Bluebird February

My friend Brian Moss was driving me home from a rehearsal a few months ago and told me this story. It’s from Brennan Manning’s book Ruthless Trust, and tells of a time in 1975, when Mother Teresa was running her free hospice for the poor in Calcutta, India.

When the brilliant ethicist John Kavanaugh went to work for three months at the House of the Dying in Calcutta, he was seeking a clear answer as to how best to spend the rest of his life. On the first morning there he met Mother Teresa. She asked, “And what can I do for you?” Kavanaugh asked her to pray for him.

"What do you want me to pray for?" she asked. He voiced the request that he had borne thousands of miles from the United States: "Pray that I have clarity."

She said firmly, “No, I will not do that.” When he asked her why, she said, “Clarity is the last thing you are clinging to and must let go of.” When Kavanaugh commented that she always seemed to have the clarity he longed for, she laughed and said, “I have never had clarity; what I have always had is trust. So I will pray that you trust God.”

I do think our truest character shows when we come to the end of what we know. That place where the questions hang and we simply cannot go any further in our usual ways of understanding. 

It is not a comfortable place to be.

It is natural to want to move out of it.

press harder There must be something here
make up a new story What’s really going on is this
create distance from the pain of uncertainty This is crazy
strain under the pressure There is no hope

The admonishment to trust — in anything, let alone God — sounds strange and wise and ridiculous at the same time. Yet what a tantalizing alternative, in those seasons where clarity is elusive, to have a measure of certainty in something beyond the known, and the presence to sit within the mystery for just a little while longer. 

More on Kavanaugh’s time in India

Art credit: Alice Friedel

nprfreshair:

I think it’s very important to live in the present. One of the great things that improvising teaches you is the magic of the moment that you’re in… because when you improvise you’re in right now. You’re not in yesterday or tomorrow—you’re right in the moment. Being in that moment really gives you a perspective of life that you never get at any other time as far as learning about your ego… You have to see your unimportance before you can see your importance and your significance to the world.

Charlie Haden, jazz bass player 1937-2014 

Photo credit: Schellekens/Redferns

fastcompany:

Call Me Ishmael Is An Intimate, Multimedia Love Letter To Books

Leave a voicemail about a book you love and a story you’ve lived, the project asks.

It was a long flight, and one woman had brought Cutting For Stone by Abraham Verghese to occupy herself. When she got to the book’s saddest passage, she started sobbing. “I mean complete, shameless, snot flowing down my face sobbing,” she says. That’s when another woman sitting across the aisle from her handed her a tissue she had been holding in anticipation of this moment. “I read that book a few weeks ago, and I knew you were getting close,” she said.

This is one of many anonymous stories about books that has been told to Ishmael, of the site Call Me Ishmael, since it launched in June. The premise is simple: Anyone can call the site’s phone number and answer the prompt, “Leave a voicemail about a book you love and a story you’ve lived.”

Ishmael, who is voiced by TED-Ed director Logan Smalley, turns one of those voicemails each week into a video by sticking his iPhone to his typewriter with silly putty and running a transcription of the message through the roller to the speed of the audio. From a single prompt, the site has unleashed a wide range of stories.

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"The search for reason ends at the known; on the immense expanse beyond it only the sense of the ineffable can glide. It alone knows the route to that which is remote from experience and understanding. Neither of them is amphibious: reason cannot go beyond the shore, and the sense of the ineffable is out of place where we measure, where we weigh. We do not leave the shore of the known in search of adventure or suspense or because of the failure of reason to answer our questions. We sail because our mind is like a fantastic seashell, and when applying our ear to its lips we hear a perpetual murmur from the waves beyond the shore. Citizens of two realms, we all must sustain a dual allegiance: we sense the ineffable in one realm, we name and exploit reality in another. Between the two we set up a system of references, but we can never fill the gap. They are as far and as close to each other as time and calendar, as violin and melody, as life and what lies beyond the last breath."
Abraham Joshua Heschel

(Source: crashinglybeautiful)

A few years ago, my grandmother leaned forward over her cup of tea and said, “Did you know I was married to another man before I met your grandfather?” 

I had not known. 

She continued her story, explaining how she and her popular highschool boyfriend had plotted to elope after graduation. Their parents read about the marriage in the papers. Having made few plans about how they would survive, her husband got temporary work as a field hand on a large farm near Teako, in eastern Washington. But the honeymoon didn’t last. He drank hard and often left my grandmother alone for days in the bunkhouse they shared with the other workers. Needing to support herself, my grandmother found a job in the kitchen of another nearby farm. She said sometimes she would sneak up to the attic, where she’d discovered a pile of old housekeeping magazines. She would look through the pages and dream of having her own home someday.

One afternoon as she was working in the kitchen, one of the cooks approached her and said, “Sue, you don’t belong here. Why don’t you go? Go now. I’ll cover for you.” Then he reached into his pocket and offered her a small wad of bills. 

She knew this was her chance, and she walked out. 

She kept walking for seven miles to the nearest town, and by night, she was on a bus to Spokane. Too proud to go home, she worked for several months as a housekeeper for a wealthy family, then as a nanny. One day running errands in town, she heard a squeal and two women rushed across the road and caught her in an enormous hug, crying and carrying on, right there in the middle of the sidewalk. 

"Oh, Molly, It was the most wonderful feeling in the world, I tell you!" My grandmother paused for a moment, lost in memory. It was her family, and despite her protests, they insisted she come home. They helped her annul her marriage, and her father brought her to tears with an offer to send her to college. And to a second chance. At school she met my grandfather with whom she would eventually share a strong and happy marriage — and a home of her own — for more than 60 years. 

