Philosophy Tuesday

Building upon last week’s post…

As there often is, there is another angle from which we can view our persistent unproductive behaviors.  While looking for the payoff is great for finding the hidden addiction or attachment that keeps us clinging to the unproductiveness, and therefore great to open a path for us to unhook ourselves from it, sometimes we need just a bit more nudge to actually do it.  After all, it may be unproductive, but we’re used to it and we’ve survived this long (or so says our calculating self), so it’s just easier to go along, right?

In those moments, we can get present to the cost.

And not just the cost in the unproductive results that we may already see and know, but the deeper costs that, like the payoff, is often hidden from our view.  The costs that cut deep to the core of what we truly want, costs that sap us and our experience of life:  our vitality, our enjoyment of life, our connection and rapport with others, our well-being, our peace of mind, our health, our satisfaction, our self-expression, our fulfilment, or a myriad of other things we become numb to.

Once we open our mindfulness and let ourselves become present to these costs, the balance shifts.  The calculating self begins to see that some of these are threats even to itself, and, even more so, our central and authentic selves gain succor and the strength to assert itself and say, “We are done with that now.”

And lo, we regain our agency and step forward to re-write our history going forward.  The already automatic ways of being and behaving begins to be interrupted, open to our creation towards that which is productive and that fills us with delight and peace and love.

Best of all, as we continue to put that into motion, soon that becomes our already, always, automatic, replacing our shackled downward spirals with ones that we can change anytime and that aligns us towards prosperity for ourselves and those around us.

Architecture Monday

Jean-Michel Jarre is no stranger to incorporating architecture into his concerts.  Whether the office towers in Houston, or at La Defence in Paris, or the great pyramids of Giza, his epic outdoor concerts (sometimes with audiences in the millions) the buildings all become part of the show, both as more obvious backdrops for projections and lights and fireworks and as also acting as giant prosceniums, creating the very container for the concert itself.

So, even beyond my love of his music, it was with great excitement that I learned that he’d been invited to host a New Year’s Eve concert inside none other than the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris… well, sort of.  The concert was held inside a virtual version of the famed cathedral, which allowed both for way more people to inhabit the space (plus, the cathedral is of course still under repair) and it allowed for his signature visuals to push beyond the boundaries of reality and physics to create effects that interacted with the building in amazing and novel ways.

And boy did they ever!  The best effects were definitively the ones that played with the building, either interacting with the architecture or inhabiting it in a way that changed the experience of the space:  boxes of light that enveloped the columns of the nave, long ribbons of light that hugged the form and changed the emphasis from the vertical to the horizontal, glowing orbs and objects that hovered high above amongst the stained-glass windows.  All along with the usual bevvy of effects including projection mapping, shafts of light, and the video blocks that surrounded the virtual Jean-Michel on his stage at the central crossing of nave and transept.

Unfortunately… the official replay of the concert by Unesco and the City of Paris, both of whom were the generators of the concert, which I myself watched, is no longer available for viewing on Youtube.  Not sure why they made it such a limited run engagement to view it, but they did.  Fortunately, some who attended ‘in person’ (in VR) captured their experience and have made their recordings available:

An amazing concert, well worth watching.  For me this was an extra amazing experience on several levels, for almost exactly 23 years earlier I’d visited Notre Dame de Paris on Christmas eve, getting to experience the architecture, the organ, and the choir all acting in glorious unison in the run up to Midnight Mass.  To “be in” the cathedral again for a concert that was integrally tied and inseparable from the architecture was just fantastic.  A celebration on so many levels.

Wonder Wednesday

I always loved the back of the Canadian 5 dollar bill from the “Birds of Canada” series of bills.  Something about the light blue colour and the stillness of the scene really did it for me.  A restaurant I used to visit in Ottawa even had a giant version reproduced on the wall.

But… somehow… I never knew of the practice of Spocking the bills!  A few choice scribbles turns Sir Wilfred Laurier into the famous Vulcan:

Which continued in the next version of the bill:

I knew even less that some slightly different scribbles could turn him into Snape:

Who knew that Laurier was so versatile in his acting roles?

(Apparently, alas, his rendition on the latest series of bills is such that he isn’t so easily disguised anymore…)

Check out more on the Canadian bank notes at this link here.

