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Month July 2012

On the Things that Haunt Us




Who am I? If this once I were to rely on a proverb, then perhaps everything would amount to knowing whom I “haunt.”

So begins André Breton’s Nadja, perhaps the best embodiment of the spirit and attitudes of the Surrealist movement. It’s an interesting question, who am I? So much of how you answer has to do with who you are, and what you understand the question to mean. Is it whom I haunt? Or is it what I’ve accomplished; what I think I am; what I want to be; what others think I am; what haunts me? Who am I? It’s an eternal question and no single response can exist. But it’s worthwhile to think about because your answers mean so much to how you conceive of and interact with others and the world around you.

A few days ago we were writing about the absence of public collective spaces in which to reflect, as a community, on our experiences of self and existence in a deep, meaningful and productive context. Perhaps it is because we lack this sense of having a right, place and time to talk about our meaningful ideas and violent obsessions surrounding existence and humanity that we often resort to surface-level small talk when meeting new people. This is not to say that talking superficially about our education, our professional backgrounds, where were from, what we like to do in our free time, what sports teams won last night and what the weather will be like tomorrow are not interesting conversations, but they reveal so very little about how we truly exist in the everyday. Why don’t we discuss the ideas that matter most to us in those beautiful opportunities we have to engage with strangers? Why don’t we seek to have our models, ideas, beliefs and systems challenged by another’s perspective and collectively re-imagined in the course of these brief impromptu exchanges? Of course these conversations might not be well suited to the fleeting contexts in which they occur but that should not been seen as a barrier. Rather, it is a call to action to rethink ways in which to integrate the exchange of deep, meaningful ideas into short and spontaneous interactions.

It’s important to share how you and others experience the everyday, and we (cultural we) rarely do. How we live, what it means to be us, every day, to be human, to deal with our need for meaning, that is something that every single person on this planet grapples with. From the slums of Calcutta to the skyscrapers of New York, we all deal with being human every day.

Take a second and concentrate on what goes through your mind as you think about the word  PEOPLE.

For most of us, when we think of people, we think either of the individuals in our immediate reality–our friends, family and acquaintances–or we think of people as an abstraction–People, statistics, the billions of others we know share our planet but never see. And that’s very problematic because it reinforces the often perceived binary of humanity as unchangeably divided between we and them.

That imagined dualism is a big part of how we start to dehumanize them, the ‘others’–all those people who aren’t us, and who have problems, beliefs, and systems we want to ignore because they threaten our own model of existence and reality. When there is a we and a them how can humanity move forward? All hierarchies–social, cultural, geographic, economic, etc. are man made, they are systems to deal with reality in ways that fit the dominant definition of it. The need and desire for all to be aware and keep in mind that every single person experiences existence through our shared human condition and that we are all entitled to flourish, feel safe, nurtured and valued is not about institutions. It’s not hippie, communist, utopist, or other -ist propaganda, it’s a core belief that every single human life is equally valuable. It’s an attempt to move past all the institutions that govern our existence and to see other people as they are: so like us. We all have our unique mix of dreams, desires, needs, fears and characteristics but we are all human.

Perhaps by being aware of and remembering our own humanness–all our dreams, obsessions, all those moments, people and things that have haunted us and made us realize that we are part of something much larger, messier, more interwoven, complex and glorious than we are usually aware of in our every day–we will become more aware and focused on the fact that everyone else shares this quality of being human. By accepting the complexity and the similarities we begin to live out our commitment to empathy more authentically.

The connections between haunting and identity provide fertile ground for salient insights about the individual in the everyday. You can learn a lot about a person from looking at their stuff, all those things they possess. What kind of insights could emerge from looking at the things that people possess inside their heads–all those fragments of existence, that have touched them and which they have stored in some part of themselves? Stuff defined as the remnants of life, those moments that tangibly affect us long after the incident in time in which they occur has passed and that have changed, in whatever way, our perception: people, objects, memories, photographs, experiences, knowledge, rituals, sounds, images, places, smells, ideas, passions, beliefs, questions, scars, dreams, obsessions and desires.

We designed a questionnaire which aimed to foreground points of salience in one’s belief system and existence that one might not be consciously aware of in their everyday experiences. Our Index, once answered becomes a collage of the stuff (as defined above) that is meaningful to us. It becomes a reminder of the wonder of small moments and the joys of connecting with others and the world around us. By making us aware of the human qualities of our existence, it reminds us of our shared condition with other people and renews our focus on the role of empathy in living our lives.

