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Category: Artful Dodging

making, mindsets and strategies that foster creativity

PICK YOUR GAME (Another IPS)

PICK YOUR GAME (Another IPS)

ANOTHER IPS (Inner Peace Symptom):  An understanding that Life is an opportunity to play.  [What you play (and how and why and when you move) often makes for a lot of difference in the results you get.]

Playing and helping other people play is my greatest “happy.”

I still think that one of the best things I ever did was to choose to look at all of the different aspects of Life-Its-Own-Self as play.

The possibilities inherent in that one excite me.   It sure does keep things cheerful in my world.

DEFINING THE GAME THAT IS LIFE

More than 15-some years ago, I stumbled across a book, FINITE AND INFINITE GAMES:  A Vision of Life as Play and Possibility by James P. Carse.

By that time the book was already old news.  It had been published in 1986.

It’s one of those books that you either love or you hate.

I mean, what do you do with a book that starts out with, “There are at least two kinds of games.  One could be called finite, the other, infinite.  A finite game is played for the purpose of winning, an infinite game for the purpose of continuing the play.

It goes on from there, with concept after concept piled up on top of contradictory concept, simultaneously building up and out and in and down towards the final comment (number 101) on the last page of this slim book, “There is but one infinite game.”

The book contains no actionable steps, no five- or ten- or twelve-step programs…or any steps at all.

There are no exercises, no tips, no shortcut life-hacks.

All it has going for it are musings about life and the ways you can play in it by a guy who is a certified deep thinker who thinks big thoughts.

Carse was Professor of Religion at New York University when he wrote the book.  At the time, he had won the University’s “Great Teacher Award.”  He retired in 1996 after thirty years of teaching religion and as head of the department at the University.

Carse wrote other books as well — such scintillating things as DEATH AND EXISTENCE:  A Conceptual History of Human Mortality, BREAKFAST AT THE VICTORY:  The Mysticism of Ordinary Experience, and THE SILENCE OF GOD:  Meditations on Prayer and several others.  Wo!

(I never did feel the urge to explore the guy’s other books so I can’t tell you much about them.)

You’ll find a lot of great takeaways in Carse’s “Game” book (if you happen to be the sort who gets stuck in head-games and are way into thinking about life and meaning and mana).  It’s one of those books that makes you nod and go yes, yes, yes.

The book is a deep dive into the patterns and templates you can look for as you construct your own life-story.

kaleidoscope
“Kaleidoscope” by Nigel Wade via Flickr [CC BY-SA 2.0]
It is a reminder that, at any given time, you are intimately involved in a grand and timeless game and it is you who gets to decide whether you will play the thing as a Finite game or as part of the Infinite one.

THIS THING’S A PLAY-BOOK….

Carse describes the ways of playing used in each kind of game and he delineates the underlying patterns of them as well.  It is a bit like a play-book for Life, I think.

He points out the differences in the moves that players in either game – Finite or Infinite – make and what the results of that way of moving is likely to be.

Carse does tell some good stories along the way.

It is a fascinating study, especially if, like me, you are prone to trying to figure out which of the two basic games the other people wandering through your life have chosen to play.

The thing the book is really good at is helping you to focus on whether you are choosing to play in a Finite game or the Infinite game your own self, and it helps you figure out which moves you need to consider making.

strategy
“Strategy” by tylerhoff via Flickr [CC BY-2.0]
Through the years, Carse’s FINITE AND INFINITE GAMES has been the one constant book that sits on my writing desk among a number of changing titles that I have used to help to nudge my thinking in varied and sometimes helpful directions.

It has often been a starting point when I sit down to examine and consider yet another confusing tangled mess that I’ve somehow either wandered into or precipitated as a result of general dumbness.

The book has been most useful at helping me to suss out the options and directions that possess some modicum of grace from the many possible moves that I could take.

highways-crossing
“Highways Crossing” by Michael Theis via Flickr [CC BY-ND 2.0]
I confess that I do prefer to be an Infinite Game player.  I especially like the goal of continuing the play.

I am not particularly fond of “winning.”  (Winning usually means the game stops, and then I just have to go find some other game and start all over again.  Pfui!)

However, I also know that often it is necessary to play in the assorted Finite games that occur within the Infinite one because sometimes that’s the only way to get to a place where you can either continue to help keep the play going or expand it in all kinds of more interesting directions.

(For me, the bonus has always been getting some pretty good poems.)

NOT FOR EVERYBODY

I suppose I do also have to point out that if you are not interested in constructing your own life-story or if you are determined to win (or at least not lose) at whatever game you are playing then you will probably find the book a bore.

You’ve already plunked on playing some Finite game or other. You know your playing field.  You’ve got the rules down.  Your goal is to win the game and that is that.  (Good fortune go with you.  See ya!)

If you have not had practice contemplating paradoxes and playing around with metaphors and analogies and do not see the value of that sort of play, the book will not resonate with you.

It’ll join the pile of other woo-woo nonsense and romantic novels in the used book sale down the street.

karims-used-books
“Karim’s Used Books Nehru Place – Delhi” by Alan Morgan [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
If standing in uncertainty gives you the heebie-jeebies, then the thoughts and constructs contained in the book will seem like a major pile of high-browed hoo-hah.

If you have very strong ideas about how the world works that allow no room for wiggling, then it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to unlock the wonders the book contains.

Instead, you will declare that the assumptions you’ve adopted about the world you see are the only truths for you and you will confidently move forward along the paths they dictate.

And that can be a good thing too.

WHAT THE BOOK IS GOOD FOR

Carse’s book is a magnificent example of a thing that psychiatrist Albert Rothenberg, a noted researcher on the creative process, calls “Janusian thinking.”

The online Wiktionary says the phrase is an adjective that means, “having or relating to the ability to conceive and use multiple antithetical or opposite thoughts simultaneously.”

Rothenberg named it after the Roman god of thresholds and transitions, Janus.  Janus is typically depicted as a guy with two faces each facing in the opposite direction.

Not only does Janus have eyes in the back of his head, he’s got a whole other face.

janus
“Janus” by Mike Scoltock via Flickr [BY-NC 2.0]
Janusian thinking is what you do when you grab two or more contradictory ideas and hold them together in your mind until they stop fighting and start playing nice together.

What you try to do while the ideas are in there duking it out is to look at the captive concepts deeply enough so that you can come up with a third idea that will allow you to unlock the strengths and energies contained in those ideas and combine them in new and novel ways.

Talking about Janusian thinking is not easy, mostly because it is so foundational that it’s like talking about taking your first baby-steps.

baby-steps
“Baby Steps by Kevin Kratka via Flickr [CC BY-NC 2.0]
When you were a baby, you tried so very hard to get vertical and to totter forward.

Because you took those brave first steps and kept building up your skill at stepping, all kinds of other interesting things started happening as well.

All of a sudden you could move in all kinds of directions and get into all kinds of mischief.

Janusian thinking’s like those first baby-steps.  Your very first attempts at it are going to feel terribly awkward and clumsy.

Janusian thinking is “counter-intuitive.”  It goes against most people’s automatic gut reactions and often you may not find support for the thoughts you are thinking.

Janusian thinking is also another way of Un-Seeing.

Its function is to take you past your first thoughts and your default settings, your habitual patterns and your carefully built-up life routines.

If you succeed in getting past them, you will reach a space where you can construct new ways of doing and making things.

fluke-story
“Fluke Story (55 Chevy Bel Air Sports Coupe Frame Off Restoration)”

While you’re learning to use this particular style of thinking — until you get the hang of deconstructing your deeply held assumptions, looking at things from every angle as the battling ideas wrestle each other into the ground — the whole process is going to be very effortful and it’s likely to feel sl-o-o-w.

This means you are going to feel really, really stupid doing it.

Keep doing it and it does speed up.  You can reach a place where just sticking the contradictory ideas into the ring starts a whole string of new ideas popping up in your head.

fight
“Fight” by MAZA FIGHT JAPAN via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
Once you get the hang of deconstructing old preconceptions and letting go of past judgments as well as nurturing a multiplicity of perspectives and learning how to transmute the knowledge you gain from them into new understandings, you’ll be able to choose more effective ways to address whatever situation you might encounter.

That’s just a fancy way of saying you’ll be able to come up with fresh ideas that just might work way better than anything you’ve ever tried has worked before.

(Hey!  You may even be hailed as an innovator-extraordinaire or the next Steve Jobs or Warren Buffet or one of those Nobel Prize winners that Atherton studied or some such thing.)

Janusian thinking is a component of several higher systems of thought-making that have been studied by assorted guys in white lab coats:

  • cognitive thinking – the process by which you transmute the knowledge you get from experience, thought and sensory input and turn it into understandings you can use to solve problems or make stuff
  • design thinking – creative problem-solving that focuses on the people for whom a new product is being created
  • synergistic thinking – a process that blends and balances logical linear thinking and associative non-linear thinking to boost creativity, innovation and Making

It could also be viewed as a simplistic description of the foundations for Taoist and Zen thought processes, for shamanistic or indigenous thought precepts, and for other high-wizard stuff.

Do this and eventually you get to play in Harry-Potter-World…or maybe you’ll get to be the Sorceror’s Apprentice.

the-hat
“the hat” by Camron Flanders via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]

AND THEN THERE’S THE DOWNSIDE

The downside of all of the processes that start with Janusian thinking is that they can also multiply the variety, intensity and severity of the mistakes you can make…if they don’t paralyze you with the sheer volume of possibilities.

Sometimes when you are dancing on the edge, you make a mis-step and fall off.  Other times you stand on the edge of chaos and look into the Void and see the Void looking back at you.   (Yeep!)

Those who depend on their world staying concrete and linear and rational won’t go there.  (This thing is not for the faint-hearted nor for those who panic when they are stuck in ambiguity.)

It’s also not for those who are not seriously into examining their underlying motives and intentions.  (Intent gets really important when you play in Harry-Potter-World.)

Janusian thinking is the place where innovative geniuses go. It is also the place where the mad ones stay.

This is the place where the old maps say, “Here there be dragons.”

here-there-be-dragons
“Here there be dragons” by gomagoti via Flickr [CC BY-SA 2.0]
And if you choose to go there, it can, as well, make it really hard for you to talk to regular folks who have never left the living room couch.

Those who walk the trails into the Mystic and the serious psychedelic rangers go through initiation rites that require “dying to the world” in some way or other.  So do those whose intense creative, athletic or scientific bent takes them way into the middle of the Zone.

Janusian thinking is exactly like that.

All of the ones who choose to play the Infinite Game are often more than a little strange.

long-road
“La Longue Route” by marcovdz via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
If you choose, instead, to become a poet or a storyteller, however, then it can all turn into play.

Good poets and storytellers have no problem talking to people.  It’s what they do.

Here’s a poem about a clash between someone playing a Finite game and another who’s more into the Infinite one….


WRONG MOVIE

There she goes, stomping along strong,

Being Godzilla attacking Tokyo.

(I guess I’ve been cast as Tokyo.)

Hmmm….

 

My job, it says here, is to stand there

Getting pounded and ground down

By big, stomping feet,

And pushed and shoved aside

By strong, powerful shoulders,

Pummeled by massive fists all the while.

I’m supposed to bend and break

Before the temper-tantrum wrath

Of riled-up Biggie.

Uh-huh….

 

My role, it says here, is to quake

As roars and growls fill the air.

I get to dash around in panic

Trying to find a place to hide

My own small self.

Right….

 

Oh, and, it says here,

There’s supposed to be

A lot of bleeding with street-pizza decorations

Strewn about in the general mayhem,

All those slash wounds from gy-normous claws

Having taken their toll.

O-ka-a-a-y…..

 

Gee, it says I’m supposed to weep in despair.

AWWW….

This won’t work.

Sorry, babe.

You need to call Central Casting again.

They sent you the wrong character actor, I think.

 

See, mostly I spend my time playing at being Wind.

I’m not sure this Godzilla movie

Has much use for gentle breezes and sweet, soft zephyrs.

I don’t think it can use snazzy updrafts and down-drafts

And slider-currents that support cunning wings.

There are no sails around here I can fill

To push the story forward.

And I’m pretty sure you won’t like

The hurricanes, the tornadoes and the cyclones

I’ve been developing.

 

Ah, well…

So it goes.

