Who I make N for

THERE COMES A TIME IN EVERY LIFE where we face a crossroads.

You know when you’re there. It’s a big deal, this noticing of the moment of having to make a very significant choice. Which way will you go?

Who are you, and why are you doing this? The guest had asked.

Sincere question, and yet, I couldn’t find a way to answer honestly, not quite. I mean, I had some ideas about what ‘N’ was about when I first hosted it, here in Cambodia’s Phnom Penh. I got clearer when I did this again in Bangkok. The goals for ‘N’ Phnom Penh: NORMALITY and ‘N’ Bangkok: NOW were, I think, more about making something interesting actually happen. Rather than, you know, sit around and imagine how much better everythign could be and complain that there is no good art anymore, and why is that, and the banal nature of everything that gets popular on YouTube (a woman I had asked on twitter about why her post went viral said she thought it was because there was an element of ‘hating on’ someone else, that those were the posts that went around quickly, and so, she was writing more of those kinds, to get attention, even though, she admitted to me, she really felt like her other works were better.) Quality, then. A space for something magical to happen. What does tat mean? It’s different for everyone.

But I think, really, when asked if there is a point or a purpose to gathering people in 16 cities around the world, cities which have an ‘N’ in them (two ‘N’s is better, of course), to converge with 16 strangers to talk about a topic that starts with an ‘N’ is that, really, well, these are quite arbitrary constraints, no?, and that, in fact, there is no point.

Let me reiterate..

The point is this: there is no point.

Something I learned from Man and Superman, last summer in London at the National Theater. Sitting in the audience in a place I had booked two days prior, while home and searching the internet for people to invite to ‘N’ in that part of the world and discovering, well, look at this, it’s Ralph Fiennes acting on stage, and this is Bernard Shaw, and, well, I simply must… attend this.

Is there a point?

No.

That’s what they said.

That’s what they said, right there, on that big stage. The world of theater is so brilliant, sometimes I fall in love with it, and it’s very good to keep going to things. I’m not the type to just up and go to foreign countries on account of plays happening, not usually, in fact this was a lark, but I am so glad I did. Because I care about learning, and people, and connection, and Art. Capital ‘a’ Art, that is. The kind that you can experience over time, across distance. I don’t think the same feeling would have emerged if I was reading it, but I did find it on Google books and got a few of the lines that most moved me. One of them of course, and I’m paraphrasing because the best bits that you feel when you hear them may not fit the agendas of those who post online with quotes that back up their own viewpoints (it’s really real, isn’t it? Bias.) But my own bias is this. I believe that the purpose of living is to live in the moment, the unadorned, unattached, unexpecting right here and now. And ‘N’, I think, is about onceness, chance conversations and connection happening in a closed, bounded space where someone (that would be me) is ‘holding the space’ for people so that they feel safe, included, welcome, invited, warm, and, if this goes well, and I think it has, judging from the past experiences with 32 people I didn’t know before in BKK and here in Phnom Penh is that, yes, that is valuable. Yes, people want converastions that go beyond the usual variety of ‘paid or laid’ agenda. I know! I’m saying that. Out loud. Here. I want to talk to people who want to talk to me, about the big things, the art the culture the light the space the beauty the moment the magic. The magic! It’s very exciting when we can discover one another, and arbitrary constraints are a big part of design projects. So the brief I made for myself went as such: Find 16 people in 16 cities. The people won’t know each other. They will show up for a ‘big blind date,’ they will have decided a date together, collaboratively, and they will do this by making a commitment first (in this case, purchasing a ticket). Such a commitment makes it easier to believe that it will happen. I have made a promise to the guests who have registered. 16 people. In one moment. To meet and talk, together, about NOTEWORTHINESS. That’s the London one. The Copenhagen one is about NEARNESS. Hoping that the dates for both will be kind of close enough together that I can just make one big trip there and go to both places, so that, you know. Airline tickets. Time.

Here’s another one, from Man and Superman:

‘This is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; the being thoroughly worn out before you are thrown on the scrap heap; the being a force of Nature instead of a feverish selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy.’

Can you dig it?

#play16n on: twitter instagram facebook

Now registering for ‘N’ London, ‘N’ Hanoi, ‘N’ Copenhagen, and ‘N’ Bologna. Say hi through the note below, if you’re curious. I’ll share more.

The work is in the doing

GOING THROUGH THE EMAIL. Doing the work. ‘N’ work, that is. I have got a new list of invitees to reach out to, an old one to follow up with, and the rest.

Got to talk to more than 100 people if I can find 16 to say ‘yes’ to ‘N’. (Learned this from ‘N’ Phnom Penh and ‘N’ Bangkok last year, phew.)

MAKING ’16N’. This is the biggest project DK has taken on so far: gather strangers in one moment of a conversation, in a space designed and hosted by one of us. In a city that starts with an ‘N’. It’s kinda nuts.

But why? Why even bother?

People do ask this. A lot. Why does this work matter to you guys? Why does it mean anything to get people who don’t know each other to meet, and talk, offline, in real life?

Long story, this. I’ll cut to the chase. Without discovering people and their ideas—of new ways, new to a person, that is—that person can’t grow. Adapt based on new inputs. Learn.

Part of maturing is, sure, about being open-minded.

But you can be as open-minded as you want and sit alone in an armchair reading books and not really having active knowledge of what it’s like to look directly at the eyes and straight through them, into the heart, of the Other.

Other doesn’t have to be Scary.

Other can reveal something to us about… ourselves.

(Enter Jung. Exit Jung).

Othering.

This is a term that just walked into my world one day in recent conversation with DM. It’s weird. I never thought… But then, of course…. And so….

My Western colleagues and I have been programmed to fear or disdain or isolate ourselves from Others.

Others who think about a different kind of clothing to wear (this as teens).

