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    Entries in philosophy (7)


    Bikes, Brakes and Culinary Liberties 

    If someone created a list of signs that Portland is starting to grow on you, one of them would have to be, “You spend more time on your bike than in your car.” That describes me, at least when the weather is good (true Portlandians commute by bike in the rain, but I’m not there yet). Portland prides itself as a bike-friendly city, with lots of trails and designated biking streets (complete with sharrows!) that fill up with bicycles during the morning and afternoon commutes.An aspiring bike commuter

    Traveling around Portland by bike is invigorating. Similar to walking, when you’re on a bike, you get to experience the sights, sounds, and smells of the city at a much more intimate level than you would if you were in a car (a good thing, until you get stuck behind a garbage truck). Riding in traffic provides an adrenaline rush because you are moving pretty fast without much to protect you. Lurking in the back of your mind, especially when you’re riding fast, is that you could crash at any time, and hitting the pavement hurts. Believe me.

    Since I started biking in Portland two years ago, I’ve wrecked twice. The first time, I was hit by a car (yeah, that was fun). Riding up Naito toward the Hawthorne Bridge in the bike lane, a driver forgot to check her blind spot before pulling into a parking space, and unbeknownst to her, she had to go through me to get there. Fortunately, the crash was more of a sideswipe than a full-on collision. Plowing through her right side mirror, I bounced up onto the curb and landed on my side. We were both lucky, as I came away with nothing more than a few scratches on my foot, and she came away with no insurance claims from me. She seemed more traumatized by the collision than I was.

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    #Trust30 Challenge Day 2

    The prompt for today’s #Trust30 Writing Challenge expects a short creative output. It was written by Liz Danzico:

    “If ‘the voyage of the best ship is a zigzag line of a hundred tracks,’ then it is more genuine to be present today than to recount yesterdays. How would you describe today using only one sentence? Tell today’s sentence to one other person. Repeat each day.

    Here’s my sentence:

    “It’s raining today, but dammit, that sun is going to come out one of these days—right?”

    The sentence is both literal and metaphorical. It not only speaks to the actual weather today and the promise of an 80° day in the forecast three days from now, but it also reflects a determinedly optimistic, but uncertain, attitude about the future.

    I’m not sure I see a lot of value in this exercise, but it did make me think a little about my attitude. Maybe that was the point. Do you have any thoughts? Please share them (you can also share your sentence for today in the comments below).  


    It's time to do the work

    Does this ever happen to you? Last night I was so revved up by a book I was reading that I had a hard time sleeping. The book, by Steven Pressfield, was called Do the Work. It is a sequel to his book The Art of Work, which Seth Godin calls “the most important book you’ve never read” (I haven’t read it either).

    The main theme of Do the Work is that you can be successful as a creator (entrepreneur, artist, writer, musician, etc.) if you are willing to overcome your own Resistance and—you guessed it—“do the work.” He pushes you to be creative and to do it now.

    Pressfield writes about how Resistance holds you back from doing the things you know you should do. Do you ever have the feeling that deep down there is something that you have been holding back, some great project you could do if only you would stop hiding from it? I have that feeling all the time, though I don't like to admit it. Pressman gives that feeling a name—Resistance—and says that it is the most powerful obstacle we face when trying to be successful. He personifies the resistance as an actual force that actively works to hold us back, a dragon we need to slay to gain confidence and earn our freedom from our own minds, minds that we often let bully us into believing we are not good enough or talented enough to do something great.

    The book is geared toward authors, screenwriters and others who create art for a living, but it is also appropriate for entrepreneurs and anyone else who wants to improve what they have been doing. Pressfield wants readers to overcome their Resistance to whatever it is they want to do. He wants to give us not only inspiration, but also a strategy for dealing with the Resistance.

    Do the Work left me with my mind buzzing. I was left with a sense not of worry or dread, but of opportunity and possibility, two of the most exciting words in the English language. When that happens, it’s hard to get to sleep. Do you know what I mean?

    [Do the Work is the first publication produced by the Domino Project, a new publishing venture that Seth Godin has undertaken in order to revolutionize the publishing industry. I am still not exactly sure what the Domino Project is doing that is so unique, but I trust that it is. General Electric sponsored the book. Perhaps this is what makes the Domino Project unique—they find sponsors for books, then give them away for free, at least the Kindle version. If you are interested, you can get the Kindle version for free too by clicking here (if you don’t have a Kindle, you can download free software from Amazon and read it on your computer).]


    An Evening of Non-Conformity

    I went to Powell’s Books Thursday night to hear Chris Guillebeau speak. For those of you who don’t know, Chris writes a blog called the Art of Non-Conformity (AONC) and recently published a book by the same name. One of his goals in life is to create a movement (yes, a movement) that questions the status quo and encourages people to lead unconventional, remarkable and meaningful lives. Chris lives in Portland (though you might ask, in Portland, where being weird is normal, is it really non-conforming to not conform?), so when I heard that he was coming to speak at Powell’s, the last stop on a 50-state book tour, I figured it would be interesting to hear what he had to say.