See ya….

By Netta Kanoho

Header picture credit:  “House of the Sun” by David Fulmer via Flickr [CC BY-2.0]

Thanks for your visit.  I’d appreciate it if you would drop a note or comment below and tell me your thoughts.

 

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HONORING IMPERMANENCE

HONORING IMPERMANENCE

One of the wisest thoughts I’ve ever encountered about impermanence is this one from English writer W. Somerset Maugham’s novel, THE RAZOR’S EDGE:

Nothing in the world is permanent, and we’re foolish when we ask anything to last, but surely we’re still more foolish not to take delight in it while we have it.” 

It reminds me of a Hawaiian aesthetic that holds that beauty is made more precious when we understand that it is ephemeral and will not last.

The world changes and changes and, if we are wise, we will drink in whatever beauty we find and enjoy it while it is still with us.

Delighting in the beauty that we encounter and not begrudging the limited time it can stay, is the only response that makes sense in this world of change, Hawaiians say.

The glory of rainbows must surely be affected by our understanding that they do not linger on and on.  They come.  They glow.  They fade away.

bridge
“Hawaiian Heimdall guards this bridge….” By James Huckaby via Flicker [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
One of the most beloved flowers used for making Hawaiian lei garlands is the pua kenikeni.

This tubular, five-petaled wonder has a strong, unique fragrance that lingers as (in one day’s time) a strand of the flowers slowly morphs from being an exquisite creamy whiteness to a vibrant golden orange before becoming a collection of brown straggling bits.

fagraea-berteroana-pua-kenikeni
“Fagraea berteroana – pua kenikeni” by Forest and Kim Starr via Flickr [CC BY-2.0]
The entrancing dance of lava flowing from the Big Island’s Kilauea volcano in this National Geographic Showcase Short Film produced by Lance Page and Wesley Young is hypnotically beautiful.  The YouTube video was published in 2015.

Always, the eruption of one of our volcanoes is a dramatic reminder that change happens and the display of destruction and creation can be very beautiful.

All of these likely Hawaiian examples of impermanence are taken from nature, but in Japan — another island kingdom across the Pacific — honoring the beauty of impermanence, process, and regeneration takes a more human turn.

ANOTHER PEOPLE’S WAY OF HONORING IMPERMANENCE

For 1300 years and more, the Japanese people in the city of Ise and the surrounding areas in the Mie prefecture have carried on a tradition of cyclical reconstruction and deconstruction.

Every 20 years or so the people connected to the place rebuild two of the holiest of their holy buildings as well as a number of other structures that comprise the Shinto Ise Jingū or Grand Shrine.

The rebuilders use Hinoki cypress wood — some from trees that are over 400 years old with trunks that are 4.5 feet (1.4 meters) in diameter — taken from ancient mountain forests that surround the area.

The cultivated trees are planted, maintained, earmarked and harvested on a cycle that spans hundreds of years in order to provide material for the great work.

This short 2019 YouTube video, “Ise Shrine/Ise Jingu,” which features a tour of the shrine complex was uploaded by travel vlogger Charlie Casia.  The serene beauty of the complex shines.

The two main shrines in the complex are the Gekū (Outer Shrine) and Naikū (Inner Shrine).  They are separated from each other by about four miles (6 kilometers) of forested land.  More than 120 smaller shrines and sanctuaries have sprung up around them as well.

The main shrines were originally built from wood harvested from the same forest that surrounds the latest iterations now.

These days, the local Hinoki wood is not as abundant as it once was so the shrine rebuilders have come to depend on other domestic producers who insure that only the very best wood is used for the work.

Logs are obtained from the mountains and floated down the rivers flowing past Ise.

Once the logs are harvested, they are put through a lengthy seasoning and drying process during which they spend several years in a pond before being dried and prepared as building material.

Timber for Gekū is landed from the Miya River while that for Naikū is landed from the Isuzu river.

No nails are used in the shrine construction.  The master artisans who erect these buildings use an ancient post-and-lintel technique with intricately cut and fitted joints that are designed and carved to fit together like puzzle pieces.

My favorite YouTube video about the miyadaiku carpenters of Japan is this one, published in 2019 by a Great Big Story.

It is titled, “In Japan, Repairing Buildings Without a Single Nail” and features Takahiro Matsumoto, a miyadaiku from Kamakura, Japan who assesses and repairs damaged temples in his own city.  It shows the kind of work these master craftsmen do.

A 100-meter long (longer than a football field) wooden bridge that spans the Isuzu River at the entrance of the Naikū shrine is rebuilt as well.

It’s actually a part of the training process.

The bridge is a journeyman project for the traditional miyadaiku temple builders — craftsmen and artisans who will, if they become masters, be entrusted with the next rebuilding of the main shrines.

ise-uji-bridge
“Ise, Uji Bridge” by Bernhard Scheid via Flickr [CC BY-NC 2.0]
The two shrines are each rebuilt on an empty building site that is adjacent to the current shrine.  Each rebuilding has always alternated between these side-by-side building sites.

(The next scheduled rebuilding of Naikū, which is deeply connected to the Japanese imperial family, is scheduled to occur in 2033 on the lower, northern site.)

Other shrines in the complex are also included in the rebuilding project.

While the people at Ise Jingū are not the only ones to practice this kind of rebuilding, these structures are the only ones that have been consistently rebuilt through the many centuries of their existence.

Besides the builders and carpenters involved in the building, scores of other craftspeople prepare thatch for the roofs using traditional techniques, cut the gold sheets that make certain of the ridge poles shimmer in the sun, weave the cloth used for hangings, and attend to the myriad details that go into making the newest shrine incarnation real.

kan-hatori-hatadono-jinja
“Weaving at Kan-hatori-hatadono-jinga” by N. yotarou via Wikimedia Commons [CC BY 2.0]
All over the country other artisans create the sacred offerings and utensils that will be used in the renewed structures as well.

The local people in the surrounding areas are often deeply involved in the process, participating in various traditional events as well as a number of festivals that also include the millions of pilgrims and tourists who visit the Grand Shrine complex every year.

There’s a special festival when some of the logs and timber that will be used in the rebuilding are moved onto the site with help from many willing arms and backs.

okihiki
“Okihiki Festival, Ise” by D Kerr Ka-ru via Wikimedia Commons [public domain]
This video, “Ise Shrine,” was published in 2007 by Journeyman Pictures and offers a slice of the experience from one tourist vlogger.

The pebbles in the courtyard surrounding the newly built shrine are gathered, washed, then moved to the site and placed there by respectful human hands in a two-month process that involves the residents and visitors to the area.

(Afterwards the pebbles from the old structure are returned to the river.  One day they may be returned again to the site.)

The entire reconstruction process ideally takes about 17 years, with the initial years focused on project organization, general planning and fundraising, and the last eight years concentrated on the actual physical construction of the buildings.

Ritual and celebrations orchestrated by the Shinto priesthood is generously mixed in throughout the whole process and the people come to help and to participate in and watch the spectacle slowly unfold.

About six months after each new shrine building is completed and the sacred objects housed in the old shrine are ceremonially transferred to the new one, the old shrine is disassembled.

Some parts of the old shrine are kept for use in the next rebuilding effort.

The old major shrine’s two massive main pillars are repurposed to make the enormous torii gate that greets the multitudes of pilgrims and other visitors to the shrine complex.

ise-jingu-shrine-geku
“Ise Jingu Shrine (Gekū)” by tablexxnx via Flickr [CC BY-SA 2.0]
Other parts of the old shrine are used to repair and maintain the smaller shrines that have sprung up around the two main shrines or are distributed around the country to other shrines that need repair.

And still other bits will become part of Ise amulets that are then sold throughout Japan to be placed on household altars – in Japan and almost certainly in other parts of the world as well.

The thing about the Ise Grand Shrine rebuilding is that it continues, rippling through the world in ever-widening circles.

MORE THAN JUST A HUGE CONSTRUCTION PROJECT

Each rebuild costs about half a billion US dollars (of which at least half are paid for by Japanese tax payers).

Every rebuild requires about 10,000 to 12,000 old cedar trees, many of them grown and harvested from areas outside Ise, and all of them expensive.

It is a costly proposition, keeping the culture alive.

However, it is worth noting that the Ise Grand Shrine rebuilding is an ages-old, ecologically sustainable practice that provides a structure and a framework for renewing a deep national commitment to an ancient spiritual and creative tradition.

This tradition brings together large numbers of like-minded individuals as well as those bound to the place through all the generations of families who have been a part of the ongoing project.

How much is an affirmation of Life-Its-Own-Self really worth?

NOT A UNESCO WORLD HERITAGE SITE

As I’ve said, the rebuilding of the Ise Grand Shrine is all about honoring impermanence, process and regeneration.

Maybe that’s one reason why these holiest of holy buildings in a country that is full of them –  buildings that have occupied their current sites for more than 1300 years – have not made it onto the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites.

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) began their famous list of sites that are judged to be “important to the common culture and heritage of humanity” in 1972.

These sites, they say, have cultural, historic, geographical or some other unique feature that make them worthy of protection from harm.

Some of these UNESCO sites are considered to be places where humans made great strides in advancing technology or intellectual and spiritual thinking.

The UNESCO list and the preservation program connected to it, it is said, is one of the most widely acknowledged international agreements.

The sites on the list are very popular with world travelers and tourists as well.

[Click the button below for the latest iteration of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites list.]

click-here

There are currently 1,121 sites on the list.  Twenty-three of them are in Japan.

You will notice, however, that Ise Jingū, the Shinto “Grand Shrine” complex which is not only historically connected to the imperial family of Japan but is also a justly famous pilgrimage site, is not on the list.

pilgrims
“Pilgrims” by Bong Grit via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
It’s said that the Shinto Imbe priests who care for the Grand Shrine have resisted the inclusion of it on the UNESCO list.

The priests say they do this because the shrines are a part of an ongoing, living tradition that continues still.

That reminds me of one old Hawaiian friend who once pointed out, “Preservation is not the same as perpetuation.  Preservation is what you do to make pickles.  When you perpetuate something, you are helping to keep it alive.”

Through the centuries of practicing this form of reverencing life and caring for the sacred within the world, the living tradition evolves, passing through the hands, hearts and minds of many people, and yet it remains the same.

future-site-of-inner-sanctuary-of-ise
“Future site of inner sanctuary of Ise” by Jean-Pierre Dalbéra via Flickr [CC BY 2.0]
Here’s a poem:


TIME

Time.

 

Time flows,

Eddying here,

Slowing there,

Rushing on and tripping

Over rocks and logs,

Half-seen in the depths

Of the river that

Flows on and winds

Past cities, towns and wild places,

Moving on and through

And in and out

Of the mind’s panoramic landscape,

Moving on and always

Moving forward, never back,

Carrying memory and recall

Into the future.

Time flows.

 

Time.

By Netta Kanoho

Header photo credit: “Ise” by Bong Grit via Flickr [CC By-NC-ND 2.0]

Thanks for your visit.  I’d appreciate it if you would drop a note or comment below and tell me your thoughts.

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PLAY A MEAN PINBALL (YES YOU CAN)

PLAY A MEAN PINBALL (YES YOU CAN)

For weeks now I’ve been hung up on the saga of the resurgence of Pinball — that American-made quintessential mix of skill, chance, and enticingly challenging distraction in a glassed-in box that swept up the world and wrapped it up in the epitome of American “cool” and then nearly got killed off by the advent and rise of the now-ubiquitous video game.

The pinball industry lay there gasping at the end of the 20th century.

The death watch began around the time that New York’s legendary Broadway Arcade closed in 1997.

By 1999 only one manufacturer of the games, Stern Pinball Machines, was left standing.

tilt-tilt
“Tilt Tilt” by Dice.com via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
The naughty, “bad-boy” games that used to be “everywhere” during the boom times in the 1970s fell and then rose yet again to new highs in the early 1990’s before they were overshadowed by the huge tsunami of the video gaming onslaught.

The games, in their long history since the 19th century had already survived social and political censure and the “Pin-hibition” (Prohibition-style banning of the games due to their lack of moral rectitude and their wicked influence) in the 1930’s shortly before a World War effort in the following decade ate up the resources needed to produce the machines.

bumper
“bumper” by erin via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
Pinball gaming weathered assorted cultural upheavals, and other vicissitudes quite handily before being blindsided by the popularity of their flashy electronic offspring.