Could the questionnaire also become a starting point for redesigning small talk to be more stimulating, productive and empathetic? A list of topics and ideas to choose from when chatting with strangers. Placed side by side these indexes of various individuals’ collections of things that have haunted them will, at the very least, present a beautiful, vibrant and diverse recording of humanity and the human existence.

Without further ado, an experience in self & empathy:


List and describe, in any format you chose-lists, essays, paragraphs, pictures, video, songs, poems, etc.,–the things, people and moments that have been most haunting in your life in the categories below. It is up to you to delineate and define ‘haunting’ in whichever way you choose.




Images (paintings/photographs/mental images)











What haunting means to you

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

We’d love to know what your Haunting Index looks like. Share it with us in the comments section or if it’s too big or elaborate for the comments send us a link to your images/video/website/however you chose to represent the things that have haunted you and we will feature it on our blog. And check back for our own Haunting Indexes.

Last but not least, did we mention that the Index is a great memory generator. Let the memories flood as you try to think of what haunts and haunted you. Relive and see, like projections on the wall, old and gold flashes of moments that have really mattered thus far.

Jean de La Fontaine

Of animals, the human kind

Are to excess the most inclined.

On low and high we make the charge,

Indeed, on the race at large.

There lives not the soul select

That sins not in this respect.

Of “Nothing too much,” the fact is,

All preach the truth, none practice.

-From Nothing Too Much

Happy Birthday to Jean who was born 391 years ago today, in 1621. What better way to kick off our redesigned blog, rethinkedLab, than on the birthday of Jean de La Fontaine, a regular of the 17th century Parisian salons.

De La Fontaine is perhaps the best-known French fabulist and poet of the 17th century. He is most famous for his Comtes which is a collection of roughly 240 fables, each whimsical, with speaking animals, a deep concern for every day human experiences and a moral lesson embedded in the story.

De La Fontaine is a household name in France where virtually every French child knows by heart the story of La Fourmi et La Cigale (The Grasshopper & The Ant ~ Book 1, Fable 1) and Le Corbeau et Le Renard (The Raven & The Stork ~ Book 1, Fable 2) ; the former demonstrating the consequences of procrastination and not planning ahead, while the latter warns of the perils of vanity.

Here are some charming retro illustrations done by Raoul Auger which were printed in a 1962 French edition of the Fables. (Click the link under the image to read the fable in English.)

To learn more about Jean de La Fontaine visit the Musée Jean de La Fontaine where you can enjoy a selection of the fables online and take a virtual tour of Chateau Thierry where de La Fontaine was born and lived for most of his life.

One of our favorite fables is that of  The Oak and the Reed (Book 1, Fable 22) as we aspire to and identify with the reed’s nimbleness, resilience, and adaptability.

Happy Sunday rethinkers!

Jean de La Fontaine


L’Ane Portant Des Reliques

(The Ass Carrying Relics ~ Book 5, Fable 14)

L’Huitre & Les Plaideurs

(The Oyster and The Litigants Book 9, Fable 9)

La Besace

(The Wallet ~ Book 1, Fable 7 )


La Genisse, La Chévre & La Brebis en Société Avec Le Lion

(The Heifer, the Goat and the Sheep, In Company With the Lion ~ Book 1, Fable 6)


La Laitière Et Le Pot Au Lait

(The Dairy Woman and The Pot of Milk ~ Book 7, Fable 11)


La Vieille Et Les Deux Servantes

(The Old Woman and Her Two Servants ~ Book 5, Fable 6)


Le Chameau Et Le Batons Flottants

(The Camel And The Floating Stick ~, Book 4, Fable 10)


Le Chat, La Belette & Le Petit Lapin

(The Cat, the Weasel & The Little Rabbit ~ Book 7, Fable 17)


Le Cheval S’étant Voulu Venger Du Cerf

(The Horse Wishing to Be Revenged on The Stag ~ Book 4, Fable 13)


Le Coq & Le Renard

(The Cock & The Fox ~ Book 2, Fable 15)


Le Paon Se Plaignant A Junon

(The Peacock Complaining to Juno ~ Book 2, Fable17)


Le Singe & Le Dauphin

(The Monkey & The Dolphin ~ Book 4, Fable 7)

Le Viellaird & Ses Enfants

(The Old Man and His Sons Book 4, Fable 18)


Les Animaux Malades de La Peste

(The Animals Sick of the Plague ~ Book 7, Fable 2)


La Tortue & Les Deux Canards

(The Tortoise and the Two Ducks ~ Book 10, Fable, 2)

Les Oreilles Du Lièvre

(The Ears of the Hare ~ Book 5, Fable 4)


 Fables De La Fontaine 1962 Edition from la Bibliotheque Rouge Et Or

Illustrated by Raoul Auger







Rethinking the 17th century salon

How might we rethink the idea of the 17th century salon to fit the lifestyles and technologies of our contemporaries?

