Daniel Goleman is a psychologist, lecturer, and science journalist who has reported on the brain and behavioral sciences for The New York Times for many years. His 1995 book, Emotional Intelligence (Bantam Books) was on The New York Times bestseller list for a year and a half.
Goleman is also the author of Ecological Intelligence: How Knowing the Hidden Impacts of What We Buy Can Change Everything. The book argues that new information technologies will create “radical transparency,” allowing us to know the environmental, health, and social consequences of what we buy. As shoppers use point-of-purchase ecological comparisons to guide their purchases, market share will shift to support steady, incremental upgrades in how products are made – changing every thing for the better.
His latest book is Altered Traits: Science Reveals How Meditation Changes Your Mind, Brain, and Body, which he has co-authored with Richard Davidson reveals the science of what meditation can really do for us, as well as exactly how to get the most out of it.
22 September, 2018 Transcript
Daniel Goleman: One of the strong benefits of meditation generally has to do with the ordinary ways in which we suffer depression, anxiety, the angst of life. It turns out that meditation generally makes people feel more positively, it helps diminish anxiety, but it becomes particularly powerful when it’s combined with a psychotherapy. The way this is usually done is with mindfulness on the one hand and what’s called cognitive therapy on the other. Mindfulness allows us to shift our relationship to our experience. Instead of getting sucked into our emotions or our thoughts, which is what happens when we’re depressed or anxious, we see them as “those thoughts again” or “those feelings again,” and that disempowers them. There’s actually research at UCLA that shows when you can name that feeling, “Oh, I’m feeling depressed again,” you have shifted the activity levels neurologically in the part of the brain which is depressed to the part of the brain which notices, which is aware—the prefrontal cortex. And that diminishes the depression and enhances your ability to be able to understand it or to see it as just a feeling. So if you combine that ability with cognitive therapy, cognitive therapy helps you talk back to your thoughts. The basic realization in cognitive therapy is: “I don’t have to believe my thoughts.” This is extremely important in people with chronic anxiety or chronic depression because it’s our thoughts that trigger the anxiety, that trigger the depression. The depressive thoughts are classic; “I’m no good; my life is worthless,” whatever it is. Those thoughts actually make us depressed. So if you use mindfulness-based cognitive therapy on the one hand you can see, “Oh, there’s that thought again.” On the other hand cognitive therapy lets you talk back to that thought, “Oh I’m not so worthless, I’ve done some pretty good things in my life; there are people who love me,” whatever it may be. You can develop a habit of not letting those thoughts take you over, but countering them with actual evidence from your life that says “Oh they’re not true. I don’t have to believe them!” And that is very relieving. The first study that used mindfulness-based cognitive therapy with depression it was pretty spectacular. It was done at Oxford University and it was done with people whose depression is so severe that nothing helps, no medication helps, electric shock doesn’t help, psychiatry doesn’t know what to do. People get depressed very deeply, they recover, and then they get depressed again. So with that group they use mindfulness-based cognitive therapy and they found that it cut the rate of relapse (of having depression again) by 50 percent. If this were a drug some pharmaceutical company would be making billions of dollars, but it’s not a drug. It’s free basically. So mindfulness-based cognitive therapy works very well for depression. Better-designed studies afterwards shows that it wasn’t 50 percent, but still the impact is palpable and it turns out that mindfulness and other meditations, particularly combined with cognitive therapy, work just as well for anxiety or depression as the medications do, but they don’t have those side effects.
Being mindful of depressing thoughts disempowers them
Meditation becomes particularly powerful when it’s combined with a cognitive therapy
Mindfulness and other meditations can work as well as pills but without the side effects
MICHELE GELFAND: You know, I think often we think about social class as just being about our bank accounts. We don’t think about how is class cultural, truly cultural in terms of differences in values and norms that are socialized in different groups for good reasons. And tightness-looseness, it just doesn’t differentiate nations and states, it also differentiates social class with the same exact logic. We went out and we’ve been surveying people from the working class and people from the middle and upper classes, and what’s fascinating is when we ask people about rules, ‘just tell us five words that you think of for rules’, we see that the working class sees rules very positively. Rules in the working class are important. They’re important for helping people to slide into hard living, as sociologists would call it—to poverty, to the dregs of poverty. Rules are helpful if you’re going to be going into occupations where there’s a lot of danger, where there’s less discretion. The middle class and upper class they saw rules more negatively. They saw it as goody two shoes when you’re following the rules. For the working class, rules are important for survival. For the middle class, there’s a safety net so you can actually afford to be rule-breaking in this context.
And what’s fascinating is, we measure the ZIP codes of people coming into our lab and then we track the neighborhoods they live in. And, for sure, the working class live in much more threatening environments when it comes to crime, unemployment. They report being subject to many more threats. What’s remarkable is that this starts very early. We wanted to see how early can we see these differences developing? And we started to see this even as early as three years old. What we did was we brought three-year-olds into the lab, working-class and middle-class kids. And you can’t exactly ask them about rules, right. But what we did was we borrowed a technique from the Max Planck Institute where we had them interacting with a puppet. His name was Max the Puppet. And they got to know him and they enjoyed playing with him. And Max the Puppet suddenly after a little while became Max the Norm Violator. He started violating all the rules of the game and announcing that he’s actually playing the game correctly. And we simply wanted to know: how did the kids react? Is there a different reaction by age three? And there sure was.
The middle class, in general, were much more likely to laugh and kind of let it go, and the working-class kids wanted Max the Puppet to stop. They told him to stop. They told him it was wrong. And parents are already socializing their kids, by the age of three, to help them fit into the kind of threatening or non-threatening environments they’re going to be working in. So it’s really important to see that these differences arise for a reason and they arise early.
So the rise of Donald Trump has been such an enigma to so many people. Is it an ideology? Is it a personality? In fact, Donald Trump is semi—he’s a very good cross-cultural psychologist. He understands the role of fear and threat in mobilizing people to want more tightness and to want autocratic leaders. And we’ve seen this in our data. The people that were interested in voting for Trump felt very threatened and they felt the country was too loose. And this is not just a Trump phenomenon. It’s all over the world. When we measure support for Le Pen in France we had the same exact data that showed that people who feel threatened want stronger rules and leaders to help them to coordinate to survive. These leaders tap into a very important evolutionary type of instinct: when there’s threat and when there’s disorder, we want strong rulers to help us in those contexts.
And one thing that really predicts whether groups are tight or loose is the amount of threat that they face. And threat can be from a variety of sources; it could be from mother nature, could be natural disasters or famine, or it could be population density. It could also be man-made; it could be the number of invasions you’ve had over the last couple of centuries. And so when there’s threat, there’s the need for strong rules to coordinate to survive. And so actually tightness-looseness has a really important logic, a hidden logic, that helps us understand why certain groups become tight or loose. Loose groups, whether they’re nations or states or organizations, they face less threat so they can afford to be more permissive. Groups tend to evolve to be calibrated to the degree of threat that they have. When you have exaggerated threats, it means that we’re sacrificing liberty for security in contexts when we don’t really need to do that.
The problem here is that we have to separate objective from subjective threat. It’s true that a lot of the working class does objectively feel very threatened in this country and we need, as a loose culture, to reach out and work to help them deal with the threats that are happening from globalization. But it’s also the case that leaders like Trump and others use threat and target people who are threatened in order to gain popularity.
Working-class people take rules more seriously. Upper- and middle-class people do not. Why? The latter have financial and social safety nets, so they can afford to break some rules.
Research shows that, by the age of three, working-class children are primed to be more rigid about rules. Those rules help working-class people survive what sociologists call ‘hard living’: extreme poverty, dangerous jobs, and unsafe neighborhoods. Having strong rules increases chances of safety and survival.
Harnessing this evolutionary psychology can be very powerful in politics. Populists like Donald Trump or Marine Le Pen exaggerate fear and threat to gain popularity. They understand “the role of fear and threat in mobilizing people to want more tightness and to want autocratic leaders,” Gelfand explains.
In Rule Makers, Rule Breakers: How Tight and Loose Cultures Wire the World, Michele Gelfand explains her research into ‘tight’ and ‘loose’ cultures. Get a crash course here.
This is the brainpickings.org weekly digest by Maria Popova. If you missed last week’s edition — Rilke on how to break up with integrity and preserve friendship after romance, Adrienne Rich on how reading emancipates, a “new” Maurice Sendak book — you can catch up right here. And if you’re enjoying this newsletter, please consider supporting my labor of love with a donation – each month, I spend hundreds of hours and tremendous resources on it, and every little bit of support helps enormously. If you already donate: THANK YOU.
In 2010, inspired by Elmore Leonard’s classic 10 Rules of Writing published nearly a decade earlier, The Guardianinvited some of the world’s most celebrated living authors to share their own dicta of the craft. “Resign yourself to the lifelong sadness that comes from never being satisfied,”Zadie Smith counseled in the last of her ten. Midway through her list, Margaret Atwood grounded the psychological dimensions of the craft in the pragmatic and the physical: “Do back exercises. Pain is distracting.” Neil Gaiman thought eight rather than ten tenets would be sufficient — a meta-testament to his sixth: “Perfection is like chasing the horizon. Keep moving.”
Among the contributors was Jeanette Winterson — a writer of exquisite prose and keen insight into the deepest strata of the human experience: time and language, our elemental need for belonging, the power of art, how storytelling transforms us.
- Turn up for work. Discipline allows creative freedom. No discipline equals no freedom.
- Never stop when you are stuck. You may not be able to solve the problem, but turn aside and write something else. Do not stop altogether.
- Love what you do.
- Be honest with yourself. If you are no good, accept it. If the work you are doing is no good, accept it.
- Don’t hold on to poor work. If it was bad when it went in the drawer it will be just as bad when it comes out.
- Take no notice of anyone you don’t respect.
- Take no notice of anyone with a gender agenda. A lot of men still think that women lack imagination of the fiery kind.
- Be ambitious for the work and not for the reward.
- Trust your creativity.
- Enjoy this work!
For more hard-earned guidance on the writing process from other titans of literature, see Henry Miller’s eleven commandments of writing, Eudora Welty on the art of narrative, Susan Sontag’s advice to writers, and T.S. Eliot’s warm, wry letter of advice to a sixteen-year-old girl aspiring to be a writer.
This is the Brain Pickings midweek newsletter: Every Wednesday, I plunge into my twelve-year archive and choose something worth resurfacing and resavoring as a timeless pick-me-up for heart, mind, and spirit. (If you don’t yet subscribe to the standard Sunday newsletter of new pieces published each week, you can sign up here – it’s free.) If you missed last week’s archival piece – Anaïs Nin on why emotional excess is essential to writing and creativity – you can read it here. And if you find any value and joy in my labor of love, please consider supporting it with a donation – over these twelve years, I have spent tens of thousands of hours and tremendous resources on Brain Pickings, and every little bit of support helps keep it going. If you already donate: THANK YOU.
FROM THE ARCHIVE | Michael Rosen’s Sad Book: A Beautiful Anatomy of Loss, Illustrated by Quentin Blake
“Grief, when it comes, is nothing like we expect it to be,”Joan Didion wrote after losing the love of her life. “The people we most love do become a physical part of us,”Meghan O’Rourke observed in her magnificent memoir of loss, “ingrained in our synapses, in the pathways where memories are created.” Those wildly unexpected dimensions of grief and the synaptic traces of love are what celebrated British children’s book writer and poet Michael Rosen confronted when his eighteen-year-old son Eddie died suddenly of meningitis. Never-ending though the process of mourning may be, Rosen set out to exorcise its hardest edges and subtlest shapes five years later in Michael Rosen’s Sad Book (public library) — an immensely moving addition to the finest children’s books about loss, illustrated by none other than the great Quentin Blake.
With extraordinary emotional elegance, Rosen welcomes the layers of grief, each unmasking a different shade of sadness — sadness that sneaks up on you mid-stride in the street; sadness that lurks as a backdrop to the happiest of moments; sadness that wraps around you like a shawl you don’t take off even in the shower.
What emerges is a breathtaking bow before the central paradox of the human experience — the awareness that the heart’s enormous capacity for love is matched with an equal capacity for pain, and yet we love anyway and somehow find fragments of that love even amid the ruins of loss.
This is me being sad.
Maybe you think I’m happy in this picture.
Really I’m sad but pretending I’m happy.
I’m doing this because I think people won’t like me if I look sad.
Sometimes sad is very big.
It’s everywhere. All over me.
Then I look like this.
And there’s nothing I can do about it.
What makes me most sad is when I think about my son Eddie. I loved him very, very much but he died anyway.
With exquisite nuance, Rosen captures the contradictory feelings undergirding mourning — affection and anger, self-conscious introspection and longing for communion — and the way loss lodges itself in the psyche so that the vestiges of a particular loss always awaken the sadness of the all loss, that perennial heartbreak of beholding the absurdity of our longing for permanence in a universe of constant change.
Sometimes this makes me really angry.
I say to myself, “How dare he go and die like that?
How dare he make me sad?”
Eddie doesn’t say anything,
because he’s not here anymore.
Sometimes I want to talk about all this to someone.
Like my mum. But she’s not here anymore, either. So I can’t.
I find someone else. And I tell them all about it.
Sometimes I don’t want to talk about it.
Not to anyone. No one at all.
I just want to think about it on my own.
Because it’s mine. And no one else’s.
But what makes the story most singular and rewarding is that it refuses to indulge the cultural cliché of cushioning tragedy with the promise of a silver lining. It is redemptive not in manufacturing redemption but in being true to the human experience — intensely, beautifully, tragically true.
Sometimes because I’m sad I do crazy things — like shouting in the shower…
Sometimes I’m sad and I don’t know why.
It’s just a cloud that comes along and covers me up.
It’s not because Eddie’s gone.
It’s not because my mum’s gone. It’s just because.
Blake, who has previously illustrated Sylvia Plath’s little-known children’s book and many of Roald Dahl’s stories, brings his unmistakably expressive sensibility to the book, here and there concretizing Rosen’s abstract words into visual vignettes that make you wonder what losses of his own he is holding in the mind’s eye as he draws.
Where is sad?
Sad is everywhere.
It comes along and finds you.
When is sad?
Sad is anytime.
It comes along and finds you.
Who is sad?
Sad is anyone.
It comes along and finds you.
Entrepreneurs have a reputation for being fearless. After all, it takes guts to start a business on your own! But there’s one thing that we’re all afraid of: failure.
We’re afraid that if we make just one mistake, our company will fail. But in reality, a single mistake won’t bring our businesses crashing down to the ground. Our fear of failure does far more damage than failure itself!
Needing some weekday inspiration? Check out this week’s brilliance! 🙂
- Dealing with negativity can be difficult at times as a business owner. Franziska shares her best tips on how to cope with people who are offloading their own fears and frustration on to you in this BBTV episode.
2. Brand consistency is crucial if you want to grow a business people trust in and choose to buy from. In an increasingly competitive market, brand consistency is what will help you keep thriving. Franziska and our creative genius Julia talk about ways to put together a simple style guide, why consistency is key to attract a loyal following, and how to amplify your brand across different channels in this week’s ‘Pick of the Bunch’ podcast episode.
- This week’s shout out goes to Susan Petrie from Beanstalk, who is one of our amazing Clever Bunch members! Susan is celebrating winning 1st place in the Perks Business Boost awards last week! Big Congratulations Susan!
Book Franziska for your next event:
Are you looking for a speaker at an upcoming event? Franziska’s down to earth approach is like a breath of fresh air and she is quick at winning over the hearts of the audiences through her realness, fun approach and sharp-witted humor. She has spoken at some of the biggest conferences around the globe including Awesomeness Fest, Zentrepreneur, VIVID and TEDx.
Please email email@example.com for more information or to book her in for an event!
Here’s to creating ripple effects of awesomeness everywhere we go!
Morning Briefing (9 Min Reading Time)
Top news & stories of the startup ecosystem from India & around the world
After more than 10 months of speculations, Walmart-owned ecommerce unicorn Flipkart has finally made its move into mobile phone insurance – a $27 Bn worth industry globally. Flipkart will offer insurance on mobile phones under its Complete Mobile Protection programme, starting October 10th at the onset of Flipkart’s The Big Billion Days (TBBD).
Global hotel chain OYO, today announced to have inked a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Government of Uttarakhand. With this signing, OYO Hotels has committed an investment worth $67.5 Mn (INR 500 Cr) to expand its chain in the region.
While the centre and state governments are taking steps to boost the startup ecosystem in the country, Ramesh Abhishek, secretary at the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP) stated that there is a huge opportunity for Russian startups in India.
