Endling: A Poem

I turned the corner one afternoon to find my neighborhood grocer gone. No warning, just gone — padlocked and boarded off, closed for good, a long chain of habit suddenly severed. We know that entropy drags everything toward dissolution, that life is a vector pointed at loss, but … | Continue reading


@themarginalian.org | 4 months ago

The Secret Life of Chocolate: Oliver Sacks on the Cultural and Natural History of Cacao

Without chocolate, life would be a mistake — not a paraphrasing of Nietzsche he would have easily envisioned, for he was a toddler in Germany when a British chocolatier created the first modern version of what we now think of as chocolate: a paste of sugar, chocolate liquor, and … | Continue reading


@themarginalian.org | 4 months ago

Maira Kalman on How to Live with Remorse and Make of It a Portal of Creative Vitality

Each time we have tried to elevate ourselves above the other animals by claiming singular possession of some faculty, we have been humbled otherwise: Language, it turns out, is not ours alone, nor is the use of tools, nor is music. Elephants grieve, octopuses remember and predict … | Continue reading


@themarginalian.org | 4 months ago

Anne Morrow Lindbergh on Embracing Change in Relationships and the Key Pattern for Nourishing Love

"All living relationships are in process of change, of expansion, and must perpetually be building themselves new forms." | Continue reading


@themarginalian.org | 4 months ago

The Art of Allowing Change: Neurobiologist Susan R. Barry’s Moving Correspondence with Oliver Sacks about the Blessed Overwhelm of Transformation

There is a thought experiment known as Mary’s Room, brilliant and haunting, about the abyss between felt experience and our mental models of it, about the nature of knowledge, the mystery of consciousness, and the irreducibility of aliveness: Living in a black-and-white chamber, … | Continue reading


@themarginalian.org | 4 months ago

The Warblers and the Wonder of Being: Loren Eiseley on Contacting the Miraculous

"The time has to be right; one has to be, by chance or intention, upon the border of two worlds. And sometimes these two borders may shift or interpenetrate and one sees the miraculous." | Continue reading


@themarginalian.org | 4 months ago

Thich Nhat Hanh on True Love and the Five Rivers of Self-Knowledge

“For one human being to love another: that is perhaps the most difficult of all our tasks… the work for which all other work is but preparation,” Rilke wrote to his young correspondent. The great difficulty of loving arises from the great difficulty of bridging the abyss between … | Continue reading


@themarginalian.org | 4 months ago

Between the Infinite and the Infinitesimal: A Scientist’s Search for the Fulcrum of Faith

"The universe is not a place where evolution happens, it is the evolution happening. It is not a stage on which drama unfolds, it is the unfolding drama itself." | Continue reading


@themarginalian.org | 4 months ago

Time and the Soul: Philosopher Jacob Needleman on Our Search for Meaning

"The real significance of our problem with time... is a crisis of meaning... The root of our modern problem with time is neither technological, sociological, economic nor psychological. It is metaphysical. It is a question of the meaning of human life itself." | Continue reading


@themarginalian.org | 4 months ago

How to Make a World: A Poem

Like mathematics, the truest metaphors are not invented but discovered. In fact, they hardly feel like metaphors — they feel like equations equating something previously unseen with something familiar in order to see more deeply into the nature of reality. One morning out on a ru … | Continue reading


@themarginalian.org | 4 months ago

The Bird in the Heart: Terry Tempest Williams on the Paradox of Transformation and How to Live with Uncertainty

"We can change, evolve, and transform our own conditioning. We can choose to move like water rather than be molded like clay." | Continue reading


@themarginalian.org | 4 months ago

War, Peace, and Possible Futures: George Saunders on Storytelling the World’s Fate and the Antidote to Media Manipulation

"War is large-scale murder, us at our worst, the stupidest guy doing the cruelest thing to the weakest being." | Continue reading


@themarginalian.org | 4 months ago

Yes: William Stafford’s Poetic Calibration of Perspective

"No guarantees in this life." | Continue reading


@themarginalian.org | 4 months ago

What Makes a Compassionate World: Sophie de Grouchy’s Visionary 18th-Century Appeal to Parents and Teachers

The morning after the 2016 presidential election, I awoke to terrifying flashbacks of my childhood under a totalitarian dictatorship. Desperate for assurance that the future need not hold the total moral collapse of democracy, I reached out to my eldest friend for perspective. Mo … | Continue reading


@themarginalian.org | 5 months ago

The Fairy Tale Tree

Creativity is at bottom the combinatorial work of memory and imagination. All of our impressions, influences, and experiences — every sight we have ever seen, every book read, every landscape walked, every love loved — become seeds for ideas we later combine and recombine, largel … | Continue reading


@themarginalian.org | 5 months ago

Sentimentality and Being Mortal: Poet Mark Doty on the Passionate Fragility of Our Attachments

How beautiful and unbearable that only one of each exists — each lover, each child, each dog; that this particular chance-constellation of atoms has never before existed and will never again recur in the history of the universe. The fact of each such singularity is a wonder beyon … | Continue reading