    I stumbled across the AONC a couple months after starting this blog (the non-conformist title is completely coincidental) and found that he had some ideas about life that I could relate to. One of the things that really attracted me to his writings were his ideas about traveling. Chris has a goal in life to travel to all 192 countries in the world by 2013 and he’s already made it to 149. He seems to understand the joys and new perspectives that traveling brings, something I could really relate to. In addition to the book, he wrote a useful guide about traveling unconventionally that I am still working to put into practice.

    Chris Guillebeau

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    Art, Meaning and the CPDX Logo

    Any art or design enthusiasts reading today? Today’s post is about art and how artists include symbolism in what they create. I took a class on art history when I lived in Boston and was fascinated by the Italian Renaissance. I enjoyed learning how artists like Brunelleschi, Uccello and Rafaello (my favorite) created beautiful art while subtly placing symbols in their work. Here is Rafaello’s School of Athens:


    The fresco is a celebration of knowledge and wisdom. Raphael filled the scene with  many important artists and philosophers (he placed his rival Michelangelo front and center), and even slipped his self-portrait in along the right edge. (You can see a larger image if you click here, and Wikipedia has a good description of who some of the characters in the painting are here.)

    Staying with the symbolism theme, I thought I’d share a little bit about what the Caffeinated PDX logo stands for. If you are a fan of art or  “symbology” (the fictitious discipline that Robert Langdon studies in The Da Vinci Code), you might enjoy hearing about it. The logo is more than just a bunch of lines on a page and has at least five layers of meaning in it (though I’m not trying to say it compares to anything that the Renaissance masters have done). Hopefully, when you look at the logo from now on, you will think of what it stands for and remember that there can be a lot of meaning hidden inside simple things.

    Before I describe it, though, I’d like you to study the logo for a minute and think about what you might see in it. Then when you’re done thinking, jump below to peer inside the mind of the artist.

    The first meaning is all about the coffee. You can see a wisp of vapor rising above the rim of a coffee cup. This is a warm, comforting sight when you grab a cup of coffee on a cold day. You might also see that the steam looks like the profile of someone’s face, someone who could be taking a sip from the cup. Or you might see that the steam looks like a winding path. This represents wandering, something I’ve done quite a bit. In addition, the steam looks similar to a quarter note rest on a musical score written backwards, reflecting my interest in music.

    Finally, if you take another look at the rim of the cup on the bottom part of the logo, you can see how it looks like a subtle smile. This represents the little pick-me-up that people get from their coffee or, hopefully, from reading this blog ;). That’s our goal here at Caffeinated PDX—to bring you that subtle smile every time you come by for a visit. 


    Take to the Road

    I finished reading a book today called The Songlines. Written by Bruce Chatwin, it describes his trip to Australia to learn about the Aboriginal cultures of the continent. The work, a mixture of travel memoir, fiction and philosophy, is based on an actual trip he took a couple years before his death in 1989. It details Chatwin's travels on the continent as he tries to understand the “songlines.”

    The songlines are the fundamental element of the Aboriginal creation stories. At the beginning of time, the “Dreamtime”, the Ancestors created themselves out of clay and began to wander across the earth, singing out the names of everything they saw—animals, plants, rocks and streams—thus defining their existence.

    The paths that the Ancestors traveled on as they sang are known as songlines (or dream-tracks), and the songs are passed down from generation to generation. When an aboriginal goes ‘walkabout’, he follows the original songline that his ancestors did. The songs are always sung in exactly the same way, as a way of maintaining the creation. If a wanderer remembers his song and does not deviate from its path, he can never get lost. The melodies along each line are constant from one end of the continent to the other. They are transferred across boundaries where one clan’s territory ends and another’s begins. The melody stays the same, even as the words would change. In addition to maintaining the creation, the songlines also act as trading routes among the clans.

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    Art- a Musing

    According to Seth Godin, “art” is a gift that you give to someone that causes something in them to change. An artist, therefore is someone with the ability and willingness to create such a gift. An artist actively seeks not only to share part of himself, but he does it with a purpose. An artist wants to share his own emotions, but if these do not have an effect on others, it is nothing more than yelling in the proverbial forest where no one can hear the sound of a tree falling. It is only talking to hear himself talk. While this can be therapeutic, it is narcissistic and is not art. Art must be received by others if it is to be called art.

    Seth Godin wrote about this in his book Linchpin, and while the book’s organization is not very good, the content resonated with me like few other books have (Shop Class as Soulcraft is another recent read that I would recommend). In fact the book gave me the encouragement to start this blog. I know that the blog has  a long way to go before it is where I want it to be, but this is going to be one of the mediums I use for my art. For now, I want to use it to give you a better feel for what China is like (and later, wherever I land). Maybe it will help you see something in a different light. I hope it at least makes you laugh once in a while. Whatever it ends up being, I assure you that it will continue to grow and change. Norman Bodek, a friend and philosopher (among other things), always says that “all we can do is put our energy into something and see where it takes us. the most important thing is to keep growing.” And so I grow, as does this blog.


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