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My Boutonniere

My Boutonniere

A couple newsletters ago, I offered up a bit of a sartorial experiment. My challenge?

Make your boutonniere

It’s such a fertile, yet rarely used ground for self-expression. If it’s no lapel pin for a cause, make it a boutonniere that gives people pause. Wear your heart on your sleeve. Er, your mind on your shirt. You know. And see what develops.

As always, I eat my own cookin’. I made mine. Fits me pretty good. Check it out.

Boutonniere with insert

No need to explain the thinking behind it. Speaks for itself, no?

What does (or would) yours look like? Leave a comment and let me know.


Experiment With The Mute Button

Experiment With The Mute Button

In Headspank Newsletter #11, I proposed an experiment. Imagine you had no vocal chords.

If you’re totally unable to speak, how would you communicate?

  • Charades?
  • Interpretive dance?
  • The Vulcan mind meld?

The idea is that, by going mute and communicating in a way that’s out of your comfort zone, you’ll think differently about how you use language, inflection, vocalizations, and volume. You’ll no longer take it all for granted. And you may discover new ways of communicating altogether.

Like last week, (and from now on), I am not not only conceiving and sharing the experiment, I am participating. So here’s my go at it.



Photo: The Chive

A Page From My Clothing Catalog

A Page From My Clothing Catalog

In the Experiment section of last week’s newsletter (available only to subscribers, natch), I threw down a fashion-related idea.

What if you wrote your own catalog?

Nobody’s got time to create an entire publication as a creative experiment. Instead, just pick one thing, like a clothing ad, and rewrite the caption.

I played along and discovered that the descriptions of fashion rarely meet the visual truth.

Here’s my catalog page.

Sean as catalog model


Build Every Mountain

Build Every Mountain

We humans. So full of guile and self-importance. All too often it seems like we take our environment for granted. Or bend it to our will. It’s enough to rile up even the most passive tree-hugger.

But Nature doesn’t take this lying down.

For every action there is a reaction. The most recent natural consequence is Fort McMurray’s citywide inferno which, at the time of this writing, continues to ravage the homes of 80,000 residents.

This is, however, not about hand-wringing, chastising, or bemoaning.

This is about moving mountains. And building them.


As reported in The Washington Post

 …the UAE is in the early stages of evaluating how a man-made mountain could help maximize rainfall in the country, consulting with experts from the U.S.-based National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) to study the idea. “What we are looking at is basically evaluating the effects on weather through the type of mountain, how high it should be and how the slopes should be,” Roelof Bruintjes of NCAR told Arabian Business. “We will have a report of the first phase this summer as an initial step.”

You’re forgiven if that has you staring at the screen in disbelief.

We’ve built many things: rockets to defy gravity, skyscrapers that reach unimaginable heights, the Hadron Collider to find the God particle!

But we’ve never built an ocean, a volcano, or a desert. We’ve generally left natural formations to the pros. That said, I guess a mountain is a good place to turn that around.

mountain natgeo-gifs.tumblr

What’s the big deal?

Fair question. And, to be clear, the reason to consider building a mountain – rain to help crops and flora grow – is not the issue. Making rain is an age-old challenge to many people across the globe. Some have risen to it and others have succumbed.

It’s also not about how much money it would require. That, not coincidentally, is enormous.

One proposal to build a 1.2-mile-high mountain in the notoriously flat Netherlands was found to be feasible if the mountain were hollow. Estimates for the cost went as high as $230 billion.

The UAE has spent $400,000 investigating the idea. Speaking to Arabian Business, NCAR’s (Roelof) Bruintjes acknowledged that the eventual cost of the project may be too much for the UAE.

“Building a mountain is not a simple thing,” he said.”

You think?

Even by Dubai’s standards, $230 billion could mean a (ahem) mountain of debt.

The question on earth’s table is whether building a mountain crosses a line.

It’s one thing to help build coral reefs with underwater art (which is marvelous and wholly beneficial.) Isn’t it another to place a manmade mountain on the outskirts of town?

