Meet me in Vientiane: ‘N’ is NEXT

16N gathers 16 strangers in real life. To talk about a thing that starts with an ‘N’…

 

‘N’ Vientiane: NEXT

LET’S MEET IN REAL LIFE. Just 16 people. To talk together about the idea of ‘NEXT.’ This is the idea of 16N: to gather people whose paths might not have otherwise have crossed. Briefly. Once. For a conversation of the kind you’ve never experienced before: it’s not a workshop, it’s not a party. It’s nothing like you’d expect. That’s what people have told us, at ‘N’ events in Phnom Penh, Bangkok, and London. ‘N’ Vientiane is NEXT.

#play16n

More information, including details of how to request an invite, is at this page >

16N

When time stops

SOMETHING HAPPENED.

Yesterday, a watch stopped. Hers.

7.45PM.

This was the second time this kind of thing had happened. That is, a watch stopping. That time, his.

8.15PM.

Both times, in the middle of a superb conversation that, really, slowed into a moment. Conversations with people that I had just met. That day, or a few days prior. Really good sweeping topics that spanned the universe, life and death, birth, stillness, space, poetry, philosophy, conspiracy theories (me), art, skepticism of nonsense (them). And you could feel it, just there. The stopping. Then, it was literal. How does this kind of thing happen?

Let me try to feel my way towards the ‘how,’ even if I don’t get there. With words, of course. Words are a sort of paint for me, the paintings I’ve been looking at this week reminding me to play with them a bit, to see where the layers might take us.

Yes, the ‘something’ that happened, let us call it ‘!*’, whatever ‘!*’ was, well, I know it happened, it happened because I felt it, not just in the way that you feel when you are feeling a shift in the breeze, or that kind of thing, but because you are sensing something inwardly shifting, which is reflecting something larger, very large indeed, and you know that the quantum bits and pieces are at play, or that strings are vibrating, or that there are nine other dimensions (nine? More?) that are resonating in the same hum, or a different one, or a new color, and that, taken together, these things are beginning to make a new pattern. Of course the intricacies of the design are beyond our capacity to ‘note,’ and NOTEWORTHINESS being the theme this week-and-a-half here in London, of course I have to philosophize a bit about it, here and there, when I find the urgency of the moment in which that frequency will suggest, in a gentle but firm whisper, ‘Yes, now.’

The reflections begin

I HAVE BEEN QUITE LUCKY, this trip. I have met some of the most outstanding people I’ve ever encountered in my life. And all at once. At ‘N’. The most incredible thing happens when we assemble, just sit together, talk together. [Not like in the round, in the workshoppy-style that SN, remarking on DK’s style of making circles, had once called ‘circle time.’ Was it 2014? It’s stuck since then. Circle time. Yes, we love circle time here, of course we do, but you just can’t always go into the circle space because sometimes you are meeting in public spaces and it just would be weird.] I mean, you might get kicked out. In this instance, for ‘N’ London: NOTEWORTHINESS, we convened at the National Theatre. While on the one hand I had made the good acquaintanceship of some of the people working there, who noticed that I was greeting people who didn’t know one another and would be later pointing the latecomers towards our table, asking, ‘Are you here for the blind date?’, and letting them know where I was, yes, while they were on my team, you could say, in making it happen that people whose paths might never have crossed were, at ‘N’, designed to intersect in one moment, well, I don’t think they would’ve been cool with it if we did some circling up and talking about things like I like to do sometimes at these sorts of conversation installations. I don’t know. Maybe it would have been okay at the Royal Academy (pictured), whose purple velvety cushioning made me want to curl up and read a book, any book, by, say, J. Krishnamurti (thank you JB), all evening and through the night and the next day, but then again, circle time is special. I don’t know. I think you have to just feel like it, in that moment. Like so very many things, that are good. That are noteworthy, even. But then, ‘Royal’ doesn’t start with an ‘N’, so that’s it, it’s a no-go, right there. Plus, ‘Royal?’ Who wants to make it all hoity-toity? Not me.

Unfolding stories

THERE IS SO MUCH more to say about ‘N’ and the things that preceded it, the conversations that revolved around that strong central gravitational point, ‘What’s remarkable? Why do we think so?’ I’m going to be sharing more about it slowly, through the eZine, but also, with guests who took part in ‘N’ London this time. There’s stuff to report to past guests, of ‘N’ in Bangkok and Phnom Penh, and the one to happen next, in Copenhagen. I’m getting to it. All of it. But I need some time.

Writing, today. In pencil, on the keypad. In my head. Writing for the sake of writing. Writing for the self. This is the time that won’t come back. This is the time to sit, quietly, and make a poem or two, and let the flow come as it does, when and exactly and only when it’s ready. These are the moments, aren’t they?, when time stops.

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‘HELLO. CAN I ASK YOU A QUESTION?’

‘Sure.’

‘What do you think makes a thing noteworthy?’

‘Makes a thing noteworthy? Is that what you asked?’

‘Yes.’

‘Something that is an experience.’

‘Good answer! Right. So what are you doing at 6PM? Because we’re going to have a conversation salon, on noteworthiness. Yes! And someone just cancelled their spot. I mean, these tickets were booked months in advance, some of them, and some of them just yesterday, but it’s all part of the design of it, you see, chance, and serendipity, and the connection that happens when, poof!, you meet, in real life. But briefly, and once.’

‘I’m interested, but not today… is it a regular thing?’

‘Good sir, briefly and once is the thing about ‘N.’ Because you can never set foot in the same river twice, et cetera.’

*thinking*

‘Think about it. I like your answer, and you seem nice.’

