The Delights of Distraction No.65: One of the most important lessons we've learnt - from a tree

Have you liked outside today? Do you see that tree? It can be difficult to gaze up at the dotted vastness of a starry sky or the intricate geometry of a spiderweb and feel an intimate connection with nature  - but a tree? A tree is an invitation to fall in love with the art and delicate balance of the universe.

Please go back to looking at that tree.If you were hungry, would you wish that tree was weighed down with globes of fruit? If you were hot, would you wish the tree’s branches fanned out like umbrellas to shade you from the sun? If you were cold, would you wish to cut down its trunk and burn it in a fire?

We doubt it -  you'd probably just see a tree.

But what about when you gaze upon someone in your life with whom you share a kinship - your mother, your partner, your colleague? This, the late spiritual author and teacher, Ram Dass, writes, tends to be a bit different:

“When I go out into the woods. And I look at trees. I say, ‘Oh, look at that one, oh look at that one, oh how interesting!’ I don’t ask why an Elm isn’t an Oak… I just appreciate them for what they are. Somehow it’s different when I get near humans, I somehow feel that it’s a whole different category, and I move into my judging mode, saying, ``If that person was more like that person, things would be better.”

We tend to look at those close to us and yearn for them to change in a way that fulfills our personal needs. If only X was more responsible, I would feel safer. If only Y was more spontaneous, my life would be exciting, If only Z was more ambitious, I would feel more secure about my future...

Dass says, “I just don’t think it’s interesting to identify that strongly with your needs. I mean, somebody comes to me with needs, and I honor that they identify with those needs, and I listen, and I help them in the way that I can help them, but at the same time, my job is to hold onto the plane of awareness where I see that their awareness is identifying with their need, and that is where the root cause of the suffering is.”

What if we just looked upon our loved ones, as we look at trees? A wonderful manifestation of earthly matter infused with cosmic energy. That’s X, trying to root herself into the earth, that’s Y growing wild and free, that’s Z branches grasping in the wind to taste sunshine. 

Perhaps if we lived like trees in a forest, we would see how life rearranges and transforms again and again and again. Eventually we would realize that inherent in the act of loving one thing is a love for all things. 

That humans, like trees, just yearn to reach into sunlight. All we have to do is accept the whole messy humble of it all.

Speaking of needs; while we ask you to let your needs take a backseat when it comes to unconditionally loving those around you, we would like to put YOUR needs first! The pandemic has obviously changed the landscape of the retail space, along with people’s priorities and expectations when it comes to lifestyle shopping. We would like to evolve the best we can to address that. To do that we would like deep-dive with some of you and figure out what you love, don’t love and would like to more of from us - so if you have any thoughts on this, please do reply to this email, and we will set it up (and if you happen to be from Delhi, then yes, cake will be involved :) And even if you don’t have any thoughts on this, but just want to say hey, please hit that reply button!

We hope some of you reach out and connect -  we look forward to hearing from you! Till then, here’s our favourite links of the week:

To read:  A very powerful piece by Roxane Gay, on the minefield that social media has become. It’s an NYT piece, so if you don’t have access we have provided the archived article.  There is no question the Internet has become, for some, a place to engage in the malicious and utterly degrading, inhumane treatment of others.

Says Gay: “After being on the receiving end of enough aggression, everything starts to feel like an attack. Your skin thins until you have no defenses left. It becomes harder and harder to distinguish good-faith criticism from pettiness or cruelty. It becomes harder to disinvest from pointless arguments that have nothing at all to do with you. An experience that was once charming and fun becomes stressful and largely unpleasant. I don't think I'm alone in feeling this way. We have all become hammers in search of nails.”

Although this is America-centric, this piece could well apply to many Indians, who unlike the Europeans, spend an outsized amount of time at work and define large parts of their identity. If this applies to you too, you probably want to read this. “The economists of the early 20th century did not foresee that work might evolve from a means of material production to a means of identity production. They failed to anticipate that, for the poor and middle class, work would remain a necessity; but for the college-educated elite, it would morph into a kind of religion, promising identity, transcendence, and community. Call it workism.”

And finally this fun piece, which makes us feel our middle-age and realise that we’ve been doing emojis all wrong!

