Wonder Wednesday

I always loved the back of the Canadian 5 dollar bill from the “Birds of Canada” series of bills.  Something about the light blue colour and the stillness of the scene really did it for me.  A restaurant I used to visit in Ottawa even had a giant version reproduced on the wall.

But… somehow… I never knew of the practice of Spocking the bills!  A few choice scribbles turns Sir Wilfred Laurier into the famous Vulcan:

Which continued in the next version of the bill:

I knew even less that some slightly different scribbles could turn him into Snape:

Who knew that Laurier was so versatile in his acting roles?

(Apparently, alas, his rendition on the latest series of bills is such that he isn’t so easily disguised anymore…)

Check out more on the Canadian bank notes at this link here.

Philosophy Tuesday

Often, when there’s something in our lives that isn’t working, or isn’t working as well as we like it to – including our own behaviour and patterns – we try to dig deep and look for the why.  We look for what is it that has it be this way, or has me be this way?

And that can be valuable!  Especially if we’ve gotten some lessons or coaching or experience into the deep workings of who we are (hint: until we’ve done this work, it’s rarely at all what we think it is).  But often figuring out the what or the why doesn’t produce the results we want it to.  We have an explanation, but it doesn’t help us in the moment to cease or alter it.  It’s like that thing about how knowing how to lose weight and actually losing weight are two very different things.

But a more fruitful path is often to forgo the why and instead look at what is keeping it in place?  What are we getting from it being this way such that we, surreptitiously, derail ourselves?  What are we actually committed to, no matter what we may profess?

Put another way, what’s the payoff?

Given we keep doing what we are doing even when we say we don’t want to or don’t like the result, there’s gotta be something we’re getting out of it, something we’ve become, in a way, addicted to.  Almost always there’s a lot of juice there.  One of the most prime payoffs is simply that we get to be right.  Oh do we ever get such a rush from being right!*  And that same kind of rush follows into many other things that often are our payoffs:  validating ourselves, dominating others or controlling the situation, gain some sort of position or perceived advantage, or just plain old we get to, in our minds, win.

And so even if what we are doing is unproductive in 98% of all other areas, we get stuck.  Because, just like the rats who will cross electric fields and ignore food to get that pellet of cocaine, we so want that payoff.

When we get present to the payoff we get to see the groove that has been keeping us hemmed in and, even if we’ve been saying we’re trying to turn the wheel, guiding us down those unproductive paths.  And now that we see it, we gain access to making a choice.  For as charged as the payoff may be, it’s usually cheap, shallow, and unfulfilling, gone in a flash and leaving us with our mess.

We can give up that shoddy payoff to gain freedom, possibility, and results that our authentic self truly desires.

 

* Which makes sense in many ways.  To our survival-based calculating self, Being right = not being eaten by a tiger.  So we get a neurological reward for being right.

Architecture Monday

Though it’s a brutalist icon, and despite my love of libraries, I’ve never visited the inside of the Robarts Library on the campus of the University of Toronto.  But after seeing these photos of the Thomas Fisher Rare Book wing, I really gotta!

There’s a lot of goodness going on here, from the strong hexagonal patterns (reminds me a bit of the National Art Centre), the cathedral like nave of books, the intricate play of multiple levels, the clerestory window coupled with the ginormous hanging lantern, all enhanced by the rich tones of the wood paneling, the books, and the red carpet underpinning it all.  Killer work.

The Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library by Mathers and Haldenby Architects.

Philosophy Tuesday

“Aside from the animals, there are nearly a thousand abstract signs and shapes we cannot interpret and also several negative hand stencils, as they are known by art historians. These are the paintings that most interest me. They were created by pressing one hand with fingers splayed against the wall of the cave and then blowing pigment, leaving the area around the hand painted. Similar hand stencils have been found in caves around the world from Indonesia to Spain to Australia to the Americas to Africa. We have found these memories of hands from 15,000 or 30,000, or even 40,000 years ago.

These hand stencils remind us of how different life was in the distant past. Amputations, likely from frostbite, are common in Europe and so you often see negative hand stencils with three or four fingers. And life was short and difficult. As many as a quarter of women died in childbirth. Around 50% of children died before the age of five.

But they also remind us that the humans of the past were as human as we are, their hands indistinguishable from ours. These communities hunted and gathered and there were no large caloric surpluses so every healthy person would’ve had to contribute to the acquisition of food and water.

And yet somehow, they still made time to create art, almost as if art isn’t optional for humans.”

John Green

(from this episode of his great podcast The Anthropocene Reviewed)

(which was animated into this amazing video by Kurzgesagt)

Architecture Monday

In the midst of all the ongoing tumult and turmoil, a little ride among the trees to re-centre seems like a grand idea to recenter ourselves.  So how about riding up into the treetops?

Very possible with this delightful little idea.  A continuous circular path that guides one up to a rarely experienced lofty vantage point among the upper boughs before gently guiding us back down and back on our way.  All made out of slender weathering steel that seeks to fade inconspicuously into the surroundings.

Lovely.  Cycling Through the Trees by Burolandschap

Architecture Monday

This little folly deliciously straddles the line between sculpture and architecture.  Situated atop a hill, it’s a meditative spot from which to gaze out over the picturesque valley while also being a fun little object to observe from everywhere else.

And that’s pretty much it (in a good way)!  A simple splaying concrete base into which is integrated a wood lounging bench, capped by two bent sheets of weathering metal that rise from the open embrace of the bench to form a kind of open tent.  Though the metal panels are quite thick and rigid, their scale and the random deformations make them look delicate.  It’s not a design that dominates, accentuating the hillside in both directions.

I dig it.  Nice little piece of work.

Sonnenklang Installation by Christoph Hesse Architects.