What is NOW? by ‘N’ Bangkok

FB_IMG_1444538773539‘NOW’ IS AS EPHEMERAL AS EVER. Am I doing what is important to me, making the most it? Can I at least help someone else to answer ‘yes’ to that question? And would it be okay to just relish in not being exhausted for a moment, now?

Editor’s note: This is a joint essay by guests who had attended ‘N’ in Bangkok in October, 2015. Images and words came from them, in response to our theme, ‘What is NOW?’

BUDDHISM AND CONSUMERISM are both trendy right now, if you really stop and think about it. But they also go against the idea of the ‘now.’ Some say one’s cool and the other’s nuts. But now can you be both, at the same time?

NOW: the idealist keyword for change and peace, but what is NOW for the capitalist? ‘How do we benefit now?’  The soldier asks: ‘how do I survive now?’ And if a meteor hits earth, NOW is gone. Poof, just like that. So what is now is simply none other than a belief in which one places weight, and  considers, earnestly, to be truthful. Or?

NOW: accepting ‘that in which it is,’ and doing one’s best to balance the equilibrium.

There are so many kinds of weights pulling and shifting, in flux, constantly—but what is alive and felt, and perceived in the moment, what is heard—like that thing about the tree that falls in a wood without people around to hear, would it make a sound? Like that. What is going on, just immediately, in this NOW?

 

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I THINK TIME is like a big rain cloud with infinite drops. The nowness is when it rains

the drops of time and we are aware of it. If we’re not aware that the time is falling, it is

impossible to catch up with time, and then there’ll be no concept of ‘now’ at all.

Everything will end up on the ground, in the past. All we’ll have then are documents, like snaps. Speaking of which, what is a photograph? Is it really a piece of frozen time? A preserved form of ‘here and now’? Or just the past haunting us? Coded, strange.

banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana jackfruit banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana banana

 

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WHAT IF ‘NOW’ equals ‘happiness.’ Paying attention to your life, the creaks and groans of your own body, the taste of passionfruit, the sound of your son watching YouTube in the bedroom. A deep breath. You are alive. And this moment is all we have. Let it wash over you.

Is arriving at that awareness a kind of, what do they call it… enlightenment? Perhaps that’s too esoteric. But, is that it? The noticing of NOW, the framing of the urgency of the moment, is that what we’re here to achieve? I confess I’m not sure.

[Gosh, it’s cold in here with the aircon on full blast. Very annoyingly, some keys on my laptop have been broken by our kids, so sorry I went over the word limit. Maybe it’s because I am a bit hung over. Can’t think. :)… ]

 

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STRIKES ME THAT ‘Now’ is the realm of feelings, where ‘Past’ is the realm of the facts, and ‘Future,’ of imaginations. No wonder I have a hard time living the now—being distracted by the future and the past can be an addictive, escapist habit.

Wait, what was the question? Constraining to 50 words is a good thinking exercise. I did a few of them. I guess I’ll go with the ‘abstract and asking existential questions’ one:

‘Now’ is as ephemeral as ever.

Am I doing what is important to me, making the most it?

Can I at least help someone else to answer ‘yes’ to that question?

And would it be okay to just relish in not being exhausted for a moment, now?

Questions, questions.

But also, a poem. Untitled, as of yet, but I might call it ‘is-ness.’

Now I am
Now I know, now I sense and feel
Yesterday I was
And yesterday is over for now
Tomorrow I will be
Tomorrow I don’t know
So I hold onto this moment of today
Opening myself up to the experiences of this day
To the awakening of my senses
And to the energies… of today
Of now … just as it is
Breathing in and out this is-ness

Know what? On my 30th birthday, I gave myself the below lessons:

  • live with consciousness
  • live for yourself and worry less
  • help others as much as you can
  • avoid what hurts you
  • live to work, not work to live
  • don’t waste too much time on negative people
  • ‘no’ is a complete sentence
  • life is too short to wait, if you want to do anything, do it ‘now’.

THAT’S THE REPORT I’ve got for you. For now.

Next stop, London. Or Copenhagen. Or Hanoi. Depending on the people, and the dates that the guests of each will choose together. Let’s see what happens?

—N

 

An evening of jazz and conversation this Friday in Bangkok

This Friday, DK and jazZ happens! present 'The Book of Blue'THIS FRIDAY, Design Kompany and jazZ happens! present ‘The Book of Blue,’ a once-off evening of jazz, collage, and conversation

JAZZ, COLLAGE AND CONVERSATION have something in common. You experiment, you play, and when you ‘hit’ the right idea, you go with it. When things go well, there’s high-quality communication. Flow.

This Friday, Design Kompany and jazZ happens! present ‘The Book of Blue,’ a once-off evening of jazz, collage, and conversation inspired by the color blue.

THE BOOK OF BLUE
Friday, October 16
jazZ happens!
7-9PM

Related: Facebook event page >

Tea and sunset

SO AND I HAVE the same language, and even the same cultural references, being compatriots (in a benign way), so it was easier to get a little more deep into the texture and complexity of things that one who is a stranger might say to another one who is also a stranger.

POETRY IS ARRIVING. Pictures of Bangkok. Stories in short, short blurbs. I’ve asked guests of ‘N’ Bangkok to send me something ahead of time, so we can create a joint composition.

Something cool is happening—people are writing, thinking, sharing, and in a sort of intriguing way, we are already starting our conversation installation ‘N’. Our theme for ‘N’ Bangkok, which is imminent, is NOW.

Diary of a Bangkok conversation-seeking traveler

YESTERDAY WAS a really different sort of day than the one I told you about with the BTS sign language and tarot stuff. Yesterday was slow and reflective.

3N by DK
3N by DK

The highlight was a little tea place that seemed like exactly the sort of spot to cozy up and become slow and reflective. It’s called Peace Cafe, the Japanese symbol 和. Cool little touches like having a decal on one glass wall on the staircase that makes a shadow. All Tadao Ando-ey but without the concrete. Second floor is a reading room, and that’s where I bumped into SO.

Earlier in the day I’d met someone over breakfast at my business-traveler-friendly hotel, just briefly, a 60-year old Japanese salaryman who confessed he’s dreading the day of his teinentaishoku, or forced retirement, which is imminent. We got chatting away about this and how he feels and he asked me what was I doing. I said, ‘意味のあるものを探しています。’ And he said, with zenzen no judgement, ‘深いね。’ And there was a long, long Japanese sort of pause in which each person retreats into their innermost reflective spaces. So going to another place, after, that’s a Japanese sort of pause-forming space made perfect sense. (I will skip my bad experience at the Aussie-run overly hipster cafe that has a Scandinavian interior, a Japanese name that has nothing to do with anything, and music that makes you want to run into the woods and wail to the moon, because design is sort of sacred, and you really really wanted to like this place because someone had a good eye, but!, but—conceptually it was all over the place. The equivalent of ‘fashion road kill.’)

