Project website: The Art of Not Knowing
A history of uncertainty
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.
Would you like to help make this happen?
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.
THE FALL OF 2015. Sweden. A small boat harbor. A little bit of time and space. Me, my writing stuff. A couple of black pens and an empty grid notebook. The big idea was to go and discover about ‘uncertainty’. I mean, it was pretty open-ended. Sure it was. That was the point of it. I didn’t know this at the time, but I was going to run into a bunch of people who might, just might, change my outlook on how things are. How things go. What things mean, don’t mean, and what they might look like if you just shift the angle, change the lens. Another universe, for me.
Cool and Novemberish, the autumn. Such a discrete opposite to the same time of year in Cambodia, my home-away-from-home-away-from-home. A long story, this drifting into new territories.
You could say it’s inspired by Situationism, but I think it’s more about my situation. Getting lost on purpose starts with some degree of, let’s just be direct… necessity. Nobody who is comfortable where she is would really opt to get out there and get lost… would she?
To sort of figure out what the heck was going on with my life, I did something I very infrequently do. I wrote poetry. Poetry! Of all things. Yet it fit. The more the little boat rocked, oh yes, just a little gale, but also quiet sometimes, but then super cold and even -7 one day, that’s CELSIUS, I got faster and shorter with my notes. I didn’t write the novel. Not quite. I am in the middle of it now, though.
It’s two years later, for sure, and I’ve been to a bunch of other places in the meantime. But the story from there, the interviews and the conversations that shaped the new thinking (which inspired the title, a title I can’t share yet because you know how it is when you talk too much about something and then you sort of lose interest in your own idea? Well, yeah, that). I need to share the gleanings, the learnings. The Denmark and Sweden of my six weeks in Scandinavia. If you scroll down on this page, under ‘links to essays,’ you’ll find ‘Six weeks in Scandinavia.’ Oh! One of the people I met was playing an incredible song and I drew it, and now it’s on their CD. That’s what the pic is about. Chance. Uncertainty. Serendipity. The road.
If you’re curious about the new book that’s coming out, check it out.
Here we go.
It’s starting. The new writing.
I love this part.
The below letter was first published online for Kismuth’s VIP e-community, on October 24, 2013.
This one’s for G.
SOMETHING HAPPENED THIS WEEK that changed my whole idea about what it is that “writing” is for, anyways. But let me start at the beginning.
So, I was wrong.
It’s hard to admit.
But yup. I was so totally misinformed when I set out on this quest to “see how other people in Asia raise their children, because, man, it takes a village, doesn’t it?, and we’re so wrapped up in ourselves and our own lives in America.”
Turns out, Asia is wrapped in itself, too. Gadgets, status, timecrunch.
So that changed everything. About what it means to be a person with a kid and have “the village” helping out… We did our best. We cried and tried. Writing about the hard moments, that’s what I wanted to try to do in the series. Yet I haven’t been able to come at it in a really meaningful way. It’s such a personal journey, and all that hard stuff that happened, well, could I really put it into words and share that, out loud? Really, could I?
Then something happened.
Someone else showed me her courage, when she shared with me something that happened to her. Not about anything I could have in a million years have imagined coming, but it is her story, a true one, and something that made me sit up very straight. You can read it, too. [Editor’s note: The Kismuth.wordpress.com has since been made private.] Today’s e-letter is dedicated to G. My new understanding of the purpose of Kismuth became clear when you hit “publish.”
Kismuth started to become something just last week, when you showed me how it helped you talk about your own very real, very haunting story. Coming back to the village, I now see that the work isn’t about the manual labor of holding a baby or the copywriting that comes with making blogs. It’s about the emotional labor. The love that goes into the bonding with your child, or the courage that it takes to say what hurt or changed you with others you don’t even know yet, out loud. The village isn’t about stuff or time. It’s about people. Sharing. Our real stories. All of us. It’s about finding the space and time to open our hearts to one another. Thank you, G.