The Delights of Distraction No.23
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.
As a reunion of the Friends cast dominated the Emmys, we wondered about the power of the nostalgic SitCom that keeps tugging at older Millennials and Gen X, that we stay thralled in the cushy corners of its familiar jokes and repartee. It seems like 2020 has bee dominated by activities and things that kept us locked in that safely familiar comfort of simpler times; we watched the Mahabharata, we played lots of Ludo and binged on old, period dramas alongside Maggi bowls, Uncle chips, and yesterday, we even took out a packet of Fun Flips for old-time "funsies".
According to this article, it seems like, nostalgia is our new normal. A coping mechanism for dark times. “Nostalgia is the warm, fuzzy emotion that we feel when we think about fond memories from our past,” says Erica Hepper, Ph.D., a lecturer in the School of Psychology “It often feels bittersweet — mostly happy and comforting, but with a tinge of sadness that whatever we’re remembering is lost in some way.”
And it seems we have lost our way of life, whatever our default position was in March 2020 has been changed forever, and the nostalgia we feel for the loss is also a "reconciliation with ourselves." As the Walrus article notes, "For all the big moments of finality and (ideally) transition, though, there are thousands of less obvious and often profoundly more meaningful endings that we realize only in retrospect, whether their finality creeps up on us across the ages or announces itself with thunderous realization."
When was the last time you probably did something for the last time? Blow candles on a birthday cake? Cheek-kiss a new acquaintance? Share a drink or double-dip a food platter? Hugged an old aunt? Enter a crowded room without trepidation? Smile, unmasked, at a stranger? All these experiences are well and truly out of reach, and we never know what we got until it's gone.
"The idea that things will go on forever is simple delusion on our part—all things pass, etc.—but, as delusions go, it is surely among the most understandable if not the most fundamentally necessary. The knowledge that life is fleeting is barely digestible in retrospect; in real-time, it’s debilitating. We yearn to go back because life is loss, loss, loss, all the way down."
And so this melancholy tinged nostalgia can be a gift: that allows us to enjoy shared experiences of silly sitcoms and games from our past, to alter our lives and our priorities with the time we have remaining. It jolts is from our timid lethargy - and drives us in the direction of empathy, forgiveness, kindness and urgency.
To Peace Scroll: Pete Mcbride travels to remote corners of the world to photograph the "Last Quiet places on Earth". Quietude, he warns, has been on the road to extinction for a long time. Each photograph is accompanied by a gorgeous essay; a meditative eulogy on each location visited and captured, from the Fish Islands of Antarctica to the salt flats of Bolivia. On the restorative power of silence he writes, " Whenever I come back from an assignment documenting a quiet corner of the earth, I often notice how much clearer my mind feels. The quandaries of life seem simpler, my attention a tad sharper. Even after I reacclimate to the higher decibels of modernity, it feels as if the medicine of silence has eased my mental noise."
To Read: Oliver Burkeman, author and happiness expert has been writing a column on life-changing advice for a decade. This is his final column, with the distilled advice on well-being that he's learnt over the years; eight basic principles for living a meaningful life. Here's one of them that resonated with us:
"When stumped by a life choice, choose “enlargement” over happiness. I’m indebted to the Jungian therapist James Hollis for the insight that major personal decisions should be made not by asking, “Will this make me happy?”, but “Will this choice enlarge me or diminish me?” We’re terrible at predicting what will make us happy: the question swiftly gets bogged down in our narrow preferences for security and control. But the enlargement question elicits a deeper, intuitive response. You tend to just know whether, say, leaving or remaining in a relationship or a job, though it might bring short-term comfort, would mean cheating yourself of growth."
To Listen: Speaking of nostalgia - this website Poolside.FM not just a throwback playlist - it’s a vibe. The website pairs nostalgic retro-graphics of 80s and 90s desktops: DOS style fonts with cheesy VHS videos to 5 different channels of music from that era. The music makes you feel like you’re lounging by the pool on a hot summer’s day in 1985, without a care in the world. And since pool vacations aren't on the horizon anytime soon, we hope this virtual auditory care-free virtual vacation leaves you bopping your head with lifted spirits. The summer may, thankfully be coming to an end, but that doesn't mean summer vacay vibes need to be over too.
To Watch: We would never have thought the subject of this documentary would inspire recommendation: but this divinely photographed film, My Octopus Teacher on Netflix deserves a watch. A tired middle-aged man befriends a small octopus in a South African kelp reef and visits the octopus every day for a year. What he learns from the octopus is oceanic; the tiny creature is otherworldly - a freaky alien from another galaxy, and her life connected to the particular reef expands until it fills the universe. There’s danger, friendship, love and the wisdom of the ocean that teaches a father to rebuild his relationship with his son.
To Cook: There’s an app called Eat Your Books, which creates a digital archive of your very own cookbooks. Select the cookbooks you own from the library of over 160,000 cookbooks and add to your EYB Bookshelf. Start searching for recipes - you can search on recipe name, ingredients, occasion, food type, ethnicity, book title or author. For The Wishing Chair Bakeshop, we were looking for cake recipes that contain pear as they're in season, and chanced upon this recipe from our prolific favourite, Deb Perelman. It's gooey, rich, flavourful and in-season - and to feel a little less decadent, you can successfully substitute the maida for wholewheat flour. Dangerously good!
To explore: This Reddit thread fuels our desire to get insider knowledge on what’s really going on in everyday businesses. It simply asks people “What’s an industry secret in the field you work in?” There are a couple hundred responses, like: Goodwill throws away most of what is given to them; in vodka, the bottle costs more to make than the vodka; there is way more butter than you think in almost every dish at fancy restaurants; bestseller lists can be bought; most weight-loss industries make their money from people who come back after putting on the weight they lost with the company in the first place! The thread has got thousands of answers and lots of juicy details on the dirty secrets of various industries.
That's all for this time folks!
Stay safe, make good choices and keep that light on,
Viv and Ami
Viv and Ami