Vishal Gondal believes that you will not get people simply by putting up ads on Naukri and LinkedIn, but rather on the field by networking. “You are more likely to find your early employees and early co-founders as I said not on Linkedin or naukri but they will be in conferences, events, or if you are in the health space, your co-founder might be running a marathon with you,” he says.
To understand the growing trend of freelancing in India, Inc42, in association with PayPal, is conducting a series of webinars titled —The Rising Freelance Economy. These webinars aim to throw light on the different trends in freelancing, whether it is breaking away from a regular job, or women taking up freelancing. Here are the excerpts from the latest webinar.
Investors are pouring millions into the creation of a network of shared kitchens, storage facilities, and pickup counters that established chains and new food entrepreneurs can access to cut down on overhead and quickly spin up new concepts in fast food and casual dining.
SpaceX successfully launched and landed its Falcon 9 this evening, marking the 62nd flight of the vehicle. It was also the 12th ground landing for the company, and the first one on the California coast. SpaceX has two landing pads there, and has managed to touch down 11 Falcon 9 rockets on them. And each time the company has attempted to land on land, it’s been a success.
Ro Khanna (D-CA), whose congressional district includes the headquarters for Apple and Google. Khanna joined Swisher on a new bonus episode of Recode Decode to explain all ten of the potential regulations, which Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi tasked him with drafting after Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica affair.
Morning Briefing (9 Min Reading Time)
Top news & stories of the startup ecosystem from India & around the world
After the failed merger of budget hotel aggregator ZO Rooms and the new unicorn in the block, hotel aggregator OYO, the companies continue to be stuck in a legal trouble and the matter has now reached Supreme court. And now, the Supreme Court in its order dated September 19, 2018 has accepted the arbitration petition by ZO Rooms.
Amid discussions on the Supreme Court verdict on the constitutional validity of Aadhaar Act, the real action is happening at the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) which is now trying to manage several processes which were dependent on Aadhaar as the Supreme Court barred private companies from using Aadhaar to validate the identity of customers.
In another move to encourage adoption of electric vehicles, the Indian government is reportedly planning to introduce tradable auto-emission coupons for automakers. This move is aimed at encouraging the automakers to make electric vehicles and its infrastructure economically viable right from the beginning.
The reason behind rising cost of advertising on Facebook is that the growth of impressions on the platform hasn’t kept pace with the rise in the number of advertisers that have come onboard Facebook. The cost has been increasing since 2015-2016 and has doubled since last year. Know what could be the other reasons behind it.
In the 22nd episode of Inc42 Ask Me Anything (AMA), we hosted Vishal Gondal, the founder-CEO of GOQii, who spoke to us about gaming, fitness, how GOQii is gamifying fitness, and a lot more. Gondal said 99% people fail at their goals while using fitness and weight loss apps because they lack human motivation.
In what looks like a European first, the London-based early-stage venture capital firm Balderton Capital is announcing it has closed a new $145 million “secondary” fund dedicated to buying equity stakes from early shareholders in European-founded “high growth, scale-up” technology companies.
Apple CEO Tim Cook revealed a bit more of the behind-the-scenes decision-making that resulted in conspiracy theorist and alt-right figure Alex Jones’ widespread tech platform ban last month in an interview on HBO’s Vice News Tonight this evening. Read what Cook said about the decision to remove podcasts operated by Jones.
Coinbase is finalizing a deal that would value the company at about $8 billion, a transaction that would make Coinbase one of the highest-valued startups in the U.S. and help further legitimize the entire cryptocurrency industry. The company is in talks with Tiger Global and its current shareholders for an investment of up to $500 million.
DHANANJAYA PARKHE! This is the brainpickings.org weekly digest by Maria Popova. If you missed last week’s edition — John Steinbeck on kindness and the key to good writing, Emily Dickinson’s sublime ode to resilience animated, and more — you can catch up right here. And if you’re enjoying this newsletter, please consider supporting my labor of love with a donation – each month, I spend hundreds of hours and tremendous resources on it, and every little bit of support helps enormously. If you already donate: THANK YOU.
How to Break Up with Integrity: Rilke on Unwounding Separation and the Difficult Art of Recalibrating Broken Relationships
We speak of love as a gift, but although it may come at first unbidden, as what Percy Shelley called a “speechless swoon of joy,” true intimacy between two people is a difficult achievement — a hard-earned glory with stakes so high that the prospect of collapse is absolutely devastating. When collapse does happen — when intimacy is severed by some disorienting swirl of chance and choice — the measure of a love is whether and to what extent the kernel of connection can be salvaged as the shell cracks, how willing each partner is to remain openhearted while brokenhearted, how much mutual care and kindness the two who have loved each other can extend in the almost superhuman endeavor of redeeming closeness after separation.
How to do this with maximal integrity, in a way that embodies Adrienne Rich’s definition of honorable human relationships, is what the poet Rainer Maria Rilke(December 4, 1875–December 29, 1926) explores in one of his staggeringly insightful letters, included in the posthumous collection Letters on Life (public library), edited and translated from German by Ulrich Baer.
The day after Christmas 1921, nearly two decades after he asserted that “for one human being to love another… is perhaps the most difficult of all our tasks… the work for which all other work is but preparation,” and four years after the poet Edna St. Vincent Millay modeled the art of the kind, clean breakup, Rilke writes in a letter to the German painter Reinhold Rudolf Junghanns — a close friend struggling through separation and aching with the loss of love:
As soon as two people have resolved to give up their togetherness, the resulting pain with its heaviness or particularity is already so completely part of the life of each individual that the other has to sternly deny himself to become sentimental and feel pity. The beginning of the agreed-upon separation is marked precisely by this pain, and its first challenge will be that this pain already belongs separately to each of the two individuals. This pain is an essential condition of what the now solitary and most lonely individual will have to create in the future out of his reclaimed life.
He considers the measure of a “good breakup” — a separation that, however painful in its immediate loss, is a long-term gain for both partners, individually and together:
If two people managed not to get stuck in hatred during their honest struggles with each other, that is, in the edges of their passion that became ragged and sharp when it cooled and set, if they could stay fluid, active, flexible, and changeable in all of their interactions and relations, and, in a word, if a mutually human and friendly consideration remained available to them, then their decision to separate cannot easily conjure disaster and terror.
Four weeks later, as Junghanns continues to struggle with letting go of his lover, Rilke admonishes against the painful elasticity of on-again/off-again relationships, in which the short-term alleviation of longing and loss comes at the price of ongoing mutual wounding:
When it is a matter of a separation, pain should already belong in its entirety to that other life from which you wish to separate. Otherwise the two individuals will continually become soft toward each other, causing helpless and unproductive suffering. In the process of a firmly agreed-upon separation, however, the pain itself constitutes an important investment in the renewal and fresh start that is to be achieved on both sides.
Rilke emphasizes the importance of an initial period of distance in order to properly recalibrate a romantic relationship into a real friendship — a period which requires a tremendous leap of faith toward an uncertain but possibly immensely rewarding new mode of connection:
People in your situation might have to communicate as friends. But then these two separated lives should remain without any knowledge of the other for a period and exist as far apart and as detached from the other as possible. This is necessary for each life to base itself firmly on its new requirements and circumstances. Any subsequent contact (which may then be truly new and perhaps very happy) has to remain a matter of unpredictable design and direction.
That autumn, Rilke counsels another brokenhearted friend — this time a woman — through a similar predicament. Noting that “our confusions have always been part of our riches,” he reiterates that whatever the pull toward reunion may be, it is crucial to take distance in order to gain a clearer perspective on saving what is worth saving of the relationship. In a mirror-image complement to his wisdom on challenging necessity of giving space in love, he insists on the difficult, necessary art of taking space after love:
I have written “distance”; should there be anything like advice that I would be able to suggest to you, it would be the hunch that you need to search for that now, for distance. Distance: from the current consternation and from those new conditions and proliferations of your soul that you enjoyed back at the time of their occurrence but of which you have until now not at all truly taken possession. A short isolation and separation of a few weeks, a period of reflection, and a new focusing of your crowded and unbridled nature would offer the greatest probability of rescuing all of that which seems in the process of destroying itself in and through itself.
Rilke cautions against the temptation to turn a willfully blind eye toward all the factors that have rendered the romantic relationship unfeasible and to reunite — a choice that, rather than healing, only retraumataizes and perpetuates the cycle of mutual disappointment:
Nothing locks people in error as much as the daily repetition of error — and how many individuals that ultimately became bound to each other in a frozen fate could have secured for themselves, by means of a few small, pure separations, that rhythm through which the mysterious mobility of their hearts would have inexhaustibly persisted in the deep proximity of their interior world-space, through every alteration and change.
There is a symmetry, both sad and beautiful, between Rilke’s faith in the redemptive power of distance in saving love after a breakup and his insistence that “the highest task of a bond between two people [is] that each should stand guard over the solitude of the other” — as within romance, so beyond romance.
Complement this particular portion of the immeasurably wise and consolatory Letters on Life with Epictetus on love and loss and Adam Phillips on why frustration is necessary for satisfaction in love, then revisit Rilke on what it really means to love, the combinatorial nature of inspiration, the lonely patience of creative work, what it takes to be an artist, and how hardship enlarges us.
Today, silent movies appear to have an old-timey innocence about them. Villains twirled mustaches, and damsels were always in distress but always rescued by a handsome hero at the last moment. Even the tramps seemed whimsical.
However, behind the camera, the burgeoning film industry was decadent and dissolute. Movie stars made fantastic amounts of money and spent it wildly, mostly, it seems, on drink and drugs. Studios tried hard to keep the scandals out of the press and present a wholesome family image, working their publicity departments at full stretch to not only promote the films but protect their stars.
Given the antics many of them got up to, it was a blessing that they couldn’t talk!
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10William Desmond Taylor
At the height of the silent era, William Desmond Taylor was riding high. A noted film director, he directed 60 films and acted in 27. But on February 1, 1922, he was murdered by an unknown assailant. The scandal that followed almost destroyed the fledgling movie industry.
Taylor had been shot in his home. There was no sign of a break-in, and cash was found on his body and in the house, which seemed to rule out a burglary gone wrong. There was a 12-hour delay in reporting the death, and when police arrived, they are said to have found studio bosses frantically burning Taylor’s papers.
Witnesses said that the movie star Mabel Normand had been with him that evening, and she was immediately suspected. A large number of rumors circulated about the lifestyle of both Taylor and Normand, including drug dealing, sexual perversion, and even Satanism.
The rumor mill was fueled by Taylor’s mysterious past, not least the fact that his name was not Taylor at all but William Cunningham Dean-Tanner, which is even more of a mouthful. The appearance of the wife and child whom he had deserted in 1908 added fuel to the fire.
There was a long list of suspects as well as 300 people who confessed to the murder despite appearing to have never met Taylor. Mabel Normand was among the chief suspects, and her career never really recovered. Some strenuous attempts were made to implicate a former employee of Taylor’s, but no one was ever charged.
9Barbara La Marr
Barbara La Marr was nicknamed the “girl who was too beautiful”—too beautiful for Hollywood and, it seemed, too beautiful to live. Her life was always colorful. She was at one time kidnapped by her own sister. A star of 27 silent films, such as The Three Musketeers and The Prisoner of Zenda, La Marr even co-wrote some of her movies.
Her public success was not mirrored in her private life, however. She was married at least four times and had a son whose existence she kept secret. She claimed to sleep for only two hours a night. Whether her rumored drug addiction or her bizarre dietary regimens contributed to her insomnia is unclear.
La Marr, despite her beauty, began to fall out of favor with the studios but continued to work regardless, desperate to regain her popularity. Even a terminal lung condition could not prevent her from working. Finally, one day, she collapsed on set. She died a few months later at the age of 29.
Probably the most famous star of the silent era, Charlie Chaplin is still adored by many today. His Tramp character is one of the most enduring in Hollywood history. His success brought him the kind of wealth he could only have dreamed of during his poverty-stricken childhood. He had a mind for business and set up his own studio, increasing both his profits and his artistic freedom.
Privately, however, Chaplin’s life was much more complicated. He was married several times and was the defendant in a paternity suit. He even bribed a doctor (to the tune of $25,000) to make false entries on the birth certificate of one of his children. More damningly, he is known to have had numerous relationships with women under the age of consent.
Chaplin was denounced as a Communist by the House Un-American Activities committee in 1947, and his star began to dwindle. After a trip to London, his reentry permit was revoked. Knowing that he would have to explain his political views and private life, Chaplin chose not to return and moved to Switzerland. It was a sad end to an illustrious career.
Olive Thomas began her career as an artist’s model and then as a dancer. She won her first movie contract in 1916 and soon met and married the actor Jack Pickford. The couple seemed to have a glamorous life, though there were signs that, perhaps due to long work-induced separations, things were not going well.
In September 1920, the two went on a second honeymoon to Paris. They are said to have enjoyed a night of high revelry at some of Paris’s more notorious night spots. On returning to their suite at the Ritz, Thomas, for reasons unknown, swallowed a bottle of Pickford’s medicine. It was mercury bichloride, a toxic medication prescribed to Pickford to treat his syphilis. She is said to have called out, “I have taken poison,” though whether or not she meant to poison herself is not clear. Despite attempts to revive her, Olive Thomas died soon after. She was 25 years old.
Thomas Ince was the world’s first movie mogul. He created the first movie studio and later went on to form Paramount Pictures.
By 1924, he was said to be close to bankruptcy and began to discuss a deal with newspaper tycoon William Randolph Hearst. On November 16, he joined Hearst on his yacht, along with Charlie Chaplin and Hearst’s mistress, Marion Davies, whom Hearst suspected was having an affair with Chaplin.
On board the yacht, the guests celebrated Ince’s 44th birthday. What happened after that is unclear. He was certainly taken off the boat to a hospital, where he died a few days later. The fact that his body was immediately cremated has increased suspicion of foul play. Theories proposed at the time included accidental poisoning, accidental shooting, and deliberate murder.
Ince’s death certificate records the cause of death as heart failure, but newspaper reports of the time declared that he had been shot. Note that those papers belonged to Hearst, who had little to say on the subject. A secretary aboard the yacht claimed to have seen Ince bleeding, and Hearst was suspected of either the deliberate murder of Thomas Ince or the attempted murder of Charlie Chaplin, leading to the accidental shooting of Ince.
There were definite attempts to hush the matter up. Chaplin denied ever having been on the boat, and Ince’s wife was sent on an unexpected trip to Europe after a meeting with Hearst. Hearst offered her a trust fund, and other guests on the boat were given similar inducements to keep their mouths shut.
A further twist came when one of the staff members claimed that Ince had raped her while on board the boat. This might have been dismissed as fantasy, had she not given birth to a child nine months later, before dying almost immediately afterward in a car accident near Hearst’s home. She was found by Hearst’s bodyguards, along with an improbable suicide note. The child was sent to an orphanage under the patronage of Hearst’s mistress. Hmm.
Jewel Carmen was an actress with Keystone Studios. Though talented, she appears to have been quite troubled.
She had a long-running legal dispute with the Fox Film Corporation to try to get out of her contract, even signing to a new studio while still tied to Fox. The legal battle took her off the screen for three years, during which her career suffered immeasurably. She married director Roland West in 1918, but their marriage was stormy, and they separated sometime during the 1920s. West began a relationship with actress Thelma Todd, who lived in an adjoining apartment.
In December 1935, Todd was found dead in her garage after inhaling carbon monoxide fumes. Though Carmen and West had been separated for a long time, Carmen was interviewed about her husband’s relationship with Todd. At a grand jury hearing, Carmen even testified that she had seen Thelma Todd the night of her death, traveling in a car with a “dark-appearing” man. It seemed clear that she was trying to implicate her husband in the death, but the grand jury chose to look on it as a case of mistaken identity.
After the scandal, her career never recovered, and Carmen died in obscurity in 1984, remarked by no one.
Rudolph Valentino, the “Latin Lover,” began his working life as a “tango pirate,” dancing with wealthy women. This ended abruptly after a scandalinvolving a court case, a vice charge, imprisonment, and a murder. He changed his name and moved to California, where he began to pick up film parts. By 1921 Valentino had a starring role in The Sheik, a film which portrayed him as an irresistible lover. It was an image that was to follow him forever.
Further scandals followed, mostly involving women. In 1922, he married his second wife, without having divorced his first, and was charged with bigamy. He said to be engaged again at the time of his death.