To watch: Australian actor/comedian/dancer Smac McCreanor created this fantastically ridiculous series of interpretive dances inspired by videos from the Hydraulic Press Channel and ASMR channel. In a crazy weird decade of change online, this is the apex of performance art of the time; The artist running side-by-side with videos of hydraulic presses squishing things like books, mugs, fruit, cookies, and kitchen tools. Quite brilliant. 

To laugh: Since 1982 the Bulwer Lytton Fiction Contest has challenged participants to write an atrocious opening sentence to the worst novel never written. The whimsical literary competition honors Sir Edward George Bulwer-Lytton, whose 1830 novel, Paul Clifford begins with “It was a dark and stormy night.” Please read through some of the winners of the past years, though we went down the rabbit hole of unbridled chuckling, and chose some of these as our personal favourites from the runner ups:

"Their relationship hit a bump in the road, not the low, graceful kind of bump, reminiscent of a child's choo-choo-train-themed roller coaster, rather the kind of tall, narrow speed-bump that, if a school bus ran over it, would cause even a fat kid to fly up and bang his head on the ceiling." --Michael Reade, Durham, NC 

"On a lovely day during one of the finest Indian summers anyone could remember--a season the Germans call "old wives' summer," obviously never having had Native Americans to name things after, but plenty of old wives, and "Indian summer" in German would refer to the natives of India in any case, which would make even less sense than the current naming system--on such a day, however named, John Baxter fell in the creek and drowned." --Deanna Stewart, Heidelberg, Germany

Previous Grand Prize winners include this classic from 1985: 

"The countdown had stalled at T minus 69 seconds when Desiree, the first female ape to go up in space, winked at me slyly and pouted her thick, rubbery lips unmistakably--the first of many such advances during what would prove to be the longest, and most memorable, space voyage of my career."   --Martha Simpson, Glastonbury, Connecticut 

"Brigid O’Hanion was the fairest flower of Southern womanhood, and Lt. Lance Beauregard was almost blind with lust for her, but after he slipped off her hoop skirt, unbuttoned her lacy blouse, untied her incredibly tight corset, dove beneath the rustling crinoline petticoats, and laboriously inched off her pantalets, he realized his mood had shifted and he now wondered if there was still some cold ham on the sideboard downstairs." -- Randall Card, Bellingham, WA

To joy scroll: Vincent Bal calls himself a “shadowologist and filmmaker from Belgium”. He creates adorable characters from the shadows of various everyday objects. His feed is a gallery of unexpected and playful ways of seeing the world. 

To listen: Here’s our playlist to jolt a little cheer and joy into days when you perhaps need that extra spring in your step, it plays in most of our Wishing Chair stores and permeates through the philosophy of our brand. We’ve also added a new playlist, “Saudade” - songs of yearning and desire for something that is lost or unattainable. We found some of them particularly pertinent in the wake of so many lives lost this year, and the mourning that follows. 

One of the songs by Tom Rosenthal, “I went to bed and I loved you” goes like this:

Oh life's a killer

We're all the blade

Pretend we're not with our different names

Swimming lonely in this almighty stew 

The magic of the everyday

We miss it all but that's the game

And now you're gone I see so much more of you 

So universe

Do your worst

Throw it all at me

I'll take your blows

For all I know

They're magic destinies

And I went to bed and I loved you

In the morning I loved you too

In the morning I loved you too

To life hack: Could you do something for us?

Take 30 seconds to praise yourself for a specific action, something you choose to do for love or hope or simple joy.

Please trust that you’ve earned this praise. These little, little joys in the finite.

You endure suffering, yet you’re here -  pressing forward. 

You make this world a garden.

To end:

A difficult life is not less

worth living than a gentle one.

Joy is simply easier to carry

than sorrow, and your heart

could lift a city from how long

you've spent holding what's been

nearly impossible to hold.

 

This world needs those

who know how to do that.

 

Those who could find a tunnel

that has no light at the end of it,

and hold it up like a telescope

to know the darkness also contains truths that could

bring the light to its knees.

 

Grief astronomer, adjust the lens,

look close, tell us what you see.

-Andrea Gibson

Here’s wishing a joy-struck week to all you glowbugs,

Viv and Ami