For many years I have been an avid reader of Maria Popova’s learned articles. She is a gifted writer and created Brain Pickings in 2006 to cover such diverse topics as literature, philosophy, science and art. Since 2012 Brain Pickings has had the honour of being included in the Library of Congress permanent web archive.

In one recent article readers were introduced to the wonderful poet Marie Howe and her poem ‘Singularity’. Inspired by Stephen Hawking’s work, the poem was written to a short deadline; a daunting undertaking for someone whose creations are often years in the making.

The incredible and striking poem would not leave me and I hope you find it equally as thought-provoking. Below the poem is a video with an explanation and reading of ‘Singularity’.


by Marie Howe

          (after Stephen Hawking)

Do you sometimes want to wake up to the singularity
we once were?

so compact nobody
needed a bed, or food or money —

nobody hiding in the school bathroom
or home alone

pulling open the drawer
where the pills are kept.

For every atom belonging to me as good
Belongs to you.

There was no   Nature.    No
them.   No tests

to determine if the elephant
grieves her calf    or if

the coral reef feels pain.    Trashed
oceans don’t speak English or Farsi or French;

would that we could wake up   to what we were
— when we were ocean    and before that

to when sky was earth, and animal was energy, and rock
liquid and stars were space and space was not

at all — nothing

before we came to believe humans were so important
before this awful loneliness.

Can molecules recall it?
what once was?    before anything happened?

No I, no We, no one. No was
No verb      no noun
only a tiny tiny dot brimming with

is is is is is

All   everything   home

Finally, I want to thank everyone for the beautiful and thoughtful comments on my previous post. Owing to a viral infection morphing into a nasty and debilitating chest infection I, along with the whole family, are unfortunately ill. I will reply when possible and return fully to blogging when better.

98 thoughts on “SINGULARITY

  1. Reblogged this on quirkywritingcorner and commented:
    I enjoyed the video that came with this. I always like hearing the poet read their poetry. It helps me to get a better grasp on it. I also loved her red hair. That gave me an idea for a short story character. And don’t worry, I still believe God created everything.

    1. Thank you so much for sharing, Connie! 😀 Marie Howe’s reading of the poem is incredible and definitely makes it more relatable! How exciting that you’ve been inspired to create a character for a short story and I can’t wait to hear more on this!

  2. hilarymb

    Hi Annika – I sincerely hope you’ve recovered now. It’s an amazing poem – so thank you for posting … I perhaps now understand what ‘singularity’ is (or was) … where we came from … stuffed into that singular ‘???’ – wonderful post.

    Happy New Year and all the best for 2019 – cheers Hilary

    1. Hilary, I know exactly what you mean about understanding the ‘singularity’ concept, one moment you have it in all its clarity, the next is disappears … rather illusive but infectious idea! So wonderful you enjoyed the post & poem!

      Thank you so much for your comment and kind wishes, we are all much better and it’s a joy to be up and out & about!

      Wishing you a brilliant 2019 filled with joy and adventure! xx

  3. I’ve heard about Maria Popava and Brainpickings now and again over the years. Singularity seems such an ironic word to title her poem – for one, everything in this world is interconnected and every being and molecule relies on each other to see another day. Then again, though we are all so interconnected, so many of us feel so alone…and surely someplace somewhere there is a single atom floating around trying to latch on to another.
    Hope you get well soon from your illness, and your family recovers too. It sounds nasty and the longer an infection, the more it wears you down. Plenty of rest for you 🙂

    1. Mabel, I couldn’t agree more, ‘ everything in this world is interconnected ‘. It is mind blowing to our complex but limited minds. How true also that in spite of this interconnectedness there is still sadly so much loneliness … and I am touched by the image of the single atom all by its self.

      Overall, I must admit that I love the title which I feel goes well with the ” Black hole” theory Stephen Hawkings became so known and from which the poem is named. Whilst reading about the theory I feel moments of clarity, however this poem brings wonderful enlightenment to the subject, I feel.

      Thank you so much for your well wishes, warm understanding and care. We are all much better but it has taken a time to get there! It’s a joy to be getting back to normal. The other day I even attended a media launch for the county book festival and met so many amazing and inspiring authors! Hope you’re having a lovely week! 😀🌺

      1. The black hole theory is a phenomenal one, and Stephen Hawking showed us some amazing work. I think loneliness is something we’ll all feel at some point, and there’s the fact you can actually feel lonely in a roomful of people.