Others who are not like us in physical appearance.

Beliefs, dogmas (dangerous, this last one, but I’ve said why in 30K words in a book you can find here).

Others who may, just maybe, judge us. Fear.

Fear is put into us because we don’t know.

But physics! Physics at the very small scales is ALL ABOUT not knowing!

‘We have no idea where that bit got off to,’ et al.

The mystery of the universe becomes a fun thing to think about, to conjecture. I talked about this with a particle physicist, SW, who had been touring about in Asia with some kind of software. It was a random encounter and an unlikely conversation, but taht was the upshot. ‘Where did it all start? Where soup did we all come from, anyway?’ More just me marvelling into the cloudy nothing, awed about the whole of the every. (Kind of gets metaphysical, huh.)

No one has to be right. Contrary to all the stuff that we’re taught to believe (getting famous is good, the great genius and his remarkable breakthrough is to be sought, etc), it’s not like anyone can ‘figure it all out’ without any sort of input. And the richness of that input is what invites fertile ground for sowing the sorts of seeds that lead to brilliant blooms.

Getting poetic, now. Sometimes that just happens.

Anyway, the point: No one human being alone can know.

But what if we could know, at least a little, the feeling of Other and the Unknown? Through bit by bit engagement? As in, a little bit at a time of learning what another way is like? You don’t have to take a college course to experience a little bit of, ‘Huh, that’s new.’ You can just have a conversation salon.

NEW DIRECTIONS. Starting things up. In the staged spaces of Designful Meetups. More than anything, the work is about the invitation. Which is why there are so many of these going out, this week and through the weekend. Why?

The invitation is THE most important part.

Of quality spacemaking, that is. Subject for another day.

Unless you feel like you’re personally invited to something, unless you feel like the sender is someone who actually cares if you’re part of the story they’re making, then it’s going to fall on deaf ears. You know what else? Everyone says they’re so busy and stuff, but what are people so busy with? That kind of intentional decisionmaking of where to spend time on what and with whom is kinda important. Because before we know it, our time’s gonna be up.

When people get together for ‘N,’ for example, when they meet to talk together—16 people per city—and talk on topics that start with an ‘N,’ it starts to be clear.

The arbitrary nature of constraints like ‘Has to have an N in it (the city, the venue)’ and ‘You have to get a ticket ahead of time, since I want to really make sure this is going to happen and not just let’s just talk about it)’, these.

These are frames.

To design a space.

To hinge a great dialogue—but maybe that’s too heavy a word—a great conversation jam upon.

The secret? It doesn’t matter WHO comes or WHAT happens in the box. The point is that it HAPPENS. Which means all the work of designing ‘N’ is, quite honestly, in the drudge work of slogging through email and making tons and TONS and EVEN MORE invitations. Because I’m looking for the magic set of 16. Sixteen in each of 16 cities, eventually (2 have happened so far), who will say, ‘Yes.’

If you’re a new invitee, I get it. You don’t know me from Adam. Don’t know what’s involved. And I’m asking you to just trust the process. Walk into the unknown.

When it works, it’s cool. I love it.

A wide mix opts in, I’m noticing. (Gotta start with 100, though.)

But…

That means no cliques, clubs, or preaching-to-the-choirs. It’s hard, this, because everyone is programmed to think, ‘Wait. Is this about ME? Or is this something ELSE? Is this OTHER?’ Which makes it kinda tricky.

Hm.

Okay, yeah.

The box.

You get enough framing up (date, place, time, people) and you have a bounded box.

A safe space.

You step into that space and meet.

We meet.

Guests and me. Their hos for ‘N,’ for example, and other conversation salons, workshops, commissioned facilitation thingies, and so on.

BUT THE MOST IMPORTANT PART OF THE LEARNING for DK has been to discover that whatever happens IN the box isn’t the point.

All salons and events—for commission or for fun—are about gathering people in spaces where they might feel a little out of their usual routine, meeting people they might not have otherwise have met. Most consistent feedback is, ‘I had so many great conversations. We talked about __, but I never thought about  it that way before.’

You get a lot of molecules together and they start heating up and guess what, they get ‘excited.’ That’s what we called them, in science class, in seventh grade, didn’t we? Molecules are getting excited. Excited states are fantastic. You get amped. Wait, no. That’s voltage…

So what am I doing today? Making the invitations.

Emailing like mad.

The new invites.

For ‘N’.

London, Copenhagen, Ha Noi, Bologna. The work is in the doing… We have to get 16 per city… That means 100×4… 400 invitations…

It’s gonna be a little busy, hunkering down over the internet these next few days.

Making my way around the world, looking for people to play 16N.

‘Et eksempel er frygten for at udleve mine passioner’

Frygt og Lykke. A short essay by Aske Pedersen

I VIRKELIGHEDEN HANDLER det ikke om at skrive, men om at åbne mig op for andre mennesker. Og for mig selv. For at gøre dette, er jeg nødt til at smide min facade, mit uigennemtrængelige skjold af forsvarsmekanismer, og hvad sker der, hvis modparten ikke kan lide det den ser? Noget af det mest uhyggelige er at gøre sig sårbar, blot for at blive såret.

Update October 2018: S P A C E the zine begins in print with the new zine, ‘Janteloven.’  Learn more here.

 

image

TODAY, a guest post by Aske Pedersen from Aarhus, Denmark.

(English version here.)

Frygt og Lykke

JEG ER BANGE. Ikke for mørke, højder eller for at dø. Nej, jeg er bange for ikke at slå til, at være utilstrækkelig, og derfor foregår der en konstant kamp indeni mig. En kamp mellem frygt og lykke. Et eksempel er frygten for at udleve mine passioner.