Philosophy Tuesday

Often, when there’s something in our lives that isn’t working, or isn’t working as well as we like it to – including our own behaviour and patterns – we try to dig deep and look for the why.  We look for what is it that has it be this way, or has me be this way?

And that can be valuable!  Especially if we’ve gotten some lessons or coaching or experience into the deep workings of who we are (hint: until we’ve done this work, it’s rarely at all what we think it is).  But often figuring out the what or the why doesn’t produce the results we want it to.  We have an explanation, but it doesn’t help us in the moment to cease or alter it.  It’s like that thing about how knowing how to lose weight and actually losing weight are two very different things.

But a more fruitful path is often to forgo the why and instead look at what is keeping it in place?  What are we getting from it being this way such that we, surreptitiously, derail ourselves?  What are we actually committed to, no matter what we may profess?

Put another way, what’s the payoff?

Given we keep doing what we are doing even when we say we don’t want to or don’t like the result, there’s gotta be something we’re getting out of it, something we’ve become, in a way, addicted to.  Almost always there’s a lot of juice there.  One of the most prime payoffs is simply that we get to be right.  Oh do we ever get such a rush from being right!*  And that same kind of rush follows into many other things that often are our payoffs:  validating ourselves, dominating others or controlling the situation, gain some sort of position or perceived advantage, or just plain old we get to, in our minds, win.

And so even if what we are doing is unproductive in 98% of all other areas, we get stuck.  Because, just like the rats who will cross electric fields and ignore food to get that pellet of cocaine, we so want that payoff.

When we get present to the payoff we get to see the groove that has been keeping us hemmed in and, even if we’ve been saying we’re trying to turn the wheel, guiding us down those unproductive paths.  And now that we see it, we gain access to making a choice.  For as charged as the payoff may be, it’s usually cheap, shallow, and unfulfilling, gone in a flash and leaving us with our mess.

We can give up that shoddy payoff to gain freedom, possibility, and results that our authentic self truly desires.

 

* Which makes sense in many ways.  To our survival-based calculating self, Being right = not being eaten by a tiger.  So we get a neurological reward for being right.

Architecture Monday

Though it’s a brutalist icon, and despite my love of libraries, I’ve never visited the inside of the Robarts Library on the campus of the University of Toronto.  But after seeing these photos of the Thomas Fisher Rare Book wing, I really gotta!

There’s a lot of goodness going on here, from the strong hexagonal patterns (reminds me a bit of the National Art Centre), the cathedral like nave of books, the intricate play of multiple levels, the clerestory window coupled with the ginormous hanging lantern, all enhanced by the rich tones of the wood paneling, the books, and the red carpet underpinning it all.  Killer work.

The Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library by Mathers and Haldenby Architects.

Philosophy Tuesday

“Aside from the animals, there are nearly a thousand abstract signs and shapes we cannot interpret and also several negative hand stencils, as they are known by art historians. These are the paintings that most interest me. They were created by pressing one hand with fingers splayed against the wall of the cave and then blowing pigment, leaving the area around the hand painted. Similar hand stencils have been found in caves around the world from Indonesia to Spain to Australia to the Americas to Africa. We have found these memories of hands from 15,000 or 30,000, or even 40,000 years ago.

These hand stencils remind us of how different life was in the distant past. Amputations, likely from frostbite, are common in Europe and so you often see negative hand stencils with three or four fingers. And life was short and difficult. As many as a quarter of women died in childbirth. Around 50% of children died before the age of five.

But they also remind us that the humans of the past were as human as we are, their hands indistinguishable from ours. These communities hunted and gathered and there were no large caloric surpluses so every healthy person would’ve had to contribute to the acquisition of food and water.

And yet somehow, they still made time to create art, almost as if art isn’t optional for humans.”

John Green

(from this episode of his great podcast The Anthropocene Reviewed)

(which was animated into this amazing video by Kurzgesagt)

Architecture Monday

In the midst of all the ongoing tumult and turmoil, a little ride among the trees to re-centre seems like a grand idea to recenter ourselves.  So how about riding up into the treetops?

Very possible with this delightful little idea.  A continuous circular path that guides one up to a rarely experienced lofty vantage point among the upper boughs before gently guiding us back down and back on our way.  All made out of slender weathering steel that seeks to fade inconspicuously into the surroundings.

Lovely.  Cycling Through the Trees by Burolandschap