Building a Community

Photo by COnnor Burtis.

Photo by COnnor Burtis.

I was asked today why we keep Montessorium in South Dakota. I didn’t really have an answer prepared to meet the enthusiasm of the question.  

I think the answer - to why we want to stay where we are or why others chose to stay in their communities - is much simpler than we often make it. 

Building a community is something like a concerted effort towards a shared sense of the betterment of the people in the place in which they find themselves.

Maybe that’s already too complicated.

Building a community is an ongoing dialogue between many different things: people, places, the environment in which they find themselves, institutions, and a multitude of other, less established, but just-as-present influences.

Building has everything to do with attitude.

How we approach things is just as important as us approaching things. Maybe it's a question of desire - of the feeling we have towards what we want to approach.

I'm not trying to make it feel as complicated as it sounds.

The phrase “building a community” is already too prescriptive for what it takes to build things together - especially shared spaces. With the right conditions, I think things can be more organic than they might seem.

That's the rub.

I have the feeling that learning how to engage discoveries no less than hardships - with a certain openness and willingness - is more agile than imposed.

At least, it could be.

Maybe "community" is just about the people. About working together. Having the opportunity to grow with people you come to respect - maybe even love.

Recognizing that I'm lucky enough to be a part of the conversation  - in an incredible "people-place-environment-building-space" - is where I always get tripped up.

I love where I live.

Savage Beauty

There's something extraordinary about the Savage Beauty exhibit. 

In the introduction to Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia, published in 1972, Michel Foucault once famously remarked that 'perhaps one day this century will be known as Deleuzian'. 

Alexander McQueen - 

"When I'm dead and gone, people will know that the twenty-first century was started by Alexander McQueen."

Despite the hubris, and in spite of the flamboyance, he was on to something.

You feel a sense of vital movement in his couture. Like a wind, steadily blowing in your face, confidently reassuring you of the course, even if it's not readily apparent, and you have to traverse unbeknownst obstacles ahead.

The work is not weighted down by despair or destruction. Rather, it's uplifting, even in its darkness - jarringly so, one would conjecture. It's a wellspring of hope and defiance, a resistance to that which subsumes the death spirals of existence.

"There's no way back for me now. I'm going to take you on journey you've never dreamed possible."

"I oscillate between life and death," says McQueen, like a seasoned ferryman. 

There's a feeling of complete and utter unrest in his work. Of not being satisfied. Of striving. Of always trying to keep on moving, back and forth, until the forth takes us somewhere new.

Movement is a major theme in the retrospective of Alexander McQueen. Nothing is static. It's all trying to get somewhere, even if it doesn't know where. Certainly, McQueen took us to places we never knew we could find.

"You've got to know the rule to break them. That's what I'm here for, to demolish the rules but keep to tradition."


For my birthday, my mother came to visit me in San Francisco. She's quite the connoisseur of food - or, more properly said, a card carrying member of the overly ambitious fine dining club, if such a thing actually exists - and wanted to take me out for a memorable experience.

While I'm always, invariably, intrigued by new adventures, I don't consider myself someone who particularly enjoys lengthy, elaborate, culinary escapades. If offered the choice, and keep in mind it was my birthday, I normally don't partake in such feasts. The extravagance usually overwhelms my infrequent desire to challenge my palette. 

My take-away from the experience, however, was ineradicably positive. From the moment we walked onto the property, the care and meticulousness felt in the courtyard, let alone the atmosphere and ambiance of the tables, was indicative of a level of passion and attention to detail far removed from the pitfalls of ostentatiousness.

Everything, and I literally mean everything, was taken into consideration: the menu, the music, the plates, the water glass, the utensils, the temperature, the wait staff, the the paint, the hand soap - every single detail was a perfectly curated and intricately designed experience. It wasn't pretentiousness, it was something else.

I remember cautiously, nervously, rather awkwardly, taking my new iPhone out of my pocket to set it on the seemingly handcrafted, wooden table. I looked around the room, which wasn't stale, but rather, austerely honest in its posture towards its customers: this is the best dining experience you will ever have, it seemed to beckoned.

What I was drawn to, and what continues to captivate me, was the minimalistic nature of the bounteousness of the environment. Not only was it used to optimize the nourishment and intoxication of the cuisine, but it was also used to orchestrate, or more profoundly, set the tone for the creation of an event.  

