Search term: maira kalman

“Everything changes, every day, which is the glory & curse of things” -Maira Kalman on Navigating Through It All …*

"Everything changes, every day, which is the glory & curse of things" -Maira Kalman on Navigating Through It All ...* | rethinked.org

“Everything changes, every day, which is the glory and curse of things. You can’t rely on anything, but you can rely on navigating through it all—or at least one hopes.” 

I was thrilled to see that this week’s guest on The Great Discontent is rethinked * favorite, Maira Kalman. With her usual keen sense of observation, whimsy and honesty, Kalman shares various insights on her life and work. Here are some highlights from the interview, which I encourage you to read in full.

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–  g r o w t h   m i n d s e t   &   g r i t – 

I think I’m incredibly lucky because I had the patience and perseverance and single-mindedness to believe that I belonged in that world. It took a very long time to become an illustrator, and I had all kinds of odd jobs along the way. However, I had the good fortune to meet a man who had the same kind of philosophical outlook that I did: we were both curious and had a sense of humor, and we believed we could do whatever we wanted. For us, New York was an optimistic place. Yes, it can be a very difficult place, but we thought there was nothing we couldn’t do—it would just take time. So we found our way by working hard.

Whenever anyone asks me, “What will happen? How will I do in this world?,” I say I don’t know. You’ll either do it or you won’t do it; you’ll stick with it or you won’t; or something else will happen to inform it. There’s no prediction. You have a feeling and you try to do the best you can.

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– t a k i n g   r i s k s   &   d e a l i n g   w i t h   f e a r   t h r o u g h   w o r k – 

Tibor and I grew up together, and I learned a tremendous sense of work ethic and fearlessness from him. I’m not saying I don’t have fears—I have many, many fears. But Tibor was the kind of person who said, “You can have an idea. That’s fine, but why don’t you make the idea happen,” which is a whole other thing to do. His belief in work and in finding yourself through work was an extraordinary learning for me.

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– w a l k i n g  – 

I love to walk, and this [New York] is the best walking city in the world. There is more inspiration in a walk around the block than I could ever catalogue. I could write a book about every walk I take. Besides being the cultural center of the world and home to all of the museums I live in, the eccentric energy level of the city is fantastically inspiring. I can walk down the street, clear my head, and come back with most problems solved. For me, the best time is when I’m alone and don’t expect anything, but then an idea comes.

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– w h o l e n e s s ,   s e l f – k n o w l e d g e , v i s i o n   &   l o v e – 

It’s a terrible thing to give advice. I’d say that you have to try to be true to yourself and find out who you are by doing the things that give you the most pleasure in life. Try to weave that into your work; don’t separate yourself into different beings. But people starting out who are in their twenties? That’s a rough time. Stick with your vision, if you can, and find people to love you, if you can.

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Maira Kalman on Her Buddhist Bowling Shoes, Curiosity > Knowledge, & How Love & Work Protect Us From Sadness & Loss …*

“To slow down time, that’s something that’s very important to me, and what I did was I bought this pair of shoes which are two sizes too big for me, in a thrift shop in England […] These bowling shoes are two sizes too big so when you wear them, you have to really be careful of what you’re doing and you have to walk quite slowly and quite carefully. So it forces you to be in the moment, so I call them my Buddhist Bowling Shoes.”  – Maira Kalman

Maira Kalman: What I Choose To Illustrate And Why via Ink Talks published February 6, 2014.

Infuse your day with wisdom from the great Maira Kalman. If you don’t have time to view the video yet, catch some highlights below.

think & rethink …* 

“You don’t really have to have knowledge, what you have to have is curiosity. So she [Kalman’s mother] was a woman who loved to read and who took me to the library when we came to the United States–to the opera, to concerts, to museums–all the time, but there was never a test. There was never having to prove yourself. And that kind of freedom–allowing you to absorb all that there is around you without ever having to perform–is an extraordinary level of confidence in somebody and self-confidence building and it’s a very hard thing to do–to step back and let your child just experience what they experience with all the mistakes that they make.”

“And basically the idea is that you really have to stop and look at everything–everything that arrests you, everything that delights you has to be noted.”

“What is important and what is the meaning of life? Why are we here? Which is the question that I ask myself at least a dozen times a day, if not every minute. But when you go outside yourself, of course, and you’re looking at what’s around you, it’s endlessly extraordinary.”

“That sense of humor, that lightness, that irresponsibility about not knowing what’s going to happen and kind of not caring is necessary.”

“The moral of the story is it’s not bad to be bored. And actually, boredom, and fear of boredom, is a great motivator. The sense that you allow yourself to get bored and then you get so frustrated you say, ‘Okay, now I really have to do something.'”

