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Robert Coles — The Inner Lives of Children - | On Being
"DR. COLES: Which I think is what I’m trying to say here as I speak with you, as I go back to my parents and to my childhood and try to recapture some of that spirit that I knew as a boy.

MS. TIPPETT: It’s interesting to me that those words you used, “questioning spirit,” and not a conventional religious sense are also qualities that you found in children and even in children who came from homes in which the tradition was much more set.

DR. COLES: That’s a very good point you’ve just brought up. Children are by nature questioning. I mean, I know it as a pediatrician and a child psychiatrist. I know it as a parent. I think we all know that children are questioning. And I think there is no doubt that a lot of the religious side of childhood is a merger of the natural curiosity and interest the children have in the world with the natural interest and curiosity that religion has about the world, because that’s what religion is.

MS. TIPPETT: Right.

DR. COLES: It’s our effort in this planet as creatures who have a mind and use language to ask questions and answer them through speculation, through story-telling, to explore the universe and answer those fundamental questions: Where do we come from? What are we? And where, if any place, are we going? And those fundamental questions inform religious life and inform the lives of children as children, and that merger is a beautiful thing to behold when you’re with children.

MS. TIPPETT: You know what’s nice about what you just said to me too, is I suddenly realized that what you discovered in speaking with these children and listening to them is not only revealing about childhood but it’s revealing of an aspect of religion which we probably don’t pay as much attention to as we should.

DR. COLES: That’s the great tragedy, isn’t it?

MS. TIPPETT: Yeah.

DR. COLES: Because after all, if you stop and think about Judaism, the great figures in Judaism are those prophets of Israel, Jeremiah and Isaiah and Amos. They were prophetic figures who asked the deepest kinds of questions and were willing to stand outside the gates of power and privilege in order to keep asking those questions. And then came Jesus of Nazareth who was a teacher. You might call him the migrant teacher who walked about ancient Israel — now called Israel, Palestine, whatever, the Middle East — seeking and asking and wondering and reaching out to people and daring to ask questions that others had been taught not to ask or even forbidden to ask. And this kind of inquiring Jesus, this soulful Jesus, searching for comrades and, let’s call them in our vernacular, buddies. They were his buddies, and they were willing to link arms with him in this kind of spiritual quest that he found himself, shall we say, impelled toward or driven toward. I don’t want to use driven in any psychoanalytic way …

MS. TIPPETT: Right.

DR. COLES: … but just in a human way. And this was the rabbi, the teacher, the exalted figure, a descendant, really, of Jeremiah and Isaiah and Amos. It’s that prophetic tradition of Judaism which is so profound and important and which the Christian world is, at its best, the beneficiary of.

MS. TIPPETT: Right.

DR. COLES: Now, both in Judaism and Christianity, of course, there are rule setters, and at times they can be all too insistent, some would say even a bit tyrannical. But in any event, the spirit or religion, I think, is what children connect with.

MS. TIPPETT: Right.

DR. COLES: The questions, the inquiry, the enormous curiosity about this universe, and the hope that somehow those answers will come about, which is what we do when we kneel in a church and sit and pray in a synagogue or whatever.

[Sound bite of music]

MS. TIPPETT: Also what I think you’re getting at there and what is also in this compatibility between children and religion also has something to do with, I mean, there’s something mysterious in it as well, something about the mystery of those questions.

MR. COLES: Mystery is such an important part of it. And mystery invites curiosity and inquiry. You know, Flannery O’Connor — talk about a religious person, she was Catholic in background but she was beyond Catholicism; she was a deeply spiritual person. And she once was talking about the kind of person who becomes a good novelist, hoping that she would be included in that company but not daring to assume that that had happened. But once she said, beautifully — it’s in her letters if the listeners want to get one of her books. It’s called, The Habit of Being — but in one of those letters she says, “The task of the novelist is to deepen mystery.” And then she pauses and she says, “But mystery is a great embarrassment to the modern mind.” And there’s our tragedy, that we have to resolve all mystery. We can’t let it be. We can’t rejoice in it. We can’t celebrate it. We can’t affirm it as an aspect of our lives because, after all, mystery is an aspect of our lives.

We come out of nowhere, don’t we, in the sense that we’re a total accident. Our parents met. There’s the accident. And, you know, we’re born. Obviously, we come from someplace physiologically. And then comes the emergence of our being, which is the psychological and spiritual emergence of our being that takes time, experience, education of a certain kind with parents and neighbors and teachers and relatives and from one another humanly. And this slow emergence of our psychological being and our spiritual being is itself a great mystery. And mystery, you bet — mystery is a great challenge. It’s an invitation, and it’s a wonderful companion, actually."
robertcoles  kristatippett  children  religion  2009  mystery  curiosity  questioning  neoteny  questionasking  askingquestions  judaism  christianity  catholicism  flanneryo'connor  wonder  parenting  spirituality  inquiry  rules  teaching  teachers  howweteach  interestedness  interested  childhood 
february 2017 by robertogreco
Negative Capability - Keats' Kingdom
"A term used many times on this website...

