“The Art of Asking”

You’re an artist when you say you are.
You’re a good artist when you make somebody else feel something deep or unexpected. -Amanda Palmer

As a self described individualist taking pride in self-sufficiency, I understand the trepidation in asking anyone for help.

In 2017, I drove my flatbed truck down to Dallas, Oregon to witness the full totality of the solar Eclipse alone — or as alone as I could be.

Driving down there on surprisingly open highways, I thought “once again the media is hyping traffic problems too much, perhaps it scared people from going”.
The eclipse was a powerful experience where tens of thousands of people were all focusing on the same thing and experiencing uncommon collective awe in the magic of existence.
Afterwards I had nothing to do but head back home.

I use the lesser known navigation app “Waze” and thought I was being clever in choosing the Oregon backroads to avoid the congested interstate. It turns out “Jane” told everyone else the same thing.

As time went on and more people decided on heading back home, the winding single lane country roads — as if capillaries — were having serious thrombosis.
Stop and go traffic moved slowly for miles upon miles which made my leg sore considering my five-speed manual transmission. Eventually it  slowed to the point where we were stopped for fifteen minutes at a time before moving another twenty feet. Was there a crash?

I finally got out of my truck and jogged two miles to find a four car ferry shuffling people over a small stream. I asked the man how much does it cost?
$2
I don’t have cash. Do you take credit card?
No.
I had to turn around after investing hours on this path.
Anyone else would have asked the nearest person for two dollars, but not me. I had too much pride to beg. I walked back in poor mood with a perturbed countenance.

Someone I had chatted with earlier while walking to the front, rolled down their window and asked what I learned up ahead. I told them my situation and they raised a questioning eyebrow while saying “well, we’ll give you the $2!” I walked the rest of the way with a springy cheer that others could not fathom in this traffic jam.

How grateful I was. And a powerful lesson in realizing we live in an interconnected society where the smallest actions can be profoundly helpful.  Perhaps next time I will ask for the $2.

How many other things do I not ask for out of egoic stoicism?

* * *

Amanda Palmer has an excellent ted talk below (and new book called “Art of Asking”) which explores why many people are afraid to ask for things and how important it is for professional creatives to ask.

Asking for something exposes you to vulnerability and rejection. So we retreat into our lonely shells to avoid potential pain but end up moldering.

She presents a novel idea of working for free but asking for help. She encourages people to pirate her music but asks people to help her out. This has yielded one of the most successful music crowdfunding campaigns where she raised over ten times her original ask of $100,000.

It’s not about how to make people pay for art,
rather it’s about how to ask people to pay for art.

I want to add that there is a critical element which she doesn’t explicitly cover in her Ted talk…

Reciprocation.

When you ask for something, make sure you give something — even of simplest form. When Amanda was a street performer as a living statue, she would give a flower to anyone who put a tip in her hat.

Sometimes the reciprocation is simply authentic gratitude by telling them “Thank you so much! This helps me more than you might imagine…”

With gratitude, good fortune grows. People want to support those with real gratitude as opposed to the ungracious.

* * *

In Maria Popova’s article on BrainPickings, we are reminded that Henry David Thoreau — the man known for living alone in the wilderness in his hand-built cabin — was in fact supported by his mother and sister bringing pastries every week and how the land was given by a rich friend. Do these supporting people somehow reduce the legitimacy of Thoreau’s writings?

We romanticize struggle of the lone hard-scrabble person scratching their way to success or revelation; but it is the loving support we often fail to mention which paves the way for the greatest achievements in humanity. Behind all the heroes in history from Nikola Tesla to Picasso to Lincoln there are the unsung “Mother Teresas” quietly supporting them.

