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Funny how our busted weird messy unwieldy code constructions resemble… every other human endeavor over a certain (tiny) size. Erin Kissane.

Slow Life, Daniel Stoupin (via Anne)

"Slow" marine animals show their secret life under high magnification. Corals and sponges are very mobile creatures, but their motion is only detectable at different time scales compared to ours and requires time lapses to be seen. These animals build coral reefs and play crucial roles in the biosphere, yet we know almost nothing about their daily lives.

Some I know quite well, and they have been lost to their alumni associations for decades, while living exemplary lives and accomplishing needed and innovative work in the everyday world. They are, as a Taoist once put it, “sages disguised as melon growers in the mountains.” Gary Snyder, A Place in Space (via Charlie)
I’m more interested in the sovereignty of the future. David Ryan in response to Tim Maly’s mention of “the future of sovereignty.”

Who are you now?

My friend Thomas asked “Who are you now?" His prompt, which I’ve taken in another direction, and my short post about grit have left me with many thoughts, mostly questions. This draws from and is included in my ever-growing collection of ideas about smallness.

I.
The expectation now is that you are more powerful than you were, that you rank higher and have more authority, that you have accumulated more (wealth, possessions, larger home, etc.). We promote and we strive for bigger and better, for more fame, grander visions, and wider impact, but do we ever celebrate smaller and better, the known-by-few, simpler visions, and narrower scope? Can we celebrate those who have stayed where they are or those who have taken a step back?

Schools and colleges frequently celebrate the grandiose accomplishments of their students, alumni, and faculty, but they usually don’t profile and celebrate the loving parent, the non-professional caring for the sick or the dying, the school volunteer, the person reading what others are writing, the life that doesn’t scale up. Why not? Is it because these stories are boring? Don’t we diminish their importance by not including them?

A person who abandons a career in order to stay home and raise children is considered not to be living up to his potential — as if a job title and salary are the sole measure of human worth. —Bill Watterson

Being a good mom, being a good dad, being a good neighbor – these things are every bit as urgent and political as self-consciously being “radical” no? —Randall Szott

"By embiggening the import of national abstractions, it pulls us away from good opportunities to work on simple, tangible, everyday things. […] We should make as big a fuss tending the culture right in front of us – raising children, jury duty, block parties." —Charlie Loyd

"I am done with great things and big things, great institutions and big success, and I am for those tiny, invisible molecular moral forces that work from individual to individual, creeping through the crannies of the world like so many rootlets, or like the capillary oozing of water, yet which if you give them time, will rend the hardest monuments of man’s pride." —William James

"I want to be famous to shuffling men
who smile while crossing streets,
sticky children in grocery lines,
famous as the one who smiled back.”
Naomi Shihab Nye

II.
Do we set up children for peaking early and not provide them with the tools to deal with decline? Do we make them feel important (class/school/city/state champions, valedictorian, class president, queens!, kings!, etc.), but forget to put that into perspective with regard to the size of the pond?

III.
Do we ever consider that the “winners” have actually taken from the “losers”? If there are finite resources available to us, especially attention, then when someone receives a lot of it, doesn’t someone else have to get less? Can we take the competition out of our lives? Can we stop obsessing about “personal branding,” the number of followers, the size of audience, the breadth of impact, the connections to big names? Can we step away from the ground breaking and focus on the ground sustaining, the ground healing? Can we emphasize the power of the day-to-day, the beauty of the local and small?

IV.
In schools, our attempts at global awareness often amount to spending money, getting on planes, and burning jet fuel. They leave us with slide shows and little understanding of the long-term effects and the lack of positive impact that our parachuting-in approach has on the lives of those we visit, observe, and often disrupt. Do we have to travel far to have a global perspective? Doesn’t Wendell Berry’s take on the matter make more sense?

I don’t think “global thinking” is futile, I think it is impossible. You can’t think about what you don’t know and nobody knows this planet. Some people know a little about a few small parts of it … The people who think globally do so by abstractly and statistically reducing the globe to quantities. Political tyrants and industrial exploiters have done this most successfully. Their concepts and their greed are abstract and their abstractions lead with terrifying directness and simplicity to acts that are invariably destructive. If you want to do good and preserving acts you must think and act locally. The effort to do good acts gives the global game away. You can’t do a good act that is global … a good act, to be good must be acceptable to what Alexander Pope called “the genius of the place”. This calls for local knowledge, local skills, and local love that virtually none of us has, and that none of us can get by thinking globally. We can get it only by a local fidelity that we would have to maintain through several lifetimes … I don’t wish to be loved by people who don’t know me; if I were a planet I would feel exactly the same way.

Maybe sometime I’ll write up my thoughts about the power of audiences of one, which is arguably less powerful than being an audience to one. I’m off to work at the latter now.

The modern economy privileges pure profit, momentary transactions, and rapid fluidity. Part of craft’s anchoring role is that it helps to slow down labor. It is not about quick transactions or easy victories. That slow tempo of craftwork, of taking the time you need to do something well, is profoundly stabilizing to individuals. Richard Sennett, Crafting A New World (via plsj)
The “generosity echo” is one of many concepts Paul Soulellis describes  in Resistance: Scenes from a designer’s counter-practice. Read it slowly. Ask yourself, “What is my counter-practice?” Answer slowly.