I’ve got questions.

  • What happens to the flora and fauna around it? Protected or pummeled?
  • Is one mountain sufficient? Or could more be required? In which case, when does it stop?
  • Would it be seen as a helpful idiosyncrasy or an unorthodox abomination?

If it produces rain, most will say it’s worth the financial cost. Then what? Will other countries start their mountain-building departments?

Will we re-engineer our topography?!

What will Mama Nature do if her creation gets jerry-rigged?

sheep pushes man into lake

These are important questions for environmental ethicists. And us couch philosophers, of course.

But don’t get me wrong. I’m not sour on the idea.

I applaud the concept.

Because this is a great example of thinking differently about a real problem. It’s visionary. It’s futuristic. It’s never been done and it’s dramatically inventive. It could solve, or minimize, the precipitation problem.

And should this idea become reality, it could be the home to even greater benefits.

They can landscape the mountain to be an extraordinary thing of beauty. Or turn it into a giant work of art. Or make it home to a new generation of herders, farmers, and agriculturalists.

They could call it Billy and Ethel the tree could grow off of its shoulder.

It’s interesting. In Hinduism, there’s a story of Lord Krishna lifting a hill because the people were getting deluged with rain.

Krishna-lifting-Govardhan-Hill via krishnabhumidotin

This seems like a twisted inversion of that tale, albeit with people acting as gods, creating a really big hill in order to get the rain instead of avoid it. (Monsoons in India are much different than drought in the Middle East, natch.)

Is the world ours to manipulate? Or is it something to revere?

Is this another crazy idea by us small-minded homo sapiens? One with inconceivable consequences destined to occur, both natural and societal?

Or is it ingenuity taken to its fantastic, benefit-to-society conclusion?

Or is it both?

As with most big ideas, monumental potential is balanced by considerable risk.

BEST bldg with fissure via I Blog Because I Forget

What’s your take? Leave a comment and let’s discuss.


Photo credits:  rSexyness | National Geographic Gifs | The Chive | | I Blog Because I Forget

How To Reach A Peak Experience

How To Reach A Peak Experience

Live Streaming Event: Interview with Dr. Mindy Howard of Inner Space Training

UPDATE: Goodness gracious! This event suffered the cruel fate of technical difficulties. I will reschedule. Apologies for any inconvenience.

Have you heard about the peak experiences astronauts have in space? Those moments of eye-opening transcendence when universal truths are revealed? Or something even more mindblowing?

I’ve never left earth, but I can imagine how a peak experience resembles, or includes, an epiphany. Maybe several. But I need more information.

What defines a peak experience? Do all astronauts have them? What about space tourists? Are there challenges to achieving them? And how can you boost your odds?

We’ll find out when I interview Dr. Mindy Howard, founder of Inner Space Training.

Mindy Howard of Inner Space Training

She helps new astronauts and space tourists overcome emotional and mental challenges to achieve peak experiences

I wouldn’t be surprised to find you can use her methods here on Earth.

This interview will be rescheduled when Google Hangouts On Air (or otherwise) decides to play nice. I hope that will be soon.



Drop Your Jaws

Drop Your Jaws

Ah, the epiphany. The hallowed ground of aha! The unexpected flash of insight. A lightning bolt of wisdom straight outta who-knows-where.

It’s like a mindset orgasm. And it’s the holy grail of this (not so) humble blog.

If I could manufacture an epiphany for you, I would do it every ding dong day

animated explosion in lab

Alas, I can’t just cook one up. There are no tools, processes, or black magic that can birth such a thing. That’s one reason epiphanies are priceless.

If you’re a frequent reader of this blog, you know it’s a jewel of an experience that’s always on my radar. And this week it was dropped on my place setting in several ways.

First, space.

An astronaut’s peak experience may reach the heights of an epiphany, so they’re often synonymous

I’m really excited to learn more about peak experiences, and what it takes to put yourself in position to have one, when I interview Mindy Howard, founder of Inner Space Training. Her organization helps new astronauts and space tourists overcome mental and emotional challenges to reach peak experiences in space.

cat jumps into space

That interview is happening Thursday, April 28th, at 11AM PST. Mark your calendars.