In the last decade, however, Pinball has been staging yet another comeback, due to the efforts of aficionados, collectors, entrepreneurs, game designers and other creatives.

plunger
“Pinball in Ashbury Park, NJ – Plunger” by Bob Jagendorf via Flickr [CC BY-NC 2.0]
The following YouTube video, published in 2019 by WIRED magazine, “How Pinball Survived Video Games, the Mob and Politics,” features Michael Schiess, a pinball enthusiast who collects and repairs old machines and founded the Pacific Pinball Museum.  It chronicles his story.

There are many others like Schiess.

In 2009, during the Raindance Film Festival, a documentary film directed by Brett Sullivan and produced by Steam Motion and Sound, “Special When Lit:  A Pinball Documentary,” was released.

Click on the button below to experience the feature-length film.

click-here

(It’s available from the YouTube Movies channel.)

HERE’S A QUESTION:  WHY DOES PINBALL KEEP ON COMING BACK?

Many observers watching this scene unfolding say that the resuscitation and resurrection of Pinball is primarily nostalgia-driven.  Pinball machines call up recollections of the carefree, halcyon days of youth, they say.

Parents and grandparents want the youngsters in their lives to experience a part of the history they lived, and many of the themes and the music from the older people’s youth are part of the Pinball way-back-when vintage machines.

Some of the games are tied to important moments in the older people’s lives and become a part of the stories they tell.

back-to-the-80s
Back to the 80s” by Bill Dickinson via Flickr [CC BY-NC 2.0]
Others say that the real-life visceral experiences of the games themselves and the pop-retro culture that has grown up around them make a big change from the only-ness and isolation engendered by the more severe forms of video gamer geeky-madness.

This is appealing to a new generation that never knew the joy of Pinball, they say.

Some of the present-day world-class tournament-grade pinball wizards talk about the “zen” of Pinball and the magic of the “zone” that they can reach as they focus down on the games for hours on end in tournament play.

They talk about how sometimes they can suss out how to synchronize their play action to the rhythm and tempo of the machine’s game, which very often changes every time they play.

tilt
“Tilt!” by adunt via Fickr [CC BY-NC 2.0]
Some of them move their bodies in a physical dance that connects them to the machine and to the whizzing ball.  It becomes an elegant ballet.

For these top-notch players, the game becomes a physical form of fast-moving mathematical calculations of trajectory and positioning and timing that are tied to the laws of physics and to dealing with the forces of gravity and entropy.

1000-points
“1000 Points” by Tom Good via Flickr [CC BY 2.0]
It occurred to me that these players are reaching for what researcher-psychologist Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi calls “the state of flow.”

The players are playing with Chaos and there is a magic there, they say.  Perhaps, for them, this is a truth.

THE NEW GENERATION OF PINBALL GAMES KEEPS EVOLVING

The designers of the new pinball games just want to make the games “more fun” for the players and they bend all their creative efforts to produce that effect.

The best games, as legendary game designer Steve Ritchie says in the “Special When Lit” film, are “easy to learn, easy to play, and hard to win.”

Game designers spend a lot of time setting up the games in ways that challenge players to reach for the very edge of their competence levels.

The designers work on fine-tuning the frustration levels the machine can induce in the players.

Ritchie is a great believer in appealing to the senses.  He’ll use flashing lights, bold colors and distinctive sounds, and he’ll figure out multiple alternative paths and actions a ball can make to add to the experience.

He says it’s like the silver ball is having fun in its own little world and the player is helping it to do that.

pinball-wizard!
“Pinball Wizard!” by Don Heller via Flickr [CC BY-ND 2.0]
The very best games, Nevada game designer Joe Kaminkov says, are the ones that leave you “one shot away” – the ones that make you want to try again and again to make that silver ball dance your way.

The entrepreneurs who are riding the wave of the Pinball lifestyle are just glad to add yet another already-proven attraction to the arsenal of their ongoing entertainment and amusement enterprises.

pinball-wizard
Pinball Wizard” by Abby via Flickr [CC BY-NC 2.0]
In any case, à la Mark Twain, the rumors of the death of Pinball are “greatly exaggerated.”

MORE ON THE FLOW AND THE GUY WHO NOTICED IT

In his classic 1990 book, FLOW:  The Psychology of Optimal Experience, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi describes how learning to notice, induce, and dance in what the scientist-philosopher called “the state of flow” can lead to developing oneself into a person who consciously experiences a total involvement and enjoyment of life no matter what the external circumstances.

Csikszentmihalyi actually coined the name “the state of flow” in 1975 when he was trying to describe the mindset of a person fully immersed, focused, and involved in the process of any activity.

These days we call this state “being in the zone” and it happens in any situation that requires concentration, problem-solving, and physical and mental performance.

flautist-in-the-zone
“Flautist in the zone” by Topher Martini via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
The book neatly balances philosophy – ancient wisdoms as well as the musings of various deep thinkers down through the ages — and 20th-century science’s extensive research into so-called “positive psychology” which looks at human strengths such as optimism, creativity, intrinsic motivation and responsibility.

In his book, Csikszentmihalyi presents ideas that have been validated by scientific studies (as well as more esoteric wise-guy stuff).

You can learn to use these internal human strengths, he says, with conscious intent and purpose to meet and resolve various life-challenges.

He shows you how doing that is very likely going to affect your daily living and your own personal happiness.

Even now, FLOW (the book) continues to influence and inform researchers and regular people all over the world.  It has been translated into more than 20 languages.

The researcher with the impossible name, now 84 years old, made studying the concept of the flow state and how to use it to engineer life-long happiness his lifetime’s work.

He wrote many books and articles that explored more fully how one can manage one’s mind to flow with life gracefully, bringing the high-flying ideas down to earth for us ordinary sorts.

His major focus, it seems to me, has been figuring out how to live an ordinary, messy, complicated and complex modern life in an extraordinary way – one with meaning and mana in it.

He helps you construct your own flippers that help keep your silver ball in play.

flipper
“Flipper….” by Ian Eure via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]

THE SELF THAT HAS SELF-CONTAINED GOALS

In his book, Csikszentmihalyi introduces a mindset that he calls the “autotelic self.”

He says developing this self is one of the benefits of consciously playing in the flow state.

A person who is never bored, seldom anxious, involved with what goes on, and in flow most of the time may be said to have an autotelic self.  The term literally means ‘a self that has self-contained goals’ and it reflects the idea that such an individual has relatively few goals that do not originate from within the self.”

He points out that for most people, the goals they have are shaped directly by biological needs or social conventions.  These goals originate outside the self.

The primary goals of people who have an autotelic self, on the other hand, arise out of their own evaluations and thoughts about real-life experiences they have undergone.

Autotelic people make up their own goals using the lessons they’ve learned from their own lives.

This is a self I find most attractive.  Being able to embody lessons learned from life and to actually use them to walk through the world better sounds pretty darned good to me.

extra-ball
“Extra ball” by Shawn Clover via Flickr [CC BY-NC 2.0]
People with an autotelic self are easy to recognize, Csikszentmihalyi says.

  • They know how to make choices without much fuss and a minimum of panic.
  • They know how to become deeply involved in whatever they are doing and work on developing skills that help them do the thing better.
  • They pay attention to what is happening as they work through whatever is in front of them and remain sensitive to feedback as well.
  • They learn to enjoy the Now they are in.
enjoyment
“enjoyment” by bryan via Flickr [CC BY-ND 2.0]

THE WIZARD’S WAY

You know, it seems to me that those pinball wizards may be onto something.

If, like Broadway Arcade owner Steve Epstein, you equate pinball with “a universe in a box that is a lot like life,” then you’d probably agree with him when he says, “You never know what you’re gonna get around the next corner, but you’ve gotta go and be involved in it.”

That, it seems to me, is a grand way to walk through life.

game-over
“Game Over” by Thomas Hawk via Flickr [CC BY-NC 2.0]
Here’s a poem:


PINBALL DITTY-BOOM

Life is like a pinball game.

(It’s all just rock and roll)

And waiting for us, one and all,

Is the deepest darkness of the Hole.

 

None of us can win,

But we can wizard-out with style.

We’ll be heroes of the gath’ring crowd

Just for a little while.

 

Gravity’s the King, yeah,

And Entropy’s his Queen,

But in that time, that space,

We can be the best the world’s ever seen.

 

The numbers stack on up

As we keep that ball in play,

And the streaming lights blink on, blink off

As the startle-noises fade away.

 

The bumps, the grinds…no TILT allowed…

Our flashing hands do fly.

For us, it’s all about the Zone,

At “Game Over” we may curse, but we don’t cry.

 

‘Cause that plunger waits…a challenge:

There’s another run to make.

Just one more time we go, we go,

As our freedom-thirst we try to slake.

 

‘Cause this time’s done, but here’s another,

One more opportunity to take…

And this time we might make it

To the magic past the fake.

By Netta Kanoho

Header picture credit:  “Pinball” by Paolo Viscardi via Flickr [CC BY 2.0]

Thanks for your visit.  I’d appreciate it if you would drop a note or comment below and tell me your thoughts.

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ROCK THE BOX

ROCK THE BOX

They told us wrong, you know.

All those guys who kept exhorting us (for decades now) to “think outside the box,” urging us to forget about our limitations and be “free-free-free” didn’t give us the real story when they touted that ‘Unbound” mindset as the panacea for all of our gnarly problems.

In fact, I think they were blowing sunshine up the nether parts of our anatomy (with the best of intentions, of course).

I suspect they don’t even know what that “box” they keep talking about really is.

You can tell that they’re playing their air-guitars because they all seem to be enamored of that silly nine-dot puzzle where you’re supposed to join all of the dots that are arranged in a square with four straight lines.

Every one of those guys present the very same solution….as if it’s the only solution there is.

Really?

Do it their way and you get a gold star, I guess.  Whoo-hoo!

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“Thanks for the gold stars” by Jeffrey Zeldman via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
What does all that tell you?

Mostly it tells me that Da Guys have taken what some acknowledged expert has said and they’re passing it on to me without really thinking on it.

The best riff I’ve ever seen on coming up with solutions to that classic nine-dot puzzle is this YouTube video, “Thinking Inside the Box.” It’s a short thing published by TEDxTalks in 2012 and features designer and marketing strategist Magnus Berglund at TEDxGöteberg.

See what I mean?

This guy plays inside the box.  In fact, he makes it rock!

ANATOMY OF “THE BOX”

So, what IS this “Box” thing?

Every one of Da Guys will tell you it’s all those nasty, hard-rub limitations and constraints that handcuff you and bring you down and hold you back from realizing your True Potential.

Without all those stupid restrictions, prohibitions, obstacles, obstructions, and impediments to progress, you could soar, you know.

The thing is, they are right.  We could all fly if there was no gravity holding us down.

flight
“Flight” by Allegory Malaprop via Flickr [CC BY-ND 2.0]
Hey…us humans, we’ve got super-powers:  Imagination, Ingenuity, Innovation, Inventiveness.  All those good “I” words.

The problem is, we’ve also got a brain that’s set up to “fix” stuff.  We are all hard-wired to be alert for ways to mitigate the irritation factor of the things in the world that make us uncomfortable or rub us the wrong way.

However, if there is absolutely nothing wrong with anything in our lives and if everything is all hunky-dory, then we just sit there.

Why not?

Everything is FINE.

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“The World of My Wild River…!!!” by Denis Collette via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
When our world is beauteous and beyond lovely, when it’s all going our way and there’s a cherry pie in the oven with our name on it, there really is no need for us to gear up, grab our trusty sword, gather our True Companions, and set off out of Hobbit-land on some weird-ass quest.

There has got to be some REASON for us to move our booties.

The End of The-World-As-We-Know-It is a Reason.

So is an irritating hang-nail.

So is some dumb tool that doesn’t work right or a rule or customary practice or system that makes no sense and is ultimately counter-productive.

These are the kinds of things that lure us into action.

And taking action automatically turns our lives into a movie or, if you want to be low-tech about it, the actions we take become the start of another story, song, or poem.

So, really, that “Box” all our wanna-be advisors keep urging us to “transcend” is actually The-World-As-We-Know-It (also known as TWAWKI).

