Philosophy Tuesday

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

The idea of Attachment is a powerful one in ontological inquiries.

Buddhism even regards Attachment as the root of all dis-ease.

Attachment is when a desire or commitment goes beyond being just a desire or commitment and instead become a necessity. It becomes the way things unequivocally should or have to be.

It becomes a truth.

“Luke, you’re going to find that many of the truths we cling to depend greatly on our own point of view,” professed Obi-Wan in Return of the Jedi.

Ben’s use of cling is perfect there. Because when we become Attached to something, we are clinging, desperately, to that something. We are clinging, desperately, to a particular view of the world, of ourselves, and/or of others.

And that clinging usually doesn’t bring out the best in us.

It also doesn’t let us see things all that clearly.

In those moments, we have no freedom. Our course is set, and it is set determinately towards trying to keep the attachment alive/real.

When we learn to recognize the symptoms of clinging – that visceral charge and the emotions that arise when our Attachment is “threatened” – we gain access to something.

We can let go of our Attachment and return ourselves to the realm of our commitments and of our desires. We become present to what’s actually happening. We become present to those around us and the wonderful fabric in which we live. Vitality returns. Peace of mind arises. Clarity develops. Perhaps counterintuitively, we actually gain a greater chance of fulfilling our commitments and our desires.

Ultimately, when we release our grip and live in the world of commitments and desires rather than of being Attached, we gain freedom – freedom to choose the path that honours who we truly want to be, and to honour those and the world around us.

Architecture Monday

To create an experimental musical incubator that would, as envisioned, support beginning composers of all genres and styles of music, Kevin Dolan knew he would need a space that was both “acoustically outstanding and architecturally iconic”.   He found a nondescript brick box that used to house a sawdust making company. And so the National Sawdust concert hall was born.

click for project info

This is a fabulous adaptive reuse project. Strategically placed and enlarged openings punched into the seamless brick facade starts the experience, playing with delightful new graffitiesque murals, bisecting them with a dark negative plane. Inside, a crystalline insertion guides one forward down a slot-canyon-like foyer towards the volume that houses the acoustically isolated chamber hall which, in of itself, is a dazzling array of angles, forms, voids, and equipment.

The design is straightforward and simple, yet executed with flair and precision by Bureau V. A great re-use of existing bones, taking full advantage of the staid and regular exterior by “removing” portions to create sculptural negative space, and to surprise and delight in contrasting the dynamic space within.

It is a workhorse, doing what it needs to without overflowing with “bonuses”. And it fulfills its duty, creating a space that is indeed iconic and expressive in a way that fully supports, enhances, and enlivens the music going experience. A night at the Dust* would be one to remember the total package, music and form.

* My term, I have no idea if anyone calls it that… though I think it would be a good name/term…

Philosophy Tuesday

Continuing from last week…

When it comes to who we are being and acting in the world, and the ability to affect and impact and choose our being, much like riding a bike it is largely hidden from our consciousness.* Knowing, and understanding, makes little difference.

Even more crazily, sometimes we’re not even aware of the impact in our lives (and the lives around us) of those ways of being and acting.

Outside of the moment, over a cup of tea with a friend, we can explain things so well, and in such detail, can’t we? We know why we are the way we are, why we repeat those things we’d rather not do, why we can’t be that other way, and we often even know who to blame for it all.

Outside of the moment, we can also plot going forward who we want to be, what we’re going to do (or, more often, not do) when we next do that thing or see that person or encounter that situation. We strive and plot to be more free.

IN the moment, however, that very moment of that thing is right here right now, before we even get a chance to realize it, we fall back on those familiar patterns, fall back on those things we know ourselves to be. In those moments we are, well, ’ourselves’. Just like the backwards bike, all that explanation of why we are ‘ourselves’, and all that working forward of how we will now steer instead of the usual ‘ourselves’ is all for not. We pitch over and fall.


