16N · In Việt Nam

A story in Ha Noi begins: ’16N’

IT IS TIME to go to Viet Nam again.

A lot of conversations in virtual space, lately.

About Ha Noi, and ‘N’, and what that is. And why we’re doing it.

‘You know, if you want people to be interested in what you’re doing, you should show that you are doing it because you get something out of it. That was the number one question I’d gotten, from N in Phnom Penh and Bangkok and in person when I was in London and Copenhagen, too. I wanted to get sixteen people together for a conversation salon, about a topic that would start with an N, and in cities that have N’s in them. That was the criteria. I thought it was a fun game. But you know what people wanted to know?’

‘What?’

‘What’s in it for you, DK?’

‘…’

‘What the heck is the point of it all? Some were more vocal and opinionated than otehrs. But I think the point of it all is very obvious, to me, anyway. And then I find little bits and pieces that other, smarter people have written and posted about how as human beings what we really do well is connect in person, eye-to-eye, and when that happens we can normalize our own ideas about things and we can feel more lively, alive, you know?’

‘…’

‘So I know to some it seemed like a social experiment. I got some really strong hate mail from the Phnom Penh person who professed to be a creative person but was totally irritated with me for trying to ask him to come to something and pay a whopping sixteen bucks… that was the first one, and you know, how in Phnom Penh everyone’s so ketchi, yeah?, Yeah. At first these notes used to make me really cringe inside, like I was doing it wrong. But then… then I found out from the OTHER people, the ‘whynotsayyes’ types, that it was a GOOD thing to be of an opinion. That it MATTERED to take a stand, take a side, and ‘push back on the culture of maybe.’ Oh, I want so much to go into the details here… how it got planned, designed, why I am going to be doing it in Ha Noi, and then back to Europe… Bologna…’

‘But what’s in it for you, DK?’

‘Yeah! I know, right? This is the stuff of living, if you ask me. Being around other people who are interested in big questions, but aren’t getting space to ask them because it’s uncool to talk about metaphysics and cool to talk about [DELETED], which has NO bearing on the quality of my life and has no way of adding to it in any way but seems to be the topic of interest not because it’s interesting but because it’s socially acceptable! MORES, and what’s ‘socially acceptable’ IS NOT WHAT IS GOOD FOR US, most of the time, because what’s SOCIALLY ACCEPTABLE is drudgery and ennui and living in a box of computing and digital messes and head games and disintegration of integrity and flakiness and banality and the Society of the Spectacle and media outlets that are buying up all the spaces so that the good stuff is getting drowned in the sea of irrelevance that Huxley talked about but OH, I can’t get all… I can’t do that… I can’t get all ENNUI and WOE IS US about HUMANITY, did you konw HUMANITY is ending? This month? That next month the theme for S. P. A. C. E. is swithing to KAIROS? It’ll be good for me to get out of this doomy gloomy spot where I think a lot of artists, writers, and scientists were back when they came up with the A-bomb, back when there was all that sadness around the fact that humanity had this thing to it, this streak, the sorrow… Krishnamurti’s eloquent take on it… the sorrow within us, and then that Dao stuff… I did a lot of research for this sequnce, you konw. I might need to put a little paper together summing it up, a PDF. I’ll do that. I’ll make it available to people who join me at N for Ha Noi, how about that. And maybe for the new subscribers to S. P. A. C. E., too. There is good stouff on the tables, for it… I’m looking forward to it… wow. I’m looking forward to the KAIROS. And N! N is about MAKING IT HAPPEN. Kairos. Framing the moment, designing rooms for great dialogue and connection. Celebrating the urgency of NOW.’

‘Dude. That sounds really esoteric and inaccessible.’

‘Well. That’s who I am. And this is the kind of stuff I make. And I am looking for 16 people who want to talk about a topic starting with N in Ha Noi when I get there. We’ll make it up, together. We’ll do this one differently from the other topic-setting ones. I will ask the people who are asking me, WTF is N, DK?’ And we will design it, together.

ARE YOU IN HA NOI? Want to be part of it?

Get ‘N’…


Get N

16N · A Philosophy of the Moment · Found in the Field · In Việt Nam · Mirror2018

‘Et eksempel er frygten for at udleve mine passioner’

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

 

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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

16N · Experiments in Expression · Found in the Field · In Việt Nam

Guest post: ‘Skipping the awkward get-to-know-you-phase’

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

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A guest post today from Sarah Rhodes. Sarah had joined us at ‘N’ Phnom Penh, and reflects on that experience. 

WHEN I FIRST moved to Siem Reap, I was attending a lot of different events to meet different people and try and find my place and friends in a new city.