Maybe that’s a good thing.  Maybe not.

Only you can decide.

REDEFINING THE BOX AND HOW WE CAN USE IT

My own theory is that TWAWKI is actually like the big old refrigerator box my cousins and I got to play with one summer.  That box was cool.

Before it fell apart, we built awesome worlds with it and got to go on a lot of adventures prominently featuring bad-ass truckers, pirates and one stuffed parrot, paladins and gunslingers, knights and dragons, really cool and crafty American Indian dudes and dudettes, super-heroes and other-worldly alien spiders, and things like that.

(We sat on the one cousin who just wanted to play “house” or “store” or “tea party.”  He really was no fun.)

This 2015 video, “World’s Biggest Box Fort” by Family Fun Pack sure does bring back some sweet memories….

The thing we have to remember is that TWAWKI is what it is.  We can do things with it, but first we have to make sure we are seeing it right:

The Box is the Box is the Box…but what ELSE could it be?

Not having the right tools or the proper materials for some project and faced with inadequate funding plus a fast- approaching deadline breathing down your neck as well as a clueless colleague or two and an assortment of dorkheads who are sabotaging your efforts from on high are all examples of the kinds of limitations, obstructions and constraints that define the parameters of TWAWKI.

They define the parameters of our Box.

These sorts of conditions help us see where we are standing.

If we look around within this space, we can begin to make an inventory of the resources that are available to us that we can use to resolve our problem.

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“Illuminated Manuscript of The Bay of Saronikos…” by Piri Reis, posted by Walters Art Museum, Baltimore via Flickr [Public Domain]
With a map of the territory that has notations about the various obstacles and dangers marked on it and a list of available resources in hand, plus some sort of time-frame to work in, we can begin.

And, if we do it right, because of our inherent super I-powers, we humans can, indeed, change TWAWKI.

Maybe the changes we make will mitigate the problem.  Maybe not.  But, it’s possible that the action we take or the thing we make will be at least one step in the right direction.

If our solution sort of works, we’ll have a new starting place from where we can keep working on the problem until it is gone.  (Then we can go find some other problem.)

If our solution falters or fails, we’ll know for sure that what we tried does not work and we can figure out why.  Then we can go explore in some other direction.

In either case, we can go on.

Boxing ourselves in and defining the boundaries of that box are the first steps to breaking out and making breakthroughs, it seems.

(We already know that just sitting there in the middle of the road really does not work.)

Technology blogger and startups analyst Thomas Oopong, the founding editor of Alltopstartups, a resource for news about top internet startups and technological companies, wrote a cogent article for Inc. magazine in 2017, “For a More Creative Brain, Embrace Constraints”.

In it he delineates the whys and hows for using constraints and limitations to change TWAWKI.  You can access it by clicking the button below.

click-here

ONE MORE TAKE

Innovation and leadership advisor Navi Radjou is a great believer in what he calls “frugal innovation.”

In this short YouTube video, “Big Questions, Big Ideas:  Frugal Innovation with Navi Radju,” he gives a small glimpse at how working with limitations and constraints can lead to very real innovations that solve everyday problems for people who are not living in abundance.

The video was posted by Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs in 2018.

The highlight of this video is a refrigerator developed by a potter Mansukh Prajapati.  It is entirely made of clay and needs no electricity.

Radjou, expounding more on his ideas in a post on the ideas.ted.com site, quips,

“If an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty, then the developing world must be filled with optimists. There, people have learned to get more value from limited resources and find creative ways to reuse what they already have.”

Besides Prajapati’s refrigerator, Radjou points to the resourceful entrepreneurs in Africa who recharge cell phone batteries with their bicycles.

Another successful project was a giant advertising billboard designed by students of the engineering and technology college, UTEC, in the city of Lima Peru, a city that is extremely humid but also very dry.  (It receives only one inch of rainfall a year.)

The billboard the college designed absorbs the humid air and converts it into purified water.  It generates more than 90 liters every day.

Radjou says, “In India, we call these kinds of solutions Jugaad, a Hindi word that means an improvised fix, a clever solution born in adversity.”

When basic resources are scarce and living is hard, there will be people who fall back on their own ingenuity and use it to solve their everyday life problems which can be truly fearsome.

Whatever else may be missing, human ingenuity is boundless.

And that is a very good thing.

Here’s a poem:


GONNA BE IN THE MOVIES

I just saw one more comic-book movie

Where the apocalypse comes

Riding in on mighty metal steeds.

Buildings blow up spectacularly.

People get squished like bugs.

Everything’s knocked flat.

The super hero wins.

The villain loses.

The world is safe for Humankind.

Again.

 

But, then,

In the fare-thee-well,

Next-to-the-last scene,

There’s the super-hero (in disguise)

Walking through a bright and

Shiny, spanking-new building,

Full of bright and shiny people

With no flies on ’em.

Just another day in a workaday world.

 

The rubber band stretched…

And snapped right back into place.

 

Okay,

I know, I KNOW…

It’s a dumb movie.

 

But, I have to wonder:

How’d those guys get things rebuilt so fast?

We are talking BIG buildings here,

Streets of them,

All busted up and shredded.

I mean, where’d they get the funding?

 

And I have to wonder:

Where’d they put all the dead people

That had to be lying around

All over the landscape.

Did the street pizza evaporate?

Did anybody cry?

 

Yeah, yeah, yeah….

It’s just a movie.

The good guys won.

The bad guys didn’t.

And it all just goes away…

Like mist when the sun comes out.

 

Right.

 

So…

I got to thinking

How the whole thing ’bout “forgive” and “let go”

Has gotten tangled up with

“Nah-nah-nah,”

“Ne’ min'” and

“Fuggetaboudit.”

 

Yeah?

Lemme run this one out.

(My warped brain just won’t wrap itself around this.)

 

Okay,

Here’s the deal:

You can stomp around

Doing scorched-earth moves,

Littering the landscape

With toppled, twisted dreams

And ooka-pile-plenty street pizza

As long as you can

Strike noble poses in the sun,

‘Cause, hey, you did what you had to do.

The rest is…well…”collateral damage.”

 

Yup!

It’s your nature.

You can’t help it.

That’s how you are.

Your back was pushed against the wall,

So you blew up the world around you.

 

Ummmm.

Okay.

Right!

 

So then there’s the second half of this screwy equation:

All the REST of the people in the world,

They are NOT super-heroes.

They are helpless, civilized ninnies

Whose destiny, apparently,

Is to be street-pizza and cannon fodder

When the good guys and the bad guys have their tiffs.

And when it’s all done,

When all the dust settles,

Then everything just…kinda…goes back to regular.

 

HUH?

HOW?

WHY?

 

‘Cause the fodder-guys,

They’re civilized.

They are chock-a-block full of

Mommy-understanding, of empathy and sympathy.

They are the embodiments of loving-kindness,

Of unconditional love

Or at least they’re supposed to be….

(Or maybe they’re brain-damaged and concussed….

No short-term memory.)

 

Hey,

They’ll forgive ya ’cause they understand:

It’s your Nature.

So, they’ll all forget about it,

They’ll just pull together

And get this place back in shape

So all the good guys and all the bad guys

Can blow it up again.

 

Hmmm….

I don’t know, guys.

Don’t make a lick of sense to me.

Yeah, yeah, yeah…

I know…only a movie….

 

So, tell me then…

How come our real-life leaders

Act like they are super heroes

Engaged in a battle against the wicked forces of evil-most-vile?

Does that mean WE are the cannon-fodder?

Are WE the evaporating street pizza?

And now I’m wondering

Just HOW are we supposed to rebuild our world

Once the dust settles?

How are we supposed to forgive, to forget?

 

Hmmm….

Sure doesn’t look good to me….

By Netta Kanoho

Header picture credit:  “Boxes” by oatsy40 via Flickr [CC BY-2.0]
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PLAY WITH THE ADJACENT POSSIBLE

PLAY WITH THE ADJACENT POSSIBLE

I’ve been noticing that much of the advice being bandied about by the guys trying to help us ordinary folks improve our dud-ly selves is to reach for innovation, to grab onto the Creativity Rocket and hang on for the sure-to-be-exciting but sometimes silly (and possibly dangerous) ride.

For example, vlogger John Spencer published this YouTube video in 2016 that tells us, “We Need a Bigger Definition of Creativity.”

Everyone who studies on these things will tell you that the world-in-all-its-glory is capable of extraordinary change.

Us humans, as the pushiest parts of this world and the ones most likely to move things around and tinker and build and re-purpose stuff, are all nascent agents of change, they tell us.

And they are right.

BUT, ARE YOU SURE YOU WANT TO BE A CHANGE-AGENT?

There’s just one problem with all that:  Change-agents are very often disruptive sorts.

They don’t mean to be.  They’re just exploring their own fascinations and pursuing their own obsessions.

However, they do tend to confuse and upset and irritate people who are just going along and getting by.  They rock the boats of the ones who are liking the way the world is already set up just the way it is.

Change-agents can be especially unpopular with people whose power is based on the world being how it is.

Change-agents are likely to be the guys who get ridiculed and vilified and stomped down by their peers and the others around them.

If their ideas are particularly change-making, change-agents are the ones who end up getting denounced from assorted pulpits and beat up by fearful mobs of folks or burned at the stake by the ones who don’t like the possibilities to which the new ideas point.

This may make you uneasy.

fear-of-the-dark
“Fear of the Dark” by stuart anthony via Flickr [CC BY-NC 2.0]
It is also why people who are inclined to be innovative are admonished that they do need to learn how to connect better with the people around them.

This helps them find other people for whom the fascination of where the next new idea will take them is exciting.

Being a change-agent is lot more fun when you hang out with others who are also looking to change the world…or who are at least willing to change their mind.

WHEN AN IDEA IS “AHEAD OF ITS TIME”

Ideas and ways of walking and doing things that are very much more “advanced” or just very different than what has gone before are likely to meet resistance of every kind.

Infant ideas that are “ahead of their time” often get killed off before they can turn into anything tangible.

Either the necessary supporting technology is not yet part of the agreed-upon consensus-world that the change-agents share with the other people around them or else the prevailing, existing mindsets just can’t take in (much less digest) these new baby ideas and squishes them flat.

When these very good change-inducing ideas get re-discovered by innovative sorts living in friendlier times, the things take off running, dragging the whole reluctant, resistant world along.

This happens in science and technology; in art, music, literature, theater, fashion, design, and the rest of the creative milieu; in the business and working world; and in the lifestyles of people who work on transforming themselves into something other than what they used to be.

The whole point of knowing this is that you can aim yourself at looking for the “ideas whose time is now”, ideas that excite many other people in the world.

Perhaps one of those ideas will take you to the new places that will ring the world’s chimes.

so-it-begins
“So it begins” by Phototropy via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]

THE ADJACENT POSSIBLE

In 2002, physician and theoretical biologist Stuart Kauffman (a free-thinker who has a tendency to confuse the heck out of a lot of his more mundane colleagues) figured out and developed a mind-map of the way real change works in the natural world.

Kauffman’s work was so esoteric and bound up in the evolutionary changes that occur in his unique mash-up, interdisciplinary world of biology, physics and astronomy that it had to be explained to us ordinary folks by science writer Steven Johnson in his 2010 book, WHERE GOOD IDEAS COME FROM:  The Natural History of Innovation.

As Johnson explains, Kauffman discovered a theory that he called the “Adjacent Possible.”

Basically, what the thing says is that at any given moment the world is capable of extraordinary change, but only CERTAIN changes can actually happen.

What determines which changes CAN happen is the fact that other, supporting changes to a particular situation have already happened.

And then, if new changes happen because of the work the change-agent puts into making his or her new idea tangible and if others continue iterating and developing the idea, then other “adjacent possible” changes become available and so on.

“The strange and beautiful truth about the adjacent possible is that its boundaries grow as you explore these boundaries.  Each new combination ushers new combinations into the adjacent possible,” says Johnson.

Think of it as a house that magically expands with each door you open.

You begin in a room with four doors, each leading to a new room you have not visited yet.  These four rooms contain what Kauffman calls “the adjacent possible.”

room-with-doors-2
“Room with Doors (2060-2)” by Brent Eckly [CC BY 2.0]
Okay.

So you open one of those four magic doors.

