⌆ Happy New Year + 2021 Recap
The Middle Way of Creation
“I am a Saturn who dreams of being a Mercury, and everything I write reflects these two impulses.” ―Italo Calvino, Six Memos For The Next Millennium
In 2021, I thought a lot about polarities. One set particularly: to invent and to restore.
People in tech love to quote Alan Kay, “The best way to predict the future is to invent it.” This can-do spirit was what lured me to tech. Now almost ten years pushing pixels on screens, I’ve seen many tools have been carelessly unleashed to the collective consciousness and turned into deities, slavering after our attention and worship. Technology breaks the power dynamic between man and nature. But perhaps the imbalance has been there all the way, ever since Prometheus gave human fire, generating heat for change and evolution.
To restore has always been a core concept in my culture. My people believed you always return to where you started, like the seasons. When the 1911 Revolution ended China’s last imperial dynasty, even the revolutionists promoted Confucian Returning. The major figure, Yuan Shikai, shortly attempted to restore the hereditary monarchy. Of course, this piece of history became a textbook example of how not to restore anything obsolete. Modern China has been quite forgetful. People are busy imitating the west by inventing themselves. An eastern soul had always been closer to their lands and the spiritual world than a nation, or an ideology, or even self-identity. But now, they have orphaned themselves by declaring the invention of a new society. Or is it new?
Sometimes I wonder, can we really invent anything? A person can claim ignorance of history and deny their ancestors. But their minds are still woven in the tapestry of consciousness, which, since the very beginning, has never missed a thread of human thoughts. New tech products pop like mushrooms after the rain. They are still like old ones: some are consumable, some are poisonous, some, alter your consciousness states. On the other hand, I wonder, can we really restore anything? Every time we attempt to take a thing out of its historical context, we always ended up making a monster either look too hideous or too kitsch. I’ve seen many people who claim to be the missionary restoring ancient wisdom, only to be found out as culture merchants selling re-packaged behavioral codes from the past.
Thinking about polarities can be tiring until you learn the technique of simultaneously holding on and letting go. Then it becomes interesting: suddenly it transcends the mind to a different dimension, where there is a middle way - it doesn't compromise on either end. Rather, this path offers enough tension to hold strings. If you learn how to play in this realm, the vast beauty of reality will start to form its melodic patterns.
This string I am drawing here is called creation. At its ends are the impulse to invent and to restore.
My friends, entering the creation of a new year. Maybe we can practice how to pluck better notes together, by looking beyond a future we are pulling to invent or restore.
The biggest thing I realized in 2021 is the power of community. I tried to get more of it by participating. I’ve come a long way alone in my life so I am much comfortable in one-on-one interactions. How to engage with communities and how to do my service in a multi-directional setting, I still have much to learn.
The following is a list of communities I’ve been a part of, big or small.
The Cauldron Playing with creative facilitation. I paired with a young Chinese performance artist who lives in Israel (as a facilitator for her) and an older New York filmmaker (as a recipient of her facilitation). It was a cool experiment.
Sound school by David Shemesh I attended the 2nd sound facilitator training at Menla Institute in the summer. This now feels like my soul family.
Radif retreat This year I picked up a Persian instrument called Setar. In December, I flew to New Mexico’s Bohdi Manda Zen Center and became part of the 2nd Radif retreat. I was born on the silk road. Maybe thousands of years ago, these beautiful songs had already reached the land and have been conjuring me to explore.
Gleaners Good people, as always. Kris is an inspiration for running diverse communities.
Homeward Bound I wish I showed up more here. I’ve been a secret fan of Dougald since I participated in his and Anna’s workshop in Sweden in 2018. Another inspiration for community makers.
WEST My friend Karen is managing this mentorship program and I participated in the fall cohort. Giving others advice feels…good?
Sound Observer This is my practice. My partner and I co-facilitated six sound ceremonies and a few online meditations. We also wrote seven newsletters together. I am proud of myself for starting a baby step to bring people together.
Top books of 2021
The Mind Illuminated by John Yates
Bodystories by Andrea Olsen
High Weirdness by Erik Davis
Foucault pendulum by Umberto Eco
Genesis of a Music by Harry Partch
Other top things
Erik Davis’s Burning Shore (newsletter)
Michelle Lhooq’s Rave New World (newsletter)
Get Down NYC (party)
Pansori Living Sound (school)
I encountered Yvonne de Bruijn’s book about her journey with her voice and its healing power earlier last year. I immediately signed up for her school when finish reading, only to find out I had to miss it because of the pandemic. I am holding my intention to meet her in person in 2022.
Summer Camp Island (TV series)
It’s an animation show. One episode is only 11 mins. I absolutely love the wild imagination and cuteness of this show.
Pawpaw and Persian sweet lemon (fruits)
I tasted two new fruits in 2021. I become more aware of how knowing more wonderful humans could expand my experience with earth, and how commercial supply chains had both extended and flattened our ways of being.
Till next time,