I MUST BE GETTING PLACES. I have been conversing in real time and also asynchronously in the cloud. With amazing people who inspire me.
To keep going.
To keep doing this thing where we show up, see what happens, and put together an issue, somehow.
Arts and letters
I really can’t quite believe I am talking and making poetry with IK, jeez I’m lucky. I can’t give you all the details now because that would be too much, but suffice to say, it’s a fascinating jam session and I’m delighted to be able to explore it.
Cell memory, poetics
A living poet. Light with words, light with the style, letting me approach and say, ‘Shall we do this?’ A conversation in S P A C E, too many words already. I will stop here.
The things are evolving.
Which is good.
What would DK be if it didn’t change every so often completely?
What is that thing about how your cells renew, every seven years?
Unstuffy, unpretentious, realness
I did go to a couple of stuffy literary conferences and festivals in my life, but not a single one of the people I met really felt like they were doing anything truly creative, if you want to know my honest opinion.
They just kinda… seem to get caught up in the recognition-seeking thing. Not innovating in the form. Which, to me, is far more exciting. And takes effort to go to the edge, look and, well… leap. Status quo-happy people like to hug the mainstream lines. Art can’t be art, though, if you ask me, if you do that. Just, no.
Which is exactly why the people who are actually exploring and experimenting… well, they catch my ear, and eye.
HERE’S A SNIPPET of a short, direct story that I found refreshingly honest.
I read it today in my email box.
Find it, just below.
(It comes from the jazz club Smalls, which is in New York, and which is one of the first places I used to frequent when I lived in that city. Ages ago. I am on the mailing list in part because I always wonder who’ll be there, when and if I make it to that town again, for the sounds. Mostly, wanted to keep an ear out for if TE is there. That would be fun, to show up with my pens.
We don’t know each other, but I read your words, SW–thank you for sending this along and sharing your story)…
Running these clubs stripped me of my need to prove myself and took me away from self-analysis. Who has the time for all that?
Becoming a father has made me understand what value in living really is. Who has time to be concerned about a “career”? Music, I realized, is a children’s game – to be played with wonder and joy, not ego and career-mindedness…
It took me an entire lifetime to realize this… Sometimes it takes a lifetime to just get started! —Spike Wilner, Smalls
I love this.
I love the honesty of it. I love the way it flows, from some heartfelt place. I write and draw and stuff, so I get it, what this is trying to say, I think.
I remember when the feeling came to me, too, that there are some things you just push out and publish just because you don’t have enough of yourself in one space to get all the details perfect.
You just have to say the thing that you know has to be said. It’s a thing.
You share, and something cool could happen.
But sharing. Wow. Is hard work. Mmmmmm.
Another topic, for another thread.
To trust the process.
The importance of opening to possibility
DESIGNERS, writers, poets, architects. Engineers, conversationalists, philosophers, leaders. All of us, really. All of us who make things that society will use. People. Everywhere. We have to hear each other… better. Infrastructure, or the softer things like how we relate to one another… being aware… of the need to listen. Is huge.
Reading so much news, and feeling so… many things.
I’ve been talking a lot, here, about me. I’m ready to listen, now. But how? We’re so… far away and disconnected now from each other.
It’s hard to know how to move together, in a way that flows, and adds to things, instead of just feels like… random blips.
Right? Am I right, or?…
We have to be able to be open to the whole of it, the potentiality of whatever might fall into the picture, right?
If we want to explore to the best-of edge, then we have to be open to the possibility of being changed by what we might hear.
That of course, is the very definition of listening. Enter J. Krishnamurthi here.
Maybe that’s why I like this kind of music. But I’ve taken a break from it, to be honest, to find my way back to other things, like pop stuff, and old stuff, and things that people share.
Flux is there.
Celebrating ‘just let’s see what happens!’
I remember when Mathias Aspelin and I co-hosted something called ‘Math & Jazz’ at Raffles’ Elephant Bar in Phnom Penh. (See pic, just above).
That was a lark—a bunch of philosophy people, artists, musicians, and the band members themselves came to the bar to talk with me and whomever showed up about the things that M&J have in common. This was nice. This was unexpected. And improvisations in making it up just kept going, for me, from there… I could talk more about it. But here, for now, I’ll let things slow.
I wonder if VJ remembers running into me right here in this lobby, ahead of the event. It was cool to be friends, there, for some time, when we were in synch.
I REMEMBER THIS. Spam comments. Requests for jobs at DK. This must be what happens when you start blogging again. I mean, like really blogging, not just writing the clickbait-y stuff that I think so many people who write blogs that are professional service company people with a ‘plus a blog with them’ do. I mean, it’s easy to get caught up in that. Writing isn’t easy. Writing is work. Writing for the sake of what end, you wonder, and so, like everyone else, you turn into a market-markety bloggy-blog. Which is terrible. Because it’s not just irritating to find silly ad-like links everywhere, it’s also bad art. Bad art isn’t acceptable, so let’s move forward.
Am reading about social capital. And how capitalism has taken what used to be stuff we did for each other because we’re human beings, and commodified it.
Social capital is, for example, when we take care of each other’s kids. When we help one another with homework, do the work that it takes to go out of our way to help someone else out with finding lost keys or getting to the next city or taking the right bus or whatever. Social capital is when someone kindly invites you to dinner when you know that all the restaurants are going to be closed because it’s a holiday, and nothing is open for five more days which means you’ll be stuck at the ‘mart’– which sells more processed garbage and smells, when you walk into it, like Capitalism.
