It’d be easy…

…and it is all to easy at times like this to throw up my hands and say “Aw screw it.  Everything’s a mess.  You are all jerks and other unkind words.  I’m going to hate and denigrate and smear you, and everyone who looks/talks/smells/reminds me of/is vaguely like you.”

“Oh, and for good measure, I’m going to think violence towards you.”

I am saddened right now.  It is, by contrast, never easy, these moments.  Never easy when I find out, when in the midst of an otherwise, completely ordinary, mundane, day, one filled with work and tasks and moments of joy, to be smacked in the face with something horrible, heinous, tragic.  When things go silent with a thud.  What am I supposed to feel?  To think?  To do?  What to make of it?

How can I live in possibility when… THIS?

In those moments, I know that I need to choose what I’m going to make of it.

Otherwise that easy option may sneak in there and cement itself.  And that’s not who I want to be.

Because I know that it is limited and reductive and one-sided.

Because I know that it ignores the broad context and history.

Because I know that I am not omniscient.

Because I know that ultimately it will not work to create what I want.

I sit there, and I watch, and I read, and I try to process what happened.  And I feel conflicted.  And my feelings ping pong all over.  And I want, oh so desperately want, to find that one, single thing, that one certainty that will fix it all.

But I know there’s no one thing.  And I know that there’s no solace in righteous fire — there’s only fire, and more fire, there.  Indiscriminate, spreading, ever consuming, fire.

And so I sit and gaze and breathe and open up empathy and open up the channels for complexity and I know that there’s history there that I can only scratch the surface of and I remind myself that bogeymen don’t just jump out of the closet with knives for no reason.   That there’s work to do.

And that even then there are few bogeymen, and nearly most people are friendly and welcoming and neighborly.

And that fundamentally, we are all the same.  We all want to be happy, secure, fulfilled, loved, loving, making a difference, and living large.  We really just want to dance together.

With that, I can walk back out into the world.

Philosophy Tuesday

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

When we talk about how we (we as in “all humans everywhere forever”) have our views, or biases, or our identities, we’re really talking about those things only in an abstract way.  It’s an intellectual model, a mental image or construct about those views, biases, and identities.

Which is all very useful, good knowledge to have.  But knowledge doesn’t always (and often even rarely) automatically make a difference.   Especially here.  Because that’s not how we actually live life.  We don’t live from these constructs.  Instead, we live an experiential life.  We experience and are experiencing life continually, ongoing, moment, by moment, by moment, by moment.

It’s immediate.  It’s right now.  It’s urgent.

We don’t experience things as views, or biases, or identities.   What we experience is reality, the truth.  It’s how things ARE, it’s how others ARE, it’s how I AM.  It’s not a concept, or a view, it just IS.

Clear as day.

We don’t notice how our filters have, well, filtered the input before it hits our consciousness/experience.  We don’t see the role our identity has played.  The distortion field from our views and biases have already happened before we live it.  And so we just live it, and act and react accordingly.

It’s really no different than gravity.  We expect gravity to work a certain way, in fact, we do thousands of motions each day that depends on the 100% predictable reactions of gravity.  The way we walk, move objects, hold ourselves, throw things, put things down, all are part of that bias and view that says “This is how the universe works.”

And it’s pretty darn accurate and reproducible here on earth.  But go to the ISS, and that model gets quite shattered.

How we experience it is also really no different than balance.  In that we don’t really experience it at all.  When we get up to walk, we just walk.  We don’t experience being in balance, we just are in balance.  The concept of balance, or the knowledge of balance, or the idea of balance isn’t anywhere in our minds or thoughts or consciousness.   No, this is just how the world is, and this is what I can do, and these are the limits, so boom, across the room I go all in line with reality, and with only a shadow of the full experience of all the activities and machinations that go on to give me balance and locomotion.

It’s quite automatic.  So too it is with the rest of our actions and behaviour.   Everything that we know and that our brain has mapped and extrapolated and intuited and patterned and cross-linked is no different than how it has mapped gravity, and how we react to that knowledge/reality without experiencing it is no different than how we balance when we walk across the room.

Of course, we CAN experience balance, or lack thereof.  Step on a narrow ledge, and I’ll bet you’ll become keenly aware of balance.  And if we let ourselves and pay attention as we walk across the room, we can notice a lot more going on than we normally do.

That’s why we make those distinctions of views, of bias, of identity.  To be able to talk about them as aspects of our personal models for reality, that all-encompassing reality that includes the “truths” about everything from proper social interactions, to how people of certain ethnicities are, to what each gender is good at, to what colours are associated with boys or girls.

Things that are, in reality, a lot more mutable and changeable than how gravity works (without needing an expensive trip to the ISS).

Just because we don’t experience our bias or identity doesn’t mean it’s not at play.  In fact, the less we notice it, or discount it, the more at its effect we are.  Pulling back, examining, and using the distinctions is invaluable so that we can see them and learn to lessen the grip of those biases.  We can even replace them with biases that are much more empowering to us and the world.

And by cultivating mindfulness and learning to be present, we can, just like our sensitivity to balance, learn to feel and ultimately interrupt when our biases, views, and identities get in the way of us behaving and being the way we actually want to be.

Fundamentally we like to think we’re in the driver’s seat in our lives.  If our biases, views, and identities are running the show behind our backs, well, phooey.  We’ve lost control.  But if we practice, examine, cultivate, and grow, we’ve got 400 horsepower at our fingertips baby.  We can aim ourselves and create the world we truly authentically want for us all.

