Design Your Self: White Space, Aug. 2012 retreat

Design Your Self: White Space
An informal retreat to explore the possibilities

“The usefulness of a water pitcher dwells in the emptiness where water might be put, not in the form of the pitcher or the material of which it is made.” Lao-tse (604-531 B.C., Book of Tea)

What: A retreat to explore the design element of white space, both in the contexts of design and of philosophy—how do we utilize the spaces we have available to make a design (and a life) work?

When: evening of August 24 to noon on Sunday, August 26, 2012

Where: Shalom Hill Farm, Windom, Minnesota (about 2.5 hours southwest of the Twin Cities)

Peter Shea and I, two instructors for the University philosophy course Lives Worth Living: Questions of Self, Vocation, and Community (Philosophy Camp), had a brainstorm/conversation during last spring’s course about playing with the intersection of design and philosophy by looking at one through the lens of the other. To further explore this idea we’d like to initiate a series of occasional weekend retreats, playing with design elements and concepts like contrast, hierarchy, proximity, etc. We’ll do hands-on design activities and use design concepts as metaphors for telling and listening to stories from our own and each others’ lives. The format for the weekend follows one used in a series of “folk school retreats” that helped develop the ideas that eventually became Philosophy Camp. In the spirit of “design it yourself”, participants will work together to design parts of the retreat. Everyone is invited to help with meal preparation and clean-up and there will be open times when participants are able to create group or individual activities. Subsequent retreats can be generated from the “starter yeast” of the this first one—interested participants can come up with the ideas and activities for the next one, and so on. Participants can attend one retreat or may be inspired to attend several, depending on their interest and availability – each retreat will be a theme that is independent of the others, so it won’t be necessary to attend them all or in sequence to get something out of the experience.

Rough schedule for the retreat weekend:

Friday, August 24
Arrive in time for 6 p.m. dinner (arrive around 4 p.m. if you would like to help with cooking). After clean-up we’ll do an introductory story circle and evening design activity

Saturday, August 25
Breakfast will be a self-serve assortment of baked goods, granola, fruit, and yogurt. Eggs are also available. We’ll meet at around 9 a.m. for a story circle, then break to prepare and eat lunch. After lunch there will be a hands-on design activity. Later in the afternoon there will be free time available to go for a walk, take a nap, do some sketching, or whatever. We’ll start preparing dinner around 5 p.m. After dinner and dishes are done there will be more open time for conversations, walks, and/or group-generated activities.

Sunday, August 26
After breakfast we’ll have a closing story circle, then be ready to leave by noon.

Cost for the weekend is on a sliding scale: $72, $92, or $112.
The actual fee of $92 includes a single room for two nights and all food. Pay the lower fee of $72 if that’s what you can afford, or the higher fee of $112 if you can afford to provide a scholarship. If you share a room your fee will be $10 less for the weekend ($62, $82, $102).

We can accommodate up to 16 participants.

Shalom Hill Farm is a modern retreat facility on a historic farm near Windom, Minn. The surrounding landscape of restored prairie, wetlands, and wide-open skies provide a peaceful and rejuvenating experience. Although it’s not a working farm, there are chickens (and fresh eggs), sheep, cats, and Otie, the Jack Russell Terrier (who loves to go on prairie walks).

RSVP to Nance at longley (at), by Friday, August 17 and then we’ll get information out to you about driving directions. Let me know if you have any dietary restrictions so we can plan the food accordingly. Meals will be simple and vegetarian, with a vegan option if needed.

Contact me at longley (at) with any questions. Feel free to forward to anyone you think may be interested. Hope you can make it!


Nance Longley graphic designer for the College of Education and Human Development graduate student in the College of Design University of Minnesota

Peter Shea adjunct faculty, Gustavus Adolphus College, philosophy video producer, Bat of Minerva

Anna Lohse co-owner, baker, and barista, Hard Times Cafe Philosophy Camp alumnus and apprentice instructor

Mary Ellen Shaw coordinator, Student Progress & Scholarships, College of Education and Human Development Student Services community faculty at Metro State University, religious studies Philosophy Camp fellow 2006

Author: Lynn

Contributor of ideas and possibilities for cooperative governance, education, and society; maker, mother, daughter, life partner; lifelong learner.