More details in Monday’s newsletter (you gotta subscribe to get the extra treats I pack in there). I’ll also post them here around the same time.

Next, in the Wall Street Journal this week, six “luminaries”, including a Harvard science professor and a documentary filmmaker, were asked to say something about epiphanies. It’ll take <5 minutes to read, so I encourage you to do so. But let me bring your attention to two particular points of view.

From award-winning playwright/screenwriter Tony Kushner:

“There’s something like a hallelujah imprinted in the word epiphany. The force of these moments is part of the reason we even create a category like epiphany. They chasten you, suggesting that there are levels of meaning and comprehension available that choose human beings rather than the other way around.”

Ok. It bears repeating. Epiphanies can’t be induced.

The conditions can be right for an epiphany to occur. But you can’t order one up at the drive-thru

mini car at drive thru

However. What’s interesting about this perspective is that, when you try to make sense of it all – when you’ve had the aha! and you’re standing there, with your jaw on the ground, parsing the Amazing that’s just occurred – you can also realize that this wasn’t something that happened TO you. It’s something that happened WITH you. FOR you, even.

The universe somehow recognized a fertile field, then planted its eye opening seed.

That’s pretty cool.

And from novelist Elizabeth Gilbert:

“The reason epiphanies feel so surprising is twofold. First, it’s the surprise of seeing a truth revealed. Second, it’s the deep shock of wondering why it took you so long to see it in the first place. It’s something that was there all the while.”

This is the meat-and-potatoes of epiphanies. It’s not like a veil is pulled back to reveal giants exist or we’re all made of LEGO. No.

The reward – the insight of epiphanies – is understanding

Suddenly there’s one less mystery in a world full of them. You’re a step closer to universal truth, even if that’s never fully within reach.

I have gone to find myself T-shirt

Finally, in Atlas Obscura, Sarah Laskow writes about an infrequently-visited topic: Awe.

Awe is not necessary for an epiphany. In fact, awe can often happen after the fact. But awe has much in common with epiphanies.

For instance, psychologists discovered awe “typically includes feelings of vastness—something larger than a person’s self or experience—and accommodation—that a person expand their understanding of the world to include this new information”. “It often occurred when a person had an opportunity to expand their knowledge of the world” and it “makes you re-evaluate what you actually know.”

Familiar, eh? It continues.

“Awe also encourages people to account for what they’re experiencing. When you’re feeling this emotion, “you have this strong motivation to explain what’s in front of your eyes,” says Piercarlo Valdesolo, an assistant professor of psychology at Claremont McKenna College. A couple years back, he and a colleague looked at how people deal with the uncertainty inherent in awe. They found that awe seems to nudge people towards “agentic explanation”—they’re less likely to accept that something happened randomly.”

“Instead, they’ll attribute it to an agent, like a god, a supernatural force, or a person.”

bike trick without a bike

Kushner may ascribe divine agency to the stroke of insight, but people still want the cause of awe to be logical and rational.

One of the best parts of awe, like epiphanies, is the after-effect, the glow

According to University of Houston assistant professor, Melanie Rudd, “awe promoted generosity. It also improved participants’ ethical decision making. A paper still under review indicates that awe makes people more humble, too.”

“We actually experience awe a lot more frequently than we think,” says Rudd. We encounter something in the big wide world, our minds opens as we look for an explanation, and as a result we open up to connecting to other people. “But if you are keeping yourself in your routine of life, it’s going to be hard to experience that feeling of accommodation,” she says. “Just going out into newness, you’re going to be more likely to run into something that’s awe-inspiring.”

And THAT, my fine friends, is why I write: to help you think differently, try something new, expand your mind, and reap the rewards.

I hope you find it awesome.

man on outside of skyscraper just chilling


Photo Credits: Shonduras on YouTube | The Chive


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