'S' is for Sincerity · A Philosophy of the Moment · Desk Notes · Experiments in Expression · Found in the Field · Innovation Consulting + Design Thinking

A quote from ‘Flatland’

As to the doctrine of the Circles it may be briefly summed up in a single maxim, “attend to your Configuration.” Whether political, ecclesiastical or moral, all their teaching has for its object the improvement of individual and collective Configuration*–with special reference of course to the Configuration of the Circles, to which all other objects are subordinated.” —E. Abott, Flatland

The book Flatland has been an influential work for DK since we got a copy of it in an experimental high school geometry class that was called ‘Explorations in Geometry’.

‘Learning’, et al

Real learning, what is it? Certainly it isn’t in textbooks, according to me.

To me, it starts with critical thinking. That itself has to begin with  awareness: there is something missing. And waking up to a bombshell: the moment you discover that your own perspective, based on the things you’ve been taught to believe, are not necessarily “true.”  Plain ol’ experience is staring you down saying that X thing you’ve been taught to believe is true just isn’t “true.”

So what are beliefs, then to us? What are past experiences? Enter J. Krishnamurthi.  Just google him. ‘You are the world and the world is you…’ he says…. it’s amazing and articulate and on-point, and so I listened to lots of his podcasts this year.

After all.

I’ve.

Had.

Time.

 

Waking up to new realities

So getting back to ‘waking up.’ (Did you see Waking Life?) Anyway. The things you thought were true turned out… they weren’t true. You found out one day. So then, the natural next question is. What’s real?

I started thinking about this and made posts sometimes, under the category ‘S is for Sincerity’. Meantime, thinking about what’s real. Thinking: okay. That wasn’t.

So what is?

Hm.

Dunno. But you can sense… ? Maybe… Well. Okay.

Real things.

Discerning.

Such awareness can come from things like, for example, multi-country travel, over time, or from growing up as a Third Culture Kid, or TCK. Or meeting and being open to understanding more about other perspectives, even if you never leave your own town. Books, too. Books can open worlds.

I got lucky, personally. My sophomore year of high school I applied to and got in to an experiential learning high school, the N.C. School of Science & Math. It was different from usual school. It’s had a few scandals in the years since I’ve graduated, so I wouldn’t send anyone there, to be honest, but for me, at that time, it was a huge gift from the universe to get out of a rural and provincial school with zero opportunities. One of my most amazing teachers, though, was at that place. She knew. What I was going through. It was clear and plain to her. Maybe that’s why she worked so hard on a three-page single-spaced letter of recommendation. I still remember the feeling. Someone was paying attention and wanted better for me. Someone bold, strong and caring.

I got in. I don’t know who was more happy. Me, or her. HT CB

 

New starts

You got to live at school, which was, you know, the chance to have support and encouragement, from your peers. And teachers.

[Aside: Maybe this experience was why I started making experiential learning workshops for people to explore, in snippets, what I got to, at this school, and probably more meaningfully for me, the summer before that at the Governor’s School East program in Laurinburg, NC. That was what all Govvies know it was, and what it’s too hard to put into words. But I like to create S P A C E for people who have no idea what ‘Govvies’ means to have a chance to simply feel the experience that helps us uncover who we are, without labels or agendas. There were no grades that summer. There were philosophy classes, for small groupings of us, and we sat in circles… so many things.]

Dipika Kohli / Phnom Penh 2014

Getting to go away to school was, for me, an amazing chance to learn so many things early on, and I don’t mean ‘book learning’. I mean taking risks. I got to take ‘Explorations’ as well as a few other experimental ones: something the teachers were testing for a new course in precalculus, for example, and also, the first-ever section of that school’s Japanese language program. (I went on. to study the language for the next ten years, inspired by my teacher there HT KM.)

Perhaps best of all, I also ran for and won the position to be my school’s Vice President of the Student Government Association. The newness, all around, as well as a chance to enjoy a leadership role before even graduating from high school has richly inspired me, from those years forward, in making and achieving some exciting personal goals.

In Part 2 I’ll  elaborate on the book.

Book of New Things, limited edition of 1. For M. Riga, 2019

 

A Philosophy of the Moment · Stories

The beginning is half of every journey

I AM WRITING FROM MY ROOM, and it’s morning, and there is a rooster telling me so. Except that rooster isn’t the first one up, usually. All of the other people in the house are already out. I heard that there was going to be some commotion, later in the morning. That people would be coming by to pick up some stuff, and move it out. Somebody else’s stuff. That’s been here since before I was, because this is a new living space.

This is a new chapter.

I guess you could define chapters of your life in that way, huh. By places where you’ve lived. Not just cities. Cities are great, cities are fantastic, but cities, I’m realizing the more I write about the things I care about from them, are no longer the same places they used to be. For me. I can’t speak for everyone, and I certainly can’t pretend to know something. But my particular experiences have led me to see that the city isn’t where, long term, I personally want to be. I think I had a hunch about this in New York City in the late 1990s when I was looking for the big road to the gold and the art world. Just writing that now seems funny and strange, and a little bit embarrassing, too. Growing up on the East Coast, though, New York was ‘it.’ Where you wanted to be if you wanted to be anybody in the arts. That was the programming. That was the conditioning. And now, I think about all that and pore through the pages of The Complete Short Stories of Mark Twain, which my boss loans me, and points out the stories that are very good (‘Did you read “A Dog’s Tale?” Did you read “Is He Living or Is He Dead?” I go and read IHLOIHD and I laugh out loud and then blink: it’s the plotline for Posthumous! Then I read ADT and absolutely cry of indignation. I burst out my most bursting-out voice and the boss looks at me, and this time he blinks. Slow. ‘Some rich people are good,’ he says, sagely. That is the thing about bosses. They just know things, somehow.)

