London Gallery #3: Warhammer World

The 22 year old me and the 40 year old me agreed to go to Nottingham today to pay a visit to Warhammer World.

The 22 year old me really wanted to buy shit and go crazy but the 40 year old me needs to decide what it is that he'll do with the rest of the year before he can splurge the 1400+ pounds some of the models he wants cost.

The displays in the Dioramas and the painted models were just breath taking... My favorite diorama was chaos versus tau, space marines marching and, the most impressive one, the imperial guard marching 🙂

The 20 year old me was good and didn't spend all the money but still got some interesting things to read and work (assemble and, maybe, paint) when he gets home

Neruda’s Nobel Speech: Towards the splendid City

One of my favorite writings from Neruda. I thought it appropriate to post it now


Towards the splendid city

My speech is going to be a long journey, a trip that I have taken through regions that are distant and antipodean, but not for that reason any less similar to the landscape and the solitude in Scandinavia. I refer to the way in which my country stretches down to the extreme South. So remote are we Chileans that our boundaries almost touch the South Pole, recalling the geography of Sweden, whose head reaches the snowy northern region of this planet.

Down there on those vast expanses in my native country, where I was taken by events which have already fallen into oblivion, one has to cross, and I was compelled to cross, the Andes to find the frontier of my country with Argentina. Great forests make these inaccessible areas like a tunnel through which our journey was secret and forbidden, with only the faintest signs to show us the way. There were no tracks and no paths, and I and my four companions, riding on horseback, pressed forward on our tortuous way, avoiding the obstacles set by huge trees, impassable rivers, immense cliffs and desolate expanses of snow, blindly seeking the quarter in which my own liberty lay. Those who were with me knew how to make their way forward between the dense leaves of the forest, but to feel safer they marked their route by slashing with their machetes here and there in the bark of the great trees, leaving tracks which they would follow back when they had left me alone with my destiny.

Each of us made his way forward filled with this limitless solitude, with the green and white silence of trees and huge trailing plants and layers of soil laid down over centuries, among half-fallen tree trunks which suddenly appeared as fresh obstacles to bar our progress. We were in a dazzling and secret world of nature which at the same time was a growing menace of cold, snow and persecution. Everything became one: the solitude, the danger, the silence, and the urgency of my mission.

Sometimes we followed a very faint trail, perhaps left by smugglers or ordinary criminals in flight, and we did not know whether many of them had perished, surprised by the icy hands of winter, by the fearful snowstorms which suddenly rage in the Andes and engulf the traveller, burying him under a whiteness seven stories high.

On either side of the trail I could observe in the wild desolation something which betrayed human activity. There were piled up branches which had lasted out many winters, offerings made by hundreds who had journeyed there, crude burial mounds in memory of the fallen, so that the passer should think of those who had not been able to struggle on but had remained there under the snow for ever. My comrades, too, hacked off with their machetes branches which brushed our heads and bent down over us from the colossal trees, from oaks whose last leaves were scattering before the winter storms. And I too left a tribute at every mound, a visiting card of wood, a branch from the forest to deck one or other of the graves of these unknown travellers.

We had to cross a river. Up on the Andean summits there run small streams which cast themselves down with dizzy and insane force, forming waterfalls that stir up earth and stones with the violence they bring with them from the heights. But this time we found calm water, a wide mirrorlike expanse which could be forded. The horses splashed in, lost their foothold and began to swim towards the other bank. Soon my horse was almost completely covered by the water, I began to plunge up and down without support, my feet fighting desperately while the horse struggled to keep its head above water. Then we got across. And hardly we reached the further bank when the seasoned countryfolk with me asked me with scarce-concealed smiles:

"Were you frightened?"
"Very. I thought my last hour had come", I said.
"We were behind you with our lassoes in our hands", they answered.
"Just there", added one of them, "my father fell and was swept away by the current. That didn't happen to you."

We continued till we came to a natural tunnel which perhaps had been bored through the imposing rocks by some mighty vanished river or created by some tremor of the earth when these heights had been formed, a channel that we entered where it had been carved out in the rock in granite. After only a few steps our horses began to slip when they sought for a foothold in the uneven surfaces of the stone and their legs were bent, sparks flying from beneath their iron shoes - several times I expected to find myself thrown off and lying there on the rock. My horse was bleeding from its muzzle and from its legs, but we persevered and continued on the long and difficult but magnificent path.