SO and I have the same language, and even the same cultural references, being compatriots (in a benign way), so it was easier to get a little more deep into the texture and complexity of things that one who is a stranger might say to another one who is also a stranger. I think this conversation that took me through a lot of trails and discoveries and ‘a-ha’ moments that someone who is more evolved than I am in terms of learning how to listen and be compassionate and stuff. I couldn’t have been more lucky to run into just this person in this space at this moment. After our talks—which I still need to process some more, because they entered that ethereal and ephemeral and philosophical space that leads you to things, though only Rilke would be able to describe it beautifully and soundly in some sort of language, and one would only wish one could get a sense of a tenth of that sort of sentience.  We talked so much I forgot to order tea. So today, I’m at a little mall-ified version of the one spot I discovered yesterday. (I’m at Siam Square looking consumerism on full-square—plush and decorative buy-me stuff that is Society of the Spectacle stuff, a lie that material makes you cool, that chases us apart, manipulates, and shuns the better thing: which is free (high-quality time, together). But, no. It’s: ‘Smile for the selfie!’)

Before this gets too long-winded, and I share about the hotel employee at this rooftoppy place whom I kinda asked too many personal questions of, and what happened, or the young people I met at a ‘bar’ that is a plastic table and plastic chairs and knowing people who will give you bottles of beer and spicy Thai dishes, I will say that the after-teahouse hours were mostly simply just enjoying sunset, assuring the staff ‘yes’ I could handle a two-for-one of the hard stuff, wondering if interestingness and conversation space could happen again by sheer random chance.

It would and did, but I’ll tell you about that after finishing this pot of tea. While trying not to notice the clicking of digital pictures of other tables’ pots of tea, cakes, cookies, and waffley-tarty things.

Deep breath.

‘N’ is on. Very soon.

I’m grateful for this project, which lets me bump into sheer randomness, cool people, and intriguing connections by some engineering and mostly intuition and of course, pure chance. Let’s see where and how we can make more sparkling conversation happen? It’s never a given. Walking into the uncertain, though, is exactly what ‘N’ commands. —AS

 

Tarot on the roof and signing Sheffield

HONORING DIVERGENT VIEWPOINTS. Unpopular, in modern Western thought. Here’s why it shouldn’t be.

YESTERDAY I GOT A LESSON IN TAROT.

Beautiful, interesting game. Cards are lovely, they have all these intriguing hierarchies, so it’s like playing spades, but in a foreign language. Actually it was a foreign language. This was in French. I don’t know what’s happening when things are in French. Depictions of royalty, maybe?

The tarot cards reminded me of Mucha. I love Mucha.
The tarot cards reminded me of Mucha. I love Mucha.

And a lot of other things, some of them made sense, because I’m a big fan of spades and cards in general and wanted to learn this, but much of it was over my head, so I had to excuse myself as the sole beginner and head for the exit before people got annoyed. Then, I got on the train again.

The first time I’d been on the train that evening I’d met a Jehovah’s witness who works with deaf people and knows sign language, which he told me is different, a little, in every country. And then we got to talking about how to ‘say’ the names of cities in sign language. Bangkok is this, he said. London is this. ‘What’s Sheffield?’ I immediately wanted to know, owing to a twenty-year fascination with that city. He crossed his index fingers and started sawing. ‘Knives. Sheffield is famous for knives and metalworks, so, this.’

Intrigued, I asked what New York is. I totally didn’t get that sign. He didn’t either, it’s just what it was. You get to meet people and you learn how to sign their cities. It’s like a separate code, and we talked about code and languages of programming, and then it was my stop and I had to go to this card game. Which I’d thought, mistakenly!, would be a fortune-telling thing. So I just blurted out, ‘You’re gonna tell me I’m gonna DIE!’ And they all were like, ‘Um. Did you read the blurb?’ And I was like, ‘No.’ And: ‘The first line is that you know, it’s not a fortune telling thing.’ ‘So you’re gonna tell me I’m gonna LIVE!’ And we were off into smalltalk and the land of inconsequential gettingtoknowyous which obviously have to happen before you can talk, oh, particle physics and the latest nobel prizery for neutrino oscillation.

But!

Before this particular day, on the way to the next place, before that, on the way to this one, there were other conversations. I mean, there was that guy from Sweden who talked to me good-naturedly in that accent that reminds me in every way of a close friend from that country. ‘Oh, my shoes are from Sweden!’ I said. They are, actually, that’s a true story. I needed some good sturdy shoes because I walk a lot, so I got these clogs. Anyway, I also met a pole dancing freelance writer who shared her lunch table with me at a mall, and then, we got to talking about relationships! (always comes up, not quite sure why). I also talked to someone whom I bumped into the next day, and that was interesting but not really, because you know, some people really want to meet in a regular, networking-festival sort of way.

They want to talk over some hoity-toity buffet, and wear their ties and act cool and have business cards. Which now reminds me of what a guest of a recent event in Phnom Penh said about those kinds of events, which we go to but you know, we all know nothing interesting happens after that. I feel like I spent way, way too much time in these sorts of settings when, in fact, I really rather would have just bumped into someone on the street. Like, back in the 1990s, that one lad from Sheffield. I’ve been talking about Sheffield a lot because I still remember that conversation we had. It was really, really good. It was the kind of conversation that even if you’re completely different from someone, you can still talk together and even enjoy the variation. Which, I think, I have a hunch, is part of what ‘N’ is wanting to make space for.

'N' Bangkok tickets. Just 16.
‘N’ Bangkok tickets. Just 16.

Celebrate the differentnesses

HONORING DIVERGENT VIEWPOINTS. Unpopular, in modern Western thought. But today I got a challenge to do more of this. This is what my morning conversation was with another person, a lovely person, whom I’ve met here in Bangkok, this time much less randomly, because you know, I have been talking like hell online with people in BKK ahead of ‘N’ which is coming up soon, which is about gathering people who never would have met in ONE moment of conversation, and so, some people won’t be in town but were interested enough to ask me the kinds of questions that made me want to meet them and talk more, in real life, offline, you know? Really great to do that.

They say when you do a kickstarter—and I kind of picture ‘N’ like a mini-kickstarter, in a way—they say when you do it, you find out very quickly who your true people are. True in the sense of, like, this person’s solid. This person gets me. So many times we are distracted by people who don’t—and we’re distracted by something that’s our own preconceptions of who they are, based on say, looks, or their job, or their impression they left at you at that networking-festival, you with your wine glass that’s too expensive for the taste, and you’re like, ‘Um.’

Maybe I can say all this because I’ve just had some vegetables. Yesterday started out okay, I had the complimentary breakfast of scrambled eggs and toast, coffee. But the rest of the day was just more coffee, chocolate, an almond tart, a shot of whiskey, and a soda water.

