Maria Popova: Staying Present and Grounded in the Age of Information Overload

How do we answer the grand question of how to live—and more importantly—how to live well? This is the deeply philosophical (and yet eminently pragmatic) inquiry that lies at the core of Maria Popova’s remarkable blog, Brain Pickings. Since she launched Brain Pickings as a passion project back in 2006, it’s grown impressively, becoming an intellectual touchstone for inquiring minds that now draws several million readers a month.

In the age of information overload, Popova is the ultimate hunter-gatherer-curator, bringing her intensely curious mind to bear on everything from Susan Sontag’s journals to Maurice Sendak’s vintage illustrations to Albert Einstein’s letters. Rich with in-depth quotations and rarely seen imagery, Popova’s articles suss out overlooked wisdom on writing, Buddhism, daily routines, falling in love, storytelling, motherhood, mental illness, critical thinking, growing old, vulnerability, and a wild array of other topics. In the process, she exposes readers to books and concepts that they would likely never otherwise come across.

Not surprisingly, Popova’s work ethic is as relentless as her curiosity. Yet, after eight years of providing a service that lights up creative minds around the world, she is feeling the strain. Over tea, we talked about her struggle to dial back the pace of her workflow, and the tension between “getting things done” and being present in your own emotional reality.

The “Information Age” seems to have ushered in this hectic, new pace of working that’s driving us all a bit crazy. And it feels unsustainable. How do you think we ended up here?

I think that word “should” in our internal narratives is very toxic—this notion of, “what should I be doing?” and it’s always pegged to some sort of expectation, whether it’s self-imposed or external or a combination of the two. It’s hard to balance those expectations of what you should be doing with what you want to be doing. I feel very fortunate in that to a large extent what I do is exactly what I want to be doing for myself, and I still write for an audience of one. I read things that stimulate me and inspire me and help me figure out how to live and then I write about them. The fact that there are other people who enjoy it is nice, but it’s just a byproduct...more at 99U 

To fight unemployment, India to plant 2 billion trees

A new initiative in India will employ up to 300,000 youths in an effort to improve air quality and provide opportunities to the unemployed.
Jadav "Molai" Payeng, the Indian man who single-handedly planted up 1,360 acres of forest, may soon have some competition on his hands. Or allies, depending on which way you want to look at it. Huffington Post reports that a new afforestation initiative from India's Rural Development Ministry aims to plant 2 billion trees along the nation's 62,137 miles of highways. The idea, says the article, is to both combat rural poverty and youth unemployment while also improving the environment and helping to clean up India's chronic air pollution:

The country's Rural Development Ministry on Friday announced a new afforestation plan to plant 2 billion trees along the nation’s highways in an effort to tackle youth unemployment. The country’s Road Transport, Highways, Shipping and Rural Development Minister Nitin Jairam Gadkari said in a meeting in New Delhi that the new initiative would also help preserve the environment.

This plan cannot come soon enough. Not only does India have a youth unemployment rate of 10.2 percent, according to the World Health Organization, it is also home to six of the world's 10 cities with the worst air pollution. Given the deadly impact of air pollution worldwide, and the incredible power of trees to absorb emissions, this plan may have a significant impact not just on the economy and biodiversity, but on health as well.

This isn't the only recent sign of environmental progress in India either. The country's new prime minister, Narendra Modi, has also announced a target of getting electricity to every home in India by 2019, relying largely on solar power to do so. According to The Hindu, the government is also working on plans to clean up the Ganga and Yamuna rivers. Via MNN 

It knows when you are sleeping. It knows when you’re awake. It knows if you’ve been driving, biking, or walking, and it records it, for data’s sake.

Human is an app that tracks activity with the goal of getting users to exercise at least 30 minutes a day. It uses the M7 motion co-processor, a handy little iPhone microchip with gyroscope, compass, and accelerometer sensors, to track and record your every move – even while your phone is asleep.

Creepy? Maybe a little. But what with the NSA so busy looking at pictures of you in your underwear, maybe a device that tracks how you get around on a daily basis isn’t all that bad.

This month, Human’s parent company released a series of neat-o visualizations of walking, biking, running, and driving patterns for 30 cities around the world. Check out the video here:

more at Grist 

ART: Jarek Kubicki

Mondays By October Jones

More Motivational notes from UK-born writer and illustrator October Jones (real name Joe Butcher), the creative genius behind Text From Dog and these funny train commute doodles at Artchipel

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