There was something awaiting us in the midst of this wild primeval forest. Suddenly, as if in a strange vision, we came to a beautiful little meadow huddled among the rocks: clear water, green grass, wild flowers, the purling of brooks and the blue heaven above, a generous stream of light unimpeded by leaves.

There we stopped as if within a magic circle, as if guests within some hallowed place, and the ceremony I now took part in had still more the air of something sacred. The cowherds dismounted from their horses. In the midst of the space, set up as if in a rite, was the skull of an ox. In silence the men approached it one after the other and put coins and food in the eyesockets of the skull. I joined them in this sacrifice intended for stray travellers, all kinds of refugees who would find bread and succour in the dead ox's eye sockets.

But the unforgettable ceremony did not end there. My country friends took off their hats and began a strange dance, hopping on one foot around the abandoned skull, moving in the ring of footprints left behind by the many others who had passed there before them. Dimly I understood, there by the side of my inscrutable companions, that there was a kind of link between unknown people, a care, an appeal and an answer even in the most distant and isolated solitude of this world.

Further on, just before we reached the frontier which was to divide me from my native land for many years, we came at night to the last pass between the mountains. Suddenly we saw the glow of a fire as a sure sign of a human presence, and when we came nearer we found some half-ruined buildings, poor hovels which seemed to have been abandoned. We went into one of them and saw the glow of fire from tree trunks burning in the middle of the floor, carcasses of huge trees, which burnt there day and night and from which came smoke that made its way up through the cracks in the roof and rose up like a deep-blue veil in the midst of the darkness. We saw mountains of stacked cheeses, which are made by the people in these high regions. Near the fire lay a number of men grouped like sacks. In the silence we could distinguish the notes of a guitar and words in a song which was born of the embers and the darkness, and which carried with it the first human voice we had encountered during our journey. It was a song of love and distance, a cry of love and longing for the distant spring, from the towns we were coming away from, for life in its limitless extent. These men did not know who we were, they knew nothing about our flight, they had never heard either my name or my poetry; or perhaps they did, perhaps they knew us? What actually happened was that at this fire we sang and we ate, and then in the darkness we went into some primitive rooms. Through them flowed a warm stream, volcanic water in which we bathed, warmth which welled out from the mountain chain and received us in its bosom.

Happily we splashed about, dug ourselves out, as it were, liberated ourselves from the weight of the long journey on horseback. We felt refreshed, reborn, baptised, when in the dawn we started on the journey of a few miles which was to eclipse me from my native land. We rode away on our horses singing, filled with a new air, with a force that cast us out on to the world's broad highway which awaited me. This I remember well, that when we sought to give the mountain dwellers a few coins in gratitude for their songs, for the food, for the warm water, for giving us lodging and beds, I would rather say for the unexpected heavenly refuge that had met us on our journey, our offering was rejected out of hand. They had been at our service, nothing more. In this taciturn "nothing" there were hidden things that were understood, perhaps a recognition, perhaps the same kind of dreams.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I did not learn from books any recipe for writing a poem, and I, in my turn, will avoid giving any advice on mode or style which might give the new poets even a drop of supposed insight. When I am recounting in this speech something about past events, when reliving on this occasion a never-forgotten occurrence, in this place which is so different from what that was, it is because in the course of my life I have always found somewhere the necessary support, the formula which had been waiting for me not in order to be petrified in my words but in order to explain me to myself.

During this long journey I found the necessary components for the making of the poem. There I received contributions from the earth and from the soul. And I believe that poetry is an action, ephemeral or solemn, in which there enter as equal partners solitude and solidarity, emotion and action, the nearness to oneself, the nearness to mankind and to the secret manifestations of nature. And no less strongly I think that all this is sustained - man and his shadow, man and his conduct, man and his poetry - by an ever-wider sense of community, by an effort which will for ever bring together the reality and the dreams in us because it is precisely in this way that poetry unites and mingles them. And therefore I say that I do not know, after so many years, whether the lessons I learned when I crossed a daunting river, when I danced around the skull of an ox, when I bathed my body in the cleansing water from the topmost heights - I do not know whether these lessons welled forth from me in order to be imparted to many others or whether it was all a message which was sent to me by others as a demand or an accusation. I do not know whether I experienced this or created it, I do not know whether it was truth or poetry, something passing or permanent, the poems I experienced in this hour, the experiences which I later put into verse.

