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.
For us, growing up in the closed Indian economy era of the 80s allowed you to play outdoors with no worries about pollution or security, there was a sense of community as the entire colony was your playground, an ability to entertain yourself with whatever little was available and value the few simple gifts you did receive.
In contrast, the 6 yr old twins have access to more information, content, books, and music than they can possibly go through in their lifetime. There is access to infinite resources on parenting skills, mental health, interests & DIYs to ensure well-rounded growth. However, the one thing we know for sure is, we are grateful for not having social media in our childhood as we feel the pressure it brings is hard for a middle schooler's mind to comprehend and navigate. The scary implications of the top-watched documentary on Netflix The Social Dilemma, only served to vindicate our ideas on our "ignorant" minds in our youth, before the Big Tech companies could hijack them. We can only hope, that humanity's unique ability to adapt and thrive, outsmarts every algorithm they throw at us.
And now, onwards to our favorite recommendations for this week.
To Read: We're already overwhelmed as it is...we could do with some life simplification. The thing is - most things that are simple, are notoriously hard to do: like lose weight! Our frustration with following through on the simple solution causes us to challenge or ditch it, leading us to imagine more complex solutions. And then we buy things (like supplements, expensive gym memberships, liposuction) that promise to address the complexity and make it easy again. This article shows you how to break out of the artificial complexity cycle, and see many solutions as they are: simple and straightforward.
To Joy Scroll: Photographers Paul Johnson-Hicks and Tom Sullam co-founded the Comedy Wildlife Photography awards six years ago, asking contributors to send their snapshots of animals in the wild doing impossibly funny things. Their mission is to promote conservation and awareness through humorous and light-hearted imagery. The results are fascinating, hilarious and much-required respite; the photo of the tortoise flipping the finger to the camera underwater, is pretty much our collective response to 2020.
To Listen: Everything you need to know about life, you can learn from the lyrics and lilt of the profoundly heavy-hearted poetic anthology of songs, "The Tides of Magnificence" by Molly Drake (mother of legendary singer-songwriter Nick Drake). The songs were recorded in a rudimentary setup in the 1950s, accompanied by the piano and her dulcet, airy, soft voice. Her short, tender performances span subjects from lost loves, destiny, hope, memories, grit, grief and the ephemeral nature of happiness:
Happiness is like a bird with twenty wings
Try to catch him as he flies
Happiness is like a bird that only sings
When his head is in the skies
You can try to make him walk beside you
You can say the door is open wide
If you grab at him, woe betide you
I know because I've tried
Like a butterfly upon an April morning
Very quickly taking fright
Happiness is come and gone without a warning
Jack-O-Lantern in the night
I will follow him across the meadow
I will follow him across the hill
And if I can catch him I will try to bring you
Oh yes, happiness
If I can catch him I will try to bring you
All my love and happiness
Listen to the album on loop here.
To Cook: Since we're on the subject of simplification, we thought we'd bring together some recipes that are genius in simplicity; using only three ingredients, but packing in a whole lot of yum. Here's gluten-free peanut butter cookies (peanut butter + sugar + eggs), more-ish almond clusters (salted almonds + chocolate chips + oil), pistachio bark (pistas + chocolate + sea salt), and easy cheesy zucchini dip ( zucchini + cheese + olive oil ) that's yummy slathered on everything.
To Watch: A lockdown slice of life short-film on friendship, long-distance communication and our deep longing to stay connected with our BFFs even when life trajectories take us in different directions.
To Ponder: There is an old Bhutanese saying: "To be a happy person, one must contemplate death five times daily." It's a rather morbid thought, but one that feeds into the wisdom across cultures; from Memento Mori, Maraṇasati, Stoicism and Sufism (some Sufis would frequent graveyards to ponder on death and one’s mortality). The WeCroak app is inspired by these philosophies and is designed to send you five invitations to stop and think about death - a quote about death from a poet, philosopher, or notable thinker. As you read your reminder on your finite mortality, you are invited to take a moment of contemplation, conscious breathing or meditation. This regular practice of contemplating mortality helps us accept what we must, let go of things that don’t matter and honour the things that do. It's a tool that can help us create perspective and meaning, priority and urgency. The radical, bull-by-the-horns living that only those can plunge into when you realize how transient and precious this life is. You can download the We croak app for android for ios.
Here are some of our favourite quotes that the app sent to us, jolting us to treat our time here as a gift:
- The only thing that isn’t worthless: to live this life out truthfully and rightly. And be patient with those who don’t.” — Marcus Aurelius
- “We waste our energy and exhaust ourselves with the insistence that life be otherwise.” — Frank Ostaseski
- “To practice death is to practice freedom. A man who has learned how to die has unlearned how to be a slave.” --- Michel le Montaigne
- “At some point in life the world’s beauty becomes enough. You don’t need to photograph, paint or even remember it. It is enough.” — Toni Morrison
- “The cradle rocks above an abyss, and common sense tells us that our existence is but a brief crack of light between two eternities of darkness.” — Vladimir Nabokov
Viv and Ami