The “generosity echo” is one of many concepts Paul Soulellis describes in Resistance: Scenes from a designer’s counter-practice. Read it slowly. Ask yourself, “What is my counter-practice?” Answer slowly.

Bill Watterson on Human Worth

There’s a new interview with Bill Watterson circulating the Internet today. I’ll probably post a quote from it at some time or another, but for now, I’m sharing a clip from the commencement address he gave at Kenyon college in 1990, “Some Thoughts on the Real World by One Who Glimpsed It and Fled)”:

Creating a life that reflects your values and satisfies your soul is a rare achievement. In a culture that relentlessly promotes avarice and excess as the good life, a person happy doing his own work is usually considered an eccentric, if not a subversive. Ambition is only understood if it’s to rise to the top of some imaginary ladder of success. Someone who takes an undemanding job because it affords him the time to pursue other interests and activities is considered a flake. A person who abandons a career in order to stay home and raise children is considered not to be living up to his potential-as if a job title and salary are the sole measure of human worth.

Mental Floss has the new words from Watterson.

Except

Now that you have gone
and I am alone and quiet,
my contentment would be
complete, if I did not wish
you were here so I could say,
“How good it is, Tanya,
to be alone and quiet.”

—Wendell Berry (via Luke, because)

Having spent several years transforming children’s drawings into plush sculptures and other art, we were ready to give these creations even deeper meaning. The result is an ongoing project called One and Only. The project is partly inspired by Phillipe Starck’s TeddyBearBand and an anecdote from Gretchen Ruben.

We’re working with children and/or their parents to help them create their own plush art. While the development of craft skills is important to the process, the project’s primary concern is a conversation about sustainability, slow living, relationships, and the beauty of imperfections and seams, both in the objects we cherish and in the people we love.

I’m reminded by a passage Ariel Kaminer wrote in a letter to David Rakoff, shortly before his death:


  Here is the simplest lesson you taught me: Don’t trade up.
  
  In terms of three-word volumes, it ranks right up there with “It gets better.” Like that more famous line, it starts out as a bit of simple, practical instruction — don’t back out of a social engagement just because a snazzier offer came along — and broadens out into an entire perspective on how to live. Don’t grade friendships on a hierarchical scale. Don’t value people based on some external indicator of status. Don’t take a competitive view of your social life. There are very few rules I carry around with me every day. Don’t trade up is one of them, and I truly can’t tell you how many seemingly complicated situations it resolved into clarity and fairness. I am grateful to you for that.


Children making their own plush companion, parents making one for their child, or older siblings making one for a younger sibling, One and Only comes with the suggestion that this will be their one-and-only plush toy. It’s theirs to keep, but hopefully they will also be willing to share their story and photographs of their creations, like the elephant above that nine-year-old  Margot made with us a few months ago.

Having spent several years transforming children’s drawings into plush sculptures and other art, we were ready to give these creations even deeper meaning. The result is an ongoing project called One and Only. The project is partly inspired by Phillipe Starck’s TeddyBearBand and an anecdote from Gretchen Ruben.

We’re working with children and/or their parents to help them create their own plush art. While the development of craft skills is important to the process, the project’s primary concern is a conversation about sustainability, slow living, relationships, and the beauty of imperfections and seams, both in the objects we cherish and in the people we love.

I’m reminded by a passage Ariel Kaminer wrote in a letter to David Rakoff, shortly before his death:

Here is the simplest lesson you taught me: Don’t trade up.

In terms of three-word volumes, it ranks right up there with “It gets better.” Like that more famous line, it starts out as a bit of simple, practical instruction — don’t back out of a social engagement just because a snazzier offer came along — and broadens out into an entire perspective on how to live. Don’t grade friendships on a hierarchical scale. Don’t value people based on some external indicator of status. Don’t take a competitive view of your social life. There are very few rules I carry around with me every day. Don’t trade up is one of them, and I truly can’t tell you how many seemingly complicated situations it resolved into clarity and fairness. I am grateful to you for that.

Children making their own plush companion, parents making one for their child, or older siblings making one for a younger sibling, One and Only comes with the suggestion that this will be their one-and-only plush toy. It’s theirs to keep, but hopefully they will also be willing to share their story and photographs of their creations, like the elephant above that nine-year-old Margot made with us a few months ago.

Perhaps our true weakness lies not in our inability to push ourselves past limits, but in our refusal to take care of our very selves. Mark Llobrera

"More than anything, the work is about time and affection."

Maria Nepomuceno: Tempo para Respirar (Breathing Time), at Turner Contemporary (more)

Spacesuit Pilgrimage to The National Wool Museum, part of The Welsh Space Campaign, a project by Hefin Jones

Paul Soulellis’s decision “to use found materials, on-site in and around Skagaströnd" for his book project in Iceland reminded me of Hefin Jones's The Welsh Space Campaign, which I mentioned a couple of weeks ago.

The Welsh Space Campaign launches ordinary Welsh people into outer space, by finding cosmic context for Welsh culture, skills and traditions.

A plumber has built a pressure system for the spacesuit, a traditional clog maker has made space clogs, and the last remaining wool mills in Wales have provided material for the space suit.

I aim to reveal that Wales has the capacity to explore space, and to show that off-world culturalisation can be achieved through a collective communitarian effort; as a way to allow the people involved to reconsider their role and skill in relation to these cosmic contexts.

For more video and photographs, see The Welsh Space Campaign website.