From all this, my friends, there arises an insight which the poet must learn through other people. There is no insurmountable solitude. All paths lead to the same goal: to convey to others what we are. And we must pass through solitude and difficulty, isolation and silence in order to reach forth to the enchanted place where we can dance our clumsy dance and sing our sorrowful song - but in this dance or in this song there are fulfilled the most ancient rites of our conscience in the awareness of being human and of believing in a common destiny.

The truth is that even if some or many consider me to be a sectarian, barred from taking a place at the common table of friendship and responsibility, I do not wish to defend myself, for I believe that neither accusation nor defence is among the tasks of the poet. When all is said, there is no individual poet who administers poetry, and if a poet sets himself up to accuse his fellows or if some other poet wastes his life in defending himself against reasonable or unreasonable charges, it is my conviction that only vanity can so mislead us. I consider the enemies of poetry to be found not among those who practise poetry or guard it but in mere lack of agreement in the poet. For this reason no poet has any considerable enemy other than his own incapacity to make himself understood by the most forgotten and exploited of his contemporaries, and this applies to all epochs and in all countries.

The poet is not a "little god". No, he is not a "little god". He is not picked out by a mystical destiny in preference to those who follow other crafts and professions. I have often maintained that the best poet is he who prepares our daily bread: the nearest baker who does not imagine himself to be a god. He does his majestic and unpretentious work of kneading the dough, consigning it to the oven, baking it in golden colours and handing us our daily bread as a duty of fellowship. And, if the poet succeeds in achieving this simple consciousness, this too will be transformed into an element in an immense activity, in a simple or complicated structure which constitutes the building of a community, the changing of the conditions which surround mankind, the handing over of mankind's products: bread, truth, wine, dreams. If the poet joins this never-completed struggle to extend to the hands of each and all his part of his undertaking, his effort and his tenderness to the daily work of all people, then the poet must take part, the poet will take part, in the sweat, in the bread, in the wine, in the whole dream of humanity. Only in this indispensable way of being ordinary people shall we give back to poetry the mighty breadth which has been pared away from it little by little in every epoch, just as we ourselves have been whittled down in every epoch.

The mistakes which led me to a relative truth and the truths which repeatedly led me back to the mistakes did not allow me - and I never made any claims to it - to find my way to lead, to learn what is called the creative process, to reach the heights of literature that are so difficult of access. But one thing I realized - that it is we ourselves who call forth the spirits through our own myth-making. From the matter we use, or wish to use, there arise later on obstacles to our own development and the future development. We are led infallibly to reality and realism, that is to say to become indirectly conscious of everything that surrounds us and of the ways of change, and then we see, when it seems to be late, that we have erected such an exaggerated barrier that we are killing what is alive instead of helping life to develop and blossom. We force upon ourselves a realism which later proves to be more burdensome than the bricks of the building, without having erected the building which we had regarded as an indispensable part of our task. And, in the contrary case, if we succeed in creating the fetish of the incomprehensible (or the fetish of that which is comprehensible only to a few), the fetish of the exclusive and the secret, if we exclude reality and its realistic degenerations, then we find ourselves suddenly surrounded by an impossible country, a quagmire of leaves, of mud, of cloud, where our feet sink in and we are stifled by the impossibility of communicating.

As far as we in particular are concerned, we writers within the tremendously far-flung American region, we listen unceasingly to the call to fill this mighty void with beings of flesh and blood. We are conscious of our duty as fulfillers - at the same time we are faced with the unavoidable task of critical communication within a world which is empty and is not less full of injustices, punishments and sufferings because it is empty - and we feel also the responsibility for reawakening the old dreams which sleep in statues of stone in the ruined ancient monuments, in the wide-stretching silence in planetary plains, in dense primeval forests, in rivers which roar like thunder. We must fill with words the most distant places in a dumb continent and we are intoxicated by this task of making fables and giving names. This is perhaps what is decisive in my own humble case, and if so my exaggerations or my abundance or my rhetoric would not be anything other than the simplest of events within the daily work of an American. Each and every one of my verses has chosen to take its place as a tangible object, each and every one of my poems has claimed to be a useful working instrument, each and every one of my songs has endeavoured to serve as a sign in space for a meeting between paths which cross one another, or as a piece of stone or wood on which someone, some others, those who follow after, will be able to carve the new signs.

