SHORT STOP IN Phnom Penh for unexpected popping-up gigs. Still curious about this place. Still asking questions. Still engaged with all the things that got me excited about Cambodia when I first arrived in Phnom Penh in March 2014. Stayed, mostly writing through the end of 2017, at which time I hatched Atelier S P A C E and tested it out in Battambang. So good was that one, that I decided, ‘Why not?,’ and took Atelier S P A C E to Singapore, Penang, Kuala Lumpur, and Oulu. (Wait, what? No, really. Finland, yeah. I just really, really like that part of the world.)
It’s been a weird, curious and exciting moment of transition and change, for me personally, but I wanted to spring up another popup, Atelier S P A C E | Phnom Penh, before I hit the road again. Atelier S P A C E is a 2-year project, which had begun last P’chum Ben, and will continue for just another year. Before it sunsets, I want to be sure to get to places that most intrigue: the Eastern European countries, for example. And maybe circle back to the Pacific Northwest in the United States, which was where, for six years DK did its biggest and most important work: building a small network of people who are interested in ‘trusting the process’ and designing space for us to play. Recent conversations with JB in Seattle, RS in the Bay Area, and PC and OB (both of whom were guests at ‘N’ Phnom Penh, and that was in 2014, wasn’t tit?, and that was the whole start of all the new thinking… *too much thinking*. I got sorted out, though. In Finland. Quiet. Space. People. Sky.
And yeah. They are here. Still with me, till reading, still caring a little bit I think about this journey of ‘how to get people talking together in safe space that are well-facilitated.’ Do I want to go back to the States and have some kind of dialogue sessions so they can see what’s wrong with silo thinking? Or get them to really see each other, so that we don’t have all the division that we are seeing that’s, hey, always been there, but right now it’s more obvious? A lot of questions. I don’t know, are the answers to most of them. Is the US where I want to go? It depends. It depends on who is curious about having us there. I like to go where I know that things are gonna happen, not just go and see, though there are moments when that’s important, too. But when I want to just go and see, it has to be to a place that’s new. Because then: I’m doing my own process on mysel. Trusting that something will pop out from ‘the soup of not-knowing,’ but showing up for it anyway, and seeing what’s there. The spirit of travel, kind of, sure. But it’s also the way to find breakthroughs: in all sectors of work, in all sectors of personal life, in all dimensions, all 10 or whatever. I could get nerdy. I will save it for those interested in new portals, and only for those people. Selectivity and reduction of the number of channels of engaging with people has been a huge step, for me, in developing these things. These programmes, these salons, and these ideas. The depth of them is becoming more obvious to me when I clarify and check back with some of my oldest confidants. HT AM, who is probably my oldest friend now that I’ve lost touch with the rest. Again: choosing. It’s important. Drift happens. Let’s let it.
The next things
AHEAD ARE WHOLE NEW chapters, for me, and for DK, and for the members of our online communities which have been quietly been in the highest-priority spot for me in the last 12 months. Some people who have been there some of the time are aware, I think, of what it can do and be for them, and I appreciate that. Those who’ve been here longer, I think, are starting to develop more thinking around more things that have more importance to them. Knowing what’s important to you is a huge, huge thing. I think I got on a stage and talked about it for eighteen minutes in front of 500 people. No one knows thatI was pretty much ad-libbing the last 5. Ha ha. An improvisation. On a stage. A play. In real life. That’s it, though, for me. All of these sessions are the same. Just that the stages are smaller, and the invited guests are as much a part of the scripts as the ‘audience’. I dot like passive audiences; I like the engagement that comes from eye contact and back-and-forth and, sure, making it up, partly, as we go. And jazz is like that. And that’s why I like that. So many people I’ve met in the years who’ve shown me how to make jazz more jazzy. Free jazzy. I know, I know. It’s not everyone thing. But so? It’s fun. To me. Oh, yeah: and improv. Also making it up as you go, right? And that’s why I’m into that, too. Probably the whole reason I became friends with BB in a simple way, long time ago. Because: play. Let’s converse. Let’s play?
SHALL WE DO THIS? Have another go at Atelier S P A C E in PP? I think so. Let’s see, anyway. Let’s try this. Let’s begin with salon, about I N T E R N E T. Let’s go with that, see where it leads us, talk together, write and play a kind of conversational music. And then, co-create. This is my thing, where I come in. Make something out of what we learn. Put it into a zine. Share it with you. It’s not that hard, for DK, to do this. We have all the stuff you need if you are a boutique publisher. And now we’re an experiential publisher. So let’s do this? Let’s see. Here’s the details…
COMING AND GOING in Malaysia in 2018. A new thing is starting. A new small circle.
Zinemaking is part of it, but m ore than that, it’s ‘showing up.’ Big thanks to those of you who took part in our popups in KL in both the spring and just this past September, in the series Atelier S P A C E had hosted in an ad hoc style, more or less. But we’re getting less disorganized… if that’s a way to say it. I can’t say that we’re getting more organized. But it’s true we’re getting less disorganized. That I can say.
Many things to follow. (Were you in KL and didn’t get a chance to join us? It’s not that we’re going to do this indefinitely–S P A C E is moving around and changing all the time, and we’re going on the road again soon. But if there’s interest, we make a thing happen. Did you miss our previous stuff in KL? I’m putting things together in a roundup post, here. So that, you know, you can see that it happens. It’s a thing. Thanks to MM for the pics, and more to follow, there on that page, and in the active spaces of our S P A C E forums too.
You know who you are.
See you there.
