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

Agile publishing

[UPDATE 10 January: Try the COJOURNAL experience to see what this is like. You can do this from anywhere if you have an internet connection. We’re getting started on 31 January.]


FOR A LONG TIME I used to be like most of the people I know who claim to want to write. I mean, I wanted to get picked up.

By some kind of an agent, or a publishing house.

Then, get toured around the world.

Splashy dinners, press conferences, lots and lots of people asking me about my stories… all admiringly but of course asking the same repeating questions.

But. But.

Fancy ashtrays for my splashy-splashy. ‘You smoke?’ ‘Of course I don’t!’

No.

Something.

Got in the way of that.

Not because of drive… I had a lot of drive, back then. I guess I’m a Gen X slacker in other ways, but I do like publishing and I will do it, and blogging is a kind of publishing, and even though I haven’t been writing here very much for the last three years it doesn’t mean I haven’t been writing and sharing.

Just not in public, like this.

I preferred small, private circles.

I still do.

Some of the time I wrote for newspapers, first freelance and then as a staffer. Then I got into magazine stuff. Then I decided it wasn’t for me, that piecewise thing you have to do (read: pitching) and not experimenting with the medium, which is way, way more fun. Thanks to a couple of internet friends scattered in timezones near and far, I’m able to connect more deeply through writing (but only with some people, of course. You can’t share intimately with everyone.) Maybe this is why I don’t care so much about getting famous, now. It just doesn’t matter. What matters is hanging out. The quality of the conversations. The people I meet, what we discover together, what we learn from each other. How we grow.

Not famous

SO YES. IT IS TRUE.

I had this thought about fame, though. A lot, probably, through most of my early twenties. Back then, mostly in those big cities with yellow stuff pasted onto walls around subways, I picked up flyers about going to get my correspondence writing course started, and then, I left them behind.

I don’t know why.

Someone I just met said, it’s human to want to be famous. I’m not convinced that this is so true, though. I think it’s narcissistic, sure. And yeah, the Western cultures have a thing about that. But living in Asia for three years (and counting) will do something to you. Will make you think, ‘Hey, wait a minute. Who cares?’

Heidegger: ‘What is Metaphysics?’

 

Next steps: writing and publishing

THINGS NOW ARE INCREDIBLY NEW, and the old-school model is still nagging at the artists. Why is this?

Ego?

Who cares if it’s ‘popular?’

JS wrote: ‘Do what moves you.’

Something about pining for fame… (JS is famous, by the way)… as much as this is so normal if you grow up in a place where fame is worshipped,… But well, something about the pursuit of #1, and that alone, seemed dodgy, to me. Who decides on the criteria, for one? What do you consider to be interesting, intriguing, alluring, mysterious? Because most likely, it’s not the stuff that’s going to top the pop charts. Well, at least, if you’re like me. I’m into other things. Philosophical stuff, going to the edges (literally, sometimes), looking out and over, maybe even taking a jump (literally, again. Like in India’s Himachal Pradesh, at Manali.)

Not saying you have to do it this way or that way.

Paying attention to the way, though. That’s important. Because along the way you’ll find the things that add to your story, the Book of You. (More about that is coming, but only for the inner inner circles, in mid-January, through the emails.)

Voicefinding is underrated, you know. Taking time is, too. Discovering, messing up, finding your way, the way again, there it is. Why are the Westerners so outcome-focused? I noticed in recent weeks that I had this one outcome in mind about a thing, and it didn’t go exactly as I had pictured, and on the one hand I was so disappointed I teared up a bit, but on the other, we had something else in its place. We had a different kind of thing. Another way. And it was fine; in its own way, it was beautiful all exactly as it stood, unjudged and unexpected. Is that the thing, then? Letting things happen?

Finding one’s voice, I felt, seemed like the most important journey, to me, when I was watching everyone follow the pack. The herd mentality is pretty crazy. Human, of course. But we gotta watch that. What are we doing, and why? It’s necessary to pay attention to this. Intention.

Even in my younger days, I knew that to experience life would be more important, than to try to make sense of what had happened, so far. There wasn’t enough of it behind me. I wanted to go. See. Learn, make, and do.

Of course people said that was stupid. These were the people who later went into investment banking and got houses that are now ‘underwater.’ They also told me that I was a ‘free spirit’ and wasn’t that just lucky-for-me, but twenty years later they are still looking for a weekend off to ‘go and write my novel.’ Yeah. A weekend.

F.

Traveling opened it up, though, got me away from those people and their poisonous don’t-can’t thinking. (Total opposite of N+1. More about that in a bit.)

First job I got enough to save some to start this habit.

That’s how I got traveling. To East Asia. Southeast Asia, South Asia. Europe, too, of course. Moved there, even. Started things out. Made it all up as we went along. Slowly, surely.

One step at a time.

It became a kind of method, a sort of dance. Go, see. Suss. Learn, then make the next decision.

You know, the more I think about it, the more this isn’t just about a way of life that has nothing to do with wanting the praises and accolades that, I think, many many people that I would have known when I was, say, yeah, twenty-three, would have said they wanted.

The thing is, I met a lot of those people, along the way.

