1. It’s been a minute.
2. There’s much going on, most of which is fairly mundane in the context of everything else going on, but distractions from the kind of quiet out of which arises meaningful thoughts translated into words.
3. Changes. Mostly exciting. Have you ever tried to sell your business on your own? Call me, if so. I have a few questions.
5. Speaking of meaningful thoughts, a few weeks ago I was talking to a friend.
6. We met about 15 years ago. I was just starting out as a professor at USC in the Interactive Media Division — part of the "Film School." He was finishing high school, visiting USC with his father trying to decide on college.
7. We talked for maybe an hour. He poured through his laptop showing his work with a level of unbridled excitement and energy. He had a particular kind of playfulness that came from the joy of creation and curiosity. Peculiar sculpture that mixed jewelry with taxidermy. A reel of stop-motion animation made with practical materials — no CG. This was pre-iPhone or anything like that. I was awed.
8. I saw this beautiful effervescent creative soul. I kept it low-key, but it was clear that this feller had a unique sensibility and eye and feel.
9. We all went to lunch. We had tacos. I prefaced what I had to say:
10. “You may not like what I’m going to say, but I have to say..”
11. Wide eyes. Mouths wide ajar in anticipation of the ingress of savory al pastor. Tacos dripped as they stood frozen mid air.
12. “ — do not come to school here. It'll crush your soul.”
14. He didn't. We became friends. I suppose I was a mentor. We collaborated on projects, mostly art-design-technology adventures. In a strange way I never felt like I was teaching something or anything really. Just talking and making. Maybe because I felt I was learning. Seeing things I otherwise wouldn’t have seen. Music. Cultures I hadn’t a clue about. Insights and films. I made a map of the circuit of museums and institutions to visit. He’d go with his dad on tours of these places. He just reminded me of the meal we had at the preposterously early hour of 5pm in Linz Austria during Ars Electronica that one time cause his dad was starving.
15. All of that was incredibly satisfying and rewarding.
16. We hadn’t been in touch for maybe 5 years, I would say. No drama. Just momentary divergent paths.
17. Out of the blue, he sent a text around early this spring, just as the world was beginning to think about rolling out of quarantine.
18. “Yo! What’s up?”
19. We arranged to meet at his studio.
20. It was a beautiful thing he’s created. The feeling was somewhere between awe and elation. It’s got a back patio and perfect cafe with a banh mi I think about from time to time. And we were talking and our catching up was unfolding over multiple chats each multiple hours.
21. Maybe the third or fourth time we met up, in that conversation, as he was tangentially describing how he decides what the studio creates and who they collaborate with, and all of that. It came down to creating meaning that resonates with a sensibility and a community. In that I was seeing a kind of descriptive prop materialize in my mind's eyeball. It was a slider, like a fader on a mixing board only it ran left to right. On one end was “Make Meaning” and on the other end it said “Make Money”.
22. And I liked the way it rhymed in my head — Make Meaning. Make Money.
23. We know what it is to Make Money.
24. What is it to Make Meaning? I’m not here to tell you precisely I can only speak from my own experience which is to say that Making Meaning is to touch others in a way that introduces wonder and reflection. Making Meaning creates community. It may be a disruption of comprehension to compel thought and consideration. Making meaning is to create unexpected and unanticipated understanding as to the state of things.
25. Sense-making — making sense of things — is what one does when one focuses efforts on making meaning.
26. Find the right balance, but always start with making meaning and find the place somewhere on that slider that creates a balance and I think you will have found what it is to live, truly. The Meaning.
27. That one guy Bernstein in "Citizen Kane" said something that I'll never, ever forget and sounds so simple and maybe means more in the film than that 'Rosebud' gag: "Well, it's no trick to make a lot of money... if what you want to do is make a lot of money."
28. Making something that makes meaning is to create something that touches the soul, truly. Something that builds community, and is full of sense, and changes the way we see and understand, and feel — something that makes someone feel. To do that — well, that's a rare trick..a rare trick, indeed.
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