It’s been hard to slow down. I’ve been working hard with J, Jake and Stuart on our piece at The Academy of Sciences in June. It’s a piece about the sea. But, I had forgotten the feeling of water: till I saw this woman dance.

Last weekend, I saw her. She had her earphones in and had a nano in her right hip pocket. She was singing to herself, and her sister was sitting on the sand watching her. I was very tired.

We had gone to the beach to relax, watch the surfers and let Luca run free.

I stared at this dancer.

I don’t think I was gawking. Yet, like a fan, I asked her sister if I could take a picture. I got the sense by her laugh that my taking a picture might delight her dancing sibling. I took a whole bunch. Then, I crouched down, and in an incoherent way  (deeply tired) I said, “Well, she’s really in it, isn’t she?”

The sister turned her head, kindly, and replied, “Of course.”

Of course. Yes, I forgot. Some people go slow. And, to dance hula you have to slow down, to hear the crash of sea behind you as the drum. Though, in this case, the dancer had earphones in and she could have been listening to Lady Gaga for all I know – but, she was smiling, and laughing a bit, and danced on without any awareness of us.

What I see when look at this picture (and at the memory of her) is how extreme we are in our relationship to the sea – or, perhaps it’s just me. One view is that she is a perfect moving body in front of a perfect moving sea. Another, is that she is a human with ups and downs, humor and faults, and she is dancing before a sea filled with more pollution than plankton. Two extremes.

I sat down, I pushed my feet into the sand and watched my kid learn to surf by jumping high onto a boogie board laying on the sand. Two visions of him popped up: my blond Adonis learning to ride the sea before a body of water he will come to know. And, my four year old who has been a huge challenge recently what with the fixation on legos and demands to jump on the bed, and an ocean that may not be clean enough for him when he is old enough to surf.

I had a headache. I had a heartache.

So, I watched her some more.

Surfers were behind her. That dog was trying to get into the act. And, she was simply beautiful in her exact, languid flow. She was digging her personal time on the beach. She was not cut in half. She was all of herself, dancing in front of the ocean which is all of itself.

I’m tired of being torn in half about the sea – and perhaps all things human. We are all the splendid movement and trash within us – we are both/and – we just happen to be at a point where we need to decide how we want to live our lives so that we, and the sea, or the sea (and we) won’t be choked up with our filth and remnants of our fast lives.

I watched her for a while and felt the integration of both good and bad, the movement of her body and the speed of my life – which needs to be reminded of another rhythm.

I felt better. I came to the conclusion that we can clean up inside and out, slow down inside and out: we/I can stop and reconnect.

Then I saw this picture this morning – and the feeling of integration is replaced with rage:

What dance is this?

What dance with death are we in a tango with? What does this oil spill, one of the biggest perhaps of all time, do to the movement of our lives – to our ability to look our ancestor, the ocean, in the eye?

I only hear all the hips of all those who have made the sea their music to dance to, all those dancers of the living and the dead, ache.

Today, that lovely dancer from last weekend seems like a relic of innocence. Today, my heart is filled with British petroleum.

The sea is dancing in oil.

Futurists are Hot

April 14, 2010

So, I always thought that this guy was a Futurist. Ben Franklin seemed to scope out the future needs of the nation, while also being a deep historian of the past. He wasn’t very hot – but need he be?  No, he was a guy who could look backwards and forwards and generally, we could agree, implement long-term thinking to a nation.

Now, my buddy Jake Dunagan, a futurist, has expressed to me that he thinks we should throw out the constitution because the long term thinking of the past does not meet the needs of today. Scrap it, he says, start over. I gasped with the thought of the anarchy of that idea and then he just smiled in a wily way, and said, “Yeah, that would really shake things up.”  Wasn’t that the perspective of Franklin back then? Shake it up? Think for the future, and then, change the present?

Long term thinking.

This is what futurists do – they think long. And, I didn’t know anything about them. But, in 2006 I was introduced to Stuart Candy (http://futuryst.blogspot.com/) who was a fellow at the Long Now. And, later he introduced me to Jerry Paffendorf.  And, then I was introduced to Jake Dunagan (http://www.iftf.org/node/3402 ) And, now, we are developing a project for the Academy of Sciences, and I sometimes need to try to boss Jake and Stuart about – ok, I try to push gently. But, I don’t recommend this for the faint of heart (it’s my job, and after 15 years of practice I have the stomach for it) because futurists are, by the by, Bad Asses, and don’t like being told what to do: they are hard-wired to question…well, everything. But, more about bad assed-ness later.

In 2006 when I returned from PopTech! (www.poptech.org) I wanted to know if there were futurists under the age of 59.  I am not being snarky here – I have respect for the agents of change that are many Futurists – yet there was something about the idea of long-term thinking that interested me as it related to a younger generation.  I noticed that the futurists I met were very much in the moment – quiet, listening, asking questions about how things have worked in the past – and then imagining multiple worlds for the future. I wanted to know if young people were embodying this wisdom.

So, I have met the young ones, most under the age 35 years old. And, they are as rowdy, opinionated, fierce, and silly as the Founding Futurists must have been – it’s like hanging out with a punk circus filled with PhD’s and a van ready to leave for Burning Man.

Oh, and did I mention they are simply beautiful. Now, I will take a good deal of crap for talking about their beauty – but I think this is key – they are lively, contemporary and they are perfectly comfortable with being in the public eye, and spreading their vision as a rock band tours the planet.

