Tag Archives: Maria Popova

The relationship between our present self and our past selves

Extract from interview with Maria Popova, author of the wonderful Brainpickings blog.

Krista TIPPETT:  You wrote somewhere, “We are a collage of our interests, our influences, our inspirations, all the fragmentary impressions we’ve collected by being alive and awake to the world. Who we are is simply a finely-curated catalogue of those.” Which brings the word “curation” — which I understand you’re not as fond of anymore — into this — into the answer of what it means to be human, that we curate our lives. How do you think your sense of what it means to be human, that grand question, has evolved? How would you start to talk about that?

Maria POPOVA: Hmm. I think much of it has shifted from an understanding that’s based on concreteness to an understanding that’s based on relational things. That this notion of not just who we are but who we are in relation to our past selves, the people around us, the culture that we came from, the culture that we live in, all the different lives we’ve had. And for me, certainly, I feel like I’ve had all these different lives. I grew up in a country that is pretty much the exact opposite of my life right now. I grew up having nothing, and then I sort of clawed my way up and out. And now I live in New York City. And I am able to afford my own life and live my own life without worrying about things that I worried about for many, many, many, many years. And it’s so strange how we’re able to carry forward this mystery of personal identity even when our present selves are so different from our future selves. . . and from our past selves most of all. And I think a lot about this question of, what is a person? I mean, how — am I the same person as my childhood self? And sure, we share the same body, but even that body is so different. It’s unrecognizably different. Our lives are so different. Our ideas and ideals are so different. And to me, this question of what it means to be human is always a question of elasticity of being. It’s never an arrival point, you know? (from here)

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The tedium of blossoming

Maria Popova: What was important for me, as a younger person, was figuring out ways to beat the school system at its own game and do really well in exams. I basically studied the mechanics of how tests work. I did all the reading, but I did it for the sake of feeling like I was doing well, rather than learning. And then there was a turning point, I can’t remember exactly when it was. I stopped caring about grades and the external reinforcement. I became interested in learning. Maybe it was a form of rebelliousness, I don’t know. I became interested in learning about things that I was not being taught in school. I did a lot of my own alternative reading, outside of the curriculum. And this transition from worrying about external reinforcement to personal learning and curiosity is how Brain Pickings was born. It happened only years later, but that’s where it all came from.

Interviewer: Was there a specific moment, or person, or book that sparked this rebellious learning, your turning point?
Maria Popova: I don’t believe in that “Eureka!” myth. Everything meaningful is incremental.
It’s a false prophet, this notion of the turning point or epiphany. I think of it like the blossoming of a flower. We are always interested in the flower, but not the tedium of the blossoming. But that process from bud to blossom is when things really happen. It may be less compelling. So all this goes to say, I don’t have a single turning point. But there was a cumulative push.

– See more at: http://www.dumbofeather.com/conversation/maria-popova-is-a-brain-picker/#sthash.avB0rWLH.dpuf

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