Friday, October 21, 2011

I celebrated simkhas toyre (at Occupy Wall Street no less!)

Never Done: I celebrated simkhas toyre (at Occupy Wall Street no less!)

Thursday, October 20, 2011

I got a purple pedicure

Never Done: I got a purple pedicure

Abigail noticed that purple and gray are trending, and so I decided that since I'm gray on top, I could be purple on the bottom, and my whole self could be trending too.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Monday, October 17, 2011

I saw Taylor Mac's first workshop of his new 24-hour show, a history of pop music

Never Done: I saw Taylor Mac's first workshop of his new 24-hour show, a history of pop music

The first decade he chose to workshop was the 1970s -- and he was resplendent, of course, in red wig, big shades, a crocheted poncho, and brown leather go-go boots. Next week he's workshopping the 1930s, and after that the Mikado. Eventually this will be a 24-hour show, spanning I don't even know how long.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

I got to be at Evan and Cheng's wedding!!!!

Never Done: I got to be at Evan and Cheng's wedding!!!!

Evan is one of the key architects of the marriage equality movement. Cheng has been his partner for 10 years. I adore them both. A LOT.

They decided against marrying in another state, but instead waited until they had won marriage equality here in New York. Never before have these words meant so much to me: "With the powers vested in my by the State of New York, I now pronounce you legally married."

So much fight. So much love.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

From dream to reality -- my first program at the JCC

Never Done: From dream to reality -- my first program at the JCC

My friend Mutamba played a beautiful show at the JCC -- an intercultural (Zimbabwean and Jewish) exploration of temporary shelter, for the holiday of sukes (Sukkot.) It felt wonderful to do a show that I thought up and put together -- and hopefully it's the first of many that make me feel proud.

Afterwards, on a whim, we rode the train to Harlem, because Mutamba had never been. And then we came home and I made a cake he loves at 1 AM -- for him to take home to his son. So tired, so worth it.

Friday, October 14, 2011

I went to Occupy Wall Street

Never Done: I went to Occupy Wall Street

I had the day off for Sukes (Sukkot) and so I finally got to go down to Occupy Wall Street. Truly impressive. I was particularly impressed with the gray water system and the General Assembly meeting that operated without electronic amplification -- by a speaker speaking, and then one group of people repeating the statement in loud unison, and then another group farther back into the crowd doing the same, until the word got to the back of the crowd. The meeting was about the proposed cleaning of Zuccotti Park, and how to avoid eviction.

News this morning: the protesters scrubbed the park clean themselves and mobilized thousands of people to come down to support them and protest the eviction, the company who had requested the cleaning withdrew the request, Russell Simmons offered to pay for a cleaning that would not evict the protesters, and it looks like victory for now.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

I gave an apple to the Occupy Wall Street subway satellite protester at the 72nd Street subway

Never Done: I gave an apple to the Occupy Wall Street subway satellite protester at the 72nd Street subway

I have not yet been to Zuccotti Park, but I plan to get down there today.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Mutamba came to visit!

Never Done: Mutamba came to visit!

(I walked in the morning and moisturized at night. First day after the new year that I did that on a work day.) But more delightfully, Mutamba arrived from Toronto, to spend 4 days with us and do a sukes musical program at the JCC on Friday night. (It's the second one down, and it's ridiculous that there isn't a photo. Here -- here's the Facebook invitation.) If you're in NY, you should come!

Also, we all went to the YIVO for a 25th year anniversary screening of Josh's film, Partisans of Vilna.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

A new year, some new daily commitments

Never Done: I made the agonizing decision not to attend my 30th high school reunion so I could go to the wonderful wonderful wedding of very close friends, one of whom is the architect of Marriage Equality

Also, I made the decision that I am not going to write a lot in my blog posts -- sometimes just the title of what I did. Sometimes, if I have time, I'll expand on that.

Also, I decided that this year, I am going to take a walk every morning and moisturize my face every evening. (It's that morning walking time that will use up my extensive blogging time. Hopefully the moisturizing won't take that much time.)

