The Delights of Distraction No.20

Hey There,

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.

Last week, we received a reply to this newsletter with the single line, "Who reads such long mails?"

It's a valid question, though it was more of a statement.  In this age of hyper-instantaneity; where we have access to video of the surface of Mars to the depths of the ocean in the blink of an eye, and the whole world in between - who needs to spend a precious 15 minutes reading the random ramblings of two women on a Friday afternoon; when there are Insta-poems to read and 30-second Bhangra-K pop-dance videos to watch? When purveyors of content have contorted themselves into infotainment that short-circuits our brain into dopamine hits with every contrived drama, slick-flashy editing and short-video reels to hold our shrinking attention spans - who are we to expect folks to read through so many words with no pretty pictures?

I suppose we are the new internet oldies. Who refuse to keep jumping through hoops in a cycle of content in condensed forms. The world we live in is gargantuan, messy, grey, diverse, nuanced, non-linear, multi-variant and we are only on a tiny part of that journey with you to perhaps, guide you through the tools to make sense of an even tinier part of it.  

So if you're wondering who reads long mail anymore... well if you're still with us at the end of this sentence, I suppose YOU do. Our thoughtful, engaged and patient readers. There may not be many like you, but then we aren't here to pander to millions, instead we would to navigate through this space beside you. Do keep writing in and telling us what you think. And thanks for sticking with us so far :)

And without further ado, let's get to the good part - our favourite links of the week:

To Read: At this current juncture, you may be entertaining this confounding thought: you exist, but one day you won’t. Are there any good rational reasons not to fear that gulf – between being and not-being? In this guide, the author suggests several philosophically-inspired reasons to NOT be fearful of death – hoping to lighten the burden of the deeply unsettling existential state in which we are all lucky enough to find ourselves.

To Joy Scroll: If you need a good laugh, and who doesn’t right now, go to @digitalmeddle and scroll through their NSFW, irreverent photoshopped titles of vintage books. They take some of the most famous examples of children stories, such as Disney characters, Grimm's fairy tales and Winnie the Pooh and twist them into rude but hilarious adult themes (are we all going to pretend every character in Alice in Wonderland wasn't hopped up on a cornucopia of hallucinogens?) Don't share this with your kids, it might ruin their childhood. 

To Cook: Despite the heightened cultural mistrust and geo-political fiery fissures we are experiencing with our neighbour China, there is no denying our adoration of Indian Chinese cuisine that has spawned from this tumultuous relationship across millennia. This beautiful article documents the influence of the diaspora of Tibetan and Chinese communities on our culture, "Food is often the unwritten relationship between people, silently witness to a parallel history than the ones documented in textbooks,"  - and is a fascinating read.  Once you're done, hop over to make yourself a plate of one of our favorite snacks of all time - momos!

To Listen: Charles Bukowski was born about 100 years ago, but his poem The Laughing Heart may well have been written as a tribute to these times. He was a prolific and controversial creator of visceral poetry about life, the fearless living of it and its terrible beauty. We found a recording of Tom Waits reading out the Laughing Heart in his gravelly tones here. Do give it a listen.
"Your life is your life.
Know it while you have it.
You are marvelous…"

To Watch: Tiny Desk concerts are exactly that - small, intimate un-plugged concerts hosted at the NPR office, where the biggest and baddest bands across the world play a short acoustic set. They have a gorgeously eclectic collection of short concerts, so check out your favourites. Here's one by Alicia Keys, getting her groove on and here's Adele belting out those shower-sing-a-long ballads we love!

To Try:  "It's so incredible to finally be understood", is the tagline to this personality quiz, that is creepily accurate - providing a free, character detail (from work, to love-life, friendships and parenthood) depending on which of the 16 personality-types you fit into. You may mutter to yourself, “how do they know more about me than the people I’m closest to?”, so we suggest you take the quiz, share your findings with friends, family and colleagues and never waste time explaining yourself again!

To End - We'd like to dedicate this newsletter to a dear friend of ours. His mother passed away yesterday against the grim, isolating backdrop of the pandemic-struck healthcare system.  The loss of a mother is earth-shattering. We have no words to convey our grief for our friend's loss, so we turn to those who are wiser and more eloquent than us who have lived through the same experience. 

Here's an excerpt from Hanif Willis-Abdurraqib's poem:
"I have your smile and nothing else / I am most you when I am wrecked with joy / isn’t that a miracle / I let the grass grow over your grave / until it ate your name / until the year of your dying was swallowed / until there was nothing left but the year you were made possible / which is the year I, too, was made possible / and isn’t that a miracle / even if you did not walk through a door / even if I waited for my phone to flash your name / to tremble loud on a table / with the arrival of your voice / this is how I remember you / as grass / as flowers / as anything pushing out of the earth / in the name of its own survival / I throw a handful of dirt into the wind / it blows back into my eyes / and, there / I feel it kiss my forehead."

And so we would like our dearest friend to know: Keep telling stories about your mother and let others tell you stories of what they remember. She exists in your memory but she also exists in the transcendent glimpses between synapses and moments; in the way you smile. or your laughter, in your patience, in the plants that she tended, in the flowers she grew, in the things she loved, in the foods you learnt to cook, the things she gave you and the lessons she taught you. She will never really be gone, because she exists not just in your memory, but lives on in so many places in and around you. 

To those who have lost loved ones over the past few months, do watch this TED talk by Dr. Lucy Hone who shares her three coping strategies for overcoming an insufferable tragedy. 

Stay safe, make good choices and keep that light on,
Viv and Ami

(P.S.: If you like these emails and know someone who would enjoy them, please consider forwarding this to them. If you are receiving this for the first time, you can sign up here to receive this newsletter every Friday.)

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