There are so many compelling ideas in On Being’s Krista Tippett’s long interview with author and illustrator Maira Kalman, that we made a selection, with images from past posts….(Read or listen to the full interview here.)

It’s taken me these many years to understand that a human being can encompass very contradictory ideas and feelings at the exact same time. They’re not separate; they don’t even follow each other so much. They just live in you. For me, to clarify what I love, to do what’s amazing, to understand my confusion or my sorrow and to still continue to — the thing about it is that you persevere



Maira Kalman

On wandering

Sometimes, I’m spending too much time wandering around when I actually have work to do, but I always say that’s — “Oh, well, this must be the work that I need to do right now, before I do that other work.” 



Maira Kalman

On reading obituaries at the beginning of every day

“Maybe it is a way of trying to figure out, before the day begins, what is important. And I am curious about all the little things that make up a life.” — The Principles of Uncertainty

Megan Boyd, who created the flies for fly fishing her entire life and lived in a little village…So there she was, sitting at her bench 16 hours a day, and when she was invited to Buckingham Palace, she said she couldn’t go because she had to go to a dance in the village. And I thought, “Now, this woman is a genius.”

…that’s, once again, the perseverance of work, the insistence that you keep doing it, and you continue no matter what and through bad periods and better periods.



Maira Kalman

On trees

So walking and looking at trees really is one of the glories of the world, and we say “Rejoice” when we see these things.



Maira Kalman

On death

Who doesn’t [think about death]? Krista, who doesn’t? ….I’m always amazed if somebody says, “You think about death so much.” And I say, “What are you thinking about?” I mean [laughs] I can’t imagine.



Maira Kalman

On museums

I absolutely think that a museum is one of the deepest places of meditation that there could be, maybe even more than a library, because you’re looking. In a museum, you’re not reading — I mean, you’re reading a little bit, but you’re basically just wandering and looking. And once again, the function of the brain, what happens to the brain is very different than, I don’t know, than being in a supermarket — even though I love being in a supermarket. So wait a minute. I love supermarkets. I love to look at all the packaging. To me, that’s a little bit like a museum. But that’s a digression. I think that we have the opportunity to understand silence around us, and really looking, all the time. There’s always the opportunity. And there’s never a lack of things to look at, and there’s never a lack of time not to talk.

…If you approach it the right way and don’t trudge through too many things that you can’t stand, it really gives you a sense of inspiration and clarity in your life.

There’s always the opportunity. And there’s never a lack of things to look at, and there’s never a lack of time not to talk.


Maria Kalman

On not knowing

I joke about not knowing, but I think that as people get older, they tend to say, more clearly, “I really don’t know anything.” And of course, that isn’t completely true, but the only thing that I’m left with is, really, who do you love, and what do you love to do? I think that in the end we’re left with this sense of not knowing and striving to find the most-true place that you have in this lifetime, with people and with work. I don’t know what else there is.


…It’s a gift to be able to fall in love with small things


Thomas Loof for New York Magazine

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