        Hope you get even better soon, Annika. Sounds like you are right on track. This week’s been treating me okay. Excited for the year ahead 😀

    1. Brigid, I feel your frustration at a comment disappearing … so annoying when this happens! Many thanks for writing again (I did check spam and it wasn’t there!) So glad you liked the poem and a delight to share here. Hope you’re having a lovely start to 2019 and thank you, we are much better, although a little bit to go until totally back to normal. Wishing you good health and happiness. hugs xx

  4. best wishes for a speedy recovery Annika. yes, i’m a great follower of Brain Pickings. i often share Maria Popova’s posts. every newsletter is inspiring. fabulous. sending healing thoughts your way x

    1. Lovely to come across another fan of Maria Popova’s work … there is nobody doing anything quite like it. As you say, her articles are inspiring and always lead me to new books, research further … this continual learning is wonderful! Thank you so much for your healing thoughts, Libby, that means a lot to me. I’m slowly getting there but this has been a particularly debilitating infections which seems to be hitting many in the country hard.

  5. Oh no, Annika… I’m so sorry you and your family were all sick. Respiratory issues are so dangerous and the effects can last such a long time. I hope everyone is better now.
    Thank you for taking time to do this lovely post, especially in those circumstances. The poem is a beautiful choice to share. May every day from now on be filled with health and happiness. Hugs on the wing!

    1. Teagan, thank you so much for your lovely comment and such beautiful wishes … health and happiness it is! 😀 You are right that respiratory illnesses are serious and we are all better, but for my mother and I it will take a bit longer to normal strength. It is so exciting to be out and about though and yesterday managed to go to Book Festival launch event which was fantastic!

      I’m so glad you enjoyed the poem … I had read it before the end of 2018 and saved it to post sometime; this was the perfect opportunity and I am so happy to have shared it here.

      hugs, my friend! xx

  6. Mike

    Very intriguing post Annika, and love the poem I have heard about the theory that the atoms of which we consist having been continually recycled over time and will continue to be so once we have gone. Not sure it was Stephen Hawking though. I find it quite a reassuring thought that we are actually as one with the universe and that I am made up of a finite number of atoms which have been doing the rounds for billions of years and will continue to do so long after I am gone. I suppose that is a sort of life after death in a way, depending on your beliefs.

    Hope you are also beginning to feel better.


    1. Wow! Mike, thank you so much for your profound comment and insight … I am moved by the thought and reassurance of ‘we are actually as one with the universe and that I am made up of a finite number of atoms which have been doing the rounds for billions of years and will continue to do so’. Beautifully written and definitely comforting in a way. You add another dimensions to the poem and discussion here … thank you so much!

  7. I hope you and your family are recovering from your illnesses–being sick is never fun, and it always seems like an eternity to get better. A wonderful poem–if deep and a bit mind-bending. Still beautiful, though!

    1. Julie, mind-bending is definitely the word for Marie’s poem … but it’s good for the mind to get a workout! 😀 It’s deeply complex but yet wonderfully accessible, I find. Oh yes, it definitely feels like an eternity when unwell and this bug is particularly tenacious – I’m much better but lingeringly, annoyingly fatigued! Here’s to warm Spring days! xx🌺🌸

    1. Janice, I hope you’ve had a lovely Christmas and New Year! 😀 Thank you so much for your warm wishes and so glad you enjoyed the poem … not my usual kind of post but I very much wanted to share it here. xx

      1. Hope you enjoyed the holidays too, Annika and that you are back to good health. My husband has a viral cold and cough now. I’m trying to stay healthy while I take care of him. 😘🤗

    1. Vashti, I’m so glad you had a chance to watch the video as well since Marie’s thoughts regarding the poem and her reading are amazing … from my very first sight of her poem I knew it was one I wanted to share here.

  8. First, Annika, sorry about the bug. It’s no fun. And yes, I really like Singularity. I think we all pine for simplicity at times. From thence we came, the stuff that stars are made of, and to them we will return. Hope your bug goes away, soon. –Curt

    1. Curt, beautiful succinct summary of Marie’s poem and I too find the deep simplicity reassuring and comforting … it instantly stilled my hectic mind. As for this bug – I wish it would go straight back to the stars and miss us! I’m much better thank you and nope, no fun at all! There’s nothing like being ill to make one appreciate the simpler normal things in life, though!

  9. First of all, get well wishes to you and your family. Chest infections are simply awful. This poem and video are just gorgeous. I was swept away and had to re-read. As Marie Howe says, she was just “talking” to us. I agree in that I have many conversations with my readers. One-sided conversations until someone responds to a post and continues to speak with me. In a nutshell, blogging is simply conversations with my readers. Writing simply comes naturally when we approach it that way. Joy, peace and good health in 2019.

    1. Mary Ann, I am very touched about your thoughts on writing and blogging, which is ‘simply conversations with my readers’. It is in these conversations where the magic occurs, thoughts, ideas reach out, transform us, inspire us, bring happiness, sharing difficulties. Marie’s poem struck me deeply and I knew immediately that I wanted to share it here … and am thoroughly enjoying the ensuing discussion. A discussion the modern world has enabled in many different formats.