Despite this, Valentino was sensitive about insinuations about his sexuality from men, who he felt were jealous of his prowess with women. A headline in the Chicago Tribune describing him as a “Pink Powder Puff” particularly riled him. Valentino challenged the author of the piece to a boxing match, calling him a “contemptible coward.” Though the anonymous author of the piece declined to reveal himself and accept the challenge, Valentino did have a bout with a sports writer who reported that Valentino packed a punch, which did little to soothe the actor.
A few weeks later, he collapsed in his hotel due to a ruptured appendix. He’d also developed pleuritis in his lung. The insult must have still been playing on his mind, as he asked a doctor, “Am I still a pink powder puff?” On August 23, 1926, Valentino died a few hours after slipping into a coma. He was 31. Over 100,000 people lined the streets for his funeral, and several fans reportedly killed themselves in their grief.
Today, Alma Rubens is little-remembered as an actress, though she appeared in almost 60 films, including, fittingly, The Regenerates, which is about a woman tormented by drug addiction. By the mid-1920s, Rubens had a heavy morphine and cocaine addiction, and she was replaced on the movie The Torrent by newcomer Greta Garbo.
Rubens was earning large fees for her films, most of which she squandered on drugs. She had several brushes with police and a spell in a mental hospital to try to get clean. Rubens also had three brief marriages in quick succession.
In 1931, she wrote an account of her life, entitled “Why I Remain A Dope Fiend,” which was serialized in newspapers throughout the United States. She died shortly after its publication at 33 years old.
Gloria Swanson transcended both silent films and the talkies. Her life is as fascinating as any of her films. She had a uniquely powerful position in Hollywood. She started her own production company, and she was one of the few movie stars of her time to sign a seven-figure contract. And yet Swanson was still a victim of the studio system.
In 1925, Swanson made the film Madam Sans Gene, one of the first movies using American filmmakers abroad. While working on it, she fell in love with a French marquis, though she was still married to her second husband. She became pregnant with the marquis’s baby.
Knowing that her contract contained a morality clause and that she could be banned from working if they discovered the pregnancy, Swanson chose to have an abortion, which almost killed her. She kept the pregnancy a secret from everyone for the sake of her career.
With her private life a mess (she married and divorced six times), Swanson tried to concentrate on her production company. However, her inexperience in choosing her business partners brought her to the brink of bankruptcy, and her career began to wane.
It is perhaps fitting, then, that her most famous role is that of Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard, a poignant portrayal of a fading silent film star.
The trial of Roscoe Arbuckle is probably one of the most shameful moments in Hollywood history, not just because of the death of a young woman, and the debauchery of the scene where she died, but also because of the way that Arbuckle, commonly known as “Fatty Arbuckle,” was pilloried by a presswhich seemed to confuse Roscoe Arbuckle the actor with his character on screen. He was accused of killing Virginia Rappe with “external pressure” during forced sex. Medical records showed Miss Rappe died of peritonitis, but the implication made by the prosecution was that Arbuckle ruptured her internal organs by lying on top of her because he was so fat.
Rappe was portrayed in the press as an innocent starlet, despite the fact that she was known to have had a heavy drinking habit, which made her prone to strange outbursts, such as tearing her clothes off at parties, something she had done more than once. She’d recently had an illegal abortion, which had not gone well and may have contributed to the peritonitis and ruptured bladder she subsequently suffered.
Roscoe had to endure three trials before he was finally acquitted. He was portrayed in the press as bestial, with depraved appetites, and his weight (much exaggerated) was seen as evidence of his greedy nature. At each trial, lurid descriptions of the lavish parties he held turned public opinion against him. Though he was finally proved innocent, the revelations during the trial were too much, and Roscoe’s career as a movie star was over.
The All India Organisation of Chemists and Druggists (AIOCD) has opposed the government’s decision of epharmacy regulation. In lieu of this, AIOCD reportedly called in a day-long nationwide strike on Friday (September 27). As per the regulations, the epharmacies are given a set of regulations including data localisation and other sets of rules regarding registration.
This week 13 startups raised around $106.3 Mn funding and six startup acquisitions took place in the Indian startup ecosystem. (The startup funding calculations are based on the startups that disclosed funding amount). One of the biggest funding this week was raised by hotel chain OYO securing a total of $800 Mn in its latest financing round led by SoftBank. Read more to find out other startups who made it to the list.
On September 28, the reports of ecommerce retailer Infibeam stock getting crashed by more than 70% in a single day circled the media all day round, leaving the industry amid a state of confusion. A few hours later, a WhatsApp message was found to be the culprit. The message circulating among traders raised concerns about the ecommerce company’s accounting practices.
In line with Supreme Court’s verdict on Aadhaar case thereby restricting the use of Aadhaar data by private entities, IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad has now reportedly asked Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) to prepare an action plan to ensure compliance with Supreme Court judgement.
San Francisco-headquartered global payments company Stripe has reportedly raised $245 Mn, at almost 2x valuation than the previous fund raise. The latest funding valued the company at $20 Bn, while the last valuation was $9.2 Bn after the $150 Mn fund raise in November 2016.
Ahead of the Supreme Court’s decision in the crypto case, India’s leading cryptocurrency exchange operator Zebpay has shut down its exchange operations. On the other hand Google is apparently going to partially lift the cryptocurrency and ICOs related ads ban. Let’s take a look at the some of the top Bitcoin-related developments this week!
The report discusses the vast scope of application of blockchain across industries, specifically exploring opportunities in India and explains the difference between blockchainand cryptocurrencies for readers with limited or no knowledge of the technology. Order your copy now!
This is the Brain Pickings midweek newsletter: Every Wednesday, I plunge into my twelve-year archive and choose something worth resurfacing and resavoring as a timeless pick-me-up for heart, mind, and spirit. (If you don’t yet subscribe to the standard Sunday newsletter of new pieces published each week, you can sign up here – it’s free.) If you missed last week’s archival piece – Annie Dillard on choosing presence in a culture of productivity – you can read it here. And if you find any value and joy in my labor of love, please consider supporting it with a donation – over these twelve years, I have spent tens of thousands of hours and tremendous resources on Brain Pickings, and every little bit of support helps keep it going. If you already donate: THANK YOU.
FROM THE ARCHIVE | Philosopher Erich Fromm on the Art of Loving and What Is Keeping Us from Mastering It
“To love without knowing how to love wounds the person we love,” the great Zen teacher Thich Nhat Hanh admonished in his terrific treatise on how to love — a sentiment profoundly discomfiting in the context of our cultural mythology, which continually casts love as something that happens to us passively and by chance, something we fall into, something that strikes us arrow-like, rather than a skill attained through the same deliberate practice as any other pursuit of human excellence. Our failure to recognize this skillfulness aspect is perhaps the primary reason why love is so intertwined with frustration.
That’s what the great German social psychologist, psychoanalyst, and philosopher Erich Fromm (March 23, 1900–March 18, 1980) examines in his 1956 masterwork The Art of Loving (public library) — a case for love as a skill to be honed the way artists apprentice themselves to the work on the way to mastery, demanding of its practitioner both knowledge and effort.
This book … wants to show that love is not a sentiment which can be easily indulged in by anyone, regardless of the level of maturity reached by him. It wants to convince the reader that all his attempts for love are bound to fail, unless he tries most actively to develop his total personality, so as to achieve a productive orientation; that satisfaction in individual love cannot be attained without the capacity to love one’s neighbor, without true humility, courage, faith and discipline. In a culture in which these qualities are rare, the attainment of the capacity to love must remain a rare achievement.
Fromm considers our warped perception of love’s necessary yin-yang:
Most people see the problem of love primarily as that of being loved, rather than that of loving, of one’s capacity to love. Hence the problem to them is how to be loved, how to be lovable.
People think that to love is simple, but that to find the right object to love — or to be loved by — is difficult. This attitude has several reasons rooted in the development of modern society. One reason is the great change which occurred in the twentieth century with respect to the choice of a “love object.”
Our fixation on the choice of “love object,” Fromm argues, has seeded a kind of “confusion between the initial experience of ‘falling’ in love, and the permanent state of being in love, or as we might better say, of ‘standing’ in love” — something Stendhal addressed more than a century earlier in his theory of love’s “crystallization.” Fromm considers the peril of mistaking the spark for the substance:
If two people who have been strangers, as all of us are, suddenly let the wall between them break down, and feel close, feel one, this moment of oneness is one of the most exhilarating, most exciting experiences in life. It is all the more wonderful and miraculous for persons who have been shut off, isolated, without love. This miracle of sudden intimacy is often facilitated if it is combined with, or initiated by, sexual attraction and consummation. However, this type of love is by its very nature not lasting. The two persons become well acquainted, their intimacy loses more and more its miraculous character, until their antagonism, their disappointments, their mutual boredom kill whatever is left of the initial excitement. Yet, in the beginning they do not know all this: in fact, they take the intensity of the infatuation, this being “crazy” about each other, for proof of the intensity of their love, while it may only prove the degree of their preceding loneliness.
There is hardly any activity, any enterprise, which is started with such tremendous hopes and expectations, and yet, which fails so regularly, as love.
The only way to abate this track record of failure, Fromm argues, is to examine the underlying reasons for the disconnect between our beliefs about love and its actual machinery — which must include a recognition of love as an informed practice rather than an unmerited grace. Fromm writes:
The first step to take is to become aware that love is an art, just as living is an art; if we want to learn how to love we must proceed in the same way we have to proceed if we want to learn any other art, say music, painting, carpentry, or the art of medicine or engineering. What are the necessary steps in learning any art? The process of learning an art can be divided conveniently into two parts: one, the mastery of the theory; the other, the mastery of the practice. If I want to learn the art of medicine, I must first know the facts about the human body, and about various diseases. When I have all this theoretical knowledge, I am by no means competent in the art of medicine. I shall become a master in this art only after a great deal of practice, until eventually the results of my theoretical knowledge and the results of my practice are blended into one — my intuition, the essence of the mastery of any art. But, aside from learning the theory and practice, there is a third factor necessary to becoming a master in any art — the mastery of the art must be a matter of ultimate concern; there must be nothing else in the world more important than the art. This holds true for music, for medicine, for carpentry — and for love. And, maybe, here lies the answer to the question of why people in our culture try so rarely to learn this art, in spite of their obvious failures: in spite of the deep-seated craving for love, almost everything else is considered to be more important than love: success, prestige, money, power — almost all our energy is used for the learning of how to achieve these aims, and almost none to learn the art of loving.
In the remainder of the enduringly excellent The Art of Loving, Fromm goes on to explore the misconceptions and cultural falsehoods keeping us from mastering this supreme human skill, outlining both its theory and its practice with extraordinary insight into the complexities of the human heart. Complement it with French philosopher Alain Badiou on why we fall and stay in love and Mary Oliver on love’s necessary madnesses.
This is the brainpickings.org weekly digest by Maria Popova. If you missed last week’s edition — Walt Whitman on creativity, Toni Morrison on the deepest meaning of love, Martin Buber on what a tree can teach us about seeing each other fully — you can catch up right here. And if you’re enjoying this newsletter, please consider supporting my labor of love with a donation – each month, I spend hundreds of hours and tremendous resources on it, and every little bit of support helps enormously. If you already donate: THANK YOU.
The Only Story in the World: John Steinbeck on Kindness, Good and Evil, the Wellspring of Good Writing
“All the goodness and the heroisms will rise up again, then be cut down again and rise up,” John Steinbeck (February 27, 1902–December 20, 1968) wrote as he contemplated good, evil, and the necessary contradiction of human nature at the peak of WWII. “It isn’t that the evil thing wins — it never will — but that it doesn’t die.”
A decade later, and a decade before he won the Nobel Prize in Literature, Steinbeck turned this abiding tug of war between good and evil into a literary inquiry in East of Eden (public library) — the 1952 novel that gave us his beautiful wisdom on creativity and the meaning of life, eventually adapted into the 1955 film of the same title starring James Dean.
Steinbeck opens the thirty-fourth chapter with a meditation on the most elemental question through which we experience and measure our lives:
A child may ask, “What is the world’s story about?” And a grown man or woman may wonder, “What way will the world go? How does it end and, while we’re at it, what’s the story about?”
I believe that there is one story in the world, and only one, that has frightened and inspired us, so that we live in a Pearl White serial of continuing thought and wonder. Humans are caught — in their lives, in their thoughts, in their hungers and ambitions, in their avarice and cruelty, and in their kindness and generosity too — in a net of good and evil. I think this is the only story we have and that it occurs on all levels of feeling and intelligence. Virtue and vice were warp and woof of our first consciousness, and they will be the fabric of our last, and this despite any changes we may impose on field and river and mountain, on economy and manners. There is no other story. A man, after he has brushed off the dust and chips of his life, will have left only the hard, clean questions: Was it good or was it evil? Have I done well — or ill?
At the most fundamental level, the triumph of good over evil presupposes an openhearted curiosity about what is other than ourselves and a certain willingness for understanding — the moral choice of fathoming and honoring the reality, experience, and needs of persons and entities existing beyond our own consciousness. Steinbeck, too, saw the centrality of empathic understanding in the choice of goodness. Perhaps unsurprisingly — since he used his private journal as a creative sandbox for his novels— this sentiment originated in a diary entry.
Decades before Annie Dillard contemplated why a generosity of spirit is the animating force of good writing, Steinbeck echoes Hemingway — “As a writer you should not judge. You should understand.” — and reflects in a journal entry from 1938, quoted in Steinbeck Center director Susan Shillinglaw’s introduction to a 1993 Penguin Classics edition of Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men:
In every bit of honest writing in the world… there is a base theme. Try to understand men, if you understand each other you will be kind to each other. Knowing a man well never leads to hate and nearly always leads to love. There are shorter means, many of them. There is writing promoting social change, writing punishing injustice, writing in celebration of heroism, but always that base theme. Try to understand each other.
Complement with Hannah Arendt on our mightiest antidote to evil, James Baldwin on the terror within and the evil without, Mary McCarthy on human nature and how we determine if evil is forgivable, and Fyodor Dostoyevsky on why there are no bad people, then revisit Steinbeck on being vs. becoming, the difficult art of the fried breakup, and his remarkable advice on falling in love in a letter to his teenage son.
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The new A380-capable runway at Velana Airport in Maldives was accidentally inaugurated last week when an Air India A320 mistakenly landed on the unopened runway. This week, an Etihad A380 became the first aircraft to land on the opened runway and the first A380 to visit Maldives.
FLIGHTS TO FOLLOW
Aviation Photo of the Week
GFB’s photos from Houston are often masterful manipulations of light and dark. Here he captures a United 787 departing.
Siri Shortcuts now available
In our latest update for iOS (7.10), we’ve added Siri Shortcuts compatibility. If you see the ’Add to Siri’ on a page, you can tap that to create a shortcut. Siri Shortcuts works with features like AR View, nearby flights, and airport pages.
UNDER THE RADAR – Bite size aviation news
New York Times
This is the Brain Pickings midweek newsletter: Every Wednesday, I plunge into my twelve-year archive and choose something worth resurfacing and resavoring as a timeless pick-me-up for heart, mind, and spirit. (If you don’t yet subscribe to the standard Sunday newsletter of new pieces published each week, you can sign up here – it’s free.) If you missed last week’s archival piece – Shel Silverstein’s sweet allegory for the secret of love and the key to lasting relationships – you can read it here. And if you find any value and joy in my labor of love, please consider supporting it with a donation – over these twelve years, I have spent tens of thousands of hours and tremendous resources on Brain Pickings, and every little bit of support helps keep it going. If you already donate: THANK YOU.
FROM THE ARCHIVE | How We Spend Our Days Is How We Spend Our Lives: Annie Dillard on Choosing Presence Over Productivity
The meaning of life has been pondered by such literary icons as Leo Tolstoy (1904), Henry Miller (1918), Anaïs Nin(1946), Viktor Frankl (1946), Italo Calvino (1975), and David Foster Wallace (2005). And although some have argued that today’s age is one where “the great dream is to trade up from money to meaning,” there is an unshakable and discomfiting sense that, in our obsession with optimizing our creative routines and maximizing our productivity, we have forgotten how to be truly present in the gladdening mystery of life.
From The Writing Life (public library) by Annie Dillard — a wonderful addition to the collected wisdom of beloved writers — comes this beautiful and poignant meditation on the life well lived, reminding us of the tradeoffs between presence and productivity that we’re constantly choosing to make, or not:
How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives. What we do with this hour, and that one, is what we are doing. A schedule defends from chaos and whim. It is a net for catching days. It is a scaffolding on which a worker can stand and labor with both hands at sections of time. A schedule is a mock-up of reason and order—willed, faked, and so brought into being; it is a peace and a haven set into the wreck of time; it is a lifeboat on which you find yourself, decades later, still living. Each day is the same, so you remember the series afterward as a blurred and powerful pattern.