'The concept of Negative Capability is the ability to contemplate the world without the desire to try and reconcile contradictory aspects or fit it into closed and rational systems.'

Keats was a romantic poet, full of intense passion and desire, yet shy and reserved. He was a young man with all the determination and melancholy of a teenager on a romantic quest to be among the English poets when he died.

He is an inspiration to all of us, full of colourful language and imagination. He battled through tuberculosis and only lived to be 25. He wanted to be famous, and he has well and truly lived up to his dream.

Keats longed to find beauty in what was often an ugly and terrible world. He was an admirer of Shakespeare, and his reading of the Bard is insightful and intriguing, illustrating the genius of Shakespeare's creativity. In a letter to his brothers, Keats describes this genius as 'Negative Capability':

'At once it struck me, what quality went to form a Man of Achievement, especially in literature, and which Shakespeare possessed so enormously- I mean Negative Capability, that is when man is capable of being in uncertainties. Mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason.'

This description can be compared to a definition of conflict:

'An emotional state characterized by indecision, restlessness, uncertainty and tension resulting from incompatible inner needs or drives of comparable intensity.'

These two definitions are very similar; the meaning of conflict sounds very negative and hopeless. However, Keats' creative concept seems positive and full of potential by leaving out 'restlessness' by avoiding an 'irritable reaching after fact and reason'

In another letter, Keats says that the 'poetical character... has no self- it is everything and nothing- it has no character and enjoys light and shade; it lives in gusto, be it foul or fair, high or low, rich or poor, mean or elevated- it has as much delight in conceiving an Iago as an Imogen. What shocks the virtuous philosopher delights the camelion Poet... A Poet is the most unpoetical of anything in existence, because he has no identity, he is continually filling some other body'

In order for Keats to be able to create true poetry, one had to be able to remain in what may be states of conflict without 'irritably' reaching after facts or reasons. By not imposing one self upon the doubts and uncertainties which make up a conflict, Keats would rather we were open to the Imagination.

The word 'doubt' it from the Latin, 'dubitare' and comes from 'two' as in two minds. In most conflicts, two people (i.e. two minds) oppose each other. Yet instead of fighting the other, Keats finds the situation to be one that is open for creativity.

In this sense, Negative Capability is a sublime expression of supreme empathy.

And empathy, is the capacity for participating in, experiencing and understanding another's feelings or ideas. It's a creative tool to help us understand each other, understand different points of views or different cultures so that we might be able to express them.

Being able to see thing from another's point of view, and to apply an open, imaginative creativity, are both critical, poetical methods to resolve conflicts creatively.

This phrase must confuse many people, who think it means 'being capable'. It actually means 'being capable of eliminating one's own personality, in order imaginatively to enter into that of another person, or, in extreme cases, an animal or an object'. The phrase was coined by Keats, in a letter- 22nd Dec 1817, to his brothers George and Thomas: 'it struck me what quality went to form a Man of Achievment, especially in literature and which Shakespeare possessed so enormously- I mean Negative Capability, that is when Man is capable of being in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after facts and reason'.

It looks, on the face of it, as if the kind of genius Keats is thinking about, simply cannot make up his mind, and that is partly the case; but the reason he cannot make up his mind is because his own identity is precarious, and he is continually being invaded by the identies of other people. The person of fixed opinion, such as Wordsworth, enjoys, or perhaps suffer from, 'egotistic sublime'.

In an earlier letter, of the 22nd November 1817, Keats had affirmed that 'Men of Genius' do not have 'any individuality' or 'determined character'. Another letter (27th October 1818) defines 'the poetic character' as taking 'as much delight in conceiving an Iago as an Imogen', adding 'what shocks the virtuous philosopher delights the camelion poet'. We see 'Negative Capability' in operation in Keats as he contemplates a bird on a gravel path, and he told Richard Woodhouse that he could even conceive of a billiard ball taking a sense of delight in 'its own roundness, smoothness, volubility and the rapidity of its motion'. When in a room with the dangerous, leopardess-like woman Jane Cox, he felt her identity pressing in upon him: 'I forget myself entirely because I live in her' (letter of October 1818).

Many writers have identified themselves as having 'Negative Capability', even if they have not always used the phrase. Coleridge speaks in a letter of November 1819 of 'a sort of transfusion and transmission of my consciousness to identify myself with the object'. Byron says, in a letter to Thomas Moore (4th March 1822) that he embodies himself 'with the character' while he is drawing it. Browning claims to be able imaginatively to enter other beings. Clough's main character in Amours de Voyage says '...I walk, I behold.../That I can be and become anything that I meet with or look at'. T.S.Elliot in Tradition and the Individual Talent writes that 'the progress of the artist is a continual self sacrifice, a continual extinction of personality.' Mrs Ramsey, in Virginia Woolfe's 'To the Lighthouse', looks intently 'until she became the things she looked at'. Certainly it is a pervasive characteristic of the creative faculty. Margaret Atwood writes in Second Words (1982) of the writers desire to be teleported into somebody else's mind, but retaining one's own perceptions and memories.

