Inspired by the art

In the overflowing river of talks and podcasts, one has stayed with me ever since I watched it last year.

Laura Savino's talk is about how we think about ourselves, specifically the adjectives we use and sometimes hear from others. She explores why we often feel like we don't measure up and how we can change that perspective. It's terrific and I highly recommend watching it.

There is an early moment that resonated with me so strongly that I immediately stopped so I could write it down. I’ve thought about it regularly since.

When we think that something is indefinite and inevitable, we’re a whole lot less likely to expend effort to change that thing.

I’m pretty sure a book could be written on that single sentence. I would like to read that book, actually.

In the context of the talk, she was referring to the big, broad adjectives we use to describe difficult situations, like "stressed" or "scared", and how those words can weigh on us. Eventually, they come to define how we see ourselves and then what was a season starts to feel permanent. How many of us have experienced that shift from “I can get through this” to “This hurt or fear isn’t going away and there is nothing I can do about it”? Why try to change something that is indefinite and inevitable?

Laura’s perspective spoke to me personally, but slowly, I began to see how it plays out at a much larger scale. Something similar happens when we try to process the problems we face together, whether in our neighborhoods, cities, or as humans sharing this planet. The challenges and suffering are difficult to come to terms with without being overwhelmed. They seem, in a word, insurmountable. If that's the case, what is there to be done?

Over and over, though, problems that were once seen as permanent have, in fact, been overcome. First, a group of people believed a better future was possible when no one else did. Then, they took a big, broad, overwhelming problem and found a way to make slow, imperfect, incremental progress toward a solution. They asked themselves, "What can we do in this place, at this time, to make things better?"

It’s the difference between accepting that it will always be this way and insisting that it won’t.


The last dispatch asked, What’s the last museum you visited?

Jared wrote:

The last museum I visited was the Biosphere in Montreal. What I found most refreshing about the Biosphere was their freedom to address the pressing issues of global warming, diminishing biodiversity, and environmental degradation. It's now my new favorite museum. I previously worked in contemporary art and natural history museums and I now work for an NSF-funded project in Washington, DC that provides resources for STEM professionals. Every institution I've worked for hems and haws over these topics, due to their politically contentious nature, and uses less charged terms such as "climate change" or chooses to side-step the issues entirely. Not only does the Biosphere lay out the facts frankly, it does so beautifully. And it's in a Bucky Fuller geodesic dome. How cool is that?

Radhika wrote:

I think it was the de Young museum in San Francisco. I was still living in the Valley then, and we drove up for one of their late-night Friday openings. The exhibition on at the time was of JMW Turner's work. I wasn't quite prepared for just how homesick that experience would make me - brooding clouds and the characteristic English light over still landscapes. I've yet to see anyone who can render the presence of the sun in such an emotive way. I have this feeling of having been to a museum more recently, though, because I went to an artists' open studios event a couple of weeks ago. Though it wasn't at a museum, I had a similar experience of walking through spaces appreciating works of art - except it was in the artists' own studios and the artists themselves were there and available for conversation!

William wrote:

I think it must have been Yamatane Museum of Art, in Shibuya, Tokyo. A little, quiet place full of stunning works like this one by Hayami Gyoshû.
After admiring the collection, we sat in the attached cafe for tea and tiny, meticulously-sculpted traditional desserts inspired by the art.

Wesley wrote:

The Legion of Honor in San Francisco.

Drew wrote:

I last visited the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia. As a recently formed citizen I find this to be an amazing place and highly recommend it to visitors to this city or region. It sounds dry (it's not), the exhibits are fascinating, and if you have an interest in the way this fundamental document impacts our lives today, this is a must see.

Joel wrote:

At the Texas General Land Office, I got to touch and read the originals of a four-page land grant written in longhand in Spanish by Stephen F. Austin ("Estevan F. Austin") to one of the old 300 families, the land grant documents of David Crockett, Will Travis, and Jim Bowie, and other fascinating mid-1800s documents from the Court of Claims.
And we examined dozens of original maps up close including the oldest from the early 1500s, one that predates settlement in Austin, with the exception of one cabin drawn near Spring Creek and labeled "Barton's", and one created by William Syndey Porter aka O. Henry.
I love history, archives, artifacts, collections, and the very idea of Texas. It was a badass couple hours. It is startling how recent all that stuff actually is and how quickly we will follow.

Sam wrote:

The last museum I visited was the MOMA in NYC. I've visited the MOMA twice and each time I've come away inspired to produce something -- whether it something built with my hands or something digital. One of the museums that gets little attention is the Des Moines Art Center. I love it more for its architecture and sculpture garden then it's art collection... and I think that's ok.

Ryan wrote:

I’m pretty sure the last museum I visited was the LACMA (Los Angeles County Museum of Art). My wife and I lived in LA for two years while she was getting her degree, and one of her classes offered extra credit for visiting the museum and writing a reaction paper. We were really pinching the pennies at the time, and we rarely did anything that would cost much money—not that Sally had much time during her marathon-level terms. I remember our visit to the LACMA more as an all-too-rare date with my wife than for any of the exhibits, but it was a beautiful building, and we had a lovely time.

Uncommon reads

Three wonderful works by members of our community.

Taking Back Expectations by katie zhu:

Being vulnerable is really hard. It’s so easy to get caught up in the public personas of others, to only see the carefully edited Instagrams, the meticulously crafted Facebook posts and celebratory tweets. Realness gets lost. Even in close personal relationships — my sister is my best friend — it can be so scary and impossible to admit your faults out loud.

Health as Personal Brand by Susan Lin:

These words have haunted me. No reason to be sad. No. Reason. To. Be. Sad. I wanted to scream, “I’ll tell you 99 reasons I have a reason to be sad and people like you are one of them!” Then my rational self reminds me, “The intent was not evil. They probably have no idea about your demons. All they see are your accomplishments, because all you ever choose to share are your accomplishments.” It was then I realized how a personal brand could be harmful.

Time Flies, a 5-minute audio short story written by Carie Juettner:

I’ve always been a fan of word play and the phrase ‘time flies’ had been in my head for a while. I thought about what would happen if I took it literally.

Your turn

Which talks are your favorites?