By extending to these extreme consequences the poet's duty, in truth or in error, I determined that my posture within the community and before life should be that of in a humble way taking sides. I decided this when I saw so many honourable misfortunes, lone victories, splendid defeats. In the midst of the arena of America's struggles I saw that my human task was none other than to join the extensive forces of the organized masses of the people, to join with life and soul with suffering and hope, because it is only from this great popular stream that the necessary changes can arise for the authors and for the nations. And even if my attitude gave and still gives rise to bitter or friendly objections, the truth is that I can find no other way for an author in our far-flung and cruel countries, if we want the darkness to blossom, if we are concerned that the millions of people who have learnt neither to read us nor to read at all, who still cannot write or write to us, are to feel at home in the area of dignity without which it is impossible for them to be complete human beings.

We have inherited this damaged life of peoples dragging behind them the burden of the condemnation of centuries, the most paradisaical of peoples, the purest, those who with stones and metals made marvellous towers, jewels of dazzling brilliance - peoples who were suddenly despoiled and silenced in the fearful epochs of colonialism which still linger on.

Our original guiding stars are struggle and hope. But there is no such thing as a lone struggle, no such thing as a lone hope. In every human being are combined the most distant epochs, passivity, mistakes, sufferings, the pressing urgencies of our own time, the pace of history. But what would have become of me if, for example, I had contributed in some way to the maintenance of the feudal past of the great American continent? How should I then have been able to raise my brow, illuminated by the honour which Sweden has conferred on me, if I had not been able to feel some pride in having taken part, even to a small extent, in the change which has now come over my country? It is necessary to look at the map of America, to place oneself before its splendid multiplicity, before the cosmic generosity of the wide places which surround us, in order to understand why many writers refuse to share the dishonour and plundering of the past, of all that which dark gods have taken away from the American peoples.

I chose the difficult way of divided responsibility and, rather than to repeat the worship of the individual as the sun and centre of the system, I have preferred to offer my services in all modesty to an honourable army which may from time to time commit mistakes but which moves forward unceasingly and struggles every day against the anachronism of the refractory and the impatience of the opinionated. For I believe that my duties as a poet involve friendship not only with the rose and with symmetry, with exalted love and endless longing, but also with unrelenting human occupations which I have incorporated into my poetry.

It is today exactly one hundred years since an unhappy and brilliant poet, the most awesome of all despairing souls, wrote down this prophecy: "A l'aurore, armés d'une ardente patience, nous entrerons aux splendides Villes." "In the dawn, armed with a burning patience, we shall enter the splendid Cities."

I believe in this prophecy of Rimbaud, the Visionary. I come from a dark region, from a land separated from all others by the steep contours of its geography. I was the most forlorn of poets and my poetry was provincial, oppressed and rainy. But always I had put my trust in man. I never lost hope. It is perhaps because of this that I have reached as far as I now have with my poetry and also with my banner.

Lastly, I wish to say to the people of good will, to the workers, to the poets, that the whole future has been expressed in this line by Rimbaud: only with a burning patience can we conquer the splendid City which will give light, justice and dignity to all mankind.

In this way the song will not have been sung in vain.

(more than one) 9/11

9/11 has always had special connotations.

For the Chilean in me can never forget the world that I lived in that started 9/11/73 with all the violence from both sides, most of which I was insulated from because of my dad and his job (he was a civilian teacher at the Air Force Academy) or maybe because politics was never a subject discussed at home.

I remember reading over the people who disappeared or were killed from either side of the political fence.

I remember the stories of one of my college profs who spoke about the hideous results of torture.

I remember watching Death and The Maiden, the original theatrical run in Chile and thinking that it was all fiction, it wasn't until years later when I heard people talk about similar experiences and realized that it might not be all fiction after all.

I remember being on the streets in 1993, the glass falling over me from broken windows overhead how ammonia in a handkerchief is the perfect way to combat tear gas before it renders you useless, trying to move a car among the masses of people walking around it, and some trying to turn us over to stop the cops as they were chasing them.