The most appealing daily schedule I know is that of a turn-of-the-century Danish aristocrat. He got up at four and set out on foot to hunt black grouse, wood grouse, woodcock, and snipe. At eleven he met his friends, who had also been out hunting alone all morning. They converged “at one of these babbling brooks,” he wrote. He outlined the rest of his schedule. “Take a quick dip, relax with a schnapps and a sandwich, stretch out, have a smoke, take a nap or just rest, and then sit around and chat until three. Then I hunt some more until sundown, bathe again, put on white tie and tails to keep up appearances, eat a huge dinner, smoke a cigar and sleep like a log until the sun comes up again to redden the eastern sky. This is living…. Could it be more perfect?”
Dillard juxtaposes the Danish aristocrat’s revelry in everyday life with the grueling routine of a couple of literary history’s most notorious self-disciplinarians:
Wallace Stevens in his forties, living in Hartford, Connecticut, hewed to a productive routine. He rose at six, read for two hours, and walked another hour—three miles—to work. He dictated poems to his secretary. He ate no lunch; at noon he walked for another hour, often to an art gallery. He walked home from work—another hour. After dinner he retired to his study; he went to bed at nine. On Sundays, he walked in the park. I don’t know what he did on Saturdays. Perhaps he exchanged a few words with his wife, who posed for the Liberty dime. (One would rather read these people, or lead their lives, than be their wives. When the Danish aristocrat Wilhelm Dinesen shot birds all day, drank schnapps, napped, and dressed for dinner, he and his wife had three children under three. The middle one was Karen.)
Jack London claimed to write twenty hours a day. Before he undertook to write, he obtained the University of California course list and all the syllabi; he spent a year reading the textbooks in philosophy and literature. In subsequent years, once he had a book of his own under way, he set his alarm to wake him after four hours’ sleep. Often he slept through the alarm, so, by his own account, he rigged it to drop a weight on his head. I cannot say I believe this, though a novel like The Sea-Wolf is strong evidence that some sort of weight fell on his head with some sort of frequency — but you wouldn’t think a man would claim credit for it. London maintained that every writer needed a technique, experience, and a philosophical position.
At the heart of these anecdotes of living is a dynamic contemplation of life itself:
There is no shortage of good days. It is good lives that are hard to come by. A life of good days lived in the senses is not enough. The life of sensation is the life of greed; it requires more and more. The life of the spirit requires less and less; time is ample and its passage sweet. Who would call a day spent reading a good day? But a life spent reading — that is a good life. A day that closely resembles every other day of the past ten or twenty years does not suggest itself as a good one. But who would not call Pasteur’s life a good one, or Thomas Mann’s?
The Writing Life is sublime in its entirety, the kind of book that stays with you for lifetimes.
Illustration by Wendy MacNaughton
STUPID IS AS STUPID DOES.
These words above, from the fictional title character of the film, Forrest Gump, have amazing clarity and truth. Think about it as it applies to you. We all do stupid things, mostly by accident, sometimes by omission, and other times strictly due to a lack of concentration. But, “Stupid is as stupid does.” Let’s take a closer look.
I feel safe in venturing that few, if any, of us wake up each morning with the singular goal of, “Gee, what stupid things can I do today and still live to tell about it?” Yet, we manage to do more stupid than brilliant things without really trying. The fact that we are not aware of our own propensity for stupidity may be more of a curse than a blessing. The fortunate end of this is that most often the stupid things we do are little things which, when taken individually, have little or no effect on our life each day. Yet day after day we still do the stupid without regard to the cumulative effect it has on our lives as a whole. While some consider doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result to be a definition of insanity, I like to think of it a dose of good ole homegrown stupidity. This type of behavior will eventually call into question the foundation of Respect we have for yourself.
RESPECT AND THE SPEAKER
As a speaker, you must be ever aware that your authority to speak rests greatly and precariously on the foundation Credibility you established for yourself. A large portion of your credibility is impacted and shaped by the depth of respect you have for yourself, your foundational message, and your relationship to the audiences you serve.
In many cases, as a speaker, it is what we do when we are saying nothing that can easily betray the depth of our credibility and the level of respect we maintain.
You’re at the airport on the way to a speaking opportunity when you step into the newsstand to pick up some water and a snack for the flight. As you walk down the aisle you cross in front of another shopper who is tortuously deciding which chewy snack will hit the spot and you do so without even offering a courteous, “Excuse me.”
“So, what,” you say, “they probably didn’t even notice!”
You might be right. But, that’s not the question you should be asking yourself. The real deep question here is. “Did you notice?” And if you did notice and did not offer a polite, “Excuse me” you may have committed a double offense, one to the person you offended and two to your personal dignity and respect.
When you walk in to your speaking engagement the next day, you are greeted by the very person you were rude to at the airport. You feel stupid for having acted badly in a situation you can never undo. You cannot NOT communicate and the message you have sent through your action is a sign of disrespect and questionable credibility.
RESPECT AND YOUR SPEAKING VOICE
“Actions speak louder than words” and growing your speaking voice is less about what you’re saying and more about the foundational base from which are speaking. While you are diligently digging to discover content that matters to you and will impact your audiences, your actions throughout the process will help solidify a platform with the integrity to support your message.
The more actions of respect inward and outward that you perform, the stronger your experiential base as a speaker will be. Not only will what you say grow, but the strength of conviction within the voice behind those words will grow as well.
SPEAKING OF RESPECT
The general point here is that it is more than just a common courtesy so say “Excuse me” when we infringe on another’s space. By doing so, we acknowledge there are rules of conduct which we ascribe to as a civilized society. These rules help us to create order while they relieve us from the potential rule of chaos.
Saying, “Excuse me” not only bestows a measure of respect on the infringed, it bestows a measure of civility on the infringer as well. This behavior can and will establish an atmosphere of mutual respect between each person involved in the encounter. Respect makes our world a better place to live. It makes our common efforts rewarding. It makes us understand the basis of our common existence.
My challenge to you is to try to be courteous and respectful in all situations. Particularly those when you are about to knowingly do something stupid. Give yourself a break. Take yourself off of autopilot and take command your vessel. At the end of the day, acknowledge the stupid little things you have done and make a conscious effort not to repeat them.
Remember, the most important person in the world is you. If you don’t show yourself the maximum amount of respect you deserve, it’s quite possible no one else will either. If you keep on going day after day repeating one small stupidity after another, it will have a cumulative effect on your reserve of self-respect.
“Stupid is as stupid does,” but stupid does not have to become a standard of performance or an excuse to be rude.
Thanks for your support as a reader of my blog and I eagerly welcome any comments on this post or suggestions you might have for a future blog on a topic near and dear to you in the comments section below. As always, please feel free to share this post with a friend or colleague.
To Your Speaking Success.
The Speech Wiz
10 Strange Beauty Secrets Of History’s Most Beautiful Women
Being pretty isn’t easy. The most beautiful women in history weren’t just born that way. They put hard work into it—and, sometimes, a few crushed bug guts, stewed birds, or dung.
It’s the dirty little secret behind glamour: No matter how fantastic someone looks, it never comes naturally. Behind every great beauty in history, there’s a dirty secret about all the work that went into looking that good.
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10Empress Elisabeth: A Face Mask Lined With Raw Veal
The most beautiful woman on earth, in the 19th century, was Empress Elisabeth of Austria. She was famous across Europe for her impeccable skin and the thick, chestnut hair that fell all the way down to her feet.
None of which came easy. To keep her skin beautiful, she would crush strawberries over her hands, face, and neck, bathe in warm olive oil, and sleep in what has only been described as a “mask lined inside with raw veal.”
It was the closest she came to eating food. Her favorite dish was pressed extract of chicken, partridge, venison, and beef—which isn’t so much a “food” as something you’d find in a spice cabinet. And even then, she’d wrap herself in a corset so tight that her waist only measured 49.5 centimeters (19.5 in) around.
She spent three hours each day getting her hair down, mainly because it was so long that it would get tied up in knots. And when it was put up in ribbons, her hair would get so heavy that it would give her headaches.
It meant that, more often than not, she was stuck indoors, too afraid to let the wind ruin her hair. But if you want to be beautiful, sometimes you have to give up on little luxuries, like ever leaving your house.
9Cleopatra: Bathing In Donkey Milk
Queen Cleopatra won the hearts of the most powerful men alive. Maybe it was her grace. Maybe it was her charm. Or maybe it was that sweet aroma of dung and insect guts.
Cleopatra, after all, almost certainly followed the usual beauty conventions of her time—and that meant wearing a lipstick made out of mashed-up beetle guts and putting powdered crocodile dung under her eyes.
But Cleopatra didn’t limit herself to a peasant’s beauty regimen. She was a queen, and that meant that she could afford the most luxurious treatment of all: bathing in sour donkey milk. Her servants would milk 700 donkeys each day so that they could fill a tub with their milk. Then, once it had gone bad, Cleopatra would bathe inside.
The theory was that it would reduce wrinkles—and it may actually have worked. Soured lactose turns into lactic acid, which can make the surface layer of skin on a woman’s body peel off, revealing the smoother, blemish-free skin underneath.
That was the real secret to her beauty: burning her flesh off.
8Nefertiti: Wearing Enough Makeup To Kill You
The Egyptian queen Nefertiti’s name meant “the beautiful one has come”—and she lived up to it. She was so beautiful that, in the early 20th century, a statue of her face caused an international sensation. More than 3,000 years after she died, her looks were still front-page news.
And no wonder. She put no small amount of work into looking good.
The queens of Nefertiti’s time would be buried with their makeup, and so, while they didn’t write many of their beauty secrets down, we’ve been able to find their methods left behind in their tombs. While her tomb has never been found, the tombs of her contemporaries give us a pretty good idea of how she did it.
Nefertiti was completely hairless. Her entire body was shaved from head to toe with a razor, including the hair on the top of her head. Instead, she topped her head with a wig and painted her eyes black with something called kohl.
Ancient Egyptian kohl, incidentally, was made out of the dark lead ore galena—which means that Nefertiti was slowly killing herself with lead poisoning every time she put on makeup.
But it’s highly unlikely that the lead killed her. There’s simply no way it could have finished her off before her lipstick. Her lipstick, after all, contained bromine mannite, another toxic substance that it’s generally believed would have poisoned her long before the lead she dabbed around her eyes.
7Queen Elizabeth I: Coating Your Skin In Lead
Poisoning yourself with lead is no passing fad. It’s been a great look for thousands of years. While Nefertiti may have dabbed a little lead around her eyes, it was nothing compared to Queen Elizabeth I.
During the Elizabethan era, the most popular skin product was something called “Venetian ceruse”—which, quite simply, was a mixture of lead and vinegar that women would put all over their skin to make them look porcelain white.
Nobody used more of it than Queen Elizabeth herself. When she was 29, Elizabeth contracted smallpox and was left with scars all over her skin. She was too humiliated to show her scars in public—and so, instead, she covered every inch of her flesh with the toxic white paint.
Queen Elizabeth used so much of it that she was completely unrecognizable without it. When one man, the Earl of Essex, accidentally peeked a sight of her without her makeup on, he went around joking that she’d hidden a “crooked carcass” underneath that thick veneer of Venetian ceruse.
6Marie Antoinette: Stewed Pigeon Water
The French queen Marie Antoinette didn’t exactly let herself eat cake. She had a reputation as a world-class beauty, and she was determined to keep it up.
Like Empress Elisabeth, she would go to bed with a face mask, but Antoinette’s—made of cognac, eggs, powdered milk, and lemon—sounds a little bit less like a beauty treatment and a little bit more like the catering menu at a birthday party.
She’d start the morning by washing her face with a facial cleanser made out of pigeons. In those days, that was a selling point: the product came proudly labeled with the mean “Eau Cosmetique de Pigeon” and a little ad promising every bottle had been made with “eight pigeons stewed.”
Then she would get dressed—for the first of three times each day. As queen of France, Marie Antoinette was expected to never wear the same thing twice. And so, each year, she would 120,000 livres on clothes, the equivalent to about $4 million today.
She may even have indulged in the popular French fashion of tracing her veins with a blue pencil. At the time, the women of France wanted to be so thin that they were translucent—so they’d draw the inner workings of their bodies, trying to convince the men that they had transparent skin.
5Mary, Queen Of Scots: Bathing In Wine
Mary, Queen of Scots, wasn’t a natural beauty. She was born with a nose a little large and a chin a little too sharp—but she was a queen, and she was determined to be beautiful.
To keep her skin as striking as possible, she had her servants fill a bathtub with a white wine. She would wade in it, convinced that the wine was improving her complexion.
It sounds decadent, but it’s actually something people still do today. Today, it’s called vinotherapy, and there are places all around the world where you can experience the Mary, Queen of Scots, treatment for yourself.
It’s hard to say exactly what the queen used, but the modern vinotherapists don’t actually pour drinkable, alcoholic wine. Instead, they use the leftover compost from the winemaking process; the “pips and pulps” of grapes that get left behind. So, no—you can’t get drunk off of it.
4Empress Zoe Porphyrogenita: Starting Your Own Cosmetics Lab
Empress Zoe Porphyrogenita was one of the most beautiful women in the Byzantine Empire. She didn’t just look good when she was young, though. Even when she was well into her sixties, it’s said, she still looked like a 20-year-old.
She certainly worked hard enough for it. After becoming the empress, Zoe Porphyrogenita had an entire laboratory dedicated to making her cosmeticsbuilt inside of the imperial palace. It was a real cosmetic factory, every bit as huge and expensive as the ones that supply whole countries. At this one, though, Zoe was the only customer.
It was expensive—but for the empress, blowing a small fortune was just all in a day’s work. It’s said that she was “the sort of woman who could exhaust a sea teaming with gold-dust in one day.”
But it’s also said that “like a well-baked chicken, every part of her was firm and in good condition.” This is definitive proof that it worked, because, clearly, Zoe looked so good that the men who saw her were so smitten that they couldn’t even form a sentence that didn’t make your skin crawl.
3Lucrezia Borgia: Spending Multiple Days Washing Your Hair
The poet Lord Byron once said that Lucrezia Borgia’s hair was “the prettiest and fairest imaginable.” He wasn’t just trying out a line for a new poem—he was in love, so much so, in fact, that he stole a strand of her hair and kept it by his bed.
It sounds one of those touching love stories that usually end with someone filing a restraining order. Lucrezia, though, probably appreciated it. She deserved a little recognition for the amount of work she put into that hair—because she would spend days washing it.
Lucrezia’s hair was bright and blonde, but that wasn’t nature. Everyone else in her family had dark hair. Lucrezia, though, made sure hers shined like the Sun by rinsing it in lye and lemon juice for hours, then drying it out in the sunlight for the better part of a day.
It took so much time that she repeatedly canceled trips to wash her hair. Multiple letters from Lucrezia’s attendants have survived to to this day. In them, she politely apologizes to people and explains that she will be a few days late because she has to “put her clothes in order and wash her head.”
2Helen Of Troy: Bathing In Vinegar
Helen of Troy had the face that launched 1,000 ships. She was a woman so beautiful that thousands of men died for her honor.
Well, either that, or else she was just a figment of an old Greek guy’s imagination. If Homer really did make her up, though, he had a remarkable understanding of women’s cosmetic care. Because packed deep in her legend is a beauty regimen that really works.
Helen of Troy, according to the Iliad, would bathe in vinegar. Every day, her attendants would prepare what, technically speaking, was a bathtub full of acid, and she would just dive right in.
Today, people tend to assume that she used apple cider vinegar or that she diluted it in water, simply because, otherwise, it sounds pretty horrible. After all, that’s something people still do today—bathe in a mixture of apple cider vinegar and water. And it actually works. The vinegar balances the body’s pH levels, which can have a cleansing effect.
But there’s nothing saying Helen of Troy ever added water. She may just have dived right into a bathtub filled to the brim with white vinegar. It would’ve hurt, and she would’ve smelled—but that’s what it takes to look good enough to start a war.
1Simonetta Vespucci: Arsenic, Leeches, And Human Urine
Even if you don’t know her name, you’ve seen Simonetta Vespucci’s face. She was the muse for some of the greatest painters of the Renaissance. She was even chosen to model for the goddess of love herself at the center of the painting The Birth of Venus.
In the Renaissance, everyone wanted to look like her. And so they copied her beauty regimen—leeches, poisons, and all.
To keep their skin pale, white, and beautiful, the women in Vespucci’s time would attach leeches to their ears. The leeches would drain the blood out of their faces, leaving them deathly pale.