“The question that we ask ourselves is: “What protects you? what protects you in this world from sadness and from the loss of an ability to do something?” And for me, what protects me, of course, is work and love. And I think that those two things cover pretty much every single thing because who you love, what you love, and what you do with your time is really the only question that you have to answer.”

Hat Tip: Maira Kalman On Curiosity, Courage, Happiness, And The Two Keys To A Full Life, via Brain Pickings, published February 11, 2014.

Maira Kalman On Trying To Figure Out, Before The Day Begins, What Is Important…*

rethinked.org | photo by Elsa Fridman

“I read the obituaries first thing in the morning. With a cup of coffee. This is not morbid. Just epic. Maybe it is a way of trying to figure out, before the day begins, what is important. And I am curious about all the little things that make up a life. Little?”

-Maira Kalman, The Principles of Uncertainty

“The Etymology of Courage Relates to Wholeheartedness” …*

Here’s another lovely short interview with Debbie Millman (whom I’ve previously featured on rethinked * here, here and here). I love how honest and open she is about some of the deepest darkest fears that we often wrestle with in the solitude of private moments. I think it takes an admirable degree of courage, perhaps not coincidentally one of Debbie’s favorite themes, to open up publicly about one’s fears and insecurities, which she always seems to do with great insight and generosity.

In the video below, Debbie shares her views on design; branding; aspiring to overcome her fear of failure; and her admiration of Maira Kalman. Yet, what really caught my attention is an intriguing point about the difference between aiming to cultivate courage versus confidence, which Debbie makes while answering what living a good life means to her:

“Well, I’m going to spew all sorts of things now that are things that I aspire to, they’re not necessarily things that I can tell you, with my whole heart, I do. I just know that I’d like to do them more. And that is, to try to live without fear of failure. And so I like to think, I like to aspire to a place in my life where I wasn’t acting out of fear, I was only acting out of personal power. But that’s an aspiration, I am by far not doing that. I’d like to be able to live without feeling that it’s the last time I’m ever going to get an opportunity, because then that also creates a lot more insecurity—and you have to do this and you have to do that, and you have to do that because it’s never going to come your way again. I would have said a couple of months ago, I’d like to live with more confidence but I was talking to dani Shapiro, a great great writer; and Danni said that she actually doesn’t really think confidence is the key, that overly confident people or people with a lot of confidence tend to be really obnoxious and annoying. And that what’s more important is courage. So I’m sort of saying that, that I’d like to live with a sense of courage as opposed to fear. So those are the big things that I think about when I think about leading a full life.” – Debbie Millman

At this point in the conversation, one of the people at the table interjects, “Yeah, I was going to say that the etymology of courage it relates to wholeheartedness, so doing things wholeheartedly.” 

I loved this notion of courage and wholeheartedness stemming from the same root. I did a quick Google search to see for myself and one of the top results was this quote from Brene Brown, published in her bookI Thought It Was Just Me (but it isn’t): Making the Journey from “What Will People Think?” to “I Am Enough”:

“Courage is a heart word. The root of the word courage is cor – the Latin word for heart. In one of its earliest forms, the word courage meant “To speak one’s mind by telling all one’s heart.” Over time, this definition has changed, and today, we typically associate courage with heroic and brave deeds. But in my opinion, this definition fails to recognize the inner strength and level of commitment required for us to actually speak honestly and openly about who we are and about our experiences — good and bad. Speaking from our hearts is what I think of as “ordinary courage.”

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Debbie Millman on why design matters from Dumbo Feather on Vimeo.

[hat tip: Maira Kalman Lives From Courage via Explore]

{ Liszt’s Années de Pèlerinage, Blisters & Permethrin } A More Nomadic Iteration of rethinked …*

{ Liszt's Années de Pèlerinage, Blisters & Permethrin } A More Nomadic Iteration of rethinked ...*  |rethinked.org

“My dream is to walk around the world. A smallish backpack, all essentials neatly in place. A camera. A notebook. A traveling paint set. A hat. Good shoes. A nice pleated (green?) skirt for the occasional seaside hotel afternoon dance.” – Maira Kalman

Kaixo (“hello” in Basque), rethinkers *

We’ve gone silent on the blog rather abruptly these past few weeks and an update is long overdue. If it is any excuse, the last two weeks have been a whirlwind of preparations for a long journey and an updated more nomadic version of rethinked * 

A couple weeks ago, as we got together to dream and discuss the next iteration of rethinked * we decided it was time to get hard about living out the * ideals. From its very beginning, rethinked * has been grounded around several core principles–among them: smallness, w[o/a]nder and Δ– which we have aimed to explore and express as both dreams and questions in our work, lives and learning. This year, we decided to really push what it might mean to fully live out these principles. Which brings us to the Basque country, from which I am now writing this post.

