Adonis Diaries

Archive for January 2nd, 2016

A Happiness Jar?

Those of you who’ve followed this page for years know that I have this sacred object in my life called a HAPPINESS JAR.

Mine is a big old glass apothecary jar that I found at an antique store years ago, but the vessel itself doesn’t really matter. What matters is what’s inside of it.

Elizabeth Gilbert's photo.

Elizabeth GilbertLike Page

Every day, at the end of the day, I write down the happiest moment of my day, and I put it in the jar. It’s that easy. It takes one minute — if that.

I don’t use fancy paper or special pens; I usually just rip off the corner of a bill, and jot down the happy moment somewhere on a blank spot and throw it in the jar. (And the date? and the time of day?)

Done and done.

There is no simpler or less-demanding spiritual practice in my life than this one — when I literally take note of my gratitude for a moment in my day when things felt good, or I felt lucky, or I merely remembered that I was alive.

It’s incredible how consistently tiny and insignificant these happy moments usually are.

There don’t tend to be rock star moments — moments of glory or huge success.

They seem to be moments of tiny human connection, or an unexpected bit of humor, or the glimpse of a cardinal out of the corner of my eye, or moment of peace during a busy day.

My happiest moments are infinitesimally small, but over the years, they have caused this jar to overflow many times over

The other odd thing is, I have noticed over the years that some of my happy moments occur right in the middle of a tough or painful moments.

To be comforted by a friend when you are sad or angry can be a happy moment, right in the midst of a very bad one.

To have just five minutes to sit quietly and catch your breath during a stressful and exhausting week can be a happy moment.

To find a seat on the bus can be a happy moment.

To make the green light at that intersection where you usually have to sit in traffic for what feels like an eternity can be a happy moment.

To have the customer service representative from the bank be nice and patient with you on the phone can be a happy moment.

To have somebody bring you a cup of coffee when you’re tired and pissed off can be a happy moment. Last year, I became ill on a 10-hour flight, and it was just awful — but there was this one stewardess who was so kind to me that it made me feel safe and protected, even as I was afraid and in pain…and that was a happy moment during an otherwise really shitty day.

I have kept up the ritual of a HAPPINESS JAR ever since I returned home from my EAT PRAY LOVE journeys — as a way of doing my part to hold onto the joy and light that I found during that adventure.

When I say that happiness is a consequence of personal effort, this is kind of thing I’m talking about.

I’m talking about showing up, paying attention to the instances of good fortune in your life, putting a spotlight on the small good things, and creating a body of evidence that you are (on ALL days) brushing up against grace.

Look for it, and you’ll find it.

It doesn’t have to be huge, to be hugely important.

I keep up this practice not as protection against dark times or denial of dark times (we cannot protect against dark times or deny their existence; dark times happen, and will keep on happening) but as an act of stubborn gladness and gratitude for the strangely unfolding miracle that is my life.

If you are looking for a new ritual to begin in 2016, may I suggest this one?

It’s a hell of a lot easier than a resolution to lose a bunch of weight, or to run a marathon, or to get out of debt…but it might actually change your life a lot more than any of these other acts.

Go grab yourself a jar (or a box, or even a plastic bag from Walmart) and start today.

And for those of you who have started your own HAPPINESS JARS over the years, can you send photos of your jars, and stories of your own experiences? I love to see what you are discovering.

Have a wonderful, blessed (and yes, HAPPY) 2016, everyone!


Note: I wouldn’t constrain myself with only the happiest moment. Any moment that left a strong impression in my emotions is as valid. A better diary for the end of year.

Virtual Reality machines coming to the rescue of empathy?

How about listening attention span?

Chris Milk in March 2015 delivered this speech

Virtual reality started for me in sort of an unusual place. It was the 1970s. I got into the field very young: I was 7 years old.

And the tool that I used to access virtual reality was the Evel Knievel stunt cycle. This is a commercial for that particular item: (Video) Voice-over: What a jump! Evel’s riding the amazing stunt cycle. That gyro-power sends him over 100 feet at top speed.

 Chris Milk: So this was my joy back then. I rode this motorcycle everywhere. And I was there with Evel Knievel; we jumped the Snake River Canyon together. I wanted the rocket. I never got the rocket, I only got the motorcycle.

I felt so connected to this world. I didn’t want to be a storyteller when I grew up, I wanted to be stuntman. I was there. Evel Knievel was my friend. I had so much empathy for him.

01:09 But it didn’t work out. (Laughter) I went to art school. I started making music videos.