Monday, October 10, 2011

21 hours in Harvard

Never Done: 21 hours in Harvard, in which I 1) spent the night at Sue and Worth's, and 2) played Wise and Otherwise, and 3) met Rascal (the Durrant's new donkey) and 4) met Matt, the new editor of the Harvard Press

Done before: 1) I took a walk with Tetley and Colin on the road I grew up on, and 2) re-visited Erhart's house, and 3) drank Phil's cider, and 4) visited my parents and Claire's dad at the cemetery, and 5) visited the 1.85 acre property I fantasize about owning.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

I did one thing a day I have never done before, for a year

Never Done: I did one thing a day I have never done before, for a year

Here is an excerpt from a journal entry I wrote on yom kippur:

I am at Popham Beach, which is my favorite beach in the world. An estuary wends its way through the sand over the years has completely re-jiggered the topography of this beach, so that every year it looks -- and actually is -- different here. I just walked all over for an hour (fasting, hungry, a little weak) -- rediscovering and remembering and newly discovering, and I realized the metaphor can be applied to our very selves. From year to year we look similar, we are made of the same components -- same legs, same breasts, same mouths -- we remain essentially the same from year to year, and yet in other ways we are completely changed and unrecognizable.

I also want to note for you all that I started my Never Done practice at that beach a year ago. As the tide comes in at Popham Beach, the estuary fills in. It's important not to get caught on the wrong side of it. Last year, for the first time ever, after going to that beach for 45 years, I got caught on the wrong side -- with the same young person (and his mom and Josh) who came to shul with me for kol nidre. We had to wade across the cold, swift water, up to our chests, getting completely drenched -- but we crossed safely. And that was the moment I noticed that my Never Done practice was going to include some surprises -- that it wasn't going to be all hot air balloon rides and trips to Berlin.

And so it felt perfect to be back at Popham, and to cross the estuary many times, and at the end of the day, to look back at the year, in dry clothes, from the right side of the estuary.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

I brought friends to Kol Nidre in Bath, Maine

Never Done: I brought friends to Kol Nidre in Bath, Maine

It was the last day of the Never Done year, and I felt like doing something really big -- Extreme Never Done. But also, it was absolutely gorgeous weather -- the first gorgeous weather of our vacation -- and truly, all I wanted to do was be outside, walk in the woods, sit on the rocks, look at the river. Also, I had to clean the gutters, go to the dump, start the process of closing the house up for the winter. And so, with the benefit of a year's practice and reflection, I decided not to worry about finding an amazing Never Done activity, and to just let the day unfold.

And it did unfold. I felt a little sad that my time here was ending, and I also felt grateful for the time I had, and I also enjoyed the air and the sun and the scent of balsam fir. For the loons on the river, the bald eagle soaring, and leaves just starting to turn.

And as the day unfolded, I was in touch with my friends in Brunswick -- a mom and a 10-year-old -- who have never been to Kol Nidre service. (The boy has never been to shul.) I invited them to join us, and they accepted the invitation, and so at the end of the beautiful day, we met for organic local burgers in Bath, ME for my pre-fast meal (I was the only one of the three fasting. Our friends are not observant, and Josh, having recently been sick, was encouraged not to tax his body in that way.

And then we went to the shul I've been going to for the High Holidays for many years now -- an egalitarian congregation called Beth Israel. The part I want to mention is that it was my first time bringing a young person with me to shul, which I thoroughly enjoyed. He was completely focused, he sang along, he read the transliterated Hebrew, he asked questions -- he was so absorbent! And just at the point that we were coming up to the part that I personally find to be the heart of the service, and I leaned over and whispered that to his mother, he asked me if I could accompany him to the bathroom.

The part I loved about this was that even though it was the heart of the service for me, I was not at all torn about leaving to help him out. In fact, it felt like a perfect request at a perfect moment -- because in this year in which I thought I would have my own child by yom kippur, I welcomed the reminder that I have started to think like a parent, and have started to balance my own desires and focus against those of someone younger. In essence, I took the request as a gift, and not an interruption or a disappointment. And also, it was a reminder that even though I didn't get where I wanted to get -- to actually be a parent by now -- I have laid a lot of groundwork, and will be more ready when it does eventually happen that if it had happened sooner.

What a perfect end to this year.

Friday, October 7, 2011

I went to the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens

Never Done: I went to the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens

People are always telling me to go to the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens, but I haven't come up with a good reason to go. It's hard for me to understand why I'd want to go to a controlled natural environment garden when the entire area abounds with public access to uncontrolled natural environments. But when yet another person told me I should go, I decided, in the spirit of the next to last day in my Never Done year, that I should probably go. (There is more to say about this being the next to last day of the year -- I am still trying to figure out how to continue the practice. I am considering continuing doing something new every day and posting what that thing is, but only writing in the blog on occasion. Also, I am considering turning the blog into an interactive portal where other people can post their Never Done activities and thoughts about them.)