I heard a friend say once that big doors swing on small hinges. It’s true in this story. A conversation in a kitchen, an embrace on a sidewalk, just one more drink. People are powerful, and our humblest decisions can have great effects far beyond what we see. I am also moved by what prompted my grandmother to change: it wasn’t a scolding or a punishment or getting what she deserved, but a simple affirmation of who she was and the reminder that she could still make a choice. Even her own shame wasn’t a match for that kind of love. It never is.

Art credit: Z.Z. Wei

"While I’m extremely aware, and even insistent, that a piece of design can never be judged by functionality alone, I think it’s ultimately inhuman to only see things for their functionality. We want things to be more than that. The desire for beauty is something that’s in us, and it’s not trivial.

I’m completely flabbergasted that almost no one talks about beauty within the world of design. If someone does, it’s often, “Well, this is not what we’re about.” Fuck you! If you made something today that was actually beautiful, you did a lot. I think that’s something to be embraced and be proud of. There is this notion out there of designers being seen as people who only make things pretty as if that’s somehow lesser. Just look at the world right now, be it American strip malls or public housing. How much of it is so extremely ugly and built under the guise of functionality, even though it doesn’t work all that well? You can drive for hours and hours through this country, on highways and byways, without encountering beauty. It’s amazing.”

There’s a lot to love in this interview with design rockstar Stefan Sagmeister by the fab folks at thegreatdiscontent:

New York-based designer and founder of Sagmeister & Walsh shares about his path from Austria to New York City, the lessons he’s learned through running a studio, and why we all need more beauty in our lives.

Read the interview →

In June I was thrilled to attend a dinner and discussion hosted by the New Museum on the intersection of technology, design, and the humanities. The evening included a private tour of current museum exhibitions given by Julia Kaganskiy, director of the accelerator New Inc, as well as a beautiful meal served in the Sky Room overlooking lower Manhattan. Guests came from all corners of the art world and design disciplines, with many also working in emergent research and technology.

Although the night progressed with curated questions to get things going, the prompts were hardly necessary. We had some lively debates about the pace of innovation and the responsibility that comes with it, what it means for technology to become more human, and how creation must be interdisciplinary. And the sparks flew.

Connecting: Makers

I’m excited to share a film I’ve been working on with the design studios at Microsoft. Connecting: Makers is second in a series on interaction design, and it examines why we make and why it matters. The film features interviews with Benedetta Piantella, Bruce Nussbaum, Marie O’Mahony, Tucker Fort, Carla Diana, Mike Glaser, Bre Pettis, Bill Buxton, Gordon Hui, and Brit Morin. See both films here

The story of Connecting is the story of a research project gone rogue. In 2011, one of the design studios was curious about what was next in interaction design. So they reached out to their network of designers and thought-leaders and asked them about it. Teams do this all the time. But the resulting piece became a provocative treatise on interaction design itself. And people started asking if they could share the film outside the company. 

The response was overwhelming. Soon requests came pouring in from all over the world for screenings and panels. Several design schools added the film to their curriculums. The discussions were fantastic, and the team heard over and over again that people didn’t expect this kind of thing from Microsoft. 

This time the team is looking at how the maker movement is democratizing creativity and impacting interaction design. Why do we make? Are makers and designers the same thing? In a world where everyone is a maker, what new responsibilities do we have?

"There are very few rules to improv, but one of the things I was taught early on is that you are not the most important person on the scene. Everybody else is, and if everybody else is more important than you are, you will naturally pay attention to them and serve them. But the good news is, you’re in the scene too. So hopefully to them you’re the most important person and they will serve you. No one is leading. You’re all following the follower, serving the servant. You cannot win improv, and life is an improvisation. You have no idea what is going to happen next and you are mostly just yanking ideas out of your ass as you go along. And like improv, you cannot win your life."
Steven Colbert, happy birthday (via kateoplis)
blakegopnik:

THE DAILY PIC:  This is a piece by Ed Ruscha recently installed beside the High Line park in New York – the first Ruscha painting, I am told, installed as a mural outside. So much of Ruscha’s work has always seemed to draw subjects and visuals from the streets around him, so it’s great to see that imagery reinserted into its native habitat. It’s almost possible to imagine a new Ruscha that appropriates parts of this mural, as a (very) assisted readymade.
Cecilia Alemani, curator of the art on the High Line, also pointed out the nice irony of installing this particular work beside a park which, on nice days, has come to be as crowded as any freeway.
Art credit: photo by Timothy Schenck, courtesy Friends of the High Line
ZoomInfo
Camera

Nikon D600

ISO

400

Aperture

f/7.1

Exposure

1/200th

Focal Length

24mm

blakegopnik:

THE DAILY PIC:  This is a piece by Ed Ruscha recently installed beside the High Line park in New York – the first Ruscha painting, I am told, installed as a mural outside. So much of Ruscha’s work has always seemed to draw subjects and visuals from the streets around him, so it’s great to see that imagery reinserted into its native habitat. It’s almost possible to imagine a new Ruscha that appropriates parts of this mural, as a (very) assisted readymade.

Cecilia Alemani, curator of the art on the High Line, also pointed out the nice irony of installing this particular work beside a park which, on nice days, has come to be as crowded as any freeway.

Art credit: photo by Timothy Schenck, courtesy Friends of the High Line

(via wtfarthistory)