You stroll (or possibly sneak) into the new room that appears when you open that door and you notice that in that room there are three or more other new doors you can open.

room-with-doors
“Room with Doors (IMG_8881)” by David Bramhall [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
Repeat the process and you come to another room with more doors.

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“Exploration” by Flavio Spugna [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
Each of these doors is way the heck and gone across this very large room and each one of those doors leads to yet another brand-new room….and so on.

The mind-boggle is that you would not have been able to reach any of the possible brand-new rooms from your original starting point.

If you keep opening doors, who knows where you might end up?

urban-exploration
“Urban Exploration” by Patrick BAUDUIN via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
One interesting riff on the way the world has been disrupted by all the ones who are busily exploring the adjacent possible was published by Heidrick and Struggles International.

The company says they are “a premier provider of senior level Executive Search, Culture Shaping and Leadership Consulting services.”  (The capitals are all theirs.)

The factoids they present in their video, “A Disrupted World,” are amazing.

This video is particularly interesting because it shows the mindset of one of the top headhunter companies in the world….a definite indication that exploring the adjacent possible is an especially valuable way of walking.

CHANGE HAPPENS STEP BY STEP

The thing to remember in all this door-opening and wandering around in the weird places you discover behind all those doors is that most real changes are a gradual process.

The thing just keeps trundling along:  If this happens, then that can happen.  When that happens, then this next thing becomes possible and can happen.

All you have to add is water – your blood, your sweat, and your tears.  (The changes you’d like to see probably doesn’t come with zippy high-velocity elevators and escalators.)

You can, of course, choose to step off a very high cliff, figuring that you’ll build wings on the way down.  After all, that looks like a great short-cut and you’re creative, right?  Sure….

gentle-journey
Gentle Journey” by Domy Kamsyah via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND]
I have to tell you, though, this is not a really good survival strategy — especially if you have the mechanical know-how of a toad and no floating workshop or friendly flying dragon or roc who will rescue you from your Stupid.

HACKING THE ADJACENT POSSIBLE STARTS AT THE THRESHOLD

Unlocking a new door and bravely going where nobody has gone before (and surviving to tell the tale) is tricky.  Ask any Trekkie.  They’ll tell ya.

continued-exploration
“Continued Exploration by skagitrenee via Flickr [CC BY-2.0]
Basically, you need to figure out ways to explore the edges of the possibilities that now surround you once you get the durned door open.

This can be as simple as changing the physical environment you work in, cultivating a specific kind of social network, or maintaining certain habits in the way you do your work or play your way.

From there you can develop the skills you’ll need to take you to the next level and beyond.

Be aware that you will probably have to shovel out manure and sort through mountains of “nope-doesn’t-work.”

Be aware that there are cliffs and thorns and probably hungry predators in this brave new world of yours.

In the middle of this process of exploring the adjacent possibles you encounter, you may have to re-think your expectations and aspirations and re-vamp your mind-maps yet again in the face of the “not-yet-possible” which is the shadow-side of all this playing around with possibility.

You might also find an utterly amazing adjacent possible that grabs you and everybody else around you by the throat.

As you get good at navigating through the adjacent possibles in your world, you may even figure out how to use those navigational skills to further your dream in more tangible ways.

Here are some cogent thoughts on that by engineer-turned-deep-thinker and skill-development coach Yazan Hijazi in his 2017 video, ‘Innovation vs Creativity Demystified.”

Hijazi explains the difference and the relationship between innovation and creativity beautifully.

Creativity, he says, is getting lots and lots of ideas.  Innovation is about making some of these ideas real and getting people to buy into them or adopt them.

Hijazi tells you innovation comes in two flavors: “incremental” and “disruptive.”  He explains what they are, what they do and what they are for.

In the video he explains how you can use these two types of innovation to explore the edges of the adjacent possibles that surround you (and how to survive and thrive while doing it).

THE DOING IS ALL THERE IS

One of my favorite books is A PATH OF MASTERY:  Lessons on Wing Chun and Life from Sifu Francis Fong by Jim Brault.

In it, Brault reminds us, “In nature growth is gradual.  It takes time, it can’t be forced.”

He asks, “Why are you in such a hurry anyway?  Don’t worry if it takes a long time to learn.  The longer it takes to learn, the longer it will stay with you.”

When you’re playing around with possibilities, it’s good to remember that you have to be able to take action, to do things.   More importantly, you need to learn what to do and what not to do and when.

Learning about how you can do what you want to do is what gets you through that magical room you’re facing and how you get to the next door.

A VISION OF WONDER

This next video, published by The Culture Marketing Council in 2015, is a treat.  It features film-maker, public speaker and television personality Jason Silva, who The Atlantic dubbed “A Timothy Leary of the Viral Video Age.”  Enjoy!

Here’s a poem:


LEVELS

It seems to me always

That there are levels

And levels and levels.

And when you’ve slogged

Your way to the top of one,

And mastered every step along the way,

You find that you are standing

On the threshold of yet another

That beckons you to enter into

Other wonders, other nows.

 

Sometimes you stand there

At this next gateway and sigh,

Knowing that again here is the choice:

You can stay where you are

And be a master, strong and whole,

The one on whom others depend,

Or you can step across the line

And lose it all, become an egg,

A useless chick, fresh-hatched,

Peeping and cheeping potentiality.

 

And that next step

Is the hardest one to take.

It’s not easy, sloughing off

The tried, the true.

And it’s a painfulness to lose

The you that you have made,

An impregnable mountain tower,

High above the world,

A beacon shining, beckoning,

And leading the way.

 

It’s through the birth canal again you go,

So it’s no wonder if you take it kind of slow.

By Netta Kanoho

Header photo credit:  “Exploration” by Riccardo Cuppini via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]

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SHIFT TO IDLE

SHIFT TO IDLE

This Patreon-backed YouTube video, “The Power of Imagination” published in 2015 by Claw Mountain, got me thinking…..

MY BIG CONFESSION

I am an incorrigible daydreamer.

When I was a kid, of course, there were those Bigs around me who kept predicting dire consequences for the disrespectful, lazy Space Cadet who was not listening, who could not focus, who had the attention span of a flea.

I was told to concentrate.  I was told to go do something.  I was told I had to develop my Work Ethic.  I lost count of the number of times I got the Buckle-Down-and-Soldier-On speech.

I had a hard time as a kid explaining that when I was staring out the window at that rainbow, I was trying to figure out exactly where the thing began and ended and how I could get it to actually stand still so I could, maybe, race over to see what was there at either end of it.

(And, for real, which end is THE end?  Which end is the beginning?)

I was wondering how come trees just know what shape works best for them and they grow that way all by themselves (except for those cool, gnarly-looking bonsai things Mr. Matsumoto played around with).

And I was wondering whether gnats really have brains.  I mean, gee, those gnat brains must really be small, right?

And how come Mama says this, but Aunty says that, and neither one of them agrees with Uncle, but Uncle agrees with Papa and…oh, boy!

Or I wondered what would have happened if I’d been raised by animals like Mowgli or how I would survive if I was shipwrecked on a desert island like the Swiss Family Robinson and what if dragons were really real and on and on.

It was hard for me to articulate that when I was sitting there just staring off into space, I was busy figuring out things, and mostly what I wanted to know about wasn’t exactly what the Bigs said I needed to learn.

And, frankly, what those Bigs thought I needed to know was sort of…well, BORING!  Their tick-tock everyday world just didn’t sparkle all that much.

lil-daydream
“Lil Daydream” by Evan Lavine via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
These days, I’m one of the Bigs.  I know a bit about the Three R’s:  Reasoning and Responsibility and Rationality.  I know some stuff about concentrating and focus and goal-setting and persistence and follow-through and all that grown-up stuff.

I even do it…a lot.

And, still, I daydream.

daydreaming
“Daydreaming” by Paulo Valdivieso via Flickr [CC BY-SA 2.0]
Anthony Carboni is featured in the YouTube video. “Don’t Stop Daydreaming!” published in 2014 by Seeker.  Carboni is a cool video-maker extraordinaire who has an…ah-hem…werewolf-thing happening in his down-time moments.

The video’s part of a series of DNews (Discovery News) videos on TestTube.

See, it ain’t such a bad thing, this daydreaming.

THE DAYDREAM BELIEVER’S WAY

Smarty-pants Scott Barry Kaufman, co-author of WIRED TO CREATE:  Unraveling the Mysteries of the Creative Mind, is featured in this YouTube Video, “Mindful Daydreaming Enhances Creativity, Not Meditation Alone.”  It was published in 2016 by Big Think.

In this video Kaufman explains about the two main modes of thought – the planning and strategizing part we exalt in our ever-busy, get-‘er-done world, the executive attention network,” as well as the stealthier, more intuitive part of our mind that  the guys in the lab coats have named “the default mode network” which lets your mind play with possibilities.

The second one is the mode that kicks in when you’re not actively putting out fires or dodging bullets or whatever.

Guys who are into studying ancient wisdoms call it “being in the Now” sometimes or maybe “mindfulness” or “detachment.”

Regular people just call it “daydreaming.”

reflection
“Reflection” by Simon Turkas via Flickr [CC BY-SA 2.0]
Kaufman points out that you need both in order to do your best creative work.

He argues that if you can balance the two ways of thinking and can toggle back and forth between them, then you break into what Kaufman calls “the imagination network,” where you can use the focusing and planning powers of your executive mode to play around in the world that lies within your very own DMZ (default mode zone).

WALKING THROUGH YOUR DMZ

Walking around inside this edge-state, where your inner world meets the world around you, is the best place that interesting, world-changing breakthroughs can happen, studies have shown.

Ancient wisdom seekers agree.

timeless-bliss-timeless
“Timeless Bliss Timeless” by Hartwig HKD [CC BY-ND 2.0]
Buddhist teacher and author Joan Halifax constructs an analogy between the various mindsets and thought-construct places in our human minds and the areas in the natural world where one ecosystem meets another.

Examples that come to mind are the areas where the edge of the forest meets the leading edge of the wetlands or where the sea meets the shore.

Standing on a high cliff overlooking a canyon is an even more dramatic example.  From that high vantage point, maybe you can even “see forever,” as an old song tells us.

As Halifax points out , “Edges are where opposites meet.”

And then she says,

“Our journey through life is one of peril and possibility—and sometimes both at once. How can we stand on the threshold between suffering and freedom and remain informed by both worlds?”

You can click here to get more of her thoughts:

click-here

 

The Lion’s Roar article is an adapted excerpt of Roshi Halifax’s book, STANDING AT THE EDGE:  Finding Freedom Where Fear and Courage Meet.

On a less esoteric level, there are all kinds of examples of how accessing your personal DMZ can lead you to major insights.

Think of that goof-off Isaac Newton, his falling apple, and his Law of Gravity and all the other “aha,” lightbulb moments that produced awesome-good ideas and insights.

Think of the young space cadet Albert Einstein working in a boring civil servant job in the Swiss patent office and his Theory of Relativity.

Think of that champion daydreaming single-mom J.K. Rowling, stuck on the Manchester to London train, and the birth of the Harry Potter books that took the world by storm.

Apparently wondering minds wander and their wandering ways produce incredible insights, understandings, and piles of creative thinks.

DAYDREAMING PRACTICE

In his book, AUTOPILOT:  The Art and Science of Doing Nothing, artificial intelligence scientist and engineer Andrew Smart makes a strong case for spending more time idling.

The only thing not so great about it is that he doesn’t tell you how to “do nothing.”  He just explains what it is and why it’s good.

As Smart says, “Through idleness, great ideas buried in your unconsciousness have the chance to enter your awareness.”

It’s ironic.  After years and years of being told to quit being such a daydreaming lazybones, it turns out that if you want to be a card-carrying creative and meaningfully productive member of post-modern society, you need to be able to climb back into that hazy, small-kid, do-nothing space where playing is the thing.

Learning how to attract prettier butterflies is the new Holy Grail.  Whoo-hoo!

Even guys in business suits have jumped on the bandwagon.

Daydream” by VOFAN via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
Brian DeHuff, the co-founder and CEO of Aha!, a roadmap software company that helps products managers create business strategies and keep track of them, presented a five-step program that’s supposed to help you do daydreaming in a purposeful way to Venture Beat.  (Venture Beat is an American technology website that focuses on what they call “Tech News That Matters.”)