Når folk spørger mig, hvad jeg virkelig godt kan lide, siger jeg næsten altid at skrive. Men hvorfor har jeg så ikke rørt tasteturet i snart et år? Jeg ved, at det gør mig glad, men noget holder mig alligevel tilbage. En del af min identitet og selvforståelse er bygget op omkring forestillingen om, at jeg er god til at skrive. Hvad sker der med mig, hvis forestillingen ikke holder? Hvis jeg virkelig giver det bedste jeg har, men det bare ikke er godt nok. Denne frygt holder mig fanget i en magtesløs og narcisistisk stilstand, hvor jeg gemmer mig for frygten og udskyder konfrontationen. “I dag er jeg træt, jeg skriver i morgen. I morgen har jeg travlt, men der er tid i næste uge.” Næste uge bliver til næste måned, og næste måned bliver til næste år. Frygten vinder kampen, og min selvfølelse bliver baseret på en løgn, som jeg ikke længere tror på. Men der er sket noget i kampen mellem frygt og lykke. Jeg skriver.

I virkeligheden handler det ikke om at skrive, men om at åbne mig op for andre mennesker. Og for mig selv. For at gøre dette, er jeg nødt til at smide min facade, mit uigennemtrængelige skjold af forsvarsmekanismer, og hvad sker der, hvis modparten ikke kan lide det den ser? Noget af det mest uhyggelige er at gøre sig sårbar, blot for at blive såret. Denne frygt holder mig fra de mest spændene samtaler, nye venskaber, kærester og evnen til at kunne elske rigtigt. I mødet med andre mennesker vælger jeg den nemme vej, hvilket for mig, er humoren. Ironi er blevet en så stor del af mig, at grænserne er blevet udhviskede. Jeg ved ikke længere, hvornår jeg er ironisk, og hvornår jeg ikke er. Måske har alt jeg siger en grad af ironi, hvilket betyder, at jeg kan sige stort set alt. Men mister mine ord så ikke betydning?

Det er ikke kun det jeg siger, det er også måden jeg lytter på. Ofte tager jeg mig selv i at udtænke mit næste svar, før modparten er færdig med at tale. På den måde er jeg sikker på at undgå den akavede stilhed, og samtidig kan jeg fremstå mere intellegent. Dog går der noget tabt i processen. Jeg glemmer at lytte, og jeg formår ikke at se mennesket overfor mig. I stedet kommer samtalen til at foregå på mine præmisser og ofte til at handle om mig. Måske er jeg nutidens narkissos, eller måske er jeg bare bange, eller måske er det én og samme ting.

Hvis man koger det ned, handler det om at tage den sikre vej i samværet med andre mennesker. I samtalen kommer vi ind på alle de selvskrevne emner som studievalg, vejret og geografiske placeringer, og så kommer der et par vittige bemærkninger. Bare så det hele ikke bliver for kedeligt. Det er ikke pinligt, ingen er blevet såret og alle har det fint. Fint… Hverken mere eller mindre. Men jeg gider ikke længere have det fint. For når målet er at undgå fiasko, udelukker jeg samtidig muligheden for succes. —AP


Fear and Happiness

I AM AFRAID. Not of darkness, heights or of dying. No, I am afraid of not being enough, of being inadequate. And because of that, there is a constant battle inside of me. A battle between fear and happiness.

An example is the fear to live out my passions. When people ask me what really lights my fire, I almost always say writing. But then why haven´t I touched the keyboard in almost a year? I know that writing makes me happy, but something is still holding me back. A part of my identity and self-understanding is based on the conception that I am good at writing. What happens to me if that conception breaks? If I really give it my best shot, but it´s just not enough. This fear keeps me in a powerless and narcissistic standstill, where I hide from the fear and delay the confrontation. “Today I’m tired, I will write tomorrow. Tomorrow I’m busy, but there should be time next week.” Next week becomes next month and next month becomes next year. Fear is winning the battle, and my self-esteem is based on a lie that I no longer believe in. But something has happened in the battle between fear and happiness. I am writing.

REALLY IT’S NOT AS MUCH about writing, as it is about opening up to other people. And to myself. To do this, I have to throw away my facade, my impervious shield of defense mechanisms, and what happens if the counterpart doesn’t like what it sees? One of the most frightening things is to make yourself vulnerable, only to get hurt. This fear holds me back from the most interesting conversations, new friendships, girlfriends and the ability to really love another person. When meeting other people I choose the easy option, which to me is humor. Irony has become such a big part of me, that the boundaries have become blurry. I no longer know if I’m being ironic or if I’m not. Maybe everything I say has a touch of irony, which means I can say almost everything. But then what significance do my words hold?

It’s not only what I say, it’s also the way I listen. Often I catch myself devising my next answer while the counterpart is still speaking. That way I’m certain to avoid the awkward silence, and at the same time I can appear more intelligent. However something gets lost in the process. I forget to listen and I don’t manage to really see the person in front of me. Instead the conversation happens on my terms and is often centered around me. Maybe I’m the modern day Narcissus or maybe I’m just afraid, or maybe they are one and the same.

IF YOU BOIL IT DOWN, it’s about taking the road of comfort in the companionship with other human beings. In the conversations we go through the even written topics such as education, the weather and geographical locations, and then a couple of jokes are thrown in just so it doesn’t get too boring. Nothing is embarrassing, no one has been hurt and everybody is fine. Fine… No more, no less. But I don’t want to be fine anymore. Cause when the goal is to avoid failure, I exclude the opportunity of success. —AP

Pushing through the dip: on process and perseverance, or something

I WANT TO MAKE ‘N’ for London and Copenhagen and Ha Noi this year, and I’m going to just have to keep on inviting people until we find the magic sets of 16 per city. Bearing with me are the guests who’ve joined so far. I’m so lucky and grateful that a few of us are on for new things, for challenges, for learning as we go, for mixing it up, for giant blind dates, and for, yes, the human connection that can happen when we unplug, show up, say hi.