Nourishment. Clarity.

Better to run into people and connect with people who maybe get it that openness and readiness to try things is more like it. You know what else? I’m trying to do that, myself. I’m trying to get into the space of going where I’m not comfortable, and that started with the rooftop game of tarot. Thanks, Bangkok and randomness and internet, for helping me start this party. —AS

Sixteen people in Bangkok are gathering soon for ‘N’

the best isyetto come.IT IS SET.

IT IS SET.

Tickets booked. Transportation sorted. Even a place to stay.

This is way, way different from other things I’ve been doing.

HOW IT WORKS. Guests for ‘N’ Bangkok all had to commit to a ticket BEFORE we picked a date. Then, we chose together. This process took a little bit of time. Of course it did. But you know what? It wasn’t about the actual event itself, or the ‘what am I gonna get out of it’ thinking that will block us all from exploration, and lateral thinking, and going outside the lines—the very stuff that systems thinkers say you HAVE to do if you want to find new ways to approach (and even, let’s be big picture about it, REDEFINE) the problems and difficulties and hardships that exist. If there’s a knot in something, you don’t have to just untangle that knot. You can look for places where the real stressors are, and then you can—

But wait.

Before I turn this into a shout-out for the benefits of doing things you’d never do SO THAT you can DISCOVER new approaches, perspectives, people, and ideation methods, I will just say this.

OMW Bangkok, I can’t wait to meet you again. I’m so looking forward to the conversation about ‘NOW.’ It’s been really fun meeting so many people online ahead of ‘N’. I’ve learned so much about the way it’s very, very different from real life. I’m much better in real life, so it was hard! But I didn’t want ‘N’ to be about ‘packing it up,’ as much as about Open Space, in which ‘whoever comes is the right people’ is a major tenet. Did they WANT to come? This is something you have to pre-commit to, so that means, no deciding at the last minute, and for me, as host, no entertaining the kinds of people who just want to use everything as a networking/date-finding opportunity, or who are bored and come along at the last minute as a ‘favor’ to you. Blech. That’s not ‘N’ at all. ‘N’ is much much more than that. It’s why it’s so special to me, personally, and why it made magic, in my opinion!, on April 26, 2015 in Phnom Penh. No giant corporate sponsor, no beer company, no obligation to buy buy buy something from someone. Just conversation. Pure. It’s like inviting you to my house, but of course, I don’t have a house in Bangkok. But because I’ve laid quite a few ground rules and talked extensively with the venue, everyone knows that for the time frame I’ve booked for ‘N’, it IS kind of like my house. And I will welcome my guests as though they are my real houseguests. Remember when we used to have people over, and talk, and just enjoy the art of conversations? It’ll be like that, if you are old enough to recall a time when we didn’t leave things open without RSVP’ing ‘no,’ and we didn’t cancel on the fly. In my growing-up time, these things were considered ‘rude.’ Because it’s so normal now, and because I can’t stand that, I made ‘N’ to push back on the culture of maybe.

SEE YOU SOON, BKK ‘N’ GUESTS! Maybe we were talking online, for a while, or maybe we met once, or maybe we were there for a small moment of shared space. ‘N’ is designed space. ‘N’ is just for you. Thank you, to the 16 people who have trusted me to hold the space.

See you soon. Agenda to follow. I’ll email, of course, with that. —AS

Social innovation with my Cambodian teammates

TODAY, A GUEST POST from Phnom Penh-based innovation consultant Akira Morita. Akira is a founding member of Design Kompany’s creative collective.

Today a guest post from Phnom Penh-based innovation consultant Akira Morita. Akira is a founding member of Design Kompany’s creative collective.

IT WAS DURING my third Startup Weekend that I was a coach at, in Siem Reap, when I realized I had no idea what it was like to actually participate in this world of quickly assembling ideas and forging them into a clear, well-formed business pitch.

Then I thought: ‘that’s not right. I need to change this.’

Which is how I wound up entering an ‘idea competition’ with a group of Cambodian youths this summer.

THE INKLING. I had watched, coached or spoken at these [startup event and pitching session] things before (I don’t know why—because I was a ‘design thinker’ and a ‘consultant,’ maybe? Is this why people ask you to sign up for things like this?) Whatever the reason, I was always happy to be asked and said ‘yes’. But like I said, I had never personally participated in something that gets people together to quickly come up with an idea for a thing that’s cool (and is needed. And works).

The ASEAN Impact Challenge was a chance.

Deciding to ‘do it’

First a little bit about the contest we are still awaiting word about this week. (Fingers crossed!)

THE CHALLENGE. ASEAN Impact Challenge is an idea competition that gathers people from ten countries in Asia, to compete in coming up with an idea and pitching it. It has to be a social innovation that exists, or gets thunk up on the spot.

It’s organized by SCOPE Group, an ‘international impact consultancy,’ and it’s also supported by Malaysian Governmental agencies, too. It partners with other private companies and organizations (More: AseanImpactChallenge.org/About.php).

The teams of 5 people each have to go through an application process (dead simple and virtually everyone gets accepted), then undergo a full-day workshop on human centered design.

Our ideas get made into 3-minute pitch videos that explain the big idea, then those are submitted to the judges in Malaysia. (This is our status presently, awaiting word on our entry—this week.) Eventually, two teams from each country will be selected to compete live in Kuala Lumpur in November. Coaching. Incubation. (I think. The details of this event is best conjectured at, since the organizers are not necessarily forthcoming with exact details, probably because it’s their first time organizing it.)

Why did I do this? Same reason I do everything. Practice. Trying new things.

To practice ideating for real—with a team. I wanted to do more than side-line coaching with the youths here, to see if I can work with them and help them experience something that results in real growth.

How I found my Cambodian teammates

I ATTENDED AN ORIENTATION session in July, and asked around in a wildly open-format way for teammates. ‘If you are still not sure about what you’ll pitch, I’m looking for team mates.’

Creativity
Ideating in Phnom Penh

Two people came up to me afterwards: one ended up forming her own team, but the other turned out to be a perfect match for me. A recent graduate with a business degree, TT had experience with his family tailoring business that made him eager to help garment sector workers (his sister was one once, before she started her tailoring business.)

We brought in our mutual friends SL and ST, who had professional experiences in media and marketing, to help us.

We found the last member, another ST, later in our video making process.

‘CHAOTIC.’ The process turned out to be more chaotic than I’d imagined. I’d thought, ‘We have a whole month, surely it will be quite simple,’ but I didn’t account for just how busy these young people were. We could only meet in the evenings and on weekends, and two of them in particular had to travel all the time for their jobs.