MAKING ZINES. Writing them. Co-creating them. Publishing things, here and there. Quietly, in limited editions. One, three, and five. They may just look like pieces of paper, but enfolded within are a giant collection of stories. Our stories.
Not stories in books chosen by certain people about certain things they think we ought to see as ‘important’–ie ‘a curriculum.’ (And hey, by the way, who gets to decide what’s important to learn and know about? Asking that question, lately, behind the scenes here with a small circle of people we know well now, and can ask things to, and know that there is a history and we can confidently trust the connexion is strong. HT JŽ MOB SG & MR).
But yeah. Our stories. The conversations, the finds, the things that the sharing of special moments of showing up for being there together, in real life or even in S P A C E, can precipitate. SJA put it wonderfully, when she said to me that these zines aren’t just zines. Art is getting made. A different way, a different style, a superlative quality.We had spent a dozen weeks in one anothers’ company. Slowly, over time, progressively, with richness and complexity and the development of trust, she could say things and I could say things. And we could share. And I could show her the short book that I only show people in real life, in very select moments. These are the moments that, after all, are all we really have…
Showing up. True connection. An art of the moment. And zines.
CAN THE INTERNET bring us towards true connection? How do we get there? Listen to find out.
DK’s Dipika Kohli and Mae Rosukhon, a Sydney- and Bangkok-based member of our inner circle of S P A C E, are talking together about ‘the internet.’ Quality of life, health and relationships that are built on trust: these are the things. ‘It’s social isolation that really gets people down, especially in the later years of life,’ says Rosukhon, who has a background in government and health. Are the stream of constant notifications getting in our way of building real trust?
‘In this contemporary world and searching for the new, new experiences, new contacts… there’s an upside and a downside, right? [But] the trust between your friends, it’s that solid foundation that will always take you through and that’s got strong substance underneath.’ –Mae Rosukhon.
Read about Mae’s recent thoughts on life, meaning, and connection at this intriguing article she wrote, by hand, about death.
Images: from the series ‘Distracte’ by Dipika Kohli
Walter D. Mignolo (Argentina, decoloniality, modernity/coloniality, border thinking), as quoted by AlJoHoBro in in a reddit string asking, ‘Who are some thoughtful and interesting women or non white philosophers?’
The change of epoch is announced, in the sphere of knowledge, in the process of delinking from long lasting effects of epistemic colonial and imperial differences. According to this frame, Native Americans have wisdom and Anglo-Americans science; Africans have experience and Europeans philosophy; the Third World has culture and the First World social sciences, including anthropology who study the cultures of the Third World; Chinese and Indians have traditions, Europeans modernity; Islam dwells in religion, Europeans in secularism. Those beliefs in such hierarchies are gone among a growing number of non-European scholars, intellectuals, thinkers, activists.
See the quote in context along with lists of people to read who aren’t dead white men, if you’re interested.
Could we be on verge of a paradigm shift? In which someone who belongs to a particular geographic locale isn’t stereotyped into being the way that the old model would have pegged us to be? It’s exciting to think it’s possible to move forward from these outmoded, boring strongholds. Given the state of the world and the world order at the moment, something that despite all effort to focus on ‘being here now’ is impossible to turn a blind eye to, perhaps it’s just a matter of the natural evolution towards something else. Because what we have is just not working.
To what, though? And how? Let’s talk about that, in October, in S P A C E. Everything starts again, here.
THE COMPUTING today told me that what I did was ‘an unknown action.’ I wish I could spit this exact message out to some of the people in roles of leadership, say, or those who used to be important to me. Well, best to keep one’s eye on the ball, I suppose. Focus on friendship and philosophy, for ex. Or mix them, when I have that incredible chance.
NEW THINGS. New beginnings. New frames. New perspectives. New points of view, voices, perspectives, world views, and conversation-starters. New kinds of jam sessions in our intellectual play spaces, which are coming from not books but from us, talking together, writing in S P A C E, in the moment. The moment being now. Our now. This now. The one that is relative to us, all of us, 7 billion and counting, on this planet, in this solar system, in this galaxy, in this universe. So much to talk about. Discovering, every single day, in real life as we amble about the geographies near and far that most intrigue, excite, invite, and challenge us, with our very small circle of curious and open collaborators and co-creators here at DK, so many things. New is what we are interested in. Finding new writers, authors, original thinkers, still-awake-to-possibilities-of-optimistic-outcomes dreamers, responsible social leaders, owners of third places, makers of all kinds, and, all of us, at our hearts, poets and philosophers. Can we get back to the 50 billion years of evolution that are intrinsic within each of us, to explore what we all know, in the ambient space between us? The ‘luminiferous aether,’ remember that old idea? let’s say, I still like that defunct concept, or Jung’s collective unconscious, or the things that Krishnamurthi writes about. He was interetsed in us being better, as a collection, as a species. Not just some of us, but all of us.
There is no end to relationship. There may be the end of a particular relationship, but relationship can never end. To be is to be related. -J Krishnamurthi
LET’S INVESTIGATE, can we?, for a moment, let’s just say four weeks, okay, how far we’ve come since evolving from trilobytes? Can we play in the imaginative spaces that link most handily to the warmest places of the human heart? Can we discover, in the chambers there, where we all want the same things, really (for our kids to be okay, for us to be able to live in a way that lets us be who we really are, with all the daily needs met and then some, with comfort and emotional security and stuff like that, yes: is this resonating?). Design can make things better. I’ve been seeing how, for 10 years at DK and before that in jobs in architecture, when, that is, the studios were really good. But it’s time to design a new social philosophy thats inclusive and extensive and rooted not in words that weren’t even made in a time when we had the new sciences that we have now (quantum physics, multiverse math). Let’s update, can we? Sure… so, let’s talk philosophy. A new philosophy. A philosophy of the moment. Artfully. With respect to one another, with respect ot the whole. DK are inviting people from near and far into our inner circles of conversation. A balance of place, but also, of the ways of thinking that will invite the kind of dialogue that we really need now more than ever: the kind with a center, and not sides (HT M. Angelou, Mark Twain, Jean Rhys, William Isaacs, W. Heisenberg, Robin Davidson).