DK’s 16N project gathers 16 strangers in 16 cities. Cities that have an ‘N’ in them. On topics that start with ‘N’. This began in April 2015 in Phnom Penh with ‘N’ Phnom Penh: NORMALITY, then in October that year continued with ‘N’ Bangkok: NOW. We are now inviting new guests for ‘N’ London: NOTEWORTHINESS and ‘N’ Copenhagen: NEARNESS. Here is an update from the series, ‘Diary of N’.

Published in S. P. A. C. E.

Get new insights every week in DK’s eZine S. P. A. C .E.

MAKING MY WAY OUT OF THE BOX. It’s true. I’ve been hiding, sort of. I’ve been avoiding the work of actually inviting more people, because it takes a lot of mental effort and huge emotional reserves. I mean, not like the kinds you would need to go through trauma or anything.

Just—when you are idealistic and hopeful and optimistic and believe like anything in the power of people to work together collaboratively, beautifully, together when they only have a chance to meet and get over their initial seeming differences then yeah, you get discouraged to see that most people, I’m talking about 99% or so, but I haven’t done all the math yet, will not agree with you.

Maybe they’re scared. Worried. Not into it. Don’t think it’s important to ‘go outside the comfort zone.’ Is that what I’m asking people to do? It seems that way. That is what I hear, mostly, in the responses to my invitations—

‘You’re asking me to go outside my comfort zone.’

And sometimes, that is a welcome thing. I guess now that I’ve been hiding for a while I’ve had a chance to regain my enthusiasm for ‘N’. Some cool people are joining and I have made a promise to them, that I will make this happen. I am the kind of person who does what I say I will—it’s a huge value I inherited from my father, who is stout, and stubborn, sometimes keeping us from getting along, but boy, do I love that about my dad: his consistency in doing what he says he will. Later in life, I learned that is the best way to build trust and quality relationships—for work and for personal stuff, too. Show up. Do what you say you will.

I want to make ‘N’ for London and Copenhagen and Ha Noi this year, and I’m going to just have to keep on inviting people until we find the magic sets of 16 per city. Bearing with me are the guests who’ve joined so far. I’m so lucky and grateful that a few of us are on for new things, for challenges, for learning as we go, for mixing it up, for giant blind dates, and for, yes, the human connection that can happen when we unplug, show up, say hi.

I’m sharing the journey in some updates on our blog, but mostly in email conversations with people who have opted in to our mailing list at Design Kompany. (Just go to the contact page and click ‘get updates by email’ if you are curious.) I’m guessing most people are not aware of the quality level I am looking to make for ‘N’.

I AM GUESSING THAT they would see this, initially, as some sort of quick buck thing. They don’t know that it’s actually running at a loss. That is to say, the sponsor that everyone asks me about is actually my own studio. And we’re not rolling in it, like. We’re just… we care about uncertainty, trying things, taking chances, showing up, making something beautiful if we can find people also interested in those things. (Lately, business execs, generation Z, and innovation R&D heads.) It’s not everyone, for sure. And that is the learning, to date. It’s actually very, very few people. But then again, it wouldn’t be worth it if, through this giant maze, I didn’t find my way towards them.

TO BE HONEST, I don’t know how I would respond if the tables were turned. That is, if someone from the internet whom I didn’t know asked me if I wanted to get a ticket to some event that had never been done, with people I didn’t know and couldn’t read up on beforehand, and on a date ‘to be determined’ together by the registered guests, Hm, what would I say to that? Maybe it’s because of the challenge of trying to be more open this year, to say ‘yes’ more, to try new things myself that I wanted to keep going with ‘N’ after Phnom Penh and Bangkok and really try to make it to 16. I’m not saying it has to happen all at once, perhaps a break after the UK-DK tour this year. The rest can wait. It can happen over sixteen years, if it must, because what counts is the moment of it happening, in those places, not the hurrying through… I care about ‘N’. I guess I care about it because it is introducing me to a very neat set of people, (you know who you are), and the future ‘N’ guests to be determined, and it is for them, for meeting them, the chance to know them for a bit, that I want to keep pressing forward, and push through this awkward ‘givey-uppy’ moment, the one that some people call ‘the dip.’

To be continued….

#whynot #sayyes

Published in S. P. A. C. E.

Get new insights every week in DK’s eZine S. P. A. C .E.

On quality and intrigue, a conversation with line and music

A Q&A WITH ERLING SKORPEN, a jazz artist, on what makes something intriguing. ‘When you listen to a concert, and you notice that the musicians are really into what they’re doing. When you can feel the energy in the room, and there exists a special atmosphere there. That’s the feeling that best describes intrigue for us.’

IN DENMARK I got to hear a pretty neat collection of intriguing bands at a weird and fascinating spot in Copenhagen called Mandags Klubben 5e. (More about them, another time—so fun.)

But for today I want to share an interview with someone intriguing I met, whose upcoming album is another thing I’d like to share about in a future post as it has a connection to one of our own pieces of work, The Book of Songs, in an abstract, tangential sort of way. Abstract and tangential, now that I think about it, is exactly what was awesome about being there on that day last autumn.

Let me expand.

Loved the sound of a young group called Gunslinging Bird Quartet, and started drawing in ball point pen and off the page—two new things for me, at the same time. I later asked trumpeter Erling Skorpen about the style of music he and his bandmates play, and why. Free jazz.

DK: Cool show, can you tell me about your band?

EK: Through years of playing and exploring different types of music, we all found a common interest in this type of jazz music. It’s merely a process—we might part ways with this aesthetic in one year or ten years. This is the music we all love, and which inspires us right now.

DK: What makes you happy?

