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Wonder Wednesday

September 20, 2017

These Tintin books were two of my favourite bandes dessinees growing up!

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Philosophy Tuesday

September 19, 2017

There are two types of “learning” in the world.*

The first is the kind that things like mathematics fall into.  There is a definite set of processes, rules, procedures, and methods that produce a solid and individual answer.  2 + 2 = 4.  Physics is like this.  Chemistry is like this.  And, in many ways, most of our schooling is like this.  Even the bits that aren’t, the bits that would fall into the second type, are generally taught in the same manner.  Spelling, history/dates, geography/lines on a map, algebra:  all quantifiable and capable of a right/wrong ranking.  You either know it, or you don’t.  You either have it, or you don’t.  And to learn it means memorizing, logicizing, and proper reproducing.**

Which is all fine and good.  Informational learning is important, vital, and can help us do a lot of things.  We want the engineer designing and airplane to know their equations and figure things through.  The brain surgeon should know the structures of the brain and how to diagnose problems, and what remedies to apply.  Statisticians can help us make sense of large sets of data through rigorous procedures.  It’s all great.

At the same time, this early instruction can create a strong context, feeling, and view (read: reality) that this is how learning happens, and that everything in the world can, and/or should, be known in this way.  Outside->In, knowledge based, right/wrong result type learning.  A context which then limits our access to, and comfort with, the second type of learning.

This second type is the kind of learning that is intuitive, fluid, and arises mostly from immediate, visceral, self-discovery.  It is gotten, but it is not fixed; it lives in the present.  It often bypasses the traditional take on what “knowledge” is.  This is the domain of the arts, of all kinds, the broadest casting of arts, the arts beyond that of just aesthetic pursuits.  It is the art of relating to others, the art of living, the art of movement, the art of the cosmos, the art of “emotional intelligence”, the art of mindfulness, the art of expression.   They are the arts that form our experience of life.

These are very important arts.

They also cannot be “learned” like math;  knowledge and examples and techniques can only be lighthouses to guide us towards the moment of personal discovery that makes it ours.  Trying to stick to the rote routines gained by knowledge only leads to stilted outcomes. ***

It can be hard to do the second learning when you’ve walled it off, forgotten and unknown, and haven’t used it for a long time.  Or maybe not.  Maybe all it takes getting and transforming the contextual trap we’ve been in, opening up to the ability we’ve had all along.*****   Let it out, let it exercise, play, explore, and get stronger.

Opening us up to new abilities, greater wisdom, and a plethora of new possibilities for our lives.

 

* Of course, we could probably create many more than two categories, or possibly there’s even a third or fourth category equally large to these two , but for the moment and for this exploration, let’s keep it at two…

** In later schooling, this tends to break open a bit more, such as with essay questions in English class, where a good teacher will allow for many modes of answers to be graded well.  In the flipside, though, even the most open, such as art, drama, music, etc, can get bogged down under the need to rank things.  The technique gets graded – something that feels as though it can be “learned” and demonstrated in a very right/wrong, have it/don’t have it kind of way (and which has much less to do with actual artistic expression).  This further creates the context that can limit being able to be in and play around in the second kind of learning.

*** This post arose from something I’ve been noticing in my kung fu practice recently, which has blossomed into a meditation on the nature of the art part of the phrase “Martial Arts”.  Especially as you delve deeper and deeper into the art(s), and, for me, as I teach others.  Some of my students are caught in an, for lack of a better term, “engineer’s mindset”, a very strong adherence to the first type of learning.  They learn the outlines of the forms quickly, but their progress hits a wall as the detail work comes along.  Trying to do kung fu from the outside->in, coming from memory and reproducing all the correct angles and tensions and body linkages and movements and etc doesn’t work.  The brain isn’t wired to do so, there’s too much there to keep track of and try to figure out or reproduce in the moment.  That first way of learning doesn’t work here. ****

**** This is also starting to intrigue me and make me wonder about those who are “not good at sports” – could this “not good” be caused by the context of what learning is (ie, caught in the context of the first kind of learning)?  It would be a barrier to  being in their body and learning intrinsically… *****

***** Interestingly, it’s the way we all did when we learned to walk.  We didn’t have language then, and thus no contexts and thus no idea of what “learning” is supposed to be… so we had to learn intrinsically.

****** For all of this, BTW, I had to break out of my own type-1 learning context (that, of course, I didn’t even realize I had) (And I still need to practice my type-2 more and more).  My kung fu training accelerated by leaps and bounds once I started my journey into transformation, as that type-2 learning suddenly became available to me.

