Wednesday, December 31, 2008

All About The Clock

The inciting intellectual incident for this new piece I'm working on was reading about The Clock Of The Long Now, brainchild of Brian Eno, Stewart Brand, Danny Hillis, and others.

Their idea was to give humanity a sense of continuity over the long term by building a clock which would run for 10,000 years.  Talk about a mythic adventure!

It was the one thing I wanted to get into The Boycott and for which there was no narrative room.  Turns it out it was because it needed its own show.  Kind of like how The Eden Project started out at The Lost Gardens of Heligan, but then took over a whole industrial clay mining pit of its own.

Anyway, turns out that Stewart Brand gave a great talk about the clock at TED 2004, but it's only just been posted on line (thanks, John, for alerting me).  And here it is.  I particularly like the description of the Seven Stages of Mythic Adventure (super-theatrical!), the images of the Bristlecone Pine, the word "seek" as a place name (kind of like the word "reach"), and the Native American idea that if you want to think in the long term, "look to the mountain."

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Melissa Etheridge Walks The Talk

Excerpts from Melissa Ethridge's column in the Huffington Post.  This is what The Great Work looks like:
Well, I have to tell you my friends, the universe has a sense of humor and indeed works in mysterious ways. As I was winding down the promotion for my Christmas album I had one more stop last night...We were going to perform...for the Muslim Public Affairs Council... I received a call the day before to inform me of the keynote speaker that night... Pastor Rick Warren. I was stunned. My fight or flight instinct took over, should I cancel? Then a calm voice inside me said, "Are you really about peace or not?"

I told my manager to reach out to Pastor Warren and say "In the spirit of unity I would like to talk to him." ...On the day of the conference I received a call from Pastor Rick, and before I could say anything, he told me what a fan he was...He explained in very thoughtful words that as a Christian he believed in equal rights for everyone... He invited me to his church, I invited him to my home to meet my wife and kids. He told me of his wife's struggle with breast cancer just a year before mine.

When we met later that night, he entered the room with open arms and an open heart. We agreed to build bridges to the future.

Brothers and sisters the choice is ours now. We have the world's attention. We have the capability to create change, awesome change in this world, but before we change minds we must change hearts... I know, call me a dreamer, but I feel a new era is upon us.

I will be attending the inauguration with my family, and with hope in my heart. I know we are headed in the direction of marriage equality and equal protection for all families...

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Rick Warren and the Challenge of The Other

I startled myself with my response to the whole Rick Warren invocation business.  Much to my surprise, I didn't mind that he was doing it.  Partly because I trust Obama and I'm interested to watch his decision-making for a while before I start criticizing it.  So, if there's something in the man, Rick Warren, that Obama supports, then I'd like to give him the benefit of the doubt.  But also because I don't think that the issue here is really about gay marriage or the separation of Church and State, or any of the other hot buttons being pressed. I think it's even bigger than that.

I think the most revolutionary part of the whole Warren moment is that we have lost the ability to disagree with each other in a civil and respectful manner - much less maintain a sense of The Other's humanity. We don't believe anymore that those with whom we fundamentally disagree are worthy of our respect, much less our ability to empathize with their position.

I think what Obama is trying to do is model something incredibly powerful. He's saying we can rise above identifying with even our most fundamentally held beliefs for the sake of the greater good. We don't have to cast aside our beliefs, but there is a also a common place beyond them, and it's only in working from that place - all of us together - that we're going to be able to successfully address all the gigantic challenges we're facing.

He's provoking us to think in hard, painful, revolutionary and ultimately exciting ways.  The first question for each of us is: Am I up to the task?  

Friday, December 19, 2008

What's That Ticking Sound?

I'm fascinated by clocks these days.  In particular, clocks of purpose, clocks of meaning, clocks designed to do more than tell what we've come to call time.