I will never forget where I was 15 years ago... we were getting ready for a video conference at De Anza when someone pointed to CNN and what was happening at that time. It is also sad to see how ugly, bad and vicious the world has turned into because of this.

I know, I know... there will be violence regardless of the external causes. Hate and fear always have easier and more fertile grounds than love and compassion. But we've become callous, colder towards and distant from each other.

We all take refuge in what makes us different rather than embrace that which brings us together... and that makes me sad.

WDS 2016

Rather than break it up by days I'll try to weave the themes I've discovered throughout a single narrative to go along with discoveries and some other recent thoughts and writing.

Doing things for the right reason

Or: the worst thing you can do is not start

I've always been inspired by Chris's story. It's always been an example of perseverance and the continued wishes for adventure. Every time I heard this or other interviews where Chris talks about his early life and how he came to where he is now I look out and away to where I would want to be and wonder if those things are reachable and attainable.

At WDS I spoke with Sean, the creator of Location Rebels, and he asked one very interesting question: what do you want?

I've always thought that I knew the answer but the older I get the more I realize that it's only you think you know the answer but you really don't: "When we had the answers, they changed the questions."

Accept that what you want will change and accept that you will have a never ending quest and that's ok. Remember that the moment you settle, the moment that you compromise you're lost to yourself. Be positive, always ask what can go right instead of what can go wrong.

Consequences of success and failure

One of the things we don't think about enough are the consequences of success. That has been in my mind a lot lately as I move through the process of finishing this project at Google and decide what's next and what shape it'll take.

For some reason I'm reminded of a portion of Neil Gaiman's 2012 commencement speech where he talks about success and failure:

The problems of failure are problems of discouragement, of hopelessness, of hunger. You want everything to happen and you want it now, and things go wrong. My first book – a piece of journalism I had done for the money, and which had already bought me an electric typewriter from the advance – should have been a bestseller. It should have paid me a lot of money. If the publisher hadn't gone into involuntary liquidation between the first print run selling out and the second printing, and before any royalties could be paid, it would have done.

And I shrugged, and I still had my electric typewriter and enough money to pay the rent for a couple of months, and I decided that I would do my best in future not to write books just for the money. If you didn't get the money, then you didn't have anything. If I did work I was proud of, and I didn't get the money, at least I'd have the work.

Every now and again, I forget that rule, and whenever I do, the universe kicks me hard and reminds me. I don't know that it's an issue for anybody but me, but it's true that nothing I did where the only reason for doing it was the money was ever worth it, except as bitter experience. Usually I didn't wind up getting the money, either. The things I did because I was excited, and wanted to see them exist in reality have never let me down, and I've never regretted the time I spent on any of them.

The problems of failure are hard.

The problems of success can be harder, because nobody warns you about them.

The first problem of any kind of even limited success is the unshakable conviction that you are getting away with something, and that any moment now they will discover you. It's Imposter Syndrome, something my wife Amanda [Palmer] christened the Fraud Police.

In my case, I was convinced that there would be a knock on the door, and a man with a clipboard (I don't know why he carried a clipboard, in my head, but he did) would be there, to tell me it was all over, and they had caught up with me, and now I would have to go and get a real job, one that didn't consist of making things up and writing them down, and reading books I wanted to read. And then I would go away quietly and get the kind of job where you don't have to make things up any more.

Neil Gaiman -- commencement speech at Academy of Art, 2012

While it's true that we shouldn't define ourselves by our failures we can't discount the fact that failures, even more that successes make you who you are. You just have to accept failures as part of the process. I'm starting this process in the project I'm working on, the level of stress and the amount of feedback I'm expecting to get from the developers in London is scary and it's hard to stay positive.

The other side of the process is that you can’t really say you want to be good at something if you never do it or if you never put yourself out there for the world to see and critique and say mean shit about...

So what makes you really you? Is it the big successes and failures or is it the little thin that make you smile every day (see Slowing down and living in the present for more on this).

“No matter how you define success, momentary happiness should have some role in it…. happiness has also been thought of as having a larger, almost spiritual quality that goes beyond both momentary feelings and reflective thought.

SO how do you become you so the joy can come out as a result?

before you can be unapologetically joyful. You have to be unapologetically you

Jonathan Fields

Awareness

I have issues with standing still and listening...