And this is one of the early music videos that I made: (Music: “Touch the Sky” by Kanye West) CM: You may notice some slight similarities here. (Laughter) And I got that rocket. (Laughter)

Now I’m a filmmaker, or, the beginning of a filmmaker, and I started using the tools that are available to me as a filmmaker to try to tell the most compelling stories that I can to an audience. And film is this incredible medium that allows us to feel empathy for people that are very different than us and worlds completely foreign from our own.

01:56 Unfortunately, Evel Knievel did not feel the same empathy for us that we felt for him, and he sued us for this video — (Laughter) — shortly thereafter. On the upside, the man that I worshipped as a child, the man that I wanted to become as an adult, I was finally able to get his autograph.

02:28 Let’s talk about film now. Film, it’s an incredible medium, but essentially, it’s the same now as it was then.

It’s a group of rectangles that are played in a sequence. And we’ve done incredible things with those rectangles. But I started thinking about, is there a way that I can use modern and developing technologies to tell stories in different ways and tell different kinds of stories that maybe I couldn’t tell using the traditional tools of filmmaking that we’ve been using for 100 years?

I started experimenting, and what I was trying to do was to build the ultimate empathy machine. And here’s one of the early experiments: (Music)

So this is called “The Wilderness Downtown.” It was a collaboration with Arcade Fire. It asked you to put in the address where you grew up at the beginning of it. It’s a website. And out of it starts growing these little boxes with different browser windows. And you see this teenager running down a street, and then you see Google Street View and Google Maps imagery and you realize the street he’s running down is yours.

And when he stops in front of a house, he stops in front of your house. And this was great, and I saw people having an even deeper emotional reaction to this than the things that I had made in rectangles. And I’m essentially taking a piece of your history and putting it inside the framing of the story.

 then I started thinking, okay, well that’s a part of you, but how do I put all of you inside of the frame? So to do that, I started making art installations. And this is one called “The Treachery of Sanctuary.” It’s a triptych. I’m going to show you the third panel. (Music) So now I’ve got you inside of the frame, and I saw people having even more visceral emotional reactions to this work than the previous one.

04:53 But then I started thinking about frames, and what do they represent?

And a frame is just a window. I mean, all the media that we watch — television, cinema — they’re these windows into these other worlds. And I thought, well, great. I got you in a frame. But I don’t want you in the frame, I don’t want you in the window, I want you through the window, I want you on the other side, in the world, inhabiting the world.

05:17 So that leads me back to virtual reality.

Let’s talk about virtual reality. Unfortunately, talking about virtual reality is like dancing about architecture. And this is actually someone dancing about architecture in virtual reality. (Laughter) So, it’s difficult to explain.

Why is it difficult to explain? It’s difficult because it’s a very experiential medium. You feel your way inside of it. It’s a machine, but inside of it, it feels like real life, it feels like truth. And you feel present in the world that you’re inside and you feel present with the people that you’re inside of it with.

05:58 So, I’m going to show you a demo of a virtual reality film: a full-screen version of all the information that we capture when we shoot virtual reality. So we’re shooting in every direction.

This is a camera system that we built that has 3D cameras that look in every direction and binaural microphones that face in every direction. We take this and we build, basically, a sphere of a world that you inhabit. So what I’m going to show you is not a view into the world, it’s basically the whole world stretched into a rectangle. So this film is called “Clouds Over Sidra,” and it was made in conjunction with our virtual reality company called VRSE and the United Nations, and a co-collaborator named Gabo Arora.

And we went to a Syrian refugee camp in Jordan in December and shot the story of a 12-year-old girl there named Sidra. And she and her family fled Syria through the desert into Jordan and she’s been living in this camp for the last year and a half.

06:59 (Video) Sidra: My name is Sidra. I am 12 years old. I am in the fifth grade. I am from Syria, in the Daraa Province, Inkhil City. I have lived here in the Zaatari camp in Jordan for the last year and a half. I have a big family: three brothers, one is a baby. He cries a lot. I asked my father if I cried when I was a baby and he says I did not. I think I was a stronger baby than my brother.

07:34 CM: So, when you’re inside of the headset. you’re not seeing it like this. You’re looking around through this world. You’ll notice you see full 360 degrees, in all directions. And when you’re sitting there in her room, watching her, you’re not watching it through a television screen, you’re not watching it through a window, you’re sitting there with her.

When you look down, you’re sitting on the same ground that she’s sitting on. And because of that, you feel her humanity in a deeper way. You empathize with her in a deeper way.

