Five visionaries share their thoughts on what it takes to seize the day.
1. The Altruist: Karen Armstrong
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The former nun is the creator of the Charter for Compassion, whose signatories (Prince Hassan of Jordan, the Dalai Lama) fight extremism, hatred, and exploitation throughout the world.
"Sometimes you wake up at 3 A.M. when everything seems dark, and you think, "Life isn't fair. I've got too much to do. I'm too put-upon." It's a rat run of self-pity! But when you feel compassion, you dethrone yourself from the center of the world. Doing that has made me a more peaceful person."
2. The Doer: Kristine Tompkins
Courtesy of Kristine Tompkins
"The millions of species with whom we share the Earth have intrinsic value. We have to reach, if not perfect harmony between man and the natural world, at least a truce. I have a border collie-like personality -- I'm happiest with a job to do. I glaze over if things are going smoothly, and excel when faced with very big problems. You see something that needs to be changed? Jump out of your chair and put your shoulder to the wheel."
3. The Artist: Faith Ringgold
The Caldecott Honor winner is best known for her painted story quilts, which include "Dinner at Gertrude Stein's" and "Dancing at the Louvre."
"Back when I was starting out, someone at a party asked me what I did, and I said, 'I'm an artist.' And a friend of mine said, 'Faith, would you please stop telling people you're an artist? You're not an artist. You're an art teacher.' I thought: 'That's interesting that she thinks she can tell me who I am. I'm the one who determines when I'm an artist. And that's right here, right now.'"
4. The Individualist: Kay Ryan
Christina Koci Hernandez
The author of the 2005 poetry collection The Niagara River is the 16th Poet Laureate of the United States.
"I remember lying in bed as a young teenager and deciding to hypnotize myself by saying these words: 'Be what you are, be what you are, be what you are.' I said it hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of times, the intention being to protect me from what I felt was going to take me away from myself. And to this day I still say that when I think I'm trying to fit somebody else's expectations."
5. The Seeker: Stewart Brand
Founding editor of the Whole Earth Catalog and author of the Whole Earth Discipline, Brand is president of the Long Now Foundation, whose goal is to promote "slower/better" thinking as a counterpoint to today's "faster/cheaper" way of living.
"I'm a great believer in boredom as a motivator, particularly when things are going well and whatever it is you're doing, you can do in your sleep. Well, if that's how you feel, chances are, you are doing it in your sleep. So I try to notice when I'm getting bored, and I either let it build up, so I can feel motivated to haul off and do something weird, or respond to it right away. A combination of curiosity and boredom is what motivates me. Passion, I'm not so sure."