I remember that each and every Naginata practice started with us sitting zazen, bowing to each other and meditated to clear our minds for the practice to come.

When did it become so hard to stay still?

How can you zoom the lens out and come back fully engaged and present. How can the stillness lead to an awareness of the wide world?

Jonathan suggested two ideas of how to cultivate awareness by laying still:

  • Daily practice
  • Zoom out 1 week out of 7 or maybe 1 day a week to evaluate the time

Intentionality

Either you do or you don't... it has taken me years to figure out how deep the Yoda quote from Empire Strikes Back really is. The hard part is that the introverted in me doesn't give a shit about meeting new people and the extroverted in training is too short tempered for some of the idiots I normally have to deal with.

Listening to Chelsea Dinsmore reminded me of Scott. Perhaps the biggest challenge during her presentation was: How you do anything is how you do everything. It's an interesting question and something that continues to challenge me as I process the weekend.

How you do anything is how you do everything. How does your work create a reflection of who and what you are?

How do you combat the fear of interacting with people you don't know while remembering that strangers are friends you haven't met yet? How you do anything is how you do everything.

Self imposed limits (and the other kind)

Widen your world... Shit is about more than just you. It's hard to remember that there are more people around you... that the game is not single player. Live your life intentionally, fully and with passion but also learn to distinguish passion from being an ass or being single minded about something... I know that I'm not required to be social when I'm not feeling like it

Curiosity creates creativity. What are you curious and passionate about? Can you take these passions over again once the current project ends? Will the passion be the same as it was before?

We have no limits, only those we place on ourselves so how much are you willing to make those limitations go away. In working on understanding your limitations it also helps to question why something is important to you... why do you want to (or don't want to do this). And, the most important question to ask is how much are you willing to sacrifice to achieve those goals.

Never make statements, always ask questions

Who do you want to be?

I've already done the hardest thing I will ever do. What are the implications of this? What do I have to loose? I never thought I was going to do a triathlon... and I've done 8. I never in my wildest dreams I thought I was going to do a century ride and not only I did a century but I picked up a very hard one to do (riding around Lake Tahoe is no picnic). I started traveling on my own when I was very young... mom put me on a plane (under crew supervision) when I was 6 months old and I traveled overseas on my own for the first time when I was 14. I've traveled to multiple locations in and out of the country since... and I've survived and I've had a wonderful time doing it. So what's next? What other challenges can be as

Conscious choices: exist or be full alive and present. Dream big, live bigger and create a life of adventure. What you do is less important than enjoying it to the fullest. Don't worry about what people say about your efforts and about goals. You're the only person whose opinion matters.

Live with no regrets. It's not about arriving to the end safely but having enjoyed all you've done and leaving nothing on the road...

Failure versus never trying

Failures and assists should not be excluded from the narratives of success. You shouldn't hide your struggles and your efforts when pursuing your goals. One thing that really pisses me off is that we only hear of successful efforts and good results but we never hear about failures. Be positive in your explanations and learn from your failures.

Doubt your doubts

Joy and sorrow can coexist. There is no such thing as absolute failure or absolute success... they coexists and feed of each other and make you who you really are.

What is a good life?

I've always been torn between what I have and what I don't have and, from time to time, have wallowed in misery and misery loves company, doesn't it? The poster below, along with the Holstee manifesto have taken me out of the funk more than once and have led me to live fuller and, I want to think, more deeply 🙂

The Good Life Project Creed

The Good Life Project Creed

One of the biggest questions is what makes for a good life. Part of it is to live to its fullest but also to be wise about it. Walk a mile on someone else's shoes not just once or to say you did it. Do it because you mean it fully and completely.

A good life is not a place at which you arrive, but a lens trough which you choose to view the world

Jonathan Fields

Jonathan's interview with Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche is eye opening and revealing. It's a very interesting conversation. We can always aspire to be better and I need to continue reminding myself that it's a never ending process.

Coda: Trust

I saw a really interesting scene in Portland. Two women walking together, one in a full blindfold and being led by a working dog in training.

It reminded me of a trust exercise I did while in theater at Central: close your eyes, hold your partner's hand and let him/her drive you anywhere in the theater building.

It also triggered a question on why trust is so hard for me to give and accept.