Many artists long for such freedom of movement, but a central philosophical problem remains in all this: if other beings take over the artist's mind, how can the artist present them in a decisive, descriminating way; on the other hand, if the artist enters other beings with his or her own personality, perceptions and memories intact (like Satan entering the body of the serpent), how can it be claimed that they remain other beings?"
johnkeats  negativecapability  messiness  uncertainty  lordbyron  samueltaylorcoleridge  conflict  doubt  truth  restlessness  empathy  canon  cv  gray  grey  mystery  openmindedness  openminded  via:mattcallahan 
february 2017 by robertogreco
Toryansé and the storytelling advantages of short games - Kill Screen
"Nick Preston decided to call his upcoming series of short adventure games Toryansé after the Japanese folk song of the same name. The song is traditionally sung as part of a children’s game—Warabe uta, which is very similar to the English nursery rhyme game Oranges and Lemons—but has surprisingly dark lyrics thought to relate to a period of high infant mortality in Japan’s history. But it wasn’t only the song’s background that appealed to Preston, it was also the fact that it’s often played at Japanese traffic lights to indicate when it’s safe for pedestrians to cross.

“I loved the idea of layers of story being embedded in a part of everyday life, you could use a crossing every day and not realize,” Preston told me. This idea is what will unite each of his short games; threading a path between the mysterious and the mundane. The first one, due in early 2017, is called Reel and follows an elderly woman who runs a computer repair business in a small shopping arcade. The story starts when she receives a misaddressed package and sets off to find its intended recipient. In her exploration, the woman discovers the previous life of the building that she was unaware of, despite having worked there for years.

The stories that Preston intends to release after Reel will we built of the same material. “The core idea for each story is to show a character stepping outside of their normal, everyday routine and briefly experiencing something that makes them reassess, in some small way, the environment or people around them, then returning to normality feeling a little bit better,” Preston said."

[via: https://twitter.com/tealtan/status/815010536777719808 ]

[more Nick Preston:
https://twitter.com/holyfingers
http://www.toryanse.co.uk/
http://www.holyfingers.co.uk/main/
http://artoftoryanse.tumblr.com/ ]
games  gaming  via:tealtan  videogames  everyday  mystery  mundane  toryansé  nickpreston  japan  storytelling  shortgames  shortness  atemporality  history  memory  place 
december 2016 by robertogreco
6, 35: Moonlight
"Things I wish someone had explained to me sooner…

• To people who don’t love you, your intentions don’t matter. If you hurt them accidentally, you’ve hurt them.

• Broadly, experts get that way because they care about what they do. Because they care about it, they want to tell you about what they know. It’s easy for them to leave out what they don’t know. And so, accidentally, they tend to make their fields sound more boring than they are. On either side of an expert–layperson relationship, remember to talk about the mysteries and frontiers.



• In any complicated situation, what people can tell you about why they came to their conclusions is virtually unrelated to the truth, effectiveness, or worthwhileness of those conclusions. We’re right for the wrong reasons, and vice versa, all the time.



• Argument from origins – etymology, philosophical genealogy, institutional history – takes special humility. It’s easy to make a point that’s only a complicated, smart-sounding version of “Hitler was a vegetarian, so vegetarianism is evil”.

• Programming is more like writing than like working an algebra problem.

• Your attention is the most valuable thing you can give. It’s what lets you do anything intentionally. Put some aside to spend where it might be badly needed. That’s usually not on anything that a million people are already attending to. It might be, but more often it will be something that most people around you, with perspectives like yours, are not thinking about."



"Earlier today, a moment in the presence of the systemic sublime while drinking Yirgacheffe coffee and watching Ethiopian kids singing while sorting coffee beans – Wote, Yirgacheffe. And watching Typhoon Hagupit/Ruby crawl up on the Philippines: this tweet, my word. Not only can I track the typhoon half-hourly in infrared, I have access to two separate instruments that can see it in visible wavelengths by moonlight: VIIRS and astronauts with DSLRs. Moonlight. A lot of my life is lived as part of this stringy confederation of nerds interested in perception over distance and mediated by algorithms, in the river rapids where culture flows around protuberant lumps of technology, in volition and encoding, in the connections, separations, and flavors of the network itself, in scale, in long chains of molecules and routes of IP packets and corten containers and coffee beans, and in the submerged cathedrals and unmapped data halls that they build. And I make fun of us, our rhizome or distributed pocket, with jokes about James C. Scott and so forth. But I feel the weight when I wonder whether the children who sorted the beans I’m drinking were singing. Moonlight."
charlieloyd  2014  systems  systemsthinking  systemicsublime  coffee  jamescscott  certainty  uncertainty  programming  coding  writing  attention  experts  mystery  frontiers  unknown  intentions  love 
december 2014 by robertogreco
Meta is Murder - Mills Baker's Internet Haus of Cards
"One such principle is well phrased by Marilynne Robinson in her essay “When I was a Child,” in her collection When I Was a Child I Read Books:
"It may be mere historical conditioning, but when I see a man or a woman alone, he or she looks mysterious to me, which is only to say that for a moment I see another human being clearly."