[Long-winded side rant deleted]
And social capital is this kind of thing, the soft architecture of spacemaking: making space that is, for one another. To reflect, to share. All those old dialogue roundtables we did before, I remember some of them were very, very interesting, were a kind of ‘public space,’ the very sort that we need if we want to find ways to feel more connected. Like the things we are here for matter. Like we’re part of something more than just the day-to-day of churning out ‘stuff’ in exchange for our time. Selling our time, that is.
Being there, closely. Listening, and participating in the creative process of Life… Oh, no. I’m getting lofty again. (‘Come off the mountain, DK!’) Right, right.
I’m making this new stuff because I want to add more social capital to the pot of the ‘stuff’ that’s out there, now (which is largely boring, to me). I don’t go to networking events. Or weddings, if I can help it. I try to avoid all social chatter that revolves around ‘like-minded people are gonna be there’ because to me, ‘like-minded’ is an echo chamber I don’t wanna step into. I’m interested in the mix. The flow, the journey… But if you know me, you already know that. If you don’t, well. I guess I’m writing, at the moment, for the people who know me or potentially might—let’s see. The internet, asmuchas I give out about it, has made it possible for me to meet new people on the road in the very kinds of journeys that I’m also on… I don’t mean ‘like-minded,’ here… I mean, more of… the questioning, quest-y types… Not for everyone, of course… but. About 1 out of 100 will be reading this far. And looking for the ‘what do I do now that I’ve found you?’ call to action. (Is this you? It’s around, somewhere, I promise.) If it wasn’t for the internet, I’d probably still be thinking that my job at a daily paper was ‘creative.’
But through the process of trusting the process, I found out what is.
Okay, then there’s the whole thing about what to do when we start to charge everything for everything, like, you know, babysitting and homework help and stuff like that. I mean, sure, we all have to earn cash because that is what it’s about right now, cashy-cashy. Still, I think we can start trading in something that is more old school. The currency of trust.
Why? Because, despite the worship of those little pieces of paper that we give and take from each other (more and more facelessly than ever, sadly, I feel) it’s not like we really need cash to get things to happen. We need trust. Like old times. We need to know who we can count on, and for real. To do things. Make things. Move around. Discover. Make time for each other. Be. All of this is what leads to stillness and reflection. And that leads to better art. Design is only a means towards getting to the better art. Art, art, art, ladies and gentlemen. I am not talking about what someone decided was artistic and put into a fancy pants gallery, either. I’m talking about stuff that moves us. makes us sing, connect, feel, and even brings tears to our eyes because it shows us our own…. there’s too much to write here and if I’m writing in this public space, which it looks like I don’t see the reason to make this a protected page post because those are reserved for the conversation-continuing, not starting, and what I hope to do is maybe make a few new starts, here. Today or soonish. But they have to be good starts. They have to have art in them.
My parents told me that I shouldn’t study art, so I went to engineering school* and then I worked for some architects, and then two different newspapers (fortnightly, daily), and then I started a design studio, and here I am writing away about art. All of the past experiences have informed the ways to design structures in which we can most excitingly discover the concepts that lead to great works. That’s important. Scaffolding. For S P A C E for ex. I’ll need to talk about it, sometime, if you are one of the people who are wondering how to connect with us in a better way than just reading this blog sometimes. There’s real stuff, it really is cool. It’s working, it’s been working, and there’s… a new beginning. And more…
*Looking for samples of what different bridges look like? This is a cool site.
‘More of what, though?’
Existing more artfully, in the same exact time frame, means you get more. Experience something fully by focusing on it, while you’re in it, and not getting distracted by all the so-called possibilities and ‘options.’ Sorry. I just don’t. Get that. I like to go with it when I know there’s a beginning there, that feels right. That works me, challenges me, instructs and delights, and best of all, delivers—all that is ahead, for me, is the quest of this kind of ‘more.’ Not more stuff. Not more friends. Not even more… anything, really. So what am I after, then? What am I questing? Questions. And people who ask good ones.
So far I’ve been very lucky. There is… an ambient… community. Behind the scenes here there are a small group of us talking together in very intriguing, even intimate ways, even though maybe we’ve never met in real life. Real life is the best channel, of course, but when we can’t have that it’s nice to have this and then gear up towards having that, one day. It does happen. It’s great. S P A C E started in 2014. So. There’s that. And most importantly: there is trust. Trust is what we’re dealing in, like I said. Trust trust trust trust trust is what we human beings always went with when it came down to it: ‘Do I believe you? Are you reliable?’ Please don’t act like you’re interested in what I’m making when we first meet and then turn out to be a really flaky flake: that is a huge, huge pet peeve for me. Be real, dude. Just: be real.
Towards a better art
Art! So much to talk about. I did go to a fancy art school for like five minutes but dropped out because it wasn’t where the meaning was getting made, it was where old, dying ideas about what is ‘good’ were getting pushed on young people who would go on to do, what Banksy wrote in something somewhere, the kind of work that just isn’t art because (and I’m paraphrasing) the best minds went to work for people who used them up to get us all to click links and buy stuff we don’t need. I left art school to take up odd jobs and then go travel, and then, more stuff, but yeah, it was a lot of movement, there, fora while. To quest the artful. I used to have two big categories at this blog, before it got deleted accidentally (long story). The categories were: 1) In Search of Meaning and 2) In Pursuit of Beauty. Then I think there was Found and also Trust the Process. Mostly still probing in these four compass points, about a decade and a half later. Maybe we met in 2004 at something like Biznik. Maybe we met last week in Vietnam. Wherever you come from, wherever we’re going, we’re at this journey that I’m really excited about, that’s coming into shape quite nicely, in S P A C E. And since those four original points of query were so important then, is it any wonder, then, why we are talking together in online spaces in protected pages about existential philosophy, aesthetic moments, relational aesthetics (HT JB) the work of design, the meaning of art, the value of money, and much more related tangentially to these ideas?