We had to meet in parts to refine our idea, write and plan the video, then shoot footage and edit in a three-day sprint. Luckily, the video guy, SL, and marketing gal ST had participated in Startup Weekend before, so they were used to the pace, and could deliver on what we needed, which is a video that’s ‘good enough.’

IDEATION IN PRACTICE. Coming up with ideas in a group was the trickiest part for me. I had three idea generating sessions, twice in three and once with just TT, and by the time we came to the final idea it was almost mid-August.

I had wanted the process to be driven by the other team members as much as we could afford to, given the time constraints. I wanted to respect and nurture their creativity. But in the end, I was the one giving more ideas out, and encouraging the others to pitch their ideas in, and think beyond their initial idea was tough. In the end, I had to synthesize the various input I gained from the members into an idea that addressed the needs put forward by TT of creating livelihood for the rural youth, which everyone is happy about.

Once the idea in place, going through a CANVAS process and making sure the idea holds up, and storyboarding the video and planning the shoot, were pretty straightforward, if not necessarily the most FUN part of the process for everyone. I led these efforts and the team participated as they could. We all worked hard to meet the deadline, and I’m very much pleased with the result:

Related: Watch it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5w5QCcbhofY

Lots to say about this. But for now, I’m thinking about how my growth was in learning just how complicated a group collaboration could be, and at the same time, how much fun it is. I was lucky to have such open and friendly team mates and for me the biggest challenge was to forget my default role as a leader, and enjoy the experience fully! —AM

There is no perfect

The Achievement Conversation I HAD NO IDEA these conversation salons were so large in quantity and varied in theme. Stayed up a little too late drawing lines on a large piece of paper, making highlighter marks in yellowgreenblueorange, connecting some boxes, trying to categorize, see where the threads are. Looking at a lot of data, you could say. Thinking about the story. The arc, that is. And in some weird and intriguing sort of way, ‘a-ha!’, it popped right out. And I found it.

The thread of the conversation series, which so very many people in the last ten years have asked me all about in various phrasings (‘What is it? Sounds interesting, but I don’t get it’ or ‘WTF?’ or ‘What is the point of it, though?’ or ‘What do I get from this?’) have made me search deeply to find an answer to, I think it comes down to one thing.

The Achievement Conversation
The Achievement Conversation. Curious? Ask >
TOTTING THE SERIES OF THINGS DK HAS DONE SINCE 2005 when we started in Seattle, I discovered a whole slew of conversation salons.

Yes, conversation parties. People stop checking their phones, and no one buys drinks because they’re too busy talking. (Venues don’t like me much). Sort of a mix of workshop and cocktail hour, or sometimes more focused with real worksheets and things. Just in 2014-15, we have hosted a series of conversations (Origin, Beauty, Math+Jazz, N, Value, Hello August, and most recently, Ennui). A recurring theme is ‘achievement.’ What are we doing in Phnom Penh: what brings us, what keeps us here, where are we going with our careers?

Really? Salons? Achievement? What gives? I thought we were a design studio? Something has shifted, dramatically, in the last 10 years. We’re no longer talking about our past work in brand identity design.

On growth and the process of shift

I HAD NO IDEA these conversation salons were so large in quantity and varied in theme. Stayed up a little too late drawing lines on a large piece of paper, making highlighter marks in yellowgreenblueorange, connecting some boxes, trying to categorize, see where the threads are. Looking at a lot of data, you could say. Thinking about the story. The arc, that is. And in some weird and intriguing sort of way, ‘a-ha!’, it popped right out. And I found it.

The thread of the conversation series, which so very many people in the last ten years have asked me all about in various phrasings (‘What is it? Sounds interesting, but I don’t get it’ or ‘WTF?’ or ‘What is the point of it, though?’ or ‘What do I get from this?’) have made me search deeply to find an answer to, I think it comes down to one thing.

There is no perfect

GROWTH.

That is, personal growth.

That is, development.

I used to think ‘development’ and ‘growth’ and even the overmany syllable word ‘innovation’ were just too used. They’ve become cliches. Truth is, most of me still thinks so. I’ve avoided this in my diction for the sheer reason that training in news journalism makes you want to delete all jargon, and fast, and hard. So you don’t see me talking about ‘growth’ out loud here on the blog. You see ‘N+1,’ of course, because what’s the problem with using mathematics? Nothing. But that’s my way of saying ‘growth.’ There’s a lot more to say about that, but I’ll leave ‘N+1’ for another post (or series).

Development is another thing. You see people who really, really want to do something. Creatively, I mean. They think taking a weekend painting course (have you heard the expression, ‘Sunday painter?’) is going to be a good creative outlet. They think that if they had a whole week off from some day job somewhere, they would do their thing that they’ve always wanted to do. Maybe it’s picking up an instrument. Maybe it’s a poetry workshop, a mountain, or installation of a chandelier.) What doesn’t happen in our world of creativity and innovation and growth and development is that honest and true thing that one simply must—MUST—find one’s way to, either by some link, or just the fact of having done a lot of things that don’t work and having to come to terms with where one is, and how it will work, and what it will become. What I’m talking about of course is the creative process. Which starts with the blank page and opens up to all possibilities and then, as luck would have it, begins to make itself into a pattern that the person who is making begins to see. Observing clearly is the work of all science, and all art is making meaning of it.

The journey is all there is

AND WHAT DOES ALL THIS MEAN? It means the creative process in and of itself is the personal growth work. It means that starting to start is the beginning step (I call this concept of intention setting, and the nudge, ‘N + 1/infinity’). It means that nothing is going to happen unless you commit to diving in, and going deep, and staying a while, with the process. Our old blog used to have a category, ‘Trust the Process.’ I had no idea that this was the whole crux of Design Kompany. Making meaning is up to each of the people who join us for a time, do a gig with us. I don’t mean interns or employees—I mean clients. Clients come into the ‘sandbox’ and play for a while with us. It’s a jam. It really, truly is. When we discover our way to the pattern someone will note it. It’s best when it comes from a place that’s honest, true (and I was going to say brave and Hemingwaylike, but none of those elephant shootings and arm wrestlings are necessary). What IS important is trusting the process. A lot of people want to skip all the hard work of the journey from N to N+1, and just go ahead and publish, or print a CD, or make a t-shirt, or whatever else. But usually the first thing that comes out is complete rot. You have probably noticed when you are writing, and then you go back and edit, that the entire first paragraph of a first draft is probably dispensable. [I’ve just deleted the first paragraph of this story.]

What happens then? You have to do the work.

You have to get into it.

This can take a very, very long time.