The idea that a human seen clearly is a mystery is anathema to a culture of judgment —such as ours— which rests on a simple premise: humans can be understood by means of simple schema that map their beliefs or actions to moral categories. Moreover, because there are usually relatively few of these categories, and few important issues of discernment —our range of political concerns being startlingly narrow, after all— humans can be understood and judged at high speed in large, generalized groups: Democrats, Republicans, women, men, people of color, whites, Muslims, Christians, the rich, the poor, Generation X, millennials, Baby Boomers, and so on.

It should but does not go without saying that none of those terms describes anything with sufficient precision to support the kinds of observations people flatter themselves making. Generalization is rarely sound. No serious analysis, no serious effort to understand, describe, or change anything can contain much generalization, as every aggregation of persons introduces error. One can hardly describe a person in full, let alone a family, a city, a class, a state, a race. Yet we persist in doing so, myself included."



"One of the very best things Nietzsche ever wrote:
"The will to a system is a lack of integrity."

But to systematize is our first reaction to life in a society of scale, and our first experiment as literate or educated or even just “grown-up” persons with powers of apprehension, cogitation, and rhetoric. What would a person be online if he lacked a system in which phenomena could be traced to the constellation of ideas which constituted his firmament? What is life but the daily diagnosis of this or that bit of news as “yet another example of” an overarching system of absolutely correct beliefs? To have a system is proof of one’s seriousness, it seems —our profiles so often little lists of what we “believe,” or what we “are”— and we coalesce around our systems of thought just as our parents did around their political parties, though we of course consider ourselves mere rationalists following the evidence. Not surprisingly, the evidence always leads to the conclusion that many people in the world are horrible, stupid, even evil; and we are smart, wise, and good. It should be amusing, but it is not.

I hate this because I am doing this right now. I detest generalization because when I scan Twitter I generalize about what I see: “people today,” or “our generation,” I think, even though the people of today are as all people always have been, even though they are all just like me. I resent their judgments because I feel reduced by them and feel reality is reduced, so I reduce them with my own judgments: shallow thinkers who lack, I mutter, the integrity not to systematize. And I put fingers to keys to note this system of analysis, lacking all integrity, mocking my very position.

I want to maintain my capacity to view each as a mystery, as a human in full, whose interiority I cannot know. I want not to be full of hatred, so I seek to confess that my hatred is self-hatred: shame at the state of my intellectual reactivity and decay. I worry deeply that our systematizing is inevitable because when we are online we are in public: that these fora mandate performance, and worse, the kind of performance that asserts its naturalness, like the grotesquely beautiful actor who says, "Oh, me? I just roll out of bed in the morning and wear whatever I find lying about" as he smiles a smile so practiced it could calibrate the atomic clock. Every online utterance is an angling for approval; we write in the style of speeches: exhorting an audience, haranguing enemies, lauding the choir. People “remind” no one in particular of the correct ways to think, the correct opinions to hold. When I see us speaking like op-ed columnists, I feel embarrassed: it is like watching a lunatic relative address passers-by using the “royal we,” and, I feel, it is pitifully imitative. Whom are we imitating? Those who live in public: politicians, celebrities, “personalities.”

There is no honesty without privacy, and privacy is not being forbidden so much as rendered irrelevant; privacy is an invented concept, after all, and like all inventions must contend with waves of successive technologies or be made obsolete. The basis of privacy is the idea that judgment should pertain only to public acts —acts involving other persons and society— and not the interior spaces of the self. Society has no right to judge one’s mind; society hasn’t even the right to inquire about one’s mind. The ballot is secret; one cannot be compelled to testify or even talk in our criminal justice system; there can be no penalty for being oneself, however odious we may find given selves or whole (imagined) classes of selves.

This very radical idea has an epistemological basis, not a purely moral one: the self is a mystery. Every self is a mystery. You cannot know what someone really is, what they are capable of, what transformations of belief or character they might undergo, in what their identity consists, what they’ve inherited or appropriated, what they’ll abandon or reconsider; you cannot say when a person is who she is, at what point the “real” person exists or when a person’s journey through selves has stopped. A person is not, we all know, his appearance; but do we all know that she is not her job? Or even her politics?

But totalizing rationalism is emphatic: either something is known or it is irrelevant. Thus: the mystery of the self is a myth; there is no mystery at all. A self is valid or invalid, useful or not, correct or incorrect, and if someone is sufficiently different from you, if their beliefs are sufficiently opposed to yours, their way of life alien enough, they are to be judged and detested. Everyone is a known quantity; simply look at their Twitter bio and despise.