So many philosophy magazines are a pile of junk, I think: they’re… well, let’s see… to put it bluntly?… they’re… just quoting the same old people saying the same old things, from a bygone era. (I have a habit of doing that sometimes, but some of us and I’m assigning myself to this role ought to be seeking up the new philosophers and publishing them: new voices, from the not-mainstream). Our real cool contemporary and updated modern philosophers are right here, amongst us here and now, talking, every day, about the way it all unfolds or doesn’t… I’m rambling. Oi. I’m going to stop now… Because. Art is the point. Not me making a point.I don’t wanna go down that silly path of logic-worship. Intuition is better. Intuiting the ‘rightness’ of things… and falling forward, towards them. Forward motions.
Such movements, after all, for S P A C E, are the point. So much to say. Will save it all up, for ‘Postmodern Nomads’, and the invite-only sequence ‘Strange Geometries II’. These new bits and pieces and unfolding meaning-making conversations to come in Spring 2019, with the launch of a new series in S P A C E, ‘The Book of New Things.’
S P A C E QUESTS S P A C E. All of this to say that you can join the conversations, but please note that you have to be able to add to what we are doing. Contribute ideas, words, time, show up for stuff, be there. Be part of the journey. Fiscally that’s fine, that’s one kind of contribution, but we’re wiling to take trades of all kinds. Always. That’s the new thing, around here; trade something for us, for S P A C E. It can be what you think makes sense. Bartering around the world, we are, lately. I’m serious. Banked on it; it’s working. Trust. All the conversations that have built up in meaningful ways to date over these last four years as we prototyped and pivoted, tested and scrapped dozens of failing directions in order to come up with the theme, the concept, the sequence, and the small team that is the right one for us here at DK, well it’s a lot. But yeah. They started with: showing up. And conversations that go somewhere.
Social capital. Is that, and so many other things, enfolded into its coat sleeves, pockets… places we’ve forgotten about as we chase the bigger kind of more prominent style of ‘more.’ (Fame, money, popularity, all that stuff). But… let’s be real: social capital, the good stuff that it brings to us, and the community it builds, is the most important kind of ‘capital’ there really is.
Feature illustration: By Dipika Kohli // Phnom Penh 2015
WHAT IS ‘The Work of Art?” Conversations that began in an online forum, The Mirror, opened the discussions about this in early 2018.
After a year of ruminations, one key reflection is this.
If you don’t show up for the chance encounters in the places where you have no idea what’s going to happen, the art you make isn’t ever going to get to any place of real depth. Because it’s still in your own little bubble that you are working, and no one is going to make you ask the hard questions about it, to make it better.
A LOT OF PEOPLE talk about how you have to ‘get inspired’ if you want to write or make art. That’s not true. Anyone who does this in a serious way knows that it’s really about showing up and practicing, over and over. The whole ‘get away for a week and just write so I can finally get my novel written’ is so…’ [a segment of this has been deleted because it’s really personal and long-winded and not really a good idea to put in a public-facing post, erm]… optimizing for the things that you want. Knowing what those are. All that.
I had the idea to make ‘zines’ because I wanted to do something that would be short, sweet, made on the spot, and easy to put together and assemble and quickly share. I had this gigantic multi-tab spreadsheet and color codes, columns, sorted pages, unsorted pages, and so many exclamation points that I can’t even tell you how fun it was. My dearest friends know that it was, for me, a time of ‘crunching the data’ and seeing the ‘a-ha’ as and when it showed itself. You just can’t do it any other way. You have to get in there and muck around with a thing if you want it to tell you anything interesting. This is why we are doing ‘agile publishing.’ And ‘experiential writing.’ And, and, and. I wonder what F would say about all this.
But yeah. This thinking came after years of trying a lot of things (I do mean a *lot*) including salons, workshops, client gigs, lots of doodling about, some forays into showing art work, exhibitions at places that did open calls, artist residencies, actual 9-5 gigs for multiyear stretches (yes! not kidding!), and doing what people in agile development like to call ‘pivoting’ when it comes to regrouping and redesigning and adusting to market forces.
There are times when I wish that the market forces would evaporate and people would just see and know what ‘quality’ is, but then again, Robert Pirsig wrote all those bunches and bunches of words lamenting this same phenomenon and I can see that he only made peace with it when he accepted that just not all that many people in the world are gonna care about what you care about. Happily, I found Lila, his sequel to Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, in a guesthouse in Melakka in Malaysia, and toted it with me back to Phnom Penh, and now have it here, with me, in… *somewhere else*. Somewhere new.
(On the way from ‘before’ to ‘next.’ And then… Riga.)
IT WAS FORTUNATE and disappointing to discover that someone I had imagined would find it very interesting to read Lila had not picked it up from the place I had left it for him, a small lobby of a place with staff who were wondering why I kept popping in and out, bicycle-helmeted, in my falling-apart outfits, asking about an obscure hardcover book. But it is an important book to me. It is for sharing with the people who are interested in the things I am interested in and that Pirsig was. Quality. Seeking it, questing for it. And when something or someone comes along that lends you a new angle on how to approach it (books can do this, people, places, travel, the scent of fresh rain after a few days of humidity, all of that), you know that it’s the most imperative in the world thing to do to sit up and listen. At least, for me. I’m questing S P A C E. And S P A C E attracts S P A C E. It’s like that. Abundance. Et cetera. But for me, subtracting things also helps me make space. Editing out what doesn’t work helps me better see the picture of the more important substance that attracts more of itself to make the whole. That is pretty esoteric. I should ask PH to comment, somewhere. I will. In S P A C E.