People who had made it. Were on the book tours. Were traveling the world, on other people’s dimes.

But they didn’t have the one thing that I had, in so many giant waves and troves and uncertain amounts, seemingly indefinitely.

They didn’t have time.

‘Hello, internet. I’m doing fine without you.’

Phasing the Book of Time

THIS THINKING caught up with me, just this morning. I was writing and thinking and writing some more, and gearing up to set up the co-writing page for BH to join me on, soon. (B, yes, it’s coming up, on Tuesday). I’m going to write there, now. Co-writing. It’s certainly not a new idea, this. Many people have been doing it through the ages.

I don’t know when it went from writing because writing is fun, ideas are playful, and we can make anything when we do this together, to something else.

Everyone becomes a bit of a corporation.

You have to go around and PR yourself to pieces. Literally. I remember the writer in the mountainside, who looked wistfully after me as we made our parting goodbyes, and said, ‘I wish I could go and sit and write and look out of my window and just have no one in the world to answer to. I’m jealous.’

You don’t have to be jealous, I thought, right then. Just go and do it.

Shutting down the devices and cutting out the reception. Letting go of the has-beens and moving on to the next-ones. It’s part of my process, this closing of doors.

Opening new email addresses, dumping old ones. Starting new conversations with strangers, forgetting to respond to the ones who became less-strange, but more distant, with time and space and lack of correspondence and the thing that happens when that happens, loss of interest.

That’s okay.

Editing is a thing you learn, the longer you’re at this game.

Editing is beautiful.

White space. Yes.

Copying Neils and morphing, too

SO I’M GONNA DO IT.

I’m going to write to B and ask if he’ll work with me on this new thing. The Book of Time. (Did you know Neils Bohr, my hero, had 400 correspondents? Yeah. He just wrote all these letters. I’m so into that idea. I think I’ll start with 1.)

Neils Bohr

But did I tell you about agile publishing, yet?

No?

Oh, man.

The cojournal, a precursor to S P A C E

THE COJOURNAL PROJECT that started all this writing into the void, into S P A C E, and other online spots, well, that was 2014 and wow, it was amazing.

I got to know a handful of people, and I got to know their writing style even better. Sometimes it was someone I maybe met just once, sometimes it was a colleague. Yeah. I know, right? I did this and I learned and we talked, and we shared. The growing came of the sharing, the process was the important bit. Sure, there was an outcome, there wast he PDF anthology that I’d sent out as a New Year’s Gift (with everyone int he projects’ permission, of course). Rounding up permissions sure takes some admin time, man. But I did, because I wanted to share that short eBook. It was nice. So then, after that, it was done. But some people didn’t want it to be done, so we carried on with a few of us for another year.

And then that morphed into THE FORUM, and it’s still going… And now this is growing up, too… but I have to have these small stairsteps.

I have to N+1 it, because not everyone is ready to go that far with the writing-together thing. It starts with inertia, of course, with convincing one’s self that yeah, it’s time, I gotta do this, I gotta write… Help me make it happen, DK.

That’s what used to happen.

But, no.

I won’t.

Can’t.

I have other things now, that I want to do.

Playing with the boxes.

Arriving at N+1

BUT TODAY, just now, I was walking away from this cafe where a lady asked me what I was doing here, what I was doing for crust, as they say, and I said for the first time, ‘I’m not sure yet.’

Because this is the last day of the year.

And that means, this is the last day of the offerings of Old.

If N=2016, then tomorrow is N+1.

And that’s where the good stuff is. And that’s where I’m going. —AS

More like this, and exclusives…

IN 2017 DK are changing quite a bit about how we connect with people, and we want to share more about the process of making and doing. It’s been quite a journey these last 20 years, but the best-of highlights and learning is what we share with a small, inner circle. These are our patrons. You can discover more about how to become a patron of DK through this link

[UPDATE 10 January: Try the COJOURNAL experience to see what this is like. You can do this from anywhere if you have an internet connection. We’re getting started on 31 January.]

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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A new plateau

LEGACIES ARE MADE AND BUILT based on the learnings we can articulate clearly, and share. Dialogue makes us gather our ideas and respond to those of others, too. Perspectives can shift and whole rooms of internal awareness can open, if we allow ourselves room to reflect. It’s why I am always taking pictures like this, I think. I like to make the space for zooming into quiet. Processing ‘N’, which just happened on Wednesday here in London. No pictures. No social media. Just quiet space, to feel what it was, and reflect. Quietly, alone.

NEXT.
There are a few things coming together for 2017 for members of our online community, S. P. A. C. E. A different kind of thing than me posting blog entries, much more interactive: both real-life spacemaking events in cities like San Francisco and Bangkok, and conversation forums in online ‘rooms.’ The big idea is much like the 16N experience: connecting us to new and different others, making space for us to reflect and better tune in to our own selves, our own hoped-for legacy, whether we’re conscious of what it is or just open to ambling our way towards something bigger than simply existing day-to-day. I came to London a year ago to see George Bernard Shaw’s Man and Superman. In which similar questions of existence and purpose and meaning popped up. I can tell you where all this is going, but only if you are interest in hearing more. Are you? If yes, leave me a note.