Here are DeHuff’s suggestions:

COMMIT TO A TIME.

DeHuff suggests blocking off a distraction-free day during your work-week and holding to it assiduously.  If you can’t devote a whole day to this, then you need to at least set up “dedicated distraction-free times” on your calendar.

You tell your team you’re unavailable during these blocks of time and then, he says, you “keep yourself accountable to the time for creative thinking.”

MAKE IT COUNT.

DeHuff says he prepares for his dedicated daydreaming day by choosing what he’s going to be tackling ahead of time.

He also measures whether the time was a success by figuring out how far he has gotten towards the preset goal.

 ELIMINATE DISTRACTIONS.

DeHuff tells you to “create the ideal environment for yourself” that will help you zone-out better.  Everybody’s different, he points out, so your way won’t look like his way.

STAY DISCIPLINED.

DeHuff feels that making a habit of setting aside the time and making a supportive environment for daydreaming isn’t easy, but it will help you reach into what he calls “the flow of deep-thinking” if you keep on persevering.

CREATE SPACE FOR OTHERS.

DeHuff recommends encouraging your team members to set aside their own blocks of time, including coordinating their schedules if necessary.

Hmmm….

My own self, I think that one’s a bit too organized and focused for me.  Aren’t daydreams supposed to be more like that half-sleepy place when you get up from a nap and you are still surrounded by dream-clouds?

daydream
“Daydream” by Dome Sekoser via Flickr [CC BY-NC 2.0]
I’m not sure battle-planning a daydream would actually work for me.

Hmmm….

Try this:  Look at a blank wall.  Just stare at it.  Don’t move.  Don’t do anything for five minutes.  (You can time it with a timer if you like.)

Okay.  THAT’S the space you want.  It’s where us poets go when the world has been beating us upside the head again.  Cool, huh?

You can induce and expand that space by doing some routine task or activity like washing the dishes or making a cup of coffee or by taking a warm shower or staring out a window or going out to sit on a grassy hill and watch the clouds go by.

If you need to get up and move, you can go for a meandering walk or go for a slow jog around a block.  You might prefer to do a very slo-mo ch’i kung session or do a wild and crazy dance and spin yourself silly.

sunset-reverie
“Sunset Reverie” by John Nakamura Remy via Flickr [CC BY-SA 2.0]
Let your mind go wherever it wants to.  Just do that.  Don’t work on making any sense out of the wanderings.  Just let them happen.

Practice doing that and a funny thing will start happening.

If you’ve been beating your head against some obdurate problem and making yourself run around crazy, the thoughts will go swirling around in there, bumping into each other.

Let them.

After a while, if you’re lucky, you’ll fall into a reverie, where all the thoughts quiet down and the only thing left is a kind of white noise roaring in your head.

That’s when you’ll find that hazy space.  Take a breath or three.  Rest yourself in there.

Sometimes, after you’ve been there for a while, an idea will pop up.

Grab it.  Quick!  Write it down.  Maybe it’ll be just the thing you need to get you past all that nose-to-the-grindstone slogging.

And wouldn’t that be a wondrous thing?

Here’s a poem:


WIND THOUGHTS

Wind carves into mountain faces

Sculpting them into fantastic forms.

Wind pushes towering clouds all across the sky,

Or decorates it with pretty feather-clouds that

Settle into thick cloud duvets after a while.

Wind twists and bends trees into macro-bonsai shapes

Or wanders through meadows barely brushing against

The flowers in the grasses.

Gentleness of the breeze ruffling wavelets,

Across the face of still water;

Power in the hurricane,

Uprooting and tossing around anything in its path.

Wind makes changes,

Sometimes slow, sometimes swift,

But ever and always.

Wind can be blocked,

But it is never really stopped,

And the stirrings of butterfly wings, they tell me,

Can start the spinning of a hurricane someplace else.

Wind is the breath of the World,

Circulating through its body

In never-ending patterns,

Always changing, always the same.

 

Gee….

I wonder if the World

Knows how to do ch’i kung?

by Netta Kanoho

Photo credit:  “Midwinter’s daydream” by Natalia Medd via Flickr [CC BY-SA 2.0]

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EMILY FISCHER: Work By Touch

EMILY FISCHER: Work By Touch

I have a fondness for quilting.

My own experiments in crazy-quilting and then sashiko quilting had me going blind doing fancy-stitching with wild and crazy colors and patterns as well as tactile combinations of bumps and lumps that were a heck of a lot of fun for me and for the heart-friends to whom I gifted these bits of silliness.

one-day-quilt
“One Day Quilt” by Rachel via Flickr [CC BY-NC 2.0]
That may be why this YouTube video, “Constellation Quilt,” (published in 2013 by Public Record) showing work by designer Emily Fischer and her design studio Haptic Lab caught my eye.

The idea, expressed in the video, of wrapping yourself up in stars and time caught at the strings of my imagination.

Then I saw another YouTube video, “Flying Martha Ornithopter.”  This one was published in 2017 by Made Me Look.  It, too, was about an object designed by Emily Fischer and Haptic Lab.

OOH!

Like Fischer, I understand that kites, winged things and even flapping flags can help us humans explore the movements and flow of the invisible forces of wind.  They can help us tap into the tactile joys of flight.

KINDRED SPIRIT FOUND

It seems to me that I have found another person for whom tactile and sensory design – how a thing feels in your hand and on your skin – is as important as what the thing looks like.

Even more importantly (for me anyway), here is a person for whom objects are repositories for the stories we tell ourselves about our lives.

Among the objects Haptic Lab produces are extraordinarily detailed street maps that they call SoftMaps that can be customized and personalized for individual customers to show where their stories have taken place.

haptic-lab-san-francisco-map-blanket
Haptic Lab San Francisco map blanket by Eric Fischer via Flickr [CC BY-2.0]
It seems to me that designers like that are a rarity.

BEGINNINGS OF A COMPANY WITH A HUMAN TOUCH

Emily Fischer grew up in rural Wisconsin where she learned how to make such things as quilts and kites as a youngster.  Even as an architect-wannabe, her crafty beginnings continued to find expression.

As an undergraduate student at Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning at the University of Michigan in 2002, one of her projects was her first quilted map that she designed as a way-finding tool for the visually impaired.

The inspiration for the project was her mother Peggy who had begun to lose her eyesight through complications from glaucoma.

For these quilts, Emily combined her skill with computer-aided design and manufacture (CAD/CAM) rapid prototyping tools, and open-source mapping software as well as her grounding in the old-school, painstaking craft traditions of quilting and needlework with her explorations of haptics (the way humans perceive objects and sensations through touch).

For years, she continued to make these quilts as side-projects while pursuing her career as an architect in New York City.

In 2009, during the extreme depths of the recession, Fischer was laid off from her job at a commercial architectural firm.

One of the first things she did was build a simple website with images of her experimental personal work that included objects exploring her interests in cartography and early flight.

About that time she says: “Almost immediately, design blogs like Cool Hunting started publishing images of my handmade quilts and kites. I was commissioned to construct a kite for an Opening Ceremony video directed by Matt Wolf. I got a message from ID Magazine (RIP). Then the Los Angeles Times. Then the New York Times. Suddenly everyone wanted to buy the quilted maps I was making. So within three weeks of losing my job, I accidentally started my own company.

And so it began.

Fischer operates her accidental company, Haptics Lab, out of a Brooklyn studio with a small, close-knit team.  The company is grounded in values that emphasize fair trade and sustainability.

For thoughts and insights Emily shared in a 2015 article for Design Sponge, “Ten Ways to Bootstrap a Sustainable Business:  How I was able to meet expectations, make a living and not overwhelm myself and others while also respecting fair-trade practices,” click here: click-here

It is an extraordinarily useful compendium of advice from one who has gone down the road a ways on a path that she says makes her happy.

FINAL FISCHER THOUGHTS

This YouTube “How the Founder of Haptic Lab Uses Design to Drive Positive Change” was created by Skiftx contents studio in 2017.

Here’s a poem:


AT THE CROSSROADS

Another crossroads….

 

Do I go straight ahead?

Do I turn left?

Do I turn right?

Do I go back?

 

Standing flatfooted in the middle

Sucks.

Keep standing there and

You’re likely to get run over

By some unheeding vehicle

That keeps on trundling along.

 

The roads in front spread outward

Leading to who-knows-where.

They stretch on to infinity, you know.

And “back” just means more same-old.

 

And here I am,

With my raw and bleeding heart

Pulling me towards

The one road that is so bright and shiny

That it takes my breath away.

 

The caution signs posted

Along that road are intimidating.

They threaten.

They shout.

They jump up and down, even.

 

Loss and devastation, they declaim.

Doom-and-gloom, they promise.

Desperation and despair.

Ah, me….

Watch out!

Beware!

 

Hmmm….

 

Aw, the heck with it, babe!

Shoots!

We go!

by Netta Kanoho

Header Photo credit:  “Touching the World” by Joe Szilagyi via Flickr [CC BY-SA 2.0]

Thanks for your visit.  I’d appreciate it if you would drop a note or comment below and tell me your thoughts.

 

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UNLOCK BEGINNER’S MIND

UNLOCK BEGINNER’S MIND

Back in the ‘70’s I ran across a small book of distilled teachings taken from talks given by Zen monk Shunryu Suzuki, ZEN MIND, BEGINNER’S MIND.

There was this quote in it:

“If your mind is empty, it is always ready for anything; it is open to everything. In beginner’s mind there are many possibilities; in the expert’s mind there are few.”

It spoke to me, that quote, and I’ve spent a lifetime trying to unpack the thing.

I’ll probably do other posts about Beginner Mind, so all I’ll say about it right now is that Beginner Mind is an ancient wisdom teaching that helps you develop what educator Barbara Oakley dubbed a “growth mindset.”

This way of thinking keeps you from locking into fixating on the same-old “shoulds” and “musts” and “that’s-the-way-it-is” that all of us humans tend to create as we experience life.

Beginner Mind is expansive.  It’s not cluttered up by a lot of specious assumptions, expectations and preconceptions.

miksang-level-2-space
“miksang level 2 – space” by V via Flickr [CC BY 2.0]
A gear-head analogy for Beginner Mind would be something like attaching a satellite dish to some receptor or other and having access to a whole bunch of channels.

Martial artists wax poetic about standing receptive to whatever comes at them when they talk about Beginner Mind.

Whatever.  Beginner Mind is a very cool tool to have in your Life Toolbox.

That’s been my take on Beginner Mind for a while now.

It may be why the YouTube video, “Nurturing a Beginner’s Mind,” that I’ll be sharing with you towards the end of this post caught my attention.

The video is a production of INKtalk, an off-shoot of the TEDtalk phenomenon.  INKtalk is organized by Lakshmi Pratury, who put together the first TEDIndia talks in Myosore in 2009.

(The reason the video’s at the end of this post is mostly because it introduced me to some other fascinating side-trails that I think are also worth exploring.  Come take a look!)

TALKING ABOUT INK

The video I’m going to share with you (after a bit of dancing around) is an INKtalk published on YouTube in 2013.

It is one of a series of talks that have happened during the annual conferences, mini-conferences and salons coordinated and produced by INK, self-described as “India’s foremost platform for the exchange of cutting-edge ideas and inspiring stories.”

Click here for more information about INK and the talks:

click-here

Pratury wants the world to see INK as “a curator of contemporary oral history.”

The organization, she says, searches the world looking for people with stories and missions that center around innovative solutions for the broad scale problems that plague young economies, especially in Asia, the Middle East and Latin America.

The stories they have gathered together are about innovative, world-changing ideas that address problems in recurring societal issues like education, governance, energy, health, poverty, and infrastructure.

The stories make for very interesting reading.  Check them out.

ANOTHER WAY OF SCHOOLING

In the upcoming INKtalk video, Saba Ghole, a former architectural urban designer who became an education and technology entrepreneur, talks about the work she and the members of her team do at the NuVu Studio at Cambridge University.

Ghole is one of the co-founders of the NuVu Studio, which was a brainchild of fellow Massachusetts Institute of Technology alumnus Saeed Arida.

As part of his Ph.D. dissertation while at MIT, Arida explored the concept of a learning place modeled on the apprenticeship and project-based learning and hands-on problem-solving that is characteristic of an architectural studio.