From the Agora to the Salon to the rethinkedLab

Since ancient times people have gathered together physically to discuss, share and collectively analyze and rethink ideas. This concept of a collective space in which to gather and deeply examine, and reimagine the human condition has been poignantly absent from our own experience of modern urban life. We live in a world saturated by data. We have unprecedented access to all sorts of information through myriad media: Internet, books, movies, television, radio, magazines, newspapers, billboards, text messages, phone calls etc. Yet as our ability to acquire and share data has expanded, it appears we have increasingly lost the spaces and time to collectively reflect on what all this information means and how it applies to our lives.

Where are the Agoras and salons of today? Where can we go to surround ourselves with other people who are aware of their need to discover, imagine, create and experience a meaningful life; a human centered life that provides value and a sense of inherent and authentic purpose and drive. How might we re-imagine those ancient spaces to fit the needs and lifestyles of our contemporaries? How might we structure that space so that it infuses all of its occupants with the inclinations of a particular shared mindset based on seeking wonder and connections between ideas; a mindset that respects and celebrates the human condition and aims to design behaviors and concepts that optimize it.

This is where rethinkedLab comes in. It is an experiment in rethinking and designing that space and special sense of time to optimize it to our contemporary lifestyles.

We are particularly drawn to the concept of the 17th century salon as a source of inspiration for our re-design of that collective space. We want to rethink and reimagine the salon, trim it of all its history of Marxist, feminist, cultural and other –ist studies that have been used to define its meaning and critique its aims, structures and politics. We want to take the salon back to its fundamentals and reimagine it from there.

What is the concept of the salon in its most minimalist form? It is a special place in time and space, which imbues a sense of wonder, and influences and fosters in its occupants an openness to the world of ideas, to others and to themselves. It induces a sort of ‘existential trance’ where participants can shed their daily worries, take a step back from the immediacy of their daily reality to reflect and observe what and how their lives are and how they might be.

The main participants in a salon are its guests and its host. The host is responsible for ensuring the quality, depth, and diversity of the conversation and the guests are responsible for bringing fresh and unique perspectives to various themes and ideas pertaining to culture and existence. While the host contributes her own ideas and perspective to the conversation, her true art lays in curating both her guests and the topics of conversation. The host is a master curator–the more imaginative, deep and unexpected the ideas and people she brings together, the better her salon.

We believe that curation is its own act of creation and we reject the opposing interpretation that it is the mere sharing and propagating of others’ ideas. We find the notion sophomoric and believe it is a result of a confusion between the relationship of originality and authenticity. Not all creations need to start by being original to be authentic. Assembling diverse ideas dispersed across all fields of thoughts and interpreted from a wide range of perspectives can lead to the emergence of truly imaginative, original, fruitful and useful new concepts and questions.

So how do we take the basic elements of a salon and reimagine them to better suit our contemporary lifestyles, technologies and other constraints on our time and attention?

We decided to start as simply as possible, with a blog. We think of it as a public and collective space, to which we invite people of all backgrounds, across disciplines and continents to read, write, share and participate. Like the salonnière of the 17th century, we aim to promote an authentic exchange of ideas across disciplines, hierarchies, systems, structures, cultures, geographies and theories. We aim to create a special space that imbues our visitors with a sense of wonder and a renewed and fostered appreciation, respect and awareness of the human condition and all the potential that it holds. Our blog is a palimpsest in which to record fragments of existence as it is and as it might be. It is a collage of ideas from books, movies, dreams, hopes, memories, discoveries, quotes, images, interviews, questions, doubts and obsessions. It is an attempt to record the potential and occurrences of compassion, authenticity, well-being, beauty, glory, design and humanity embedded in our every day.

The advantage of the blog as a virtual space—being able to access it from anywhere and at any time—can also become its weakness. Perhaps in the future we can try to make the blog analog and host physical public salons, but for now, the immediacy of our conversation is limited by the fact that we have to wait for people to join in to the conversation at different times. This constraint, like most, is actually a possibility, one for us to take a moment, breathe, reflect and have the time to really engage and analyze our ideas at our own pace before responding to other people’s ideas and perspectives.

We hope you will join in the conversation, help us collect and reflect on our shared experiences and re-envision, design and imagine what tomorrow may be like. At the very least we hope you leave our blog with a smile on your face and a renewed sense of wonder and possibility.