Architecture Monday

Alas, we will have to do without background narration from Sigourney Weaver, but with Finding Dory in the theatres let’s visit the inspiration for the movie’s setting, the Monterey Bay Aquarium, designed by EHDD.

I’ve visited the aquarium a number of times*, and have always appreciated the building.  The exhibits, of course, are the big draw, and they are stunning and great technical achievements, but the rugged and simple building itself is an understated beauty.

Two things strike you as you enter into the building.  The first is the boilers, remnants of the cannery that forms the heart of the complex.  Starting with this moment of adaptive reuse, the old and weathered brick is inviting and sets the stage for the technical systems and shed-like structures that carries through the rest of the buildings.  Thematically, it also sets a counterpoint to the history of the region and the mission of the aquarium, as well as historical marker of our relationship to the sea.

the smokestack and the building in front are the bits of the original cannery adaptively reused
the entrance

The second is the view.  Directly opposite the entrance are great windows that open out to the bay beyond, with the aquarium’s great tide pool in the foreground.  This is an institute dedicated to the sea and our love and understanding and protection of it, and that’s on view and on display right as you enter.  The soaring space of the lobby, with the big boilers and skylights above, pulls attention and the view outward and onward.

the boilers and the view up, out, and beyond

It is most definitively not an introverted building, though it could easily have been one given all the special tanks and displays and activities.  But at every turn the building reconnects you to the outside and to the bay beyond.

It’s a great building that supports a great set of exhibits.  And it’s in the spotlight not only in Finding Dory but also winning this year’s AIA’s 25 Year Award.

If you’ve never been, it’s worth a visit for all the reasons.


* If you’re asking why I don’t have any of my own pictures to share of the building, well, each time I visit, somehow, the only pictures I take are of the otters… the wonderful, playful, cute, sleek, fun, otters…

Art Assignment Incoming!

We held another Art Assignment meetup at Vidcon this year!  The assignment we chose was was Lost Childhood Object:

And here was the description I was given: “A fragile red mask of clay that I took to Kindergarten for show and tell in order to talk about The Phantom of the Opera. The mask had an elastic band stapled to the back, which quickly fell off.”

And here’s the object I made!

z - art assignment lost childhood object

For me, the assignment ended up being quite moving, with the sharing of something personal, the time and effort and care of making, the gifting, and the reconnection with that something of personal meaning.  For both participants.  All we have to give in our lives is time, and for someone to generously give their time (and to do likewise) to create something that connects to you is really special.

A really wonderful assignment.

In addition, I hadn’t t worked with clay in ages, it was both fun and a challenge to re-acquaint myself with the material and how to work with it.  My hands got rightly messy.

Excitingly, the host of the Art Assignment, Sarah Urist Green, was able to make it to our meetup in the morning and watched us exchange our objects.  And, delightfully, she and her crew made an episode all about it!

Really great to get together with everyone!  And thank you Sarah & co for the wonderful channel and assignments and for getting together with us at the con.  Looking forward to next year.

Dancing with Matt!

A wonderful morning dancing with Matt from the Where the Heck is Matt videos!

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Yuebo, Matt, and Me!

This was part of his tour for his upcoming video that I supported via his Kickstarter earlier this year.  So excited.  I love Matt’s videos, they are both purely delightful (I dare anyone to watch them and not smile) and they are a powerful, wonderful, reminder of who we as humans really are and what we really want — we just want to be happy and dance together.  Something we really need right now.  If you’ve never watched the vids, I totally recommend them.

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Philosophy Tuesday

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

I’ve become wary of the phrase “common sense.”

It’s become a rather fashionable expression of late, commonly and growingly attached to various statements, policy suggestions, moral proclamations, and worldviews.

“We should do this,” they may say, “it’s the common sense thing to do.”

“Common sense tells us that this is the truth,” is another.


The thing is, common sense rarely is.

What is, or isn’t, “common sense” is just as much an assertion as whatever’s being proclaimed.

Using the axiom of “common sense” is just trying to lay claim to authority:  “Us, normal people, who are legion in number, think this, therefore it must be accurate.”

But are the numbers really legion?

And even so, does popularity guarantee being accurate?

What’s even normal?  Or normal people?

“Common sense” is an attempt to bring inviolable weight and righteousness* to the declaration.

But it’s a false weight.  A fallacy.

It may not be common, and it may not be sensical.

And so I have begun, and I recommend, taking “common sense” as a red flag, a signal to examine the claim(s) far more carefully, in a very “citation needed” kind of way.

To look beyond the veil and see what’s really going on.


* Which is a thing that is a whole other post in of itself…

Architecture Monday

There’s a lot I like about this little writing studio tucked nonchalantly into a residential neighbourhood in New York.

For starters, the understated front face  possesses a nice jolt of whimsy that meshes well with its traditional neighbours, the soft windows and white walls presenting a playful face.  There’s also some subtle proportioning, with the garage door and windows both offset from the centre line.

The simple face also hides the magic happening within.  Inside, a curving form – the third floor! – dips down onto the second floor volume, intersecting with a wall of books that itself is interspersed with small windows.    A larger window opening to the rear lets in daylight that is scattered by that curving form, a uniform glow perfect for writing or reading.  If that wasn’t relaxing enough… there’s a tub to soak in by that window.

In contrast, the third floor, with its curving floor, is closed mostly to the outside, more secluded and quiet with only small windows to bring in specific points of light.

This is playful architecture, a complex inside only hinted at from the outside, a play of forms, and a great little addition to the existing house that compliments without being a copy.

The Haffenden House by PARA.