      Thank you so much for your warm wishes to us all … that means so much to me. This is the worst chest infection I have had in many years and was surprised/annoyed how debilitating it made me … slowly getting back normal! Hope you’re having a terrific start to 2019. xx🌺🌸

      1. Chest infections/bronchitis/pneumonia are all horrible and take months to recover from too. Hoping you are on the mend now. I am beginning rehearsals with Syracuse Chorale tonight and love one of the new pieces we are learning: Palmeri, Misatango. He is an Argentinian composer and this is a tango Mass with great rhythms. We just had a lovely visit with our daughter and her friend.

          1. The Misatango has some tricky spots, but I have learned passively for weeks now. Suddenly last night, Dr. Mary Ann was called upon to offer her expertise in German for Beethoven’s Ninth. Didn’t know I was going to be asked either. Singing in German is easy for me and probably for you too. Thanks for such a lovely comment. We had a great first rehearsal and picked up new singers.

            1. The German probably wouldn’t be difficult … now as to the singing!! That is another matter! Although oddly enough is easier in Swedish or German for my voice but I’ve never been very good (alas).

              1. Sustained high A notes for sopranos is difficult. I can do them lightly but Beethoven offers little relief. Maybe I shall have to simply move my mouth and let nothing come out!? I used to sing in German with my classes all the time too. Beethoven’s Ninth is tough for me as far as notes in the soprano line.

  10. Sorry to hear, Annika, you and your family are ill and hope that soon you will be back to normal.
    I enjoyed reading the poem and listening to the author read it. It’s a very powerful, thought provoking poem. We need those sometimes, don’t we?
    Happy, Happy New Year. 🙂

    1. Carol, how true that at times we hunger for this type of literature, poetry! The words seemed to take on their own power as she was reading the poem, striking right to the soul! We are all getting back to normal, at varying tempos though! Wishing you a wonderful 2019 and always a delight to read your posts and comments. hugs xx

      1. David, I saw your warm comment whilst still so poorly when coughing was making breathing difficult … I honestly started to breathe calmer when reading your words, imagining myself better … thank you so much.

    1. Janice, I have so enjoyed sharing the Marie’s poem here and reading all the comments about it. Thank you so much for reading and your comment and lovely flowers! Definitely on the road to recovery, although not as speedy as I would like! Take care. x

  11. I haven’t been blogging for a few weeks and missed that you’ve been sick. I’m back and wrote a little about it at my blog today.

    I sure hope that you are seeing improvement in your health and that you and your family find good health and blessings from here on out.

    P.S. Thank you for sharing that lovely and deep poem.

    1. Lori, so sorry to read about your illness during Christmas and popping over to write a bit there. At least I had the chance to enjoy a wonderful Christmas … this came just with the New Year. We are all definitely better, my husband and son now fully well, I am up and about and even had the excitement of going to the shops yesterday, my first outing in two weeks!

      Wishing you a healthy and happy New Year … with no more fridge hassles! hugs xx

    1. Jacqui, Marie has an exquisite skill in using the minimal amount of words to describe the most momentous of thoughts – it’s wonderfully liberating and freeing. If we can keep those feelings even with us fleetingly I feel it will stay with us.

  12. Lovely and poignant poem. Thanks for sharing.

    I took a few weeks off to be with family (and to get us all through a horrible illness), so I had no idea you were under the weather. Wishing you a speedy recovery.

    1. Staci, as you can tell, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed sharing Marie’s poem here and knew many would find it equally striking and inspiring.

      I was actually taking a blogging break before Christmas, posted once in the New Year (a book review which I had prepared) and then fell ill. I am so sorry to read you and the family have been ill too – if it’s the same thing it seems to be incredibly draining once past the worst. Hope you’re all much better soon. Hugs xx

  13. Khaya Ronkainen

    A powerful and unforgettable poem! Thank you for sharing, Annika.
    Wishing you and your family a speedy recovery. Hugs xx

    1. Khaya, as a gifted poet you must find even more depth to this poem and its format – I agree, truly unforgettable. Many thanks for your good wishes … we’re all much better although I think it will take a little bit yet to fully emerge from the fug! Hope you’re having a good start to 2019. hugs, my friend xx

    1. Cynthia, love your play of the wonder/wander – just so with this poem! It very much feels like wandering to a distant place, but ending up home, secure! The first time I read the poem I think I just sat there, still, struck with its beauty and clarity.