Does everyone want to hear about these things? No.
Does it matter to me that they don’t? Hmmmmm. *conflicted*
What is the role of the artist? To make art, but then, what the hell is the point making it, all alone?
Choreography, S P A CE
Talking with Susan Yeung How Wah in Singapore, a choreographer, helped a lot with starting this new thinking. (I ran into her by chance in November 2017, after hanging around that city wondering if there was a way to really make a ‘go’ of Atelier S P A C E | Singapore. I was wandering about the city staring at my feet, wishing it could all work itself out like magic. Then, boom. Into my life walked the expression of magic, herself.
I managed to meet her by the by, and talk with for a full afternoon at La Salle’s Lowercase Cafe, because it was there, and so were we and why not, isn’t this the stuff of art and design and making? Conversation starts it all, doesn’t it?
So we made a time and we showed up.
That was when things began, in a large way, with setting the stage for the seeding of S P A C E. I’m dramatizing, of course, but she is really full of brilliance. I can tell. You always can, right?, when you meet rare gems amongst our lot who are also asking questions, going out on a limb, and showing up to try the experimental, and the new. (Thanks, SY!)
Who would know better than a choreographer about how to get people to work together artfully? The more we talked, the more I saw the beginning of a pattern I’ve been seeing now for a few years when I show up with a big list of questions and ‘ask the expert.’ Like it’s an interview or something. It never works like that, now. It turns into a conversation. I hear people say, ‘DK… This sure is… different. You’re doing something I’ve not seen, but it’s making me think.’
I ask for advice.
‘No, I don’t have anything. Keep going. That’s all I can say.’
NEW 2019 FORUMS BEGIN. Such conversation spacemaking is exactly what S P A C E is designed to invite. Curious? I was thinking we could talk about ‘Statics & Dynamics’ this coming month. Who wants to know more? Ask me through the form here. Or, just subscribe to S P A C E to get both our weekly digital zine + the passcodes to our ongoing forums. These are the active spaces.
Data are data. It is the intellectual framework which one deals with the data that is at fault. The fault is with subject-object metaphysics itself… what Phaedrus was saying was that not just life, but everything, is an ethical activity. It is nothing else. When Quality postulates they’ve done so because it’s better and that this definition of ‘betterness’–this beginning response to Dynamic Quality–is an elementary unit of ethics upon which all right and wrong can be based. When this understanding first broke through in Phaderus’ mind, that ethics and science had suddenly been integrated into a single system, he became so manic he couldn’t think of anything else for days.** The only time he had been more manic about an abstract idea was when he had first hit upon the idea of undefined quality itself. The consequence of that first mania had been disastrous, and so now, this time, he told himself just to calm down and dig in. It was, for him, a great Dynamic breakthrough, but if he wanted to hang on to it, he had better do some static latching as quickly and thoroughly as possible. —R. Pirsig
Philosophy is sometimes described as the conscious examination of life, so we humans can be aware enough of what surrounds us in order that we may make qualified decisions. By so doing, we can choose to exclude or include certain experiences (or design our societies). Yes: design them, in other words, so we can all live more pleasurably.
In this issue, new photography from Brussels, taken by S P A C E art director Jānis Žguts, is paired with the line artwork of DK’s Dipika Kohli. It’s a collaboration that began in 2016, at theconversation salon, ‘Rooftop Philosophy,’ held in Phnom Penh, and has continued from what began as a simple question: ‘Who wants to talk about this with me?
‘Richness and complexity’ are one of the things we design for in S P A C E (ask me for my 7-point checklist if you are a member?), so it makes sense that from there, a journey of conversation and discovery about the things that philosophy invites us to mull over continued in both short bursts of extended query, or over monthslong quiet spaces where the team could reflect, both separately and with others, too.
Such conversation spacemaking is exactly what this zine is designed to invite. I
In fact, this zine is part of a series of art books,photozines, and creative nonfiction worksby international, collaborating teams at DK. Just underway since December 2018, the project will continue as long as people are engaged, curious, and joining our subscription list to say ‘yes, tell me more.’
Get to know us and others in S P A C E. You can learn more about S P A C E and how to be part of these online and real life conversation salons, as well as read the digital zines we are sharing every Tuesday, at our crowdfunding page.
The zine ‘Miia’ is set in Finland’s Tampere. A continuation of earlier writings by Alexis Jokela. Plus, new photography and poetry. This zine is co-created by collaborating teams at DK. Get it on January 1, 2019, when you subscribe to S P A C E. Subscribe here.
LET’S TALK ABOUT learning. How we discover, find, and make new connections. Ideas, shapes of thinking and the input that comes from places that might not be the ‘usual’ ones. No more boring meetings: What are the containers that make great conversations *happen*? Cnversations that lead to better collaboration and better work? Those are important. Let’s not waste time. Let’s make things better, together.
Better and more enjoyable: that’s the key. How do we design the S P A C E that lets fresh thinking flow?
Let’s consider. Let’s discuss.
‘Strange Geometries’ is our first invite-only salon on this topic. Min 4. Max 7.
WHAT YOU’LL GET. DK will share:
Grice’s ‘Maxims of Conversation’, as introduced to us by Eric Chuk, who studied narrative ontology
Six Thinking Hats, a method of opening dialogue.
The Open Space Technologies how-to.
Free eBook, ‘SELF’, by DK’s Dipika Kohli (a USD $95 value).
