Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Tipping Points

Malcolm Gladwell

The picture has nothing to do with M. Gladwell's book. Just a personal tipping point. :) I've been reading Malcolm Gladwell's first book, The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference (2000). I bought the book a year or more ago and eagerly read about the first half before it got shuffled in my bedside stack and overrun with others. Something reminded me of it again recently and I unearthed it. This book is really making me think about how we create neural connections in our brain, and why we do what we do with them, or not. I realize more and more how locked in we are in our thinking processes - I have images of a recent Holiday Inn Express ad I saw, in which a clown reassures a rodeo rider straddling the bull and ready to leave the gate - just lean back and hang on. The rider is reassured and gives a nod to the role of the rodeo clowns in keeping it all together, then learns that the clown is a birthday party clown who stayed at a Holiday Inn Express. Find the link or bridge between why I thought of this ad when thinking of how locked in we are to our thinking processes, and you will have entered the Wonderland of my World.

The Tipping Point is indeed a great intellectual adventure story, as M. Gladwell calls it. And I love great intellectual adventure stories. To me all true intellectual explorations are adventures. Studying the difference between internal and external focuses of thinking, and the amazing phenomenon of once we recognize a pattern, the pattern begins to "appear" everywhere we look, validates again the fact that we are reflective beings. Understanding the world around us in a different way than we may have already thought means we have opened our way of understanding ourselves into new pathways. We may not necessarily be conscious of doing this - of deciding to change our thinking - at first, but we feel the excitement of the change, and this prompts us to do it, more and more, and more consciously.

Gladwell has some great case studies in the book. I'm definitely thinking about my own patterns of thinking and doing and feeling, and feeling the urges and surges of starting my own "positive" epidemic, as he writes, is a thrill. Add to that the thrill of the infinite sensory experience we open our minds to as we learn to love these processes of creation, and wow...that's what I call a Big Bang.

A note to think about:
"As human beings, in other words, we can only handle so much information at once. Once we pass a certain boundary, we become overwhelmed. What I'm describing here is an intellectual capacity - our ability to process raw information. But if you think about it, we clearly have a channel capacity for feelings as well." (176)

We have a lot of ways to illustrate how we have defined our environment, based upon our perception. These illustrations can be markers for us to break down some walls, once we know the blueprint of how we built the shelters, buildings, bunkers, skyscrapers, gazebos in our mind.

Quotes and other links:
"Kant had said that it was Nature herself, and not the mathematician, who brings mathematics into natural philosophy." On Growth and Form, D'arcy Wentworth Thompson (1961).

Another book I'm reading:
A novel called The Brief History of the Dead by Kevin Brockmeier.
Inside the flyleaf: 'Remember me when I'm gone' just took on a whole new meaning.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

The Bare Essentials

photo by John Kane
The Bare EssentialsI read an interesting article in the NYTimes online yesterday, about “naked” and “nude” and dancing. The article is by Gia Kourlas. Check it out. How we feel about flesh and skin. The article conjures up all sorts of images, prompted by both the dancers’ and audience experiences. I appreciate the beauty.

This makes me think of a book I was given recently: Always a Woman, by Kaylan Pickford. "We are vulnerable and are easily led away from our real selves. Illusion beckons." In physical terms, I have never been "pretty," or, particularly "ugly" - I have only thought of these qualities in physical ways when prompted by physical comparisons to others. More often now I think of "pretty" and "ugly" as qualities of character, energy, levels of refinement, finesse, manners, or a lack of them. I have been very ugly at times (remember that Alberta Hunter line about "a horse with a hat on"?) - and have known many levels of these within me, just as I have recognized whole spectrums within others. I've been both clumsy and coordinated, in thinking, speech, and movement. Grace is as grace does, I'm learning, as I age, and remember. On Sunday, in Kathy Oddenino's seminar, "Love as the Secret of Happiness," I thought about all of the energy I have put into my beliefs - about myself, life, others - and how this shows me I have been loyal to my beliefs, even as I struggled with them (and thought this was love), not loyal to or truly loving of myself. Kaylan Pickford wrote, "I love love stories. I think everyone loves a love story, most of all their own."
Here is my bit:
Close as a breath
To the crystal balls
We still want to read
Our past in our futures,
And our present is cloaked, too,
Sometimes simply symbolized.
I see the lines around my eyes
And my skin changing colors-
I no longer simply wonder
So much as smile, marvel
At this divine machine.

The Bare Essentials of Dance

Monday, February 06, 2006


Renee Oldstead

Renee Oldstead (my friend Chris turned my head to Renee a long time ago, with a nod to Eva Cassidy)- I've been listening to her CD, and Summertime, and....Let me just say, you don't know what you're missing. I am loving every note.

Other Arts:
Raoul Dufy (1877-1953).

Since I read his name in something by Gertrude Stein so many years ago, I have been drawn to some of his paintings and patterns. Some yes, some no. He has certain "motifs" that appear in his paintings, as, I think, symbols of what mean so much to him in his internal life. He does this in a way that makes perfect sense to me - i.e., I relate easily to his way, and find I know him much better and easily as I make my way through his paintings. It is like coming to know a friend intimately, without benefit of holding his hand. His uses of lines, and of color, and the particular ways they are "his," are wonderful. If you're not familiar with him and his work, take a look sometime, if only by book. He painted, made costume sets, woodcuts, all sorts of things. There is a lot more "there" than only the graphic-style representations that may be more familiar.

I checked out a book recently from the library and have been perusing these paintings again, the first time for a long while. Note the colors - that exquisite blue, in "Nogent-sure-Marne" (1934). Even in print. They are fascinating studies of character, place, and memory, to me.

My neighbor just knocked on my door to tell me he is the one who knocked my mailbox off last night - ice on the truck windshield. We shook hands, and he apologized in a very gentle voice, offering all. What a nice punctuation to end....