What is philosophy, though, anyway? In a nutshell, this:
Philosophy is a way of thinking about the world, the universe, and society. It works by asking very basic questions about the nature of human thought, the nature of the universe, and the connections between them. The ideas in philosophy are often general and abstract.
RAINING IN PHNOM PENH, as I write this. Wondering where the next few days and weeks will go. A few more days, a few more moments. Conversations in the real life salons, conversations in the online ones, too. There are things to say, so many of them, and I’m lucky to be able to have a chance to bounce ideas around with people and mostly just generally get to play. In S P A C E. And also, here and there, bumping into stuff, much like The Missing Piece goes around looking for things, falling into holes, bumping into walls, and so on. (HT: Shel Silverstein.)
A few more moments.
I could get poignant and philosophical here–
I could talk about how all the moments are one quick moment, as we had discovered in our salon here in Phnom Penh some years ago, The Book of Time, which I co-hosted with Anakot Asia’s Chhunny Noem. What a powerful moment. Maybe it was the sum of all the moments, smashed together into one infinity, here and now, oh, no, here I go, getting esoteric and rambly, and well, I ought to save those kinds of conversations for the intimate spaces of real life and conversations with just. those people who are actually interested, not foist them onto the blog and the internet and hope that people will say, ‘Yeah. I want to know more about this. Where can I meet other people who want to talk about meaning, existence, philosophize about things without quoting dead white guys, or just, generally, be How can I find more meaning in my own day to day just by simply talking to other people about the big questions hat are popping up in my own world, where I am? What is the point?’ And more. I’m partly inspired writing this by last night’s conversation with CM, who is really asking these questions, I think, the more I talked with her and the later it got and the louder the roomful of people, and the drunker, and the more frequent the occurrence of breaking ceramic mugs and glasses (?), well, the more the time went by, the more I realized, ‘You know, there are places where you can ask these questions and get to skip over all the smalltalk. It’s real. It can happen. We can design for it. I’m into that, that’s my thing that I’m into.’ (Easy to say, hard to prove. But the people who know, know. And for me, that’s enough. So we continue, charging into the world, with the goal of simply hosting and co-hosting more and better space for dialogues that have real feelings int them, real emotions. Not just… well… fodder for the bored, schedule-fillers for the lonely.)
‘I like to try to make myself uncomfortable sometimes,’ C had said, and I replied, ‘Because that’s how we grow.’ Growing used to be such a weird word to me, so touchy-feely and clinical and psychology bollix, but you know, it’s kind of all we have, really. To be able to improve ourselves? What else can we do? Add another do-goody NGO to a country that doesn’t want you here? If you’ve just arrived in Cambodia for something and you think you’re going to ‘make a contribution,’ be aware that this is a lot of nonsense and perhaps more about your own ego than anything else. I don’t want to even get started on the mansplaining that I saw and ranted about, when I saw it! [deleted]. Think about that.
Once more, upon returning to this country, where I have lived for three-and-a-half-years without having meant to, I found myself miraculously thinking, ‘Huh. I can see how this could be an interesting dialogue. And it reminds me of one, from before… also in this city. Quite unexpected, a small collection of us, new and different others, did we have 5? That was a crowd, then, for our salons, which are usually me and maybe 2 or so people… but always, always, always, I love the conversations that unfold. I’ve never been regretful about going and seeing and trying these, because you just never know. Maybe you’ll meet someone who’ll wander in from out of the internet and change your life forever. Gosh.
And given the right framing and the right collection of people… it can. And has. And will. Where are the artists? Everywhere. Much of this is amorophous and fuzzy, and that’s fine. Who cares about making sure everything fits some arbitrary logic-box? That what DK writes here and there as a collective is not refined, not finished, not concrete, not logical, mystical sounding, and open ended? How about this idea: a billion suns are in motion, right now. And N. Bohr, who said: ‘No, no, no. You’re not thinking. You’re just being logical.’ I’m looking at a philosophy of the moment: one that’s not based on old sciences that are Newtonian-only, out of touch and completely miffed by multiple and contradictory ‘truths’ co-existing. Frankly, philosophy is as obsolete as the fax machine.
And so on. And so forth. A blink–a moment. And infinity, too.
But, guess what? [Some of ] those [mainstream publishers and academics and philosophers] who consider things ‘good’ are the ones who are stuck in the old logic-boxes. They can’t conceptualize a new way of doing things because the old way is so engrained. SHR, a mathematician friend of DK’s, and I had met I a pub in London when I was that way, a very good and curious conversation in which I had asked him why things are devolving instead of progressing, society-wise. Wanted to say things about least common denominators and stuff but that is too fourth grade math and not that interesting to S, so I just threw out a thing about, oh, systems, and equilibriums, and turbulences, and he had said that people like the status quo. That’s why we’re not evolving up. They like the status quo. It’s hard to change it.
Me, thinking: Even if it’s stupid.
Not saying this, but it’s pretty easy to read me.