Application required. Apply below.
This workshop will be hosted by DK’s Dipika Kohli. She has delivered seminars at University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill on the topic of Design Thinking, a series caled SELF as a 9-week experiential program at Stanford University, and for an architects circle in Seattle DK was invited to present, ‘Just Be You.’
E X P L O R I N G _ T H E _ A R T
Times, shifts, curiosity about new people and new ways of thinking, and the general crisscross of emails and vague fragments of thoughts are what we write and share about in S P A C E. Works are creative nonfiction short stories, co-created with members of Design Kompany’s team both in Phnom Penh and in the places where we are going to discover new and different voices ‘out there,’ in the field..
Where are the new and unusual perspectives, hiterto underreported or cast aside as ‘ethnic?’ Let’s go find them. Let’s write them, share them, co-create them. In S P A C E Meet us there? Introductory offer: subscribe for just $4/week.
S P A C E posts every Tuesday at 7AM USEST. When. you subscribe, you’ll get it every week by email, plus these exclusive PDF zines, too. Themes change but the idea is that we get closer to the study of what it means to look, listen, discover, hear what we are able to piece together when we make a space for quieting, and noticing, both one another, and ourselves.
Into the Quiet
S P A C E | Kärsämäki, ‘ The Book of Slow Moment’
MAKING ZINES. Writing them. Co-creating them. Publishing things, here and there. Quietly, in limited editions. One, three, and five. They may just look like pieces of paper, but enfolded within are a giant collection of stories. Our stories.
Not stories in books chosen by certain people about certain things they think we ought to see as ‘important’–ie ‘a curriculum.’ (And hey, by the way, who gets to decide what’s important to learn and know about? Asking that question, lately, behind the scenes here with a small circle of people we know well now, and can ask things to, and know that there is a history and we can confidently trust the connexion is strong. HT JŽ MOBSG& MR).
But yeah. Our stories. The conversations, the finds, the things that the sharing of special moments of showing up for being there together, in real life or even in S P A C E, can precipitate. SJA put it wonderfully, when she said to me that these zines aren’t just zines. Art is getting made. A different way, a different style, a superlative quality.We had spent a dozen weeks in one anothers’ company. Slowly, over time, progressively, with richness and complexity and the development of trust, she could say things and I could say things. And we could share. And I could show her the short book that I only show people in real life, in very select moments. These are the moments that, after all, are all we really have…
Showing up. True connection. An art of the moment. And zines.
RAINING IN PHNOM PENH, as I write this. Wondering where the next few days and weeks will go. A few more days, a few more moments. Conversations in the real life salons, conversations in the online ones, too. There are things to say, so many of them, and I’m lucky to be able to have a chance to bounce ideas around with people and mostly just generally get to play. In S P A C E. And also, here and there, bumping into stuff, much like The Missing Piece goes around looking for things, falling into holes, bumping into walls, and so on. (HT: Shel Silverstein.)
A few more moments.
I could get poignant and philosophical here–
I could talk about how all the moments are one quick moment, as we had discovered in our salon here in Phnom Penh some years ago, The Book of Time, which I co-hosted with Anakot Asia’s Chhunny Noem. What a powerful moment. Maybe it was the sum of all the moments, smashed together into one infinity, here and now, oh, no, here I go, getting esoteric and rambly, and well, I ought to save those kinds of conversations for the intimate spaces of real life and conversations with just. those people who are actually interested, not foist them onto the blog and the internet and hope that people will say, ‘Yeah. I want to know more about this. Where can I meet other people who want to talk about meaning, existence, philosophize about things without quoting dead white guys, or just, generally, be How can I find more meaning in my own day to day just by simply talking to other people about the big questions hat are popping up in my own world, where I am? What is the point?’ And more. I’m partly inspired writing this by last night’s conversation with CM, who is really asking these questions, I think, the more I talked with her and the later it got and the louder the roomful of people, and the drunker, and the more frequent the occurrence of breaking ceramic mugs and glasses (?), well, the more the time went by, the more I realized, ‘You know, there are places where you can ask these questions and get to skip over all the smalltalk. It’s real. It can happen. We can design for it. I’m into that, that’s my thing that I’m into.’ (Easy to say, hard to prove. But the people who know, know. And for me, that’s enough. So we continue, charging into the world, with the goal of simply hosting and co-hosting more and better space for dialogues that have real feelings int them, real emotions. Not just… well… fodder for the bored, schedule-fillers for the lonely.)
‘I like to try to make myself uncomfortable sometimes,’ C had said, and I replied, ‘Because that’s how we grow.’ Growing used to be such a weird word to me, so touchy-feely and clinical and psychology bollix, but you know, it’s kind of all we have, really. To be able to improve ourselves? What else can we do? Add another do-goody NGO to a country that doesn’t want you here? If you’ve just arrived in Cambodia for something and you think you’re going to ‘make a contribution,’ be aware that this is a lot of nonsense and perhaps more about your own ego than anything else. I don’t want to even get started on the mansplaining that I saw and ranted about, when I saw it! [deleted]. Think about that.
Once more, upon returning to this country, where I have lived for three-and-a-half-years without having meant to, I found myself miraculously thinking, ‘Huh. I can see how this could be an interesting dialogue. And it reminds me of one, from before… also in this city. Quite unexpected, a small collection of us, new and different others, did we have 5? That was a crowd, then, for our salons, which are usually me and maybe 2 or so people… but always, always, always, I love the conversations that unfold. I’ve never been regretful about going and seeing and trying these, because you just never know. Maybe you’ll meet someone who’ll wander in from out of the internet and change your life forever. Gosh.
