Archive for ‘Slow’

February 16, 2011

5…Minds Not Made Up

We’ve been talking to lots of people these days, lots of people with lots of ideas and opinions and talents… and uncertainties and fears and ineptitudes, too. Lots of people have something to say and know how to say it. Lots of people have something to say but aren’t sure how to express it. And lots and lots of people won’t easily open their mouths to speak unless they feel they can speak with some degree of authority on the subject.

We’ve been thinking a lot about how to best facilitate conversations that are really productive but not instrumental, respectful but not PC, safe but not boring, provocative but not inflammatory. We’re now of the opinion that one way to go about nurturing such a space is to ask people to come to the discussion or the workshop or the party without their minds made up. This single all-encompassing rule can speak to all those latent desires (to know and show oneself knowing, to have principles that stand the test of time, to be heard, to be understood, to be looked up to) that tend to manifest themselves as conversation-killers. What is a dead conversation if not a stagnant discussion in which the rigidities of minds made up have occasioned still ponds (lifeless, anaerobic, idle) instead of flowing waterways (always moving, always circulating, always refreshing)? Even though this analogy can only take us so far, since even anaerobic activity is ultimately transformative and creative, we think you get the picture.

Like the Oracle of Delphi and its two entrance inscriptions, “know thyself” and “nothing in excess” (a/k/a “everything in moderation”), the line “minds not made up” shall be unwritten above the entrance to every Wayward event. Think of our adage as the unwritten inscription, compounding the Oracle’s two inscriptions to read: know oneself in moderation.

We read the relation between the two inscriptions as such: the assurances of a made up mind must be tempered by the moderating effect of the community of others; the introspective act of making one’s mind up about oneself can only ever be but a training ground for the arena of dialogue, discussion and disagreement that one enters into with others; the shared cosmos and assembly of people, place and things (the political dance of nouns) is best composed under conditions of moderation wherein minorities are not excluded from participation with the many, and neither do a select few rule over the multitude.

Having one’s mind made up, is like selective reading: passing over the persons, places and things with whom or with which one cannot find common ground (without looking a little harder); immoderately reading the social terrain for its most comfortable passages (wearing those trails thin with obsessive movement); seeking allies in friends (but never in adversaries). And those things won’t get us anywhere, so come with minds not made up and we’ll see where that takes us for a change.

Liberty and Learning

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January 21, 2011

8…Gestural Linguistics

Antiquated Sign Language AlphabetUse your words. Talk with your hands. Talk to the hand. Let me hear your body talk. Words cannot describe. More than words can say. Take my breath away. Leave me speechless.

A word is a gesture, a thought-form in the ether, a movement between minds. A physical vibration in the throat, writhing through the thick conductive air, exciting the fluids in the ear canal of an other to reverberate. Sound becomes signal, becomes sign, through the hand-holding efforts of neurons, axons, synapses and dendrites…to name but a few. A word takes many physical forms and collaborative efforts to become conceptual.

One picture says a thousand words, and the language our bodies make speaks volumes. Non-verbal communication is the dominant mode, if not the hegemonic (i.e. preferred one).

Countless conversations buzz and vibrate and gesticulate in us and around us every moment of every day…we tap in to but a few. Many thousands of informative, but ultimately useless, messages bombard us, in excess of the signals and cues we actually need to make it through any given day, vying for our consumptive attention with diminishing returns. It’s easy for judgement to get clouded in such a blitzkrieg.

But think about the pleasure of comfortable silence between friends, and how much that means. Think about the wordless glance across the room with a potential love (or a sworn enemy), and how much that means. Think about the way bees wiggle and dance for one another, and how much that means. Think about the chatter of birdsong, and/or the lack thereof, and how much that means. Think about the aroma of fermenting fruit, and how much that means. Think about the smell of burnt toast, and how much that (might!) mean. Think about the touch of another’s hand on your forehead, your shoulder, your hip, and all the different things each can mean.