Him saying, without words, Yup. Even then.
Part of the concept with Atelier S P A C E is not to get parked for too long in any one place. Houseless and offliceless, But, I’m finding out on this miniature return, not friendless. More in a second.
First, from Lao Tzu‘s Tao Te Ching:
Hold fast to the way of antiquity
In order to keep in control the real of today.
The ability to know the beginning of antiquity
Is called the thread running through the way.
Meeting the way
IT’S BEEN really cool catching up with some of you who might be reading here, in this city. Phnom Penh. Reminiscing about things past, or sharing about the things that had happened before, or recently, or on the road. The way and the road. Basho—need to go back to that author and explore more fully. Important. But, not now. It’s also important to just be here and notice the things going on right where we are. I’m going to have to share more in the e-mail circles (not doing facebook now, not really hanging out on instagram), about the invite-only conversation salons on the way here, in Phnom Penh, before heading off to Australia and India and possibly the Pacific Northwest in those United States—gaw, I can’t believe I’m even writing that. I had wanted to get out of there, so much, but it’s been four years since Palo Alto, so… Yeah. Let’s see how it all unfolds. Things take time, I get that, but it’s also nice to peg a few things here and there, sometimes, too. But it’s loose and light, now. Letting go of illusion of control. Big changes. Ask me why sometime, if our paths cross in real life or in our online conversations in S P A C E.
This weekend, I’ll host Atelier S P A C E | Phnom Penh and write, together with others, maybe some of my actual friends?, a new set of zines, set here, hyperlocal creative nonfiction. Next stops, Idontknowwhereyet, but onwards is the definitely for sure direction. Plus, visa. Visas expire. Keeps you moving, doesn’t it? On. These are long stories. Not for everyone. I’ll write them. I’ll put them in S P A C E. Maybe I’ll keep writing about Cambodia. I mean, a little bit. It’s definitely easier when you have four years of experience in a. place and ambiently know where the streets go, how things connect, what foods are going to taste like, what’s ‘not okay’ when it comes to cultural sensitivity or mansplaining OMG, how everything you think you know about something is completely hot air, and how, when you come here, the thing you learn is that you don’t know anything at all. Some of that I wrote into the first book about my experiences here, Breakfast in Cambodia (Kismuth // 2016), which look at that, has just celebrated a two-year anniversary. Exciting. I wonder if I should have another launch-y kind of moment for the new books, set in Finland? Could be nice. I hope to, but it’s also fine if it’s just an inner-circle thing. Maybe. launch at, say, my house. Easier, these days, than making a big rah-rah out of it and trying to get people to show up. This has gotten increasingly harder, I’ve found, in the last six years. I’m seeing the futility of it, in a way. I may not even… well. It’s a lot to write here. I’m always starting to write a little here and then hesitating because, who is reading this blog? I don’t know. Which is why I’d prefer to converse in S P A C E, or email. Email me, if you are there, know me, want to stay in touch in a more firm way that has nothing to do with reading and checking and checking and reading. I’m here. I’m listening. Say hi? So that I know it gets to me, what with all these weird filters and hackers and spammers and people breaking into emails and stuff, it’s so weird now, it would be cool if you could use the form on our contact page. Could you? Here it is. Kay. Cool. The thing to do now is just get started. And trust the process. Be okay with getting lost a little, in order to find center. All righty, then. Let me figure out where to go next. Let me find that set of darts.
‘Fresh and original input’
WHEN I WAS IN AARHUS in 2015, I met someone who said, after a whole long giant hour-long conversation marathon, in a thank-you note to follow up the next day, ‘Thanks for the fresh and original input.’ Same person who talked to me about Heisenberg and principle and got me to see the Danish view of things (‘Oh, really? MIT says that? Are you sure it’s all of the people at MIT who say that, and not just some of the people at MIT who say that, and yeah, there aren’t other people at MIT who completely disagree with those people at MIT? Think about that.’) This is going into the zine, S P A C E | Aarhus, by the way. Coming in December. But yeah. Input, of course software people love DK because we are a kind of arbitrary asteroid-quality sort of ‘input’ for them, and the innovative spirit feeds off of random encounters out of left field (and S P A C E). So yeah, back then, way, in 2015, as the autumn was settling in and I was getting set to return to Cambodia where it would be instantly warm again in not-so-many-days, I’d thought. That’s a new way to put it. And today, the phrase comes back, ‘Fresh and original input.’ Why? The conversations that we have in S P A C E-like rooms in real life as well as in our online forums are like that, to me, all he time. Expansive, curious, inviting, insight-making at their best, but also, just… fun. I’ve just found some new and fresh original input that I had talked about in the post about the music I found myself wandering into while in Helsinki on my last night, and today, I’d like to share a track from one of members, Esa Puolakka, of one of the bands (Maagine). I’m looking forward also to soon interviewing the lead singer, Matti Halonen, for our podcast. Watch this space. Meantime, I’ll leave you with this track from Esa… (For me, the two tracks on his soundcloud are so very much in the vein of ‘fresh and original input.’ So here we go, passing it forward, making it up, jazzy, as we go.) I’m looking forward to the new and the next. More soon, from S P A C E. Tuesdays at 7AM, in the e-box.
Next stop: Melbourne.
To the journeys!
YESTERDAY. S P A C E | Helsinki went out in the world.
HELSINKI. This time, S P A. C E is both a print-edition zine as well as a PDF. But, seriously, a wallop of a PDF, this round. It’s a 30-pager, packed with photos and some creative nonfiction from the summer in Finland. Three months there, all told, to gather and write the feelings and conversations and make some kind of arc out of it. I am really pleased with the way this one turned out.