It was at one of these events where I met [DK], who was hosting ‘N’, an event that sounded a bit interesting, and although we didn’t get to talk directly, it was a few days later that we ended up having a great chat watching the sunset on a rooftop in Siem Reap town.

Whether it was the first meeting or the sunset chat there was no doubt that the connection had been made, so when I was visiting Phnom Penh in April last year and it coincided with the ‘N’ event, I considered myself very fortunate.

Sunset

It was during this visit that I realised the other attendees of the event had also had similar encounters with [DK], so it was no surprise that when we all arrived for this event we found that we automatically connected, as we had one main thing in common. The way the event was organised was well thought through; from the personal invitation, individually crafted official invitations, creative activities which with facilitated conversation beyond the usual ‘who are you?’ and ‘what do you do?’.

WHEN WE MET, it was like we didn’t have a long awkward get-to-know-you phase, it was easy to chat and talk about less usual things. I met many interesting people that night. I now have friendships with people in Phnom Penh from ‘N’, after all a friendship is formed by first talking with someone, and then talking with them again. —Sarah E. Rhodes (@saraherhodes)

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

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16N · A Philosophy of the Moment · In Việt Nam

What’s normal? by ‘N’ Phnom Penh

Editor’s note: Guests of ‘N’ in Phnom Penh authored this essay, together. Read more about the project 16N here.

IN 2015, GIRLS WEAR PANTS, suits, have pixie hair, tattoos and even chase men. These are now normal.

Other normal situations are validated only when backed up by science, like what is a normal blood pressure? The rest are subjective. As Morticia Adams quoted: “Normal is an illusion.”

But… is it? Normal is something that has already been done, many times. The more something has been done, the more normal it is. Actually, there’s more. Way.

THE NORMAL DISTRIBUTION CURVE IS A GRAPH which shows the spread of random variables, or behaviours, in a population. It centres around the mean, or average, which is the sum of all expected behaviours divided by the population. 99.7% of all values are within 3 standard deviations of the mean. Like this:

Normal Distribution Curve
Normal Distribution Curve

When very recently I met with and tried to explain this concept of “normal” to DK, it was, um, funny. She didn’t quite know what I meant.

She had, I think, her own idea about ‘N.’ She said: “You mean, like the normal vector? Like, 90 perpendicular to the horizontal? And then when 16 voices converge, wham, on a plane, like this, see this animation? Yeah, like that, so when wham, that happens, that MOMENT, that’s when, whoo, you go UP, into SPACE, like 3D, like up the vertical that is the “NORMAL” vector!!! OMG!!!!”

Not quite, DK, but, that’s cool.

Then I thought, Morissey.

Morissey
Morissey

MORISSEY SANG ‘there is no such thing as normal’; a statement I believe and find comforting, in that I repeat it frequently whenever the need arises.

However, in recent years I have become more aware that a CONSTRUCT of normality exists, and if you don’t neatly fit into this, then prepare for questions!

‘We don’t have to agree’

NORMALITY IS WHAT YOUR ENVIRONMENT expected you to do or think, the referent environment mostly has referent expectation. With that in mind, here’s a thought.

We don’t have to 100% agree to someone, as long as we can find a common ground that’s acceptable to both sides. You get yourself an agreement. They said it right when they said: “Better communication skills will get a better outcome.”

May I be frank? Okay, these are my random innermost thoughts. Ready? I’ve never met a person who feels normal. Abnormal is normal. Normal for who? Dehumanizing in any culture is not normal. I don’t want a normal job or relationship. Describe life as vibrant, sticky, juicy, challenging, fluffy… my ideas about normality are negative. Is that my “normal” thinking pattern? Hm. Now I’m wondering.

Maybe it’s this, though. Normal is when we can live simply. Read books whenever we want to without being tested on. Paint because we want to, not because we’ve got something to prove. Enjoy the moment with no place to rush off to. We just want to be, boundless and infinite… Or? I’m still thinking…

—N

P.S. Some other things that came up after the event last Sunday, as I’ve been ruminating. Normality. Like the rest. Falling within a deviation determined by cultural narratives, science and, most importantly, perception. Normal shifts based on country, decade, household… Constantly changing, ever imperfect. It is those ideas and people outside the spectrum – that are abnormal – that are often responsible for greatness.

And this one: Normality. A quality that can only exist in reference to other things – the past, other people, abstracted rules. A quality of the self-conscious ‘I’ rather than the present ‘I.’ As a substitute for balance, it’s a quality forever at war with itself.

What do you think? What’s normal? Why do we think so?