It can hurt. It can twist and shove the ego back to wherever the ego comes from. It can agitate, delight, sing, dance, and puncture. You are wounded when the flow doesn’t come up to your standard of liking. Then you might change your mind altogether about what it is you like anyway. Maybe you hate Jane Austen and you can say that out loud, all that era’s chauvinism and silliness, or you can admit to never having read The Naked Lunch, sorry, no, and you can get to a point where you decide esoteric theater really isn’t your thing. You know you’re supposed to like things that you spend a lot of money on for tickets, but you’re still okay with getting up at halftime and walking out the door. Life gets you thinking, experiences teach, and you adjust into a person your younger self would look at and go, ‘Huh. That’s me in 20 years??’

You know what the real work of achievement is? Knowing that the person you are now (N) and the person you are becoming (N+1) will both be cool with the learning that has to happen between one point and the next. It’s the achievement of the journey itself, not the ‘winning’ that might come from an external validation source. That source might be dead by the time you get to N+1. And then who’s gonna pat you on the back?

You know it’s really like that. Starting to start is the big work. But how?

That’s the question each of us has to answer for ourselves. But maybe it’s not so much the answers that matter, but the starting to start thinking in this vein that is the trick. How do you know what interesting is? You feel it in your bones. When a thing is good, when a work is right, when the creativity and the process become a joy and not a slog, that is when you will discover your own thread, your own pattern, your own distinct momentous ‘a-ha.’

Best of luck, and yeah, we’re all on that vector, and so, as you venture, may the force be with you. —DK

Get more like this

MEET ME in S. P. A. C. E. >

On artfulness and growth

IN THE SECOND INSTANCE, you think it’s good but you don’t know. You email your ex-girlfriend, you forget to attach it. You re-send, and you attach it. This is important, but she isn’t answering. You take pictures of it, and you don’t know which one is in the best light, so you put all five images up on instagram. You hope she sees it. Please hit that little heart.

IN THE FIRST INSTANCE, it feels quite good. Like, ‘Yeah. This is good.’ And you stop and say, ‘I’m done.’ You walk away. You let it be. You move on to the next thing. Maybe it’s a project. Maybe it’s a piece. Something you’ve been trying to get to but you weren’t sure how you would—except, having just completed this thing that feels quite good—whatever it is, having just finished it up, and let it happen, and seeing it looking at you like a thing just born, that’s when you know. You’re ready. ‘Gimme,’ your hands and heart cry. They sort of intuit it. N+1. The next thing, the next place, the next stop on the journey.

IN THE SECOND INSTANCE, you think it’s good but you don’t know. You email your ex-girlfriend, you forget to attach it. You re-send, and you attach it. This is important, but she isn’t answering. You take pictures of it, and you don’t know which one is in the best light, so you put all five images up on instagram. You hope she sees it. Please hit that little heart. You wait. You wonder. You wait some more. This is the place where you start to think, ‘Hm. Maybe it didn’t feel so good.’ Whatever it was. A composition, the way you made it. You start having doubts like crazy, and you want to remove the pictures. You remove about four of them. One left. One big maybe. Days become weeks, become months. Years. And you have only been at N.

Two instances, two outcomes. N. And N+1. Where are you now? Where are you going? —DK

Ira Glass on ‘fighting through’

‘NOBODY TELLS THIS to people who are beginners,’ says Ira Glass. ‘I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you.

‘A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know it’s normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.’ ― Ira Glass Watch/Read it here

Swiss hills and unlikely friendships

Switzlerland stuff.TODAY IS SATURDAY, it’s late, and the fan is so strong it is disrupting the signal. Which signal? There are so many kinds, and the one that I want to talk about right now, right here, is the signal that is connecting right now through the real-world aether to one particular geographical locale. In Switzerland.

Switzlerland stuff.
Switzlerland stuff.

TODAY IS SATURDAY, it’s late, and the fan is so strong it is disrupting the signal. Which signal? There are so many kinds, and the one that I want to talk about right now, right here, is the signal that is connecting right now through the real-world aether to one particular geographical locale. In Switzerland.

Lots of things to say about Switzerland. The Alps. All those different languages and international-feeling-ness. But I have to admit I never really got too knowledgable about that country. Aside from one giant and daytime train trip from Milan through Basel, exchange there, to the next place, there wasn’t much to report from that foray. My father told me I’d already been there, when I called him up to talk about trains and snowsides so pretty you’d think you were on the cover of that Simply Red album. But Dad said, ‘Switzerland? Big deal. You’ve been there.’

This one.
This one.

Had I? ‘Yeah. You were 2.’ Going around the world was never a big deal. Going to Europe, going to Asia, wherever, whenever, it was about the sweep. Motion, as it works, is about velocities and the spectrum of conversations that scoop up and flow windward—those. Those are the things we remember—at least the one with AZ, can’t remember the line-by-line, but the gist is always with me. Coffee. Switzerland, somewhere in the middle. Conversation. A sort of poem. A sort of breeze. But today, none of that.

Today: a new friend. Switzerland via [DELETED], somewhere along the way, writing. A lot. Together. More now than in the past, somehow, perhaps it’s because these are the times (the times of transition) that we feel the pen has the best way with us.

The_Henry_Miller_ReaderThe pen!

Oh, the power of the pen, that dumb idea I’d had about the nobility of the word to crush out sexism, racism, and all the other ‘isms’ (except maybe xenophobia-ism, ’cause most of the world thinks English is somehow more worth learning than, say, Khmer, but why? Why shouldn’t we all speak at least three languages, like those folks in some particular cluster of Switzerland? Aye.)

Folly of the idealist.

Writing?

Oh, no. Don’t try to make ‘art.’ Just look at the penniless, brilliant New York writer, Henry Miller.

Seeing a promise through

THE PERSON THIS NOTE is for most surely knows I’m writing exactly to him. I’ll not put his initials here, lest he become embarrassed. Though we’ve not met, and I hope that’s not an absolute, I am respectful of this person’s style, and his newfound love of writing. I have to thank him for the work that we did together in probably Design Kompany’s best-ever project. I have to say, with real gratitude, I wouldn’t have been able to come this far in the space of making S. P. A. C. E. without his input, and mostly, participation. Ambient and intermittent, email exchange can be a strange and fascinating kind of ‘room’ for dialogue. But when it’s going well, it’s about the connection. Even if we’re far, we can be near, and even if we’re near, it can be from a place of mutual respect and a warmth of friendship that’s hard to come by once we exceed the age of 16. So I am positive. Writing. In Switzerland somewhere hazy—I don’t know my hillscapes—somewhere he must be doing that. Yes. He is writing, I’m sure. In a state of quiet poise, in a moment of reflection. Pools, perhaps the color of Lake Geneva, and didn’t the Swiss boy in college say something to me once, about that lake, about the Evian bottle design, and not know that one day, later, way later, in life, design and the integrity of design would become hugely important to me, and then, we’d talk about that? Meaning-making, conversation. These are the best journeys, you know.