Why? Writing. Is fun. Relaxing. Coming to the places that are where I want to be, writing about them, sharing what I’ve learned, gathering other people’s voices along the way and co-creating short packed works of hyperlocal creative nonfiction, informed, of course, by local knowledge, experience, and the culture of a place. The work to bring these things into shape is lovely and rewarding and invigorating and hard. And it’s getting more complex and sophisticated, I think, this zinemaking journey—one year, so far. I started Atelier S P A C E over P’chum Ben in Battambang, here in Cambodia. This coming weekend, it’s P’chum Ben again. So that means I’ve got one more year in this 2-year, roving, popup, zinemaking atelier that is getting run mostly out of pocket, with the occasional contribution from ticket sales, zine sales, and, hey, people who just want to buy me a lunch or coffee because they like this idea and can’t think of why anyone would put their own expenses down to make it happen. But for me, it’s obvious. I want to do Atelier S P A C E because I love new people, new input, fresh and original and faraway places that are new to me, and of course, writing, publishing, and sharing. So it hits all the right keys. It took me forever to think up the idea, besides.
So once it was there, it was like, ‘Of course I’m going to do this.’ Battambang was not too terribly far from Phnom Penh, so over four days, completely offline and on my own, I found the story to write the lead piece, ‘Here Comes the Dance,’ which, wow, is really about the Age of Anxiety. I really love S P A C E | Battambang. Probably my best one, but wait, no. Helsinki. No, no. I love Sheffield. Chuffed, still, to have gone there to finish researching the story. And then, there’s Kuala Lumpur: a place that’s becoming home away from home (away from… home?) I’m not sure what this is all going to lead to but I’m excited to share more news, soon, about upcoming Atelier S P A C E programmes abroad. It’s gonna be great, in the words of M, there in Finland, who taught me how to let go of the hard things that relate to grudges and difficulties in getting over yourself in order to show up properly for others, and who, in part, inspired this edition of S P A C E. Massive learning, this trip. The conversations with Alexis Jokela, too. Good craic, as they say in Ireland. In case you were wondering why I have an Irish accent sometimes, just google ‘The Elopement’ and ‘Kismuth Books.’
There you go, then.
For the bigger story.
Kismuth was the prequel, I guess, to the stories ahead, in S P A C E. Creative nonfiction, but in first person, so they were talked about as memoirs. I got all into that whole idea, even though technically it was too soon, in some ways, to write memoir. Someone who wasn’t happy about me publishing anything had said, ‘Who would want to read anything you write?’ Can you believe that? Some people actually hate it when you do the things you really want to do. What did I do? Leave the country.
As always for me, it’s the process of getting lost in order to find center that is inviting me to share some of the stories from ‘the road’ in the series of zines. Curious? Download S P A C E || Helsinki instantly when you order over here.
Enjoy it with a nice cup of chamomile (or, if you prefer, vodka and gingerale) while listening to the track, a mix tape, sort of, Exit Vantaa. Here’s to the journeys, then. The new, the near, the now, and the next.
READING, today, stories about #deletefacebook, and find myself nodding every time someone talks about how the social fabric is getting ripped apart because people are addicted to pings and hits and likes.
For example, I found these quotes in one of the first articles you get to on google if you search ‘delete facebook’… They are:
And that means that we need to sort of give you a little dopamine hit every once in a while, because someone liked or commented on a photo or a post or whatever. It’s a social-validation feedback loop … exactly the kind of thing that a hacker like myself would come up with, because you’re exploiting a vulnerability in human psychology. The inventors, creators — it’s me, it’s Mark [Zuckerberg], it’s Kevin Systrom on Instagram, it’s all of these people — understood this consciously. And we did it anyway. Sean Parker — Former Facebook President
I feel tremendous guilt. It literally is [at] a point now, where we have created tools that are ripping apart the social fabric of how society works. That is literally where we are. The short-term, dopamine-driven feedback loops that we have created are destroying how society works. No civil discourse. No cooperation. Misinformation. Mistruth. And it’s not an American problem. It’s not about Russian ads. This is a global problem. Chamath Palihapitiya — Former Facebook VP of User Growth
Of course we can argue about the good things and the not-so-good things about technology. But don’t think you have to have it if you want to live a meaningful, connected, or creative life: you don’t. I don’t have Facebook, not a personal one anymore, and though I’m on the fence about what to do with instagram. But okay, it’s fine. I don’t have WhatsApp, or even a mobile phone.
I should repeat that last one.
I don’t have a mobile phone. Or even a non-mobile phone. Today I’m borrowing one of the latter, though, to meet up with some people in Phnom Penh who might be wondering what the hell I’ve been doing on the northern side of Finland all summer, and something about Malaysia, and yeah.
HONEST. I used to have one, in the mid 2000s, when I was living in Seattle and had ‘a business,’ which of course was DK in its first iteration—solid brick and mortar shop, complete with $800 laser printer, fax machine, cool phones that I still kinda miss because of their button design, giant computers, a reception area, a conference room, swivel office chairs: the works. But what I didn’t know then that I know now is that none of it was that important. Social media presence? Not a big deal, because DK sold itself through one-on-one interpersonal interactions in real life. We got gigs in Seattle. More, later, elsewhere, too. But not because of the online stuff, or the appearances of something big. By being good. Really. That’s how it works. But being good is only part of it. You also have to be easy to work with. Not that easy to work with and not that good? Forget it. (Unless, of course, you’re cheap, and fast. But who wants to work with people who are just trying to penny-pinch and don’t care that much about the quality of the output?)