Those who didn’t want to go that far, though, could always use a face mask. Renaissance women would mix bread crumbs and egg whites with vinegar and then apply it liberally on their faces—a beauty secret that, conveniently, doubles as a great recipe for fried chicken.
Eyebrow hair, at the time, had to be plucked, or, ideally, burned straight off. Women would remove their hairs with arsenic and rock alum and then sand it all down with gold.
But that was nothing compared to what they’d do to get that long, flowing, golden mane of hair on her head. For Vespucci, it just came naturally, but the poorer women who wanted to copy her found their own way. They bleached their hair in human urine.
Sure, it sounds gross—but every beautiful woman has to do a few things that just aren’t pretty.
10 Incredibly Curious Food Lawsuits
When it comes to lawsuits concerning the food industry, someone has to be in the wrong. Often, we’ll find that a company is trying to deceive its customers, but in some cases, the customers themselves can make some pretty outlandish claims.
While it’s true that most lawsuits are pretty straightforward, a select few of them stood out and made headlines across the world. Some were justified class-action lawsuits, while others just seem like feeble attempts at suing the food industry for something they weren’t responsible for. Here are ten utterly ridiculous, absurd, and astonishing lawsuits that involved the food industry.
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10The Amount Of Ginger In Canada Dry
Ginger ale is often used to remedy common stomachaches and fevers because of the carbonation and, of course, the (naturally medicinal) ginger. Yet, in 2018, Julie Fletcher noticed a lack of the word “ginger” in Canada Dry’s list of ingredients and filed a federal lawsuit. The stated ingredients used to make Canada Dry are: carbonated water, high-fructose corn syrup, citric acid, sodium benzoate, natural flavors, and caramel color. According to her lawyer, Michael J. DeBenedictis, Fletcher believed that Canada Dry was using ginger root in their soda and thus believed that it would be a healthier alternative than regular sodas.
The company’s argument was that ginger is used in the process to make the “natural flavoring” that is listed in the ingredients. One factor that may have confused Fletcher further was a Canada Dry commercial that was aired back in 2011 which depicts a farmer and a crop of ginger. It certainly doesn’t help if the label says “Made from Real Ginger,” either.
A similar lawsuit against Dr Pepper (which makes Canada Dry) was filed in Missouri. Lab tests revealed that Canada Dry did not contain any ginger. The company argued that just because the lab tests couldn’t detect ginger doesn’t mean it wasn’t there. That suit was ultimately dismissed at the request of the plaintiff.
9Popeyes Sued By Customer After He Choked On Their Food
Usually, when someone chokes on their food, it’s because they ate it too fast or were negligent in making sure it was chewed thoroughly before swallowing. Apparently, this was not the case when a man from Mississippi filed a lawsuit against Popeyes. His complaint? He had to eat a large piece of fried chicken with his hands because of the fact that he didn’t get a knife with his drive-thru order, which ultimately made him choke on his food.
According to Paul Newton Jr., the man who sued Popeyes for this injustice, he only received a spork when the incident occurred late 2015. He ordered two chicken breasts with red beans and rice, a biscuit, and a soft drink. As with any order, the food came with napkins, packets of salt and pepper, and a spork. While driving back to his office, he started eating his food by using his spork to eat his beans and rice. Since he didn’t have a plastic knife with his food, he resorted to eating the chicken with his bare hands, which was (according to him) why he started to severely choke on his meal.
In addition to suing Popeyes for not including a plastic knife with his meal, Newtown also sought financial compensation for his pain and suffering and medical expenses since they had to perform emergency surgery to remove the piece of chicken from his throat. In the end, however, Newton dropped the suit.
8McDonald’s Sued For Millions Over Two Slices Of Cheese
In 2018, two Florida residents filed a $5 million lawsuit against the fast food giant, claiming that they’ve been charging customers up to $1 extra for pieces of cheese on their hamburgers that they didn’t ask for or receive. Leonard Werner was the one who realized that McDonald’s was charging him extra for a Quarter Pounder with Cheese while still giving him a cheese-less hamburger, as he requested.
According to Werner, the McDonald’s app menu includes a cheese-less Quarter Pounder, but their actual restaurant menus don’t. This means that up to 25 million customers may have been overcharged, and if the judge sides with the plaintiffs in this case, they could all be eligible to receive $10 and a free sandwich. Yet, McDonald’s is confident that won’t happen. In their opinion, the case is “without legal merit.”
7Fruitless Froot Loops
Back in 2009, a man by the name of Roy Werbel made headlines when he tried to sue Kellogg’s for their dastardly marketing that led him to believe there was actual, nutritious fruit in Froot Loops. The case got dismissed without prejudice because of the fact that Werbel had not successfully served Kellogg’s. It wasn’t long before he came back to start things up again and make sure that he served Kellogg’s correctly. Yet, Werbel still faced bigger problems with the lawsuit than just serving the defendant the right way . . .
Two federal judges made some valid points in the previous lawsuit. First of all, the word “Froot” cannot be interpreted as suggesting that there’s real fruit in the cereal. “Froot” isn’t real, and real fruit cannot come in the form of “loops.” There have been at least four cases made against Kellogg’s about Froot Loops (counting Werbel’s twice) over this same false assumption.
6Greek Yogurt That Isn’t Greek Enough
The makers of Chobani Greek Yogurt found themselves in hot water back in 2014 when two men sued them, claiming that there was absolutely nothing Greek about their products. According to them, Chobani’s Greek Yogurt is about as nutritious as a fudge ice cream bar. This is actually true, considering the fact that it shares the same amount of sugar (16 grams) as a Nestle Fudge ice cream bar. They also argued that none of Chobani’s products are even made in Greece and that they create further confusion among customers by placing a “0%” on their label without actually elaborating on what it represents.
The two men who filed the class-action lawsuit are Barry Stoltz from Scarsdale and Allan Chang from Queens. They sought an unspecified amount of compensation for damages after being tricked into believing that the “0%” on the label meant that there are zero calories/sugar. (The “0%” actually means that the product is nonfat.) Chobani did hit back at Stoltz and Chang, saying that the word “Greek” on their yogurt products simply refers to the way they make their yogurt, not where it’s from. They also pointed out that they’d managed to get a similar suit dismissed in California.
5The ‘Fast Food Made Me Fat!’ Lawsuit
In 2002, a 56-year-old man from New York named Caesar Barber filed a class-action lawsuit against multiple fast food companies, including KFC, McDonald’s, Burger King, and Wendy’s, for jeopardizing his health with their unhealthy food. Barber’s lawsuit claims that the fast food restaurants, where he says he used to eat at four to five times a week (even after suffering a severe heart attack), did not properly disclose all the ingredients in their food to him. In an interview on ABC’s Good Morning America, he said that “they never explained to him what he was eating.”
According to Barber’s lawyer, Samuel Hirsch, the fast food industry has the responsibility to warn their customers of the dangers of consuming their food. It is Barber’s opinion that the fast food companies involved caused him to sustain serious injuries, including two heart attacks, and made him diabetic. A spokesperson for the food industry could hardly believe that Barber made his legal argument with a straight face. While some nutrition advocates and doctor’s groups insist that the food industry should take some responsibility for the obesity epidemic, Barber’s lawsuit was the first known legal action to claim that the fast food industry knowingly contributed to the obesity problem in the United States. A judge threw Barber’s case out in 2003.
4The ‘There’s Sugar In Jelly Beans?’ Lawsuit
In 2017, a woman from California filed suit against the makers of Jelly Belly jelly beans for tricking her into believing that one of their products was free of sugar. Her name is Jessica Gomez, and her complaint is about Jelly Belly’s Sport Beans, which are marketed as an exercise supplement containing carbs, vitamins, and electrolytes. The problem is that the ingredients list does not specify sugar as an ingredient but instead uses the phrase “evaporated cane juice.”
Gomez’s class-action lawsuit claims that the wording used on the label is in violation of the state’s Consumer Legal Remedies Act, Unfair Business Practices Law, and False Advertising Law and that it is designed to intentionally confuse customers who are health-conscious. Jelly Belly called the case “nonsense” in a notion to dismiss the lawsuit, saying that no reasonable customer would miss the amount of sugar content listed on their product’s “Nutrition Facts” panel. However, the Food and Drug Administration is on Gomez’s side; in 2016, they stated that the term “juice” shouldn’t be used unless it’s referring to that of a fruit or vegetable.
3Krispy Kreme’s Falsely Advertised Ingredients
A man from Los Angeles filed a lawsuit against Krispy Kreme Doughnuts in 2016, claiming that they’d falsely advertised the ingredients of their fruit-filled and maple-glazed doughnuts. Jason Saidian sought $5 million in damages from the pastry chain for the nonexistence of the “premium ingredients” advertised in their products. According to Saidian, Krispy Kreme conducts “false and misleading business practices” because of the fact that their “Chocolate Iced Raspberry Filled,” “Glazed Raspberry Filled,” “Maple Bar,” and “Glazed Blueberry Cake” doughnuts don’t actually contain any real raspberries, maple, or blueberries.
Saidian said that he felt cheated because the company had used real fruit in other items, like the “Glazed Lemon Filled” and “Glazed Strawberry Filled” doughnuts. He also said that if he had known that the other doughnuts did not contain any actual maple syrup, raspberries or blueberries, he wouldn’t have bothered to purchase them. The case was voluntarily dismissed in 2017.
2The ‘Nutella Isn’t A Health Food?’ Lawsuit
In 2012, the makers of Nutella, Ferrero USA, lost a class-action lawsuit against a parent who claimed that she was fooled into thinking that it was good for her kids. As part of the settlement, any US citizen who purchased a bottle of Nutella between January 1, 2008, and February 3, 2012, can file a claim. (California residents had different dates, specifically between August 1, 2009, and January 23, 2012.) Customers had until July 5, 2012, to file claims for up to five jars of Nutella, and they could expect to receive $4 back per jar, for a maximum compensation of $20 per household.
Athena Hohenberg, the Californian parent who proposed the class-action lawsuit, said that she fed her four-year-old daughter Nutella after she saw the advertisements which suggested that the spread was part of a healthy breakfast. She was shocked to find out that Nutella was, in fact, practically a candy bar. The lawsuit certainly underwent some degree of ridicule across the Internet, but the makers of Nutella agreed that their marketing campaign was misleading. Ever since then, Nutella has changed their labels and advertisements to better inform their customers of the chocolate spread’s contents.
1Subway’s Footlongs Come Up Short
Back in 2013, a teen from Australia took a photo of his Subway footlong sandwich next to a tape measure, in which the sandwich only measured up to 28 centimeters (11 in) instead of the promised 30 centimeters (12 in) usually portrayed in the media. His post sparked public outrage and went viral, which led to a class-action lawsuit. In 2016, Subway settled and promised to make sure that their bread rolls would be at least 12 inches to ensure more uniformity in their bread. The suing attorneys were just about to make $520,000 in fees, when the director for the center for Class Action Fairness at the Competitive Enterprise Institute objected to the settlement. According to him, the class in the class-action lawsuit received “negligible to no relief.”
The judge involved with the case agreed that the settlement didn’t benefit anyone but the attorneys involved. Ultimately, the settlement got thrown out in 2017. This was because of a few key facts that made the case quite weak. In the first place, the majority of the bread that was being sold at Subway restaurants was at least 12 inches long, and anything that didn’t reach that length only missed it by a quarter of an inch. Also, all the raw dough sticks used to bake the bread sold at Subway restaurants weigh exactly the same. Due to the natural process involved with baking the bread, the final results could leave some loaves slightly shorter and wider than others. Lastly, the amount of meat and cheese included with each and every sandwich is standardized, which means that a sandwich that is slightly shorter than 12 inches still contains the same amount of meat and cheeses as it would have if it measured up to 12 inches.
NASSCOM Design4India Design Summit 2018
NASSCOM Design4India Design Summit 2018 will take place on 26th September 2018 at JW Marriott, Bengaluru. The 3rd edition aims to bring together industry experts from the design and tech community to network and discuss how emerging technologies, when aligned with design can create better user experiences.
Same taste, same flavour – that’s Haazri’s promise for your daily chai
Karan Shinghal, Arjun Midha, and Dhruv Agarwal have come up with a unique recipe, and process, so that your tea tastes the same, every time. That’s Haazri’s promise for your daily chai! Started in April 2016, Haazri’s tea is priced at Rs 20 a cup, and the team uses a standardised recipe across its five outlets, using tea leaves sourced from Dibrugarh.
Mumbai-based Agrahyah Technologies is riding the voice and vernacular wave on the internet
Founded in October 2016 by Sreeraman Thiagarajan, Uppal Shah, and Rushabh Vasa, Mumbai-based Agrahyah Technologies is riding the voice and vernacular wave on the internet. The software firm and content producer rolled into one is building a suite of apps, websites, content platforms, and voice-based products for India’s vernacular population.
Hemingway, Didion, Baldwin, Fitzgerald, Sontag, Vonnegut, Bradbury, Morrison, Orwell, and other literary icons.
BY MARIA POPOVA
By popular demand, I’ve put together a periodically updated reading list of all the famous advice on writing presented here over the years, featuring words of wisdom from such masters of the craft as Kurt Vonnegut, Susan Sontag, Henry Miller, Stephen King, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Susan Orlean, Ernest Hemingway, Zadie Smith, and more.
- Jennifer Egan on Writing, the Trap of Approval, and the Most Important Discipline for Aspiring Writers
“You can only write regularly if you’re willing to write badly… Accept bad writing as a way of priming the pump, a warm-up exercise that allows you to write well.”
- The Effortless Effort of Creativity: Jane Hirshfield on Storytelling, the Art of Concentration, and Difficulty as a Consecrating Force of Creative Attention
“In the wholeheartedness of concentration, world and self begin to cohere. With that state comes an enlarging: of what may be known, what may be felt, what may be done.”
- Ted Hughes on How to Be a Writer: A Letter of Advice to His 18-Year-Old Daughter
“The first sign of disintegration — in a writer — is that the writing loses the unique stamp of his/her character, & loses its inner light.”
- Colette on Writing, the Blissful Obsessive-Compulsiveness of Creative Work, and Withstanding Naysayers
“A lack of money, if it be relative, and a lack of comfort can be endured if one is sustained by pride. But not the need to be astounded.”
- Auden on Writing, Originality, Self-Criticism, and How to Be a Good Reader
“It would only be necessary for a writer to secure universal popularity if imagination and intelligence were equally distributed among all men.”
- Stephen King: Writing and the Art of “Creative Sleep”:
“In both writing and sleeping, we learn to be physically still at the same time we are encouraging our minds to unlock from the humdrum rational thinking of our daytime lives.”
- Elmore Leonard’s 10 Rules of Writing
“If it sounds like writing … rewrite it.”
- Michael Lewis: Writing, Money, and the Necessary Self-Delusion of Creativity
“When you’re trying to create a career as a writer, a little delusional thinking goes a long way.”
- Annie Dillard on Writing
“At its best, the sensation of writing is that of any unmerited grace. It is handed to you, but only if you look for it. You search, you break your heart, your back, your brain, and then — and only then — it is handed to you.”
- Susan Sontag on Writing
“There is a great deal that either has to be given up or be taken away from you if you are going to succeed in writing a body of work.”
- Ray Bradbury: How List-Making Can Boost Your Creativity
How to feel your way toward something honest, hidden under the trapdoor on the top of your skull.
- Anne Lamott: Writing and Why Perfectionism Kills Creativity
“Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life.”
- Italo Calvino on Writing: Insights from 40+ Years of His Letters
“To write well about the elegant world you have to know it and experience it to the depths of your being… what matters is not whether you love it or hate it, but only to be quite clear about your position regarding it.”
- Ernest Hemingway : Writing, Knowledge, and the Danger of Ego
“All bad writers are in love with the epic.”
- David Foster Wallace: Writing, Death, and Redemption
“You don’t have to think very hard to realize that our dread of both relationships and loneliness … has to do with angst about death, the recognition that I’m going to die, and die very much alone, and the rest of the world is going to go merrily on without me.”
- Isabel Allende: Writing Brings Order to the Chaos of Life
“Show up, show up, show up, and after a while the muse shows up, too.”
- Stephen King: The Adverb Is Not Your Friend
“I believe the road to hell is paved with adverbs, and I will shout it from the rooftops.”
- Malcolm Cowley: The Four Stages of Writing
“The germ of a story is a new and simple element introduced into an existing situation or mood.”
- Henry Miller’s 11 Commandments of Writing
“Work on one thing at a time until finished.”