And given the right framing and the right collection of people… it can. And has. And will. Where are the artists? Everywhere. Much of this is amorophous and fuzzy, and that’s fine. Who cares about making sure everything fits some arbitrary logic-box? That what DK writes here and there as a collective is not refined, not finished, not concrete, not logical, mystical sounding, and open ended? How about this idea: a billion suns are in motion, right now. And N. Bohr, who said: ‘No, no, no. You’re not thinking. You’re just being logical.’ I’m looking at a philosophy of the moment: one that’s not based on old sciences that are Newtonian-only, out of touch and completely miffed by multiple and contradictory ‘truths’ co-existing. Frankly, philosophy is as obsolete as the fax machine.
And so on. And so forth. A blink–a moment. And infinity, too.
But, guess what? [Some of ] those [mainstream publishers and academics and philosophers] who consider things ‘good’ are the ones who are stuck in the old logic-boxes. They can’t conceptualize a new way of doing things because the old way is so engrained. SHR, a mathematician friend of DK’s, and I had met I a pub in London when I was that way, a very good and curious conversation in which I had asked him why things are devolving instead of progressing, society-wise. Wanted to say things about least common denominators and stuff but that is too fourth grade math and not that interesting to S, so I just threw out a thing about, oh, systems, and equilibriums, and turbulences, and he had said that people like the status quo. That’s why we’re not evolving up. They like the status quo. It’s hard to change it.
Me, thinking: Even if it’s stupid.
Not saying this, but it’s pretty easy to read me.
Him saying, without words, Yup. Even then.
Part of the concept with Atelier S P A C E is not to get parked for too long in any one place. Houseless and offliceless, But, I’m finding out on this miniature return, not friendless. More in a second.
First, from Lao Tzu‘s Tao Te Ching:
Hold fast to the way of antiquity
In order to keep in control the real of today.
The ability to know the beginning of antiquity
Is called the thread running through the way.
Meeting the way
IT’S BEEN really cool catching up with some of you who might be reading here, in this city. Phnom Penh. Reminiscing about things past, or sharing about the things that had happened before, or recently, or on the road. The way and the road. Basho—need to go back to that author and explore more fully. Important. But, not now. It’s also important to just be here and notice the things going on right where we are. I’m going to have to share more in the e-mail circles (not doing facebook now, not really hanging out on instagram), about the invite-only conversation salons on the way here, in Phnom Penh, before heading off to Australia and India and possibly the Pacific Northwest in those United States—gaw, I can’t believe I’m even writing that. I had wanted to get out of there, so much, but it’s been four years since Palo Alto, so… Yeah. Let’s see how it all unfolds. Things take time, I get that, but it’s also nice to peg a few things here and there, sometimes, too. But it’s loose and light, now. Letting go of illusion of control. Big changes. Ask me why sometime, if our paths cross in real life or in our online conversations in S P A C E.
This weekend, I’ll host Atelier S P A C E | Phnom Penh and write, together with others, maybe some of my actual friends?, a new set of zines, set here, hyperlocal creative nonfiction. Next stops, Idontknowwhereyet, but onwards is the definitely for sure direction. Plus, visa. Visas expire. Keeps you moving, doesn’t it? On. These are long stories. Not for everyone. I’ll write them. I’ll put them in S P A C E. Maybe I’ll keep writing about Cambodia. I mean, a little bit. It’s definitely easier when you have four years of experience in a. place and ambiently know where the streets go, how things connect, what foods are going to taste like, what’s ‘not okay’ when it comes to cultural sensitivity or mansplaining OMG, how everything you think you know about something is completely hot air, and how, when you come here, the thing you learn is that you don’t know anything at all. Some of that I wrote into the first book about my experiences here, Breakfast in Cambodia (Kismuth // 2016), which look at that, has just celebrated a two-year anniversary. Exciting. I wonder if I should have another launch-y kind of moment for the new books, set in Finland? Could be nice. I hope to, but it’s also fine if it’s just an inner-circle thing. Maybe. launch at, say, my house. Easier, these days, than making a big rah-rah out of it and trying to get people to show up. This has gotten increasingly harder, I’ve found, in the last six years. I’m seeing the futility of it, in a way. I may not even… well. It’s a lot to write here. I’m always starting to write a little here and then hesitating because, who is reading this blog? I don’t know. Which is why I’d prefer to converse in S P A C E, or email. Email me, if you are there, know me, want to stay in touch in a more firm way that has nothing to do with reading and checking and checking and reading. I’m here. I’m listening. Say hi? So that I know it gets to me, what with all these weird filters and hackers and spammers and people breaking into emails and stuff, it’s so weird now, it would be cool if you could use the form on our contact page. Could you? Here it is. Kay. Cool. The thing to do now is just get started. And trust the process. Be okay with getting lost a little, in order to find center. All righty, then. Let me figure out where to go next. Let me find that set of darts.