Before he graduated, Arida implemented an on-campus pilot program at the Beaver Day Country School in Brookline.  This pilot was so successful that it led to an even larger project.

Arida collaborated with Ghole and another fellow MIT student David Wang, an engineer  and technology enthusiast, to launch NuVu Studio in 2010.

Wang collects degrees, it seems.  He’s got them in aeronautics, astronautics, electrical engineering and computer science.

beginning
Photo credit: “Beginning” by Aftab Uzzaman via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
The three friends have a penchant for collaboration and they continue to gather people together so they can help other Makers build cool stuff.

NuVu Studio has become an amazing “innovation studio” that is an alternative full-time, trimester-length schooling experience for middle and high school students — baby Makers who want to learn how to grow their spirit of innovation and to experience hands-on, real-world problem-solving of the finest kind.

More than 3,000 students – mostly from the local schools in the Boston area — have gone through the program since it began.

It is a far cry from your regular school experience, as this short video, “What is NuVu,” published by HarvardX in 2017 illustrates:

Capitalizing on the immense resources of MIT and Harvard University, the Studio facilitates the participation of the students in multi-disciplinary collaborations with Studio-trained “coaches” who are themselves architects, engineers, or experts in science, leading-edge technology, music, art, photography, fashion, and more.

Many of the coaches are MIT or Harvard students who are excited about doing hands-on work in their fields as well.

They work in large open-space studios and workshops using state-of-the-art tools that include things like laser cutters, 3D printers, as well as more mundane tools and assorted building materials.

Here, students don’t get grades – they have portfolios showcasing their work and progress. Problems are tackled in weeks-long blocks rather than hour-long classes.

The students are challenged to learn in new ways.

Analytical thinkers are inspired to explore their creative selves while creative students expand their capacity to think and learn analytically.

Whole-brain thinking is nurtured and encouraged.

The goal for these students is to make products that solve real-life problems that the students have defined with the help of their coaches using “themes” selected by the organizers.

In 2017, NuVu Studio received a Core77 “Notable Design Education Initiative Award.” 

AND NOW FOR THE VIDEO (AND SOME THOUGHTS)….

In the video, Ghole presents a collection of wonderfully clear insights about the components that make up the Beginner’s Mind stance.

(By the time she did the talk Ghole had already been working on helping to grow creativity and innovation for a number of years.)

The three big ideas are as follows:

THE POWER OF MIXING

Mixing together people (experts and neophytes), combining assorted themes that relate back to the real world, and tinkering – also known as breaking and re-making (which includes repurposing and reusing, collaboration with other minds and making use of open sourcing platforms to find ideas) – are the foundations that the Studio uses to encourage and support the students in their efforts to produce novel and effective solutions to problems they have chosen to pursue.

WHAT MAKES THE HEART OF A BEGINNER?

Ghole says the Beginner’s heart is an intriguing mix of Trickster, Craftsman and Poet.

Each of these are archetypes that come with sets of behaviors that are often focused on seeing the world in ways that are different from group-mind and consensus.

NOT 2, NOT 1 (BOTH 2 AND 1)

This is the best iteration I’ve ever seen of the concept of wu, a really esoteric and dizzy-making ancient teaching that proposes that when two ideas (or people) come together, the dynamic interaction, relationship and flow between them produces a third idea or concept or way of moving that combines aspects of both.

She explains the three pairings that the Studio uses to try to ignite new thinking among their students:  Process + Product, Mindful + Mindfulness, and Fiction + Reality

I found the whole thing mind-blowing.  I hope you enjoy it too.

Here’s a poem:


WHERE IS THAT KNIFE?

If I rehash the old stuff,

They come alive again,

And I make the threads

Into strings,

Into cords,

Into cables,

Just by adding

Strands of thought –

Little, tiny thoughts –

Like fibers crowded together,

Twisting themselves

Tighter and thicker,

Turning into one heavy-duty rope,

Turning into one huge knot.

 

Hmmm….

 

So…

Where’s that knife?

I had it a minute ago.

I need it to cut through this stupid knot!

 

Back to beginner mind….

Again.

by Netta Kanoho

Header photo credit:  “Photography In The Garden” by Olds College via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]

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FIND YOUR OWN VOICE

FIND YOUR OWN VOICE

Probably every wanna-be Creative has been told (at some point or other) that in order to reach their full potential as a writer, visual artist, musician, performer or whatever, it is imperative to “find your own voice.”

Now, in the Age of Social Media and Self-Branding — when the “Creative Mindset” is supposed to be The Way to $ucce$$ and Happiness — we are told that we must go looking for our individual, unique voices.  Our success depends on it.

I confess, I almost lost it when a pragmatic, more literal-minded friend snarked, “I KNOW where my voice is.  It’s right here in my mouth!”  Gales of laughter came bubbling up.

Explaining this “voice” thing gets confusing because even people who are engaged in developing themselves in a craft or an art or some other skill that doesn’t use words and doesn’t engage the mouth’s ability to make sounds can get all tangled up in trying to figure out how to find their own “voice.”

Now that the business world has turned on to getting creative, it seems that everyone wrestles with the idea of developing a voice.

There are Titans out there – the guys who built empires using their strengths and compensating for their weaknesses by surrounding themselves with people who have other, complementary strengths.  Lots of people admire them and want to be them.

There are Mega-Stars and Rainmakers and Heroes and Idols and Headliners and Leaders and Big Cheeses and High Muckamucks and Household Names and Treasures and Wonders and Leading Lights and so on and so forth, ad nauseum.  

Every one of them will probably tell you that they reached the stratosphere of massive accomplishments because they were successful in finding their own unique “voice.”

WHAT IS YOUR VOICE?

This concept of the elusive “voice” all wanna-be Successes are supposed to be nurturing is the crux of a story I encountered in a blog published by a flamenco dance teacher, Rina Orellana.

She relates how students come to her asking, “How do I find my voice?  How do I allow myself to become the dancer I want to be?”

When dancers ask her this, she says, to her it’s an indication that the dancer is “not quite comfortable in their skin.  They’re thinking too much and not feeling or allowing themselves to be in the movement.”

Her advice to these students is particularly insightful, I think.

Orellana tells them that they “need to allow themselves to be the bad-asses that they are” and she reminds them to “look at themselves in the mirror not to correct any physical part of the dance but to CONNECT with themselves as the person dancing.”

She assures them that looking at themselves in the mirror with acceptance will ultimately lead to their being confident in their movement and in their skin.

flamenco-dancer
“Flamenco Dancer” by Natalia Ba via Flickr [CC BY-ND 2.0]
Being comfortable in your own skin is how you tell when you are speaking with your own voice.

Your “voice” is how you’re recognized by others.  It’s the “tone” and the themes of your body of work (whatever it is).

Every time you do anything that other people notice, whether you’re an artist, a businessperson, an intellectual, a scientist or a geek, you are also putting your values and the unique perspectives and skills you bring to your work on display.

What is on display is the meaning and the mana that you have developed so far in your life.  Your work shows how you are standing in the world.

Like every other human thing, your “voice” changes as you grow and evolve.  It develops nuances and layers.  It deepens.  It may develop greater clarity or get muddied up by life-induced confusions.

TWO TEACHERS

As an accomplished dancer and teacher, Ornella says, she cannot help passing along her own ways of moving and styling as well as the basic theories and techniques surrounding the craft.

However, in the middle of all that, her aim as a teacher is to encourage each individual dancer to find and focus on the movements that feel “right” for the dancer and to explore the rhythms that resonate.

Kevin Fitz-Gerald, a professor at the USC Thornton School of Music, in this YouTube Video “ARTS: Finding Your Voice,” which was published by the school in 2007, agrees with Ornella.  The video was produced by artistshousemusic.org.

As Fitz-Gerald points out in the video, the things that his students point to as things they don’t like about themselves are very often what sets them apart and makes them unique individuals.  It is those things that can help them move beyond being “average” or “mediocre” and generic.

Both of these teachers advise their students to discover and develop their own natural strengths and make allowances for their inherent weaknesses and limitations by working on improving their techniques and by choosing a framework within which they can reach for their best work.

Both of them say that you will only be able to discover and use your own voice to present a message that is unique to you when you are able to explore and accept the whole package that is you.

VOICE, AUDIENCE AND YOU

All performers (and businesspeople are performers too) need an audience.  It’s part of the dynamic of this self-expression jones Creatives have. They trip out on the reactions they can engender in their audiences.

Every Creative understands that their audience will have an effect on how the artist does what he or she does.  Often the audience will determine whether the artist can continue to do it.

As a performer you want your audience to actually see who you are.  You want them to pay attention to what you have to say.  The audience doesn’t have to like what you say.  They don’t even have to like you.

Getting these others to pay attention to what you need to say can be the most important, life-affirming thing a human can do.

As a young girl who was a victim of sexual abuse by a trusted adult, acclaimed poet Maya Angelou had to choose between going silent and remaining trapped in an untenable situation or finding and using her own voice to get the help she needed to escape and to transcend this soul-shattering thing.

The girl chose to speak, and she kept on speaking and affirming life throughout her long and productive time on this earth.

In this YouTube Video, “Finding My Voice,” published in 2010 by visionaryproject, she tells how she brings herself out of her inherent tendency to go silent and closing herself down by deliberately making herself speak and speak and speak.

As Angelou points out in the video, mutism and freezing when overwhelmed by the circumstances in your life can be a very dangerous thing.  It can become too comfortable.

You become invisible.

Angelou was acclaimed as a poet, story-teller, and writer.  At one point she became an actress, playwright, producer, and director.  She was renowned as an educator and as a civil rights activist.

Angelou died in 2014, at the age of 86.  Throughout her long life, she was not invisible.

THE SHAPE OF THE SELF YOU SHOW

Your audience – anybody who’s watching what you do – will respond to the You that you present to them in your performance.  They can only know what you choose to show.

Maybe you’ve decided to spend your time imitating what those who have become the icons and the “best-of-class” in your field do. Maybe, you think, if you do what they did, then you will glow with their kind of shine.

There’s only one problem with doing this:  The You that you are showing to your audience will never be more than just a copy of somebody else.

For example, there are excellent Elvis imitators out there.  They serve a useful function:  They help keep the legend of that good ole boy alive.  But, really…off the top of your head, can you actually recall the names of these performers?

fat-elvis
“Fat Elvis (#2)” by allison via Flickr [CC BY 2.0]
The same is also true in any other field of human endeavor.   Imitation is its own reward.  Maybe you win a lot.  Mostly not.

I suppose, “finding your voice” is all about choosing the You that you want the World to know.  And, probably, you do hope that the You that you choose to show will not be ignored, dismissed or mocked.

Let’s be frank here.  You really do want at least some of the other people in this world to like that self you’re showing them because, basically, you do need to win enough support for what you are trying to do so you can keep on doing it.

Part of that is a matter of survival.  You have to eat.  You need a place to lay your head that’s more comfortable than a piece of cardboard under some highway underpass.  You need to take care of the people you love too.

And you have to achieve all that among all these other people (seven billion and counting) who are wanting to do the same thing as well.

However, it seems to me that if you’re any kind of a Maker, what you really want out of all this dancing around is to get to a place where you will have the freedom to get on with doing what you like to do best.

fountain-dance
“Fountain Dance” by Diana Lee Photography via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]

HOW DO YOU GET ON THE BUS?

The biggest problem with all this head-scratching and mooning around trying to hear your own voice is, as jazz great Miles Davis once pointed out, often a matter of spending enough time just doing what you want to do.  Miles said, “Sometimes you have to play for a long time to be able to play like yourself.”

For one thing, there are a lot of different “selves” inside every one of us.

All the wise guys and smarty-pants agree.  All of us humans are pretty much assemblages, made up of the bits and pieces we’ve picked up over time from the other people around us as we continue to wander through the world.

These assorted bits get glued onto the basic package. Sometimes all those life-bits turn us into lumpy messes.

To find the self that best encourages other people to respond positively to your spending your days in ways that resonate with that self you actually started out being can be a bitch of a project.

Every hour of every day and night you’re dealing with the pressures and demands of all of your dailynesses.  Work, and the needs of your family, your friends, your co-workers, your neighbors, and your stuff eat up your time.

