The Delights of Distraction No.61

When we started writing this newsletter in 2020 - it seemed an easy enough task to add to our repertoire of running The Wishing Chair: just slap together a few links to cool things we discovered through the week, an extra sentence here and there, and boom: a newsletter that connects with our community of readers, done and dusted!

But the newsletter has evolved to be harder to continue than we imagined, the process to put this together takes excruciatingly longer than we thought. While earlier, in the initial buzz of the lockdown, words flew off the page fuelled by fear, rage, the joy of novelty and the sweet satisfaction of connection, now we spend a lot of time second-guessing ourselves. Is this article too controversial, too risqué? Is this off brand? Is this piece pushing a political agenda? Is there enough here to chew on? Are we doing this all wrong?

Last week, we came across a profile, David Salle, a multi-talented contemporary American artist whose known to be highly prolific, cool, ironic - states of being that would imply effortless creation. However, when asked about his productivity, he becomes flushed and defensive, seemingly insulted that people assume how easily the art comes to him. He says: “If work comes easily, it is suspect. But it doesn’t come easily. I find it extremely difficult. I feel like I’m beating my head against a brick wall, to use an image that my father would use. When I work, I feel that I’m doing everything wrong. I feel that it can’t be this hard for other people. I feel that everyone else has figured out a way to do it that allows him an effortless, charmed ride through life, while I have to stay in this horrible pit of a room, suffering. That’s how it feels to me. And yet I know that’s not the way it appears to others. Once, at an opening, an English critic came up to me and asked me how long I had worked on the five or six paintings I was showing. I told her, and she said, “Oh, so fast! You work so fast.” She was a representative of the new, politically correct, anti-pleasure school of art people. I could easily visualize her as a dominatrix. There was some weird sexual energy there, unexpressed. I immediately became defensive.”

His pronouncement, When I work, I feel that I’m doing everything wrong, hit home.  We too suspect that everyone else has figured out a better, more efficient, less tortured way to do their work. Is there a productivity app we should be using to speed this along, should we drink more water, wake up earlier, split our to-do tasks into a Moscow priority Matrix? 

It’s such a relief to know that’s not the case. Even the best of us suffer. And weirdly enough, we’re comforted by that.  We hope some of you reading find that comforting too.  

And now back to our programming: here are our favourite links of the week:

To joy scroll: This website is absolute genius - a series of short videos with sole abundance of puppies. The cuteness overload doesn’t get stronger than this. Good for those one minute breaks between deep work when you just need pure joy. 

Sam Cotton went viral last year, with his quirky humoured take on bringing magic to the mundane. His mini videos on instagram take you into a little parallel world where reality and his “ani-mates” come together, all wrapped in Aussie humour. It will change the way you look at things around you.  

To read: A wonderful piece on language, and how it ties so intricately with our understanding of how we operate in the world. 

“The fascination with the untranslatable —the unattainable language—is what captivates us most. We were a species without a word for “attention” for hundreds of years. We created it relatively recently, and have since shaped it. Time enhances the magic of the vernacular. Historically, attention has been a courtesy. Something you offer as a gift, as a caring act. But today, it’s a commodity, an asset distributed to the highest bidder in our daily lives. Ensnared in the cycle of having our attention hijacked, we’re losing the agency of the offer.”

Another one by Tim Kreider, who doles out insight with his inimitable dry wit and wisdom.

“The luckier ones among us can slowly see the light at the end of the COVID tunnel and now have to ask themselves whether they’re ready to re-enter the life they knew. “Once, years before the pandemic, when I had the flu and was laid up in bed, watching movies and drinking Theraflu, it took me a couple of weeks to realize that I was no longer sick; I had just grown accustomed to the flu lifestyle. I had an excuse to indulge the pleasures of slovenly indolence with a clear conscience. ... More and more people have noticed that some of the basic American axioms—that hard work is a virtue, productivity is an end in itself – are horseshit. I’m remembering those science-fiction stories in which someone accidentally sees behind the facade of their blissful false reality to the grim dystopia they actually inhabit.”

gorgeous interview with Ocean Vueong, author of the acclaimed novel, “On Earth We are Briefly Gorgeous.” Peppered with meditative beauty and sage advice. 