If you see anything that you think should be featured on rethinkedLab…* please email Elsa – elsa@rethinked.org No spam please.

Celebrating Frida

Happy birthday Frida Kahlo!

Frida, who was born in Coyoacán in 1907, would have been 106 today. She is a great rethinked…* inspiration & hero and we hope you join us in celebrating her this weekend.

Watch a free online biographical documentary on Frida:


Part I Part II Part III Part IV Part V Part VI

Enjoy some of the her own and family photographs from Frida Kahlo: Her Photos by James Oles, Horacio Fernadez, Pablo Ortiz Monasterio and of course Frida Kahlo






Te vas? No. Alas rotas


Excerpts from her journal printed in The Diary of Frida Kahlo: An Intimate Self-Portrait edited by Carlos Fuentes






(Right) Portrait of Neferúnico. Founder of Lokura.

Alone with my great happiness with the very vivid memory of the little girl. It has been 34 years since I lived that magical friendship and every time I remember it it comes alive and grows more and more inside my world. PINZÓN 1950. Frida Kahlo LAS DOS FRIDAS Coyoacán Allende 52


(Left) Feet what do I need them for If I have wings to fly. 1953


(Left) my fault? I admit, my great guild as great as pain it was an enormous exit which my love came through. A very quiet passage that was leading me toward death I was so neglected! That it would have been best for me. You are killing yourself! YOU ARE KILLING YOURSELF There are some who will never forget you! I took their strong hands Here I am, for them to live. Frida

(Right) Years. Waiting with anguish hidden away, my spine broken, and the immense glance, footless through the vast path….Carrying on my life enclosed in steel. Diego!


 (RIGHT) JULY 1953. Cuernavaca Supporting points In my entire figure there is only one, and I want two. For me to have two they must cut one off It is the one I don’t have the one I have to have to be able to walk the other will be dead! I have many, wings. Cut them off and to hell with it!!


(Left) The horrible “Eyesaurus” primitive ancient animal, which dropped dead to link up the sciences. It looks up . . and has no name. –We’ll give it one: THE horrible EYESAURUS!

(Right) Astonished she remained seeing the sun-stars and the live-dead world and being in the shade.

(Left) pain – pleasure and death are no more than a process for existence XXXX the revolutionary struggle XXXXX in this process is a doorway open to intelligence

(Right) Anniversary of the revolution 7th of November 1947 Tree of Hope stand firm! I’ll wait for you– You responded to a sense with your voice and I’m full of you, waiting for your words which will make me grow and will enrich me. DIEGO I’m alone.

Who is this idiot?


(right) dog

(left) What a dish!



   (left) This pen is no good for this paper. I have never seen tenderness as great as Diego has and gives when his hands and his beautiful eyes touch Mexican Indian sculpture.

(right) No one is more than a function–or part of a total function. Life goes by, and sets paths, which are not traveled in vain. But no one can stop “freely” to play by the wayside, because he will delay or upset the general atomic journey. From this comes discontent. From this comes despair and unhappiness. We all would like to be the sum total and not one of the numerical elements. Changes and struggles disconcert us, terrify us because they are constant and certain, we search for calm and “peace’ because we foresee the death that we die every second. Opposites unite and nothing new or arhythmic is discovered. We take refuge in, we take flight into irrationality, magic, abnormality, in fear of the extraordinary beauty of the truth

(left) Sleep Sleep Sleep Sleep Sleep Sleep I’m falling asleep

 (right) 1st. I’m convinced of my disagreement with the counterrevolution–imperialism–fascism–religions–stupidity–capitalism–and the whole gamut of bourgeois tricks–I wish to cooperate with the Revolution in transforming the world into a classless one so that we can attain a better rhythm for the oppressed classes. 2nd. a timely moment to clarify who are the allies of the Revolution    Read Lenin–Stalin–Learn that I am nothing but a “small damned part of a revolutionary movement. Always revolutionary never dead, never useless.

               Don’t come crying to me! Yes, I come crying to you.

                      (Left)  March 53. My Diego. I’m no longer alone. Wings? You keep me company. You lull me to sleep and make me come alive

(Right) I love Diego ~ Love

(Right) Chabela Villasenor– Ruddy Long Live comrades STALIN, MAO      Life   Death     WORLD DOE PAINTER POET     Long live Marx Engels Lenin

                      (Left) Color of poison. Everything upside down. ME? Sun and moon feet and Frida

Perhaps the most salient way to pay homage to Frida’s life and work is by embodying her spirit and attitude in our thoughts and actions. Frida dug deep inside herself and lay bare what she found, in all its beauty, gore, messy and chaotic glory. She sought the very human, those parts in herself that defined her condition, perception and experience of existence. She was not afraid to search for the things that hurt, and she was not ashamed to the show the ugly parts either. Frida’s art and life are one of the most touching, deep and honest message of love and respect for the human being–in all that she encompasses:  her flaws and weaknesses and immense capability and eternal possibility to imagine a different way.

