A Special Place for Blog Lovers with a Touch of Science!

Enjoy our special posts in the fields of Earth & Planetary Sciences (EPS Blog) and Social Sciences & Arts (SSA Blog)

A Special Place for Blog Lovers with a Touch of Science!

Expand your imagination with the books of Italo Calvino

Credit: Gettyimages

Italo Giovanni Calvino Mameli

Italo Calvino (15 October 1923 – 19 September 1985) was an Italian writer and journalist. Part of the literary movement Oulipo. He is best known for his fiction works Our Ancestors trilogy (1952–1959), the Cosmicomics collection of short stories (1965), and the novels Invisible Cities (1972) and If on a winter's night a traveler (1979). Yet another work that deserves to be mentioned here is his Six Memos for the Next Millennium, an essayistic account, published posthumously by his wife Esther Judith Singer. Calvino is one of the most refined examples of elaborated, imaginal, intense, and beautifully performed fiction. His style is concise and fragmentary, weaved by vivid imagery and a metaphysical atmosphere where reality and fantasy merge into a higher state of existence.

Enjoy two excerpts from his magnificent and extravagant prose.

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Thoughts to reflect on: Murakami

Credit: lithub.com

Haruki Murakami

"According to Aristophanes in Plato's The Banquet, in the ancient world of legend, there were three types of people.
In ancient times people weren't simply male or female, but one of three types: male/male, male/female, or female/female. In other words, each person was made out of the components of two people. Everyone was happy with this arrangement and never really gave it much thought. But then God took a knife and cut everyone in half, right down the middle. So after that, the world was divided just into male and female, the upshot being that people spend their time running around trying to locate their missing half."
Kafka on the Shore

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Thoughts to reflect on: Borges

Credit: Borges in 1979; Gettyimages

Jorge Luis Borges

1. "A writer - and, I believe, generally all persons - must think that whatever happens to him or her is a resource. All things have been given to us for a purpose, and an artist must feel this more intensely. All that happens to us, including our humiliations, our misfortunes, our embarrassments, all is given to us as raw material, as clay, so that we may shape our art."

2. "So plant your own gardens and decorate your own soul, instead of waiting for someone to bring you flowers."

3. "When writers die they become books, which is, after all, not too bad an incarnation."

4. "Heaven and hell seem out of proportion to me: the actions of men do not deserve so much."

5. "A book is more than a verbal structure or series of verbal structures; it is the dialogue it establishes with its reader and the intonation it imposes upon his voice and the changing and durable images it leaves in his memory. A book is not an isolated being: it is a relationship, an axis of innumerable relationships."

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Thoughts to reflect on: Tolstoy

Credit: Tolstoy on 23 May 1908 at Yasnaya Polyana, Lithograph print by Sergey Prokudin-Gorsky; via Wikipedia

Leo Tolstoy

"Yes, love, ...but not the love that loves for something, to gain something, or because of something, but that love that I felt for the first time, when dying, I saw my enemy and yet loved him. I knew that feeling of love which is the essence of the soul, for which no object is needed. And I know that blissful feeling now too. To love one's neighbours; to love one's enemies. To love everything - to Love God in all His manifestations. Some one dear to one can be loved with human love; but an enemy can only be loved with divine love. And that was why I felt such joy when I felt that I loved that man. What happened to him? Is he alive? ...Loving with human love, one may pass from love to hatred; but divine love cannot change. Nothing, not even death, can shatter it. It is the very nature of the soul. And how many people I have hated in my life. And of all people none I have loved and hated more than her.... If it were only possible for me to see her once more... once, looking into those eyes to say..."
―  War and Peace

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100 years ago, Jack Kerouac was born

Credit: Jack Kerouac in front of his typewriting machine; Gettyimages

The Father of the Beat Generation

One century ago, Jack Kerouac was born to live, travel, love, suffer, write and elucidate our minds with his intense rhythmical prose. To put each word in its special place like bricks on the bridge between the East and West, between people and people. The incurable wanderer, the believer, the one who will burn, who will flare up to illuminate happiness, sorrow, life, death, everything. He who transformed himself into books and words, which are now, many years later, still circulating the minds of the readers around the world. Thank you, Jack!

