“Maria Popova” sounds like a pseudonym, but it isn’t. It is the name of a buzz curator, a zeitgeist surfer, with an astonishing breadth and depth of interest. No matter what you are writing about, you should sign up for the BrainPickings.org newsletter, and at least scan the headlines once a week. Why? Well, we live in a bitstorm, and the stuff is coming at us so fast and thick that there is no way to absorb it unfiltered. And where is a trustworthy filter? I don’t think it’s my Facebook stream, my Twitter feed, or even LinkedIn. G+ is way too cluttered. Where to turn? There is good stuff coming over the interwebs, but it is not clearly labeled. On BrainPickings.org, you can find a lot–more than I can handle, still–and it is clearly labeled. In a book review, Popova explains a bit:
“The present education system is the trampling of the herd,” legendary architect Frank Lloyd Wright lamented in 1956. Half a century later, I started Brain Pickings in large part out of frustration and disappointment with my trampling experience of our culturally fetishized “Ivy League education.” I found myself intellectually and creatively unstimulated by the industrialized model of the large lecture hall, the PowerPoint presentations, the standardized tests assessing my rote memorization of facts rather than my ability to transmute that factual knowledge into a pattern-recognition mechanism that connects different disciplines to cultivate wisdom about how the world works and a moral lens on how it shouldwork. So Brain Pickings became the record of my alternative learning, of that cross-disciplinary curiosity that took me from art to psychology to history to science, by way of the myriad pieces of knowledge I discovered — and connected — on my own. I didn’t live up to the entrepreneurial ideal of the college drop-out and begrudgingly graduated “with honors,” but refused to go to my own graduation and decided never to go back to school. Years later, I’ve learned more in the course of writing and researching the thousands of articles to date than in all the years of my formal education combined.
So, in 2012, when I found out that writer Kio Stark was crowdfunding a book that would serve as a manifesto for learning outside formal education, I eagerly chipped in. Now, Don’t Go Back to School: A Handbook for Learning Anything is out and is everything I could’ve wished for when I was in college, an essential piece of cultural literacy, at once tantalizing and practically grounded assurance that success doesn’t lie at the end of a single highway but is sprinkled along a thousand alternative paths.
Go subscribe. Reading Brain Pickings will improve your writing. Enjoy!