I got this link from L.
I’m just listening and like, ‘What the…’
I wonder what you’ll think.
This is really…
More when I have more.
(Or maybe not. Let me not overthink it.)
This post is for J.
IT HAS BEEN A RAINY DAY. I’m writing from Vietnam.
Right: I’m in Vietnam again.
A few people who have lost touch with the things related to the life I am traveling, a wacky vector that gives in to chance encounters and sends itself on new torrents of velocities unimaginable, because of that, kind of like sailing, I think, but yeah, those people who are like, what happened to Kismuth, might be surprised and curious to find that I’m well and happy, albeit a bit damp, here in Hanoi.
The beautiful capital city, of a wondrous country, whose landscapes have grown familiar now to me with more than ten, I think, crossings in and out of the borders.
The life is not the kind of life that you would think you would have, if you were the kind of person who was living in a little apartment at one point, wondering if your mortgage loan thing would come back ‘approved.’ Mine did not, that time, because I have always used cash and not a credit card, and three years abroad before returning to those United States which seem less united than ever, from this distance, well, hell, let’s just say I didn’t get stuck in the lending crisis on account of being insistent on always using the cash in my pocket instead of the thing that is the plastic thing that leads to some arbitrary number in a faraway account. I didn’t like the idea, back then, and I don’t like it now. I’m still a cash only person, mostly. When there’s cash, that is.
The rest of the time I’m, um. Inventive.
Every so often I’ll throw some kind of online workshop or program, and that works out. I’ll be happy to meet new people and discover us talking and then, invite a handful into the forums, on our old blogs, where things got more involved. Guess you could call it discussions. And here we are in August. And I’ just underway with three of them. I’m happy about this. I’m very happy. And the rain is subsiding. And momentarily, I’ll get on another call, this time to talk about things related to the universe, space, time, and mirrors, probably, if last time was any indication. Let’s see.
Here we are again in August. I love how even after all this time, I still think of ‘the end of the summer’ as a chance to reflect, review. And September as a chance to start a new ‘semester.’ Of things related to a themed chunk of things. More about that if you are curious. I’ll be happy to elaborate. Sign up for my new mailing list–it’s not here at Kismuth anymore. I finally decided to get things moving, over at dipikkaohli.com. You can find it at the end of the long series on ‘relational aesthetics.’ If the stuff written there resonates, cool. Add your details and let’s see where the train takes us, next.
A train… to the things to come.
Let’s converse? Let’s play.
Project website: The Art of Not Knowing
TEN YEARS AGO, I used to draw with markers. Just line. Keeping it simple. Trace the edges. This picture (http://dipikakohli.com/pagetwo/) was from a show in Seattle. What is it?, no one dared to ask though I suspected they were thinking that. If they had spoken to me about it, about ‘Wavular,’ this piece, I might’ve said: ‘Groundless, scaleless, boundless. I think.’ I’m still designing spaces for others to experience the ‘wait… what?’ To enjoy, I hope, the not-knowing before you show up. *!
Now, I want to go to places, meet random people, listen to their stories, and write them up into a book, the Art of Not Knowing. The stories would be part of a larger set. A collection that so far has essays, photographical sketches, artworks, zines, and more.
Already woven in are notes from: an unconference in Palo Alto; six sets of Rooftop Philosophy in Phnom Penh; a lunch interview with a particle physicist (‘What is dark matter?’); a cafe conversation with a jazz prodigy (‘But how do you *start* a composition?’) In other words, notable outcomes of experimenting personally with uncertainty 2014-now, so far, are part of it.
BUT THE PAST THINGS feel, even though I love them, too comfortable. To edge out, I want to go to a part of the world where I’ve never explored. Melbourne. I’m in Phnom Penh, where I’ve been for three years (mostly writing the eBook ‘Breakfast in Cambodia’ (Kismuth Books // 2016)). It’s very possible to go and see. I’ve heard good things. Plus, I’m curious. Who might I meet if I go there? What will I discover?
As in Bangkok, when I met a life coach who told me to call my father, chance can radically alter your life. (I called.) As can whim: I randomly emailed an established decades-in-practice musician to ask, ‘How do you keep it real?’ His astonishingly simple and clear answer came back, and I got on a plane to compose ‘On Noteworthiness.’ Art of Not Knowing also has voice recordings, like ‘The Good Stuff.’ Photography pieces. A few collages. Mostly words.
The big idea is to take a plunge, without any clear agenda or formality, and see whom I might meet, and what I might discover. It would be really cool to include people in Melbourne. So far, it’s getting some interesting response.
But all concept art starts with the Idea, and in this instance, it’s embracing the uncertain, unknown, and different. The Art of Not Knowing. More: dipikakohli.com.
EVERY TIME I want to write a book, people tell me I should kickstart it. I don’t do that. They tell me I should write a proposal and shop it around. I don’t do that, either. The reason is because I want to write what I want to write, and discovering what that is necessarily starts with going and seeing what’s there. Not overdesigning it, nor ‘pitching’ it. I can’t. Not for the kinds of projects I’m into. Lately, conceptual pieces, like improvised theater.
The Art of Not Knowing.
A new book.
For those who are here, and who support this work of writing for connection, I invite you to pre-order at this page.
Many thanks! I’ll send it on 1 June.
I’ve always written, but not always for myself and a handful of others like those who find Kismuth and me and what I’m sharing, and who read the stories I publish through this site. All of this started in 2012. With the launch of The Elopement, a true story of leaping from America to Ireland, with a soon-to-be partner, perhaps for life. Now, with The Village Report, read the rest of that story. How a couple together broke free of yet other mores, abandoning a way of life for the ‘practice of the unknown, uncertain, and different.’ With a kid.
