Philosophy Tuesday

This is a philosophical statement. It is intended to spark thinking and examining.

Within this past weekend’s lead story to This American Life, two very astute bits caught my attention.*

It all revolved around a tunnel discovered in Toronto back in January. The story was about the stir the tunnel created. It was hidden, dug out of a greenbelt ravine. It was expertly done. Above all, it was near the site for the upcoming PanAm games. It was so odd. The media and social media quickly burst forth with theories, worries, and potential nefarious scenarios. It was given its own hashtag.

Yet, in the midst of all this hoopla, there was the fact that a rosary and a poppy had been found nailed to the wall within the tunnel. Another unusual angle. What to make of it? The then Toronto police deputy chief knew exactly what to make of it:

Mark Saunders:   This [the roasary/poppy] was found inside the actual tunnel itself. And it was nailed on the wall.

Reporter: What does that tell you?

Mark Saunders: That tells me that this was nailed inside the tunnel on a wall.

Nothing. He made nothing of it. He was fully grounded in what’s so, present to what’s so. And what was so was that they had a tunnel, and it had some beads and a poppy.

The truth of the tunnel, it turned out, was not tied to crime, or terrorism, or vandals, or anything of the sort. It was a fellow who built it as a sort of underground clubhouse where he could find release from the everyday and delight with some friends and find some peace.** It was an ordinary, everyday, life-as-lived, personal, and human story and reasons. To quote the program: “It’s so much smaller, but so much less predictable and way more interesting.

And it was. And it is. And what a great reminder.   The world, and moreover, people, are more complex than we often perceive, or let be. We are, as Ira said, such hacks when it comes to writing the stories of what is, or who is, in front of us. We simplify. We boxify. And we all to easily go to the stock library of “what this means.”

And yet, while the scripts in that library are often extreme, filled with adversity or adventure or action, it turns out that these scripts can’t actually hold a candle to how interesting and connected and engaged and actually exciting a much more complex, unadorned, and down-to-earth story/reality is.

While this story was speaking about others and the news/events we hear, it goes equally strong for the stories we tell about ourselves. We’re just as big hacks when it comes to interpreting what happens to us.*** We simplify, and we don’t always tell the most generous story.

When we interrupt our hacks, we get access to something. If we can let ourselves be like Mark Saunders, and just be present to what’s so in our lives, and be present to the actual people in front of us and in our lives, and not form that instant view that will colour all we see going forward, we are open to something. Somethings. Somethings wonderful and rich and diverse. ****

We gain empathy, compassion, and freedom.

And, ultimately, it’s just much more interesting!


* – The story in of itself caught my ear, for I’d heard the reports on the tunnel back in January but had never heard the resolution of it all.

** – I’m really not doing the full story and the individual justice here, I encourage you to listen to it…

*** – “Happens around us” might be more accurate…

**** – Given that we generally don’t like it when people reduce us to a one-note motif, it behooves us to imagine them equally complex, n’est ce pas?


Architecture Monday

This is not your ordinary theatre. It is a reimagining.

It was designed to maintain the flexibility of the old theatre space, which was raw, unpolished, and never intended to be permanent, and as such, the company could screw over and damage the building with each production to create the maximum impact for their show.

It looked at the existing typologies, laid out the program, and said “what if we stacked them?”

It leveraged what was already known and had to spawn something unique.

This is Wyly Theatre in Dallas, by REX | OMA. It’s a simple box that is anything but simple. Check out this TED lecture by Joshua Prince-Ramus, the principal designer, to get a full sense of it. This is a flexible performance space (not just theatre) par extraordinaire, where the seating, theatre/stage arrangement, flooring, and more is all adjustable to go from a completely empty and level floor affair to a traditional proscenium theatre with balconies and the whole nine yards, all using off-the-shelf technology.

What I really really love about the theatre, though, is that niftily unconventional structural system that is coupled with those all-glass and operable walls at the plaza (and theatre) level. The angled structure dematerializes the corners, enhancing transparency and letting the public and the plaza to (literally, when the glazing is opened) flow seamlessly inside. If desired, the cityscape becomes part of the theatre and the theatrical (or concert, or…) experience. If you want a black box, you can have that too.

Add to that all the nice simple proportions of the box, with selective sculptural subtractions, clad in aluminum fins that recall the folds in a theatre curtain, plus an interesting internal layout of spaces organized complexly in section, and you have a wonderful building indeed.

Wonder Wednesday

Who, it turns out, was the first to run through the castle and into Fantasyland on the opening day of Disneyland, right after Walt’s dedication?

C&D open fantasyland

Why, none other than Chip and Dale!  Look at’ em take off to lead the pack with their adventurous spirit, sprinting through that gate.

No wonder they were so cut out to later become the heads of a small, but efficient, battalion of do-gooders devoted to helping those in trouble…


Philosophy Tuesday

This is a philosophical statement. It is intended to spark thinking and examining.

Beware the false dichotomy.

It is such an easy mental trap to fall into, whether on our own or baited by someone else.

Beware especially during this time of campaigns and campaigning.

For the false dichotomy hides in its veil of rationality and innocuousness, sneaking in and derailing actual thinking.*

It cuts short expansionary, complex, and holistic views and thinking. It eliminates options. It shuts down our brains.

A false dichotomy is any statement presenting two (or occasionally three) options as the only possible available in a given situation or argument or reality.

X, or Y. No continuum. It reduces the multitude of possibilities to simplistic, neatly constrained and contained results only.

A falsieD is easiest to see in the polarized wilds, for that is where they tend to be at their most extreme.

In the wild, they are apt to sound like, “Either we do (or don’t do) this thing, or the something really really bad and irreversible will happen.”