But this is nonsense. In truth, the only intellectually defensible posture is one of humility: all beliefs are misconceptions; all knowledge is contingent, temporary, erroneous; and no self is knowable, not truly, not to another. We can perhaps sense this in ourselves —although I worry that many of us are too happy to brag about our conformity to this or that scheme or judgment, to use labels that honor us as though we’ve earned ourselves rather than chancing into them— but we forget that this is true of every single other, too. This forgetting is the first step of the so-called othering process: forget that we are bound together in irreducibility, forget that we ought to be humble in all things, and especially in our judgments of one another.

Robinson once more:
"Only lonesomeness allows one to experience this sort of radical singularity, one’s greatest dignity and privilege."

Lonesomeness is what we’re all fleeing at the greatest possible speed, what our media now concern themselves chiefly with eliminating alongside leisure. We thus forget our radical singularity, a personal tragedy, an erasure, a hollowing-out, and likewise the singularity of others, which is a tragedy more social and political in nature, and one which seems to me truly and literally horrifying. Because more than any shared “belief system” or political pose, it is the shared experience of radical singularity that unites us: the shared experience of inimitability and mortality. Anything which countermands our duty to recognize and honor the human in the other is a kind of evil, however just its original intention."
millsbaker  canon  self  reality  empathy  humility  howwethink  2014  generalizations  morality  nietzsche  integrity  marilynnerobinson  mystery  grace  privacy  categorization  pigeonholingsingularity  lonesomeness  loneliness  leisure  artleisure  leisurearts  beliefs  belief  inimitability  humanism  judgement  familiarity  understanding 
august 2014 by robertogreco
Wendell Berry: Letter to Wes Jackson… | UKIAH BLOG
"From WENDELL BERRY
Home Economics (1982)

[This evening, August 3rd, will be our second First Friday of Neighbors Reading at Mulligan Books downtown Ukiah, 6-7pm. We share favorite passages from favorite books around topics of community, transition, resilience, or anything else, as part of the second semester of Mendo Free Skool. We video the readings for Community TV and invite your participation. I will be reading from one of my favorite authors, Wendell Berry... passages from an essay The Family Farm, from his book Home Economics. What follows is the opening essay from that book... -DS]

Dear Wes,

I want to try to complete the thought about “randomness” that I was working on when we talked the other day.

The Hans Jenny paragraph that started me off is the last one on page twenty-one of The Soil Resource:
Raindrops that pass in random fashion through an imaginary plane above the forest canopy are intercepted by leaves and twigs and channeled into distinctive vert space patterns of through-drip, crown-drip, and stem flow. The soil surface, as receiver, transmits the “rain message” downward, but as the subsoils lack a power source to mold a flow design, the water tends to leave the ecosystem as it entered it, in randomized fashion.

My question is: Does “random” in this (or any) context describe a verifiable condition or a limit of perception?

My answer is: It describes a limit of perception. This is, of course, not a scientist’s answer, but it may be that anybody’s answer would be unscientific. My answer is based on the belief that pattern is verifiable by limited information, whereas the information required to verify randomness is unlimited. As I think you said when we talked, what is perceived as random within a given limit may be seen as part of a pattern within a wider limit.

If this is so then Dr. Jenny, for accuracy’s sake, should have said that rainwater moves from mystery through pattern back into mystery.

If “mystery” is a necessary (that is, honest) term in such a description, then the modern scientific program has not altered the ancient perception of the human condition a jot. If, in using the word “random,” scientists only mean “random so far as we can tell,” then we are back at about the Book of Job. Some truth meets the eye; some does not. We are up against mystery. To call this mystery “randomness” or “chance” or a “fluke” is to take charge of it on behalf of those who do not respect pattern. To call the unknown “random” is to plant the flag by which to colonize and exploit the known. (A result that our friend Dr. Jenny, of course, did not propose and would not condone.)

To call the unknown by its right name, “mystery,” is to suggest that we had better respect the possibility of a larger, unseen pattern that can be damaged or destroyed and, with it, the smaller patterns.

This respecting of mystery obviously has something or other to do with religion, and we moderns have defended ourselves against it by turning it over to religion specialists, who take advantage of our indifference by claiming to know a lot about it.

What impresses me about it, however is the insistent practicality implicit in it. If we are up against mystery, then we dare act only on the most modest assumptions. The modern scientific program has held that we must act on the basis of knowledge, which, because its effects are so manifestly large, we have assumed to be ample. But if we are up against mystery, then knowledge is relatively small, and the ancient program is the right one: Act on the basis of ignorance. Acting on the basis of ignorance, paradoxically, requires one to know things, remember things— for instance, that failure is possible, that error is possible, that second chances are desirable (so don’t risk everything on the first chance), and so on.

What I think you and I and a few others are working on is a definition of agriculture as up against mystery and ignorance-based. I think we think that this is its necessary definition, just as I think we think that several kinds of ruin are the necessary result of an agriculture defined as knowledge-based and up against randomness. Such an agriculture conforms exactly to what the ancient program, or programs, understood as evil or hubris. Both the Greeks and the Hebrews told us to watch out for humans who assume that they make all the patterns."

