Figuring by Maria Popova

Apparently, Ralph Waldo Emerson fantasized about the merits of a pentagonal relationship with four of his closest friends as the ideal Platonic form of intimacy. Among his selected poly-platonic partners would be revolutionary Margaret Fuller, astronomer Caroline Herschel, poet and transcendentalist Samuel Ward, and his wife, Anna Baker Ward, with whom Margaret Fuller and Emerson himself had also fallen, at different times, in love. Reading this book and discovering her for the first time, I am stealing one of Emerson’s selections and adding her to my own theoretical pentagon: Margaret Fuller, a kindred spirit.

I may have heard her name before but had not, until now, realized how much of my own life I see in Fuller’s. A writer, a deeply curious mind, a spiritual seeker with a limitless capacity for love and connection; fervently driven with endless ambition, both in her career and in her pursuit of “the All” (pdf); bisexual with an insatiable yet innocent infatuation with the loftiest order of partnership and marriage of intellect; a pioneer and host of salons wherein the disenfranchised and formally-uneducated debated the meaning of life alongside thinkers like Thoreau… a woman after my own heart!

Needless to say, next on the TBR list is Woman in the Nineteenth Century.

But as long as we’re talking about this fictitious pentagon across time and space, Maria Popova, author of this delicate and complex volume and the genius-curator behind Brain Pickings, is also among my picks. I am still trying to figure out how to be her when I grow up, though am not sure I have as many hours on my side with which to do all that reading. (One can dream.)

The other two, for me, ‘case you’re wondering, would be Rainier Maria Rilke and Hafiz, the Sufi mystic and OG lover of my soul.

Weird protopolyamory musings aside, READ THIS BOOK. That is, if you’re at all interested in watching genius unfold “like a lotus with countless petals” as Popova masterfully weaves astronomy with poetry, with history, with politics, and with romance, all in one thrilling narrative… and then, as if that wasn’t enough, distills it into wisdom we can all use for living a life of meaning.

Highly, highly recommended.

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