Philosophy Tuesday

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

“We are embodied spirits who need raw material, both physical and spiritual, to create. But we forget that we are also social beasts who need not slash through the bramble of those needs alone.

In Buddhism and other ancient Eastern traditions, there is a beautiful concept connoted by the Pali word dana (pronounced DAH-nah), often translated as the virtue of generosity. But at its heart is something far more expansive — a certain quality of open-handedness in dynamic dialogue with need and organically responsive to it. The practice of dana has sustained the Buddhist tradition for two and a half millennia — monks give their teachings freely, and the lay people who benefit from them give back to the monks by making sure their sustenance needs are met.

In a sense, dana is the art of not-having-to-ask — a natural and intuitive recognition that the energies poured into creating meaning (and what is art if not the making of meaning?) must be replenished in order for that stuff of substance to continue flowing through and fertilizing the ecosystem of interconnectedness in which all beings are entwined.

In the modern West, governed by the invisible hand of tit-for-tat mentality long before Adam Smith articulated its grasp, we’ve had to master the art of asking as a coping mechanism making up for our intuitive but atrophied mastery of the art of not-having-to-ask.”

Maria Popova

The above quote hit me like I didn’t expect it to. Reading through, I was overcome with emotion and wonder and possibility. The notion of listening to others, of really being in tune with others, of responding generously to others. Of being in a world where support is given, yet support is also not expected or demanded. Where there is enough flow that we are taken care of. It is commerce without the zero-sum game. It is offering what we can, not what we can get away with. It is an interchange of people, small groups who interchange, who support each other. It is that we do not devalue some work, some people, some positions, it is a valuation of all who make our world(s) run.

And on the personal level, the level that hit me the most, it is a profound listening by friends and families and the feeling of being freely supported while you, in turn, support them.

There’s no taken for granted, or taken for a ride.

There is no “transactional equation.”

There is needing to go it alone and make it alone.

There is simply kinship and appreciation and lives being made.

Architecture Monday

click for project info

I love the cavelike space evoked within this building, its hard and massive exterior forms rendered texturally interesting and inviting within, a feeling of solidity and stability and peace, illuminated and brought to life by the wonderfully detailed and carefully positioned glazing that interconnects the split stone-like chunks that make up the building. It’s as though a descent into the earth, into our earliest of shelters, a return.

A simple exterior form that is both sculptural and primal. An interior of rich interconnecting volumes that belies that planar exterior. The use of different forming techniques both inside and outside to give a different texture and feel to the same concrete mass. It is a building that has mass and who’s massing gives it a strong presence, but not one that crushes within. Weighty comfort.

A bold and vibrant space, full of life and vitality.

Curiosity WOW!

A satellite view of the duplicate curiosity rover hanging out in its yard at JPL!,-118.1700275,77m/data=!3m1!1e3!4m7!1m4!3m3!1s0x80c2c26e1fd5a69b:0x2894373e1a284496!2sJet+Propulsion+Laboratory!3b1!3m1!1s0x0000000000000000:0x5f4781eb309f35a4!6m1!1e1

It’s amazing how big the rover is (compare it to the car out on Pioneer road). Watching the live stream from the JPL control room during landing was wickedly exciting, a “moon landing” moment for me. Crazy that it has been 3 years already since that evening…

Philosophy Tuesday

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

There is another aspect of philosophical practice that lies on the opposite end of the scale.

“A practice.”

That is, a specific, repetitive, intentful, activity or exercise to cultivate a certain aspect of our being or to grow a certain skill in being.

Knowing that there is a world out there*, a space out there, a way of being out there, wherein we are peaceful and calm and connected and grounded and free is nice, and it’s just something we know. A knowing that unfortunately makes little difference.

It is the walk to get there that is the thing. It is the walk that brings us to that place we know about.

Practices are our guides on that walk.

Practice being present. When you notice you are not present, bring yourself back to present.

 Have three conversations that clear up something unsaid.

 Look around the room and note the meaning you have attached to every object within.

 When you are in the throws of an identity attack, take a pad of paper and start writing.

There are a multitude of practices to take on. There are a multitude of sources and teachers and texts and ways to learn, hear, and be assigned these practices. There are many avenues to visit and travel and explore. Coming from and engaging in and visiting and travelling in all of those directions often is what makes the biggest difference. For practices build upon each other. They each open something new. Through each we discover something new. And like my martial arts practice(s), what we develop during the practice follows elsewhere and shows up everywhere. Bit by bit, the transformations occur.

And best of all, we can revisit these practices at any time and deepen our development, transform things even more, and it is always as exciting and revealing as it was the first time.

There’s no special preparation needed. No finality. Just games to play.

Pick a practice. Practice it.

And the self-cultivation begins and continues anew. **


* – Even if we only have a vague notion that perhaps something else is possible, for at least we’ve seen it in others…

** – It is one of the things that makes the book The Art of Possibility so good, in that each chapter encompasses and distinguishes a practice. Something to take on. Something new to try.

Architecture Monday

Fallingwater, by the larger-than-life Frank Lloyd Wright, is undoubtedly one of the most famous houses in the world. If you were tasked to design six cottages on a field of rolling hills situated a half mile from the site, to house participants in various Fallingwater educational programs?

The winning entry in a competition to do just that, these simple cottages by Patkau Architects take a decidedly hobbit-hole-esque tact and follow one of FLW’s dictums that a house should never be on a hill – it should belong to it. Six mounds of rolling grasses envelop these cottages, blending them into the natural landscape. Inside, cozily enveloped by the earth, warm wood and generous glazing create the inviting living space. Quite different than most of the Patkau angular creations, I’d call the bent wood and curvy volumes quite sensual. It’s also very straightforward in arrangement (again different than many Patkau designs), but some strategic windows and clever introduction of light doesn’t let it feel stale.

I think these are quite nifty. Simple, honouring of the site, and smartly using the very ground around it to create both form and shelter.