[via Charlie's newsletter 6, 5 http://tinyletter.com/vruba/letters/6-5-hills ]
wendellberry  via:vruba  1982  mystery  science  random  patterns  patternsensing  zoominginandout  religion  belief  myth  myths  information  perspective  perception  modernism  indifference  ignorance  local  global  knowledge 
march 2014 by robertogreco
Jonas Mekas
[via: http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2013/12/this-90-year-old-lithuanian-filmmaker-has-the-best-website/282171/

"Everyone agrees: there is so much crap on the Internet.

There's smarm. There's snark. There's faux outrage. And faux outrage about faux outrage. And so on.

But there is also filmmaker Jonas Mekas.

Born on Christmas Eve, 1922 in a village in Lithuania, Mekas had a typically awful experience of World War II in Europe, before eventually making his way to New York City. He became part of the art and film scenes of the 1950s and 1960s, most notably in the Fluxus movement with people like Yoko Ono. He co-founded the Anthology Film Archives, and made many films (some of which I've been lucky enough to see).

Now, as Mekas steams towards his 91st birthday, I found my way, via a sidelong reference in the New York Times, to his website, JonasMekas.com.

And it is a delight. From the introductory video, in which Mekas welcomes his friends to the site and plays the bugle, to the videos of Alan Ginsberg or Mekas playing with his first Sony Camcorder, the site exudes the joy of creation.

The mystery and beauty of (just) being form the spine of Mekas' work. This website is like what would happen if you'd given Pablo Neruda a digital video recorder and some HTML skills during his Odas period.

In a video from Thursday, perhaps the greatest video selfie ever made, he presents us with out-of-focus, shaky video of a bowl of apples, riffing about their importance, a hierarchy of ontology, the evils of scientific improvement, and the apples he ate as a child in Lithuania. Then he turns the camera, says, "My friends," and laughs like this: ha ha ha. "I dream about those apples. But I love this apples, too. They're not destroying us. It's we who are destroying them," he says. The camera lingers on his aged face.

He looks as if he might begin speaking again, saying softly, "My friends." Then he plunges the camera down towards the apples in a Wayne's-World-style extreme closeup.

Fin.

Mekas is a voice from another time who has embraced the tools of the present moment. The random, decontextualized Internet is a perfect place to meet and enjoy Mekas' work. His style—direct, non-linear, narrated—exists everywhere on YouTube and Vimeo now.

But the spirit that informs his work is not so easy to find. Maybe it exists in the work of a poet like Steve Roggenbuck or Robin Sloan's media thingy Fish with its exhortation, "Look at your fish!" and its question, "What does it mean to love something on the Internet today?"

It's rare, though, to find a person who wants you to look at beautiful things because they are beautiful.

Looking at Mekas' work, the temptation might be to say: this work lacks coherence. It's not that easy to say what he's trying to do or "say" or create. But he offers us what I'd think of as a viewing guide to his work in this excerpt from his 2000 film, "As I Was Moving Ahead Occasionally I Saw Brief Glimpses of Beauty." (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XhmZ7C-oXDY)"

Mekas says:
I have never been able, really, to figure out where my life begins and where it ends. I have never, never been able to figure it all out, what it's all about, what it all means. So when I began now to put all these rolls of film together, to string them together, the first idea was to keep them chronological. But then I gave up and I just began splicing them together by chance the way that I found them on the shelf.

Because I really don't know where any piece of my life really belongs, so let it be. Let it go. Just by pure chance, disorder.

There is some current, some kind of order in it, order of its own, which I do not really understand same as I never understood life around me.

The real life, as they say. Or the real people. I never understood them. I still do not understand them. And I do not really want to understand them.
Let it go. I do not really want to understand them.

It reminds me of what the poet John Keats said Shakespeare's great quality was: "when a man is capable of being in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason."

Keats called this, "negative capability."]

[See also his Vimeo account:
https://vimeo.com/jonasmekas/videos

Wikipedia entry:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jonas_Mekas

Poetry:
http://members.efn.org/~valdas/mekas.html

"At Home with Jonas Mekas"
https://vimeo.com/55519339
http://www.frieze.com/issue/article/questionnaire-jonas-mekas/

"Jonas Mekas : In Praise of the Ordinary"
https://vimeo.com/77245018

"Jonas Mekas, 28 minute biography from The Lower East Side Biography Project"
(Great rant starting around 9:30, and remembering George Maciunas of Fluxus) about artists, creatives, ideas, designers, workers, retirement)
https://vimeo.com/78459128

"Jonas Mekas, Walden, 1969 (excerpt)"
https://vimeo.com/2601707

""A Happy Man" by Jonas Mekas" (NOWNESS)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xGUt_4F2SRM
http://www.nowness.com/day/2012/12/5

"MOCAtv Presents 'In Focus' - Jonas Mekas - The Artist's Studio"
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JtIQCxypAFM ]
jonasmekas  filmmakers  film  internet  beauty  everyday  art  life  living  web  steveroggenbuck  robinsloan  poetry  2013  alexismadrigaljohnkets  shakespear  uncertainty  doubt  fact  reason  wonder  mystery  negativecapability  retirement  workers  fluxus  georgemaciunas  creatives  creativity  artists  designers  design  ideas  work  labor  artleisure  leisurearts  artlabor 
december 2013 by robertogreco
We Are Explorers: In Search of Mystery in Videogames
"Mystery resists closure. It resists completion and clean getaways. It, instead, insists. I'm not done with you yet. Get back over here.