We inhabit worlds beyond words, populated by signals not signs. Electromagnetic, elemental, audible, aromatic, chemical transmissions between animate and inanimate forms, themselves comprised of cacophonous arrangements of sensory perceptions, of sending/receiving animate and inanimate forms.

We have all sorts of ways to describe the act of communicating without words, but very few spring to mind to describe the ability to “listen” to wordless things. (Intuition or sixth senses don’t nearly cover it.) How might we more readily acknowledge and appreciate in our everyday experience that which is outside of verbal expression? In other words, how might we place more trust in and show more respect towards the whole of the sensible world and the myriad ways it informs our everyday experience?

Let’s talk about it…and let’s think about it, make things about it and do it, too.

January 3, 2011

9…Busywork

Unsolved puzzles are ripe with meaning…you just have to decode it first. The decoding is a kind of busywork under the guise of logical sleuthing. Admittedly, word puzzles are a not-so-secret favourite pastime of mine. The puzzles that contain aphoristic words of wisdom and famous (or not-so-famous) quotations by famous (or not-so-famous) authors, or otherwise notable quotable figures, are by far the most enticing in that they are the Kinder-Surprise of pencil puzzles:  You figure out where all the letters and words go, maybe only to find yourself still scratching your head trying to figure out what to do with it…what does it all mean? Sometimes you simply can’t be sure, and sometimes you even feel a little ripped off (“I spent all that time assembling these tedious little parts, for this?“), and then, other times, the ingenuity of the thing simply makes you stop and wonder.

I find it worth noting that pencil puzzle magazines seem to be marketed at women who work at home (a/k/a “housewives”) and people between flights at the airport…in either case offering the diligent puzzle-solver a chance to pass away those otherwise “unproductive” hours spent waiting for laundry to dry, kids to wake from naps, flights to arrive, etc etc…to keep their minds “active” if you will. If stay-at-home moms, listless travellers, and any other type of person who might find themselves attracted to pencil puzzles (me, for instance) truly find their minds otherwise languishing, I don’t know that mentally taxing soduku puzzles and crosswords are necessarily the solution, though of course they do themselves contain solutions, but I digress…

Stopping and wondering is just one way we can inhabit the waiting games we play (those Kinder-Surprise exercises that can at times be few and far between or hopefully numerous enough to overlap, sometimes fitting between two and sometimes managing to subsume all) in the cracks of our daily responsibilities, that assemblage of purposeful plans and meaningful meetings in your daily agenda or smart phone that gets you through the day and follows you into the night. Busywork interrupts the “real” work that chases us (or do we chase it?). Stopping and wondering is one way to escape busywork, and somehow (perhaps it is our undying love of irony) we tend to rely on the most tedious and meaningless games and toys to provide for us the opening to make that escape.

Busywork, housework, homework, officework, yardwork, artwork…the elegant assembly of tedious little parts to form a composition that makes sense is perhaps what all work is. And by make sense, I guess I mean make useful. And when we do work that feels useless, or when we are out-of-work and feel ourselves to be useless, then no amount of busywork can quell the rising tide of frustration.

Puzzles can be solved in two entirely different modes: anti-socially and socially. Either one furrows their brow and sorts the thing out in quiet concentration, or one puts their head together with other folk and collectively chooses an appropriate solution. We at Wayward tend to prefer the latter.

December 20, 2010

10…Easy does it.

I have to keep reminding myself… it’s one of the things I do at the same time as a bunch of other stuff, too much other stuff.  Reminding myself to do one thing at a time has become yet another thing on my list of too many things to do!

Maddening.

Right now, there is so very much to do, which is just as heartening as it is overwhelming. So many ways to get involved in this, that, or the other…so many things to get done…so much to learn, so much to remember, so much to put into action. And it’s all worth it, which makes it hard to choose where to rest one’s attention. Attentuating our efforts and thoughtfulness might be about the single most pressing piece of business on the agenda.

And so it bears repeating, ONE THING AT A TIME, because we are under siege from our own good intentions and everyone else’s intents and purposes too, so we need mantras like this to help us stay the course, I suppose, to help us slow down and think, really think, about what we are doing.