Unquittingly

IT’S NOT THAT every time you say you should do something you have to, I don’t believe in giving up the shinier opportunity just because you’ve committed your word to a thing. I understand about sunk costs, and I see the value in uprooting and moving quickly to the next place. (Some of you, my oldest friends, already know this about me.) But I have learned from [DELETED] that staying the course can be a beautiful kind of thing, too. You can discover the value of patience, of living through the ups and downs (didn’t Ricky Gervais talk about peaks and troughs, in that last session of The Office?). And you can grow. One of the highest qualities of space becomes, then, this. Progression. A commitment to do something you’ve said you would do can lead to a whole other kind of breakthrough from those I’m used to here at DK (the off-the-cuff, out of the blue, ‘a-ha’ kind is my usual speed, and then, a long void of nothing). But! Long-term. This is nice. This can lead to a kind of comfortable familiarity, the same blossoming of deep friendship that is built with a lasting friend, a comrade in life, a kindred spirit, and a close friend. So tonight, a toast. To friendship. And… to be continued. —DK

November 17: FLOW. Hit your peak productivity with this workshop in Malmö, Sweden

MOST IMPORTANTLY, what we care about most now is co-designing space with people in locales around the world. But not just any people. People who are interested in connecting in real life, connecting with one another, eye to eye so that we can have some good old fashioned human style conversation. It really is awesome when it happens. We get into it. There is a sparkle.

imageThis week in Malmö, Sweden, we are hosting our first-ever workshop on productivity. It’s called FLOW.

GREETINGS FROM SCANDINAVIA, ladies and gentlemen. DK is ambling about here for a spell, bumping into people and places so as to make space for real life. Workshops and conversation salons, that is, for people we are meeting in Malmö and Copenhagen.

(It seems pretty wacky to be writing that, but then again, it seemed weird to be hosting tweetups in Hanoi and esoteric salons asking, ‘Is the medium still the message?’, like we did with Aether, in New York’s Bryant Park, and other stuff. So much to share about past stuff, and how we are changing towards more conversation-space design in 2016, but the present moment is pressing upon us and so let me not get carried away reminiscing or projecting.) For now, it’s really about happening upon an insight: what we care about most now is co-designing space with people in locales around the world. But not just any people. People who are interested in connecting in real life, connecting with one another, eye to eye so that we can have some good old fashioned human style conversation. It really is awesome when it happens. We get into it. There is a sparkle.

ON FRIDAY, DK GOT TO MEET SS, a photographer lately taking images of airplanes. They’re supersaturated pics, because they’re printed on metallic paper, I learned. He told me this and a lot of other things, things I was enjoying more than what the previous art reception (larger, boxier), had to say about anything. Oh, and how did I get to SS’s show? I followed some people out of the other place, a fancy gallery, one of those that I once thought were really cool but now see as institutions. This person I struck up conversation with invited me to hop into the giant bucket attached sturdily to the front of his bicycle. Why not?, and there I was, climbing in just like a kid might. Room to spare in this. Viking country.

So nested, I asked, ‘Um. So, where are we going?’

‘I’m not sure yet.’

I like this kind of party, already.

But we are going to meet SS, I find out.

Who will talk about planes and photoshoots with musicians everywhere in the world, but in a light, nonpretentious way that makes me feel glad that I came to Denmark. Then we will go on to philosophize, of course, about how to find the flow and make work that is truly interesting. Creativity, productivity, flow. Call it what you like. Portraiture comes up. Selfies. Chuck Close. ‘I like that Chuck Close quote,’ says S, ‘about working on things.’

I think he meant this one:

The advice I like to give young artists, or really anybody who’ll listen to me, is not to wait around for inspiration. Inspiration is for amateurs; the rest of us just show up and get to work. If you wait around for the clouds to part and a bolt of lightning to strike you in the brain, you are not going to make an awful lot of work. All the best ideas come out of the process; they come out of the work itself. Things occur to you. If you’re sitting around trying to dream up a great art idea, you can sit there a long time before anything happens. But if you just get to work, something will occur to you and something else will occur to you and something else that you reject will push you in another direction. Inspiration is absolutely unnecessary and somehow deceptive. You feel like you need this great idea before you can get down to work, and I find that’s almost never the case. —Chuck Close

THIS SENTIMENT, interestingly, is also going to feature in our workshop this TUESDAY in Sweden. Who’s around? Stop by, say hi. 🙂 —DK

Flow Workshop
Foo Cafe, at the Media Evolution City building
17:30-19:00
Malmö, Sweden
‘Flow Workshop’ event page on Facebook > | Foo Cafe’s Flow Workshop registration page >


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Resistance. Flaming. Will ‘N’ Bangkok work?

Click to learn more about 'N' Bangkok >SO THAT’S WHAT I’m finding out, in the responses coming back, some of them heavy-handed (‘There’s no way I’m paying you’), and some of them just weird (‘How do I tell my boyfriend? How do I know you’re not going to kidnap me?’) Uhhh…. What?

EMAIL. What a fantastic, weird space.

‘N’ is giving me a crazy unique perspective on how much things have changed since I last used email to get in touch with people I didn’t (yet) know. Those days, I was writing for a newspaper, so I often reached out to random people for quotes, for references, for corroboration, for more expert opinion, and for photographs or samples or other things that I could use to illustrate a particular story. Quotes, yes, I said that, huh. Good quotes, enlightening and to point, were gold.

The world as I knew it from my standard-issue reporter’s desk was an open book; Internet was a way to find the people I needed to connect with to discover, step by step, what a story ‘wanted to be.’ Much like painting, you made a foray into the unknown territory, then through hunches and gut-feel, and sometimes messing up, and sometimes hitting on ‘the happy accident,’ ie a thing you didn’t expect but somehow gave you a new inspiration, writing a story was about discovering the gem.

‘N’ is the biggest (uncommissioned) story I’ve taken on to write, and I’ve only just begun preliminary note-taking, observation on my hunch. I’ll tell you that in a second. ‘N’ Phnom Penh was the first round of searching, of seeking, something that I had a gut feeling about. Here it is. The hunch: Space is disappearing for people to be heard. I mean truly heard.

Let me say that again.

Space is missing. To connect, for real. That means, to feel you are being heard.

I think we need more than ever a way that’s low-committment and low-key and just light.

To be heard. To connect.  Quickly. So ‘N’ is short. And just once.

Creativity is inborn, everywhere

ASIA GETS A HARD REPUTATION for being ‘uncreative.’ But that’s not true. People just don’t value creativity, so they don’t practice. And they get stunted. That’s why you have Singapore (boring and plastic and dull) or fear of risk (ergo, boring and plastic and dull).

The creative in each of us is looking for new input, so as to put at bay some ennui. Because that which we are consuming online is far too skewed towards the bizarre (girl rolls down window to get picture of lion on a safari; is eaten), gross (video clip on autoplay about a guy who maims people and tapes it), or just plain dumb. I mean, really dumb. What about our brains? What about our hearts and hands?

