Philosophy Tuesday

I’ve spoken a bunch on this blog about our identity/identities.  No surprise – it’s perhaps the most fundamental way we understand and interact with ourselves, and, as such, perhaps the most fundamental way we interact with and understand the world (through the filter of how it relates to us).  The three-part series that starts here is the big primer on our “identity of identities”, but later posts cover even more facets, including this one on the benefit of diversifying our identity/identities as well as this highly important bit about how our brains cannot tell the difference between an attack on our body or an attack on our identity.

All of which means that what we incorporate into our identities is vital, lest we lash ourselves to a narrow set of views and options (often leading to unproductive results) or lest we lash out in all sorts of deleterious ways when they are threatened (leading to further unproductivity).

But one thing I hadn’t really done before is to consider that there might be differences between the ‘intensity’ of our identities.  That is to say, I have been treating all of the identities we have as equal in their enforced rigidity as well as in their fervency.  But that doesn’t exactly fit with my lived experience, nor with the philosophical concepts of the gradient and the middle path.

And so, perhaps it’d be good to introduce into this mix the idea of “tiered” identities, where our Tier 1 identities are the most intense identities that govern our behaviour the most rigidly and to which our calculating self reacts the most ferociously if it feels threatened.  Tier 2 identities are less so, Tier 3 even less so, and our Tier 4 identities are, in many ways, only tenuously an identity and mostly are of the ‘for fun’ type relating to a casual hobby or interest.*

By looking at and recognizing our identities within this framework of Tiers allows us, for starters, to focus our mindfulness on those of the higher Tiers, as those are the ones most likely to lead us astray.**  It also opens flexibility, reminding us that we are always at choice and even something like our identity is malleable.  And it lets us have more fun!  We needn’t, even accidentally, tamp down our lower Tier identities for concern that they may run amok.*** We can be playful with them and let them lead us to be playful with others as well.

I’m intrigued to see what opens up for me as I begin to explore this more.  If you were to list your identities, what would you say they are, and, of those, what Tier would you assign to each?


* For sure, your hobbies or interests very much CAN be a higher Tier identity – for some it is their LIFE and they’ll twist everything in their lives for it and will react very harshly to anything that threatens it, whether external (someone speaks ill of it) or, perhaps, internal (an injury that removes their capacity to do it well or altogether).

** And when, by being present and mindful, we can notice that the default, already, always ways of being that live within those identities crop up in situations where they would not be productive and thus interrupt them before they cause undesired outcomes.  Remembering that our identities are a creation, we can set them aside and be another way or engage another more appropriate identity here.  (And, if it happens often enough, swap out that identity entirely).

*** Again, not to say they won’t or can’t run amok, but the chance is lower, and realizing they’re of lower intensity also has us realize they’re easier to interrupt and redirect ourselves before they go too far.

Architecture Monday

What I love most about this new theatre building is its continuous use of a particular material, but in two forms.  Ok, that’s a bit of a word play, for a good chunk of the building is made from board formed concrete.  As the name implies, this is where planks of wood are used as the formwork for concrete, and the resulting surface of the concrete inherits the rich impression of these planks of wood.  In other words, it looks like wood planks, only in concrete.

And this building uses it everywhere.  The walls, the floors, the angular bits of the stairs, the rough and irregular texture permeates throughout.  Sometimes it’s left as is, while sometimes it’s been stained slightly black to bring out further richness. Something about this really works for me in the theatre context.

Even better is when they pair it with actual wood planks (the second form I was alluding to above), giving this wonderful play between them where there is a continuation of texture yet still a difference in colour and feel.

A couple of simple materials deployed in multiple ways, I dig it!

Theatre Squared by Marvel (who also did the St. Ann’s Warehouse Theatre that I blogged about about here!)