So after Josh and I went to Porter Preserve, one of my favorite parcels of Boothbay Regional Land Trust land, where we fell asleep on a rock in the sun, we went over to the Botanical Gardens. We got there about an hour before they closed, and it's a big place with many gardens and woods paths, so the woman who sold us tickets suggested that we go into the children's garden because it is "so magical and fun." I can't say that I expected to love the children's garden, and I was much more interested in the parts that I thought would be more like a curated forest, with native plants in a native environment, only labeled. But nonetheless, we followed her advice and started in the children's garden. It wasn't long before I felt that we were wasting our time, and that the children's garden was "stupid." (Yes, that was my word. Not one I'm particularly proud of, but one that does make Josh laugh.) The part I am proud of is that as soon as I noticed that there was an entire world we could be exploring, we practiced Decisiveness: Once you have made a decision act without hesitation, and we struck out for less manicured pastures (or paths.) But not before seeing some lovely stone work, which turned out to be throughout the entire gardens (even in the stupid children's area.)

We ended up walking all over the garden in the hour we were there -- through the Burpee Kitchen Garden, the Rose and Perennial Garden, the Haney Hillside Garden, over the Huckleberry Cove Trail (my favorite part, following alongside a beautiful rock ledge on one side, and the Sheepscott River on the other side) and to the Vayo Meditation Garden. We climbed back up the hill from the river and found the Lerner Garden of the Five Senses, where I found Hobbit xxx, which I think my mom would have loved, and eventually a stone Reflexology meditation path, which a sign invited me to walk on, barefoot. And so with long johns under my jeans, three sweaters and a wool hat, I took off my shoes, and walked along the spiraling path, and just as I was taking my last steps, a woman called down to tell us that the gates to the gardens were about to close. From stupid to sublime, an hour well-spent.

(I took lots of photos, but they are not uploading correctly. I will try again once I am at a more familiar internet connection.)

Thursday, October 6, 2011

I missed an entire season of osprey

Never Done: I missed an entire season of ospreys

I have been coming to this house on the mouth of the Damariscotta River in Maine since 1967.  I found ospreys to be so riveting that I wrote my fifth grade science report on the osprey (and boy do I wish I had it here so I could scan the cover, and show you my own colored pencil rendering of an osprey's likeness.) At the time, they were endangered by DDT. People from Maine Audubon used to come out and climb up trees that had nests, to test the eggs for poison. (DDT caused egg shells to become too thin, and they would break when the osprey would roost.) For many years, I was vigilant about observing the young -- elated when I would see their heads pop out of the nest, curious when I would hear their peeps, encouraging when they would start to fledge. And then with time, things got easier for the osprey, and more and more young were born, and slowly they moved off the endangered species list, and eventually they became ubiquitous. A day wouldn't go by when I couldn't spend hours, literally, watching them fish -- or just fly.

I spent many years far away from Maine, but still, I came back to visit, and when I did, the first thing I would do was to look to see where the fish hawks were nesting that year. Since I've been living back on the East Coast, I've been able to come more often to Maine, and as the years have gone on, more and more bald eagles have joined the osprey on this river bank. This year, however, I didn't get to Maine in April, as I planned, and then also not in May, and then not in June or July. And not in August. And by the time I finally got here at the end of September, the ospreys had left already. At first I didn't believe it; it seems early for them to leave -- I have shared this space with them well into October in years past.  But after three days here and no osprey sighting anywhere, I realized they had gone. That same day, I saw my first loon of the season. (They tend to show up just about the time that ospreys head south.)

How strange to miss an entire bird season. It takes an entire day to get here from Brooklyn, so once I started my full-time, non freelance job, it became quite difficult to get up here for even a long weekend. As this year comes to an end, and I examine my relationships over the past year, and I think about what I hope to accomplish and experience in this next year, I am trying to think of a way to get out of NYC more often, without running myself ragged. I also realize that I need to plan some days off when I don't plan to go anywhere, but to do laundry, get my car fixed, and just rest.  Balance. It's all about balance. Because if I don't take time to get my car fixed, then I can't get out of town to hang out with ospreys. But if I only get my car fixed (that's a metaphor -- and also applies to grocery shopping, laundry, and the other mundanities of life) then of course I'm distanced from my spiritual and physical life, and I will never get to see the ospreys.

