Philosophy Tuesday

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

One of the seven* pitfalls of being human is thinking that once we deal with something, we will never have to deal with it again.

It’s not surprising, given how many things we do in our daily lives that are just like that.  Staple some papers, they’re done and stapled.  Rake the leaves, and they’re good and raked.  Bake the pie, and the pie is delicious and done.

And so we live as though once a concern, upset, question, frustration, worry, issue, baggage, trauma, or otherwise has been dealt with, handled, or completed, that we can dust off our hands and walk away, task complete.

But in many areas of our interpersonal lives, that is not the case.

Experiences of resentment, regret, upset, aloneness, anger, and more, are still available to be triggered anew.

Even when they’ve been dormant for a while, they can erupt unexpectedly.

And when they do, we can so readily invalidate ourselves, or others, for it not being done and gone.  We lash out, we withdraw, we blame.

“This is done… why is this coming up now/again?”

Because we feel that we’ve dealt with it, it feels all the more immediate, real, fresh, pressing.

But it’s just one of our pitfalls.  It doesn’t necessarily mean anything about us, or about the other or others.

We just got hooked for a moment.  Our central self got hijacked by this old pattern.

When we recognize it’s just a pattern, when we can divorce it from immediate emergency reality, we gain perspective.  We can be present.  We can check in – is this accurate?

If there’s danger, then we can respond.

If there’s not, we can communicate.

We can clean things up and get clear.

We can be in the inquiry for ourselves.

Maybe there’s still something left to complete.  Maybe there’s an adjunct upset that triggered this one.  Maybe we just need to renew ourselves.  Maybe we’re just worn down and need to take care of ourselves.  Maybe there’s something we just need to say, or a request we want to make.

One of the amazing things about transformation is that every time we get something for ourselves, even if it’s a ‘repeat’, we experience it, experience that rush, as though it was the first time.

Every time, it reinforces the transformation.  Inside that freedom we get to create and re-create.

Pitfalls always suck, in the moment.

Climbing out of the pit, however, is a chance to reinforce both who we want to be and what we want for ourselves and our world.


* – More or less…

Architecture Monday

I like this nice little cluster of writing retreat cabins (the Diane Middlebrook Memorial Building)  for what they create with humble materials married to good design.  The double roof-design lets them stay cool in summer, while also acting to unify the individual pods into a single composition.  At the same time, the slight tweaks each cabin’s orientation  keeps things lively and gives each cabin its own unique view.   It’s individuality plus commonality to create community.

The cabins also tread lightly on the land, not only in terms of their massing, but also using FSC-certified wood, photovoltaics, and passive solar technologies.

Simple cabins created to fulfill a richness of living and writing.   Work well done.

Architecture Monday

This is gorgeous.  Built of the very soil it sits in, a continuous zigzagging rammed earth wall fronts a series of cabins built under a long earth berm, creating a playful inhabitable landscape.  This is a project that truly celebrates the landscape, drawing inspiration from and becoming part of it.

Besides looking great, the huge thermal mass from the earth and the rammed earth construction keep these houses naturally cool in the hot and arid climate.  Those rammed earth walls also (as is often the case) lend their beauty within the cabins themselves.

I love the little chapel/meeting room, a simple design with sliding glass panels to open everything to the outside and with an expressive roof that captures the light.

As with many things, it’s the attention to detail and detailing that really makes this project sing.  I’d love to visit.

For more info and pictures of The Great Wall of WA click here: Luigi Roselli architects.

Zootopia Storytelling Callbacks

zootopia callback and brackets
click for fullsize…

One of the many reasons I’m excited about Zootopia is that it not only tells a good story, but tells it well.  Zootopia brings a wonderful quality to its writing and narrative, making things flow smoothly, seem believable, and reinforcing and enhancing the story line itself.

To that end, the scene with Nick and Judy’s playful “Are you just trying to steal the pen?” is not only awesome in its own right, it’s also a great callback to the scene with Gideon and the tickets earlier in the film.  Even better, it starts a string of brilliant callbacks that lead all the way up to the conclusion.  These callbacks show the delicious narrative tightness wrought into the story, with each closing bracket providing an amazing bookend that not only completes things from a storytelling perspective, but also shows the journey Judy’s been on and how much she’s grown and transformed.