Wonder Wednesday

Also a bit of… Washroom Wednesday?  For this is an art project that is placed at the entrance to the new gender neutral bathrooms at my alma mater, the School of Architecture at Carleton University.  I can still picture that washroom entrance, though not surprisingly a bit different in my memory as they were separated washrooms when I attended.  But even then there was a relatively prominent concrete block wall as you chose which direction to go, and with this remodel it became all that more pronounced.  What better canvas for new art?

Watching the above time lapse is neat, and I do like the resulting art!  I find it very fitting for the building and the study therein. It’s not all that unlike a quilt, with panels being personal affairs (the panels were made by different artists) and range in medium, methods, and meaning.  From architectural molding to the tools of the trade (one made of pencil points that looks kinda… dangerous?) to carved plaster plans to interpretations of the environment to a drawer pull and beyond, it’s quite a rich tapestry.  Nicely, there are also numerous filler panels so that the art can evolve and grow in the coming years.

Very neat!  Check out the story and more pictures of the work here.

Philosophy Tuesday

“This morning, I’m thinking about this Wallace Stevens poem that begins, “Twenty men crossing a bridge into a village is twenty men crossing twenty bridges into twenty villages. The bridge is different to each of us, as is the village beyond.” I guess I’m thinking about this poem because I’m remembering a walk I took ten years ago with my friend Esther [across a bridge].

The bridge had a grated floor so that you could see through to the teeming river below and I’ve never been super enthusiastic about heights or, for that matter, bridges, and Esther, whose empathy dials were always turned up to 11, noticed there was something wrong. She told me that we were almost across the bridge and that I could take over pushing her wheelchair if I wanted something to hang on to. She knew my bridge was different from hers.

And so, the true observation is never ‘this bridge is terrifying’, instead, the only thing you can say with any certainty is ‘my bridge is terrifying, how ’bout yours?’

And then, this is real trick of living on a planet that contains many other human souls that are as valuable and multitudinous as your own, you must find a way to really listen to this other person’s answer and to believe in their experience as fully as we believe in our own.”

— John Green

(Ah, this whole piece is powerful and a delight all at the same time! If you have four minutes go hand have a watch/listen… It takes the idea of the river, of the cathedral, and even a bit on how every person you encounter meets a different you, and blends them all together into an uplifting call for empathy, not only for others, but for ourselves as well.  Is my bridge terrifying?  Do I feel as though it shouldn’t, and, more over, that I’m re bad for it feeling that way?  How fascinating!  I can let that be, for that is where I am right now.  And if it isn’t some place I want to be, I can forgo what’s wrong and look for what’s missing.  I can reach out and hold onto something and begin the work of transformation and possibility from there.)

Architecture Monday

Check out this pretty glorious example of midcentury modern design, in the form of a church in Toronto.  Slightly expressive, and slightly reserved, it’s a neat exercise in form, contrast, colour, and light.

Sadly, I could only find a couple of images of the inside, but they do tell most of the story of how the two parabolic sets of gluelam beams soar upwards yet don’t meet, leaving a gap for a band of windows that lets light filter down the wall in a soft gradient of light.  A similar shift of planes happens at the altar end of the church, bathing the back wall in a similar light with the potential to cast a dramatic shadow of the cross (which also reminds me of Tadao Ando’s Chapel on Mount Rokko done nearly 30 years later).  At the same time, the opposite sides of the nave and the apse are punctuated by small coloured windows.

There’s so much nifty stuff going on here, starting with the light play above which is further enhanced by having the taller lit parabola be white to catch the light, while the other side is a darker wood to accentuate the colourful piercings.  On that same side we have an aisle of sorts, formed between the space of the gluelam and the outside wall with a zig-zag ceiling that becomes a brow both inside and out, while outside, that same wall faces the street and is clad in a richly toned quarried stone.  And while the pipe organ seems to be a more recent addition, but hovers like a pair of sails that mimic the rising paraboloids.