‘Fresh and original input’
WHEN I WAS IN AARHUS in 2015, I met someone who said, after a whole long giant hour-long conversation marathon, in a thank-you note to follow up the next day, ‘Thanks for the fresh and original input.’ Same person who talked to me about Heisenberg and principle and got me to see the Danish view of things (‘Oh, really? MIT says that? Are you sure it’s all of the people at MIT who say that, and not just some of the people at MIT who say that, and yeah, there aren’t other people at MIT who completely disagree with those people at MIT? Think about that.’) This is going into the zine, S P A C E | Aarhus, by the way. Coming in December. But yeah. Input, of course software people love DK because we are a kind of arbitrary asteroid-quality sort of ‘input’ for them, and the innovative spirit feeds off of random encounters out of left field (and S P A C E). So yeah, back then, way, in 2015, as the autumn was settling in and I was getting set to return to Cambodia where it would be instantly warm again in not-so-many-days, I’d thought. That’s a new way to put it. And today, the phrase comes back, ‘Fresh and original input.’ Why? The conversations that we have in S P A C E-like rooms in real life as well as in our online forums are like that, to me, all he time. Expansive, curious, inviting, insight-making at their best, but also, just… fun. I’ve just found some new and fresh original input that I had talked about in the post about the music I found myself wandering into while in Helsinki on my last night, and today, I’d like to share a track from one of members, Esa Puolakka, of one of the bands (Maagine). I’m looking forward also to soon interviewing the lead singer, Matti Halonen, for our podcast. Watch this space. Meantime, I’ll leave you with this track from Esa… (For me, the two tracks on his soundcloud are so very much in the vein of ‘fresh and original input.’ So here we go, passing it forward, making it up, jazzy, as we go.) I’m looking forward to the new and the next. More soon, from S P A C E. Tuesdays at 7AM, in the e-box.
NEW THINGS. Starting again. In S P A C E. In very small circles. Trusting the process and enjoying the adventure, creating the design for hosting and engaging some of us, some of us who are still curious, still open to the possibility of being changed by what we hear, and still ready to learn, from any chance encounter: as did the people I met at the N. Bohr Institute in Copenhagen when on a visit there, or in the corners of philosophy classes after the teachers left and texts were closed in my high school summer at Governor’s School East in Laurinburg NC, or in the empty moments just being on the edges of the world, for all the edges are at the edge, are they not?, in Nagarkot, Manali, Kyoto, Berlin, wistful piazzas in Bologna, the drone and hum and boisterousness of the throng of the West Village in 1990s New York, and more, and, other, and, more recently, in S P A C E. Here’s to the journeys, the new, the near, and the next. Ready for the 8 Oct thing. Ready, set.
The opposite of a profound truth may be another profound truth. —N. Bohr
‘And in the foggy dawn they all tumbled out into the green. The eastern sky was clearing, waiting for the sun to rise. It was at the ready, in a few minutes, the night would be over, and everything could start anew from the beginning.
‘A new door to the Unbelievable, to the Possible. A new day when everything may happen if you have no objection to it’.
–Moominpappa, as recorded in Tove Jansson’s Moominpappa’s Memoirs.
TODAY I WILL OUTLINE, in a short but detailed note, the creative process that happens when one is writing a book. A book, not a blog. A book, not some clickbait links that someone is going to pay you a lot of money for because you work as a copywriter at a fancy ad agency. A book, because books are where we have a moment to really get deep and moody, and write, not because the writing is for a purpose (to sell something, for ex, which is most often the goal it seems with a capitalistic system ruling everything nowadays), but because the writing conveys something stronger: emotion. I could talk a little here about the mourning that happens when one realizes how cheap things have become, and how transactional (as F. has just pointed out in a recent comment on this post, ‘Trust the Process.’)
But I will refrain from editorializing.
I know that writing in first-person is mostly just editorial, okay, fine. Admitted. But still.
There are times when certain pitfalls are there, and I have this weakness for falling into them. Pitfalls that, for example, are really just one’s own projections on things that one feels importantly committed to. Things like how X or Y is just so unfair, and how Z and T ought to be installed, instead. But you know what? That’s just more dogma. And dogma is getting us in trouble, in this world. Righteousness and an insistence on sticking to a thing and not budging, not a bit, no matter how educated you are or what you have built—staying unwilling to open to new ways of thinking and new points of view is going to be the thing that, in the end, makes it hard for you. (Yeah, editorializing and saying it ‘like it is.’ Must find a way to suggest my thought in a less black-and-white insistent way, but that is what we are trained to do, isn’t it, those of us who grow up on Western eduaction systems that love to be abolute and ‘right’ about what they think? Mmm-hmmm. Oi.)
FLASHBACK. Thinking specifically about a conversation in Durham, NC, with an old friend of mine; a conversation that became a sort of philosophical sparring. I put the best chunks of it, from memory, into Breakfast in Cambodia (Kismuth Books // 2016). Because that insisting that I recall, an insisting that insisted that her way was better than my way, for whatever reasons, reasons undisclosed, but there it sat, the whole thing: the righteousness and dogma, that one way supersedes by default another, that did it. That sent me packing. I was on the road not many months after that, uprooting the American Dream or whatever and setting foot out into the unknown. Well, Hanoi. The traffic, my gosh. That was then. That was 2013. Now, I’m used to Asia and its ways of moving around vehicularly. I just got to the place I’m typing you from by crossing illegally maybe four crosswalks, including one that was rather huge—a four-lane freeway cut in the middle by the thing that ran above it, the monorail. I’m in Kuala Lumpur. The city is saying ‘hello’ after a long summer away, writing and photographing for the book. Oh, right. I was going to talk about that, wasn’t I? The way it starts. The way you get started on a thing. Or at least, how I have managed to get started and in so doing, completed a series of books, so far. None of them are ever as good as the one that’s current, though, when you’re writing a lot. And so I’m going to put all my chips in on Koivu, probably my best one, of them all. Of course I would say that. I’m still writing it, so you know. I get to say that.