- Advice on Writing: Collected Wisdom from Modernity’s Greatest Writers
“Finish each day before you begin the next, and interpose a solid wall of sleep between the two. This you cannot do without temperance.”
- Kurt Vonnegut: 8 Rules for a Great Story
“Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.”
- Susan Orlean on Writing
“You have to simply love writing, and you have to remind yourself often that you love it.”
- Zadie Smith: 10 Rules of Writing
“Tell the truth through whichever veil comes to hand — but tell it. Resign yourself to the lifelong sadness that comes from never being satisfied.”
- John Steinbeck: 6 Tips on Writing, and a Disclaimer
“Abandon the idea that you are ever going to finish.”
- F. Scott Fitzgerald: The Secret of Great Writing (1938)
“Nothing any good isn’t hard.”
- E. B. White: Egoism and the Art of the Essay
“Only a person who is congenially self-centered has the effrontery and the stamina to write essays”
- E. B. White: Why Brevity Is Not the Gold Standard for Style
“Writing is not an exercise in excision, it’s a journey into sound.”
- Ray Bradbury: Creative Purpose in the Face of Rejection
“The blizzard doesn’t last forever; it just seems so.”
- Mary Karr: The Magnetism and Madness of the Written Word
“Be willing to be a child and be the Lilliputian in the world of Gulliver.”
- Kurt Vonnegut: How to Write With Style and the 8 Keys to the Power of the Written Word (1985)
“The most damning revelation you can make about yourself is that you do not know what is interesting and what is not.”
- Ann Patchett: What Now?
“Coming back is the thing that enables you to see how all the dots in your life are connected.”
- Mary Gordon: The Joy of Notebooks and Writing by Hand as a Creative Catalyst
“However thoroughly we lose ourselves in the vortex of our invention, we inhabit a corporeal world.”
- H. P. Lovecraft: Advice to Aspiring Writers (1920)
“A page of Addison or of Irving will teach more of style than a whole manual of rules, whilst a story of Poe’s will impress upon the mind a more vivid notion of powerful and correct description and narration than will ten dry chapters of a bulky textbook.”
- Henry Miller: Reflections on Writing
“Understanding is not a piercing of the mystery, but an acceptance of it, a living blissfully with it, in it, through and by it.”
- Margaret Atwood: 10 Rules of Writing
“Do back exercises. Pain is distracting.”
- David Foster Wallace: The Nature of the Fun and Why Writers Write
“Fiction becomes a weird way to countenance yourself and to tell the truth instead of being a way to escape yourself or present yourself in a way you figure you will be maximally likable.”
- Joy Williams: Why Writers Write
“A writer loves the dark, loves it, but is always fumbling around in the light.”
- Joan Didion: Ego, Grammar, and the Impetus to Write
“Had I been blessed with even limited access to my own mind there would have been no reason to write.”
- David Ogilvy: 10 No-Bullshit Tips on Writing
“Never write more than two pages on any subject.”
- George Orwell: The Four Motives for Writing (1946)
“Sheer egoism… Writers share this characteristic with scientists, artists, politicians, lawyers, soldiers, successful businessmen — in short, with the whole top crust of humanity.”
- Ezra Pound: A Few Don’ts for Those Beginning to Write Verse (1913)
“Consider the way of the scientists rather than the way of an advertising agent for a new soap.”
- Ray Bradbury: Storytelling and Human Nature (1963)
“Man has always been half-monster, half-dreamer.”
- Joseph Conrad: Writing and the Role of the Artist (1897)
“Art is long and life is short, and success is very far off.”
- Helen Dunmore: 9 Rules of Writing
“A problem with a piece of writing often clarifies itself if you go for a long walk.”
- E. B. White: The Role and Responsibility of the Writer (1969)
“Writers do not merely reflect and interpret life, they inform and shape life.”
- Jack Kerouac: 30 Beliefs and Techniques for Prose and Life
“No fear or shame in the dignity of yr experience, language & knowledge.”
- Raymond Chandler on Writing
“The test of a writer is whether you want to read him again years after he should by the rules be dated.”
- Walter Benjamin: The Writer’s Technique in Thirteen Theses
“The more circumspectly you delay writing down an idea, the more maturely developed it will be on surrendering itself.”
- 28-Year-Old Susan Sontag on the Four People a Great Writer Must Be
“A great writer has all 4 — but you can still be a good writer with only 1 and 2.”
- 10 Tips on Writing from Joyce Carol Oates
“Don’t try to anticipate an ideal reader — or any reader. He/she might exist — but is reading someone else.”
- Neil Gaiman: 8 Rules of Writing
“Perfection is like chasing the horizon. Keep moving.”
- Anaïs Nin: Why Emotional Excess is Essential to Writing and Creativity
“Something is always born of excess: great art was born of great terrors, great loneliness, great inhibitions, instabilities, and it always balances them.”
- Neil Gaiman’s Advice to Aspiring Writers
“You have to finish things — that’s what you learn from, you learn by finishing things.”
- Jorge Luis Borges on Writing: Wisdom from His Most Candid Interviews
“A writer’s work is the product of laziness.”
- Herbert Spencer: The Philosophy of Style, the Economy of Attention, and the Ideal Writer (1852)
“To have a specific style is to be poor in speech.”
- Charles Bukowski on Writing and His Insane Daily Routine
“Writing is like going to bed with a beautiful woman and afterwards she gets up, goes to her purse and gives me a handful of money.”
- Samuel Johnson on Writing and Creative Doggedness
“Composition is for the most part an effort of slow diligence and steady perseverance, to which the mind is dragged by necessity or resolution, and from which the attention is every moment starting to more delightful amusements.”
- Edgar Allan Poe: The Joy of Marginalia and What Handwriting Reveals about Character
“In the marginalia … we talk only to ourselves; we therefore talk freshly — boldly — originally — with abandonment — without conceit.”
- Kurt Vonnegut: The Writer’s Responsibility, the Limitations of the Brain, and Why the Universe Exists: A Rare 1974 WNYC Interview
“We have such a young culture that there is an opportunity to contribute wonderful new myths to it, which will be accepted.”
- Ernest Hemingway on Not Writing for Free and How to Run a First-Rate Publication
Find the best writers, pay them to write, and avoid typos at all costs.
- How to Be a Writer: Ernest Hemingway’s Advice to Aspiring Authors
“As a writer you should not judge. You should understand.”
- Eudora Welty: The Poetics of Place and Writing as an Explorer’s Map of the Unknown
“No art ever came out of not risking your neck.”
- Alice Munro’s Nobel Prize Interview: Writing, Women, and the Rewards of Storytelling
“I want my stories to move people … to feel some kind of reward from the writing.”
- Samuel Delany: Good Writing vs. Talented Writing
“Talented writing makes things happen in the reader’s mind — vividly, forcefully — that good writing, which stops with clarity and logic, doesn’t.”
- William Faulkner: Writing, the Purpose of Art, Working in a Brothel, and the Meaning of Life
“The only environment the artist needs is whatever peace, whatever solitude, and whatever pleasure he can get at not too high a cost.”
- Anaïs Nin: Writing, the Future of the Novel, and How Keeping a Diary Enhances Creativity: Wisdom from a Rare 1947 Chapbook
“It is in the movements of emotional crisis that human beings reveal themselves most accurately.”
- John Updike: Writing and Death
“Each day, we wake slightly altered, and the person we were yesterday is dead. So why, one could say, be afraid of death, when death comes all the time?”
- Charles Bukowski Debunks the “Tortured Genius” Myth of Creativity
“unless it comes unasked out of your heart and your mind and your mouth and your gut, don’t do it.”
- Mary Gaitskill: Why Writers Write and The Six Motives of Creativity
The art of integrating the ego and the impulse for empathy in a dynamic call and response.
- Vladimir Nabokov: Writing, Reading, and the Three Qualities a Great Storyteller Must Have
“Between the wolf in the tall grass and the wolf in the tall story there is a shimmering go-between. That go-between, that prism, is the art of literature.”
- Joan Didion: Telling Stories, the Economy of Words, Starting Out as a Writer, and Facing Rejection
“Short stories demand a certain awareness of one’s own intentions, a certain narrowing of the focus.”
- Herman Melville’s Daily Routine and Thoughts on the Writing Life
“A book in a man’s brain is better off than a book bound in calf — at any rate it is safer from criticism.”
- William Faulkner’s Nobel Prize Acceptance Speech: The Writer as a Booster of the Human Heart
“The poet’s, the writer’s, duty is … to help man endure by lifting his heart.”
- John Updike: Making Money, How to Have a Productive Daily Routine, and the Most Important Things for Aspiring Writers to Know
“In a country this large and a language even larger … there ought to be a living for somebody who cares and wants to entertain and instruct a reader.”
- Susan Sontag : Writing, Routines, Education, and Elitism in a 1992 Recording from the 92Y Archives
“To make your life being a writer, it’s an auto-slavery … you are both the slave and the task-master.”
- Chinua Achebe: The Meaning of Life and the Writer’s Responsibility in Society
The difference between blind optimism and the urge to improve the world’s imperfection.
- Leonard Cohen: Creativity, Hard Work, and Why You Should Never Quit Before You Know What It Is You’re Quitting
“The cutting of the gem has to be finished before you can see whether it shines.”
- Ray Bradbury: What Failure Really Means, Why We Hate Work, and the Importance of Love in Creative Endeavors
How working for the wrong motives poisons our creativity and warps our ideas of success and failure.
- Joyce Carol Oates: What Hemingway’s Early Stories Can Teach Us About Writing and the Defining Quality of Great Art
On the elusive gift of blending austerity of craft with elasticity of allure.
- Willa Cather: Writing Through Troubled Times
“The test of one’s decency is how much of a fight one can put up after one has stopped caring, and after one has found out that one can never please the people they wanted to please.”
- Anthony Trollope: Witty and Wise Advice on How to Be a Successful Writer
“My belief of book writing is much the same as my belief as to shoemaking. The man who will work the hardest at it, and will work with the most honest purpose, will work the best.”
- William Styron: Why Formal Education Is a Waste of Time for Writers
“For a person whose sole burning ambition is to write — like myself — college is useless beyond the Sophomore year.”
- Madeleine L’Engle: Creativity, Censorship, Writing, and the Duty of Children’s Books
“We find what we are looking for. If we are looking for life and love and openness and growth, we are likely to find them. If we are looking for witchcraft and evil, we’ll likely find them, and we may get taken over by them.”
- Saul Bellow: How Writers and Artists Save Us from the “Moronic Inferno” of Our Time
“The writer cannot make the seas of distraction stand still, but he [or she] can at times come between the madly distracted and the distractions.”
- Mary Oliver: The Mystery of the Human Psyche, the Secret of Great Poetry, and How Rhythm Makes Us Come Alive
“Rhythm is one of the most powerful of pleasures, and when we feel a pleasurable rhythm we hope it will continue. When it does, it grows sweeter.”
- Schopenhauer on Style
“Truth that is naked is the most beautiful, and the simpler its expression the deeper is the impression it makes.”
- Flannery O’Connor: Why the Grotesque Appeals to Us, Plus a Rare Recording of Her Reading
“There is something in us, as storytellers and as listeners to stories, that demands the redemptive act, that demands that what falls at least be offered the chance to be restored.”
- Annie Dillard: The Art of the Essay and Narrative Nonfiction vs. Poetry and Short Stories
“Writers serve as the memory of a people. They chew over our public past.”
- C.S. Lewis: The 3 Ways of Writing for Children and the Key to Authenticity in All Writing
“The only moral that is of any value is that which arises inevitably from the whole cast of the author’s mind.”
- Nietzsche: 10 Rules for Writers
“Style ought to prove that one believes in an idea; not only that one thinks it but also feels it.”
- William Faulkner: Writing, the Human Dilemma, and Why We Create
“It’s the most satisfying occupation man has discovered yet, because you never can quite do it as well as you want to, so there’s always something to wake up tomorrow morning to do.”
- David Foster Wallace: The Redemptive Power of Reading and the Future of Writing in the Age of Information
The fun of reading as “an exchange between consciousnesses, a way for human beings to talk to each other about stuff we can’t normally talk about.”
- Zadie Smith: The Psychology of the Two Types of Writers
“It’s a feeling of happiness that knocks me clean out of adjectives. I think sometimes that the best reason for writing novels is to experience those four and a half hours after you write the final word.”
- George Orwell: Writing, How to Counter the Mindless Momentum of Language, and the Four Questions a Great Writer Must Ask Herself
“By using stale metaphors, similes and idioms, you save much mental effort, at the cost of leaving your meaning vague, not only for your reader but for yourself.”
- Italo Calvino: The Art of Quickness, Digression as a Hedge Against Death, and the Key to Great Writing
“Success consists in felicity of verbal expression, which every so often may result from a quick flash of inspiration but as a rule involves a patient search… for the sentence in which every word is unalterable.”
- Ursula K. Le Guin: Where Ideas Come From, the “Secret” of Great Writing, and the Trap of Marketing Your Work
“All makers must leave room for the acts of the spirit. But they have to work hard and carefully, and wait patiently, to deserve them.”
- Gabriel García Márquez on His Unlikely Beginnings as a Writer
“If you’re going to be a writer you have to be one of the great ones… After all, there are better ways to starve to death.”
- Roald Dahl: How Illness Emboldens Creativity: A Moving Letter to His Bedridden Mentor
“I doubt I would have written a line … unless some minor tragedy had sort of twisted my mind out of the normal rut.”
- Robert Frost: How to Read Intelligently and Write a Great Essay
“The sidelong glance is what you depend on.”
- Lewis Carroll: How to Work Through Difficulty and His Three Tips for Overcoming Creative Block
“When you have made a thorough and reasonably long effort, to understand a thing, and still feel puzzled by it, stop, you will only hurt yourself by going on.”
- Mark Strand: The Heartbeat of Creative Work and the Artist’s Task to Bear Witness to the Universe
“It’s such a lucky accident, having been born, that we’re almost obliged to pay attention.”
- John Steinbeck: The Diary as a Tool of Discipline, a Hedge Against Self-Doubt, and a Pacemaker for the Heartbeat of Creative Work
“Just set one day’s work in front of the last day’s work. That’s the way it comes out. And that’s the only way it does.”
- E.B. White: How to Write for Children and the Writer’s Responsibility to All Audiences
“Anyone who writes down to children is simply wasting his time. You have to write up, not down.”
- Virginia Woolf: Writing and Self-Doubt
Consolation for those moments when you can’t tell whether you’re “the divinest genius or the greatest fool in the world.”
- Cheryl Strayed: Faith, Humility, and the Art of Motherfuckitude
“Writing is hard for every last one of us… Coal mining is harder. Do you think miners stand around all day talking about how hard it is to mine for coal? They do not. They simply dig.”
- Ann Patchett: Writing and Why Self-Forgiveness Is the Most Important Ingredient of Great Art
“The ability to forgive oneself … is the key to making art, and very possibly the key to finding any semblance of happiness in life.”
- Umberto Eco’s Advice to Writers
“If we think that our reader is an idiot, we should not use rhetorical figures, but if we use them and feel the need to explain them, we are essentially calling the reader an idiot. In turn, he will…
- Grace Paley: The Value of Not Understanding Everything
“Luckily for art, life is difficult, hard to understand, useless, and mysterious.”
- Jane Kenyon: Some of the Wisest Words to Create and Live By
“Be a good steward of your gifts.”
- Joseph Conrad on Art and What Makes a Great Writer, in a Beautiful Tribute to Henry James
“All creative art is magic, is evocation of the unseen in forms persuasive, enlightening, familiar and surprising, for the edification of mankind.”
- How to Save Your Soul: Willa Cather on Productivity vs. Creativity, Selling Out, and the Life-Changing Advice That Made Her a Writer
“It’s so foolish to live (which is always trouble enough) and not to save your soul. It’s so foolish to lose your real pleasures for the supposed pleasures of the chase — or the stock exchange.”
- Hemingway’s Advice on Writing, Ambition, the Art of Revision, and His Reading List of Essential Books for Aspiring Writers
“In any art you’re allowed to steal anything if you can make it better.”
- James Baldwin’s Advice on Writing
“Talent is insignificant. I know a lot of talented ruins. Beyond talent lie all the usual words: discipline, love, luck, but most of all, endurance.”
- Alison Bechdel on Writing, Therapy, Self-Doubt, and How the Messiness of Life Feeds the Creative Conscience
“It’s by writing… by stepping back a bit from the real thing to look at it, that we are most present.”
