The measure of growth is not how much we have changed, but how harmoniously we have integrated our changes with all the selves we have been — those vessels of personhood stacked within the current self like Russian nesting dolls, not to be outgrown but to be tenderly incorporated.
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The unfolding of life does more than fray our bodies with entropy — it softens our spirit, blunting the edge of vanity and broadening the aperture of beauty, so that we become both more ourselves and more unselved, awake to the felicitous interdependence of the world.
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“The perilous time for the most highly gifted is not youth,” the visionary Elizabeth Peabody, who coined the term transcendentalism, wrote in her timeless admonition against the trap of complacency.
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It may be that creativity is just the name we give to how we awaken ourselves from the slumber of near-living.
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“In old age we should wish still to have passions strong enough to prevent us turning in on ourselves,” Simone de Beauvoir wrote as she considered how to keep life from becoming a parody of itself, while across the English Channel the ever-sagacious Bertrand Russell was offering his prescription
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Benjamin Spock’s The Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care, which was published in 1946 and sold nearly 50 million copies in the author’s lifetime, sparked the formation of the currently enormous industry advising parents of little ones.
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“For old people,” Ursula K. Le Guin wrote in her sublime meditation on aging and what beauty really means, “beauty doesn’t come free with the hormones, the way it does for the young… It has to do with who the person is.
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“Our emotional life maps our incompleteness,” philosopher Martha Nussbaum wrote in her luminous letter of advice to the young. “A creature without any needs would never have reasons for fear, or grief, or hope, or anger.
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