Mystery, as opposed to mastery. An alternative to domination. A surrender. Mastery subjugates the world to my will, temporarily. Mystery is an encounter with the world, whatever that world is, and with others.

What actual masters know are their limits. The old Socratic model: she who knows what she does not know.

Mystery, not mastery, breeds love. I do not love a game because I have conquered it. That moment of victory is instead the most dangerous of our relationship."

"Mystery is not merely the unknown. It is the impossibility of knowing and yet the continual attempt to know. It is unknowability itself. It is futile and essential."
videogames  via:tealtan  2012  gaming  games  play  mystery  mastery  exploration  notknowing  unschooling  deschooling  sandboxes  sandboxgames  uncertainty  ignorance 
february 2013 by robertogreco
Into the Woods | Trent Walton
"We were all afraid of pressing on, and everyone had his own excuse for why we shouldn’t go, but the fear of being grounded or getting lost in the dark woods overnight couldn’t compete with the weight of a double-dare. So we set out."

"We were Goonies, conquistadors, astronauts; we had forever changed our world."

"So many great childhood memories are the result of our decision to follow that one trail. It redefined everything for us and expanded our territory exponentially. These days, I’m happiest when I feel part of a team with the same adventurous spirit as that kid gang. The web is, after all, as limited as my old neighborhood with boundaries set by our current tools and technologies, as well as our understanding of each. I believe my work counts most when I’m looking for new trails and feel brave enough to blaze them. I know that the minute I dismiss new discoveries or ideas because the way forward isn’t clear is when I’ve lost my sense of wonder for web design…"
risktaking  gamechanging  astronauts  fear  memories  adventure  mystery  exploration  typography  css3  html5  webdev  trentwalton  2012  woods  goonies  childhood  webdesign 
january 2013 by robertogreco
Cowbird · And now comes good sailing
[Jonathan Harris tells three stories about his fourth grade teacher, Baz

1. What make a great teacher?
2. How to engage your audience
3. On death]
relationships  creativity  living  cv  self  audience  mystery  uncertainty  vulnerability  weakness  baz  wisdom  teaching  writing  2012  cowbird  jonathanharris 
february 2012 by robertogreco
Frieze Magazine | Archive | Twenty Years Fore & Aft
"People are never scared by the commonplaces of daily life, no matter how risky they are; in 2031, people choose to be alarmed by exotic, eye-catching stuff, like rare diseases and psycho serial killers…

There are no political parties. They were entirely hollowed-out and disrupted by social networks. That happened fast.…

Suburbs are the new favelas, while the prosperous live cheek-by-jowl in repurposed downtowns. Architecture guts entire city blocks, preserving the historicized skins around flats packed to Hong Kong densities. Cars are rental-shared. Furniture is mobile. Most objects have IDs…

Nothing can be ‘innovative’ unless you are convinced that change makes a difference. Without the magic patter, the semantic context that sets expectations, a rabbit in a hat is not a wonder, it’s just a weird accident. A true network society cannot progress, because it reticulates; it’s all snakes and ladders, rockets and potholes, mash-ups and short circuits."
brucesterling  2031  futurism  favelachic  cities  risk  commonplace  magic  mystery  technology  future  fiction  speculativerealism  designfiction  scifi  sciencefiction  2011  nostalgia  atemporality  books  publishing  film  reality  chernobyl  fear  life  art  glvo  classideas  projectideas 
november 2011 by robertogreco
Especially Mysterious Letters by Lenka & Michael — Kickstarter
"We need help!

We're sending letters to everyone in the world, one town at a time. The letters all arrive on the same day, just like a huge dollop of fresh cream blobbed on the whole town. These cheerful handwritten letters prompt chats around neighborhoods and whip up all sorts of community curiosity and giggling confusion."

