Friday, March 2, 2012


Strange indeed to wake up in bed alone! I spent some time sorting out the Internet access--$15.00 a day in the room, but free connection down in the lobby. No choice. I wrote out my blog entry as a Word document, then took the elevator down to get it posted. Not a serious problem, considering. I took the opportunity, at the same time, to grab a cup of coffee and a muffin in the lobby bar, then came back to my lonely room to get set for the day.

My first stop was the convention bookshop, to drop off a load of books. I had arranged ahead of time to bring fifteen copies of both “Persist” and “Mind Work” in the hope of selling a few to people who’d be attending my presentation scheduled for Sunday morning. So I was somewhat distressed to discover that the bookshop was planning to close down before my lecture ended! Still, by the end of the day I revisited the shelves and found the most of the copies had disappeared by the end of the first of four days. I’m now wishing I had brought more with me.

I next stopped by the exhibition hall and chatted with a number of the art school representatives there. A good opportunity to hobnob. And checked in on a couple of the panel sessions. The first was an object lesson, in my view, of how not to do it. The three panelists each read their presentation verbatim from a prepared paper, reminding me how dry and academic that can seem: the paper acts as a buffer between speaker and audience, and stands in the way of the direct communication that you feel when someone is actually talking to you and engaging you with eye and body language as well as with words. Interestingly, the topic was the kind of language needed to communicate the experience of art to students.

Of far greater interest, to me, was a presentation about The Compassion Project that involved numerous schools in Appleton, Wisconsin, and resulted in a museum exhibition showing the results. The children ranged in age from kindergarten to high school; they were asked to think about the meaning of compassion and then to make a small art work, measuring no more than a few inches square, expressing what it meant to them. The final exhibit at the Trout Museum of Art included some ten thousand tiny paintings, each accompanied by a statement made available online by mobile phone. A great idea. I would have liked to hear more about the impact on the kids and their community, but that might have taken more time than was allowed. One five-year-old thought to mention the Dalai Lama—but "I can't remember his name. He lives in the hills, he teaches care and bring nice to each other. Also, he has skinny legs... Dan Panda?" The work reached the attention of the (naturally) delighted lama himself, who wrote back with a nice note inscribed on the surface of the copy he had received.

Better success on the dinner front. I found a French restaurant just across the street, kitty-corner from the hotel, and enjoyed an outrageously rich hamburger with French fries. To compensate, I took a long walk north, around Columbus Circle, to the Lincoln Center and back south on Broadway to the inimitably garish Times Square. Back in the hotel, I was ill-advised enough to get hooked on the searing “Hotel Rwanda,” and couldn’t take my eyes off that inhuman catastrophe.

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