17th-century writer Rene Descartes is regarded as the father of modern philosophy and founder of rationalism. His famous catchphrase is a centerpiece of Western intellectual tradition: “I think, therefore I am.” Here’s what’s amusing and alarming about the man: He read almost nothing besides the Bible and the work of Catholic theologian Thomas Aquinas.
The word “abracadabra” is a spell that stage magicians say at the climax of their tricks: a catalyst that supposedly makes a rabbit materialize from a hat or an assistant disappear in a puff of smoke. It’s not real sorcery. It’s an illusion perpetrated by the magician’s hocus-pocus. But “abracadabra” has a little-known history, as an incantation real magicians used to generate authentic wizardry, that can be traced back to Gnostic magi of the second century.
In 1987, college freshman Mike Hayes was having trouble paying for his University of Illinois education. He appealed for help to famous newspaper columnist Bob Greene, who asked each of his many readers to send Hayes a penny. The response was tidal.
New York City’s Diamond District is home to more than 2,000 businesses that buy and sell jewelry. Through the years, many people have lost pieces of treasure here. Valuable bits of gold and gems have fallen off broken necklaces, earrings, watches, and other accessories.
Horror novelist Stephen King has sold more than 350 million books. When he was young and destitute, still honing his craft, his self-confidence was low. His breakthrough work was Carrie, about a teenage girl who develops telekinetic powers. When he was first writing that manuscript on an old manual typewriter, he got so discouraged he threw his first draft in the trashcan.
Walking in San Francisco, I passed Pacific Heights Health Club. The sign out front said, “Birthday suits tailored here.” It was a witty reference to the idea that working out at a gym helps people get their bodies in good shape. I’d like to interpret the message a different way, and apply it to you.
Director Michael Bay makes big, loud, fast, melodramatic action films, including Armageddon, Pearl Harbor, and the four Transformers movies. The critics hate him, but he’s unfazed. “I make movies for teenage boys,” he says. “Oh, dear, what a crime,” he adds sarcastically. I love that. He knows what he’s good at, and makes no apologies. Cop some of that attitude now.
In a competitive Japanese TV game show, 13 people had slabs of meat tied to their foreheads. They poked their heads up through holes in the floor of an elevated platform, where a hungry lizard was. But not one contestant stuck around when the lizard nibbled the meat; they all ducked down and fled. That was probably wise, though it meant the prize was unclaimed.
“There’s a way not to be broken that takes brokenness to find it,” writes Naomi Shihab Nye in her poem Cinco de Mayo. This describes your situation now. The bad news? You’re feeling a bit broken. The good news? It’s a special kind of brokenness, one that has a valuable secret you’ve not been ready to learn. Let yourself feel the full intensity of the brokenness; you discover a way to never be broken like this again.
“I am naughtiest of all,” wrote poet Emily Dickinson in a playful letter to Maggie Maher, dated October 1882. According to astrological omens, let that same declaration fly frequently from your lips next week. Invoke other variations on the theme of naughtiness, as well: “I’m exploring the frontiers of naughtiness” or “You need to be naughtier” or “Being naughty is my current spiritual practice.”