The Ideaspace

Interviews, essays, and research exploring the frontiers of what's valuable and in our self-interest

Using the bento

11 posts

Lab Notes: Bento Groups Season One

“Welcome Angeline. Welcome Susie. Welcome Keshia. Welcome Yancey.”

There are ten of us in the room. Katy says our names and makes eye contact with each of us through the screen when she does. We smile as she welcomes us.

Though she’s leading us this morning, Katy is not a professional facilitator. She’s an architect in New York. But today she’s leading a Zoom room that includes two writers, a teacher, a product manager, a salesperson, a non-profit executive, a university department chair, an artist, and me. The ten of us are spread across upstate New York, Maine, Singapore, Geneva, London, Minneapolis, Los Angeles, Brooklyn, Vancouver, and Amsterdam.

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The Anytime Weekly Bento

This week marks the one year birthday of Bentoism. I marked the occasion with a Twitter thread sharing some history behind the idea.

Going back to my Kickstarter days, I've always taken joy in celebrating birthdays for ideas and organizations. They’re wonderful moments to reminisce and retrace your steps.

While doing that this week, I cam

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Introducing Bento Groups

In a recent post on the difficult place we currently find ourselves in, I shared what the authors of the prescient book Limits To Growth said are the five steps to creating a better world. They are:

  1. Visioning
  2. Networking
  3. Truth-telling
  4. Learning
  5. Loving

The authors admitted these steps sounded small in the face of our enormous challenges. Still, they were firm in their belief that this was how a better path would begin.

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See Like a Novelist

“Though my problems are meaningless
That don’t make them go away” — Neil Young

“Most things I worry about
Never happen anyway” — Tom Petty

“Now I'm feeling lonely
My mind is playing tricks on me” — Geto Boys

Our minds are our reality.

What do we want? What our minds tell us to want.

What do we worry about? What our minds tell us to worry about.

We build realities on stories our minds tell us. Even when we’re the only ones who hear them.

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Coherence and Flow

While I was the CEO of Kickstarter, I played in a long-running Dungeons & Dragons game with a group of my coworkers. (I blogged about this at the time here.)

If you’ve never played D&D, it’s basically an open-ended choose your own adventure game. The Dungeon Master lays out a scenario (following instructions in a book), and the players decide through conversation what to do.

In our initial times playing the game, we carefully debated and plotted to find the optimal answer to each situation

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In what ways are you improving on silence?

This question was posed by the curator Kimberly Drew in an interview with The Creative Independent in 2016. The internet was noisy, Drew said, and she didn’t want to add to it. So before posting online she asked herself the question: In what ways are you improving on silence?

Later that year The Creative Independent, a resource I cofounded, put Drew’s quote on a billboard in upstate New York. It was a question worth more consideration, we thought.

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Like everyone else, those of us here at the Bento Society have spent the past month wrapping our heads around our new reality. We’ve whiplashed between comfort and fear, between optimism and pessimism. We’ve largely stayed balanced thanks to the bento and its bird’s eye view.

The moment has placed increased importance on the bento. I speak from personal experience. I’ve turned to the framework more often the past month to make sense of our world. I’ve also been able to feel the presence of the Us and Future spaces in a way that was harder before.

I’m not alone. The number of people who have reached out asking for what the bento has to say about this moment is evidence of this. Those spaces are becoming more real to a lot of people. The notion that a world exists beyond our immediate self-interest has perhaps never been more clear.

In my personal newsletter I’ve shared some of my feelings — about our new normal and how this might create a new kind of collective consciousness — but it’s still too early to say much definitively. Events are still unfolding. There may be multiple false endings. We need a heightened sense of awareness to navigate this. That’s what we’ll talk about today.

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The Weekly Bento

Today I want to share the most impactful use of the bento in my life so far. I do it every Sunday morning, and it’s noticeably changed how I use my time and energy. It can do the same for you.

I call it the Weekly Bento.

It all started on a Sunday morning last fall.

I’d written a book that had recently come out. On that morning I was feeling especially anxious. I wanted commercial success so badly I was open to any idea that might get me attention: livestreams, giveaways, you name it. Whatever it took.

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The Art of Experiencing

“Arriving late at a performance, and seated in the center of the second row, I looked up and saw what I thought was an actor having a seizure onstage. Embarrassed for him, I lowered my eyes, and it wasn’t until the young man who’d brought me grabbed my arm and said, ‘Watch this guy!’ that I realized he was acting.”

— Pauline Kael on seeing Marlon Brando for the first time

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