I reflect on how I claim victory for saving a nearby piece of nature from development. I was no “warrior” any more than another. I was just taking action as part of my flow. The supporting ancestors laid the foundation to where I am now. All the illuminating environmental media and books to inspire responsibility, how the canyon was previously saved from development decades ago, how my parents moved me to this area, how my neighbors gave me the letter from the city, how social media allowed me to get the word out, how my parents taught me to do graphic design, etc. etc. The people behind each of these elements are the ancestors who created divine circumstances which prompted me to take action. Most of them don’t realize they laid down the foundation for me to save the canyon and will never know they had a part. I then ask, who supported them? And who supported them? And who supported them? Who am I laying the subtle foundation of support for? This is the “butterfly effect” where we are all constantly creating realities with the simplest actions.
How my saying a simple word can change the course of reality in ways I don’t consciously realize.

When I asked people for their contact information to be part of a group,
when I asked an environmental lawyer to join us,
when I asked someone to file a freedom of information request,
when I asked the newspaper reporter to do a story,
These are all things where asking for people’s support creates the reality we want to live in.

When I read about Thoreau being supported by his mom bringing donuts, I am reminded of another donut story revealed by Jia Jiang’s TED talk “What I Learned From 100 Days of Rejection”.

Whereas Amanda‘s requests were reasonable. Jia’s were absurd. In his experiment to overcome fear of rejection, he went out of his way to be rejected.

The first time, he asked to borrow $100 from a stranger. When he was told no, he effectively ran away.

The next time he asked for a burger refill and when questioned he stayed engaged. But didn’t get a burger refill.

The third time he went to a donut shop asking for a donut shaped like the olympic symbol. It worked and the worker pieced together an interlaced five ring donut.

Besides overcoming his fear of rejection by asking for something, he also leaned to stay engaged and not “run away” when faced with repudiation. For example, asking why they said “no” to the original request usually revealed important things such as it was not him being weird, but rather they were physically unable to.

Or by mentioning their potential doubt before asking, you can overcome their resistance. “This might be weird but would you…”

I could fulfill my life dream by simply asking.

The people who change the world are the people who were met with the initial and often violent rejections. Like Martin Luther King, Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela or even Jesus Christ.

These people did not let rejection define them; they let their own reaction after rejection to define themselves. – Jia Jiang

Chinese Story Of Neither Good nor Bad

 

Here is a great Taoist story explaining how — in the great complexity of nature and reality — the judgements we make as to whether something is good or bad are often only true for a fleeting moment. In the grand scheme of things there is neither good nor bad. Things just are. 

Once upon a time there was a Chinese farmer whose horse ran away. That evening, all of his neighbors came around to commiserate. They said, “We are so sorry to hear your horse has run away. This is most unfortunate.” The farmer said, “Maybe.” The next day the horse came back bringing seven wild horses with it, and in the evening everybody came back and said, “Oh, isn’t that lucky. What a great turn of events. You now have eight horses!” The farmer again said, “Maybe.” The following day his son tried to break one of the horses, and while riding it, he was thrown and broke his leg. The neighbors then said, “Oh dear, that’s too bad,” and the farmer responded, “Maybe.” The next day the conscription officers came around to conscript people into the army, and they rejected his son because he had a broken leg. Again all the neighbors came around and said, “Isn’t that great!” Again, he said, “Maybe.”

The farmer steadfastly refrained from thinking of things in terms of gain or loss, advantage or disadvantage, because one never knows… In fact we never really know whether an event is fortune or misfortune, we only know our ever-changing reactions to ever-changing events.

“Overture” Film Review

 

A longer film by Dan Sachar, “Overture” is another melancholic story reminding us of profound archetypes.
Filmed in a post-apocalyptic world, a lone man tries to piece together a broken memory while doting over a delicate young tree in an otherwise inhospitable world. A mysterious woman who seems to have uncanny wisdom and compassion forces him to look at the past and accept what happened to humanity. The desertification of the city slowly expands into the remaining life of nature.
In the end he returns to source and the woman is what I assume as Nature herself.

Overture / אוברטורה from Dan Sachar on Vimeo.

The Problem With Search Engines

 

With search engines, I often tell people to “ask yourself before you consult search engines or external resources…”

While search engines allow us to research things and find inspiration; It is also causes us to no longer ask ourselves what we think and feel about a subject when we have the lazy way of just searching answers online. Too often we no longer think for ourselves but instead ask google. There are two negative potentials here.