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Architecture Monday

September 18, 2017

There’s something hiding at the heart of this Kindergarten in Japan:  the wood.  It doesn’t look like it’s hiding, because the buildings are nothing if all wood, detailed together with joinery finery.  What’s more hidden is that all the wood comes from trees that were killed in the 2011 earthquake and tsunami, and, even more at their heart, is that each of these trees were also planted after a tsunami in 1611, a round 400 years prior.  From one tsunami to the next, the trees remain to provide shelter in the community.

Even beyond this remarkable history, there’s much to like about the building.  Built onto the side of a hill, it manages to evoke both traditional Japanese woodwork while also channeling Smokey the Bear-type North American national forest pavilions.  And, not unintended I’m sure, a treehouse, all the more perfect for its young inhabitants.

Inside the wood continues to take centre stage, from floor to furniture to wall to ceiling, the latter of which is cast aglow by windows that reach up deep between the roof beams.  Odd as it may seem, the bare bulbs that hang to provide artificial light feels nice, the pinpoints of light creating another plane overhead.  (I do hope those are LEDs…)

Nice and solid work.  The Asahi Kindergarten by Tezuka Architects.

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Wonder Wednesday

September 13, 2017

Double Dragon Tiger Gate (very much one to look at full screen):

art by Stéphane Wootha Richard

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Philosophy Tuesday

September 12, 2017

A while back, I was reading a review of an RPG game based on/created for a very popular and long-running set of sci-fi movies.  The review was doing quite the thorough job and examining and discussing the numerous flaws and oddities (as it saw them) in the rules.  The responses, in comments, were quite numerous, with more than a few written in very strong and strident language.

As I read those replies, I noticed two things, the second* of which being that many of the very “animated and assertive dissenters” (for lack of a better word) diverged quickly from discussing rules and instead began “defending” the idea of an RPG in that universe/story.  Their comments became about whether the story was a good one, whether you liked that story or not, and whether it was a good idea to play a game inside it.

Questions which the review never broached once, even as teasers.

My take on it all?  A nice example (and reminder) of identity survival hijack:  “I like this thing so much, I have made it part of my identity, and here’s this person saying something critical**about that thing, therefore who I am is at stake, and I must rise to protect and secure.”  The distinctions of the text are lost, as are both the specificities of the text and any nuance contained therein.  That the article was, in many ways, expressing the writer’s like of the sci-fi property (through them buying the game, running many games with it, and writing the article because they wanted to continue) was instead lost, all washed away under the spark of identity flailing.

We humans sure are funny sometimes, aren’t we?***

Besides what I got about the game itself, this little dive into the comments also gave me a nice window into seeing another way an identity hijack can play itself out.  And through that, a little more was added into my mindfulness cup.

 

*  The first was that many of the defenders of the game included phrases such as “if you ignore this…” or “if you just do this…” or “this is how we play…” (or included examples of rules interactions that were incorrect).  Effectively, despite their forcefulness and opening statements otherwise, they were agreeing with the thrust of the review:  that the rules, as written (which is the purpose of a review, to look at things as they are put out into the world and/or sold), were poor.  That to play the game well required rather major changes.  I think there’s a whole world worth exploring inside this disconnect as well…

** Which doesn’t mean “bad”…

*** No word if the many species in said sci-fi universe also suffer from the same funnyness – though I’m very much sure many do in their own way.

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Architecture Monday

September 11, 2017

Looking more than a little like a giant plane about to take flight, there’s a lot I like about this cancer center in Manchester.

Starting with the continuous, repetitious, and very nifty wood truss system that forms the building’s long spine.  Carefully crafted from wood, they are playful and expressive, and provide a flexibility that allows the outer walls to jut in, and out, then back in again to meet the needs of the rooms as they unfold down the length of the building.  It also creates a continuous covered porch that encircles the whole affair.

There’s also this great mezzanine, a quiet refuge to read, to talk, to work, and even just to watch the sky, or the stars, go by.

The pièce de résistance is, no doubt, the greenhouse.  Located prominently in the building’s prow, the geodesic-like structure feels at once both comforting and playful, a space full of life – literally, with the plants, but also the experience of the spatial qualities itself.  Perfect vibrancy for recovery.

And how the table that can roll itself outdoors… lovely detail.

Maggie’s Centre, by Foster + Partners.

 

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Wonder Wednesday

September 6, 2017

A sea of clouds…

… a vista of wonder.

 

by Mitsuhiko Kamada