The most compelling representations of Satan in world literature

KEY TAKEAWAYS Although infamous today, the character of Satan has been reinvented many times over the course of human history.  Generally speaking, he developed from Dante and Milton’s tragic and misguided villain into Goethe’s and Bulgakov’s sardonic antihero.  When placed side by side, these iterations can tell us a great deal about the time of their creators. by Tim Brinkhof By taking Satan out of the religious context, storytellers explored the nature of sin in new ways. Given how familiar we are with Satan today, it may come as a surprise to learn that the concept of the “great opposer” … Continue reading The most compelling representations of Satan in world literature

Love and Limerence: The Forgotten Psychologist Dorothy Tennov’s Revelatory Research into the Confusions of Bonding

“It may not be in contemplation of outer space that the greatest discoveries and explorations of the coming centuries will occur, but in our finally deciding to heed the dictum of self-understanding.” BY MARIA POPOVA “Love is like a fever which comes and goes quite independently of the will,” Stendhal wrote in his landmark 1822 “crystallization” model of how we fall in and out of love. What he was actually describing, however — in those Cartesian epochs before it was acceptable or even conceivable that matters of feeling could be functions of mental activity and subjects of the reasoned study we … Continue reading Love and Limerence: The Forgotten Psychologist Dorothy Tennov’s Revelatory Research into the Confusions of Bonding

Life, Death, and What Fills the Interlude with Meaning: Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Touching Diary Reflections on His Dying Mother and His Five-Year-Old Daughter

“I saw my little Una… so full of spirit and life that she was life itself. And then I looked at my poor dying mother, and seemed to see the whole of human existence at once, standing in the dusty midst of it.” BY MARIA POPOVA It is said that Orlando, inspired by the passionate real-life love Virginia Woolf shared with Vita Sackville-West, is “the longest and most charming love letter in literature” — said by Vita’s own son. But the most charming love letter in literature might be quite shorter and older and inspired by a very different kind of love — … Continue reading Life, Death, and What Fills the Interlude with Meaning: Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Touching Diary Reflections on His Dying Mother and His Five-Year-Old Daughter

What Makes You You Makes the Universe: Nobel Laureate Erwin Schrödinger on Quantum Physics, Vedanta, and the Ongoing Mystery of Consciousness

“This life of yours which you are living is not merely a piece of the entire existence, but is in a certain sense the whole.” BY MARIA POPOVA To face the question of what makes us who we are with courage, lucidity, and fulness of feeling is to face, with all the restlessness and helplessness this stirs in the meaning-hungry soul, the elemental fact of our choicelessness in the conditions that lead to our existence. That is what the Nobel-winning founding father of quantum mechanics Erwin Schrödinger (August 12, 1887–January 4, 1961) addresses in some exquisite passages from My View of the World (public library) … Continue reading What Makes You You Makes the Universe: Nobel Laureate Erwin Schrödinger on Quantum Physics, Vedanta, and the Ongoing Mystery of Consciousness

The Mirage of a Town Without Cellphones

Book Review: In “The Quiet Zone,” Stephen Kurczy investigates a West Virginia town largely cut off from modern technology. BY SARAH SCOLES NEAR THE TOWN OF Green Bank, a strange sign edges the two-lane road: “You Are Now Entering the West Virginia Radio Quiet Zone.” It’s not immediately apparent what those words mean, but they provide a clue to drivers whose phones have gone silent. The Quiet Zone means the law limits radio-wave broadcasts: No cell service, and theoretically a lack of conveniences like Wi-Fi, or certain wireless game controllers. And no microwaves unless they’re put in a protective casing. All these … Continue reading The Mirage of a Town Without Cellphones

The cliché writes back

Machine-written literature might offend your tastes but until the dawn of Romanticism most writers were just as formulaic Yohei Igarashi is associate professor of English and associate director of the Humanities Institute at the University of Connecticut. He is the author of The Connected Condition: Romanticism and the Dream of Communication (2019). Edited byMarina Benjamin Since its inception in 2015, the research laboratory OpenAI – an Elon Musk-backed initiative that seeks to build human-friendly artificial intelligence – has developed a series of powerful ‘language models’, the latest being GPT-3 (third-generation Generative Pre-trained Transformer). A language model is a computer program that simulates human language. … Continue reading The cliché writes back

The Blue Horses of Our Destiny: Artist Franz Marc, the Wisdom of Animals, and the Fight of Beauty Against Brutality

Tragedy and transcendence in the search for the spiritual in nature. BY MARIA POPOVA “Do you need a prod? Do you need a little darkness to get you going?” wrote Mary Oliver in one of the masterpiece from her suite of poems celebrating the urgency of aliveness, Blue Horses. In the bleak winter of 1916, in the thickest darkness of World War I, several enormous canvases dappled in pointillist patterns of color appeared across the French countryside, as if Kandinsky or Klee had descended upon the war-torn hills to bandage the brutality with beauty. But no. The painted tarps were military camouflage, designed … Continue reading The Blue Horses of Our Destiny: Artist Franz Marc, the Wisdom of Animals, and the Fight of Beauty Against Brutality

Circles of the Damned

by Ed Simon  Maybe during this broiling summer you’ve seen the footage—in one striking video, women and men stand dazed on a boat sailing away from the Greek island of Evia, watching as ochre flames consume their homes in the otherwise dark night. Similar hellish scenes are unfolding in Algeria, Tunisia, and Libya, as well as in Turkey and Spain. Currently Siberia is experiencing the largest wildfire in recorded history, an unlikely place for such a conflagration, joined by large portions of Canada. As California burns, the global nature of our immolation is underscored by horrific news around the world, … Continue reading Circles of the Damned

How to Feel More Alive Each Day and Night: A Cosmic Nightwalk with Derek Jarman

“Here man has invented the heavens but the moon, not to be usurped, shines sickle bright, gathering our souls.” BY MARIA POPOVA There is an elemental cosmic loneliness in the pit of every human soul. We spend our lives trying to make it bearable and call our efforts love, or art. (Which might, in the end be one and the same.) Every once in a while, we are lifted out of the pit into a salutary sense of connection and congress with something larger — a sense of being but one wave among the incalculable lapping lonelinesses in the great … Continue reading How to Feel More Alive Each Day and Night: A Cosmic Nightwalk with Derek Jarman

The 1 book you should read at least once in your life

by Thomas Oppong What is the best life-changing book you’ve read recently? What is the one book you keep reading over and over again? Some books are meant to be devoured or digested slowly. There are not many books that require total immersion. So when I come across a timeless and valuable book that has changed many lives over the years, I take the words of the author or writer seriously. Meditations by Marcus Aurelius is one of the greatest and original books ever written. It’s a life compass. You don’t just read it once and put it on the … Continue reading The 1 book you should read at least once in your life