Enjoy several excerpts from his books.

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What makes something "Kafkaesque"?

Credit: Last known photograph of Czech writer Franz Kafka; via Wikipedia

Franz Kafka

If you had the chance to read one of Franz Kafka's books, it's very unlikely to ever forget them. They are so distinctive, full of surreal imagery, a nightmarish bureaucracy, and dreamlike situations that they stick to one's mind forever. Maybe because of that, Kafka became one of the most prominent writers of the 20th century although he hasn't received any recognition during his short life. There is even this term "Kafkaesque", which describes a situation or a literature style that resembles his stories. But what does this word mean? Here you can enjoy a short video on the topic.

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What does the poet say: Arseny Tarkovsky

Credit: Arseny Tarkovsky in the mid 1930s; Wikipedia


Man has but one body,
as lone as a loner,
The soul has had enough of
This sheer shell
With ears and eyes
the size of fivepense coins
And skin, all scars,
hung on the skeleton.

The soul flies through the cornea
To the well of heaven,
To the icy wheel spoke of
the bird-drawn chariot,
And through the bars
of its living prison, it hears
the rattle of forests and fields,
the trumpet of the seven seas.

the soul without a body is piteous,
like a body without a shirt, —
stripped of intent, or deed,
design, or strophe.
A riddle without a key:
Who will return again
having danced on that stage
Where no one's left to dance?

I dream of another soul,
in another garment:
It burns, flickering back and forth
From timidity to hope,
Turning to flame, like alcohol, it departs
With no shadow, through the land,
Leaving gathered lilacs
On the table, as a souvenir.

Run, child, don't lament
Over poor Eurydice,
And roll your bronze hoop
Around the world with a stick,
As long as, at a quarter of a sound,
In reply to each step,
The earth roars in your ears
Both merrily and dryly.

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Sunday Brainy Quotes: Oscar Wilde

Oscar Wilde in 1882; via Wikipedia
Egoism vs Egotism vs Egocentrism

There is a widely spread misunderstanding of these three terms. Often they are used interchangeably thus a negative shadow has been cast over all of them. Egocentrism is a childish (nevertheless it could frequently be observed in adults behavior) state of mind in which one is unable to accurately assume or understand an opinion or perspective different from one's own; egotism is defined as the drive or tendency to overestimate one's own personality, qualities, and values; whereas egoism stands for the philosophical presumption of the profound importance of individualism usually opposed to the moral censure of self-interest supported by the more conservative and dogmatic parts of society. Therefore, the first and the second are somehow deviations from the clear perception of one's own place in the world, while the third is the acceptance of the personal rights that each individual embody. In that regard, egoism is to principally base your convictions on the belief that the most genuine and true source of knowledge for one is the individual's experience of world phenomena.

Of course, preoccupation exceptionally with one's own personality and beliefs could end up in egocentric or egotistic behavior. However, egoism is a precondition for, on the one hand, the recognition of the Other as an individual and thus as someone worthy of consideration, and on the other hand, for the inner drive for personal development and improvement. After all, the best that one could give to the world is his unique point of view and talents. Or, as Oscar Wilde might say – playing someone else role is boring, better play yourself!

"Be yourself; everyone else is already taken."