- Elizabeth Alexander on Writing, the Ethic of Love, Language as a Vehicle for the Self, and the Inherent Poetry of Personhood
“You have to tell your own story simultaneously as you hear and respond to the stories of others.”
- Can Goodness Win? George Saunders on Writing, the Artist’s Task, and the Importance of Living with Opposing Truths
“See how long you can stay in that space, where both things are true… That’s a great place to try to be.”
Launching the new policy and guidelines, Suresh Prabhu, Minister of Commerce & Industry and Civil Aviation, announced, “These regulations will enable the safe, commercial usage of drones starting December 1, 2018. It is intended to enable visual line-of-sight, daytime-only operations to a maximum altitude of 400 feet.”
Emerge ITP was aimed at startups and promised to enable companies to list and showcase their performance to lenders and potential investors — with or without an initial public offer (IPO) — but it never really took off. At present, Emerge ITP is on life support, which is to say that it is barely functioning, with no listings taking place after 2016.
Pranav, who’s an engineer by profession, started venture capital firm 3one4 Capital in 2016 along with his younger brother Siddarth Pai. Inc42 caught up with Pranav Pai and Siddarth Pai to know more about investment thesis, minimum investment size etc in this week’s Moneyball.
In the 22nd episode of Inc42 Ask Me Anything (AMA), we hosted Vishal Gondal, the founder-CEO of GOQii, who spoke to us about gaming, fitness, how GOQii is gamifying fitness, and a lot more. Gondal said 99% people fail at their goals while using fitness and weight loss apps because they lack human motivation.
The founders realised that the diminutive digital solutions available in the market to tackle counterfeiting are economically not viable for most manufacturers. This is what gave birth to NeuroTags. Read more to know how they are taking the counterfeit burden off manufacturers.
“It is, in the deepest sense, a privilege as well as a duty to have the opportunity to speak out — to many thousands of people — on something so important.”
BY MARIA POPOVA
“Life and Reality are not things you can have for yourself unless you accord them to all others,” philosopher Alan Watts wrote in the 1950s as he contemplated the interconnected nature of the universe. What we may now see as an elemental truth of existence was then a notion both foreign and frightening to the Western mind. But it was a scientist, not a philosopher, who levered this monumental shift in consciousness: Rachel Carson (May 27, 1907–April 14, 1964), a Copernicus of biology who ejected the human animal from its hubristic place at the center of Earth’s ecological cosmos and recast it as one of myriad organisms, all worthy of wonder, all imbued with life and reality. Her lyrical writing rendered her not a mere translator of the natural world, but an alchemist transmuting the steel of science into the gold of wonder. The message of her iconic Silent Spring (public library) rippled across public policy and the population imagination — it led to the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency, inspired generations of activists, and led Joni Mitchell to write a lyric as timeless as “I don’t care about spots on my apples / Leave me the birds and the bees / Please!”
A woman scientist without a Ph.D. or an academic affiliation became the most powerful voice of resistance against ruinous public policy mitigated by the self-interest of government and industry, against the hauteur and short-sightedness threatening to destroy this precious pale blue dot which we, along with countless other animals, call home.
Carson had grown up in a picturesque but impoverished village in Pennsylvania. It was there, amid a tumultuous family environment, that she fell in love with nature and grew particularly enchanted with birds. A voracious reader and gifted writer from a young age, she became a published author at the age of ten, when a story of hers appeared in a children’s literary magazine. She entered the Pennsylvania College for Women with the intention of becoming a writer, but a zestful zoology professor — herself a rare specimen as a female scientist in that era — rendered young Carson besotted with biology. A scholarship allowed her to pursue a Master’s degree in zoology and genetics at Johns Hopkins University, but when her already impecunious family fell on hard times during the Great Depression, she was forced to leave the university in search of a full-time paying job before completing her doctorate.
After working as a lab assistant for a while, she began writing for the Baltimore Sun and was eventually hired as a junior aquatic biologist for what would later become the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Her uncommon gift for writing was soon recognized and Carson was tasked with editing other scientists’ field reports, then promoted to editor in chief for the entire agency. Out of this necessity to reconcile science and writing was born her self-invention as a scientist who refused to give up on writing and a writer who refused to give up on science — the same refusal that marks today’s greatest poets of science.
In 1935, 28-year-old Carson was asked to write a brochure for the Fisheries Bureau. When she turned in something infinitely more poetic than her supervisor had envisioned, he asked her to rewrite the brochure but encouraged her to submit the piece as an essay for The Atlantic Monthly. She did. It was accepted and published as “Undersea” in 1937– a first of its kind, immensely lyrical journey into the science of the ocean floor inviting an understanding of Earth from a nonhuman perspective. Readers and publishers were instantly smitten. Carson, by then the sole provider for her mother and her two orphaned nieces after her older sister’s death, expanded her Atlantic article into her first book, Under the Sea-Wind — the culmination of a decade of her oceanographic research, which rendered her an overnight literary success.
Against towering cultural odds, these books about the sea established her — once a destitute girl from landlocked Pennsylvania — as the most celebrated science writer of her time.
But the more Carson studied and wrote about nature, the more cautious she became of humanity’s rampant quest to dominate it. Witnessing the devastation of the atomic bomb awakened her to the unintended consequences of science unmoored from morality, of a hysterical enthusiasm for technology that deafened humanity to the inner voice of ethics. In her 1952 acceptance speech for the John Burroughs Medal, she concretized her credo:
It seems reasonable to believe — and I do believe — that the more clearly we can focus our attention on the wonders and realities of the universe about us the less taste we shall have for the destruction of our race. Wonder and humility are wholesome emotions, and they do not exist side by side with a lust for destruction.
One of the consequences of wartime science and technology was the widespread use of DDT, initially intended for protecting soldiers from malaria-bearing mosquitoes. After the end of the war, the toxic chemical was lauded as a miracle substance. People were sprayed down with DDT to ward off disease and airplanes doused agricultural plots in order to decimate pest and maximize crop yield. It was neither uncommon nor disquieting to see a class of schoolchildren eating their lunch while an airplane aiming at a nearby field sprinkled them with DDT. A sort of blind faith enveloped the use of these pesticides, with an indifferent government and an incurious public raising no questions about their unintended consequences.
In January of 1958, Carson received a letter from an old writer friend named Olga Owens Huckins, alerting her that the aerial spraying of DDT had devastated a local wildlife sanctuary. Huckins described the ghastly deaths of birds, claws clutched to their breasts and bills agape in agony. This local tragedy was the final straw in Carson’s decade-long collection of what she called her “poison-spray material” — a dossier of evidence for the harmful, often deadly effects of toxic chemicals on wildlife and human life. That May, she signed a contract with Houghton Mifflin for what would become Silent Spring in 1962 — the firestarter of a book that ignited the conservation movement and awakened the modern environmental consciousness.
But the book also spurred violent pushback from those most culpable in the destruction of nature — a heedless government that had turned a willfully blind eye to its regulatory responsibilities and an avaricious agricultural and chemical industry determined to maximize profits at all costs. Those inconvenienced by the truths Carson exposed immediately attacked her for her indictment against elected officials’ and corporations’ deliberate deafness to fact. They used every means at their disposal — a propaganda campaign designed to discredit her, litigious bullying of her publisher, and the most frequent accusation of all: that of being a woman. Former Secretary of Agriculture Ezra Taft Benson, who would later become Prophet of the Mormon Church, asked: “Why a spinster with no children was so concerned about genetics?” He didn’t hesitate to offer his own theory: because she was a Communist. (The lazy hand-grenade of “spinster” was often hurled at Carson in an attempt to erode her credibility, as if there were any correlation between a scientist’s home life and her expertise — never mind that, as it happened, Carson did have one of the most richly rewarding relationships a human being could hope for, albeit not the kind that conformed to the era’s narrow accepted modalities.)
Carson withstood the criticism with composure and confidence, shielded by the integrity of her facts. But another battle raged invisible to the public eye — she was dying.
She had been diagnosed with cancer in 1960, which had metastasized due to her doctor’s negligence. In 1963, when Silent Spring stirred President Kennedy’s attention and he summoned a Congressional hearing to investigate and regulate the use of pesticides, Carson didn’t hesitate to testify even as her body was giving out from the debilitating pain of the disease and the wearying radiation treatments. With her testimony as a pillar, JFK and his Science Advisory Committee invalidated her critics’ arguments, heeded Carson’s cautionary call to reason, and created the first federal policies designed to protect the planet.
Carson endured the attacks — those of her cancer and those of her critics — with unwavering heroism. She saw the former with a biologist’s calm acceptance of the cycle of life and had anticipated the latter all along. She was a spirited idealist, but she wasn’t a naïve one — from the outset, she was acutely aware that her book was a clarion call for nothing less than a revolution and that it was her moral duty to be the revolutionary she felt called to be. Just a month after signing the book contract, she articulates this awareness in a letter found in Always, Rachel: The Letters of Rachel Carson and Dorothy Freeman, 1952–1964 (public library) — the record of her beautiful and unclassifiable relationship with her dearest friend and beloved.
Carson writes to Freeman:
I know you dread the unpleasantness that will inevitably be associated with [the book’s] publication. That I can understand, darling. But it is something I have taken into account; it will not surprise me! You do know, I think, how deeply I believe in the importance of what I am doing. Knowing what I do, there would be no future peace for me if I kept silent… It is, in the deepest sense, a privilege as well as a duty to have the opportunity to speak out — to many thousands of people — on something so important.
In that sense, the eventual title of Silent Spring was a dual commentary on how human hubris is robbing Earth of its symphonic aliveness and on the moral inadmissibility of remaining silent about the destructive forces driving this loss. Carson upheld that sense of duty while confronting her own creaturely finitude as she underwent rounds of grueling cancer treatment. In a letter to Freeman from the autumn of 1959, she reports:
Mostly, I feel fairly good but I do realize that after several days of concentrated work on the book I’m suddenly no good at all for several more. Some people assume only physical work is tiring — I guess because they use their minds little! Friday night … my exhaustion invaded every cell of my body, I think, and really kept me from sleeping well all night.
And yet mind rose over matter as Carson mobilized every neuron to keep up with her creative vitality. In another letter from the same month, she writes to Freeman about her “happiness in the progress of The Book”:
The other day someone asked Leonard Bernstein about his inexhaustible energy and he said “I have no more energy than anyone who loves what he is doing.” Well, I’m afraid mine has to be recharged at times, but anyway I do seem just now to be riding the crest of a wave of enthusiasm and creativity, and although I’m going to bed late and often rising in very dim light to get in an hour of thinking and organizing before my household stirs, my weariness seems easily banished.
Stirring her household was Roger — the nine-year-old orphan son of Carson’s niece, whom she had adopted and was single-parenting, doing all the necessary cooking, cleaning, and housework while writing Silent Spring and undergoing endless medical treatments. All of this she did with unwavering devotion to the writing and the larger sense of moral obligation that animated her. In early March of 1961, in the midst of another incapacitating radiation round, she writes to Freeman:
About the book, I sometimes have a feeling (maybe 100% wishful thinking) that perhaps this long period away from active work will give me the perspective that was so hard to attain, the ability to see the woods in the midst of the confusing multitude of trees.
With an eye to Albert Schweitzer’s famous 1954 Nobel Prize acceptance speech, which appeared under the title “The Problem of Peace” and made the unnerving assertion that “we should all of us realize that we are guilty of inhumanity” in reflecting on the circumstances that led to the two world wars, she adds:
Sometimes … I want [the book] to be a much shortened and simplified statement, doing for this subject (if this isn’t too presumptuous a comparison) what Schweitzer did in his Nobel Prize address for the allied subject of radiation.
In June of that year, Carson shares with Freeman a possible opening sentence, which didn’t end up being the final one but which nonetheless synthesizes the essence of her groundbreaking book:
This is a book about man’s war against nature, and because man is part of nature it is also inevitably a book about man’s war against himself.
At that point, Carson was considering The War Against Nature and At War with Nature as possible titles, but settled on Silent Spring in September — a title inspired by Keats, Carson’s favorite poet: “The sedge is withered from the lake, / And no birds sing.”
Four months later, in January of 1962, she reports to Freeman the completion of her Herculean feat:
I achieved the goal of sending the 15 chapters to Marie [Rodell, Carson’s literary agent] — like reaching the last station before the summit of Everest.
Rodell had sent a copy of the manuscript to longtime New Yorkereditor William Shawn, who gave Carson the greatest and most gratifying surprise of her life. Struggling to override her typical self-effacing humility, she relays the episode to Freeman:
Last night about 9 o’clock the phone rang and a mild voice said, “This is William Shawn.” If I talk to you tonight you will know what he said and I’m sure you can understand what it meant to me. Shamelessly, I’ll repeat some of his words — “a brilliant achievement” — “you have made it literature” “full of beauty and loveliness and depth of feeling.” … I suddenly feel full of what Lois once called “a happy turbulence.”
In an exquisite letter to Freeman penned later that day — a letter that is itself a literary masterpiece — Carson echoes Zadie Smith’s assertion that the best reason for writing books is “to experience those four and a half hours after you write the final word.” She writes:
After Roger was asleep I took Jeffie [Carson’s cat] into the study and played the Beethoven violin concerto — one of my favorites, you know. And suddenly the tensions of four years were broken and I got down and put my arms around Jeffie and let the tears come. With his little warm, rough tongue he told me that he understood. I think I let you see last summer what my deeper feelings are about this when I said I could never again listen happily to a thrush song if I had not done all I could. And last night the thoughts of all the birds and other creatures and the loveliness that is in nature came to me with such a surge of deep happiness, that now I had done what I could — I had been able to complete it — now it had its own life!
Silent Spring was published on September 27, 1962 and adrenalized a new public awareness of the fragile interconnectedness of this living world. Several months later, CBS host Eric Sevareid captured its impact most succinctly in lauding Carson as “a voice of warning and a fire under the government.” In the book, she struck a mighty match:
When the public protests, confronted with some obvious evidence … it is fed little tranquilizing pills of half truth.
How tragic to observe that in the half-century since, our so-called leaders have devolved from half-truths to “alternative facts” — that is, to whole untruths that fail the ultimate criterion for truth: a correspondence with reality.
Carson, who was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, never lived to see the sea change of policy and public awareness that her book precipitated. Today, as a new crop of political and corporate interests threatens her hard-won legacy of environmental consciousness, I think of that piercing Adrienne Rich line channeling the great 16th-century Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe, another scientist who fundamentally revolutionized our understanding of the universe and our place in it: “Let me not seem to have lived in vain.”
Let’s not let Rachel Carson seem to have lived in vain.
Fluid reflections on keeping a solid center.
BY MARIA POPOVA
I remember my first awareness of mortality as a child in Bulgaria. I was nine and my father was relaying an anecdote from his youth. I asked him when it had taken place. With unconcerned casualness, he replied: “About a decade ago.” I was astonished that people could segment their lives into blocks this big — my own life hadn’t yet lasted a decade. In realizing that “a decade ago” I hadn’t existed — the self I now so vividly experienced daily was then a nonentity — I also realized that in several more of those ten-year blocks, my dad, and eventually I, will cease to exist.
After one such time-block, I left Bulgaria for America, lured by the liberal arts education promise of being taught how to live. As the reality fell short of that promise, I began keeping my own record of what I was reading and learning outside the classroom in mapping this academically unaddressed terra incognita of being.
All the while, I was working numerous jobs to pay my way through school. What I was learning at night and on weekends, at the library and on the internet — from Plato to pop art — felt too uncontainably interesting to keep to myself, so I decided to begin sharing these private adventures with my colleagues at one of my jobs. On October 23, 2006, Brain Pickings was born as a plain-text email to seven friends. Halfway through my senior year of college, juggling my various jobs and academic course load, I took a night class to learn coding and turned the short weekly email into a sparse website, which I updated manually every Friday, then, eventually, every weekday.
The site grew as I grew — an unfolding record of my intellectual, creative, and spiritual development. At the time, I had no idea that this small labor of love and learning would animate me with a sense of purpose and become both my life and my living, nor that its seven original readers would swell into several million. I had no idea that this eccentric personal record, which I began keeping in the city where Benjamin Franklin founded the first subscription library in America, would one day be included in the Library of Congress archive of “materials of historical importance.”
And now, somehow, a decade has elapsed.
Because I believe that our becoming, like the synthesis of meaning itself, is an ongoing and dynamic process, I’ve been reluctant to stultify it and flatten its ongoing expansiveness in static opinions and fixed personal tenets of living. But I do find myself continually discovering, then returning to, certain core values. While they may be refined and enriched in the act of living, their elemental substance remains a center of gravity for what I experience as myself.