Number one is the fact that google can control what you see and what you don’t see. This is centralized control of information. If you ask a search engine a question about genetically modified foods or global warming, your opinion can be based on what the computer shows you whether they are ads, page rank or mere omission.

The second is it often robs people the preciousness of creative critical thinking. You no longer have to think up an answer to your question when you can just search for it via google (or other search engines). But what if new answers would be discovered in the laboratories of our minds if people only thought for themselves? More often than not, search queries yield results from lay people on forums whom often know nothing more than I do or are repeating fictitious misconceptions. This also results in the development of echo-chambers whereby we get increasing polarization of view points through positive feedback loops which do not happen in libraries and book stores.

The old-fashioned way of learning things through other people, books, magazines and our own thinking allows us to be exposed to more varied and experiential view points.

Of course this comes from me … a person who built their own tiny-house version of a library … but I digress.

A Song Which Describes Existence

 

What music can capture a balance of human emotion? A balance of past and future? Of extroversion with introversion? Of the etheric state of receptivity with the rhythmic state of transmission?

My answer to these questions is Santana’s unusual song of “Future Primitive”. It is a musical composition with topography leading from an etheric calm trance-like sound which brings to mind a place without human existence, this leads to a frenzied drumming which inspires movement and dance. The drumming brings to mind our society of interconnected communication. But gradually this fades back to the etheric state. There is a saying that we are little water droplets in a waterfall who are separate for a period of time, but at the end they join back together in the same river of which they came from. “Future Primitive” begins as we all begin, etheric and unmanifested. From which we are born into a frenzied state of coherent drumming as if the heartbeat of our life. This fades back into the nebulous. This is the cycle of life itself.

State Of No Sense

Imagine not being able to see, hear, taste, smell, touch, talk or move. Do you not exist? Or do you exist?

What does the consciousness do in the state of no sense? What if it does not remember what sense is like?

Could you imagine how consciousness in the state of no-sense would pine to experience anything?

This is the state of which that in the unmanifested realm are. There is a “clamoring” to manifest into the above-ground would of sense. Any sense. A state of experience. Even our supposed pain, trials, challenges, despair, heartbreak are worthwhile. A wonderful thing from the perspective of no-sense. Of course the happiness, love, pleasure and “goodness” are wonderful too.

Keep this wonder of our sense-ual experience in awareness as you experience the ebb and flow of being manifested.

Wow I am experiencing XXXXX, this is wonderful!

~

Perhaps this is why meditation is powerful for our contentment. Meditation get’s us closer to a state of no-sense. The realm of the unmanifested. Reminding us at a deep level how great it is to be manifested and experiencing ALL that there is to experience. Our individual experience is all worthwhile. Every bit of it. Every moment. The ups and the downs. The whole and the partial. The supposed “good” and supposed “bad”. The love and the heartbreak. The connection and lose. The everything and nothing.

~

Think of how great it is to be “alive”. Our separate individualized sense-ual experience with great variance / topography / texture / contrast.

Think of how great it is to be “dead”. A peaceful no-sense unified state of everything and nothing.

Life reminds us of the greatness of death. Death reminds us of the greatness of life.

Manifestation reminds us of the greatness of unmanifestation. Unmanifestation reminds of the greatness of manifestation. And here I / you / we are existing in the equinox of the past and future. The horizon of the two states. As the two states make love at the edge of infinity, there we are. The gentle pendulum swings back and forth but has greatest affinity to center. distillation

Rocky Mountains provide backdrop for Denver Premium Outlets

The stunning Rocky Mountain landscape provides the ideal backdrop for Simon Property Group’s new Denver Premium Outlets, in Thornton, Colorado.

Designed by FRCH Design Worldwide, Cincinnati, the LEED-certified, 375,000-sq.-ft. shopping center is family-friendly, with lots of fun features for kids. It blends such sustainable features as a solar paneled roof with a commissioned art program from three notable sculptors: Troy Pillow, Joseph Rastovich and Albert Dicruttalo.

