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.
In an attempt to celebrate a friend's birthday with a socially-distancing approved number of 6 people, one of us ended up being exposed to the virus during the week, and is therefore practising the obligatory 14 days of quarantine. It seems the last few months have been the wash-rinse-repeat of this cycle of getting out, suspecting a whiff of exposure, and huddling back in.
But despite the few gripes, the self-quarantining can be liberating because it removes the pressure to perform. No meetings to attend, no dinners to plan, no navigation of the new social etiquette rules around which people in a group are allowed into how small a space. A sigh of relief and respite for a while, though fully acknowledging this privilege is afforded to a few.
A few weeks ago, we spoke about six-word memoirs, a legendary twist on the 6 word essay attributed to Ermest Hemingway. We then found a whole website dedicated to this endeavour. Here are a few we thought best described the current state of self-imposed house-arrest:
- Eighth hour of YouTube. Send Help! — Leela Chandra
- This is what time looks like. — Sylvia Sichel
- Social distancing myself from the fridge. — Maria Leopoldo
- Slowly turning into a technological potato. — Jad Ammar
- The world has never felt smaller. — Maggie Smith
- Stayed in, needed less, valued more. — Michael Zeitgeist
- I need a hug. Anyone? Anyone? — Gerry
If any of you have to socially isolate because of fear of exposure; hold your personal health sacred, care for yourself, and relish in these days of pause, if you can afford it.
And back to our regular programming, our favourites of the week:
To Joy Scroll: Legendary photographer, David Hockney once said, " Limitations are really good for you. They are a stimulant. If you were told to make a drawing of a tulip using five lines, or one using a hundred, you’d be more inventive with the five." This couldn't be illustrated more beautifully than in the doodles of this artist, who took a base image of a semi-nude woman, and rather than turning it into something lewd, instead created a wonderfully imaginative series of cartoon vignettes.
To Read: As we are awakening to the reality that the pandemic isn't a short-term affliction but a state of reality that will continue for a while, we may have to come to terms with the fact that our future will never really look the same as our past. However, transitions, especially painful ones - can still yield meaning and transcendence.
“Man was made for conflict, not for rest,” Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote. “In action is his power; not in his goals but in his transitions man is great.”
To Watch: "I had the most extraordinary life. It’s only now that I appreciate how extraordinary.”
The living legend naturalist David Attenborough has produced a full length documentary on Netflix, “A Life on Our Planet” that doubles as his “witness statement”. At 94, he’s speaking as someone who can look back and see how recognizably and thoroughly the Earth has changed during his lifetime. The depletion of animal populations, the changing climate, the shifting habitats. However he ends on a note of hope with his “re-wilding” framework suggesting an exuberant, open-ended thriving of both nature and our tech-concrete worlds. The last 11 minutes of this documentary are the most life-affirming visualizations of the future we truly hope for. Also supplement with this delightfully playful documentary on Netflix, Dancing with birds. Narrated by Stephen Fry with his inimitable wit and flair, the doc lends whimsical insight into the enchanting mating rituals of birds of paradise; their dances, routines, methods of posturing are set against glorious music and guaranteed to stick a big smile on your face for the whole 50 minutes.
To Cook: We are totally on board the trend and the growing appeal of desserts that aren't too sweet. We've seen what the simple addition of salt does to caramel and chocolate; spurning a movement of sweets that instead of appealing to the tastebuds of a 4 year old, instead diversify their flavour-profile to include more complex additions (thanks to a spurt of pastry chefs from various ethnicities) such as miso chocolate chip cookies and swiss rolls filled with red bean paste. We recommend you try this not-to-sweet-loaf, flavoured with caramelized banana, dates and the deep, nutty flavour of black sesame seeds.
To Focus: Cal Newport, thought leader on productivity and digital detoxing, said that focus is the number one skill of the 21st century. With a running ticker tape of the world's machinations at the tip of our fingertips 24/7 - it's common to fall down rabbit-holes of obscure fascinations, only to emerge in a digital daze later, wondering where 3 hours of your life went. Just as apps were created to suck our attention, so there are apps to reign it in. This lists 11 of them; depending on whether you need to physically block out time-suck websites, have an efficient task tracker, or just access music to soothe your brain; experiment with whatever works to get you to double down and get your shit done.
To Listen: And since we're on the subject of focus, here's a stack we think you should subscribe to with a very simple premise: everyday, the curation of 2 hours of songs to play as background to your work. It's not algorithmic discovery, just humans recommending songs to humans. Almost all recommendations have no vocals, yet provide gorgeous ambient headspaces that are ideal for concentration.
To Ponder: An excerpt from Hala Alyan's poem "Spoiler:, crystallizing the time-honoured aphorism that nothing is permanent, so we may as well throw our shoes off, and dance like only the stars are watching.
It might not happen for a long time,
but one day you run your fingers through the
sand again, scoop a fistful out,
and pat it into a new floor. You can believe in
anything, so why not believe
this will last? The seashell rafter like eyes in the gloaming.
I'm here to tell you the tide will never stop coming in.
I'm here to tell you whatever you build will be
ruined, so make it beautiful.
Stay Safe & Keep Shining,
Viv and Ami