A Word for Living Creatures

- beginning with a line from Paul Celan's "The Meridian"
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What is the optimal balance between social immersion and creative solitude? Why does interpersonal conflict so often coincide with innovation? Looking at pairs allows us to grapple with these questions, which are as basic to the human experience as the push and pull of love itself. As a culture, we’ve long been preoccupied with romance. But we should also take seriously something just as important, but long overlooked — creative intimacy.

Joshua Wolf Shenk, author of Powers of Two: Finding the Essence of Innovation in Creative Pairs, considers the end of the sole genius myth in a New York Times op-ed. (Hemingway, of course, would disagree – in his short and spectacular 1954 Nobel Prize acceptance speech, he spoke to the creative value of working alone.)

A side observation: The op-ed seems to be the new-old book trailer. Shenk recently wrote a similar piece for The Atlantic

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become stone
let the waves batter your ears
until they no longer carry his name

breathe in  breathe out

every breath finds a way

kill the other girl
the fat one  the scarecrow

all ribs and hip bones
already smiling

their bleached smile
kill them  kill them both

every breath finds a way out

every breath turns its back  turns its back
turns its back on it

the first is the hardest
breathe in  breathe out

desire threaded through 
everything  snarling, dead-end knots

every breath

every turn and back to

the rotten tooth
puffy face

turns its back  turns its back
turns it  stone  every breath 
finds a way out

tastefullyoffensive: ”My cat sleeps like he’s been shot.” -InfiniteGist

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When God becomes more important than anything, decisions are viewed differently. One decision may be heartbreaking, heart-wrenching, heart-hurting, but if it’s the right decision, it’s made. It may take a few months to make it, but it will be made. The heartbreak will be endured because you are no longer looking to serve yourself and your desires but the God who made you, loves you, and calls you His own.

When God becomes more important than anything, you begin to live differently. You start to wonder what the wisest course of action is. You try to find it out. You start to put your trust in a plan you can’t see because you know that it is for your good, and you are tired, oh, so tired, of trying to make the good happen. Every time you do, it blows up in your face, and you’re left with more broken pieces. You wonder if you can be put back together again. You wonder if you can come back this time. Maybe God’s done with you. After all, you ignored Him. You ignored what was right and good and chose your own way. You did that not once but many times over many months. How can God ever take you back when you were such a willfully disobedient child?

He somehow does even though you don’t understand how or why. You just remember the story of the lost son. You remember him coming home. You think of the father who looked for him and looked for him and looked for him, and, when he was just a speck on the horizon, the father sprinted toward him. Puffs of dust followed his every footstep. He reached his son, enveloped him in a bear hug, and whispered in his ear, “Welcome home, my son, my beloved.”

That is you. That is your story when God becomes more important than anything. Maybe you did wallow with the pigs. Maybe you did spend your inheritance on vain pursuits, but here’s the secret: your real inheritance isn’t money. Your inheritance is a person, the very person who will run toward you and swing you into his arms and forgive you if you will but turn and start toward him again.

lucifurfluffypants: Do you mind? I’m trying to play here.

Perhaps the best-named cat ever. Ever.

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The French have all kinds of worthwhile ideas on larger matters. This occurred to me recently when I was strolling through my museum-like neighborhood in central Paris, and realized there were — I kid you not — seven bookstores within a 10-minute walk of my apartment. Granted, I live in a bookish area. But still: Do the French know something about the book business that we Americans don’t?


France … has just unanimously passed a so-called anti-Amazon law, which says online sellers can’t offer free shipping on discounted books. (“It will be either cheese or dessert, not both at once,” a French commentator explained.) The new measure is part of France’s effort to promote “biblio-diversity” and help independent bookstores compete.


The French secret is deeply un-American: fixed book prices. Its 1981 “Lang law,” named after former Culture Minister Jack Lang, says that no seller can offer more than 5 percent off the cover price of new books. That means a book costs more or less the same wherever you buy it in France, even online. The Lang law was designed to make sure France continues to have lots of different books, publishers and booksellers.


What underlies France’s book laws isn’t just an economic position — it’s also a worldview. Quite simply, the French treat books as special. Some 70 percent of French people said they read at least one book last year; the average among French readers was 15 books. Readers say they trust books far more than any other medium, including newspapers and TV. The French government classifies books as an “essential good,” along with electricity, bread and water.

Amidst America’s Amazon-drama, NYT’s Pamela Druckerman reflects on what the book world can learn from the French.

Still, one has to wonder whether the solution to one monopoly (the commercial) can ever be another (the governmental), and whether that’s truly in the public interest – the “public,” of course, being first and foremost readers themselves. There’s something hypocritical about the proposition that the books are an “essential good” on par with electricity – what government would ever price-fix electricity and deny its citizen the most affordable electricity possible?

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We live in an age of sound bites, and there is something about learning how to speak effectively and in small ways that is important. Say big things in small ways.

NPR creative director Liz Danzico on The Great Discontent. Pair with Neil deGrasse Tyson on the art of the soundbite

Legendary anthropologist Margaret Mead once wrote:

If one cannot state a matter clearly enough so that even an intelligent twelve-year-old can understand it, one should remain within the cloistered walls of the university and laboratory until one gets a better grasp of one’s subject matter.

Previous TGD interviews have included Debbie MillmanAustin KleonJohn Maeda, and yours truly.

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Meta. Nice.

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Meet leaping cat.

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