I first set down some of these core beliefs, written largely as notes to myself that may or may not be useful to others, when Brain Pickings turned seven (which kindred spirits later adapted into a beautiful poster inspired by the aesthetic of vintage children’s books and a cinematic short film). I expanded upon them to mark year nine. Today, as I round the first decade of Brain Pickings, I feel half-compelled, half-obliged to add a tenth learning, a sort of crowning credo drawn from a constellation of life-earned beliefs I distilled in a commencement address I delivered in the spring of 2016.
Here are all ten, in the order that they were written.
From year seven:
- Allow yourself the uncomfortable luxury of changing your mind. Cultivate that capacity for “negative capability.” We live in a culture where one of the greatest social disgraces is not having an opinion, so we often form our “opinions” based on superficial impressions or the borrowed ideas of others, without investing the time and thought that cultivating true conviction necessitates. We then go around asserting these donned opinions and clinging to them as anchors to our own reality. It’s enormously disorienting to simply say, “I don’t know.” But it’s infinitely more rewarding to understand than to be right — even if that means changing your mind about a topic, an ideology, or, above all, yourself.
- Do nothing for prestige or status or money or approval alone. As Paul Graham observed, “prestige is like a powerful magnet that warps even your beliefs about what you enjoy. It causes you to work not on what you like, but what you’d like to like.” Those extrinsic motivators are fine and can feel life-affirming in the moment, but they ultimately don’t make it thrilling to get up in the morning and gratifying to go to sleep at night — and, in fact, they can often distract and detract from the things that do offer those deeper rewards.
- Be generous. Be generous with your time and your resources and with giving credit and, especially, with your words. It’s so much easier to be a critic than a celebrator. Always remember there is a human being on the other end of every exchange and behind every cultural artifact being critiqued. To understand and be understood, those are among life’s greatest gifts, and every interaction is an opportunity to exchange them.
- Build pockets of stillness into your life. Meditate. Go for walks. Ride your bike going nowhere in particular. There is a creative purpose to daydreaming, even to boredom. The best ideas come to us when we stop actively trying to coax the muse into manifesting and let the fragments of experience float around our unconscious mind in order to click into new combinations. Without this essential stage of unconscious processing, the entire flow of the creative process is broken.
Most important, sleep. Besides being the greatest creative aphrodisiac, sleep also affects our every waking moment, dictates our social rhythm, and even mediates our negative moods. Be as religious and disciplined about your sleep as you are about your work. We tend to wear our ability to get by on little sleep as some sort of badge of honor that validates our work ethic. But what it really is is a profound failure of self-respect and of priorities. What could possibly be more important than your health and your sanity, from which all else springs?
- When people tell you who they are, Maya Angeloufamously advised, believe them. Just as important, however, when people try to tell you who you are, don’t believe them. You are the only custodian of your own integrity, and the assumptions made by those that misunderstand who you are and what you stand for reveal a great deal about them and absolutely nothing about you.
- Presence is far more intricate and rewarding an art than productivity. Ours is a culture that measures our worth as human beings by our efficiency, our earnings, our ability to perform this or that. The cult of productivity has its place, but worshipping at its altar daily robs us of the very capacity for joy and wonder that makes life worth living — for, as Annie Dillard memorably put it, “how we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.”
- “Expect anything worthwhile to take a long time.”This is borrowed from the wise and wonderful Debbie Millman, for it’s hard to better capture something so fundamental yet so impatiently overlooked in our culture of immediacy. The myth of the overnight success is just that — a myth — as well as a reminder that our present definition of success needs serious retuning. As I’ve reflected elsewhere, the flower doesn’t go from bud to blossom in one spritely burst and yet, as a culture, we’re disinterested in the tedium of the blossoming. But that’s where all the real magic unfolds in the making of one’s character and destiny.
From year nine:
- Seek out what magnifies your spirit. Patti Smith, in discussing William Blake and her creative influences, talks about writers and artists who magnified her spirit — it’s a beautiful phrase and a beautiful notion. Who are the people, ideas, and books that magnify your spirit? Find them, hold on to them, and visit them often. Use them not only as a remedy once spiritual malaise has already infected your vitality but as a vaccine administered while you are healthy to protect your radiance.
- Don’t be afraid to be an idealist. There is much to be said for our responsibility as creators and consumers of that constant dynamic interaction we call culture — which side of the fault line between catering and creating are we to stand on? The commercial enterprise is conditioning us to believe that the road to success is paved with catering to existing demands — give the people cat GIFs, the narrative goes, because cat GIFs are what the people want. But E.B. White, one of our last great idealists, was eternally right when he asserted half a century ago that the role of the writer is “to lift people up, not lower them down” — a role each of us is called to with increasing urgency, whatever cog we may be in the machinery of society. Supply creates its own demand. Only by consistently supplying it can we hope to increase the demand for the substantive over the superficial — in our individual lives and in the collective dream called culture.
And as I round the decade:
- Don’t just resist cynicism — fight it actively.Fight it in yourself, for this ungainly beast lays dormant in each of us, and counter it in those you love and engage with, by modeling its opposite. Cynicism often masquerades as nobler faculties and dispositions, but is categorically inferior. Unlike that great Rilkean life-expanding doubt, it is a contracting force. Unlike critical thinking, that pillar of reason and necessary counterpart to hope, it is inherently uncreative, unconstructive, and spiritually corrosive. Life, like the universe itself, tolerates no stasis — in the absence of growth, decay usurps the order. Like all forms of destruction, cynicism is infinitely easier and lazier than construction. There is nothing more difficult yet more gratifying in our society than living with sincerity and acting from a place of largehearted, constructive, rational faith in the human spirit, continually bending toward growth and betterment. This remains the most potent antidote to cynicism. Today, especially, it is an act of courage and resistance.
Since such a time machine of reflection would get nowhere without the substance that fueled it, here are ten of the things I most loved reading and writing about in this first decade of Brain Pickings:
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Top news & stories of the startup ecosystem from India & around the world
Bengaluru-based online classifieds and services portal Quikr India Pvt Ltd is reportedly in talks to raise between $100 Mn and $150 Mn by keeping its record valuation of $1 Bn. If the company successfully manages to raise funds sustaining its $1Bn valuation, it would mark a turning point for the company.
Indian government-owned statutory body Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has reduced the scope of regulation for the proposed framework for the over-the-top applications (OTT) like WhatsApp, Skype, Netflix, Hotstar among others.
The first meeting of the recently formed ecommerce panel of secretaries was held on Thursday (September 14), during which issues related to the definition of ecommerce and grievances related to the industry were discussed. This committee is different from the inter-ministerial task force that is working on the draft ecommerce policy.
Amid rising data theft, breaches, and leaks in India, the Supreme Court had directed the Indian government to formulate a Data Protection Bill to ensure and strengthen people’s rights over personal data and the right to privacy. Accordingly, the Justice Sri Bn Krishna Committee was formed in July 2017 to deliberate on a data protection framework for the country.
SP-TBI is an initiative of the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan’s Sardar Patel Institute of Technology and is affiliated with the Department of Science and Technology of the Indian government, which formally recognised it in 2015. With its core focus on enabling technology-based startups, the affiliation gives SP-TBI a definitive edge.
Inside Planet Labs’ New Satellite Manufacturing Site (TechCrunch)
Satellite imaging and analytics company Planet is taking the wraps off its new manufacturing space in San Francisco. Founded by ex-NASA employees, Planet is leveraging some of the $183 million in funding it’s amassed to expand.
Google is reportedly building a prototype system that would tie Chinese users’ Google searches to their personal phone numbers, as part of a new search service that would comply with the Chinese government’s censorship requirements.
For those not in the know, a DApp is a decentralized application built on a blockchain like Ethereum or EOS. You may be familiar with legitimate DApps such as Augur or CryptoKitties, but this is not a story about what honest programmers can create using the power of the blockchain.Start
There is more to luminescence than fireflies and glow-in-the-dark toys. Fluorescence, which is mostly absorbed light being released, is responsible for some of the most awe-inspiring natural spectacles and scientific discoveries.
In recent years, glowing has shown up in strange places, in unexpected species, and in surprising ways that are invisible to the human eye. Even more intriguing, fluorescence is woven into several unsolved mysteries, can be seen from space, and might even be deadly to humans.
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It may be hard to believe that glowing mushrooms exist, but fluorescent fungi pop up all over Brazil and Vietnam. For years, the secret behind their glow could not be explained.
To get to the bottom of this mystery, scientists collected a few in 2015. In the laboratory, the compound responsible for the bioluminescence was isolated. Called oxyluciferin, the chemical also exists in fireflies and glowing sea creatures.
For the mushrooms, the glowing compound is used to attract insects. Once the bugs land, they pick up spores and scatter them elsewhere. This helps the mushrooms to spread.
Another question involved how the fungi produced luciferins. A closer look revealed that the mushrooms manufactured their own special luciferin and paired it with oxygen and an enzyme which resulted in fluorescent colors.
The nature of the enzyme suggested that it could interact with other kinds of luciferins and trigger more shades that glow. This suggests that there is still a lot more to learn about these surreal-looking mushrooms.
9Hazards Of Blue Light
During the day, blue light emanating from electronics and energy-saving bulbs appears to have few drawbacks. On the other hand, researchers have discovered a frightening link between blue glow at night and deteriorating human health.
Some of its daytime perks include more energy and alertness. When people relax with electronic devices in the evening, blue light radiates from screens and stimulates the brain. This disrupts proper sleep.
It may sound like nothing. But studies have shown that people can become prediabetic when the sleep rhythm shifts. Links have also been made to obesity, heart disease, and cancer.
To be fair, scientists do not have solid proof that blue light directly causes these conditions. But it does lower melatonin levels. The lack of this hormone, which regulates the sleep cycle called the circadian rhythm, may be the link associating blue light with cancer, although the research is at an early stage.
If it can be proven that blue wavelengths are deadly to humans, one environmental success needs to be overhauled. Fluorescent light bulbs and LED lights may be more energy efficient, but they produce more blue light than any other.
8First Fluorescent Frogs
In 2017, Argentinian researchers took a plain-looking frog home. The polka-dot tree frog is mostly green with red spots and, thus far, nothing to take the champagne out of the fridge for. Things changed when the amphibian was being prepared for tests, some of which called for its tissues to be studied under UV light.
To everybody’s surprise, the instant that UV shined on the creature, the whole frog lit up. The blue-green fluorescence not only makes it the first glowing frog but also the first fluorescent amphibian in the world.
This is quite an achievement because any glowing in land animals is incredibly rare. The frog’s radiance comes from compounds named hyloins. The benefits that hyloins offer this species are hazy, but they could have something to do with polka-dot frogs needing to see each other at night. The blue-green glow is visible to the frogs and also makes them brighter during twilight and the full Moon.
Sometimes, strange plants cause coastlines to light up with eerie streaks of light during the night. Most recently, in 2018, ghostly blue lines appeared in a spectacular display off Southern California when miles of coastline lit up.
The algae responsible are called dinoflagellates, and they are plants capable of swimming. During the day, their dense numbers cloud the water red. Such an unusual bloom in their population is popularly known as a “red tide.”
In the past, some red tides attracted the wrong kind of attention because they can make seafood toxic for human consumption. However, at night, dinoflagellates cause an otherworldly beauty that now brings tourists to the beach at night.
At the chemical level, each plant has a protein and an enzyme. Any disturbance, like a wave or passing creature, mixes the two and causes the algae to become bioluminescent.
This reaction is not entirely understood, but it is likely a defensive measure. It could exist to flash zooplankton, the dinoflagellates’ main predator, into submission or glow to attract fish that prey on the plankton.
6Flowers Have Blue Halos
Flower genes struggle to make petals that are blue, which is exactly the color that flowering plants want more than anything. The reason? Bees are attracted to blue, and flowers need the buzzing insects to complete their fertilization cycle.
In 2017, scientists discovered how plants engineered a novel way to lure bees. Those that could not produce blue flowers evolved petals with nanostructures capable of glowing blue in sunlight.
These halos are like neon signs to bees. The tiny reflective scales turned out to be a widespread tactic and were found in all major groups of flowering species that depend on insect pollination, including some trees.
Although the general hue was blue, some plants also produced an ultraviolet scattering effect. It enhances bees’ ability to locate blue. The halos turned out to be a stronger attraction than the real thing. During trials, bumblebees ignored the actual colors of flowers and went straight for those with a blue fluorescence.
5Glowing Coral Solved
Researchers figured out a long time ago why shallow-water corals glow. Their green light acts like a sunscreen against solar radiation. But scientists could not understand why sun-sheltered corals from the deep sea also emit fluorescent light.
In 2017, the answer dawned. Deep corals don’t glow to avoid light but to get more. At such depths, life-giving light is not abundant. To survive, the corals must absorb as much as possible. However, the blue light at the bottom of the sea is not sufficient to give corals the energy they need.
Impressively, the corals use red fluorescence to blend the blue into orange-red light. The latter allows better food production through photosynthesis.
This discovery may be exciting for scientists but not for environmentalists. Global warming causes mass bleaching of shallow corals, and a major hope was that some species might migrate to deeper waters. As shallow corals glow green, they may not adapt to deeper waters where survival requires a red fluorescence.
4When Seabirds Shimmer
In 2018, biologists had a dead Atlantic puffin on their hands. As an afterthought, they decided to view it under UV light. The idea was to test for any glow because crested auklets, a species related to puffins, have fluorescent beaks.
Under normal light, puffins’ beaks are very recognizable. They are decorated with colors likely meant to woo the opposite gender. Even though puffins have a glowing cousin, it was still unexpected when the cere and the lamella, two ridges on the dead specimen’s beak, fluoresced under the UV lamp.
Scientists are not sure why puffins light up, but it might have something to do with their ability to see the UV spectrum. Even during the daytime, puffins notice each other’s glowing ridges. More mysteries include what it looks like to them and how they are capable of fluorescence in the first place.
As only one dead bird was tested, scientists still need to rule out the possibility that the glow was somehow caused by decomposition.
3Mitochondria’s Strange Heat
In recent years, scientists have created temperature-sensitive dyes called “fluorescent thermometers.” These dyes cling to specific targets inside cells, which made them perfect for an experiment designed to determine the heat of mitochondria. These tiny structures inside cells convert oxygen and nutrients into energy. This process also generates heat.
In 2017, scientists used a yellow fluorescent dye that dims when heat intensifies. Once injected into cells, it can help to calculate temperature. Previously, it was assumed that mitochondria operated at normal body temperature, which averages 37 degrees Celsius (98.6 °F). The tests showed that mitochondria operate at a scorching 50 degrees Celsius (122 °F).
If a person ever developed this kind of full-body temperature, it would be a life-threatening fever. Thankfully, the record for the hottest body temperature does not come close to the mitochondria’s fire. If this strange heat can be better understood, a lot of old notions about cell function—especially those related to temperature—could fall away.
2Photosynthesis From Space
In 2017, Australian researchers and NASA developed a novel way to monitor climate change. They took breathtaking images from space showing plant fluorescence. The new technique could detect solar-induced chlorophyll fluorescence, which is produced during photosynthesis in leaves.
To make sugars from photosynthesis, plants absorb carbon dioxide. Understanding this cycle on a global scale is crucial for staying on top of the planet’s climate and carbon cycle dynamics.
To start testing the idea, researchers used satellite monitoring to snap pictures of glowing chlorophyll. The levels were measured and compared for accuracy against ground observations about photosynthesis. The results showed that the space snaps delivered accurate information across different vegetation, regions, and time.
The innovative technology is not just about following new plant growth and climate change. The fluorescent photos may also help us to better understand Earth’s ecosystem and carbon flows as well as land management and biodiversity conservation.
1First Photo Of A Memory
During recent investigations into how memories are made, researchers chose to poke around the brain cells of a slug. The neurons of the ocean-crawling Aplysia californica make a good match for those of humans.
For a long time, neuroscientists suspected that proteins form at brain synapses when long-term memories are created. Until the sea slug offered its brain, this theory was never proven.
During the recent experiment, scientists first gave the cells the feel-good hormone serotonin which aids in memory formation. Then, a fluorescent protein was used, originally green but able to turn red under UV light.
The test was as simple as it was successful. Under ultraviolet light, researchers watched proteins turn red and marked their positions. The neurons were then encouraged to form memories. Incredibly, while that happened, new green proteins grew between the brain cells. This allowed the first image to be taken of a memory being formed.
Besides proving the theory, it showed that short-term memories did not form new proteins. The exact role that the protein’s presence (or lack thereof) plays in the difference between short-term and long-term memories remains a mystery.