I realized, as I tried to absorb the experience, and later reflect upon the understated nature of my enjoyment, just how easy it is to participate in the democratic character of a well-designed experience. You're carried away by the subtleties of quality. The iPhone, for instance, didn't feel out of place, in this insanely-well-crafted-experience. 

If only the price was more reflective of the catholicism. 

Thank you, Mom.


Ai Wei Wei

We recently visited the art exhibit by Ai Wei Wei on Alcatraz. It's aptly entitled @large, and is comprised of a series of provocative installations. Neither one of us had previously visited the island, save for a few unfortunate childhood social-indoctrination-class trip memories, and we were uncertain how impactful the experience would feel, especially considering that it is now primarily a tourist destination.

Immediately, however, our apprehensions were displaced, and we were plunged into the many layers of the island. Not only were we immersed in the perfectly crafted and expertly executed stories of the prison( no pun intended), we also succumbed to the natural beauty of this National Park, resplendent with wildlife and absolutely incredible views of the city. We learned on our tour of this historic site that the inmates used to press their ears, ever so longingly, to the bars, in the hopes that they could hear a song or two, wafting in on the whitecaps, off the gentle shores. 

Almost a mixture of the bravado of Andy Warhol (at the MOMA) or Banksy (unbeknownst in Central Park), Ai Wei Wei completely captivates the spirited and unsheltered imaginations of those who choose to visit the exhibit. The installation in the New Industries Building, in particular, was absolutely spectacular. It's as politically charged as it is artistically motivated, and one can't help put peer across the minutia of the Lego pieces, enchanted to think bigger.



© The wonderful work and worlds of Jule Julien.

© The wonderful work and worlds of Jule Julien.

Not unlike dreams, the sharing of books can be personal, intimate, even revelatory. Sometimes you want to share them with the world. Other times, you want to pretend they never left the dark, wondrous imagination of your nightstand. 

It’s hard to know exactly what to share. Or, with whom.

When someone you admire or trust, or want to learn from, recommends a book, or an author, or a subject, you instantly find yourself endeared to that new terrain. You try to track it down. Learn from it. Follow its curves. You’re enchanted by the labyrinth, and the promise of the surreptitious landscape. The unfamiliarity draws you near. 

Secrets keep well those who empower them with their desires.

In seemingly unexplainable, mysterious ways, the panorama summons you forth, rough-hewn and precipitous. You listen. You survey the craggy meadow from above, trying to apply your honeyed, honeymoon eyes. You take notes. You’re attentive to the nuances, as a new set of possibilities present themselves for you to navigate. 

Everything is as if for the first time.

Recommendations arrive like storks in the night. You’re not sure if they’re fairytales to be believed. You conceive of the risks involved with a new enterprise: the feasibility, the practicality, the chance occurrence. Then, as if unexpectedly, everything else slowly fades away. You follow the myth into the moonlight.  

It’s just you and the recommendation.

The joy of exploration, and everything that accompanies those loud, embolden sirens of happiness, surpasses everything. Desire, to be sure, trumps satisfaction, every, single time. You are contented in the recommendation, as you try to figure out if it suits you just so. The right recommendation can yield a life-long friend.

Recommendations can deliver us from the abyss.

Whether the recommendation was betrothed, or you discovered it on your own, the happenstance becomes your songline. There’s a sense of excitement. You’re passionate about the unexamined depths of expansion, incorporation and, maybe, if you’re lucky, maturation. 

Recommendations provide encounters.

Yet, what does this relationship entail? Not only what comprises a recommendation - the etiology, so to speak - but also, how they are delivered, how they affect us, and ultimately, how they are archived. What exactly is in the nature of a recommendation?Is it purely a selfless act of generosity, or a form of selfish identification with another? Or, perhaps more basically, a need to share with the world?

There’s a lot at play in a simple recommendation.

In a very deep-rooted, almost idiosyncratic, individualized way, learning itself is but a curation of recommendations. I say ‘but’, yet, it’s so much more than that. It’s the way your lover recites Sartre in a cafe, or how your favorite professor lends you his personal copy of Nietzsche, or a stranger on Twitter, in a moment of strength, confesses their secret love for The Story of the Eye.

Recommendations participate in the world.