Your life’s mission

Ask first: where is the core of my passion?  When you have an answer in which you feel some confidence, cultivate the creation that evolves from your inspiration.  Put your all into realizing your vision, knowing all the while that it will not take shape as in the purity of your imagination, but will be transformed, in small ways or perhaps profoundly, by your own growth and by the world into which it seeks its place. 

This is as near as you might come to knowing your life’s mission. 

— Josh Mitteldorf


What anyone who wants to work deserves

30 million people out of work.
6 million unfilled jobs.
If you don’t find a job, you don’t deserve to live.

What kind of culture throws people away like this?  In the 21st Century, every year is 1929.

Where did we get the idea that if you’re not working it’s your own fault?  Maybe it’s what we have been taught since we were very young.

We don’t have to put up with this.   The politicians don’t get to decide what the issues are.  Demand a full employment economy.  Demand attractive, well-paying jobs, doing meaningful work in safe conditions.  This is not impossible or unrealistic or even difficult.  It’s no less than we deserve.

We’re small, so we have to work together

A billion years before the first multi-celled life, microbes and bacteria learned to cooperate on a large scale.  Biofilms protect colonies of bacteria and help them to explore their environment more efficiently, seeking resources.  Signals like nerve impulses help coordinate the bacteria’s collective behavior.

The most dramatic example is the way amoebas live and compete as independent cells until the colony is threatened.  Then they pull together to form a “fruiting body”.  The great majority of cells sacrifice their legacy so that a few at the head can form spores that survive into the future.

High magnification of the slime mold Physarum polycephalum shows the cytoplasm pumping furiously through its huge single cell (left). This cytoplasmic streaming allows the slime mold to push forward toward nutrients and potentially carpet a surface (right).

The Beautiful Intelligence of Microbes, on Aeon

Sincere Appreciation

It’s always worth taking the trouble to praise people.
— My fortune cookie, today

Any flattering remark, if repeated too often, will always wear thin in the end and become as wounding as any insult.
– José Saramago, born this day in 1922

Apprenez que tout flatteur vit aux dépens de celui qui l’écoute.
— Jean de la Fontaine (1621-1695)

Between flattery and admiration there often flows a river of contempt.
Minna Antrim (1861-1950)

Listening, not imitation, may be the sincerest form of flattery.
Dr Joyce Brothers

Most people are much more able to take criticism to heart than to hear words of support or appreciation.  It’s a good rule to offer ten instances of the latter for every one of the former that you utter. — Harville Hendrix

Some of us are surrounded by destructive people who tell us we’re worthless when we’re endlessly valuable, that we’re stupid when we’re smart, that we’re failing even when we succeed. But the opposite of people who drag you down isn’t people who build you up and butter you up. It’s equals who are generous but keep you accountable, true mirrors who reflect back who you are and what you are doing. — Rebecca Solnit


I, too, dislike it: there are things that are important beyond all
this fiddle.
Reading it, however, with a perfect contempt for it, one
discovers in
it after all, a place for the genuine.
Hands that can grasp, eyes
that can dilate, hair that can rise
if it must, these things are important not because a

high-sounding interpretation can be put upon them but because
they are
useful. When they become so derivative as to become
the same thing may be said for all of us, that we
do not admire what
we cannot understand: the bat
holding on upside down or in quest of something to

eat, elephants pushing, a wild horse taking a roll, a tireless wolf
a tree, the immovable critic twitching his skin like a horse that
feels a
flea, the base-
ball fan, the statistician–
nor is it valid
to discriminate against ‘business documents and

school-books’1; all these phenomena are important. One must
make a distinction
however: when dragged into prominence by half poets, the
result is not poetry,
nor till the poets among us can be
‘literalists of
the imagination’2–above
insolence and triviality and can present

for inspection, ‘imaginary gardens with real toads in them’3, shall
we have
it. In the meantime, if you demand on the one hand,
the raw material of poetry in
all its rawness and
that which is on the other hand
genuine, you are interested in poetry.

—Marianne Moore, born this day in 1887


1. (Where the boundary between prose and poetry lies I shall never be able to understand. The question is raised in manuals of style, yet the answer to it lies beyond me. Poetry is verse: prose is not verse. Or else poetry is everything with the exception of business documents and school books.)
— from diary of Tolstoy

2. From a comment by W. B. Yeats about William Blake: “The limitation of his view was from the very intensity of his vision; he was a too literal realist of imagination, as others are of nature; and because he believed that the figures seen by the mind’s eye, when exalted by inspiration, were ‘eternal existences,’ symbols of divine essences, he hated every grace of style that might obscure their lineaments.” Source

3. One of the most striking moments in the poem is the phrase “imaginary gardens with real toads in them,” a formulation Moore sets off with quotation marks even though, as far as I know, no one has ever identified a source. I suspect that Moore invented the image but, finding it a little too pat or studied, tempered and complicated her line by pretending it was a quotation. But who knows?
Robert Pinsky

Sita Sings the Blues

“I’d rather see you dead little girl than to be with another man.”
— The Beatles (Rubber Soul, 1965)

To John Lennon fifty years ago, this kind of jealousy was not a healthy love.  To our present-day sensibilities, the attitude sounds like a depraved contorted sentiment that could never be confused with “love”. Today, we can no longer relate to Frank Stockton’s short story The Lady or the Tiger (1892).

Classic plots are rooted in jealous rage (Zeus’s wife HeraOthelloThe Winter’s Tale, The Kreutzer Sonata).  Most incomprehensible and infuriating to us is the ancient practice of punishing women who have been taken against their will.  Such is the plot of the ancient Hindu tale of Rama and Sita, which has been retold with variations for each generation.

Nina Paley brings her modern, feminist sensibility to the Ramayana, complete with music by Rachmaninoff and Irving Berlin.   Sita Sings the Blues


For those of you who are accustomed to using the Daily Inspiration for a two-minute break from your work, I apologize for stealing 80 minutes from your workday. I know you have not regretted the time. –JJM

Rally for Democracy

On Saturday in Barcelona, hundreds of thousands of protesters demanded release of  their jailed representatives.

Background: There is a separatist movement in Catalonia, the Northeastern province of Spain (capital=Barcelona).  The central Spanish government has declared the movement illegal and jailed the elected people’s representatives to their provincial government.

Eight former members of Catalonia’s dissolved Cabinet and two activists are in jail while Spanish authorities investigate their alleged roles in promoting an illegal declaration of independence last month in violation of Spain’s Constitution.
WaPo article



Deep Background: The machinery of democracy are being undermined, including independent news services,  voting mechanics, and structures of government.  Unless we take to the streets, we will certainly lose what is left of our democracy.  Whether for or against independence, the Catalan people are lighting the way for us.