@themarginalian.org | 5 months ago

Blue Glass

Not long after writing about the bowerbird’s enchantment in blue, I walked out of my house and gasped at the sight of what looked like two extraordinary jewels sparkling on a bed of yellow leaves, right there on the sidewalk — chunks of cobalt glass, much larger than what a broke … | Continue reading


@themarginalian.org | 5 months ago

The Science and Poetry of Anthotypes: Emily Dickinson’s Herbarium, Recreated in Hauntingly Beautiful Flower Pigment Prints via a Victorian Imaging Process

On September 20, 1845, the polymathic Scottish mathematician Mary Somerville — the woman for whom the word scientist was coined — sent a letter to the polymathic English astronomer John Herschel, who six years earlier had coined the word photography for the radical invention of c … | Continue reading


@themarginalian.org | 5 months ago

The Two Souls Within: Hermann Hesse on the Dual Life of the Creative Spirit

"Like a precious, fleeting foam over the sea of suffering arise all those works of art, in which a single individual lifts himself for an hour so high above his personal destiny that his happiness shines like a star and appears to all who see it as something eternal and as a happ … | Continue reading


@themarginalian.org | 5 months ago

A Parliament of Owls and a Murder of Crows: How Groups of Birds Got Their Names, with Wondrous Vintage Illustrations by Brian Wildsmith

Language is an instrument of great precision and poignancy — our best tool for telling each other what the world is and what we are, for conveying the blueness of blue and the wonder of being alive. But it is also a thing of great pliancy and creativity — a living reminder that h … | Continue reading


@themarginalian.org | 5 months ago

Love and the Sacred

"I did not know what love was until I encountered one that kept opening and opening and opening." | Continue reading


@themarginalian.org | 5 months ago

A Spell Against Stagnation: John O’Donohue on Beginnings

"Our very life here depends directly on continuous acts of beginning." | Continue reading


@themarginalian.org | 5 months ago

Of Wonder, the Courage of Uncertainty, and How to Hear Your Soul: The Best of The Marginalian 2023

Hindsight is our finest instrument for discerning the patterns of our lives. To look back on a year of reading, a year of writing, is to discover a secret map of the mind, revealing the landscape of living — after all, how we spend our thoughts is how we spend our lives. In accor … | Continue reading


@themarginalian.org | 5 months ago

We Are the Music, We Are the Spark: Pioneering Biologist Ernest Everett Just on What Makes Life Alive

"Life is exquisitely a time-thing, like music." | Continue reading


@themarginalian.org | 5 months ago

What It’s Like to Be an Owl: The Strange Science of Seeing with Sound

“We need another and a wiser and perhaps a more mystical concept of animals,” the great nature writer Henry Beston wrote in his lovely century-old meditation on otherness and the web of life. “In a world older and more complete than ours they move finished and complete, gifted wi … | Continue reading


@themarginalian.org | 5 months ago

Hermann Hesse on What Books Give Us and the Heart of Wisdom

Books show us what it is like to be another and at the same time return us to ourselves. We read to learn how to live — how to love and how to suffer, how to grieve and how to be glad. We read to clarify ourselves and to anneal our values. We read for the assurance that others ha … | Continue reading


@themarginalian.org | 5 months ago

Favorite Children’s Books of 2023

Tender and poetic reckonings with friendship, fear, love, solitude, black holes, deep time, and the interconnectedness of life. | Continue reading


@themarginalian.org | 6 months ago

Favorite Books of 2023

To look back on a year of reading is to be handed a clear mirror of your priorities and passions, of the questions that live in you and the reckonings that keep you up at night. While the literature of the present comprises only a tiny fraction of my own reading, here are a handf … | Continue reading


@themarginalian.org | 6 months ago

Working Out, Working In: Applying the Six Principles of Athletic Training to Writing and Creative Work

The highest and hardest task of life may be to become entirely ourselves — to continually purify and clarify who and what we are, shedding the shoulds of culture, convention, and expectation to discover the innermost musts: those deepest and truest callings of the authentic self, … | Continue reading


@themarginalian.org | 6 months ago

The Power of a Thin Skin

“To be thin-skinned is to feel keenly, to perceive things that might go unseen, unnoticed, that others might prefer not to notice.” | Continue reading


@themarginalian.org | 6 months ago

The Sky and the Soul: 19th-Century Norwegian Artist Knud Baade’s Transcendent Cloudscapes

Nothing on Earth appears more divine yet attests more fully to the materiality of being than clouds — enchanting emblems of the water cycle that makes this rocky planet a living world, drifting across our shared dome as if exhaled by some lovesick god. That we should have such a … | Continue reading


@themarginalian.org | 6 months ago

How the Sea Came to Be: An Illustrated Singsong Celebration of the Evolution of Life

“Who has known the ocean? Neither you nor I, with our earth-bound senses,” Rachel Carson wrote in the pioneering 1937 essay that invited the human imagination into the science and splendor of the marine world for the first time — a world then more mysterious than the Moon, a worl … | Continue reading