EK: When we are playing music and it really works out. Drinking coffee. Pleasant surprises.

DK: How do you define intrigue?

EK: When you listen to a concert, and you notice that the musicians are really into what they’re doing. When you can feel the energy in the room, and there exists a special atmosphere there. That’s the feeling that best describes intrigue for us.

DK: How do you define quality?

EK: When music is honest and it connects with the audience. When you really hear that these people mean what they do.

MEMBERS OF the band are: Trym Daniel Rødvik – alto saxophone; Erling Skorpen – trumpet; Alex Riris – double bass; Amund Nordstrøm – drums & percussion.

Discover Gunslinging Bird online here: Soundcloud.com/gunslinging-bird.

Arts and culture, conversation and the story

IT’S NOT FOR EVERYONE, as Erling says and which is exactly why I enjoyed being there. Mainstream can get in the way of real connection, in my opinion. When you bumble into the unexpected and find intrigue, there is something *! that happens.

Magic?

Magic.

It’s delight these days, I’m convinced, that makes up the aesthetic of a new kind of ‘beautiful.’ And when I say ‘delight’ I don’t mean some user interface or an app. I mean, real life. What is the role of music in society? What is the role of poetry, of design? To make artfulness, I think. To meander, to open hearts.

But what’s your take? Comments welcome. —DK

This post originally appeared in the INTIMACY sequence of our eZine, S. P. A. C. E.

The book of songs #3: ‘Back to the heart’

THEY DON’T HAVE to go around posting things on Medium. They just know.

THERE IS SOME WEIRD CHRISTMAS JAZZ going on lately in my internet radio streams. This is irritating.

I’m into internet radio; a long time ago it used to be TODAY FM from out of Ireland, because, well, I like that station. Nowadays it’s jazz stuff from Denmark, since I was just there sussing things out. Tokyo in the 1990s. Other places, in the middle, for similar musical investigations, though I couldn’t have called them such, it was just hanging out back then, but most clearly the one I recall for its energy was Small’s. In New York. Cycling ‘cross the Brooklyn Bridge late late late after a show there or elsewhere, maybe not a show, maybe it was the nightclub scene. (Limelight. Yeah. Yeah.)

We never really change

ANYWAY, way back then and suddenly very recently once more, I’m on a new search. Open ears, conscious of the importance of sensing as you go, and going, and looking, listening and learning. (The work at DK in the last few years has been all about making space for people to also get lost in the uncertainty, which is of course rather esoteric but many people like to talk about Heidegger and the Nothing and I think that they are the kinds of folks who, perhaps, might be inclined to want to hear a little more. So it goes, that you find your 0.02% of the world population, if you’re lucky, that ‘get’ you and you ‘get’ them. More about that in a second, when you hit the moment of intrigue.)

Listening and learning

PEOPLE I CONNECT WITH and I share this: we’ve been looking for some new inputs.

To come back to the world of music, I’m going to many places, and lots of clubs small and smaller to see what I can hear. Many times it’s a whiff, that’s just how it is, but every so often you discover something really incredible or run into true intrigue. It happens when it happens and there’s nothing you can really say or do to create the moments of, ‘Hey, wow. This is cool.’ I used to call it ‘the a-ha,’ because that’s what designers like to talk about.

‘Yeah.’
Yeah! That! Thatthatthatthatthat!’

It’s like this could be their whole conversation.

‘Yeah.’
‘You know?’
‘The moment.’
‘Exactly.’

Boxes and edges

YOU GET INTO a box, which is in and of itself a huge amount of fussing and overcoming of inertia of the variety that you can ask me to pontificate about, if you meet me in some whiskey bar sometime. (Or if you read S. P. A. C. E.)

You see the edges a little but then you get to working out more of the details of the dimensions and the textures and you see the limitations. Yet we all have to have frameworks to make sense of things, or to let go of the pressing urgency to ‘make sense of things,’ altogether.

Play space, in the box, leads to opening of dimensions that are sentient and close, and these are the ones that make us human. Yes, human. It used to be unfashionable to talk about our humanness, but now, with the obvious limitations on what turning ourselves into machines (workworkwork) can do to our health or distract us from looking closely within to hear our own hearts, the songs there!, and discover a purpose, well. We all know how that story is going.

Realness

REAL ARTISTS are doing stuff. They don’t have to go around posting things on Medium. They just know. And so, with the heart open and the eyes wide, I looked in the corners and upon the stages to find the songs that felt right, that made me feel good. It’s a collection. And it’s gonna be called, uh…. what should it be called? Oh, right. It’s the Book of Songs. ‘Cause it’s here at the edges where things mix and come into color that the magic of the moment comes alive. Isn’t art about connection? Conversation? Discovery and making it up as we go, tripping and learning and then, a-ha!? I am writing. I am going to write the best bits into the Book of Songs. —AS

S. P. A. C. E: ‘A last long look, from the far harbor’

TODAY I AM WRITING FROM SWEDEN. Tomorrow I will go to Denmark. It feels very strange Writing these Words from a computer that has a keyboard setup for SV. There are some intriguing characters that come up, like ö and Ö and when you see them here, you are moved, because the unexpected rises and makes you say, äHuh.ä

TODAY I AM WRITING FROM SWEDEN. Snow and rain. Tomorrow I will go to Denmark. It feels very strange Writing these Words from a computer that has a keyboard setup for SV. There are some intriguing characters that come up, like ö and Ö and when you see them here, you are moved, because the unexpected rises and makes you say, äHuh.ä

In fact it is in search of the unexpected that most of this adventuring has been exactly for. I know that sounds weird, perhaps it is to most. But to some it will make perfect sense. There was that letter to Eric Kensington that T. E. Lawrence wrote, for example, something that I will be sharing about this Friday in Copenhagen at DRIFT & THE NOMAD.