More thinking. More reading. More turning the clock back to think about where we’ve been and what we were doing. I am glad to say that it’s through the building of relationships that we are here, where we are, and continue to develop. Not that I’m the greatest at this, in fact, I’m pretty shite at it. It’s DK’s Akira Morita, who took the time to build the networks and keep in touch with the people here where I am writing from (Phnom Penh) in order to begin that lattice-formation that has come to be one of the most important things we’ve ever had in our orbit. Social orbits are big: I was writing and thinking about these things quite a lot in recent days, conversing in S P A C E forums and real life and on voice calls. Less email. Less writing short. And the next podcast (!) will be about the internet—about the love-hate relationship with this thing that connects us (and keeps us from truly connecting, at the same time).
True connection starts, I’ve found, with showing up. Commitment to a person, idea, or project, or a job, well, commitment is what leads to trust. Trust is huge. You have trust, and you have all you could possibly ask for in a relationship. Trust the process, sure, but trust other people. Sure. It’s hard. Of course it is. Relationships are work. Did you see that thing I put here about George Vickers? How about Moominpappa? I feel like here at DK, Akira is the former, and I’m the latter. We’re interested in relationships, but he’s better at that, and I”m interested in possibility, and exploring to the edges: scouting the new and the next. Together, we’re still at it, officelessly and houseless-ly. We’re moving around the world looking for people who are ready to try new things, be they NGO-sector officials, small businesses, innovation-minded larger groups, individuals, or colleagues, or co-creators, or even friends. Are you ready to try to get to the next, whatever, or whatever, it turns out to be? Then that’s it. Talk to DK. Let’s play.
Reclaiming space for real life
I’LL LEAVE YOU with this bit from the Guardian article, ‘Be a pioneer — delete Facebook’, by Jaron Lanier. And comments are open, if you’d like to say ‘hi.’
… these deleters are indispensable. They should be celebrated. We all benefit from them.
The primary value of a boycott in this case is not mere protest to damage Facebook, but to invent what life can be like today without the social network.
A deleter must reconsider how she holds her social life together. She will therefore rethink what a social life is.
Is having a publicly broadcast number of associates a good thing, or does it foster a meaningless sense of social competition? Does Facebook’s method, which combines user tracking with stimuli calculated to foster addiction and behaviour modification, really reveal the most beneficial options for her? Does an experiential feed constructed by algorithms serve her, or other people who are paying to modify her behaviour? Are the components of the Facebook experience severable or not? Can you have a modern social and professional life without the manipulation? Is it even conceivable? Who will ask? Who will find out? The deleters will!
And they already have. Making space for real life interfacing, for remarkable human connexion: that’s the whole thing, for some of us, writing, connecting, meeting, sharing, and, hey, living. Online is fine. I’m online to post this. Online is fine, but online isn’t the only place it’s at. Real life is out there. Let’s go get it.
LIFE. STORIES. Multiple, divergent, intersecting, and contradicting pluralities of narratives: the things we are pursuing here are not so much about gathering outcomes and publishing stuff that sounds and looks interesting (but has no content); rather, we want to invite into our innermost circles, in S P A C E, the exact kinds of new and different others who will show us, together, as we get going, in our conversations in the protected-page posts that constitute, as a set, the thing we call S P A C E, well yeah. All of it. Is a thing now. There’s a bulk to this that I can’t deny; a gravitas and a resonance that stays with people. They tell me this. ‘I really enjoyed that exercise you did; it was super relevant at the time, do you remember, you put us in groups, ‘Past,’ ‘Present,’ and ‘Future?’ asked my friend MR, whom I’d met at one of my events in Bangkok and who went on to join DK again at something called ‘16N‘ in that same city, the next year.
(Honestly, we didn’t recall that exercise or think much about what it might have meant to everyone; at the time, we were just hosting, and hosting means you’re talking to people and making sure everyone feels included, that her or his voice counts, that she or he is invited to all the conversations circling about, moving, changing, diving into other spaces, letting that happen.
Of course the afterparty for ‘N’ there had to be at a jazz club: improvising in collage and collaborating with jazZ happens! there, that was also very fun. With both, it’s a jam session: making it up as we go, but also, playing off what we learn, together, from one another. Most importantly, there’s no hierarchy. It’s flat. We’re talking, together, in dialogue. Round tables. Let me tell you a bit more about this idea, of circles. (SN, watching Akira Morita in action one time hosting a meeting, had called it ‘circle time.’ We love circle time, here at DK. Why? Lots of reasons.’)
