Maria Popova Quotes
“When people tell you who they are, Maya Angelou famously advised, believe them. Just as importantly, however, when people try to tell you who you are, don’t believe them. You are the only custodian of your own integrity, and the assumptions made by those that misunderstand who you are and what you stand for reveal a great deal about them and absolutely nothing about you.”
“The richest relationships are often those that don’t fit neatly into the preconceived slots we have made for the archetypes we imagine would populate our lives—the friend, the lover, the parent, the sibling, the mentor, the muse. We meet people who belong to no single slot, who figure into multiple categories at different times and in different magnitudes. We then must either stretch ourselves to create new slots shaped after these singular relationships, enduring the growing pains of self-expansion, or petrify.”
“Lives interweave with other lives, and out of the tapestry arise hints at answers to questions that raze to the bone of life: What are the building blocks of character, of contentment, of lasting achievement? How does a person come into self-possession and sovereignty of mind against the tide of convention and unreasoning collectivism? Does genius suffice for happiness, does distinction, does love?”
“We know from the now-iconic 1970s Good Samaritan study that the single greatest predictor of uncaring, unkind, and uncompassionate behavior, even among people who have devoted their lives to the welfare of others, is a perceived lack of time — a feeling of being rushed. The sense of urgency seems to consume all of our other concerns — it is the razor’s blade that severs our connection to anything outside ourselves, anything beyond the task at hand, and turns our laser-sharp focus of concern onto the the immediacy of the self alone.”
“But here’s the thing about self-comparison: In addition to making you vacate your own experience, your own soul, your own life, in its extreme it breeds resignation. If we constantly feel that there is something more to be had — something that’s available to those with a certain advantage in life, but which remains out of reach for us — we come to feel helpless. And the most toxic byproduct of this helpless resignation is cynicism — that terrible habit of mind and orientation of spirit in which, out of hopelessness for our own situation, we grow embittered about how things are and about what’s possible in the world. Cynicism is a poverty of curiosity and imagination and ambition.”
“At watershed moments of upheaval and transformation, we anticipate with terror the absence of the familiar parts of life and of ourselves that are being washed away by the current of change. But we fail to envision the unfamiliar gladness and gratifications the new tide would bring, the unfathomed presences, for our imaginations are bounded by our experience. The unknown awakens in us a reptilian dread that plays out with the same ferocity on scales personal, societal, and civilizational, whether triggered by a new life-chapter or a new political regime or a new world order.”
“Even the farthest seers can't bend their gaze beyond their era's horizon of possibility, but the horizon shifts with each incremental revolution as the human mind peers outward to take in nature, then turns inward to question its own givens. We sieve the world through the mesh of these certitudes, tautened by nature and culture, but every once in a while—whether by accident or conscious effort—the wire loosens and the kernel of revolution slips through.”
“Those accustomed to hard work and self-propulsion, who have risen to the zenith of accomplishment by force of will and magnitude of effort, are most susceptible to the supreme self-damnation of human life—the belief that love is something to be earned by striving rather than something that comes unbidden like a shepherd's song on a summer evening in the mountains of Bulgaria.”
“Beyond any human lifetime, and often within it, what is recorded is what is remembered, the records gradually displacing the actuality of lived events. And what is recorded is a fraction of what is thought, felt, acted out, lived - a fraction at best edited by the very act of its selection, at worst warped by rationalization or fictionalized by a deliberate retelling of reality.”
- Born: in Sofia, Bulgaria.
- Description: Maria Popova is a reader and a writer, and writes about what she reads on Brain Pickings (brainpickings.org), which is included in the Library of Congress permanent digital archive of culturally valuable materials. She hosts The Universe in Verse—an annual charitable celebration of science through poetry—at the interdisciplinary cultural center Pioneer Works in Brooklyn.