As a person who has largely made a life and a living from creative work, I can’t stand by and watch this. I can’t deal with the way we are frittering and squandering the best of our potential; distracted by the likes of apps such as Invisible Girlfriend or games designed to manipulate and bend us to their will, a la Farmville.

So what to do.

Well, make ‘N’. Or, at least try.

‘It’s not for everyone’

Click to learn more about 'N' Bangkok >
Click to learn more about ‘N’ Bangkok >

A BIT OF LEARNING. Not everyone is into the idea of getting out of the box. So that’s what I’m finding out, in the responses coming back, some of them heavy-handed (‘There’s no way I’m paying you’), and some of them just weird (‘How do I tell my boyfriend? How do I know you’re not going to kidnap me?’) Uhhh…. What?

Rather than go into the long story about the oddness of internet exchanges (will do that in a private post—I feel like I’m finally able to relate to my friends who tell their horror stories about online dating), or expound on the exasperating feelings of the lack of quality on the internet, I will just share with you one quick response I gave to a person who said, very honestly, (and something that I welcomed was that honesty), ‘What is N? Seems abstract.’ Here is my answer:

As I get to talking to a lot of people about what it is (and try to go into why it matters), I realize quickly that something this unusual is definitely not in the mainstream consciousness. But it’s about mixing things up, meeting people you otherwise wouldn’t, and getting out of the silo of an industry/group. In America I hosted a lot of events that were far less designed like [DELETED] and [DELETED], in which I invited editors and bloggers and photographers in my hometown to get together and talk about what’s going on. They were surprised to find out how much they could learn in a very short time just by sharing their own take on a thing like ‘media, change, new media’. I like the efficiency of making a space where so much exchange can happen in a very compressed time. Who has time anymore?? That’s why there’s ‘N’.

Status of ‘N’ Bangkok

‘N’ CANNOT HAPPEN unless exactly 16 people join. We have 11.

Between now and the actual date, I’ll reconfirm with people. Tap a waitlist, most likely.

Or cancel.

If Bangkok is less open to this than I had imagined (and it is way, way less open than I had imagined!), I’m not opposed to cancelling ‘N’, if we can’t get to 16. I am totally fine with changing ‘Bangkok’ to another city.

Maybe it’s just not the right time, or the right place, or the right people.

Except: 11 people think it is. Can I discover the next 5? Can I make it happen for all of them? I’m going to try.

As always, I will do my best. Let’s see.

Next ‘N’ events: London, Copenhagen

ARE YOU IN LONDON OR COPENHAGEN? Request an invite at the bottom of this page >

November 27: Drift & the Nomad conversation salon

ARE YOU THINKING of moving abroad? Meet others who also want to try out life on the road, or at a distance, with a couple of belongings and good wifi connections.

imageARE YOU THINKING of moving abroad? Meet others who also want to try out life on the road, or at a distance, with a couple of belongings and good wifi connections.

Hosted by Dipika Kohli, who is visiting Copenhagen (and presently based in Phnom Penh via Seattle, Tokyo and Cork).

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Details

DRIFT & THE NOMAD
Friday, November 27
14.00-16.00
Cafe Paludan
Fiolstræde 10, 1171 København K, Denmark
DKK 90pp // EUR 12pp (Excludes food and drink)

Map.
Map.

What to expect

AN OPEN FORMAT conversation salon that will draw from the experiences and move in the direction that makes the most of who we meet together, on the day. We will enjoy getting to know about one another’s questions, interests, experiences, and understandings about the reality of living ‘on the road,’ and some of the myths, plus points, as well as sacrifices that this style of living and working necessarily entails. A low-key conversation that won’t require any special experience or background; it’s for those who want to come along and join, in the ‘Open Space’ style of hosting that says: 1) Whoever comes is the right people, 2) Whatever happens is the right thing to have happened. And some other things. Enjoy, connect, and let’s see what happens. When conversations are in flow, it is a lot of fun. Here’s a pic from a past conversation salon:

DK hosted Designers' Korner in Seattle on the first Monday of each month for two years.
DK hosted Designers’ Korner in Seattle on the first Monday of each month for two years.

Agenda

DRIFT & THE NOMAD
14.00 Introductions
14.10 Q&A
15.00 The Best Part
15.15 Values + 20Q*
15.30 Wrap

*To give you something to sink your teeth into, we will also distribute a simple questionnaire, ’20 Questions to Ask Yourself Before you Commit to Nomadic Existence’. To be shared on the day with those who join in.

How to register

Fee is DKK 90pp. You can register in one of two ways:

  • Secure your spot by registering in advance through this online ticketing link >
  • Send an email to designkompany [at] gmail [dot] com.

Is it on Facebook?

Yes, but we’re not big on FB, so it’s not going to seem like the giant awesome conversation salon that it will, in actual fact, be. 🙂

DRIFT & THE NOMAD on FB >

A conversation installation in Bangkok: NOW

'N' BangkokALL TOTAL, ‘N’ as a project will meet 16 people in 16 cities. Of the whole entire world, that’s just 256.

Will I find them?

'N' Bangkok
‘N’ Bangkok

OUR NEXT CONVERSATION INSTALLATION is ‘N’ Bangkok, which will gather 16 strangers who’ve never met in that city. But just ONCE.

Ever since the first ‘N’ event in Phnom Penh, I’ve been thinking hard about how to talk about it in a way that’s clear, and yet tells the story without divulging too much about it, because no two moments are the same. That’s kind of the idea.

Onceness.

Framing the moment, the urgency of NOW.

Pictures? No pictures. Why?

Because why should someone get to consume an experience in pictures without taking a risk to show up for it in real life? That’s not fair to those who DO make the step to take the chance, and join in on something that who knows what it is.

People.

‘N’ is about the people who choose to play.

A slew of conversations, good and bad

THE MORE PEOPLE I CONTACT THROUGH all the channels I remember how to use from my days in newsreporting (and the ones that came in handy, after, when I set up Design Kompany LLC in Seattle), the more I’m learning about how we are all so very, very different in our styles of talking to each other. Sometimes I get really amazed and happy, like when certain people just immediately say ‘Cool, Where is the signup?’ Because those people are going to be really fun to meet: already know this, without even going anywhere. Of course there is the other side of the story. The first time I got a hate mail I had to go lie down for about an hour and talk it out with my best friend on this very intermittent signal that wasn’t quite clear, and though I didn’t cry, I sort of felt sad. Because who wouldn’t want to meet 15 other people interested in NOW?

A lot.

But that’s okay. All total, ‘N’ as a project will meet 16 people in 16 cities. Of the whole entire world, that’s just 256.

Will I find them? I think so. Already on my way.

Are you curious about ‘N’? Go here.