The main entrance to the center begins at the food court, where floor to ceiling windows offer views of the landscape under a grand awning that draws inspiration to the area’s rustic roots. The food court thoroughfare includes a living wall of indigenous plants and a wide range of seating options.

A variety of outdoor spaces line the property in a strategic format created to bring a continual circulation of foot traffic, much like a single-level racetrack, which works to connect the entire property. The outdoor spaces vary from covered nooks with shade to open-air playgrounds. Water features, from large ponds to fountains, are located throughout the property.

The north end of the center features the majority of the public art and playground area, which includes a fun slide, a climbing playground and a dinosaur-themed climbing area.

Denver Premium Outlets houses more than 80 outlet stores, ranging from from Armani Exchange and Calvin Klein, to Kate Spade and Puma. It also includes a “media lounge” where shoppers can take a break from the action in a club-styled environment.

https://www.chainstoreage.com/daybreaker/rocky-mountains-provide-backdrop-for-denver-premium-outlets/

The Three Elements of Intelligence

 

Curiosity, Memory and Creativity.

For years humanity has been trying to define intelligence. Perhaps that is a mark of intelligence … trying to define intelligence?

We have epistemology which is a branch of philosophy concerning the theory of knowledge. We have IQ tests and EQ tests (Emotional Intelligence). We have the theory of multiple intelligences which is very close to giving a better picture of what intelligence is where it splits intelligence into the following categories:

  • Musical and Rhythmic
  • Visual and spatial
  • Verbal and Linguistic
  • Logical and Mathematical
  • Bodily and Kinesthetic
  • Interpersonal
  • Intrapersonal
  • Naturalistic

While categorizing different forms of intelligence is wise to accommodate the diversity of human experience, it still doesn’t address the core elemental building blocks of intelligence.

Curiosity

In my experience with a variety of intelligent animals such as squirrels, crows and border collies, as well as with young children, I have found that the number one determiner of intelligence is the level of curiosity. Curiosity is usually manifested in playfulness. Or sometimes … how much trouble they get into! How much do you engage with your environment? Do you listen for the faintest sounds? How about looking at things and really observing the details? Do you smell things? Do you touch things? When was the last time you tasted something that wasn’t food?

Who does these things every second of their wakeful consciousness? Babies and toddlers. It is also at this time that we grow the most in intelligence. We are most genius when we are young children.

Memory

But in thinking of all the manifestations of curiosity, it alone means nothing without memory. Indeed when we discover something about our world or ourselves through play and then forget what we learned, it doesn’t help our useful intelligence. The intelligence of border collies is obvious when they remember complex verbal commands. The intelligence of crows and ravens is evident when they remember to use tools. Having a powerful memory is an important tool for the next element of creativity. Of course remembering language and how to use tools doesn’t happen without first a curiosity to observe of experience it.

Creativity

The last leg of our stable tri-pod of intelligence is creativity. When seen in conjunction with curiosity and memory, creativity is expressed by relating divergent subjects in the mind. By creating theories and inferences. When reading someone’s body language (a Bodily and Kinesthetic category of intelligence) we can make a connection that when people cross their arms and have wandering eyes they are likely disinterested in what your talking about because of distraction, disagreeance or disrespect. We make this connection by joining the visual cue with past experience. When learning about the physical structure of mushrooms and the symbiotic relationship between mycelium and roots through the subject of botany we can also creatively ponder the potential parallels with what we know about our own brain through the subject of psychology. From there we might infer the mycelium web in the soil — which looks strikingly like the neuronal connections in our brain — acts as a brain for the botanical world. Through further research (as outlined in the book “The Hidden Life of Trees”), science has discovered this to be true; trees warn other trees to build their defenses for threats such as pests and disease. Whereas our electrical impulses travel many inches per millisecond, the electrical impulses between trees via the mycelium web travels around a third of an inch per second.

Creativity cannot happen without memory and curiousity.

These three critical elements of intelligence can be seen in their relationship to the three parts of time: past, present and future.

Curiosity is only experienced through the present moment. We cannot play or gather new information in any other part of time except the infinitely small point called now.