So as this year draws to a close, and as this next one draws near, I welcome balance into my life. And into yours.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

I burned a flag

Never Done: I burned a flag

It wasn't a political act. It was actually a very mundane act. I was cleaning up the house. I made a pile of all the old newspapers we didn't need anymore, and I culled out the shells that people had collected over the season that don't need to sit on a shelf over winter. Once I got going, I cleaned out the other shelves as well, because they are cluttered up with lots of other stuff I wish wasn't there. Stuff like old pieces of paper with Scrabble scores, empty Bubbles bottles, and little paper American flags on sticks.

I burn all my paper waste here, and compost all my vegetable matter, and try to create as little garbage for the landfill as possible, so when it came to dispose of the toy American flags, the natural thing for me to do would be to burn them. I am truly not very sacred about the flag, but this did give me pause. Throwing them into a landfill would be as much a desecration as burning them, so the only patriotic options would be to keep them or give them away. But the more I looked at them, the more they became absurd -- the way, if you look hard enough at a word, say the word bulldozer, it reduces to a pile of letters with questionable meaning. Paper on sticks. Paper on sticks. All I could see was paper on sticks. Maybe, I thought, the ban on flag burning doesn't even apply to paper on sticks, but only to full-sized cloth flags. Maybe it only applies to a public act. Maybe it only applies to an act with political intent to desecrate.

So I looked it up. Yes, it's a flag. It's a flag if it's on T-shirt, it's a flag if it's on boxer shorts, and it's a flag if it's on a tie. If it looks like a flag, it's a flag. And you can not burn it, or desecrate it in other ways. (It can not be used as a handkerchief, it cannot be printed on toilet paper, it's can't be torn up to use as a rag.) Which raises the question: if your flag T-shirt has gotten so old that it's time to retire it, how do you do that? To answer that question, the article I was reading on, directed me to "My flag is old and ready to be retired. What should I do?" 

You're never gonna believe this. Section 8k of the Flag Code states, "The flag, when it is in such condition that it is no longer a fitting emblem for display, should be destroyed in a dignified way, preferably by burning."

And so we have it. You cannot burn a flag in displayable condition, but you should burn a flag that is ready to be retired. All that's left is the gray zone in which we get to use our own judgement to determine the condition of the flag.  I placed mine in the fire.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

I went inside the old stone church at Ocean Point

Never Done: I went inside the old stone church at Ocean Point

I have been coming to East Boothbay, Maine for 45 years. I have lived and worked here for many months at a stretch, and I have come for a few days at a time. I have walked for miles through woods and climbed for miles over rocks. I thought I knew Ocean Point inside and out, but it turned out I only knew it outside and out. I've walked all over, I've played tennis on the community courts, I've gone swimming to the little island, I've napped on the rocks in the sun, I've gotten soaked by sea spray, I've been there at dawn and I've been there at dusk, but as it turned out, I have never been inside the old stone church.

And then, as Josh and I were walking past it, the door to the church was open. Just like that -- a literal open door inviting us in.  It's a tiny stone chapel with wooden pews and a wooden ... OK, I was just going to call it a bima, which is the word for it in a synagogue, but I guess it's a pulpit. (Is that right? What's the name for the entire area that includes the pulpit? On an elevated platform, with other chairs for people to sit on, and a door to the confession room?) Also, there's an organ in there. The church was built in 1917, and sits literally on the end of the point. If you stand at the front of the church and look out over the congregation, then through the open door you are mere yards away from the Atlantic Ocean. (There are places when New England feels like old England, and this is one of them.)

What's great about this door being open, and my being able to go inside this church, is that just two days earlier, someone told me a story about an ethical dilemma she had in connection to this church and this organ. Her niece is getting married there in late October. It's a small, stone, unheated space, and it is likely to be quite cold. (For comparison's sake, it's 43 degrees here today, in early October.) She wanted to think of a way to warm it up, and so she offered to hire an organist to play music. (Before we dive into her ethical dilemma, can we just pause to admire that her idea of how to warm up a cold stone church was to bring in music? How wonderful is that?) The problem is, her daughter thinks she overstepped by offering to take charge of the music -- that it wasn't her place to take charge of anything.  Especially something as vital as music.

I disagreed, on the theory that the bride could have declined her offer. It's not like our friend bribed her, or threatened to boycott the wedding if she wasn't put in charge of the music. Also, weddings are expensive, and sometimes the brides and/or grooms need some financial help. I myself went through a similar decision process just recently. I learned that some friends getting married were stretched pretty thin financially, and that they were pinching pennies so they could have beer at the wedding. My immediate inclination was to see if I could sponsor the beer. They had already organized a potluck, and other people were helping with flowers and cake and dress. I thought it was a great opportunity to help, but it's not like I was going to make the beer -- like friends were making the cake and dress, or we were all making the food. I took a couple hours to think it over, and then realized that even though it wasn't a creative contribution on my part, it was both heartfelt and opportune. I made the offer, it was accepted, and everyone was happy (and some people were very happy.) Sometimes open doors are literal, and sometimes they are not, but I have found this year that it's generally a good idea to walk through them.

