Maria Popova: Against Interpretation

Five on Transition: Inspired by the shifting of seasons as spring arrives, we asked five guests to organize a series of works from our online collection, responding to the theme of transition. Please welcome writer and critic Maria Popova, the mind behind the ever-popular “cross-disciplinary LEGO treasure chest”


Yva (Else Simon), Untitled, 1929

Yva (Else Simon), Untitled, 1929

“It’s only when the heart begins to beat wildly and without pattern — when it begins to realize its boundlessness — that its newly adamant pulse bangs on the walls of its cage and is bruised by its enclosure.”

From Kay Larsen’s Where the Heart Beats: John Cage, Zen Buddhism, and the Inner Life of Artists



Agnes Martin, Untitled #7, 1998

Agnes Martin, Untitled #7, 1998

“How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.”

From Annie Dillard’s The Writing Life



Berenice Abbott, Manhattan Bridge: Looking Up, 1936

Berenice Abbott, Manhattan Bridge: Looking Up, 1936

“A poem compresses much in a small space and adds music, thus heightening its meaning. The city is like poetry: it compresses all life, all races and breeds, into a small island and adds music and the accompaniment of internal engines. The island of Manhattan is without any doubt the greatest human concentrate on Earth, the poem whose magic is comprehensible to millions of permanent residents but whose full meaning will always remain elusive.”

From E. B. White’s Here Is New York


Maria Popova is the founder and editor of Brain Pickings, an inventory of cross-disciplinary interestingness spanning art, science, design, history, philosophy, psychology, and more. She has written for Wired U.K. Edition, The Atlantic, Nieman Journalism Lab, the New York Times, Smithsonian Magazine, and Design Observer, among others, and is a Massachusetts Institute of Technology fellow. She is on Twitter as @brainpicker.

View the Five on Transition series here.

Comments (1)

Leave a comment

Please tell us what you think. We really love conversation, and we’re happy to entertain dissenting opinions. Just no name-calling, personal attacks, slurs, threats, spam, and the like, please. Those ones we reserve the right to remove.


Sign Up

Join our newsletter for infrequent updates on new posts and Open Space events.
  • Required, will not be published