Memory is obviously a mental construct of the past which does not actually exist in reality except for what we recall in our mind (and the unconscious collective library [reference Carl Jung]). It is nonetheless an important element to use what we have experienced in previous present states to evolve.

Creativity is analogous to the future. It it is a powerful tool to transform multiple memories of what we have experienced into new methods / ideas / actions.

The past is about what happened, the present is what exists in experience, and the future is infinite potential. Creativity lies in the realm of infinite potential.

Through the act of creativity we are existing in a state of presence and indeed being playfully curious and thereby creating new memories of which will spawn new creativity to be experienced through presence which will create new memories and so on and so forth is the cycle of intelligence.

How children learn language through mere osmosis illustrates their genius. The next question is why does our intelligence — as defined by my three foundational elements — seem to fade as we transition out of young childhood? Many people would say it is because our brain becomes less plastic. But I contend that it is our societal paradigms that shut down curiosity … the first step of intelligence. Sometimes when children ask questions their inquiry is not honored and as this happens they begin to ask less questions. Children who explore are often told that it is too dangerous to venture that far. Climb a tree then be told to get down. Draw on the wall then be told to stop that. Dig a hole in the yard for it to be filled. Acting weird then told to be normal. Singing and told they can’t sing. Playing piano and told to play it quieter. Dancing and told they look foolish. The antidote to the erosion of curiosity is the encouragement of playfulness and exploration. To give them a non-judgemental sounding board to tell their story and cement in their memory the powerful experiences of curiosity to serve as the stemcells of creativity.

The Unification Of The Three Elements of Intelligence

Meditation serves as a reset to our intellectual system. What often happen is we get bogged down with cyclic unnecessary thought patterns and paradigms. It is rigid programming which cripple curiosity by trivializing introspection, play and meditation. It disables creativity because we tell ourselves that we are not creative or good enough. And it doesn’t make room for new memoirs that could prove old biases wrong. Through meditation we can observe and deal with these harmful thoughts and paradigms by focusing on being the observer and consciously shedding light on the parts of our mind which are normally obscured.

An exercise to get in touch with your inner genius is to envision yourself as a child. What do you as a child do? Look up and look down. Look near and look far. Observe the functions of your body starting with your breath and heart rhythms. Touch … everything. Listen as if a dog waiting for it’s beloved human to come back home. Taste the leaves on trees, the grass, your hair, the air. Smell the scents and aromas seeing if you can directionally locate the source. Approach life with full sensuality as if reality itself is your lover.

Then tell your story to a compassionate loved one. Perhaps a good friend or mate. If you don’t have someone you trust enough to expound on your sensualization of life then write it down at length describing all the details leaving no stone un-turned. Telling your story helps commit experience to memory.

Then enter a state of no-mind. Go for a walk, sit in silence, pick up a musical instrument, hold a pen on paper, dip a brush in paint … without expectation observantly exist. Creative insight will organically spring forth as does the emergence of migratory birds acting as one or as rippled patterns on the beach. The key to creative success is to not force, doubt or expect anything. Intention is good though. Intention to prioritize time for creativity. Intention to solve a problem. Intention to make music. But no expectation.

What Is Wisdom?

Wisdom comes from intuition; a deeper part of consciousness. Something so deep that is drops out the bottom of our consciousness and joins all other consciousnesses. It is what Carl Jung refers to as the collective unconscious, what I call the collective library of experience, and what some people call the Akaishic record or some other variant of the term. Wisdom is instinct. It is not learned but rather accessed. The level of access is dependent on how clear the channel or strong the connection is. When we get out of our mind and understand that our essence of existence is as the observer (something that exists even without thought or action), then we can more easily access wisdom.

Creativity is a beautiful third element or equinox between intelligence and wisdom. Creativity pulls from both our personal intelligence (curiosity, memory, creativity) as well as the deep wisdom that transcends our separateness. When doing improvisational music, it is true that I am using a certain amount of memory and curiosity, but I feel there is also an element of pulling from something that is beyond me.

If intelligence is a three-sided pyramid, wisdom is the space around the pyramid. Or perhaps the bedrock under the structure.