I am taking rethinked * on the road and living out, in a very literal way–think rethinked*annex on steroids–many of the things we have been thinking and writing about these past two years (from the fascinating link between action and imagination; the connection between movement and creativitythe human impulse to w[o/a]nder; the function of changing environments in keeping us active thinkers; trusting in the processbeing in the world as a knowmad; traveling lightly and thriving within our individual tensions and contradictionstransformation processesdealing with the fear of change; our innate restlessness and embracing the spiritual aspect of walking). It is time to balance out our intellectual exploration of these ideas with a more emotional understanding of what all these things might mean.

After spending the past two weeks geeking out at REI; saying goodbye to friends in New York; watching YouTube videos on the proper way to apply permethrin to gear; packing my backpack, trying to lift it, stumbling around hunched over, taking stuff out only to put it back in an hour later; downloading four different versions of Liszt’s Années de Pèlerinage (I bought Murakami’s Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage at JFK, devoured it on my flight over and decided last night, in the midst of a bout of jet lag induced insomnia, that I absolutely must have the full set, in multiple versions, to listen to over the next few months) and giving myself a blister from writing down (hoarding) poems and quotes to take with me–all the while seeping in all sorts of existential questions–I am finally ready. Or as ready as I’m likely to ever be. Tomorrow, I will set out on the Camino Francés from Saint-Jean-Pied-De-Port and walk my way across Northern Spain to (hopefully) reach Santiago.

I will not be writing on the blog for the next two months although I will be taking with me a journal and a space pen, which, as its name suggests, allows one to write in every imaginable condition, space included. So the blog won’t be updated daily, but you can look forward to a couple posts from my teammates each week.

Finally, if you’re in Europe and would like to meet up to share ideas, food and moments, get in touch – elsa@rethinked.org –I will have some free time the last two weeks of October and would love to check out the intriguing projects and questions you’re exploring.

get lost & rethink …* 

{ Traveling Lightly …* } How Might We Thrive & Flourish Within Tensions & Contradictions?

{ Traveling Lightly ...* } How Might We Thrive & Flourish Within Tensions & Contradictions? | rethinked.org

“My dream is to walk around the world. A smallish backpack, all essentials neatly in place. A camera. A notebook. A traveling paint set. A hat. Good shoes. A nice pleated (green?) skirt for the occasional seaside hotel afternoon dance.” – Maira Kalman

Mine too (dream–down to the pleated skirt; definitely green). I have always felt quite strongly l’invitation au voyage, the compulsion to wander and explore, to pack up and walk into the unknown, yielding to restlessness. During my teenage years, I imagined Bruce Chatwin’s essay, The Nomadic Alternative, my personal manifesto. Having grown up in three different countries and across two continents, I have always fancied myself a true nomad. Flying back and forth between the United States and France, three times a year, every year until I turned eighteen, I remember looking at the little GPS monitor on the plane, feeling there must have been an error on my passport: I was not French, I belonged nowhere and everywhere–I was the child from the middle of the Atlantic.

Of course, I fully realize that there is a fair degree of romanticizing in my conception of nomadism in my life. I am well aware that, practically speaking, it would be more difficult than I like to think it, to pack everything up one crisp fall morning and walk into the unknown. There are leases and bills and my unimpressive muscles which would soon tire of a backpack, however neatly arranged, all of which would very much restrain my ability to live on the go. But the idea of nomad, not as daydream, but as value–the idea of treading lightly through life, of being nimble, curious and prone to exploration and unhousing at a moment’s notice–is and has been for as long as I can remember a core value in my worldview and sense of self.

So what happened? How is it that two weeks ago, I found myself drowning in my stuff, trying to cram an endless amount of things into far too few boxes. I was moving out of my apartment and decided that the move would be a good time to shed what I imagined to be my very few bulky possessions — a couch, a large bed, maybe store a few books with my parents. Yet once I started attempting to pack, taking things out of their designated spaces to place them in boxes, I was surrounded by things, my treasures, which taken collectively were suffocating me. Paper cranes, sculptures of matchsticks and clay, poster boards, countless stashes of notebooks and loose torn out pieces of paper covered in paint and words, my grandmother’s broken jewelry, boxes of letters, photographs, markers, books–everywhere–crawling like ants in every corner of every room. So many things, which, individually, delight and reassure me but when taken out of the nooks and closets in which they hide, thrown together, made me sick, literally, dizzy and nauseous. How could there be such a disconnect between how I imagine and desire my life and how I actually live it? And how I might I begin to align the vision and the reality more closely?

I have no answer to this question that I ask, which is a little bit about how to live lightly, but very much about how to exist productively within tensions and contradictions? For me, one of those tensions is how to reconcile the need for comfort and delight that things can provide with my need to feel free and light. We all exist within webs of such interlocking tensions, whatever they may be. I would love to hear your insights on how to flourish in this very human space…*

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