Huge props to the Zootopia writing team for crafting this.  Great storytelling craft is not a given in movies these days, and I applaud the team’s dedication to the art.


For more writings on Zootopia, head to The Zootopia Meditations

Philosophy Tuesday


Our Zootopia meditations continue with the heart wrenching scene in Bellwether’s office* when Judy quits.

When Judy turns in her badge, the word on the badge directly facing the camera is “Integrity.”

Really, it’s the only word you can readily make out in that scene.

It is also exactly what Judy exhibits in that moment, and it is exactly why she quit.

Integrity isn’t about morality, or being a good person.  Integrity is about honouring your word as yourself.

Judy sees what her actions had created in the city,  the fear, the divisions.

Judy sees her beloved police force devolving to cater to the fears, the divisions.

Both are a disconnect and an affront to who she said she would be in the world, and to what she said she was out to accomplish.

In the face of that, she can no longer be an officer.  She quits.**

She honours her word.

It’s also why the first thing she does upon her return to Zootopia is to go clean things up with Nick.

It would have no integrity to (or even try to) heal the rift in the city between predator and prey if she doesn’t first heal the rift she caused between predator Nick and prey herself.

Judy is being the embodiment of integrity.

And when she, and we, act from, and with, integrity, who we know ourselves to be and our actions are in perfect alignment.  There’s no hidden dissonance, and that makes us peaceful, free, and feeds us power to accomplish what we’re out to do.

Like heal the wounds and clean up the messes to begin a new day for a bunny, a fox, and Zootopia.


* Bellwether, in that scene in her office, thought Judy could be brought alongside in her scheme, but she misread Judy.  She only understood the world from her view, one of dominance and influence and control.  Integrity to one’s self didn’t even occur to Bellwether.  She assumed that Judy’s ambition was borne of the same place as hers and that any saying about “making the world a better place for all” was either just a manipulative slogan, or was something that Judy would be willing to give up in a heartbeat if it meant amassing authority and stature.  She was wrong.

** This scene is also great in that Judy quitting is another sign of her growth.  “[Gideon]*** was right about one thing… I don’t know when to quit!”  But compared to that scene at the start of the film, here, she does know when to quit.  And irrespective of her learning what night howlers really are, honouring her integrity in this moment by quitting is what gives her the space and the power to solve the crime.

*** It’s also wonderful that Gideon is the one who actually ends up helping her fulfil her true ambition, an ambition that’s in tune with who she creates herself to be.  In the space she gains from her quitting, when he gives her the info she needs to solve the case, he also gives her the opportunity to choose freely to be an officer (explored earlier in detail here).  As a jerk he set her on a determined path to be an officer, but as a kind adult, he helps Judy truly become who she wants to be.

For earlier parts in this series on Zootopia:

Part 1Part 2Part 3Part 4 Part 5

Architecture Monday

I like the concept behind this one.  The Ribbon Chapel, located in Hiroshima, is really a single room with a single purpose – it’s a wedding chapel at a resort.  The architects, Hiroshi Nakamura & NAP Architects, chose two ideas as their spring point:  intertwining and spiraling ribbons, and a sacred tree.

The ribbons developed into twin staircases that envelop and create a strikingly vertical space that culminates at an oculus.  Using very thin mullions to support the wall glazing, the glass almost disappears and really lets the sculptural nature of the ribbons read strongly.  It also allows the sacred tree grove to become part of the space.

The stairways is really one stairway, that folds back upon itself to create the “two” ribbons.  Starting from either end where it touches the ground, two people can walk in the opposite paths to reach the top together.  The symbolism is a might direct, but appropriate for this ornamental building.

While I’ve got some mixed feelings, overall I think it’s a well executed and fun little pavilion, taking a playful concept and following it to create a lofty and luminous space that suits its function well.


Zootopia Postin’

BTW, if you’re hungry for a whack tonne more of Zootopia material, I’ve been posting a whole bunch of little tidbits, loves, thoughts, and more on my tumblr:

Yeah… I’m still loving this film!

