Here is a slide from my friend Bill Keaggy’s TEDx talk, “How to Find Attention, Mindfulness, and Creativity in the Ordinary.”
After going through some of his own creative work — I highly recommend his books 50 Sad Chairs and Milk, Eggs, Vodka — and the work of others, Bill suggests a very simple 30-minute workout for everyone:
Walk around. Pay attention. Take pictures.
Bill says there’s two ways to pay attention while you’re walking:
- “Ambient noticing” — you’re just soaking in everything, taking in the big picture, and letting things come at you
- “Purposeful attention” — you have a goal of seeking out specific things, such as colors, signs, sad chairs, etc.
I recommend watching the whole talk:
I was struck by how much Bill’s talk aligns with the work of another friend of mine, Rob Walker. Not just the stuff in Rob’s book, The Art of Noticing and excellent newsletter of the same name, but also his work with Joshua Glenn on Significant Objects, and most recently, Lost Objects.
When Bill talks about his photos of sad chairs, he says, “Chairs are just chairs. They’re not very moving… So you need to add a layer of story. And just a little is enough.”
This is almost exactly the way the Objects projects operate — by adding a “layer of story” to objects, we give them significance, maybe even value, and we cause people to pay attention to them.
(I’m sometimes shocked when friends of mine aren’t friends with each other, as if the connection between them — my brain — is somehow actually real and in the world.)
Bill’s talk also made me think about the different ways we can pull meaning out of our collections of images, including at least:
- Juxtaposition, by assembling a gallery of images in multiple next to each other
- Addition, by way of annotation — adding text below or drawing directly on the image
- Subtraction, cutting up the images, or removing elements (see: my de-signs, which Bill kindly mentions
Bill and I actually got to have lunch yesterday and instead of shopping or going to a museum, we took a nice 30-minute stroll down the Shoal Creek Book Walk and east across the hike and bike trail back to his hotel. It was a convivial echo of Wednesday evening when I took the same walk solo to clear my mind (and avoid rush hour traffic) before meeting John Hendrickson at the same hotel.
While I am writing about my friends, let me share something my friend Marty Butler shared with me on one of our recent bike rides.
This is what Luigi Ferrucci, the scientific director at the National Institute on Aging, suggests for achieving longevity: