Truth and Tenderness: Ralph Waldo Emerson on Friendship and Its Two Essential Conditions

“What is so delicious as a just and firm encounter of two, in a thought, in a feeling?” It’s been argued that friendship is a greater gift than romantic love (though it’s not uncommon for one to turn abruptly into the other), but whatever the case, friendship is certainly one of the most rewarding fruits...

A Field Guide to Getting Lost: Rebecca Solnit on How We Find Ourselves

“The things we want are transformative, and we don’t know or only think we know what is on the other side of that transformation… Never to get lost is not to live.” “On how one orients himself to the moment,” Henry Miller wrote in reflecting on the art of living, “depends the failure or fruitfulness...

C.S. Lewis on Suffering and What It Means to Have Free Will in a Universe of Fixed Laws

“Try to exclude the possibility of suffering which the order of nature and the existence of free wills involve, and you find that you have excluded life itself.” If the universe operates by fixed physical laws, what does it mean for us to have free will? That’s what C.S. Lewis considers with an elegant sidewise...

Love Is Forever: A Children’s Book That Helps Kids Deal with Losing a Loved One

A tender lesson in living with loss from Little Owl. If grief is so gargantuan a struggle even for grownups, how are tiny humans to handle a weight so monumental once it presses down? That’s precisely what writer Casey Rislov, who holds a master’s degree in elementary education and has an intense interest in special...

The Poetics of Reverie: Philosopher Gaston Bachelard on Dreams, Love, Solitude, and Happiness

“There are still souls for whom love is the contact of two poetries, the fusion of two reveries.” “Creative writing, like a day-dream,” Freud observed, “is a continuation of, and a substitute for, what was once the play of childhood.” But how, exactly, does the playful imagination weave dream and storytelling together to frame our...

Shakespeare, Sadness-Shaman: How Hamlet Can Help Us Through Our Grief and Despair

“Hamlet is about the precise kind of slippage the mourner experiences: the difference between being and seeming…” “Grief, when it comes, is nothing like we expect it to be,” Joan Didion wrote in her soul-stretching meditation on grief. Our coping strategies can be among the most disorienting defiances of expectation — it’s a given that...

Jeanette Winterson on Time, Language, Reading, and How Art Creates a Sanctified Space for the Human Spirit

“Art can make a difference because it pulls people up short. It says, don’t accept things for their face value; you don’t have to go along with any of this; you can think for yourself.” In September of 1994, beloved British writer Jeanette Winterson joined Canadian broadcaster Eleanor Wachtel on the air for a spectacular...

New Yorker Cartoonist Roz Chast’s Remarkable Illustrated Meditation on Aging, Illness, and Death

Making sense of the human journey with wit, wisdom, and disarming vulnerability. “Each day, we wake slightly altered, and the person we were yesterday is dead,” John Updike wrote in his magnificent memoir. “So why, one could say, be afraid of death, when death comes all the time?” It’s a sentiment somewhat easier to swallow...

The Relationship Between Creativity and Mental Illness

The science behind the “tortured genius” myth and what it reveals about how the creative mind actually works. “I think I’ve only spent about ten percent of my energies on writing,” Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Katherine Anne Porter confessed in a 1963 interview. “The other ninety percent went to keeping my head above water.” While art...

Psychoanalyst Adam Phillips on Our Capacity for “Fertile Solitude”

From teenage rebellion to self-reliance, how we learn to be alone. “All of humanity’s problems,” the French scientist and philosopher Blaise Pascal wrote in 1654, “stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.” Three centuries later, the great Russian filmmaker Andrei Tarkovsky shared his single most urgent piece of advice to the...

Ray Bradbury on Failure, 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. “A master in the art of living draws no sharp distinction between his work and his play,” the French writer Chateaubriand is credited with saying. “He simply pursues his vision of excellence through whatever he is doing, and...

Barbara Walters on the Art of Conversation, How to Talk to Bores, and What Truman Capote Teaches Us About Being Interesting

“Things being what they are in the world today, we are more and more driven to depend on one another’s sympathy and friendship in order to survive…” What The Paris Review has done for the art of the interview in print, Barbara Walters has done for it on television. By the time she was forty,...

Swami Vivekananda on the Secret of Work: Intelligent Consolation for the Pressures of Productivity from 1896

“Every work that we do… every thought that we think, leaves such an impression on the mind-stuff…” In December of 1895, the renowned Indian Hindu monk and philosopher Swami Vivekananda, then in his early thirties, traveled to New York, rented a couple of rooms at 228 West 39th Street, where he spent a month holding...

The Art of Self-Renewal: A Timeless 1964 Field Guide to Keeping Your Company and Your Soul Vibrantly Alive

“The self-renewing man … looks forward to an endless and unpredictable dialogue between his potentialities and the claims of life — not only the claims he encounters but the claims he invents.” In 1964, the prolific social science writer John W. Gardner published Self-Renewal: The Individual and the Innovative Society (public library) — a forgotten...

Chinua Achebe on 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. “A writer,” E.B. White asserted in a fantastic 1969 interview, “should tend to lift people up, not lower them down. Writers do not merely reflect and interpret life, they inform and shape life.” A quarter century later, another literary titan articulated the...

Artist Francis Bacon on the Role of Suffering and Self-Knowledge in Creative Expression

“An artist must learn to be nourished by his passions and by his despairs.” “When a man finds that it is his destiny to suffer… his unique opportunity lies in the way he bears his burden,” Viktor Frankl wrote in his spectacular 1946 treatise on the human search for meaning. We’re immersed in a great...

Visionary Neurologist Oliver Sacks on What Hallucinations Reveal about How the Mind Works

“We see with the eyes, but we see with the brain as well.” While our delusions may keep us sane, hallucinations — defined as perceptions that arise independently of external reality, as when we see, hear, or sense things that aren’t really there — are an entirely different beast, a cognitive phenomenon that mimics mysticism...