“Yes. The gaze, human or animal, is a powerful thing. When we look at something, we decide to fill our entire existence, however briefly, with that very thing. To fill your whole world with a person, if only for a few seconds, is a potent act. And it can be a dangerous one. Sometimes we are not seen enough, and other times we are seen too thoroughly, we can be exposed, seen through, even devoured. Hunters examine their prey obsessively in order to kill it. The line between desire and elimination, to me, can be so small. But that is who we are. There must be some beauty—and if not beauty, meaning—in that brutal power. I am still trying, and mostly failing, to find it.”

To ponder: “Life audit (n.): An exercise in self-reflection that helps you clear the cobwebs of noisy, external goals and current distractions, and revisit or uncover the real themes & core values that drive & inspire you. Also known as: spring-cleaning for the soul.“ This post sets out the blueprint to brainstorm your life goals, values, dreams and then categorize them based on themes and timeframes. The process allows for your priorities to come to light and helps you to see the patterns of your life. 

To watch: An homage to Hayao Miyazaki, who miraculously dishes out masterpiece after masterpiece in animated movies - is rightly considered a national treasure in Japan. This video, lovingly seeks to dig through his astonishing body of work to uncover what makes him so special. 

And if you want to gobble up more goodness from Miyazaki’s production house, Studio Ghibli, then here’s 30 minutes of relaxing visuals from the studio that’e been compiled together. Lapping water, wind through the tall grass, patient trains, birds, rolling countryside, mountains, sleeping, castles in motion, and more calm scenes to slowly ease the tension in your shoulders and back. 

To cook: The latest Tik Tok food sensation is called Pasta Chips, and we discovered it’s so simple and delicious it’s a wonder why no-one thought of it before. It’s basically cooked pasta of any fun shape or size, tossed with oil, parmesan and spices, then air fried or baked until crispy. More-ish and genius :)

To travel (metaphorically): Yesterday we were reminiscing about our trips to Thailand, a country we would visit at least once a year, for its proximity, friendliness, cuisine, affordability and vibrance. While many have been scratching their wanderlust itch by travelling to the hills, here’s another way to satisfy a travel urge in the pandemic :This delightful side project lets you pick a city, a method of transport (walk, car, train), a time of the day and a radio station, and then virtually invites you to explore that place. They add new cities every week, and is internet at its best. 

To life hack: Unfollow the people that have a negative impact on your health on social media.

Unfollowing or muting someone is pretty similar to them dying. 2 strikes of being triggered by something idiotic and they’re gone. We spend on average 4.5 hours/day on our phones, most of which is spent on social media. Spend your time wisely and only follow accounts that are adding positive benefits to your mental state of being.

To WTF: In the marketing world, there’s a term called Wife acceptance factorwife approval factor, or wife appeal factor (WAF). It's an assessment of design elements that either increase or diminish the likelihood a wife will approve the purchase of expensive consumer electronics products such as loudspeakers, home theater systems and personal computers. Stylish, compact forms and appealing colors are commonly considered to have a high WAF. The term derives from the stereotype that men are predisposed to appreciate gadgetry and performance criteria whereas women must be wooed by visuals and aesthetics. 

To end: We are constantly warned that the third wave is upon us, though we have barely managed to mourn the losses wreaked across the second wave of the pandemic. We are still grieving for those we lost, and in grief, forced to contend with our own existence; predicated on impermanence, a certitude set from the start. In this poem Mark Strand explores with curiosity and courage, that paradox we humans all seem to hold : the shocking finitude of our certain mortality. 

 

The End

BY MARK STRAND

 

Not every man knows what he shall sing at the end,

Watching the pier as the ship sails away, or what it will seem like

When he’s held by the sea’s roar, motionless, there at the end,

Or what he shall hope for once it is clear that he’ll never go back.

 

When the time has passed to prune the rose or caress the cat,

When the sunset torching the lawn and the full moon icing it down

No longer appear, not every man knows what he’ll discover instead.

When the weight of the past leans against nothing, and the sky

 

Is no more than remembered light, and the stories of cirrus

And cumulus come to a close, and all the birds are suspended in flight,

Not every man knows what is waiting for him, or what he shall sing

When the ship he is on slips into darkness, there at the end.

 

We hope you enjoy your week, suspended in joy

Viv and Ami