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.
There was a heartbreaking video on Twitter yesterday, of an old man who runs a dhaba in South Delhi crying that he has no customers and not able to make a living any more (scroll to the end for an update on this). Not to sound tone deaf, or in any way belittle his plight with a comparison to us who lead lives of much privledge - we felt his heartache deeply as independent small business owners in the retail space. There are days with no customers in stores for no fault of anyone but the costs keep adding up making you want to cry justs like the old man. During these tumultuous times, we have come across two broad pieces of contradictory advice on how we need to proceed to survive 2020. On one hand we were advised to stay in cautious mode, reduce all expenses and hope that 2021 will be better ( that coveted vaccine!). On the other hand, the stance we intuitively took - to rise to the occasion, to rummage for creative opportunities in the chaos, to remind ourselves that we have greater inner strength than we realise.
A Finnish word called 'Sisu', encompasses this act of harnessing one's inner energy. According to Emilia Lahti a PhD candidate at Aalto University in Helsinki, “Sisu is the concept of taking action in the face of significant adversity or challenge. It is not so much about achievement as it is about facing your challenges with valor and determination.” She goes on to say, “Sisu provides the final empowering push, when we would otherwise hesitate to act." 2020 is a time to practice Sisu. It is resilience without resignation, grit alongside acceptance. It is time for us to transcend, to learn from our challenges and use them as an opportunity to rebuild.
There is a related word in Japanese, "ganbatte". It literally means “spirit” but it’s also an exhortation to encourage each other to stay the course. It’s used as a kid when you stumble and fall, as a teenager when your exam results are poor, as an adult when your dreams break into a million pieces. It reminds us that we have greater inner strength than we realize, that we can trust our ability to tap into it, and not just help ourselves, but each other. So step by step we go forward - we may stumble and fall - but we will pick each other up and walk the 1,000 mile road.
And on that uncharacteristically cheerful note, we proceed with our faves of the week :
To Joy Scroll: Inspired by the symmetry and gorgeous color palettes of Wes Anderson’s movies, the Instagram account Accidentally Wes Anderson collects photos and stories from some of the most beautiful, interesting and sometimes obscure places on Earth. And the descriptions accompanying the photos are just as whimsical. Here's one of Amer Fort in Rajasthan: "The fort’s most beautiful feature is inarguably its Mirror Palace, designed as a gesture of love. A queen of the fort used to love sleeping under the stars as a child. But ancient custom didn’t allow women to sleep in the open air, so her king called on the best architects in the region to deliver her the gift of the cosmos within the palace walls. Their solution was to craft gorgeous detail out of glass for the walls and ceiling. When a mere two candles are lit, thousands of stars appear to glitter beyond the ceiling."
To Read: We've all been subject to those slick Masterclass facebook ads that promise us renaissance-level skills - sermonized to us by celebrity greats: Learn how to cook from Gordon Ramsay, How to write by Malcolm Gladwell, How to create cinema by Werner Herzog. In this article, the writer embarks on a six-month binge of celebrity master courses, but her true learnings come from the most unlikely sources.
To Learn: 100,000 Stars is an interactive visualization of the stellar neighborhood created by space enthusiasts at Google for the Chrome web browser. It shows the location of 119,617 nearby stars derived from multiple sources. Pan and zoom in or out, using your mouse. Alternatively, you can take a tour of the Milky Way from the Sun to the outer expanses of the galaxy and learn about light years, Voyager 1, Alpha Centauri and more. We love this playful warning: "Please do not use this visualization for interstellar navigation."
To Watch: We're loath to recommend too many Ted Talks as some tend to over-generalize or get preachy. But in this nine-minute video, “Give yourself permission to be creative”, Ethan Hawke, heart-throb actor turned greasy-haired philosopher, offers a surprisingly insightful creativity pep talk, in his most charming fashion. “Don’t read the book you should read. Read the book you want to read. Get close to what you love. Play the fool.”
To Cook: This article recounts the origins of a recipe that went viral over the past week on reddit - a retro, hand-written recipe for "divorce carrot cake". The staff at the Kitchn bake it up and compare it to four other famous carrot cake recipes; a carrot-cake off, if you will. This one is loaded: with coconut, raisins and pineapple. We personally prefer it without the frosting. If you happen to personally prefer a carrot cake without the laborious 'baking' - you can instead order a great one here, delivered freshly baked, to your door if you live in Delhi NCR.
To Utilize: In the wake of watching 'The Social Dilemma', 'The Great Hack', and other documentaries foretelling the doom of our privacy and agency, it's only fit that we employ certain tools to figure out who might be peeking over our shoulder while we work, watch videos, learn, surf and shop the net. Visit Blacklight, enter the address of any website, and it will scan and reveal the specific user-tracking technologies on the site—and who’s getting your data. You'll be relieved to know that wishingchair.in has fewer trackers and cookies than the average site :)
To Ponder: When the world turns topsy turvy, how do you sustain hope? With art, compassion and poetry:
Don't Hesitate by Mary Oliver
If you suddenly and unexpectedly feel joy, don't hesitate. Give in to it. There are plenty of lives and whole towns destroyed or about to be. We are not wise, and not very often kind. And much can never be redeemed. Still, life has some possibility left. Perhaps this is its way of fighting back, that sometimes something happens better than all the riches or power in the world. It could be anything, but very likely you notice it in the instant when love begins. Anyway, that's often the case. Anyway, whatever it is, don't be afraid of its plenty. Joy is not made to be a crumb.
Viv and Ami
(P.S.: Not sure you noticed, we made ourselves a new logo for the newsletter. Scroll up to the top incase you missed it - tell us what you think. We also put up a pick of our personal favorite TWC products on our website and made a little Viv & Ami branding for that as well. Check it out here.)
(P.P.S: We went to the dhaba stall as our way of supporting small independent businesses and were in a flood of tears to see a long steady line of people who had all come after seeing that video. The goodness of humanity is so awe-inspiring sometimes :))