Sunday, September 12, 2010


The original meaning of the term “symposium” is a drinking party, and while there were signs that last night’s festivities at the Second Annual “Smoke Farm Symposium included free-flowing libations, I didn’t really see anyone quaffing alcohol this morning, and because I had (shudder) driven up there instead of riding my bike as I usually do, I was tea totaling; however, both talks I saw were intriguing and thought-provoking, even without the aid of the sort of intoxicants that made for such vivid symposia in Plato’s time.

The first presentation was by designer and artist Corianton Hale, who talked about “Calculating Cool,” and shared with us seven irrefutable, time-tested, and sure-fire criteria for something’s being cool. These included, timeliness, uniqueness, relevance, and authenticity, although it seemed clear from his talk that if you could fake sincerity, that would be just as good. He was witty, wry, and—in keeping with one of his seven desiderata—humble, too and I learned more about Pantone colors in his 45 minutes that I had so far during the entire course of my lifetime.

The second session was by Clark Martin, a retired (I think) psychologist and chemist who talked about his experience with a high-dose of psilocybin administered in a study at Johns Hopkins University to use psychedelics in helping cancer patients to deal with depression. His main observations had to do with insights into how the brain “lays down” identity and how our perception of reality is essentially a construct utilized by the mind to make sense of the world. He also talked at length about how he’s come to believe, as a result of his experience, that the most important quality in human relationships is what he called “presence,” which I took to mean essentially showing up for another person without expectations or an agenda in your interactions with them.

In spite of failing to cycle, I’m glad I went, even though it meant missing today’s Steelers victory.


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