      Thank you, we’re all getting there by varying degrees and it feels amazing to be better and part of the world again. Oh, the illnesses are bad this year and I honestly think half of the country has been affected with some schools closed and work places struggling. Roll on Spring! 😀

  14. Great share Annika. I’ve been following Maria’s articles for the last five years. And I’m sorry about your chest infection. Sadly, I’ve been battling the same thing for 2 weeks now – despite being on holiday. Get well soon. ❤

    1. Debby, I am not sure when I came across Brain Pickings but it was a light bulb moment – terrific writing, always thought-provoking and it leads me into new readings, constantly learning. Fantastic! Oh, I am so sorry you’re also ill and even worse so on holiday. I do hope you’re much better now. My chest infection got so bad I had to have antibiotics and felt so crazily weak & fatigued. It’s amazing to emerge from this fug into the world again and makes one appreciate it more than ever. hugs, my friend. Be well soon! ❤️

      1. Thanks Annika. I hope you’re well now. I have to say that chest cold/infection lasted almost a month for me! ❤ I'm in the sunshine now, so that's always half the cure. ❤

    1. Sue, so happy you enjoyed the poem and there is so much within these few words. Thank you so much for your well-wishes and how true that there are so many illnesses around at the moment. I think half of the county has been struck down and know some schools have had to close owing to lack of teachers! Finally got antibiotics which have done the trick but I haven’t been this weak for many years…how I now appreciate my health though! Hope you are having a magical start to 2019! much love, Annika xx❤️

    1. Bette, thank you so much for sharing and your good wishes – it means a lot. ❤️ I like how you see the timeless in this poem and I find that aspect reassuring.

      We’re all getting better at varying rates but it’s wonderful to emerge out into the world again! My first food shop for the year yesterday was even hugely enjoyable! love & hugs xx

  15. What an amazing poem, Annika. I’m speechless. Thank you so much for sharing. “Can molecules recall it?” Yes, I think so, when we sit in stillness in the wilderness and turn off our brains. Even our limited human senses can feel the profound connections and our belonging to something vast and unfathomable. I hope you and yours start feeling better soon. Hugs. ❤

    1. Wow! Diana, thank you so much for bringing your wise and eloquent words to the discussion … you describe perfectly my feelings on reading the poem. Beautifully written and the very essence of us, the universe, the unity within the poem gives me a calming reassurance, peace. A resounding yes in agreement with you that we ‘can feel the profound connections and our belonging to something vast and unfathomable.’ If you are not a follower of Brain Picking already, I can highly recommend her website … the articles are hugely inspiring, thought-provoking and learned.

  16. Happy New Year, Annika. I hope you are better soon. Thanks for sharing this beautiful and wonderful, sad and thought provoking poem. I shall return to it often, I think.

    1. Mary, I too often return to the poem (and find it a lot easier to do this now it’s on my blog!) … I leave each reading with new thoughts, feelings. I don’t find the poem sad as such, rather it gives me a sense of ultimate peace – but that is probably just me. Thank you, I am much better now but it’s been a particularly nasty chest infection…can’t wait for Spring and warmth! Hope you’re having a lovely start to 2019! x

    1. Robbie, the poem is quite something else and I love the thoughts and her construction of the poem. I had to smile how she first followed her teenage daughter’s suggestion to cut the second half of the poem – don’t we all want to make our children happy! Thank you, I am slowly recovering although this has been a particular and unusually tough illness. Hope you’re having a wonderful and creative start to the year. hugs xx

  17. Thank you Annika for this wonderful presentation of Marie Howe’s poem. To me it is so beautifully written and leaves us with ponderings of a new kind. I do love your accompanying
    images, so powerful and appropriate.
    Like you I have for years followed Maria Popova’s writing and saw this gem the other day. Copied and saved it. I think I soon know it by heart.

    May you soon feel better, I know this viral / bacterial bug that runs through U.K at the moment is debilitating but soon there will be sun or frost. Either would help. 🤗 .
    Bless and hugs


    1. Miriam, warmest thanks for your kind and interesting comment. Yeah, another fan of Maria Popova … she is rightly becoming known across the globe! I am not surprised that this poem has struck a chord with you, particularly as a poet yourself. Has it inspired you in any way with your own writing? I’m so glad you liked the images – the first is so striking, I feel and the second shows the beauty of our earth, a reminder of our place and responsibility here!

      Debilitating is definitely the word the illness making its way around the county and although I’m up and about the weakness is rather annoying! Patience never was my virtue! 😀 Frost is promised soon and with that hopefully sun to cheer us all up! hugs xx

    1. Jennifer, I know. When I first heard and read it I was overwhelmed by it … and even more so on each reading. Many thanks for your good wishes…I’m finally surfacing following a bad chest infection.

    1. It definitely is thought-provoking, Clive and one that will stay with. Thank you, I am much better and more than ever appreciating good health! Hope you’re having a good start to the 2019!

    1. Jena, it is an incredibly deep and thought-provoking poem … I see new insights into it with each reading. Hope you’re having a lovely start to the New Year; I can finally surface and can’t believe half a month has flown by already.

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