It's an eternal question - not only the relativity of time, but why we perceive it, why we pass through it.  I remember a conversation years ago with a few actor/artist types wondering why it is that we age.  Why it all goes by so fast.  It seems a tragic bargain sometimes - this swift existence - a bird flying through an open room from one dark place to another.  Our awareness of it intermittent and fleeting.  We almost shut down our awareness because it's too painful to watch it all slip inexorably away.  But by shutting down, we lose what we most want to retain.  And yet there are those moments of infinite presence, wonder, luminousness that make the infinitely high price seem utterly worthwhile.

So I've been reading about unusual clocks:

The Clock of the Long Now: A work in development.  A mechanical clock designed to sit on a remote mountaintop in Nevada, run for 10,000 years, and renew our fast-paced, apocolyptically-oriented culture's lost sense of long term future.

The Antikythera Mechanism: An ancient device (circa 100BC) found at the bottom of the sea off the Greek island of Antikythera. Designed to calculate astronomical positions.  It took 100 years from the time it was found to when they figured out what it was because the figuring-out technology didn't exist until recently.

The Chronophage: (See above) Also known as the Corpus Clock is a mechanical clock created in honor of John Harrison, the man who invented the marine chronometer.  This was a fabulously accurate clock which allowed seafarers to calculate longitude, expanding the possibilities of safe long-distance sea travel (and the expansion of the British empire). Harrison invented something called the grasshopper escapement, a control device for the release of a clock's power.  The Corpus Clock takes this a step or 10 further by putting the escapement on the outside of the clock, rendered in the form of a giant, monstrous grasshopper which eats time.

Monstrance Clock: One mother of a clock. Circa 1570.  Showed the hours, the motions of 23
 stars, the position of the sun and moon in the zodiac, the astrological houses, and phase of the moon.  Also gave day of the year, saints' days, and had an alarm on top. 

I think the new piece is going to have something to do with all this.  I've been obsessing about the Clock of the Long Now for a while.  I love the idea that fundamentally they're trying to find a way to rescue the future for people who won't even be around in the future.

It's a form of extreme altruism, perhaps.  But if we cherish this world, we can't just cherish it for ourselves.  We have to be concerned that it will go on long after we're gone just because it's worthy of existence.  Life itself is worthy of continuance.

Is it, though?  Why do we think that?  What assumptions are we making?

What story are we trying to tell ourselves?

To be continued...

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Wake Up, Freak Out - Then Get A Grip

"I'm afraid I am an environmentalist, although I don't think the term quite covers what drives the climate activists of today. We're not talking about coral reefs and polar bears any more (although they'll be first up against the wall): we're talking about changes that will impact on every single other issue of morality or social justice.

I believe that social and political change on the scale necessary remains achievable. But the timeframe is unbelievably urgent, and the scale of the challenge so vast and epic, that I campaign at the sharp end of radical climate activism, with groups and networks like
Plane Stupid and Climate Camp.

I think peaceful, direct action is rational, reasonable, responsible and necessary in the face of this issue; indeed, it is the only truly proportionate thing an individual can do in response to the very real threat of the end of the world as we know it."

- Leo Murray, Director, Wake Up, Freak Out - Then Get A Grip

It Is That Dream

It Is That Dream

by Olav Hauge (translated by Robert Bly)

It's that dream we carry with us
That something wonderful will happen,
That it has to happen,
That time will open,
That the heart will open,
That the mountains will open,
That wells will leap up,
That the dream will open,
That one morning we'll slip in
To a harbor that we've never known.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008



We keep hearing about how we are the ones we've been waiting for.  Well, who are we and what are we up to?

I'm about to start working on a new show, as well as engaging, for the first time, in what I hope will be some non-resistance-type activism.   Hoping this blog will be an interesting follow-along journal for the reasonably curious.

This is about creating the world we want to live in, and embodying the people we want to be, all while surfing life's rather messy waves.  Ain't gonna be easy.  Hope it'll at least be fun!

- Kathy