So this weekend make a special effort to get in touch with the very human, very organic, messy and beautiful side of yourself. Realize that we all bleed and that we are all in search of connection and meaning. Take a step back and evaluate yourself honestly, what are the more negative things you see? How could you create a design challenge around the things you want to change? And how could you celebrate all the positive you see in yourself and others? Make this weekend a time of reflection and rethinking; get outside of yourself and into others, act with courage, compassion and imagination. & journal away…

~ Happy Frida Weekend ~


Curating Ideas & Possibilities

Have you browsed our collection of videos on the ideas that inspire, intrigue and influence us?


We’re constantly adding inspiring videos we find so be sure to check back for new ones


John Hockenberry: Why We Are All Designers TED 2012

Stefan Sagmeister on Designing Minds I

Stefan Sagmeister on Designing Minds II

Stefan Sagmeister on Designing Minds III

Stefan Sagmeister Shares Happy Design TED 2004

Tim Brown Urges Designers to Think Big TEDGlobal 2009



8,000 Chinese Lanterns Over Poznan, Poland 2011

Muto: A Wall-Painted Animation by BLU 2008

BIG BANG BIG BOOM ~ Wall-Painted Animation by BLU 2010

Western Spaghetti by PES 2008

Pixels by Patrick Jean 2010

Cecil Hepworth’s 1903 adaptation of Alice in Wonderland

Water Drop Filmed in 10,000 Frames Per Second

Experience the Walker Library of Human Imagination

One Year in 40 Seconds eirikso.com 2008

A Young Glenn Gould Plays Bach 

Duke Ellington Plays for Joan Miro

Neil Pasricha “The 3 A’s of Awesome” TEDxToronto 2010

Theo Jansen Creates a New Creature TED 2007

How Wings Are Attached To the Back of Angels Craig Welsh 2008

1894 boxing cats- Thomas Edison

Fabian Hemmert: The Shape-Shifting Future of the Mobile Phone TEDxBerlin 2010

Coloring Bach ~ Evan Shinner

Salvado Dali – Mike Wallace Interview I (1958)

Marcel Duchamp ~ Anemic Cinema (1926)



Tal Ben-Shahar: Positive Psychology – The Science of Happiness 2006 Brainy Acts lecture

Five Ways To Become Happier Today Tal Ben-Shahar on Big Think 2009

Big Think Interview with Tal Ben-Shahar 2012

Barry Schwartz on the Paradox of Choice TEDglobal 2005

The Dalai Lama talks about compassion 2010 talks at Stanford 

Martin Seligman on Positive Psychology TED 2004

Susan Cain on the Power of Introverts 

Brene Brown on the Power of Vulnerability

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi on Flow TED 2004



Tim Brown on Creativity and Play Serious Play 2008

Why Man Creates I by Saul Bass 1968

Why Man Creates II by Saul Bass 1968

Dark Side of the Lens by Mickey Smith 



Can Character Be Taught? Aspen Ideas Festival 2012 Panel Discussion with Dominic Randolph, Paul Tough, Andrea Mitchell & Russel Shaw

Ken Robinson: Changing Education Paradigms RSA Animate

Sir Ken Robinson: Bring on the Learning Revolution! TED 2010

Ken Robinson Says Schools Kill Creativity TED 2006

Dan Meyer: Math Class Needs a Makeover TEDxNYED 2010

Emily Piloton Teaching Design for Change TEDGlobal 2010



Chris Abani Muses on Humanity TED 2008

Chimamanda Adichie on The Danger of A Single Story TEDGlobal 2009

Susan Conley on The Power of Story TEDxDirigo



Jer Thorp: Make Data More Human TEDxVancouver 2011



Pranav Mistry: The Thrilling Potential of SixthSense Technology TEDIndia 2009

ZeroN: An Amazing, Gravity Defying New Interactive Technology from the MIT Tangible Media Group


Can Character Be Taught?





Great panel discussion with Dominic Randolph, Andrea Mitchell, Russel Shaw and Paul Tough at the Aspen Ideas Festival. Check out the video of the entire panel (1:07 hour) Can Character Be Taught or see a 3 minute excerpt on the Aspen Ideas Festival website

*note rethinked …* being represented with the red socks! 

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