[via: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/646138685/especially-mysterious-letters/posts/125549?ref=base ]
letters  letterwriting  art  conceptualart  mystery  mysteriousletters  lenkaclayton  michaelcrowe  2011  classideas  kickstarter 
october 2011 by robertogreco
In Praise of Not Knowing - NYTimes.com
"I hope kids are still finding some way, despite Google and Wikipedia, of not knowing things. Learning how to transform mere ignorance into mystery, simple not knowing into wonder, is a useful skill. Because it turns out that the most important things in this life — why the universe is here instead of not, what happens to us when we die, how the people we love really feel about us — are things we’re never going to know."
learning  internet  web  google  knowledge  notknowing  wonder  wonderdeficit  wondering  mystery  timkreider  wikipedia  unschooling  deschooling  unlearning 
june 2011 by robertogreco
Annie Hall
"A young-ish Christopher Walken appears in Annie Hall but his name is misspelled in the credits as "Christopher Wlaken". Were this 1990, I might have invented a eastern European backstory for Wlaken, who, perhaps, Americanized his name sometime after appearing in the film. But as we live in the future, a cool hunk of glass and metal from my pocket told me -- before the credits even finished rolling -- that the actor was born Ronald Walken in Astoria, Queens.
kottke  wonder  imagination  deficit  deficitofwonder  wonderdeficit  iphone  search  livinginthefuture  notsolongago  google  internet  web  technology  online  society  culture  information  curiosity  fun  mystery 
february 2010 by robertogreco
McSweeney's Internet Tendency: The Real Timothy McSweeney.
"I was intrigued by the letters so much that I kept them in a drawer in my room, wondering if Timothy was actually related to us...When a new letter would arrive, she would hand it to me, usually without reading it. I would pore over it for clues, then would add it to the stack...So many years later, when I was conceiving a name for this literary journal, the name Timothy McSweeney's Quarterly Concern occurred to me...made sense on many levels...honor my Irish side of the family & also allude to this mysterious man & the sense of possibility and even wonder he'd brought to our suburban home...Knowing that the journal bore the name of a real person who had endured years of struggle threw melancholy shadows over the enterprise. But the McSweeneys insisted that the use of the name was acceptable, even appropriate, given Timothy's background as an artist & search for connection & meaning through the written word. Since 2000 we've implicitly dedicated all issues to the real Timothy."
daveeggers  history  writing  fun  journalism  celebrity  obituary  mystery  mentalillness  glvo  names  naming  letters  correspondence  mcsweeneys  weird  mentalhealth 
february 2010 by robertogreco
cabel.name: Kashiwa Mystery Cafe
"At this cafe, you get what the person before you ordered. The next person gets what you ordered. Welcome to the Ogori cafe! ... For the record, here are the rules of the Ogori cafe: 1. Let's treat the next person. What to treat them with? It's your choice. 2. Even if it's a group of friends or a family, please form a single-file line. Also, you can't buy twice in a row. 3. Please enjoy what you get, even if you hate it. (If you really, really hate it, let's quietly give it to another while saying, "It's my treat…") 4. Let's say "Thank You! (Gochihosama)" if you find the person with your Ogori cafe card. 5. We can't issue a receipt."
japan  cafes  travel  society  community  mystery  business  fun  food  restaurants  culture  japanese  drink  thirdspaces  thirdplaces  openstudioproject 
october 2009 by robertogreco
Out-of-place artifact - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
"OOPArt is a term coined by American zoologist Ivan T. Sanderson for a historical, archaeological or palaeontological object found in a very unusual or seemingly impossible location. The term covers a wide variety of objects, ranging from material studied
artifacts  curiosity  fiction  history  mystery  society  archaeology  paleontology  words  glvo  definitions  antarctica  antarctic 
june 2008 by robertogreco
Pasta&Vinegar » Blog Archive » Surrounded by objects whose workings are a total mystery
“Why Toys Shouldn’t Work “Like Magic”: Children’s Technology and the Values of Construction and Control “...describes the tension between “ease of use” and user empowerment” that is at stake in kids artifact design."
design  learning  technology  toys  mystery  magic  objects  empowerment  user 
january 2008 by robertogreco
TED | Talks | J.J. Abrams: The mystery box (video)
"traces his love of unseen mystery -- heart of Alias, Lost, and the upcoming Cloverfield -- back to its own magical beginnings, which may/not include an early obsession with magic, the love of supportive grandfather, or his own unopened Mystery Box."
jjabrams  lost  storytelling  mystery  technology  television  tv  creativity  discovery  ideas  writing  learning  crafts  craft  making  engineering  howthingswork  curiosity  stories  narrative  children  lcproject  unschooling  education  magic  glvo  democracy  consumer  consumergenerated  content  film  imagination 
january 2008 by robertogreco
Ballardian: the World of J.G. Ballard » ‘Seeing everything makes you sad’
"Modernism brings out the dark drives that slumber in us. It reserves no place for the unexplainable or the mysterious – and for precisely that reason causes a return to barbarism."
modernism  depression  jgballard  society  psychology  mystery  religion  barbarism  human  philosophy  via:adamgreenfield 
december 2007 by robertogreco
PULPHOPE: THE THING INTACT
"Nothing is spelled out; it must be discovered. There is an unseen drama in the shadows which hide as well as describe. It is important in Japanese to talk around the subject; something is lost in being direct."
japan  culture  glvo  japanese  privacy  wrapping  wrappers  layers  mystery  curiosity  engagement 
may 2007 by robertogreco

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