Philosophy Tuesday

Floating along on our ongoing Soul Expedition, let’s talk about fish.*

It’s that moment when Joe attains all he ever wanted, after a killer performance, and he stands on the pedestal of all he’s ever envisioned… and… now what?

It’s important to get here that the movie isn’t saying that interests, or goals, or hopes and desires aren’t worth having, or that they’re foolish, or even that they’re bad.  What it is saying is what we’ve covered in the previous weeks about if/then statements, and about attachment, which can be summed up neatly in this way:

When we think that the achievement will solve our life.

Not that it won’t be amazing – it probably will!  But it won’t solve everything.  Because there’s no milestone in life when we “make it”.  As in, BAM!  We’re done and solved and forever good, we made it.  And even if it did, it’d be precarious, ready to fall apart at the next shifting circumstance.

Interestingly, this is one case where art imitates life, for this happened to the film’s composer, Trent Reznor, after his first big Nine Inch Nails concerts.  Which were great, and amazing, and then… he had to come back and do it all again.  Where he got that there were diminishing returns.

Again, it’s not that there’s anything wrong, or worthless, or that it feels rotten, or that things immediately cease to be fun or exciting or that we stop loving the thing we’re doing.  Reznor certainly loves it and keeps doing it!

And that’s it:  We can love it, remembering all the while that it will not, and is not, everything.

Joe’s disappointment after the big moment isn’t because it’s done, it’s because of his (unintentional, and impossible) expectation that wasn’t met.

The beauty for all of us in letting go of the if/then constructs and any attachments, and in returning ourselves to a state of being present, is that we can experience that love and joy unfettered, and ongoingly.

 

* Which is a reference to a story by Anthony de Mello, but also makes a nice side reference to David Foster Wallace’s amazing “This is Water” commencement address.

Philosophy Tuesday

Still on the Soul train, let’s speak today about attachment, the middle path, and the perils of obsession.

The peril of when we get so deep into it, so obsessed to it, so attached to it, such that we, counterintuitively, lose touch with ourselves and even that very thing which we love.  We become no longer connected to what makes us passionate, what lights us up.  We become, instead, entombed by it.

This is what happened to Anton Ego, the character from (another Pixar film) Ratatouille, where he became so subsumed by his “love” of food to the point where it became his identity.  And inside of that identity the very enjoyment of food was lost.

Soul makes this pretty explicit with the vast sea of Lost Souls, over which hovers the airs of those in the Zone.  In the zone is being passionate and free and excited and joyous and, importantly, hyper-present.*  But it can be a short journey down to the sea when we become attached to something – an outcome, a social result, a status symbol, the experience, a feeling – or to make it integral to our sense of who we are.

And in that sea, the joy, the freedom, the passion, all is washed away.  We still do the thing, but the attachment, again, counterintuitively, kaiboshes that which we want.

Let go of the attachment, and we can float up towards the Zone once more.**

And when we practice mindfulness and paddle down the middle path (river?), we both ease our entry into the zone while ensuring that we do not lose ourselves, either to flighty dispersion out of the Zone or into the swampy sea of attachment and Lost Souls.

 

* That is one of the most interesting facets of being in the zone, and also one of the more “surefire” ways of knowing that we were in the zone – time getting all warbly and losing the sense of time.  In those moments where I have been the most present, whether in wonder or creativity or even battling it out with foam weapons while being suspended from under the Thunderdome, it’s always been fascinating to resurface and realize that time felt very different, and even to not have complete memories of what happened.  Myself (as a being, as my authentic self, and not as my calculating self or identity), time, the universe, were all “one”.

** Of course, the film undercuts itself by going for the cheap joke of the day trader who, upon being reconnected, rebels and shoves everything off his desk, which isn’t necessarily wrong as it is cliché and thus, at least to me, renders it trite and thus diminishes the impact of what they were exploring and illustrating.

Philosophy Tuesday

Continuing our Soul journey, perhaps the most central theme and exploration of the film, the one that also drives all the other insights (including the If/When/Then construct from last week) available within, is its meditation on the simple beauty of being present.

And of the reminder that our life is happening now.  Not someday, not when we get that thing, not once we overcome that, nor if/when those milestones we put out in front of us happen (if they ever happen).  When our eyes are forever towards the horizon (or forever inward, or forever trying to win, or forever attached to being right), we can end up absent from our own life.

This is also not our practice life.  The starting line for when we can ‘really’ start living is not approaching us.  We’ve already crossed it.

It is happening, right now.  This is the experience of life.  This is what it is like.  This is what it is filled with.  We’re already there.

To quote the title of a book by Buddhist monk Jack Kornfield: “After the Ecstasy, the Laundry.”  Life is life, and it keeps on life-ing.

Equally important is what we bring to it.  Yes, this is the experience of life, but experience itself doesn’t spring fully formed, whole cloth, from the ethers of reality.  It does not impose itself on us.  There is no fixedness to it.  We get to create.  We get to drive who we are being, and who we are being shifts what and how we experience.

Which includes experiencing wonder, peace, happiness, fulfillment, joy, fun, amazement, contentment, love, appreciation, and more.  And sadness and pain and more, for sure.  But those are not to be shunned or considered bad; they can be some of the most healing and honouring ways of being.  And through that whole range of experiences, we are fully alive.

No surprise that it is very much like Jazz (and, thus, Jazzing).  There’s no beginning, no end, and we play with what comes towards us, weaving it into our lives.  And as a bonus, being present always frees us to be our most creative, to be a grander artist. *

This is what Joe gets during his epiphany (with the beautiful music to go with it).  All these moments he wasn’t present for, all these moments he’d buried under his obsession of “how it had to be” or “when it would turn out.”  There’s nowhere to get to, and nothing to get.  There is now.  And now.  And now.

And at the end, it’s great to note that Joe doesn’t say he’s going to enjoy every minute of his life… but that he’s going to LIVE every moment of it.  Big difference.

We don’t listen to a song just for the ending.  We’re in it all the way, in every moment, for every note, for every rise and fall, enjoying the journey to its fullest, all until the next song starts.

 

* Both in creating our lives, but also in any artistic/creative/imaginative endeavour.  When we lock ourselves up in ‘gotta’ and ‘haveta’ and ego and significance and etc that puts the biggest crimp in our creative flow.

Architecture Monday

Huh.  There’s something about this new condo tower proposal for Toronto that piques my interest.  Skyscrapers are an interesting lot – they’re so tall and big that we begin to view them more of an object (akin to a chess piece on a table) than we do of other buildings.  And so their design language tens to be different.  Which also means things that may not work at other scales work for them.

I can’t put my finger on it, but something about the squishy lattice work here works for me.  It manages to be a bit sculptural and even a bit ephemeral, the thick grid making it almost seem like it could be hollow inside.  And with the subtle indentations and the flare at the top, it also kinda does look like some fancy contemporary chess set piece (which I, at least consciously, wasn’t noticing when I made the analogy above).  I wonder what it would be… the bishop, probably?

One thing know I’m keen on are what appear to be double-height terraces or winter gardens both at the swoopy bit when the building narrows as well as the squishy ring near the top.  More greenery is almost always great.

Overall, I think it’s a solid design.  As it’s been submitted for planning approval, if you want to see the plans you can gander at them here.

The 55 Yonge project by BDP Quadrangle & Partisans Architecture (who, interestingly, did this sauna I wrote about some months back!).