Trying to deal with satisfying other people’s priorities, goals and expectations and maintain the life you’ve become accustomed to is often simply overwhelming.

Now, on top of that, we’re supposed to dig out our true selves and find our own voice as well?  Ri-i-i-ght….

dizzy-wood
“Dizzy Wood” by Marco Nürnberger via Flickr [CC BY-2.0]
Todd Henry is the founder of Accidental Creative, a company that works with people and companies all over the world to foster creativity, productivity, leadership and passion for work.

His book, LOUDER THAN WORDS: Harness the Power of Your Authentic Voice, is a good one to explore if you choose to accept this latest mission:  finding out who you are and what you want to say and do and then figuring out how to get other people to buy into that.

Besides explaining why finding your voice is important if you are looking for the meaning and mana in your ordinary life and in your work, Henry puts forward questions to ask and ways to find your own answers to them.

Here’s a list that he put together:

  • What angers you? What triggers an urge in you to rectify a great wrong?
  • What makes you cry?
  • What have you mastered? What do you do well?
  • What gives you hope? What do you look forward to?
  • As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
  • If you had all the time and money in the world, what would you do?
  • What would blow your mind?
  • What platform do you own?
  • What change would you like to see in the world?
  • If you had one day left, how would you spend it?

YET ANOTHER 30-DAY CHALLENGE SERIES

It occurred to me that Henry’s question list would make good 30-day challenge material.  Here’s the how-to:

  1. Grab an ordinary small-kid kind of composition notebook and a pen and label it “The Voice Project.” (No need to get fancy with this.)
  2. Now, choose one of those Henry questions or make one up that’s your own, then make a commitment that for just ten minutes every day for the next 30 days, you will think on that one question and write down your answer to it in that notebook you’ve labeled. (If the time you take to answer the question stretches past the five minutes, that’s fine too.)
  3. Do this notebook thing every day for 30 days.   Be honest with yourself.  Nobody else is going to see this thing.  Just you.
  4. If it starts to get boring, you might want to use colors and drawings and other stuff to illustrate the thing. Cut out magazine pictures and stick them in there.    Write a poem.  Whatever.  Have fun with it, but answer the question.
  5. By the end of that time, you’ll at least get some idea about the kinds of thoughts that arise when you ask yourself this one question.
  6. After you finish the first 30-day challenge with the question of your choice, do it again for the next question, then the next, then the next.

Ten minutes a day for thirty days equals 300 minutes – a minimum of 5 hours total in a 720-hour time period.

It’s less than the time spent attending yet another workshop or working your way through one more online course.

It’s less time than the time spent participating in networking events listening to everybody else’s pitches and slinging some your own self.

In between the question-answering sessions, you might want to go back and read over and look at the stuff you’ve produced.  You might ask yourself whether you really agree with all this blather and B.S. you’re shoveling.

That’s when you really start figuring out what you actually think about the thoughts you think.  You find the shape of your own basic self – the one that just sits there waiting for you to notice.

It gets to be quite fascinating after a while.

composing
“Composing – 67/365” by Andreanna Maya via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
I notice that the weirdest result of this little exercise is how just answering these questions and others like them affects you in your daily life.

You might start doing things that surprise you:  accepting an invitation to a gathering that you might normally not consider, taking on some project or supporting a cause that resonates strongly with you, or trying something you never tried before just to see whether you might like it.

These things may have some pretty amazing results.  It can be a very good thing.

Here’s a poem:


THAT IS THE SAD

Melancholy sits, a knot at the small of my back,

My companion as I walk through sunshine and through rain,

As I do my days,

Charging at windmills,

Taking in the wonderments,

Drinking down the joyousness,

Choking on the tears.

 

Maybe I’m understanding now:

The sadness is only the residue

Left behind as a flood flows

Through my heart cave yet again,

Leaving behind a high-water mark.

 

You know, of course, that all that shiny stuff

Running through all of our heart-caves are

Tributaries that merge together into a great river

Running through this ancient universe,

Pumped out by the jostling masses of living creatures,

Flowing all together like the notes of one grand song.

 

The birds singing their morning hosannas as they greet the sun

Go on through their day with the sound of that

Mighty chorus sounding in their ears,

Content that they’ve established their place in the world.

 

I am thinking we humans are no less connected than they,

But ours is a darker richer song,

Its complexity woven into our days and nights like a subsonic rumble

As we delude ourselves into believing we are immune –

Apart somehow – from the music we are making,

That grandiloquence that touches the edges of our own universe and beyond.

 

We fool ourselves and think we can sidestep the consequences

Of our myriad tiny choices,

That we can stand apart and inviolate, away from the all of everything.

And so we stand uncertain, unsure that this how, this place is righteously ours…

Unlike the bold birds who understand otherwise.

 

That’s the deep sadness, I am thinking,

The “suffering” wise guys ponder – this forgetting that is uniquely human –

The disremembering that, one and all, we are

The favored children of this old universe…

Welcome, gifted and alive,

Swimming in the same golden stream.

 

That willful denial keeps us grabbing at the silly, glittering flotsam,

That awful lostness rasps and scrapes us raw,

Dogging our days and trotting us around all crazy.

That’s the sad, I think.

That’s the suffering.

By Netta Kanoho

Header Photo credit: “Who Is Speaking?” by Daniel Horacio Agostini via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]

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JUST PAY ATTENTION

JUST PAY ATTENTION

“Pay attention!”  What happens in your head when you hear those words?

Childhood memories of parents, teachers and other Big People ordering you to do it probably aren’t your fondest memories.  It almost always meant, “I’m going to tell you something you probably are not interested in or something you don’t want to hear.  Listen anyway!”

pay-attention
“Pay Attention” by Nigel Goodman via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
Public address and warning system pronouncements and alerts that begin with “Attention!” are either boring, unintelligible, or scary…stuff that produces sinking feelings in the pit of your belly or a blank-out of white noise in your head.

In the military and other groups, “Attention!” is an order.   There’s even a special, specified way to “stand at attention” that indicates to the leader-person that you are, indeed, alert and ready to receive your next order.

team-moo
“Team Moo” by will_cylist via Flickr [CC BY-NC 2.0]
I suspect that whenever most of us hear the call for attention, there’s a kind of automatic shut-down.

For many of us, our attitude on being ordered to attend to something is summed up by Quora contributor Josh Manson’s comment in this 2015 thread that centered around defining the meaning of the phrase:

I am too broke to pay attention most of the time.

I’m too broke to pay my respect to anything.

I am ok with paying no mind to things that don’t concern me.

To pay means to give something of yourself to another. It is normally associated with money, so we don’t need to specify anything when it’s money we pay, it will be assumed. But to pay attention or pay respect is still giving something of yourself to another.

One question that springs to mind is this: “Okay, so I pay attention.  What does that buy me?”

THE VALUE OF PAYING ATTENTION

As adults, the value of paying attention is likely to be self-evident.  Somehow, we know, it’s the key to many things related to our lives.

  • We have to pay attention to walk across a busy street.
  • Our self-esteem and the authenticity of the way we walk develop according to the attention we give to our own thoughts and feelings, needs and values, beliefs and ideas.
  • Our happiness and the satisfaction and fulfillment we feel as we meet the goals and aspirations we set for ourselves is enhanced by our attention.
  • Our relationships and the communities we build are a lot more satisfying if we actually pay attention to each other and to the world around us.
  • Our business affairs, our careers, and the work we do to develop various skills require our attention.
  • Learning anything new demands our focused attention.
  • Our finances certainly benefit from our attention.
  • If we have health issues, we need to pay attention to our way of living in order to heal ourselves.

We can miss many of the moments of our life because we are not fully present for them and are moving around on auto-pilot, going through our daily routines, unaware of what we’re doing or experiencing as we ignore the world around us and multi-task our way through our days.

pay-no-attention-to-the-blues-singer-in-the-rear
“pay no attention to the blues singer in the rear” by Mary via Flickr [CC BY-ND 2.0]

ATTENTION VS JUDGMENT

Okay.  Now it gets convoluted.

In order to do this “paying attention” thing right – the kind that can change our lives — first we have to understand that there is a difference between “attention” and “judgment.”  Very often the definitions of those two words get mixed up.

Attention is neutral.  We just notice something.  We “pay attention” to it and see that whatever we are noticing is just there and we are there with it.

Judgment, on the other hand, is what comes after the noticing.  We humans are really, REALLY good at doing and fixing and solving stuff.  Because we are bent that way, we tend to look at everything we see as something that needs to be assessed, critiqued, and then probably “fixed” or rejected or enhanced.  We want to do something with this thing we noticed.  We jump right in and start rearranging and moving stuff around.

We even do it to each other, which leads to all kinds of story-making, poetry, tragedy and comedy and such and all sorts of turmoil in our lives.

While “judgment” is certainly useful, it is not “attention.”

Attention is about noticing and being with something without trying to change it.  Attention means taking the time to fully explore, to discover whatever there is to know about something, and to watch as things change by themselves with no interference from us.

everyone-paying-attention
“Everyone paying attention” by André Luís via Flickr [CC BY-2.0]
Hmmm….

Isn’t that starting to sound familiar?  It’s like that stuff we’ve heard from all kinds of wise guys about “being mindful” doesn’t it?

It’s also a lot like what all those life-coaches and love counselors tell us about the most effective ways to enhance our relationships with others:  Be open.  Notice all those other people without judgment or criticism, welcome them, accept them, be patient, be kind.

The same advice applies to developing your relationship to your own self.  (The best thing about being an adult is that we also have the capacity and the wherewithal to pay attention and to nurture our own selves as well.)

And the key to all of that is just simply to “pay attention.”

YOUR BRAIN ON “PAYING ATTENTION”

It’s an amazing thing.  Numerous studies by neurologists and other smarty-pants scientists keep showing that the way we think and what we pay attention to does physically affect us and have tremendous impact on our lives.  Those wise guys of old were right!

One 2009 best-seller book, BUDDHA’S BRAIN:  The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love, and Wisdom, by Rick Hanson, PhD with Richard Mendius, mixes neuroscientific breakthroughs with ancient wisdom teachings from thousands of years of contemplative practice and is filled with information about the practical tools and skills that help you deal with life in our complex and complicated modern world.

Hanson, a psychologist and a Senior Fellow of the Greater Good Science Center at Berkeley California, is also the founder of the Wellspring Institute for Neuroscience and Contemplative Wisdom.  According to him, the scientists have found that “attention shapes the brain.”

What we pay attention to is literally what we will build in our brain tissue.  Whatever we focus on affects how the neurons in our brains develop and wire themselves together.

This YouTube video, “How To Change Your Brain,” was taken at the Greater Good Science Center as part of the “Science of a Meaningful Life” series.  It is a fascinating look at how mindfulness meditation, a way of practicing disciplined attention, is like training your muscles.

The practice, he says, can strengthen our brains as well as help us focus our attention.

Here’s a poem:


AW, GOOD GRIEF!

‘Kay.

So I took the road less-traveled

Way-back-when, while in my youth.

I recall it was my “Seeker” phase.

(I remember I was all

“St. George” and “forsooth.”)

That day I stopped in this dark woods,

I don’t think I pondered deep.

I had no previous appointment,

No promises to keep.

 

I took off running like a shot

Past t’s to cross and i’s to dot.

Booking it faster than my fears

I ran on down the faintest track,

Blood all singing in my ears.

I abandoned that clear-cut highway that

Headed right into the tried-and-true,

The Mama-says-not world

That kept making my brown eyes blue.

(I don’t recall one glance back.)

 

I wandered and I wondered

What the heck this thing’s about,

Got tangled up with other folks,

Never did quite figure it out.

I’ve been up and down and sideways

On so many tracks and trails,

Traversed bits of this old mountain side

(Had to run sometimes and sometimes hide).

Puzzles sought and solved,

Conundrums all untied,

Mysteries unveiled,

Companions who lived and died.

 

Those tracks and trails meander on

Through the thick surrounding brush,

Then over the great forest comes

A deep and poignant hush.

 

And me,

I look around and realize:

Dang!

These things are wild pig trails.

 

Ummm….

Where am I?

by Netta Kanoho

Header Photo credit:  “Huh?” by Morgan via Flickr [CC BY-2.0]

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