Wisdom transcends all elements of intelligence. For example, divining with a dousing rod for water in the ground is something which does not entail memory, creativity or curiosity. Having a gut feeling about someone transcends intelligence. The way animals intuitively know what plants heal is wisdom. Having a synchronistic feeling at the same time as a distant friend across the world transcends intelligence.

Practicality

What do we do with this understanding of intelligence and wisdom?

Once we begin observing and understanding these things we can grow our intelligence and expand our channel to wisdom leading to a more effective and harmonious life. We can remove the blocks to curiosity, utilize tools to increase memory and allow ourselves to be creative. We can learn to identify the states the are more conducive to wisdom flow and prioritize those states more often.

Everything In Life Is A Teacher

 

We are here in this physical form of existence to learn and evolve.

How do we learn? Through experience and interaction with everything in our life.

Everything supposedly good or bad are teachers. There are two valid ways to approach the world as our teacher / mirror / lesson. The spiritual and the agnostic perspective. The first way is that something divine put these teachers on our path. Perhaps God, a spirit helper, our deeper self, or a pre-determined life-path put these lessons in our experience so that we learn what we need this lifetime.

Or perhaps we could approach it from a purely agnostic perspective, using the seemingly random experiences in our life as a catalyst for self-evolution, introspection and change in our lives. We can all agree that there is something to learn from everything but we often forget to give the teachers in our life our full attention. When we forget to pay attention, we loose the lesson. This is seen in people who are perpetually in unhealthy relationships or dead-end jobs; or who are continually doing the same things expecting different results (the definition of insanity).

Here are four categories of teachers in our life:

People

Every person who enters our life — whether the relationship is fleeting or lasts a lifetime; A positive or negative experience — is a valuable teacher. Even the negative interactions teach us what we want and don’t want. We begin to see patterns of things to avoid. We learn about ourselves and how we react.

Animals

Every animal that crosses our path is a carrier of symbolism which the inquisitive ponder. What does the bird flying in the sky symbolize to you? Perhaps freedom and a higher perspective. How does this relate to your life right now? The snake slithering across your path … how does groundedness, going with the flow, shedding old skin and sixth sense relate to your questions?

Our Body

Listening to what our body says is sometimes the most true and obvious source of wisdom. Does our breath and heart quicken after meeting someone? What does that mean? Do you ever feel butterflies in your stomach? What does that mean given the context where it happened?

For women especially, paying attention to the cycles of their body is critical to understanding where they are and what that means.

But perhaps the most stern teacher is dis-ease or other physical afflictions. What emotional state or thought patterns could give rise to the ailment? Do you have too much non-transmuted anger? Are you suppressing emotions? Do you love and accept yourself? Is your career eating you alive? Are the people in your life creating harmony…or disharmony?

If you are feeling itchy, what is under your skin?

If you injured yourself, it is a lesson to be more aware of your surroundings and slow down.

If disease is forcing you to be sedentary, it is time to reflect, introspect, visualize and meditate.

If you have inflammation, it is a sign to have more compassion as well as to eat a diet with more anti-inflammatory vegetables.

Our body is the strongest teacher of all.

Circumstance

Sometimes life circumstances are not what you wanted. I have a friend who got into an accident and was forced to stay immobile at a friend’s house in the middle of nowhere while her car was being fixed for weeks. This unintended circumstance forced her into a state of introspection. It removed her from her normal day-to-day environment and allowed her to pursue new avenues of potential she may not have otherwise done. Adversity always contains a lesson; the question is will you learn the lesson or not? Sometimes circumstances come about to prevent something worse from happening. Like getting in a dangerous or worse situation. Sometimes the only thing that can stop a person from getting into a bad situation is something less bad but still troublesome. 

Of course happy and comfortable circumstances also contain lessons, but those are the easy lessons we have no problem accepting into our life. It is the supposed negative circumstances which are more difficult to accept. But once we begin asking the people, animals, circumstances and our bodies “What are you trying to tell me? What is the lesson here? What is the symbolism here? What are you pointing me to?” … the negative situations begin to fade away while being replaced with a more harmonious experience.