Part 2. The thread. The thread is important. Because it’s the thread that makes the necklace. Finding it can take a lot of looking through things, but also, letting things go. Pieces of paper, unwritten bits, written things that don’t fit the story. Not talking about the arc or the narrative. I know some people have more of a system that is linear, like that. Go with the outline, build each piece. Sequentially, maybe even. Not me. I’m a bricolage artist. So I go with what’s in front of me. What falls to hand. If someone right next to me starts to talk to me about a thing, guess what? That thing almost always informs where I go creatively that day. Today, I’m thinking about righteousness. (Can you tell, based on the above?) This morning someone told me that X was X, and not otherwise, and not listening, not a bit, to any falsifying evidence to the contrary. He was stubborn, and wouldn’t budge. Insisting. That’s why I brought up the story about my old friend and I arguing in the tea shop. She was really mad about things. I was less mad than stunned. I still remember the feeling, dry-mouthed and almost gaping. I had had, until then, quite a lot f respect for her. After all, she is well-schooled (more degrees than me, or most people I know), but… there was no scope for play. For improvising. For making it up as you go. For listening out for a new kind of angle. That, to me, was deafening. How could I stay put in a country where what’s valued is the insistence on being right, instead of the openness to dreaming outwardly and openly towards whatever might make itself apparent, and emerge? No wonder I loved the N. Bohr Institute, in Copenhagen. Guess what? I just walked in, the front door, just followed a PhD student inside, followed her to Auditorium A, I think it was, the famous one, listened to WS and GJB and others talk about dark matter and gluons. And then, to write about those things, of course, in that story that I was compiling in those days, at that time. Of course. Because part 2 of the process of writing a book is to find, and follow, the thread. Don’t second-guess yourself, when you seem to sense that you’ve got it. When you’ve got the thread, you’re mostly done.
Part 3. Framing and sequence. Now is when you add things to the thread. The details, the scenes, the story makes itself to you. It’s easy to start with a bunch of notes and feel like you’ve done your work already, and that’s where I am today. But you know what? I left all of them at home. I’m out into the space where I can start to remember things, instead of report them. I want to remember things as they come to mind so I can thread the necklace. Because this cookie is going to be good, I can tell, and I want to let it come forward naturally and organically, not in a too-formal way. If I was too insistent on making it into ‘a piece,’ with too much of too much, I think it would punch through the soft underbelly of this thing. It is delicate and unformed, as yet. I’m happy to be in this spot, writing and thinking and going through the photo archives from June, July, and August, as I work out the stuff of Koivu. Which means, ‘Birch,’ in Finnish. Did I tell you? I’m learning Finnish? Yeah, well. Kind of.
Part 4. Sharing. This part is where I think most people see what I’m up to. I’m all about ‘Hey! Lookit!’ but I forget to share the process, as in, steps 1-3 above. The process is where, though, the working-it-out happens. Sure, it’s really personal stuff, too. Writing about it even in this third-party style is a little strange, to me, in some way. But I’m changing these days. I’m going to share more about where things go, how they get to those places. Travel is like the creative process. You go out into the world looking for whatever might emerge, and that’s one way to travel. And that’s my way. And not most people’s, sure, but so? There are still a handful of us who are curious and seeking and going to the edges, like I talk about a lot here on this blog, and in real life, a lot. I mean, a lot. But I’m not interested in knowing all of what’s to come ahead of time—I remember this couple in Seattle who had downloaded the menus of the restaurants they were going to go to in Paris before they took their trip there. And they did this months ahead of time. They also had been to those restaurants before. They had these things in a clear sleeve folder. I think that was my first inkling that, well, DK and our style of making and doing and traveling and going around discovering was very much against the grain from what mainstream America thinks is kosher. Having a plan. Knowing what you’re doing. Knowing where you’re going. Knowing, instead of feeling.
And here we are, back to the start.
Writing with feeling.
Writing with heart.
Not for everyone, of course. But for the people who are seeking and curious, like some of us here in these online circles behind-the-scenes, well. For us, it’s all that matters. For us, this being open and curious and wandering around and seeing what might happen is, honestly, the whole thing. Is all there really is.
The formation of the most perfected words, the most meaningful, the most philosophical, in the fullest sense of the world occurs unfailingly in periods of ignorance and simplicity. The onomathurgical talent is invariably disappearing as we descend towards the civilized and scientific eras. In all the writings that appear in our time on this most interesting subject, there is nothing but an invocation of a philosophical language, and without knowing indeed without suspecting, that the most philosophical language is that in which philosophy is least mingled. The latter lacks too little faculties to create words. Intelligence to invent them, and authority to have them adopted. Does philosophy see a new object? It will go and leaf through its dictionaries to find an ancient or foreign term, and always the enterprise comes to a bad end. Montgolfiere, for example, which is used throughout the country, is correct in at least one sense. And I prefer it to aero state, which is a scientific term but suggests nothing. You could just as well call a ship hydrostatic. Observe the invasion of new words borrowed from the Greek over the last 20 years, gradually, as crimes or madness demanded them. More or less of them are formed erroneously, they are self contradictory. Theophiloanthrophists, for example, is a term more foolish than the thing in itself, which is saying plenty. A simple English or German scholar would have been led to say on the contrary. Theanthpophile. You will reply that this world was invented by wretches in a wretched age, and yet the terminology of chemistry, which was surely created by invited men, begins precisely with the lowest sort of solecism.
When they should say, instead, oxygon.
I am not a chemist, but I have excellent teasons to believe that honest terminology is destined to vanish. The fact remains in all case that from a philosophical and grammatical point of view it would be the most unhappy imaginable if the prize for barbarism were not contested and wrested away by the metric vocabulary.
p. 138-140 from the chapter, ‘The Linguistics of Joseph De Maistre’, Serendipities, Umberto Eco