I know that I'm at my best when I'm working to make positive social change with passionate people and having the opportunity to learn -- whether about an organization, industry, issue area, community, or geography. This is why learning is a core part of Optimistic Anthropology's ethos!
One of the things that I love about learning is that it can come in so many forms. I’ve found that engaging with some resources and experiences prove immediately applicable in the work of social problem-solving, while with others it is not clear what the connections or uses are or will be. Steve Johnson calls this latter set of ideas and experiences the “adjacent possible,” the potential and serendipity created when you notice and connect the unlikely. I think the power of the adjacent possible is in how it can open up our apertures to new and different ways of seeing and understanding the world, and thus new and different ways of being and doing, embracing possibilities and trying new ways of problem-solving.
At the the end of last year, I shared 18 Resources to Inspire the Adjacent Possible that I had engaged with in 2017, and folks seemed to like it (it was our most popular blog post in January). So this year, I'm going to try and share some "field notes" about the adjacent possible this optimistic anthropologist is engaging with more routinely.
I spent half of January in California, and the other half in Washington, DC. Which allowed for some excellent opportunities to be inspired by nature, culture and history, and art. Here is my first attempt at sharing my field notes, so please let me know what you think about the concept, the execution and content, and how it might be improved for the future!
Never underestimate the power of a good wander in the woods! I've found the mix of joy, awe, and boredom provides an unparalleled openness to the world which enables all sorts of possibilities to emerge.
Culture & History
I have a belief that places have a psychology. The infrastructure and architecture and monumental public art in a place communicates a lot about how that psychology has developed over time, because these monuments were built to last for decades or centuries (or even millenia). I often think of street art and graffiti as an indicator of a place's current psychology. It is meant to be emergent, responsive, ephermal. I think it's one of the reasons I'm so enamored with street art (if you couldn't tell by the photos on the Optimistic Anthropology website) and seek it out wherever I go.
When I returned home to Washington, DC, from California, I found winter -- cold and grey. I have a tendency to "den" when I've been away for a while -- cooking and working and reading a lot, and not getting out enough. So, I decided to check out the Parallel Universe exhibit at DC's Artechouse on a Monday morning in order to make sure I left the house and started my week with a bit different energy.
I've shared a short video clip and some photos I took at this installation, but unfortunately, the sound isn't as all-consuming as it was in person. This work was mesmerizing and overwhelming -- for me it evoked the micro of the cells that make up life and the macro of our extraordinary universe. I sat through its full loop (which is about 8 minutes long) four times, intrigued by the art itself, as well as how people engaged with the art. It was only as I was leaving, that I learned the designers, the design team Ouchhh, who hail from Turkey, created the music first, and then used technology to convert the sound into the images.