Meanwhile there is really a lot to say about how we stop to look at what we are doing, when we are at moments between things, between spaces. The interstitial, the philosophical, the long last look before we pack and move to wherever it is… the Next Place.

From one hamn (Swedish for ‘harbor’) to the next havn (as in ‘København’). Let it begin… Again. Anew.—DK

‘N’ Copenhagen: A conversation about NEARNESS

‘N’ IS A CONVERSATION installation in which 16 people whose paths never would have cross will meet ONCE. It’s an international series, and in each city (which will necessarily contain an ‘N’), we have a theme that starts with ‘N’. The theme for ‘N’ Copenhagen is NEARNESS.

'N' Copenhagen ticket
‘N’ Copenhagen ticket
‘N’ IS A CONVERSATION installation in which 16 people whose paths never would have crossed will meet ONCE. It’s an international series, and in each city (which will necessarily contain an ‘N’), we have a theme that starts with ‘N’. The theme for ‘N’ Copenhagen is NEARNESS.

At the time of this writing, DK has delivered three of the 16 tickets to guests for ‘N’ Copenhagen: NEARNESS. It is an evolving and intricately woven story, one that is invitation-only and designed specifically to bring us together in a conversation space that will invite, surprisingly, deep connection in a short burst of time with relatively unknown people. I know, it sounds crazy. But so far ‘N’ has happened in Phnom Penh (NORMALITY) and Bangkok (NOW), and more is on the way.

Curious to read more? Interested in finding out how to request an invitation? Find out more at this overview page or this link for updates about ‘N’ Copenhagen >

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).

image

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 >

‘N’ says: ‘Hej København’

'N' is coming.A SPECIAL GUEST post, ahead of ‘N’ Copenhagen: NEARNESS. Coming here soon, from a friend in what he described at our first meeting to be ‘a small country, it’s called Denmark.’

'N' is coming.
‘N’ is coming. Read about 16N >
N
Read ‘N’ posts related to Copenhagen >

COMING TO COPENHAGEN SOON.

The way ‘N’ work is this.

When 16 people join ‘N’ we will fix the date, time, and place.

Because of this: it’s about the people. The exact set of 16 who will choose to join this conversation installation. It’s not really about anything other than the MOMENT in which we can align the stars (well, vectors), so that people converge. Once.

Yep. That’s what ‘N’ is—

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

How far are we from creating ‘N’ Copenhagen? 14/16ths of the way.

Looking forward, NEARNESS is our theme.

A special guest post, coming here soon, from a friend in what he described at our first meeting to be ‘a small country, it’s called Denmark.’

ARE YOU CURIOUS?

More about ‘N’ Copenhagen. More about ‘16N.’ —DK

On the challenging nature of not-knowing

NTOLERANCE. EMPATHY. Sizing up the self and learning to connect deeply, with real awareness, to others. It’s self-actualization stuff. I know, top of the pyramid in the hierarchy of needs. But some people who might be reading this know: it IS a need. And that is why there is this project. That is why there’s 16N.

N
Read ‘The Man Who Discovered N’ >

THE INTERNET ISN’T CONNECTING on this computer (Dell, borrowed), but I’m okay with that. I’ve been meaning to write you for a while. Tell you some of what’s been happening, in the heart of the city where I’ve been living a year plus now. Seems weird. Phnom Penh. Cambodia?? Who knew.

I guess that’s part of what I wanted to share, today. The not-knowing but thinking, ‘Heck. Why not?’ series of steps that started as concept, vague and ambiguous, but caught form when you had to do something concrete, like buy a visa.

Things that you did and realized, with time, were taking you to a general new direction. Where things you thought, before, that were obvious and given, now you question, daily. With a critical eye. Like: Capitalism, sure. Politics? That’s about people caring about the greater good… isn’t it? Art and artists and contemporary galleries and the way it’s really about commerce, not beauty, not really, if you get down to the heart of it. And then there’s the whole regime of the school system, the work system, the things that Robert Pirsig synthesized into the mammoth work Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (imploring us to think about stillness and artfulness versus just the nuts and bolts of getting things done), that masterpiece that really in a big way was the prompting towards this thing that got started, this thing we now call ‘N+1’ work. well. All of it. It’s… different, when you’re away, especially for a long stretch, and you can see the far horizon from whence you’ve come, and kind of be glad you’re away.

Learning from crusty, gritty, and terribly wise people on The Road

THE ROAD TEACHES LOTS, and you can occasionally forget to notice its lessons. A guy in Gangtok with a hat in his middle years said, ‘Ýou don’t know what a trip’s about until it’s over. And even then, it takes a while.’ The work that I was doing here with Design Kompany changed after my 1-year amble around South and Southeast Asia. You could say I was looking for something, but I’ve done this thing before, a couple of times, so I knew, too, that the thing was always right here, right with me. And now I’ve found it. It’s ‘N.’

Related: 16N gathers 16 people who’ve never met for ONE moment of CONNECTION >

The making of space. For uncertainty. For others to experience that which we learn when we move, one step forward, into the territory of the not-known. It’s pretty fun, actually, when you start to get confident with it. It stings, too, (but less with age), when you meet with blank stares, name-calling, or the other thing: hate. America and other parts of the West have tremendous volumes of it, and I sense, even though I can’t know, I sense that the reason why there’s so much of a mess right now in the USA with regards to hate crimes is because no one ever really sat down with someone else (new, strange at first, seemingly so different) and just had a conversation, out loud. Real life is relegated to the realm of Guy Debord‘s Spectacle. He called it. So did Orwell. Damn.

Is there a way to ‘fix’ this? Tolerance. Empathy. Sizing up the self and learning to connect deeply, with real awareness, to others. It’s self-actualization stuff. I know, top of the pyramid in the hierarchy of needs. But some people who might be reading this know: it IS a need. And that is why there is this project. That is why there’s 16N.