Monday, October 3, 2011

I watched an entire season of television in one day

Never Done: I watched an entire season of television in one day (Is it still television if it's on a computer?)

It was about the rainiest day possible. Pounding, driving, hard core rain didn't cease. All I wanted to do was hunker down and sew or bake or play Scrabble or watch Friday Night Lights, and the beauty of being on vacation is that I got to do three out of four of those things. (I didn't take out my sewing.) I had finished the abbreviated (by the writers' strike) Season Two when I was still in Brooklyn, and so I made a cup of tea and tuned in to Season Three.

First of all, when a season gets abbreviated by a strike, a LOT of story gets dropped off. So Season Three had to do some heavy lifting to quickly fill us in on important plot. I'm not going to do this here, because I don't want to spoil anything, but I will put in my requisite recommendation for the show. (It's all available on Netflix.) In fact, I am not going to write about the show at all, but instead about how much fun it was to finish one episode and immediately turn on another, and to know that there was no place else I was supposed to be, and no reason to go outside and get soaked. I didn't even get hungry for dinner -- just lots of tea, water, and cider and my place on the couch.

At first I wasn't watching with a goal of completing a season. I was just watching. But at the point that I noticed it would be possible -- (and this reminded me of completing the triathlon in under 4 hours -- I didn't have any time goals until I rounded the 4 mile mark and noticed I could do it in under 4 if I tried) -- I decided to go for it. I started to stretch in between episodes, and moved off the couch to the bed for the final two. (Who knew that watching 9 straight hours of TV would require such strategy?)

As I write this, I am thinking about the mides (middot) in order to see if there's anything ethical about my decision to watch all that TV, and what I come up with is: Diligence: Always find something to do. For those of us who are over-scheduled and under-rested, I think that watching 9 hours of really good TV is actually a completely valid -- and maybe even evolved -- reading of the principle of Diligence. I wouldn't want to do it every day, and I don't even feel like doing it again on this vacation, but I'm pretty proud of myself for slowing down enough to achieve that level of being a lump.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

I ate ice cream that was frozen in 3 minutes by pouring liquid nitrogen into a tub of cream and strawberries ... at Serena and Brian's wedding

Never Done: I ate ice cream that was frozen in 3 minutes by pouring liquid nitrogen into a tub of cream and strawberries ... at Serena and Brian's wedding

I met Serena when she was twelve years old and I was just twenty four. And now, I just went to her wedding celebration. She got married in the field just a few hundred yards from the house where she was born. There were people (in addition to her parents) at her wedding who were in the room when she was born. There were people at her wedding who she knows much more recently, but who are as deeply embraced by her family and community as those of us who have been there longer. And speaking of being there longer ... I moved away 20 years ago, and I still feel completely embraced in Serena's world. She and I have seen each other in many places. She spent 10 years in San Francisco during many of my 12 years in Portland, so I got to be with her as she came of age, on her own, on the West coast. This has given us a level of continuity that is not always possible in our modern times.

I've been thinking about life cycle a lot lately, and how difficult it is to observe life cycles in the city, and how much I miss that. I don't think it's hard for everyone; I can see that people who are born and raised in the city, and have their family in the city, get to stay connected over entire life cycles -- even over more than one generation. I miss having this connection in my own life; it's one of the things that keeps me yearning for a rural life -- and even a life connected to my own home town, or at least New England where all of my mom's family lives.

And so it was particularly moving to be with Serena (and her whole family and community) to celebrate her marriage to Brian (a Floridian who has been welcomed into the Maine family) on some land I've spent time on (on and off) for 25 years.

And if all that wasn't enough of a meaningful Never Done activity for one day, Serena made it even more new by inviting a high school science teacher to make strawberry ice cream at her wedding -- by pouring cream, vanilla, and strawberry puree into a big plastic tub, pouring liquid nitrogen on top of it, and stirring stirring stirring. It was a wonderful sight -- Serena in her wedding gown, holding down the bucket with giant oven mitts on her hands, with liquid nitrogen fog floating all around her. (Also, the ice cream was delicious.)