― Oscar Wilde

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Thoughts to reflect on: Hermann Hesse

Photo credit: newstatesman.com

The Steppenwolf

Called "the last romanticist", Hermann Hesse (2 July 1877 – 9 August 1962 ) made a major impact on 20th-century western literature and culture. Hesse inspired authors like Thomas Mann, Sam Shepard, Colin Wilson, and Timothy Leary, the composer Richard Strauss, the musician Carlos Santana and many more. In 1946, he received the Nobel Prize, of which he wasn't really enthusiastic, though. His works reflect upon the nature of the self, the search for meaning and authenticity, the complicated relation between the individual and the others, and the enigmatic nature of collective archetypes and unconsciousness. The German-Swiss writer was a true traveler in the universe inside us. A few people in the history of literature possessed such eloquence and abilities to represent so genuinely the depth of the inner world, emotions, and dreams of their characters. Hesse's studies of Eastern knowledge became a significant inspiration and theme in his novels, some of which are considered as the most refined and "true translations" of Eastern wisdom into the terms of Western culture. There was something of a cult of Hermann Hesse's "Magical theater" of the self. Rock bands, artists, and writers, part of the 60's counter-culture partly embraced his visionary and imaginative narratives, evidently without his approval or identification with any of them. Hermann Hesse has lived, especially in his late ages, a peculiarly secluded life. Notoriously, in front of his door in Switzerland, there was a sign saying "No Visitors".

Probably his most-known books are Demian, Steppenwolf, Siddhartha, and The Glass Bead Game. All of them enacting the psychological inner dramaturgy of the individual. Hermann Hesse's stories embody the timeless existential journey of one towards his destiny and mission in this world. He became one of the finest voices of the human condition, soul, and personality.

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10 quotes from one of the greatest American writers and philosophers of the 20th century

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Robert Pirsig

Robert M. Pirsig is the author of only two books - Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (1974) and Lila: An Inquiry into Morals (1991). Someone could say: Well, then what is so special about him? There were other incredible minds in the States and they were definitely more prolific writers. It could be regarded as impossible but inside these two books, Pirsig managed to say more than other writers in 30 volumes. He was able to synthesize the inconceivable number of theories, researches, and personal experiences that he had gone through during his long life in less than 1000 pages. And that is not because he had nothing more to say. Matter of fact, the biography of Robert Pirsig is quite interesting. He was a prodigy child who had an alleged IQ of 170 at the age of nine. Several years later he graduated high school at the age of 14. He studied Biochemistry, entered the U.S. Army, which brought him to South Korea and when he came back to the States he became a professor at the age of 30, teaching creative writing. At the age of 33, he was diagnosed with schizophrenia and was treated with electroconvulsive therapy on numerous occasions. One of his sons – Chris – who is a main character in his first book, got stabbed to death at the age of 22. And while all of that happened, Pirsig never stopped his ardent and vigorous researches into the essence of quality, metaphysics, truth, and existence in general.

Here are some of the pearls that crystallized inside his two books:

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On this date, more than six centuries ago...

Image credit: gettyimages.com

What Happened on April 17, 1387 and 1397

Geoffrey Chaucer is considered the greatest English poet before Shakespeare. He is also famous as one of the first scholars along with Dante Alighieri, Petrarch, and Desiderius Erasmus, to use vernacular language for writing his most renowned work – The Canterbury Tales. Chaucer was an important civil servant, diplomat, and courtier who was trusted by three successive kings – Edward III, Richard II, and Henry IV. However, history remembers him mostly with his poetic works, which embody a great variety of subject matter, genres, styles, and approaches towards the complex themes of the human condition, religion, and existence.

Canterbury Tales was written between 1387 and 1400. According to the scholars, the date when Chaucer's characters started their fictional pilgrimage was the 17th of April 1387. It was today, 634 years ago when one of the greatest journeys in the world of Literature began and it is still inspiring poets and artists from all around the globe. It could be a coincidence but ten years later, the same date (17.04.1397) was the first time that Geoffrey Chaucer publicly tells the Canterbury Tales at the court of King Richard II.

Sometimes fictional events could have even a greater impact upon human culture than historical ones. In that regard, factual and fictional worlds intertwine and together they influence human reality and the way our civilization progresses. Today, we celebrate one of these cases when a body of Literature changed our perception and had a great effect on our future activities.

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