Philosophy Tuesday

Watching the spectacular return of the Crew Dragon capsule over the weekend, reminded me of a few things I love about the space program.

First is the amazing appreciative and acknowledgement culture that exists within NASA.  Back when the ISS was under construction and a friend and I would watch it happening live, we would often joke with each other to say, “they’re thanking each other again.”  And they do thank each other, often and in self-effacing ways, always claiming that the other team or partners “had the hard jobs” and “made our tasks easy.”  It’s really great.  I spoke about it here under the vastly different context of movie credits, but in a way it is the same thing:  Everyone in the program knows, deeply, that they are part of a larger whole and that it takes everyone in that whole putting in maximum effort to pull off a successful mission.  Space is hard™, and things can go awry very quickly (and often have, with visibly disastrous consequences).  And so they value everyone’s contribution and, even more so, celebrate the amazing thing they are accomplishing by working together in a collaborative fashion.  They remove the “but” out of a phrase like “I am but a…”, and instead recognize that their role, and everyone’s role, is vital.  They take no one for granted and they acknowledge it and each other with profuse thank yous.

Second is that within the various space programs a glorious blend of newness and traditions.  For certain, space is the new, with sci-fi rockets and slick technology and exploration to be had and discovery to be made and so much learning.  But the whole thing is also coupled with deep, and fun, traditions, whether they be wholly enclosed within the space program, such as a traditional pre-launch meal (or peeing on the wheel of the transport vehicle), to something with even deeper roots, such as the ringing of the bell at the docking or departing of a ship.  Neither the new nor the old is better than the other, nor is one less or more necessary, both from a technical as well as a human standpoint.  And it is just that – as humans, we can and are often at our greatest when we synthesize the two, bringing forth that which empowers us and others and leaving behind that which does not and causes harm.  We exist in multitudes, and this is one of them.

And lastly is that multitude, that of the international, global, and humanistic endeavour that is slipping the surly bonds of earth, to dance among the stars and the glory of the universe we inhabit on our tiny blue mote of dust.

Architecture Monday

This may be a hotel, but the concept is an intriguing one that could be applied to high rise buildings of all types:  a porous and verdant shell with several open-air plazas that step their way up the building to reach a green and inhabitable roof.

With the mix of red aluminum, blue waters, wood decks, and, of course, all the trees and plants, it’s a colourful and striking building.  The location of the plazas switch sides as the building rises, so that the indoor parts and the outdoor parts aren’t just stacked repetitively all the way up.  And while there aren’t any there now, I could easily envision some wind turbines in the crown that could generate at least some of the building’s own energy.

Nifty stuff.  The Oasia Hotel by WOHA

Philosophy Tuesday

There’s an additional side to the quasi-Shakespearian quote,

“Resentment is a fire that burns with more light than heat.”

And it’s an important side!  And a side we rarely think about or engage with, despite, perhaps paradoxically, the impact it has on us.  Sure, as we spoke about already, we can look at the quote through the lens of being productive and what leads to better outcomes.  But the other side of it is what smacks us in the face every day: our experience of life within.

Because resentment, bitterness, malice, harshness, nastiness… well, turns out being in those states is just not pleasant.  For sure, we may get that little charge that comes from being righteous*, but overall?  It’s not great.

And it can be very hard to notice that!  Just as we cease to notice how cold the lake is after we’ve been swimming in it for a few minutes, the lousy experience of the moments spent in resentment and spite and anger just becomes the water we’re swimming in when we do it more and more, day in and day out.

Doubly unfortunate is that, when this becomes the water level we float on, even great moments are dampened.  When our baseline is a 1 or a 2, even an amazing +4 event only registers as a 6.  And the reverse is worse, for a terrible -4 event really sends us into the negative doldrums.  And when things are the status quo?  Well, we and our experience float along at that not-all-that-pleasant-or-nice-feeling of a 1 or a 2.

That lowly experience becomes invisible to such a degree that when we are able to give up those harsh, automatic, already, always, consistent ways of being and begin breaking out of it/them for the first time, many (myself included!) describe the feeling in this manner: “Suddenly I felt good in a way I didn’t even know was missing.  Or that even existed.  Or that was even possible.”

Best of all, when we stop draining our lake with resentment et al, and as we begin to float along at a 7 or 8, those +4 events push us high into the lovely double digits.  And those terrible -4 moments?**  Amusingly they can’t even push us down to the level of our previous baseline.

When we bring mindfulness to our practice and give up (as in consciously, willingly, workingly, and ongoingly) our resentment and harshness, we gain access not only to a newfound effectiveness in what we authentically desire, but also to an enhanced experience of life where we can rise up, shine with vitality, experience joy, experience love and relatedness, soar high, and set forth with gusto.

 

* Something that, as a recovering righteousoholic, I am well familiar with…

** Which, nicely, with practice in mindfulness and equanimity, what used to be a -4 event may only register as a -2 event, further keeping our experience from crashing down.  Which, triply nicely, also allows us to be more effective in resolving it more quickly!

Architecture Monday

A little serenity for us all tonight, in the form of a Reflection pavilion on the TEC campus in Mexico.

No surprise, the building is a series of lovely, quiet, and calming spaces.  It harnesses both the play of light and water, while it’s big concrete form acts as a frame towards the landscape beyond.

Nice and sweet.  Breathe in, breathe out, and recentre.

Reflection Space TEC by Taller de Arquitectura X / Alberto Kalach

Architecture Monday

I’ve prided myself on being able to Tetris space really well… no matter if it’s packing a car or making the most of my living space.  However, I gotta say this small house really elevates the art of Tetrising to a whole new, delicious, level!

This tiny home is built in a hutong, a narrow alley between an existing wall and adjacent building.  And not only that, it’s wrapped around a corner.  But it’s no dark, awkward, and cramped hovel.  By leaving one edge continually open as a kind of atrium hallway – including making great use of the tall and curved wall it adjoins by painting finishing it white and running a continual skylight along its edge – and placing nearly all of the living spaces on the other side as a series of adaptable cubic follies, it’s got great flow, feeling airy and even expansive.

Varying in height and chock full of tiny living tricks, bits of these follies slide and shift to reconfigure the spaces as needed to accommodate various uses, providing plenty of communal day space that becomes more private as it shifts to sleepy time.  At one end, a large glass door and window is actually one giant unit that can swing completely open, making the back patio and the house into one.  Equally nifty is that the cubes are fully climbable, leading to spaces left dedicated to children play, study, and sleep areas.  It’s kind of like the ultimate bunk bed or tree house, but still inside.  (Fear not, the adults aren’t completely left out of the fun, for on the other side of the L, there’s also a mezzanine bedroom and office.)

(And seeing that bench brings me a smile, for I have one of those in my foyer as well!   Though sometimes it’s also used to practice kung fu… then again, for all I know, so is the one in the photo…)

I love this.  Really smart design that creates an awesome house in the most conventionally unlikely of places, showing that the boxes in our mind of what a house needs to be can be quickly expanded with some carefully packed yet playful boxes in a creative home.  Nicely done.

Dengshikou Huton Residence by BLUE Architecture Studio