Is it obvious? True validity isn’t about making bank

S. P. A. C. E. is for dreaming.IN THE LAST SEVERAL WEEKS, for the eZine S. P. A. C. E., I’ve been thinking nearly continuously, like a long line from the intersection of Street 63 and Mao Tse Toung Boulevard all the way up to where there is supposedly a well-lit designer-y kind of space that one day I am recommended I ought to go and see. Oh, what have I been thinking on? One thing. VALIDITY.

IN THE LAST SEVERAL WEEKS, for the eZine S. P. A. C. E., I’ve been thinking nearly continuously, like a long line from the intersection of Street 63 and Mao Tse Toung Boulevard all the way up to where there is supposedly a well-lit designer-y kind of space that one day I am recommended I ought to go and see. Oh, what have I been thinking on? One thing. VALIDITY.

Following a hunch

SUPPOSEDLY I AM TO FOLLOW that vertical road’s line one of these days. To the end. Meet a person. Say some things. Do something. If I do, it will be just another opportunity to do the big work of ‘N+1.’ Go outside the comfort zone, see what’s there. Even if that means taking a risk. Getting lost, getting hurt, getting stuck in the rainy season flood, losing my shoe, getting caught out in a conversation that is no fun at all because the other person is a total narcissist, etc. etc. You can always opt to do the so-called safe thing, and stay where you are. But that would not be ‘N+1.’ It would be ‘N+0.’

And that doesn’t sound like it would really be that important, at the end of my life, to have been like, ‘N+0+0+0…’ I prefer growth. Conversations, high-quality, are good ways to make space for that to happen. So that’s what all this stuff is about. The ezine publication. ‘N’ the series of 16. And other stuff too that I’m sharing only with a very inner circle of people who ‘get’ it. It’s easier that way; because life is short and it’s simpler to talk in these embryonic stages of designing a thing that will evolve sooner or later from good to brilliant, to stay low-key about it. To keep it light, small.

Making space for ‘N+1’

I HAVE ALWAYS WONDERED how no matter which city in the world I wind up in, I start to get pegged as ‘that person who does things and gets people together.’ Sometimes, I would do this quite happily and voluntarily. It was nice to be the one person everyone at a party or gathering knew, and that really inflated my ego. Maybe it’s in response to all that overwhelming attention I got personally that I’m not talking too much with my real name. Because in the last year, everything I’ve learned from books, and smart people, and creative folks, and clients, is this. It’s sooooo not about ego. The best things happen when they’re not about you. Which is the case when you’re designing something for a client, of course, as well. You have to really let it be about the other person, if you want it to be truly great. But then, it’s sooooo hard to re-imagine ‘design’ as something that does the big work of ‘N+1,’ even though really, design is about making things way better by thinking them through completely and intelligently. Too often today design = photoshop, and that’s dumb. That’s why even though we have “design” in our name, we never, ever talk about us doing design these days. Can’t. The word’s been co-opted by the people who buy Illustrator and say, ‘Okay. Now I’m gonna do the thing I need to do for my creative outlet.’ Let them. That’s not what we’re doing, here.

OVER THE LAST TEN YEARS, the big partymaking (Dazzle, POP, Sugar, Flourish, Gather, Math+Jazz, etc, etc) have moved into a smaller space. Tiny, invite-only salonmaking. Because the partymaking of old days had happened in a city where people fan the flames, constantly, on the egomaking stuff. They like to collect you. Into their collections. Now its instafame. Then it was Facebook. How many followers? As if one’s inner sense of worth was reflected accurately in those numbers. As if the social proof which is so arbitrary and fleeting and tenuous and not even real, mattered more than everything. (Including actual worth).

So what IS value? What DOES count? Why? How do we think about this, about yardsticks and societies and cultures and breaking free to create our own dimensions of that which we deem to be hugely meaningful. Because isn’t that it? Isn’t value not a number, but a sense of something’s capacity to be interesting? (Our Sept/Oct series of S. P. A. C. E. will take as its—oh, my God! A cockroach! Okay, I have to wrap this pretty fast). Isn’t value about a person’s glistening, true, inner, powerful, capacity to give? To contribute? Is this not worth?

How VALIDITY became a theme for S. P. A. C. E>

TONIGHT IT IS LATE as I type this, and maybe that’s why I’m not going to hold back. There used to be times when I started blogging again here (very recently, as you may take note), that I would think, ‘But that’s more ME and not so much DK, is it? And so, where to put things? Which boxes?’ It turns out that there’s only one box. I really only care about one thing. It’s new. It’s this year. It’s something that I didn’t realize matters to me more than I ever imagined it could or would. It’s about questioning assumptions about what and how we measure as ‘worthy’ or ‘good.’

Turns out there are whole vocabularies around these ideas, and schools of philosophy, too. As a kind of pop philosophy person, someone who doesn’t get all up in the face of people and isolate certain areas of possible ‘issues to be taken with X or Y or J,’ but rather, someone who just wants cool ideas about things to get talked about a little more, and with more verse and rhyme and poetry, you know, well. That. That’s what I’m trying to make and do here.

So when the things got complex about what it is that we ‘do’ at this blog (because now it’s just a blog, like in 2006), what it is that we do became a question to many, I realized it’s quite all right to blog in the first person again, as I always did, and probably always will. First person is real. First person is honest. You can’t hide behind some kind of name (okay, guilty—I’ve been doing quite a lot of that in recent days and weeks and months), but you can’t, in first person, TRULY ever hide. I read somewhere that the computers can figure out your writing style, like in four milliseconds, if they had to crunch it. They could know. They could suss you out because, like DNA, the way we speak and how we write is unique.

What counts, then? What’s worthy? What’s valuable, what’s meaningful, what’s important? I read the best quote yesterday online. It was this anti-capitalist ‘love notes’ series, and one of them said: ‘You are worth so much more than your productivity.’

So when we start to think about what value we can add to the world at large, what we can bring to society in the form of actual content, not just goods and services that people will buy because people will buy anything that is nicely packaged and overly done up even if they can’t be sure what they’re getting inside. People. Buy. Everything. They consume, left and right, and so do I, and we don’t even think about it. Critical things, like where is this food coming from? The way the young visitor who came here and celebrated an impromptu wedding (long story) on the upper levels of the building spoke of. Things like this. How we feel when we literally consume—partaking of chemicals that are buried in our food—didn’t occur to me since the days of reading Integrated Nutrition because I had a low iron count.

What I wanted to tell you that I haven’t yet is this. Work isn’t the only thing. Moneymaking is just one kind of way—a means, to an end. It’s not about what we have in our lives, but who. It’s about who we are, too, not just whom we’re around. You could get more philosophical here. You could even get pop philosophical. But I’ll save that for anyone who wants to meet me in S. P. A. C. E.

VALIDITY is here. —DK