Dialogues that are really good are the kinds ‘with a center, and not sides,’ as William Isaacs, had put it in his book, Dialogue. How lucky I am to have been able to reach out directly to Isaacs, ahead of my conversation salon series, ‘Modern Sikkim: What does it mean to be Sikkimese?’ which had happened in Gangtok, Sikkim–a part of India that my relatives in Delhi aren’t too familiar with outside of an image of ‘the snowy mountains’. Well, wow. There is of course Kanchenjunga, but before I go marveling about the miracles of the Himalaya, and daydreaming about going back there in November (yes: mark it! Atelier S P A C E || Gangtok is in the works), well, yeah, so what was I saying? Oh! This: I’m lucky, very, I could ask William Isaacs directly, over email, in 2013, thinking hard about the design of Modern Sikkim and how to collaborate well and whom I should contact to make a go of it and what we would do in the spaces-to-become, well, yeah. How I could make such a conversation salon series work well was important to me. Researching that. Learning what to do in the instance that someone tried to be overbearing (this happens a lot, in societies where there are hierarchies established from social class, economic status, or hey, let’s be real, male and female gender roles), all that normal stuff you have to figure in, and be ready to take on, when it does hit you, all that. And I remember the email coming back. What a good feeling, to get a note from the internet to say, Just do what you’re doing and here’s some more stuff to think about, more or less. Well. What a nice thing to feel reassured that no one knows what’s on the way, not ever, not fully, but that allowing things to pop up by hosting a space that is inviting, safe, comfortable, relaxing, and readied for the things-that-might-happen, well, that’s the work. And the art. So it began. A journey into making more and better such space, or, as I call it now, S P A C E. I’m the architect of it; we follow a checklist, it has 7 points, to do this in a way that works, in DK’s style. Which is what? Well, you can read my personal artist statement thingy at this website, if you’re curious about what interests me about gathering people in these ways. ‘I want people to relax. To feel air, space, and comfort.’ Find it in context at dipikakohli.com.
But in the meantime, there’s this.
Philosophy of the moment
GETTING SET. For our first-ever online salon, ‘Philosophy of the Moment.’ In which we’re going to share all of the best learnings and gathered notes from our decades-long pursuit of the big questions, ‘What are we doing here? What does it mean? What is ‘good’? What makes it remarkable? What does a meaningful life look like? How can I make changes so that I can better enjoy the life I have? What does it mean to love? How does it feel to let go? Where are the important notes to carry forward? What kind of legacy do I want to leave? Who am I? Who am I, apart from you? What is my role in society? How am I doing, and where I am going, and does it mean much to consider these questions, and besides, what is ‘time?”‘ What’s this all about? Find out.
IT IS TIME.
Chapbooks, next. From our experiential publishing programme, S P A C E.
First one will be about the multiverse, inspired by the intriguing words and ideas about Brian Greene, whom I’m listening to an NPR interview about parallel universes with right now as I’m writing this. It’s on the multiverse. I first heard about the multiverse from a friend of mine, MVR, about ten years ago; M had been a neighbor and sometime-collaborator when DK had Kornerhaus on 19th and John in Seattle. Great things came of those meetings: math-inspired, philosophical, wide-ranging, and high-key. Enjoyed those, quite a lot, and haven’t met anyone as colorful in some years, now, when it comes to math-and-art mixtures of personalities. (M, if you see this, hi-5 from Phnom Penh. Also, do you know about this?:–)
QUICKLY, I thought it would be good to highlight some of the things I’m discovering from the lectures and interviews I’m listening to today with Greene. Not only did I really like the movie A Beautiful Mind, and also The Theory of Everything, and also, the fascinating and still-curious film, Charles and Ray Eames‘ 1977 short film ‘Powers of Ten’, not to mention the more recent viewing of something at Kuala Lumpur’s planetarium, ‘Journey to a Billion Suns‘—
–there are more things to sum and round in the conversation-spaces to come, in the hallways of our since-2014 and counting, very low-key and flat-hierarchical salons, ie S P A C E, here at DK’s innermost circles. We talk about stuff like this. Like, really talk.
Well, here’s the bit that is interesting that I found from a cursory quick search of what kinds of things might be worth zining about, when it comes to explaining (or at least, hinting at the possibility at) that which is related to the ‘multiverse’ idea.
‘In any finite region of space, matter can only arrange itself in finitely different configurations. You and I are just a configuration of particles… everybody in this room is just a configuration of particles.’
‘A large number!’ interjects the interviewer, who isn’t very helpful, really.
‘A large number but a finite number,’ Greene continues. ‘Similarly if I take a deck of cards, if I shuffle the deck, the order of the cards differ, [but] the number of orders is finite. If I shuffle the deck enough times, the order of the cards… has to repeat. Similarly, the order of the particles would have to repeat too. [And] if the configuration of particles repeats someplace out there in the cosmos, it means all that we know is repeating. We are out there. And that’s a very straightforward mathematical conclusion from a simple starting point: space goes out infinitely far.’
Elsewhere, he expands to say that math opens the realm of possibility, and ‘the art of physics is to be able to sniff out which mathematics is relevant for reality, and which isn’t.’ In other words, the things that math can do for us are to help us get to ‘the border of understanding,’ and then push over the horizon, as he says, so that we can use the things we can calculate and guess at through our mathematical calculations in order to test stuff out, with observation and experiment, and decide if it’s worth keeping around in our chambers of things we hold to be ‘true.’ A debatable idea, ‘truth’, (read something about how goldfish see the world through curved bowls and isn’t their idea of what’s ‘real’ just as valid, even if it comes together to them through a concave plane?’) but that’s another story.
If, though, we find out that our experiment and observation give us good cause to believe that there are things that are different from what we think they are, then hey, we’re on to something. This is how people had found out that the Earth isn’t the center of the solar system, after all. And is the stuff, then, of paradigm shifts and scientific revolutions. Too often in our current mode of thinking in the Western thought that has dominated for so long the scope for thinking about ‘what could be’ and ‘what lies outside of our understanding’ is so limited that it is shoved into a weird box of something called ‘spirituality,’ blech, or metaphysics or philosophy or existentialism, transcendentalism, or something else. Labels don’t help. What we need to do is find a new philosophy, a philosophy of this moment, in which all the things that the scientists have shared and shown and pointed out to us can inform an illuminated thinking about our existence: the main questions of philosophy which still stand, which have been said to be, in a book that S. Hawking co-authored, these: 1. Why is there something rather than nothing? 2. Why do we exist? and 3. Why this particular set of laws and not some other?