What’s also cool is that the architecture firm who designed this also designed some very iconic and long-lasting urban icons, including Ontario Place (whose pods fascinated me as a kid), Canada Place, and the Eaton’s Centre!  (And the equally nifty Parkwoods Church nearby in North York.)  I’d never realized they were all done by the same firm… that’s some serious design chops.

Unfortunately, this church is currently up for sale and its days may well be numbered, very likely to be replaced with some banal cookie-cutter subdivision homes.  But if you’ve got $7m Canadian you could take this and turn it into some pretty sweet digs for yourself!

West Ellesmere United Church by Zeidler Partnership.

Wonder Wednesday

Here’s an amazing and quite detailed tour of the International Space Station, visiting every module from tip to tip to tip to tip!  Plus some great views out the various portholes and windows… and all in French!  (With English subtitles too!)

Crew-2 returned just a few days ago (with the video’s host, Thomas Pesquet aboard) and Crew-3 has just departed a few hours ago on their way to the ISS.  Busy week in the lovely gem of the ISS!

Philosophy Tuesday

This one’s a two-shot tonight, the first is a little quote I came across recently:

“Victory doesn’t always mean you get what you want.

Victory sometimes is just making progress.”


Which can tie nicely into:

“Don’t let perfect,

Be the enemy of good.”


But the real part two of this post is arises from personal experience:

“When you imagine success only as a particular and singular outcome,

(Even more-so when you plan each successive stage to accomplishing it!)

Then you have one single path to victory

And a million paths to be unsuccessful.”


Which is totally something I have done and will still do when I’m not mindful about it.  It’s also a place where both my vivid imagination and integrative training can lead me astray, for I can picture an outcome, see how different facets might affect it, refine and aggrandize it in a cycle, all until I’ve visualized a totally lofty success!  Even better, I can walk through all the steps to get there until I’ve got a Plan(tm).

But, alas, turns out I’m not actually omniscient.  Not only are there multiple paths to get there, but there exists many outcomes that could be as good, or perhaps even better, than what I’d projected.  Which is great!  But with that vivid image and path I’d created, tunnel vision can quickly lead me to not being present, not seeing opportunities, and therefore avoiding any of those better paths that could lead to a victory.

The grand vision tunnel has another downside:  even if it ended well, if it didn’t turn out exactly like I thought it should then it can still feel like a letdown or failure.

Leaving behind the metaphor of branching paths we come, of course, to the one of a middle path existing here, a middle path that does indeed have a destination in mind and a route and plan to get there, but one that firmly remains as a and in the realm of a possibility (an intention of which there are multitudes of ways that could be satisfied) while also remaining present and able to flow and adjust to what comes along.

Traveling forward in that way, rather than a 1:10000 ratio of win:nope the odds become much more favorable, and any undesired end never seems as final.

Architecture Monday

Now this is one heck of a design constraint!  A super narrow and super long trapezoidal lot in Tokyo, that is further constrained by setbacks from the property lines. Nothing like that kind of limitation to get the creative juices flowing, and the resulting lantern of a house is one nifty solution.

It’s cool enough on the outside, but to really get what’s going on within I find a section through the building tells the story the best:

The big move is to place most of the living spaces underground where the setback didn’t apply, thus maximizing the available width (still only about 10’ wide!).  A long and linear (ok, natch, how could it be anything but long and linear on this property?) kitchen occupies the middle of the basement, with a living room up front and the washroom in back.  Upstairs is the bedroom with (again) a linear hallway leading to the back door. What makes this all work, however, is that the building skin is made of translucent panels, and the floors above are of metal mesh, allowing light to suffuse and penetrate all the way down to the basement living areas.

Unfortunately, I can’t find any photos looking towards the living room or the bedroom area, which is too bad as those are likely some of the most powerful places within the house.  But the experience of being in this luminous cathedral-ceiling like house has got to be pretty neat no matter where you are.

I love it, a great example of taking something that seems unusable and turning it into something of wonder.  Great work.

Lucky Drops by Atelier Tekuto