THE VILLAGE REPORT: BREAKFAST IN CAMBODIA is the new name for the book I’d promised to share with you when I set out on this long, long trip. I remember talking to RF at the Y when this whole thing got formulated, in a tepid way. She said, ‘Shree* said y’all are going traveling around the world.’
At the time, Shree was just four, so he didn’t know that you don’t just blurt out stuff like that. Makes it seem like you have some kind of cheek, bucking the status quo and tapping some unknown quantity of hidden funds from somewhere. It doesn’t seem fair. Taking a trip around the world for a year, or more. Coming back, perhaps. Storing stuff in friends’ attics, basements, extra houses. Even your parents’ place, even if that’s a little awkward, given that you are leaving because you’re not sure what they think about your philosophy and your ideals about Life and Purpose and Meaning and most especially Parenting, and you agree to disagree (but not really) and you Go Away. You make a big deal about it. You are stubborn and boxy. You kick up a yard sale, leave stuff on the yard on Gregson Street in Durham, NC, with a note saying, ‘Take stuff. Leave some money in the mailbox,’ and you are mesmerized that people actually do leave money in the mailbox, and then you take the last of it, which is way more than you wanted it to be, and you pack it up in the old room that is the new room in the house that your parents have. You’ll come back and get it. You will. You solemnly swear.
THREE YEARS LATER you call your mother for the first time since you left. You have come to some realizations, you say. You don’t want this to be hard. You know it’s hard as hell. You still do it. You email. You say, ‘I’m ready to talk to you, if you’re on for it.’ You wonder how it got this way, how you got to be way far away from the land and people you used to know, and yet, and yet, you are still connected. In the ambient, internet-y way, you only have to do one thing. Email. She says cool. You call. You have had some thoughts. You aren’t sure where all the thoughts are going to land. You erase many of them, mid-conversation. You write, you delete. It’s like the creative process, all over again. Just like every fork in the road: that time at the border in Nepal, where you were freaked, or the one when you had to face the people you didn’t want to face on account of fear and diffidence and pride and stubbornness and, mostly, yeah, fear. You do this. You go. You go on the road for a year, maybe more, with no plan, no agenda, and no source of income. Fling of the die? Throwing yourself into the ‘net’ that is supposed to appear? Trusting the process. Diving into uncertainty. Calling 2013 the ‘Year of Enchantment,’ like dressing it up makes going vulnerable somehow okay (it does, actually, help in some way), and 2014 the one of caring and the next one the year of the mountain and then, finally, it takes this one to get to the point where you realize it’s time to call home, the 2016 year comes, and it’s, (Jung’s Great Unconscious, plugging into your personal one, that’s what did it, yeah? had to be): it’s, yeah. ‘The Year of the Relationship.’
FLASH BACK TO 2013. IT IS APRIL IN DURHAM. The flowers are going to bloom. I’d said to Shree*, when the flowers come out, then we go. We will. I promise we will. I have no idea where, or how, but we’re going to go.
Does he know how lucky he is? Someone from The Road would ask, way later. By that point I’d gotten into a groove. I’d grown cooler, more collected. This practicing uncertainty thing wasn’t so bad. Not yet. Not really. I’m a picture of repose when this young person asks it. ‘No,’ I say. ‘He’s just a kid.’But before. Before the whole moving over to Asia, before the airplane changes at Narita for the longest last leg of my life and trains and buses and too many suitcases, I’d had to face the others. The people. The old villagers. In Durham, NC, where I’d thought I’d had a bit of a home (but now am sure I didn’t). And answer the hard questions, the ones behind R’s, when she’d asked it. ‘Are you really going traveling with your kid? For a year? But how will you… how will you live? Are you going? Is that true?’ People were asking. They wanted to know. It was getting a little uncomfortable. It was getting hard.
Back then: Ohhhh, man. How do I explain this in a way that makes it okay?
Now: YES. I am. We are. It’s absolutely, definitely true. And I trust that it will work, because it has worked. And that is experience. What was that thing Einstein said, about personal experience being more important than knowledge? And what about the other stuff, Jung’s stuff, about finding your ‘tribe’ in the people you meet and feel a kinship to that’s outside of geographic, dogmatic bounds, but an ‘usness,’ a sense of that, which is of a variety uniquely its own?
In this frame of mind, from this opposite side of the world and having emerged from a long period of wondering what it was all about and now having written The Village Report to share the conclusions, some of which those reading along in the Kismuth newsletters will have seen me meandering towards and then veering away from and wondering about, later, or assigning less and less importance to the ‘figuring out’ of which, I’m relaxed. I’m also older. Sure. That helps. And so is Shree. That means it’s not so weird anymore. Expat kids are everywhere, here. Life moves. It happens. People find us. We work for them, from time to time. We invent new ways to keep ourselves alive, fed, happy, safe, together, sound, warm, cherishing, engaged, and most of all inspired, when we interact wholeheartedly with The Village. I can tell you more about it another time. Or you can read it in the book. Or we can meet for a cup of tea one day, if I’m in your neighborhood, and talk about it. Maybe a book tour will happen, in living rooms around the world. I’d never, ever send The Village Report to a traditional publishing house—that would ruin it. I don’t need someone to put it on a poster, to ‘market’ it for me, in order to know it’s good. I’m only sharing it through the Kismuth page. This one. And that’s it. Because if just three of you get it, then you’re the three that it’s for.
HUMANITY. The idea is that we are human, we are connected and connecting, are engaged and engaging. We see each other when we notice our differences as much as our similarities… we are human. We are all just part of it. The big thing. The village. And this book? It’s written by not just one of us, but all of us. And that’s it, you know? The village? The village is the sharing.
This book is for AKK.