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.
A couple of days ago, while our land-locked capital briefly joined the lost city of Atlantis in a deluge of rainfall - we fell into a heated argument with a friend (let's call them, Pollyanna - from the pollyanna principle) on the happy "silver linings" of the pandemic cloud: cleaner air, fewer people in the city, less hustle and bustle, more family time, and so on. Their outlook, we felt, was an insensitive, privilege-washing of the suffering, loss of livelihood, and life millions have endured in 2020. We understand the urge to put a positive spin on an adverse experience and don't want to come off as Negative Nancies criticising other people’s hope, but as this article clarifies, the "good vibes only" attitude results in Toxic Positivity: The over-generalisation of a happy optimistic state that results in the minimisation and invalidation of the authentic human emotional experience.
But this newsletter as you know isn't about doom and gloom, and our Pollyanna was perhaps just trying to cope and provide solace in their own way. We would like to offer instead a concept, inspired by Stoic philosophy and borrowed from Friedrich Nietzsche that he called "Amor fati" (translated from Latin as ‘a love of one’s fate’, or a resolute, enthusiastic acceptance of everything that has happened in one’s life.) Amor fati doesn't seek to erase anything from the past, but rather accepts what has occurred, the good and the bad, the mistaken and the wise, with strength and an all-embracing gratitude.
Let's get on with some of our fave links of the week:
To Read: Most love stories are narrated with cloying detail from the meet-cute to the honeymoon phase, but we loved the sheer ordinariness of this piece. The intimate slices of a lover, and the author flourishing in its discoveries. Perhaps these are the bones of romantic love; our lover's quirks: how they drink coffee, the way they look when they watch TV, and all the other tiny ways we rarely articulate, but on observing - make our heart skip a beat.
To Joy Scroll: The artist of this series of comic watercolours calls his work, "happy little wobbly blobs of colour". They're a response to the wave of mental health comics that were visually evocative of the dark journeys a person with depression might endure. Instead of trying to solve the issue, the comic puts a simple, yet lyrically different perspective on a potentially dark mood - depicted through a friendship between a cat and his hooman. Here's one:
Cat to depressed boy lying in bed: Maybe we can do one thing today...... half a thing?
Boy: Dear Diary, today I got half dressed. How sad.
Cat: Dear Diary, today my friend started investing in himself again, one trouser leg at a time. How great.
To Watch: Drunk History is the epitome of educational entertainment and the kind of history lesson we wish we had in school. The premise of the bite-sized series is hilarious: a comedian is plied with much tipple, and then asked to narrate a particular account from history. Their words are enacted and lip-synced verbatim by famous actors with full-blown production values to dazzling results. Their tagline: "Booze helps bring out the truth. It's just that sometimes the truth is a little incoherent."
You can start with Aubrey Plaza, playing Cleopatra in a deliciously twisted Egyptian family drama, follow that up with the uplifting triumph of Florence Nightingale.
To Cook: This personal essay by Nayantara Dutta seeks to reclaim her lost culinary heritage that has been co-opted by the white gaze in the US; "The same recipes I was teased for eventually became chic, gentrified, and endorsed by Goop." We've all rolled our eyes at good ol' ghee being "discovered" in the West as "liquid gold" and touted as the new superfood. Here are some Ghee based desi desserts to reclaim that space: Mysore Pak, and "Indian chickpea candy"...... aka Besan Barfi :)
To Wear: There is only one non-sweatpant-related kind of clothing that we can bear at the moment, and that is the timeless Caftan. Loose, billowy, light, airy, loungey-friendly, and forgiving - it's the fashion statement of 2020.
To Ponder: New Yorker Artist, Olivia de Recat uses simple line graphs to illustrate the complex trajectory of human relationships. In elucidating her work, she says, "Something the lines are meant to illustrate, and that I’ve come to believe, is that closeness is kind of like a dance. Each relationship consists of two lives, independent and moving by/of their own volition. So, you really can’t force closeness with anyone." As the pandemic may have highlighted - there might only be a small handful of individuals who stay with you through thick and thin. Recat affirms, "That’s okay. In time, you’ll know who these people are because they will ignite something inside of you that is true and dazzling and ineffable. In committing to them, you’ll also be committing to yourself.”
We hope, you've managed to connect with your fistful of friends who've stayed with you through these times. Many of them may seem unbreakable "Pollyannas" on the outside, but inside we are all just soft little teddy bears, longing for a hug.
Stay safe, make good choices and keep that light on,
Viv and Ami