Just like that bicycle, as Destin showed us, there has to be another level going on here, a level beyond understanding or reasoning that’s into the realm of getting, or groking, something that makes us who we are, in those moments. Something inaccessible with our “usual” ways of figuring things out or talking about it or understanding it or making a plan or strategy or etc. Just as knowing our history of how we learned to ride a bike makes little difference on our ability to actually ride it, and just as understanding the physics and mechanics and the body and etc also makes little difference.

It has never made much difference in those areas of life so important to us, those questions about how do I live the best life I can live, how can I communicate better, how can I truly forgive, how can I be more generous, loving, open, free, alive, excited, self-expressed, creative, productive, how can I have peace of mind no matter the circumstance, how can I do right to others, how can I be the best authentic expression of me I can be?

We have all changed and transformed during our lives, so it’s clearly possible.

Sometimes, even knowing that knowing makes no difference, I still (amusingly) get caught up in the trap of explaining and figuring out and trying to understand. And, no surprise, it still doesn’t work. But when I’m in the mode of discovery**, of being mindful, of exploring philosophy, practicing rigorous ontological inquiry… when I let go of the knowing I can suddenly grok what’s there and transform that area of life for me. Things open up.

IN the moment, the next time, I can choose.

I can ride the different bike and have it go the other way.***

I, we, gain access to being who we want to be.


* This is similar to where some neuroscientists are starting to question whether we have free will or not, for the parts of the brain for a decision light up before we consciously make that choice. If that’s so, do we really have freedom? Yes/no… mindfulness can give us choice possibility even if the brain bits get activated first, and transformation of an area rejiggers things so that differing, and even multitudes, parts of the brain can light up in those situations, the parts that more directly correspond with the options we’d like to have.

** This is really being willing to let go of all I’ve logically put together and so deliciously tied into a wonderful interconnected superstructure of understanding and reasoning and protective armour and boy you’re not going to get me and I’m going to be right! … letting go of that for what’s instead possible.

*** And unlike the Destin’s bike example, we can always quite easily return to riding the “regular” bike if we choose or deem it more appropriate in that moment.

**** This post was a tough one to write.

Wonder X

I’m still giddy with excitement for SpaceX’s successful launch and, more importantly, landing yesterday.   I still feel like cheering like crazy, a Curiosity-like moment.  Wonderful image below of the launch and landing!

by SpaceX via Ars Technica

Way to go SpaceX!

Architecture Monday

There is something quite special about Notre Dame de Haut, more commonly known simply as Ronchamp. Perhaps more accurately put, there are many things that come together to create something special in this little chapel in a relatively quiet part of the French countryside – some of it rather playful, which may not be expected in a house of worship.

The exterior is quite sculptural, including a natural rain fountain off the back wherein the water from the roof is funneled out a spout and onto forms as it tumbles to the ground below. But it is the space within that’s exciting.

Starting with an unorthagonal and curvilinear layout, the room envelops as you enter. The roof too is curving, and also floating, never touching the walls, separated by open glazing as it arcs towards both the front of the room and the right wall… and that right wall is where some magic happens.

As it curves it grows in thickness, a depth that is perceived through the many angled subtractions, positioned as though at random (but not really), that all end at a small section of geometric stained glass.

It is not a super-lit space, but rather that controlled entry of light, piercing into the space in coloured shafts, illuminating the carefully sculpted volumes within, with the solid roof floating above the massive walls, directing attention down the nave to the altar, creates a dynamic yet wholistic experience.

On the whole I am very much not a fan at all of Le Corbusier’s work. I find most of it rather unappealing and the philosophies behind them have not stood well the test of time. But here, in this small scale, in this sacred grove, he has worked wonder.

Philosophy Tuesday

I love knowledge. Knowledge is awesome. I love figuring things out. The why of things fascinates me.

Unfortunately, in many ways and in many instances, we don’t actually know what we think we know.*

And knowing often makes absolutely no difference.

Dustin (of Smarter Every Day) made a great video on riding a backwards bicycle – a bicycle where the handlebars worked in reverse to what we’re familiar with. Turn left, the wheel goes right. Turn right, the wheel goes left.