08:10 And I think that we can change minds with this machine. And we’ve already started to try to change a few. So we took this film to the World Economic Forum in Davos in January. And we showed it to a group of people whose decisions affect the lives of millions of people.

And these are people who might not otherwise be sitting in a tent in a refugee camp in Jordan. But in January, one afternoon in Switzerland, they suddenly all found themselves there.  And they were affected by it.

09:00 So we’re going to make more of them. We’re working with the United Nations right now to shoot a whole series of these films. We just finished shooting a story in Liberia.

And now, we’re going to shoot a story in India. And we’re taking these films, and we’re showing them at the United Nations to people that work there and people that are visiting there. And we’re showing them to the people that can actually change the lives of the people inside of the films.

That’s where I think we just start to scratch the surface of the true power of virtual reality. It’s not a video game peripheral. It connects humans to other humans in a profound way that I’ve never seen before in any other form of media.

And it can change people’s perception of each other. And that’s how I think virtual reality has the potential to actually change the world.

So, it’s a machine, but through this machine we become more compassionate, we become more empathetic, and we become more connected. And ultimately, we become more human.

Israel Bans Novel on Arab-Jewish Romance From Schools for ‘Threatening Jewish Identity’

Move comes despite the fact that the official responsible for teaching of literature in secular state schools recommended the book for use in advanced literature classes, as did a professional committee of academics and educators.

Andrew Bossone shared this link

Book banning against racial mixing in the bogus “only democracy in the Middle-East”

Move comes despite the fact that the official responsible for teaching of literature in secular state schools recommended the book for use in advanced literature…

Order of Canada honours for B.C. residents

Order of Canada honours for B.C. residents

Nassif Ghoussoub is a professor of mathematics at the University of British Columbia.

Photograph by: handout , Mark Mushet Photography

Governor General David Johnston has announced 69 appointments to the Order of Canada, including six from British Columbia.

Nassif Ghoussoub

Officer of the Order of Canada

Born in Mali (west Africa and a Lebanese from the town of Beit-Chabab) Nassif Ghoussoub has distinguished himself as a scientist, educator and mathematician working in the field of non-linear analysis and differential equations.

Ghoussoub is a professor of mathematics at the University of B.C., where he also serves as a Distinguished University Scholar.

He has won at least 11 major awards and distinctions, published dozens of academic papers and supervised the higher education of a generation of graduate students and post-doctoral fellows.

Rudy Buttignol

CEO of British Columbia’s Knowledge Network, Rudy Buttignol is appointed for his contributions to the growth and quality of Canadian documentary filmmaking.

Italian-born Buttignol was a successful independent filmmaker from the mid-70s through the early 90s, when he joined the world of public broadcasting as the creative head of independent production for TVOntario.

He has served in leadership roles on dozens of boards and festivals in the film and television world and is regarded as the driving force in the transformation of the Knowledge Network.

Wade Davis

Member of the Order of Canada

Author, explorer, ethnobotanist and photographer, Wade Davis is appointed for his work to promote conservation of the natural world.

A Harvard-educated anthropologist and explorer-in-residence at the National Geographic Society, Davis has written 15 books including The Serpent and the Rainbow. Davis is professor of anthropology and the B.C. Leadership Chair in Cultures and Ecosystems at Risk at the University of B.C.

Ted Grant

Member of the Order of Canada

With a career spanning six decades, Ted Grant is regarded at the father of Canadian photojournalism, capturing unique and enduring images of Canadians from Ben Johnson’s Olympic victory to Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau sliding down a banister.

In addition to the many awards and distinctions Grant has earned, the National Archives of Canada maintains the Ted Grant Photo Collection, comprising more than 280,000 images. Another 100,000 images are curated by the National Gallery of Canada, the largest collection dedicated to any photographer.

Peter S. Li

Member of the Order of Canada

Peter S. Li, through decades of work as a sociologist and editor of books such as Race and Ethnic Relations in Canada and Destination Canada: Immigration Debates and Issues, has shaped public discourse on everything from ethnicity and language policy to multiculturalism and immigration reform.

Li has been an associate editor of the Canadian Review of Sociology and Anthropology and advised the Canadian government on issues of race and diversity.

Atom Egoyan

Companion of the Order of Canada

The Victoria-raised movie director earned a promotion within the order for his groundbreaking contributions to film as an internationally respected filmmaker and for his commitment to mentoring and showcasing Canadian artists. The 55-year-old Egoyan earned a best director nomination at the 70th Academy Awards for his critically acclaimed 1997 film, The Sweet Hereafter.




January 2016

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