Can we talk about that? Let’s.
Multiverses and strings
YOW. PRETTY NIFTY. THESE DAYS, I’ve been reading up at the libraries and listening to anything I can find on the subject of the multiverse and string theory. Following on the anecdotal stories I had gathered in real life, popping in to scientific establishments in California in 2014 and Denmark the next year, yes, all very popping-in, over here, as we do, in our meanders through S P A C E, in order to spot the people and stories that I’d like to interview for our podcasts (coming, also), and now, the new zines, and next, the chapbooks. Small, simple steps, these: moving towards discovering our concept and now, sharing out the learnings that are the most intriguing (to us).
S P A C E. The stuff of our online magazine… it’s about vastness and possibility. Yeah. Possibility, the search for the edge, the invitation to take a leap into the unknown, chance encounters, and the discoveries along the way in the very fine, very small, intimate moments of simply being, and simply observing: all of that is folded into our interactive magazie-cum-real-life-salon-series, S P A C E. where we go in the world isn’t as important as whom we find when we get to the places where we land. Sometimes it’s by invitation, other times by sheer brute force, to go and see what we could do if we simply turned up, to try. I heard that in 30 years, philosophy will be a subject that will be in-demand for jobseekers. Cool.
An art of possibility
QUANTUM PHYSICS has always been a keen interest of study for DK, not just because some of us have been trained in engineering, but because the innovation spacemaking that is so important right now if we are to continue to develop and progress as a set of collaborators in the world instead of isolated, narcissistic pockets of people who have wealth, privilege and power, well, yeah, so yeah, if we’re going to try to make things better for more of us, we have to get out of the usual treads and jump up and out into something… not-yet-known. Why? Because that’s where interesting things can be discovered. ‘Give yourself an A,’ says Benjamin Zander, in his book, Art of Possibility. We’re gonna do that, moving forward. Just gonna brute force method turn into a miniature publishing house. Starting with zines, last year, and now, moving towards chapbooks. Seriously fun stuff.
So far, it’s been about trying things with our senses and taking the time to get some feedback on the things that work well, and don’t. Showing up for real life in the salons and ateliers since 1994 (!) has been a work in the practice of how to get up and get going and see where things can lead, but that’s just our practice, here, behind the website, and we are now starting to share the learnings, the methods, and the outcomes, through the community that we are building, one small conversation at a time. Sometimes there are curious intermingling, in the protected pages of our online forums, which open the insights and give the shape to the things being co-produced, co-written, and co-
created. Why make this happen is a giant question for so many people—whatever is the point, DK, of going around the world on your own dime getting people together in unusual, hard-to-explain ‘ateliers,’ in order to do, what exactly? Oh, philosophize? Reflect? So that they can do what, you’re saying? Um…. remarkably interconnect and connect to discover new ways of thinking, meet new people, and meet themselves anew? But. Um. Why?’ Um. I guess I could say, watch my talk, ‘Fuzzy Quantum Pop.’
Brian Greene tells us that, according to mathematics, there are copies of ourselves, ‘out there,’ if we can accept the assumption that space goes on forever. In many of the interviews we are listening to in order to understand his idea, we’re seeing that he has to get past all these weird obstacles like how the interviewers are doubting the whole potentiality of math showing us that the way we normally think about things could be completely limited. (For ex, ‘That sounds like religion.’ Or, ‘I don’t believe space goes on forever.’) I’d like to find an interview where he’s able to just talk without those piddly questions. What is possible is what intrigues… the more we can talk together about that, the more interesting things can get, discussion wise. At least, that’s our take.
And I’ll leave you with this…
Let’s learn about the Maxwell Boltzmann distribution
NEW THINGS. Starting again. In S P A C E. In very small circles. Trusting the process and enjoying the adventure, creating the design for hosting and engaging some of us, some of us who are still curious, still open to the possibility of being changed by what we hear, and still ready to learn, from any chance encounter: as did the people I met at the N. Bohr Institute in Copenhagen when on a visit there, or in the corners of philosophy classes after the teachers left and texts were closed in my high school summer at Governor’s School East in Laurinburg NC, or in the empty moments just being on the edges of the world, for all the edges are at the edge, are they not?, in Nagarkot, Manali, Kyoto, Berlin, wistful piazzas in Bologna, the drone and hum and boisterousness of the throng of the West Village in 1990s New York, and more, and, other, and, more recently, in S P A C E. Here’s to the journeys, the new, the near, and the next. Ready for the 8 Oct thing. Ready, set.
The opposite of a profound truth may be another profound truth. —N. Bohr
PHNOM PENH, it’s nice to see you.
Blogging, writing, conversing, connecting, and sharing–but slowly, small steps, this time. Meet me in the conversation spaces of S P A C E. Looking through the photo archives since 2014, when DK first arrived in Siem Reap with no idea whatsoever that we’d be making Phnom Penh a base for the next four years. A long story. Writing, revising. Sharing, learning: but like I said, slowly, quietly, and in whispers, with very small circles. A new quiet space, a new, loose, light and less-public facing growth.
To be continued.
‘And in the foggy dawn they all tumbled out into the green. The eastern sky was clearing, waiting for the sun to rise. It was at the ready, in a few minutes, the night would be over, and everything could start anew from the beginning.
‘A new door to the Unbelievable, to the Possible. A new day when everything may happen if you have no objection to it’.
–Moominpappa, as recorded in Tove Jansson’s Moominpappa’s Memoirs.