(I also sent this to Rich Moore and Byron Howard a couple of weeks ago via their twitters:

to which, delightfully, Rich responded!  I totally did a little dance!)


Philosophy Tuesday


Continuing our explorations on the profound moments in Zootopia, let’s embark on a ride that marks the beginning of the many remarkable transformations that unfold through the final act. Fittingly, this happens midway through the film, for it deals with who we are today in the face of our past.

As we listen to Nick share his story on the gondola, we discover that he and Judy share, in many ways, a common past. A past where they both, in rather frightening incidents, bullied and attacked due to their species and their ambitions. In both cases, they were told that “this is the way things are, and this is who you are.”

We see that they are, in so many ways, alike. They started from a similar point and desire.

Yet, when they first meet, they are on vastly different ends of the spectrum in who they are and how they view the world. From such eerily similar incidents as children, they had wildly divergent outcomes.

As Nick describes to Judy how he came to be the fox he is today, he gives us the access to see what, and how, that happened.

The key here is in what Nick says: “I learned two things that day.”

Though he says “learns,” if we listen closely what he really shares are the decisions he made that day. In that moment in the muzzle, under duress, he made a raft of decisions about how things were in the world. About who he was, and his place in the world.

“You gotta be tough.” “No one cares.” “I will never fit in.” “You’ll never get to me.” “I will be independent.” “You can’t fight who people think you are.” “Don’t let people get close to you.” “When the world turns its back on you, you turn your back on the world.” “If people think I’m shifty and untrustworthy, I’ll show them, I’ll be the shiftiest fox ever….”

All possible decisions he might have made in that moment. All were decisions that made 100% sense with what he was experiencing in that moment. And they were not decisions in isolation, they played off decisions he’d already made previously, and they all fit within the framework of what he already “knew.” These are decisions that we would never fault an 8 year old for making.

Like all decisions we make, Nick put those into the future to guide him. His views, his actions, his behaviour, and even his experience of his life all become aligned with those decisions. “There’s no point in trying to be anything else,” he says with finality.

We have already seen Judy’s story. We have seen the outcome of the decisions she made when Gideon attacked her.

Therein lies the second, fundamental, key.

The reason for the divergent outcomes is that their respective incidents were not the deciding factor in their lives. The incidents were just a catalyst for Judy and Nick to make decisions, and those decisions that made the difference. Those decisions are what shaped their lives.

The amazing thing we get present to is this: it could have gone either way for them.

In that moment in their youth they easily could have become each other. Judy could have given up on her dream and lived a demur life. Nick could have instead become a determined and pursued a career as a public defender. They’re not “who they are” just because that’s how they were born. Quite the contrary, it makes their otherwise strong and seemingly ingrained personalities seem much more delicate. Much more mutable.

Zootopia beautifully reminds us that the past happened, yes. We all have a past. And we cannot ever change our pasts.

But, and this is a big but, we get to make the meaning for all those incidents in our past.

This isn’t a moment of blame, or shame. This is a moment of realization. We never need to be beholden to our decisions from our past. We can always choose to “learn” a new lesson.

We are not fixed objects, set in stone. We don’t need to carry any burdens from the past.

As they step off that gondola, that’s the journey Judy and Nick embark on. The rest of the film we see them transform their lives when they set aside what they’ve “learned” in the past. They take ownership of their decisions, and, crucially, they take ownership of the outcomes of those decisions. They give up blame. They create a clearing. From that clearing, they get to choose, newly and freely.

Judy and Nick show us that we all share so much in common. They are beautifully alike. We are beautifully alike. We all have incidents in our past. We’ve all inadvertently trapped ourselves in decisions we weren’t aware we were making. Even from the same beginnings, we can travel vastly different paths. Yet, these paths are never set. Transformation is possible.

In this world we are all but a few decisions away from each other. Together, we can help each other walk back through those times, through those decisions, and see if they still apply. We can keep the choices that empower us and those around us, and we can set aside those that don’t to allow space for us to create something greater.

Just like Judy and Nick.


For earlier parts in this series on Zootopia:

Part 1Part 2Part 3Part 4