But the changing of chapters is where, I think, the good stuff is. Was it on the internet, or in a QM book, where I read: ‘Life happens on the edge of a change of state.’ Like, water boiling into gas, or gas turning into ice. Change of state. Transition. Life happens there. I remember being in Japan, this would also be in the 1990s. When I was studying in Kyoto. I remember Japan, because it was before New York, and I had never even been to NYC before I’d been to Tokyo. The falling-in-love with the city happened there. I know. A lot of people are like, ‘Tokyo?’ But the skylines and the things there were to draw with the line and photograph with the eye were multitudinous and out of my usual scape of seeing. That was why I stayed on, for a little while longer than I’d meant. Got to know the city well, got to hang out in Ueno often, got to see people and build a small life and meet people, and then meet them again, and in this small way, turn the place I found intriguing into a sort of a village. A place I could relax, a little, even if it was extremely lonely, most of the time. That was before internet. I can’t imagine what it must be like, now… I guess the internet is great though in some ways because I can live in a not-big city and run into people and run into them again and meet over time and then feel, in some way, a sense of connection and belonging. Even if this isn’t my town. Even if this isn’t even ‘my’ country. Less and less claim on the boundaries, now. I don’t have to wonder about the ‘where I’m from’ question as much as dive more deeply into the more important one, for me. The ‘who am I’ question. Which, obviously, can rustle people up if you start asking all about it. Who are you? What do you care about? What makes you move, sing, fly, dance, love? These are too big of a place to start with so many people, of course, but I am deeply curious about people and asking is how I learn, so that’s why I got into writing, and that’s why I got away from Tokyo. I couldn’t ask anything. I got away from New York, too, for the same reason. ‘Who are you? What do you want from me?’ F, f, f. So I went home and found the rest of the story waiting for me in the cupboards of the dusty room where I used to be when I was a pre-teen and then a teen and the magazines I’d collected. And then I started cutting them up. Bit by bit. The programming, the conditioning. Snip, snip, snip. The way women are portrayed, the way they are showcased, objectified. Men are also showcased, successified. There is something wrong here, I think, but not in words. I just cut and paste and write little things in comics and wonder if anyone will laugh along with me, but I’m cutting and pasting all winter long and then part of the spring, and then my parents ask me when I’m going to leave, already. So I do. I go away, not sure where. Without a plan. No idea. Thinking about how to turn DK into something ‘else.’ But not doing it, not until I find the right mode, the right impetus, for the thing to come. The change of state. Not just to Washington, but this time, further. Asia. Like, for a while. Like indefinitely. I go on a tour.

Book of Time

SLOWLY, THROUGH THE DISTANCE, the fog clears. This happens in Gangtok. It’s October, probably my favorite month. October 2013. I write a piece called “Cloudy feathers in Gangtok” and describe pigeons on roofs and the feeling of the mist on my face, and the way the light pinkens the tip of Mount Kanchenjunga, sending me into the tizzy that will not let me come back, not ever, to believing in anything I can’t see with my own eyes, or feel anything I haven’t felt in my own heart. There are sweaters in the suitcases in Delhi but those are heavy and far from where I am, and we are, because I always travel with Boss. Obviously. We are carrying around the people and places that matter most to us, no matter where we are. No matter where we go. Going is part of the work, though. Just like we are doing all this emailing to people to ask if they might like to come to ‘N’ in London and Copenhagen and later, Hanoi and Bologna and New York (see the pattern there?) is work in the other kind of way. Practicing the art of being there, showing up. Saying hi. This is hard for me, especially since 2016 has been, so far, a year of introversion. I mean, really. It’s actually not very good. I am the kind of person who needs new input all the time, so that is why the City was so appealing. But trips to Europe in recentish months have shown me that the City of old, the one where there is ‘energy and buzz and cool art,’ is really not that anymore. It’s just a marketplace. All reduced down, in that way, in my opinions. Everything is an opinion, though, that anyone writes. And media isn’t media anymore, or maybe it never was, and social media isn’t newsy, because I followed someone’s recommendation to the wrong part of the city for a snatch of breakfast and it was weird. It was like, ‘So now what.’ And then you go back to that old awareness. Nothing is for real, everything is subjective. An observer, observing a system, changes the system.

MOVERS CAME TO THE HOUSE AND TOOK HALF OF SOME STUFF that’s been stored behind the grand staircase away. I had wondered about it. Because the blockage of the front passageway in a home is bad feng shui. I’m not schooled in feng shui, but I do design spaces, and I’m sharing some of what the feeling of my ‘rooms’ for conversations and the installations and the once-off ‘events,’ which are really more, in my opinion, like ‘happenings,’ which are about people and connection and the shape of space, and the conversation, and the moment and the whohappenstobethere and not overly designed but half improvised, half make it up as you go, those are where I am learning how to place things and create the lighting and set the stage for these great moments to happen. Because it’s design. The architecture of the interstitial. Whoa. If that’s not esoteric, I don’t know what is. And I would never, ever block the front passageway. That just stifles. That stiffens, stagnates. It’s not a good thing. I open the windows of the room and let the air cross-ventilate, when it’s not raining so hard the drops poke their hands in and get on all my bajillions of scraps of this and nostalgia snips and the cut-up magazines from glossies that adorn most any of the many rooms and rooms of the chapters and chapters of the where I go, where I am, looking for Self in the Other, discovering the Stillness in the attentiveness to the Shape of Space. It’s getting there. Slowly, surely. I’m learning and changing, every day. To the journey, then. To boss-men, new old classics, text and the story to come. I don’t know where will be next.

But I’m going to investigate.

And learn. And think about the Next.

Because of course there will be one, and not in the too-far future. The only thing that will need to happen is the deciding and doing part. The beginning, as they say, is half of every journey.