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@BrainPicker an interview with Maria Popova on @OnBeing

January 5, 2017

Krista Tippett interviewed Maria Popova (@brainpicker), founder, creator and inspiring designer behind Brain Pickings, an ad-free, online compilation of inspiring writings by Popova. (click her for a link to the interview)  She describes herself this way:

Hey there. My name is Maria Popova and I’m a reader, writer, interestingness hunter-gatherer, and curious mind at large. I’ve previously written for Wired UK, The AtlanticThe New York Times, and Harvard’s Nieman Journalism Lab, among others, and am an MIT Futures of Entertainment Fellow. (https://www.brainpickings.org/about/)

I would describe her work as the embodiment of interconnectedness.  She explores interesting ideas and finds clever, insightful and intricate ways to connect them to other ideas, weaving a story that is often visual and captivating.  She is a wonderful example of a systems thinker.

Tippett’s interview with Popova reveals her sensitivity, intelligence, command of language, and the complexity of her thinking.  She makes visible to the listener, in a clear and poetic fashion, how her mind constructs patterns that become source of writings.

I have been a fan of Popova’s work with Brain Pickings for at least five years.  While I don’t read every entry, I do subscribe to her feed and find ample opportunities to sit with her work, reveling in the beautiful pieces of art she weaves into her wonderful stories.

If you have 50 minutes to spare, which we all do, I would highly recommend listening to Tippett’s interview of Popova.  You will not be disappointed.  Here are a few quotes from the interview that I found particularly compelling.

You know, culture needs stewardship, not disruption.

As a culture — you’re right. We seem somehow bored with thinking. We want to instantly know. And there’s this epidemic of listicles. Why think about what constitutes a great work of art when you can skim the “20 Most Expensive Paintings in History?” And I’m very guided by this desire to counter that in myself because I am, like everybody else, a product of my time and my culture. And I remember, there’s a really beautiful commencement address that Adrienne Rich gave in 1977 in which she said that an education is not something that you get but something that you claim.

And I think that’s very much true of knowledge itself. The reason we’re so increasingly intolerant of long articles and why we skim them, why we skip forward even in a short video that reduces a 300-page book into a three-minute animation — even in that we skip forward — is that we’ve been infected with this kind of pathological impatience that makes us want to have the knowledge but not do the work of claiming it. I mean, the true material of knowledge is meaning. And the meaningful is the opposite of the trivial. And the only thing that we should have gleaned by skimming and skipping forward is really trivia. And the only way to glean knowledge is contemplation. And the road to that is time. There’s nothing else. It’s just time. There is no shortcut for the conquest of meaning. And ultimately, it is meaning that we seek to give to our lives.  (emphasis is mine)

Well, I think identity for all of us is this perpetual process. And it’s somewhat like constantly clearing out and rearranging an attic. And it’s as much about throwing out all the furniture and trinkets that no longer serve us as bringing in new ones. And in that sense, it’s just as important to continue defining who we are as to continue eliminating who we are not. And for me, it kind of feeds on itself.

There is much, much more in the interview so take time, put on the headphones and enjoy the experience listening to Popova’s philosophical musings.

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