Meet. Connect. Find the new.

This, this very opening, inspires the way to the Next.

Which, of course, is the point of everything. Who really wants the status quo? Not me, and not anybody I’ve learned to care about, deeply, and over time.

Related: ‘Relationships matter’ and what a systems thinker said about that, at our LinkedIn profile >

—DK

An open letter to ‘N’ invitees

Kings Cross Saint Pancras //  Photo by A. Spaice 2015WILL I SEE YOU AT ‘N’? This is just once. This is just to discover 16N. Are you wondering, ‘Who else will join? What will happen? Will I get something from this? Will I learn?’

I found you because I am coming to your city. And I want to meet you. And if we are really, really honest, it probably won’t happen unless we design time and book space.

Kings Cross Saint Pancras // Photo by A. Spaice 2015
King’s Cross Saint Pancras // Photo by A. Spaice 2015

HELLO AND WELCOME. IT SURE MUST BE WEIRD, from your perspective, getting an invite to something as obscure as ‘N’.

First things first: Perhaps you’re not into it. And that’s okay. Thanks for coming this far, to see what it’s about.

But maybe you are wondering… what is this?

Yes? Please read on.

AS YOU ALREADY MAY HAVE NOTED, I AM SENDING ‘N’ invitations to people who seem, from what I can read online, to be interested in ‘interestingness.’ What does that mean?

Interestingness is the quality of being more inclined towards the not-so-obvious.

Interestingness is about curiosity, openness, and readiness to accept multiple viewpoints (as opposed to just one’s own).

It happens in places where we are allowed to experiment with ideas, to play, soft and light, towards the things that happen in the breakthrough moments, when they happen.

‘Ah-ha!’

But interestingness—or the quality of becoming ‘interesting’—involves a little bit of risk.

Related: The Man who Discovered ‘N’ >

MOVING TO ASIA from Seattle started all this. The ‘N’ thing. And the ‘N+1.’ People who are interesting are: looking at things critically, considering new angles, open, enjoy new input, aren’t overly pinned to their own ways of thinking and being, care about real life conversation, want to connect intellectually with others who want to do the same, look for new opportunities to try new things, are always challenging themselves, are ready, are listening, might just be in the right place at the right time. For ‘N’.

Related: What George Bernard Shaw said about circumstances >

WILL I SEE YOU AT ‘N’? This is just once. This is just to discover 16N. Are you wondering, ‘Who else will join? What will happen? Will I get something from this? Will I learn?’

I found you because I am coming to your city. And I want to meet you. And if we are really, really honest, it probably won’t happen unless we design time and book space.

You can leave the hosting part to me.

All you have to do is say, ‘Yes.’ —AS

‘But are strangers REALLY that interesting?’

'N' Phnom Penh  // APRIL 2015SO WE WERE SAYING ALL THIS, and then I took a deep breath, and it felt like the Dream again and also reading Debord, and I looked at her and said, ‘Thank you for the great conversation! I really learned a lot.’

‘So did I!’ she said. And then, there it was. The answer to her question, the title of this section. Are the strangers you meet REALLY that interesting?

‘Yes!’ I cried. ‘See??!’

We laughed. Then she said, ‘I knew you were gonna say that.’

'N' Phnom Penh // APRIL 2015
‘N’ Phnom Penh happened at NUK Cafe. Now inviting guests for ‘N’ in Bangkok, London, and Copenhagen.

I TOLD HER the truth. I was a little dejected. Another ‘No’ for Bangkok ‘N’.

Slow going, this. Asking 16 strangers to get tickets for something they’ve never heard of, that asks them to pick a date together, that comes from ‘the internet.’

It works like this: 16 people, on their own paths, converge ONCE for a conversation about a theme that starts with ‘N.’ In a venue that has an ‘N’. In a city with an ‘N,’ too.

16 people x 16 cities.
16N

Being interviewed about ‘N’ the concept

I MET A FRENCHWOMAN on her way home. She was fascinated with ‘N’, but she was also skeptical. ‘Pessimistic,’ she said. But she had me, when she asked a terrific barrage of questions. She is in marketing.

It went something like this.

You need a ‘speech.’

DK: A speech? No, no, that sounds like… no. this is just… This is just what I’m doing! ‘N’ is the thing I need to do! I don’t know. Oh, you’re saying I’m not being clear about what it is. About how to make it accessible? Oh, that. Yeah. I’ve been criticized for this. It’s kind of like jazz or esoteric theater, isn’t it? You know, I don’t want to be like that, though, even though I think jazz and esoteric theater could be messaged in a better way so more people see how cool it is to go out into the weird space of improvisation or just thinking deeply and connecting lots of threads in a thoughtful, artful way. Not like Mashable, you know? Anyway. I realize, you’re right: it’s about how well have I communicated what I’m offering, what I’m making, why I care about it, and why I’m inviting people. Okay. Hit me.

What’s in it for you?

DK: Connection. Just once. Nothing hard. Outside of work and family. Connection, yeah. I was in reporting and news for four years as a staff writer. And before that, I did a lot of independent traveling, on my own dime, from savings from jobs in architecture, cafes, the usual gamut of oddball things that one does if one is in their young years and learning about the world. And I found from all this learning that there is only ONE thing that really turns me on. Great dialogue. It doesn’t have to be smart, or overeducated, or labeled something. It just has to be GOOD. And you can design for that. You really, really can. I have a seven-point checklist now, that I developed when I met some of the greatest people who make you feel, quite quickly, at ease. So I took what I learned from all the conversations of my life and made ‘N.’