But, let me define what beauty is to me: that rare combination of comfort in one’s body, and the expression of that comfort/energy/passion through feelings/words.

Please see my point below:

Jane McGonigal

Jerry Paffendorf

Stuart Candy

Jake Dunagan

These are only a few of the faces of futurists – these are just the folks I know or am near living in the Bay Area. And, they tell me that there are women around the world who are moving thought around (Jane McGonigal is most known for her insights into world-changing through gaming), and people working within the neighborhoods quietly making change (Jerry is now living in Detroit and leading a movement to convert abandoned homes and warehouses into places for film/design and futures work http://7billionfriends.tumblr.com/).

This generation of futurists I know are like highly connected community organizers with a drive to change the way people see. They want people to see the consequences of actions as a way to push for social change. It’s an inverted form of civil disobedience – it’s civic dissonance.  These brave souls want to turn your head inside out to force you into a place to resist present terrible decisions for the earth – those that are creating negative, globally destructive, future consequences.

Long term thinking = long term change = long term global beauty (beauty: health, joy, freedom of thought, embodied living and connectedness)

Concepts of beauty have changed throughout time. And, we are a culture obsessed with the physical beauty of our bodies. Though, perhaps beauty is now more critical – for me beauty is the integration of the mind with intention: and I am watching these younger people, (who defy the cliché of a tweeting/snarky/ADD Gen Y – whatever that is) these Futurists, they think in paragraphs and in 3D: and, they have every intention to change the world.

And, to me, this is gorgeous. This is beauty. This is Hot.

I did not have the right light to take a picture of a mural created by the student of Diego Rivera. But, I had enough light to notice that all the people in the painting were looking at the same thing, or, in a conversation with nature. They were not taking pictures with their iPhones.

Lucien Labaudt was a California artist who painted  this seminal mural about San Francisco.  He was the student of Rivera, and it’s said the great master himself came to visit.  It’s not critical that Rivera ever came to visit, Labaudt was a master of his own topic: San Francisco. This mural is found on the ground floor, right under the Beach Chalet Restaurant.  http://foundsf.org/index.php?title=Labaudt’s_Inspirational_Beach_Chalet_Murals

There’s much talk of how the mural depicts people together, and people together as workers, and people together enjoying their city.

I’ve eaten at the Beach Chalet Restaurant upstairs many times. I’d passed the mural and lingered by the soft curves of the bodies, and touched the wall when the guard was not watching, and enjoyed the look of San Francisco of the 1930’s. But, I never noticed the key point – I never noticed that the mural is about taking your time to look.

Taking your time to look at a dog. Taking your time to look at a crab you’ve caught. Taking your time to look at a newspaper while you sit on a beach. Taking your time to look at other people.

Labaudt was Rivera’s student. More often I think of Rivera’s murals looking at you as they demand change – or engaged in activities that reflect their life in work. They are, for me at least, NOT exploring taking your time. They feel like the demand to take action. Rivera was not exactly Mellow. (Rivera below)

I used to be mellow. Now, not so. I’m an image capturing one person revolution. And, I use my iPhone like a threat. It’s out all the time. I have ADHD-iP which means I must check one of my four email accounts regularly or I feel I need to wash my hands – four times on the back, and four times on the front. I take pictures. I love to take pictures. I love to email them. I love to flip through them. I take calls and check the emails that I sent to myself with pictures attached. I need help.

What am I looking at?

Well,  standing in front of that mural I thought I was taking pictures of beautiful people. What I saw were people looking without a lens – without the mask of my digital age device.

That got me thinking…what would Diego have done with one of these crazy digital cellphone boxes? He might have hated it because it forces you to see only what Steve Jobs (that imperialist!) has defined as the proper use of a frame. OR, perhaps he would love it because anyone can capture the truth of what they see, with beautiful color, and a way to quickly spread the word about their vision. Or, he could have just used it as a phone.

Who knows.

Yet, would he have changed the way he captured the world? Would Labaudt? Would they have drawn murals with people with phones – or would there have been rebellion in their hearts as they removed the phones…and showed people looking without a lens, their hands on flowers, hands on children, ands on tools, and hands on other people?

I was at the Academy of Sciences – http://www.calacademy.org/ – a place that is a living breathing mural of life. I was with my friend and creative cohort, Stuart Candy  http://futuryst.blogspot.com (yes, I agree, I also think it’s the greatest last name ever) and we were there to talk about a piece of art that he and I (and two other people – more on this project soon) want to make. After the conversation Stuart and I wound our way up a circular ramp into the replica of the Amazon.  Stuart pointed out to me that when you look at the ground there were people walking around at the base, underground. He thought this was very cool indeed.

We got to the top of the exhibit. Then we entered the elevator. I was gabbing. Stuart was nodding. We got to the base floor.

Then, below the ground we found ourselves looking up at a glass ceiling that separated us from swimming species. Turtles. Little small fish. Crazy plants. I was talking about them, and oohing and ahhing…Stuart had halted completely.

Then, a huge fish stopped and looked at Stuart in the face.

Then, Stuart stopped and looked at the huge fish in the face.

I grabbed my iPhone and took a picture of two species, eye to eye.

It is a picture of a mural of patience, a remnant, or reminder, to look at remarkable walls – walls that take their time to look.