiest roar is the silent roar; maybe that anger is corrosive to its host, for if a dandelion were indeed to roar, it would blow up its own delicate seedhead and lose all of its fluffy white parachutes of hope; maybe that the dandelion’s yellow burst of blossom, so plentiful if we only pay attention, is nature’s primal scream of joy.


“Make music,” Krauss beckons in consonance with Sendak, who ardently believed that the making of music is the profoundest and most primitive expression of our intrinsic nature.


Page after page, letter by letter, Ruzzier’s sweet, and stubborn creatures leap and tumble along the lines of Krauss’s imagination with their joyous, mischievous magic.


See more of it here.


avelocityofbeing_cover.jpgIt feels a little strange to include A Velocity of Being: Letters to a Young Reader (public library) here, because it was originally published in the final days of 2018 and because, of course, it is my very own labor of love. But it would be as strange not to include it — not because I devoted eight years of my life to this charitable endeavor, but because the first edition vanished into eager hands within a day, leaving scores of sweetly disappointed readers to wave theirs with unslaked eagerness into the new year. Since most of the world didn’t meet the book until 2019, I too must consider it a baby of this year.

This collection of original letters to the children of today and tomorrow about why we read and what books do for the human spirit, all proceeds from which benefit the New York public library system, features contributions by 121 of the most interesting and inspiring humans in our world, including Jane Goodall, Yo-Yo Ma, Jacqueline Woodson, Ursula K. Le Guin, Mary Oliver, Neil Gaiman, Amanda Palmer, Rebecca Solnit, Elizabeth Gilbert, Shonda Rhimes, Alain de Botton, James Gleick, Anne Lamott, Diane Ackerman, Judy Blume, Eve Ensler, David Byrne, Sylvia Earle, Richard Branson, Marina Abramović, Regina Spektor, Elizabeth Alexander, Adam Gopnik, Debbie Millman, Tim Ferriss, a 98-year-old Holocaust survivor, Italy’s first woman in space, and many more immensely accomplished and largehearted artists, writers, scientists, philosophers, entrepreneurs, musicians, and adventurers whose character has been shaped by a life of reading.




Accompanying each letter is an original illustration by a prominent artist in response to the text — including beloved children’s book illustrators like Sophie Blackall, Oliver Jeffers, Isabelle Arsenault, Jon Klassen, Shaun Tan, Olivier Tallec, Christian Robinson, Marianne Dubuc, Lisa Brown, Carson Ellis, Mo Willems, Peter Brown, and Maira Kalman.


Art by Ofra Amit for a letter by Mara Faye Lethem from A Velocity of Being: Letters to a Young Reader. Available as a print.


Art by Olivier Tallec for a letter by Diane Ackerman from A Velocity of Being: Letters to a Young Reader. Available as a print.


Art by Violeta Lópiz for a letter by Lucianne Walkowicz from A Velocity of Being: Letters to a Young Reader. Available as a print.


Art by Shaun Tan for a letter by Tom De Blasis from A Velocity of Being: Letters to a Young Reader. Available as a print.


Art by Mouni Feddag for a letter by Alain de Botton from A Velocity of Being: Letters to a Young Reader. Available as a print.


Art by Cindy Derby for a letter by Rose Styron from A Velocity of Being: Letters to a Young Reader. Available as a print.


Art by Lia Halloran for a letter by Marina Abramović from A Velocity of Being: Letters to a Young Reader. Available as a print.

See more of the art here and read some of the loveliest letters here.



In 2019, the 13th year of Brain Pickings, I poured tremendous time, thought, love, and resources into this labor of love, which remains free and is made possible by patronage. If you found any joy and solace here this year, please consider supporting it with a donation. And if you already donate, from the bottom of my heart: THANK YOU.

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Did you know…

Did you know…

… that today is Poinsettia Day? This day celebrates the anniversary of the death of Joel Roberts Poinsett, the man who introduced this Christmas plant to the United States. He died on December 12, 1851. Poinsett was the first Ambassador to Mexico who brought the plant back to his plantation in the U.S.  He grew the plants in his Greenville, South Carolina, plantation and gave them out as gifts to friends.


Today’s Inspirational Quote:

“Our love is like a flower. First you need to plant the seeds. Then you give it love, water and nutrients. The you watch it grow and grow. And finally it blossoms to become you.”

— Anthony T Hincks

Did you know…

Did you know…

… that today is Self-Starter Day? For you self-starters out there, the automatic self-starter for an automobile was patented by Clyde J. Coleman of New York City on this day in 1903. So, the next time you turn the key in your car, take a moment to say… thanks, Clyde! 😉


Today’s Inspirational Quote:

“To some this may look like a sunset. But it’s a new dawn.”

— Chris Hadfield