‘Yes, well, I have a client meeting at 7…’

‘Move it! ‘N’ just happens once! And ‘N’ is an experience.’

‘I, um. How can I get in touch with you?’

‘The website. There’s a form.’

Let’s meet in real life in Phnom Penh

THE FIRST TIME I CAME TO PHNOM PENH, there was a feeling that anything could happen. This was in March 2014. This was a time in my life that I needed to be in a place where you could try things, make it up, see what happened. Because so much of what I had imagined was going to work simply hadn’t been doing that. I was on the verge of quitting it all. Giving up on the ‘Anything is Possible’ dream that we started Design Kompany with as a limited liability company in Seattle in 2005.

This was the hope, back then:

You could do anything you wanted, if you just had a clear picture of what it was. Somehow, the universe would deliver. Regardless of background or income or societal class, the clarity of intent was the key.

A few days after moving into a flat on Street 63, something that I never imagined I would do, because… living in Cambodia? Crazy thought. Yet it was… so simple. A business visa. A new gig. Things seemed possible, again. So, in my usual style of getting excited about gathering people to talk about real things in remarkable ways, I organized a conversation salon. Called it ORIGIN.

‘What is fromness?’ Having turned this question about in my heart for the one year on the road in India, Nepal, Viet Nam, Thailand, and Laos, I very much wanted to know.

Origin. Hm. A question posed, so casually. ‘Where are you from?’ ‘No, I mean, where are you from, originally?’

What is fromness, anyway?

A burning question in your heart is one of the best indicators that it’s time to set up a salon.

So I did. Using a technique that some of you might know, called Open Space, and coupling it with the many conversations in client meetings, workshop style and open-ended, that I’ve learned are the way to inviting people to open up and make a space for real connection. Journalism and architecture are things I worked in before, so that helps design a frame within which we can do the work of good dialogue. It’s great.

DK’s salons in Phnom Penh 2014-2017

ORIGIN became the first of a series of salons on topics like: BEAUTY, ENNUI, MATH+JAZZ, ROOFTOP PHILOSOPHY, DISTRACTE, CHOICES, and dozens more. Always these we hosted in the ‘unconference’ format. Later I hosted these as ‘S P A C E’ events, lighter in intent and smaller in scale. These were for both public conversation salon spaces, as well as invitation-only ones. I realized that curating a guestlist can be just as exciting as the super free form that is the kind I share about publicly. Both are nice. In this way, DK began to grow a small community. Very small. But still. That felt right. Small is beautiful, as they say.

How do the salons work? Very simple. When the participants arrive, you host the space in such a way as to invite those who are there to share what they hope to hear, and in this way, a natural and organically formed agenda is devised. On the spot. It’s nice. We talk together in small circles, only with those who are also interested in exploring the topics that we are. In this way, we make good on our time. Most importantly, this: it’s real.

We establish real connections.

People at ORIGIN, pictured below, seemed to really engage with this style of gathering with new and different others. Here’s a pic:

A LOT OF TIMES you just throw an idea ‘out there’ and see if it ‘has legs,’ which is just designspeak for, ‘Does anyone really want this?’ The answer is ‘yes’ and ‘no.’ I keep making these for the few people who say ‘yes.’ Like all good things, things that have a specific quality to them, it’s not for everyone. In my three years since ORIGIN, I have tried out a lot of other kinds of topics, to mixed reviews and response. I have also traveled to other countries and gathered people in different cities, specifically to try this, just to see if maybe saying ‘yes’ to open-ended conversation salons is dependent on place. It’s not. It’s about the people.

Whoever comes is the right people, it says in the Open Space manual. Whatever happens is exactly the only thing that could have.

And so it is.

Revisiting ORIGIN

I WILL BE hosting ORIGIN again. It will be DK’s last conversation salon in Phnom Penh.

The date is set for 21 April. The location will be on Street 334 in BKK1.

There are tickets on sale at this website. (If you don’t have a credit card, you can ask me through the form below how to sign up with Wing or cash.) I’m so excited about ORIGIN 2017, but I’m also more experienced now in salonmaking. The people who come are the right people when you have the clarity of intent communicated very articulately. Are you interested in the topic of ‘fromness?’ Then ORIGIN is for you. What it is not is a place to go if you are otherwise bored, or if no other options come up for you on the day. That is why there are tickets, and they are only available for advance bookings. I’m looking forward to it.

Will we see you there? Advance bookings only, please. Limited seats.

‘Wait, I have a question…’

OKAY. Here’s a form you can use to connect…

‘Yes, I’m in! How can I sign up?’

REGISTER TODAY through Eventbrite to secure your spot.

 

A letter to guests of 3N

ALMOST THERE, now.

Once the date is set this sort of moves pretty quickly: finalising the guestlist, sharing the agenda, confirming that you can be there, making sure you know where we’re meeting. That kind of thing. Just like any great party, you have to do all the detail stuff way ahead of time, right? But also, like any great party, it’s about who comes more than anything else, at all.

So I’m very excited to meet some of you for the first time and reconnect with those I haven’t seen for quite a while. More than anything, I’m looking forward to the dialogue to come amongst you all as we gather for the first time and last time, most likely, in this ‘onceness’ experience of ’16N.’

Next I’ll share the details of the venue. An agenda. And the exact meetpoint.

NOTEWORTHINESS being our theme, I’ve been brainstorming quite a lot about this, also talking to people here about how to best host a conversation salon on this theme. Pretty excited about some of the playful conversation-starters that have come towards me from this wonderful group of people who are also making spaces to engage with new and different others. We all have our methods and styles and ways, but I think gatherings are just so great. So I’m looking forward to it.

More soon on email…