@themarginalian.org | 6 months ago

How to Bless Each Other: Poet and Philosopher John O’Donohue on the Light Within Us and Between Us

“The structures of our experience are the windows into the divine. When we are true to the call of experience, we are true to God.” | Continue reading


@themarginalian.org | 6 months ago

Wonder Beyond Why: The Majesty and Mystery of the Birds-of-Paradise

“To go all the way from a clone of archaebacteria, in just 3.7 billion years, to the B-Minor Mass and the Late Quartets, deserves a better technical term for the record than randomness,” the poetic scientist Lewis Thomas wrote in his forgotten masterpiece of perspective. This is … | Continue reading


@themarginalian.org | 6 months ago

Poetic Ecology and the Biology of Wonder

“The real disconnect is not between our human nature and all the other beings; it is between our image of our nature and our real nature.” | Continue reading


@themarginalian.org | 6 months ago

In the Dark: A Lyrical Illustrated Invitation to Find the Light Behind the Fear

The mind is a camera obscura constantly trying to render an image of reality on the back wall of consciousness through the pinhole of awareness, its aperture narrowed by our selective attention, honed on our hopes and fears. In consequence, the projection we see inside the dark c … | Continue reading


@themarginalian.org | 6 months ago

The Mind in the Machine: John von Neumann, the Inception of AI, and the Limits of Logic

"Something very small, so tiny and insignificant as to be almost invisible in its origin, can nonetheless open up a new and radiant perspective, because through it a higher order of being is trying to express itself." | Continue reading


@themarginalian.org | 6 months ago

Nick Cave on the Two Pillars of a Meaningful Life

“Cultivating a questioning mind, of which conversation is the chief instrument, enriches our relationship with the world.” | Continue reading


@themarginalian.org | 6 months ago

How to Apologize: Reflections on Forgiveness, Self-Forgiveness, and the Paradox of Doing the Right Thing

“It’s permitted to receive solace for whatever you did or didn’t do, pitiful, beautiful human.” | Continue reading


@themarginalian.org | 6 months ago

Alone Together: An Illustrated Celebration of the Art of Shared Solitude

“One can never be alone enough to write,” Susan Sontag lamented in her diary. “Oh comforting solitude, how favorable thou art to original thought!” the founding father of neuroscience exulted in considering the ideal environment for creative breakthrough. All creative people, how … | Continue reading


@themarginalian.org | 6 months ago

The Necessity of Our Illusions: Oliver Sacks on the Mind as an Escape Artist from Reality

“We need detachment… as much as we need engagement in our lives… transports that make our consciousness of time and mortality easier to bear.” | Continue reading


@themarginalian.org | 6 months ago

Necessary Losses: The Life-Shaping Art of Letting Go

"We cannot deeply love anything without becoming vulnerable to loss. And we cannot become separate people, responsible people, connected people, reflective people without some losing and leaving and letting go." | Continue reading


@themarginalian.org | 6 months ago

The Majesty and Mystery of Night Migration, in a Stunning Poem Turned to Music

“Night, when words fade and things come alive,” Little Prince author Antoine de Saint-Exupéry wrote in his love letter to the hours of darkness, composed while flying alone over the Sahara Desert. No aliveness animates the nocturne with more grandeur than the migration of birds. … | Continue reading


@themarginalian.org | 7 months ago

A Tender Illustrated Celebration of the Many Languages of Love

That one mind can reach out from its lonely cave of bone and touch another, express its joys and sorrows to another — this is the great miracle of being alive together. The object of human communication is not the exchange of information but the exchange of understanding. If we a … | Continue reading


@themarginalian.org | 7 months ago

About War

"Outsiders who are not themselves immersed in pain should make an effort to empathize with all suffering humans, rather than lazily seeing only part of the terrible reality. It is the job of outsiders to help maintain a space for peace." | Continue reading


@themarginalian.org | 7 months ago

The First Scientist’s Guide to Truth: Alhazen on Critical Thinking

Born into a world with no clocks, telescopes, microscopes, or democracy, Ḥasan Ibn al-Haytham (c. 965–c. 1040), known in the West as Alhazen, began his life studying religion, but grew quickly disenchanted by its unquestioned dogmas and the way it turned people on each other with … | Continue reading


@themarginalian.org | 7 months ago

Turning from Peril to Possibility: Ecological Superhero Christiana Figueres on the Spirituality of Regeneration

Few things have maimed the spirit of Western civilization more than the myth of our expulsion from the Garden of Eden — a deeply damaging story about human nature, damning us and our relationship to nature. Unthinkingly, we have perpetuated this story in our present narrative abo … | Continue reading


@themarginalian.org | 7 months ago

The Work of Wonder: Phillip Glass on Art, Science, and the Most Important Quality of a Visionary

Epoch after epoch, we humans have tried to raise ourselves above other animals with distinctions that have turned out false — consciousness is not ours alone, nor is grief, nor is play. If there is anything singular about us, it is our capacity to be wonder-smitten by the world a … | Continue reading


@themarginalian.org | 7 months ago