Mazl tov to Serena and Brian! I wish you a lifetime of happiness and ice cream.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

I played Angry Birds

Never Done: I played Angry Birds

It was the second day of rosh hashone, and Josh and I went to my favorite place on the Sheepscott River to do tashlikh. What was particularly wonderful about being there was that we arrived just as the highest  tide I have ever seen there was turning (yes, it's a river, but it's close enough to the ocean that it's tidal and brackish) and starting to recede. It felt like the metaphorically perfect place to do tashlikh. The tide itself was turning, along with the year, in time to carry away our off-cast transgressions. I did tashlikh using the Mussar mides (middot) -- for each one, I thought about what's still hardest for me, and I cast that away, and then I welcomed in the mides themselves.

Humility: seek wisdom from everybody
Patience: Do not aggravate a situation with wasted grief
Equanimity: Rise above events that are inconsequential
Truth: Say nothing unless you are 100% sure it is true
Decisiveness: When you have made a decision, act without hesitation
Cleanliness: Let no stain or ugliness on our self/space
Order: All actions and possessions should have a set place and time
Righteousness: What is hateful to you do not do to others
Frugality: Be careful with your money
Diligence: Always find something to do
Silence: Reflect before speaking
Calmness: Words of the wise are stated gently
Separation: Respect in sexual and intimate relationships

And then after a little hike and a little nap in the sun, we went on to Brunswick to a birthday party for a 10-year-old friend. We were the first ones there, and his mom was still upstairs showering, so we went and hung out in his playroom to play. The first thing he showed us was the brand new Tablet he had gotten for his birthday, and the first thing he showed us on the Tablet was Angry Birds. OK, how is it that it hadn't occurred to me that Angry Birds is wildly popular because it is FUN? It's not a fluke. It's not a conspiracy. It's just really fun. (This falls in the category of my discovering that books on the New York Times bestsellers list are really good books, like The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.)

For those of you who have never played Angry Birds, you use a slingshot to fling birds at pigs that are trapped in buildings. The pigs have apparently stolen eggs from the birds, but that's not evident at the low levels of the game, where I started out. It's hard to describe why this is fun, or why it's funny, but it is. In fact, as I thought about how to describe it, I realized I don't actually know why it's so successful. So I googled, "Why is Angry Birds so popular?" and came up with this cognitive teardown of that very question. I love the section in this article called Mystery. The author claims that one of the things that makes it popular is the element of Mystery. I quote, and I propose that this element of Mystery is the nexus of spirituality and technology:

You probably do not know how to recognize it, but Angry Birds has it. To add context to this idea, mystery is all around us in the things we find truly compelling. The element or attribute of mystery is present in all great art, advertising, movies, products, and not surprisingly, interactive games. The idea of mystery in a user experience as an attribute for increasing user engagement is embedded in the idea of mystery (conceptual depth). We all experience the impact of mystery when we view a cubist period Picasso, recall the famous Apple 1984 super bowl ad, or listen to Miles Davis.  He is said to have described jazz as playing the spaces between the notes, not the notes themselves. Mystery is present when you pick up an iPad for the first time. Why are the icons spaced out across the screen when they could be clustered much closer together to save space. Why does the default screen saver look like water on the inside of the screen?
Mystery is that second layer of attributes that are present but undefined explicitly, yet somehow created with just enough context to consume mental resources in subtle and compelling ways. At its most basic level, experiencing mystery in what we interact with makes you ask the question, “Why did they do that?”.  What we mean here is, “Why did they do that? – A good thing, not “What were they thinking? – A bad thing.  If you think carefully about the experiences you have in the ebb and flow of life, you realize that the most compelling are those that force you to think long and hard about why a given thing is the way it is. For example, why did Frank Gehry create the Guggenheim Museum Bilboa using the shapes he did? The famous architect could have created any shape concept, but why did he choose those shapes? It’s a mystery – we do not know and probably neither does he. What we do know is that his creation is cited as one of the most important works of contemporary architecture. In the same way that a building can captivate millions of sightseers, the element of mystery (conceptual depth) can help sell a few million copies of a simple interactive game.
Angry Birds is full of these little mysteries. For example, why are tiny bananas suddenly strewn about in some play sequences and not in others? Why do the houses containing pigs shake ever so slightly at the beginning of each game play sequence? Why is the game’s play space showing a cross section of underground rocks and dirt? Why do the birds somersault into the sling shot sometimes and not others? One can spend a lot of time on the Acela processing these little clues, consciously or subconsciously. When users of technology process information in this way, it is very likely that they are more deeply engaged than without these small questions.