Related: Some years ago, this idea was foreshadowed in Ireland, in our 2003 short video, ‘Teddy O’Neill.” Watch it here >

Because the magic happens in the MOMENT, and it’s not about being prepared for it, or looking for ‘a website,’ or an app, or a ‘perfect person.’ It’s about right there, right now. Eye contact. Being in the same place at the same time. Sheer chance. For me, making that happen simultaneously for 16 people is a real achievement. It’s way more interesting to me than sitting about writing or drawing and trying to pitch my work to loads of people in the hope of ‘being published.’ This is being published, this blog, right here. You’re reading. If you weren’t reading, I wouldn’t be writing.

And it’s only because there is a RECEPTION that anything meaningful really happens. It’s only because the SENDER has a RECEIVER, and they are locked in a conversation that’s timeless and wordless because it hits on a sensation that only they can know. I know, it’s really big stuff here, what I’m talking about. I call this moment of reception ART. Everything else, when ‘artists’ go around the world talking about themselves but not caring who’s listening so long as the room is full, well, everything else is just public masturbation.

Why do you do this?

DK: Make space. For real. In a short, designed block (a volume?), and not get overwhelmed with the work of human contact. I know, it sounds crazy psychology kookiness. But sure, Carl Jung’s Man and His Symbols informs this. So does Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. So does ‘Basic Writings’ by Heidegger, if you want to know, and all those guys who figured out that when you change the way you look at things on a quantum level, the things you look at change.

How do you choose whom to invite?

DK: Gut feeling. I’m looking for people who are: Open. Making. Doing. Sharing. Yet the invitation process is designed to let people self-select.

What do people need this for?

DK: The ones who balk at this are the ones who need it the most. But of course, I can’t say that. The reason people need this is because we have to get out of our heads sometimes, our usualness, to find out what’s really interesting. To go to the edge and see what’s there, and sometimes that’s just not what people want to do. One person put it this way: ‘I’m not ready to emerge a butterfly.’ Fair enough. But if you want to realize your fullest self, you have to push yourself to the edge, and break it.

But are the strangers you meet REALLY that interesting?

DK: EVERYONE is interesting.

Concept of ‘N’: One moment can change the vector of your life forever

AS I WAS packing my things and taking leave of this lovely new acquaintance yesterday afternoon, I was marveling at how the conversation lasted two hours. She is probably on a plane right now. She and I will possibly meet again but it is going to take a lot of coordinating so it’s not totally one hundred percent guaranteed.

Still, we had a connection. We talked about life, and what people really crave and how we just want to talk, and be heard, and then she told me about the meaning of someone she knows’ tattoo, and drew it for me in my notebook, and we talked about that. Action. Dialogue. Things happening. Things having mattered.

Confirming the reality of our own existence and its worth because we had eye contact, or if the SENDER isn’t alive anymore, (Guy Debord’s book Society of the Spectacle popped out of my bag during this conversation), then you can still have that CONNECTION even through temporal space. I told her about the red dress I got at a boutique right after seeing Dali’s Dream. The shopkeeper made a comment about something that she saw in me, (and I can share that, if I ever meet you in real life.) I stopped blogging at this site about my personal stuff because I realized it wasn’t being RECEIVED in a way that let me know it was being received. And I couldn’t ask, ‘How are you finding this?’ Even if that response is something crude or rude, it’s still a response. And you know, when you have people saying NO that just means you’re on your way to something very interesting, indeed.

So we were saying all this, and then I took a deep breath, and it felt like the Dream again and also reading Debord, and I looked at her and said, ‘Thank you for the great conversation! I really learned a lot.’

‘So did I!’ she said. And then, there it was. The answer to her question, the title of this section. Are the strangers you meet REALLY that interesting?

‘Yes!’ I cried. ‘See??!’

We laughed. Then she said, ‘I knew you were gonna say that.’

‘It’s not about being right.’

She knew I was gonna say that, too.

Read more about ‘N’

DK’s ’16N’ project gathers 16 people for ONE moment of conversation. See DesignKompany.com/16N

The why of N

N
Click to read ‘The Man who Discovered N’ >

A COUPLE OF PEOPLE have asked me why I make ‘N’. Very fair question, especially if you’ve been invited by AS recently. If you like myth and fiction, this story, ‘The Man who Discovered N’ might be fun.

Urgency of NOW

FRAMING MOMENTS. The big idea for ‘N’ is to frame ONE moment of CONNECTION with 15 other people who are curious about what an ‘N’ event might be like to experience in real life, who dare themselves to take a chance on something so new it’s almost weird. This might be really scary for some people, because what’s the outcome? What’s in it for you, what’s in it for me, in other words, what’s the value?

Question: what was the value of growing up close to grandparents who cradled you when you were a baby? Or, what is the value of hearing natural sounds of birds, or of stepping onto a boat when you’re not sure where it’s going, or how, or what you have to do to keep it moving? What about when you take a chance on a trip, on a new relationship, or on another thing that will push you to challenge your own sense of identity, the very essence of who you really are?

Once we step out of our comfort zones, however, that’s when the real insights come into play. Ask anyone who’s done something really hard what they got out of it. Of course they will say, much after the fact, that they learned something. That they grew.
But it takes some designing. And that’s what ‘N’ is for.

Making space

PLAY. Play is such a big part of discovery, and finding the way to N+1 (more on that if you’re curious, but only 6 months after ‘N’), and learning, and most importantly, growth. Without play we get suffocated, and I feel like most of the way we are taught to do things is Western ideas (I was raised in the US) about how to argue one’s way to right.
What if there are two or three or five million ‘rights?’ Quantum science got me thinking hard about uncertainty and I got to do some cool projects that showcased how not knowing is a big part of growth. First step, and all. Risks.
And that’s what ‘N’ is for, too.

Next

N. Making space. For a moment of connection. In a bounded box. Handled with care.

‘N’ is coming. Bangkok