So what happens when he tries to ride it? He cannot. He falls off. Repeatedly. No matter how much he thinks about it, no matter how much he tries to just make his hands do the opposite thing, no matter how much he even understands about the physics, the mechanics, the principles, of the bike, no matter what tricks he tries, it makes no difference. He falls off. So does everyone else.

And then, he realizes something even deeper: he never “knew” how to ride a bike.

He could ride a bike, clearly. But it wasn’t due to knowing. There was something more intrinsic going on there. He uses the word “understand” to designate that next level down of knowing, but I prefer the terms “get” or “grok”. Understand for me denotes an explainable comprehension, taking what we know and understanding how those knowing bits fit together, link together, or influence each other. I can understand that using the pedals causes the wheels to turn which generate gyroscopic forces that keep me upright. Understandable. Doesn’t help my balance one bit, though.

Getting or groking is a level of immediate being and acting that is beyond our ken.

It happens to me all the time in my martial arts training. I may know about a concept, and I may understand the principle, , and I can even be told “how” to do the move in whatever language** and analogies the instructor may come up with***, but nine times out of ten I’m still unable to perform what is being instructed. I have to use use that knowledge and use my understanding as a lighthouse to guide me until there’s a moment where something goes clunk and I suddenly am not only doing it, but it becomes automatic. It becomes the (first principle type of) foundation from which the movement comes from, and also a foundation where all my movements (in martial arts or not) are affected.

That we have these levels of knowing/understanding/groking is fascinating, and not that hard to understand in the realm of physical activity. We would be hard pressed to describe how we are balancing right now — we just do it. We weren’t born with it, we clearly had to learn it in order to be able to walk. Yet we do it.

The even more amazing thing is that the same holds quite true about who we are and how we operate in our daily lives.

More next week…


* – And, the humour here is that even though I KNOW this fact, even there it makes no difference, I still not only try to know/understand everything as though it will make a difference, but I will also be sad and indignant when I realize it! Then I laugh about it… we are such funny creatures, aren’t we?

** – As someone who has both taught kung fu and moreover written a book on it, it is almost comically difficult to translate body motion and body feeling into words that communicate something. You can describe the angle and position of the body, but that’s not very helpful for the reasons being discussed…

*** – …thusly analogy is often quite helpful. Because of its abstract nature, it forces us to go beyond our usual understanding and just grasp out at the poeticness of the analogy, trying to capture that feeling or embody that spirit. If we can let that “knowing” desire go, it’s surprisingly often quite fruitful, letting us experience and grok the new thing.

Gaming Thursday: Character Stand-Ups

Along with character sheets, another “feelies” thing that I’ve tried recently is creating little character stand-ups* for our new FATE campaign:

IMG_20151210_212150057_HDR copy2

As the age-old saying says, images are wickedly powerful at conveying lots of information and world feel in a very quick and immediate manner. Many a character by many a player has been inspired by (or based on) an image, and it is not uncommon for players to commission a portrait (or draw one themselves!) of their character. There’s just something evocative about seeing another person, even if it is only a drawing.

These stand-ups are mainly a simple way of keeping that image/portrait front and centre. With each player placing their character’s stand-up in front of them at the gaming table, whenever we interact with each other the image is right there to lend it’s evocative assistance. Personality, flavour, history, attitude, aptitude, and even world atmosphere is readily made present so that our actions and interactions more easily come from within that space.

As this is a FATE game, I also inscribed our aspects, and that too has been useful as a reminder for all of us of not only the character but also what to invoke/compel.

We’ve used these for a couple of sessions and so far I’ve been pleased with how they turned out and how they work at the table. For the next iteration I’m going to be sure to put the same info on all sides (depending where you sit at the table you may not see the image). They were simple to make, and like the character sheets, there’s an opportunity to use the graphic design to evoke more atmospherics.

Game on…

* – Yeah, the name’s not that great…