Or they will say, “You are either with us (ie, 100% agreement) or against us.”

Or they present to seemingly unrelated items as automatic and inherent opposites, “Arts vs the Sciences.”

It can even go so far as presenting humans as having to be either “Rational or Emotional.”

But it’s bogus.

Rarely is life that actually neatly wrapped up into discrete and so few boxes of outcomes, and even rarer still are the two boxes so diametrically opposed on the outcome scale.

When we get caught in the trap (or when we try to use this trap on others) we’re restricting our access to real creative solutions or outcomes. We make false enemies and have false battles between them.

It wastes time and it disconnects us from the possibilities that will lead to what it is we truly want.

And while it is most readily visible in the wilds, it can hit us much closer to home as well.

Anytime we are locked in feeling that we HAVE to act a certain way at work, in social situations, with our families, or with society at large, we could be caught in a false dichotomy trap.

I invite us all to be on the lookout for the false dichotomies in our lives, sussing out and calling out those that are presented to us in conversations or advertising or campaigning, and looking at our own certainties that guide our everyday lives.

The world is a rich place. There are thousands of possibilities and ways and opportunities.

It’s unfortunate when we don’t play with them all.


* – Turning it to thoughting at best…

Philosophy Tuesday

This is a philosophical statement. It is intended to spark thinking and examining.

If you have never seen the video of Mr Rogers testifying before the US Congress in 1969, it is something remarkable:

I love this video, in so many ways.

I love the conversation, the simple conversation he has with Senator Pastore. There is no convincing going on here, no badgering, no carefully designed statement. It is 100% pure sharing. Mr Rogers creates who he’s created himself to be, what he’s up to, and creates what he sees possible. He shares possibility, calmly, authentically, and without pretense or guff. And it lands.\

I love watching Senator Pastore travel from animosity, to interest, to being fully aligned. You can see the moments when he too begins to see what’s possible, and what that would mean, how things could be. He is visibly moved and inspired.

I love when Mr Rogers himself gets who he is and the magnitude of it all. That moment when he pauses… “This is what… This is what I give.” That gap is so powerful as he himself gets and is clear, in that very moment, who he has created himself to be in the world. It’s touching.

But above all I love this one line, this one line just spoken into existence in the midst of it all, and the profound possibility and amazingness that exist within it and all that it encompasses:

“make it clear that feelings are mentionable, and manageable”

What an amazing line. “Feelings are mentionable, and manageable.” What an amazing space it creates. What an amazing space that could be. A space where we are human, and we have emotions. And, at the very same time, a space where we are human, and are not be ruled by our emotions. It is a beautiful expression of the middle path: we need not be stuck either ignoring (or, at best, viewing our emotions with suspicion) or going the other end and bouncing all over at the effect of them. We embrace the fullness of our experience(s), make them part of us, and move forward wholly.

Even more powerfully, it also speaks to a space where we can share our emotions with others, and be honoured for them, rather than be ridiculed. A space where we can work out our upsets by honouring each other’s upsets and emotions. A space where we aren’t labelled by our emotions. A space of greater and more clear communication.* A space where we needn’t hide.

A space where we can be we.

What an amazing possibility.  One worth well more than twenty million dollars.


* – For when we are not honouring or listening to or sharing or being receptive to that part of our human makeup, either ours or theirs, our messages get thrown and misinterpreted and interrupted.

Architecture Monday


Blam. There it hits you. Powerful. A motif repeated and repeated and repeated, an object so familiar, so common, yet through this repetition, aggrandizement, regular, rigorous, it becomes an altogether different experience. 11m high. 20,000 books. Warm wood, the slight curve letting the light caress the thousands of volumes, the verticality of the space playing with the verticality of the spines, the high walkway, the movable ladder that is itself a bookcase, the reading desks, a spot to ponder and explore. A demonstration of the creative spirit, a physical manifestation of knowledge and research and the human expanse. Bold while fascinating and inviting.

Completed in 2001, this is the Shiba Ryotaro Memorial Museum, built next to the author’s former home.

Another visceral and moving space by Tadao Ando.

Philosophy Tuesday

This is a philosophical statement. It is intended to spark thinking and examining.

Transformation is an interesting thing, for it is the creation of something new.

It is different than change, for it does not drag the past along with it.

To that, there can be a lot of resistance.

“But I don’t want to lose all that is me!”

“I don’t want to become a totally different person!”

It is as though like the caterpillar, you must leave all behind to become the butterfly.

Transformation, however, is not like that.

It is more, “Transcend and Include,” as said Ken Wilber .

You needn’t lose all from the past – you Transform it.

You needn’t put aside all your interests and values – you create them anew.

You take what works for you, keep all you like about you.

And that which doesn’t work for you, you Transform.

Transformation does not require abandoning where you’ve come from, or who you’ve been.

It is a new relationship to where you’ve come from, or who you’ve been.

It can include as much of “you” as you like.

Transformation is not abandonment or nullification.

When you clear away the chaff and the barriers, you get to write something…

Something that is even more, and truly, you.

Architecture Monday

Another wonderful building by Diébédo Francis Kéré (whom I spoke about previously here), this time a clinic in Burkina Faso. What a bright and playful façade. What also a brilliant use of the small, operable windows to not only create that playfulness but, in true great design fashion, serve double duty to frame views for the patients within while providing controllable ventilation. Inside, courtyards are created to continue this movement of air and to give a gathering place for family members to congregate. A double skin structure provides thermal mass and protection from the harsh sun.

These are simple ideas and simple moves that root the building to its place and the culture, that works with the locals (who built it) and serves the locals, and that provide a place for services while uplifting those who spend time within its walls.