In April, we - Vivita and Avneet, the co-founders of The Wishing Chair, released the "Delights of Distraction" newsletters; a grab-bag of some of our favorite links across the internet that lent some diversion, inspiration and solace during these unsettling times. We hope to continue this weekly correspondence as long as it resonates with you, our readers - our true sources of joy and delight.
Every time we hear the term "The New Normal" we want to throw a big bottle of sanitizer at the offender! It's an over-used, much-maligned pandemic-coined phrase that seeks to quell the anxiety of living in this strange new environment, but does much the opposite. But it does reflect our "shifting baselines", that David Roberts writes about in this Vox article, on how easily overwhelmingly large issues like climate change or a pandemic can become normalized. He writes, "Humans often don’t remember what we’ve lost or demand that it be restored. Rather, we adjust to what we’ve got."
The concept of shifting baselines was introduced in a 1995 paper by Daniel Pauly. Roberts further explains "It turns out that, over the course of their lives, individuals do just what generations do — periodically reset and readjust to new baselines."
There is a tremendous amount of research showing that we tend to adapt to circumstances if they are constant over time, even if they are gradually worsening,” says George Loewenstein, a professor of economics and psychology at Carnegie Mellon. He cites the London Blitz (during World War II, when bombs were falling on London for months on end) and the intifada (the Palestinian terror campaign in Israel), during which people slowly adjusted to unthinkable circumstances."
“Fear tends to diminish over time when a risk remains constant,” he says, “You can only respond for so long. After a while, it recedes to the background, seemingly no matter how bad it is.”
A lot of our daily living seems to be reminiscent of the 80s; few cars on the street, cleaner air, people convening at others' homes for tea instead of cafes and restaurants, and much less conspicuous consumption. Do you think we'll get used to this way of living or fuse back into our hyper-capitalistic ways by the end of the year? If only this new world could accommodate the Utopian mix of both; the economic prosperity of the latter and the normalizing of cancelled plans and empty parking spots of the former.
And while we're dreaming of that, here are some of our favourites of the week for you to check out:
To Read: J K Rowling has been in the news recently for all the wrong reasons, but don't let her lack of wokeness on trans-rights stop you and your mini humans from reading the new book that she's released chapter by chapter for free! Rowling wrote it as a bedtime fairytale for her kids, which is now in serialised form alongside crowd-sourced illustrations by children. It's a perfect fantasy story; with kings and magic and speaking truth to power; it's ideal comfort literature for young readers, and even you.
And while we are speaking of J K Rowling here's an article on cancel culture and how we need to move beyond woke activism into context culture.
To Marvel: If you're feeling a deep void in your wanderlust hearts, here's a beautifully designed site, that allows you to look through someone else’s window, somewhere in the world, for a while. It's a genius idea for people still locked in their homes, letting you experience other people’s views from around the world in the form of videos taken from their windows.
To Cook: Is it a cookie, is it a brownie, is it a beautiful snow-tipped creation dropped from heaven? Well, all of the above. It's a snowy-topped brownie drop, that you can bake at home if you'd like to try the classic by legendary baker Dorie Greenspan. And if you can't be bothered to get your whisks and aprons out - you can still enjoy the melt-in-your-mouth goodness of these cookies from our bakeshop, where brownie drops and chewy chocolate chip cookies are baked fresh on order, every day!
To Listen: This is a throwback to March, when Yo-Yo Ma, virtuoso cellist released Songs of Comfort, as a way to provide musical solace to people on the frontline or those cooped up in fear at home. He hoped that in sharing his talents with the world, it would prompt the rest of us to share what little we had with our community. "Those impulses are so great because these are not transactions. They are gifts and they are freely offered because people are responding to need,” Ma says, “It has no economic bearing. And yet they're incredibly meaningful, invaluable.”
To do: The positive benefits of journaling have been thoroughly researched and talked about across mental health and wellness literature. But some days we can feel stuck or worry that our diary is spiraling into repetitive themes that we can't swoop out of; which is when journaling prompts come in handy. Follow this account for some helpful prompts for your journaling habit, across themes. For handling uncertainty, one of the prompts is: What comes up for you when you think of the phrase, "I don't know"? How does it feel in your body?
To Wear: Formalwear and business casual are relics of the past, as WFH means its pajamas and slippers fashion all day, every day. The pandemic has spawned "loungewear enthusiasts", and this article provides a few tricks on how you can make the most of your PJs in the most 2020 on-point way.
And finally, to round off: a recent writeup in Forge takes on the subject of conversation at this moment when we are all obsessing about the virus — “How To Talk About Literally Anything Else.” It includes lots of conversation-starter prompts, some of which obliquely respond to the moment, but in ways designed to uplift.
We think it's a practice you should put in place with friends, families, and colleagues, as a way to mitigate pandemic exhaustion and maybe get to know them in interesting ways. The ones we already over-use are; what have you been cooking/eating/craving? But some other fun ones could be:
If you could time travel, what time would you visit?
If you could invent anything, what would it be?
If you did not have to sleep, how would you spend the extra 8 hours?
Who would you want to play you in a movie?
What’s your go-to karaoke song?
What’s the story behind your name?
If you could do something that you don’t do because it’s bad for you, but you could do it without any repercussions — what would you do?
Let us know some of your answers, or write in with ice-breaker questions that intrigue you. We love hearing from you...
That's all for now, as always, stay safe and keep carrying your light,Viv and Avneet