Do you feel that? Is it a collective fatigue, an impatience? Or is it a pull to withdraw inwards, or perhaps an optimism in the air? In this issue I’m sharing some of the best reads, resources, and interviews from the past four weeks. Some are light, but most are what I like to call “positively heavy”. With talks by Ocean Vuong and Vandana Shiva, to intricate hand-drawn maps and COVID art, a donation by Dr. Bronner’s, dance performances, and two great new music releases, I hope you can take this issue slowly into your weekend. Enjoy / in joy.
◦ worth sharing
A selection of links, talks, shows, and albums that stood out in the past month:
- #WeUsedTo is a participatory art project sharing reflections on the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Mesmerizing quarantine flip book art by artist See-Through on IG.
- David Bronner, CEO of activist soap company Dr. Bronner’s, donated $1 million to help legalize psilocybin therapy, followed by an AMA (Ask Me Anything) on Reddit.
- David Suzuki & Vandana Shiva’s passionate talk for the Indian Summer Festival is a wake-up call.
- Nick Hornby’s State of the Union is a hilarious take on modern relationships. The premise for the Emmy winner for Best Short Form Series: ten ten-minute episodes of Rosamund Pike & Chris O’Dowd’s conversations before their weekly marriage counseling session.
- A drive-by art show turns lawns and garages into galleries.
- Five New Yorkers reflect on youth, while dancers express these thoughts through movement. Take in the powerful 8min short film, They Saw the Sun First.
- Watching New Yorker cartoonist Liza Donnelly drawing a pandemic thought from her daughter is soothing or try following along! (That’s three-in-a-row for New York if you’re counting).
- I’ve been to local Creative Mornings meetups (sort of mini-interactive TED Talks) and have enjoyed several of their Virtual Field Trips during this lockdown. The topics are not just in the creative sphere, they have everything from storytelling workshops, an intro to ballet, a tarot card 101, and even how to play Dungeons & Dragons! Apply to host one!
- Electro pop duo Sylvan Esso’s released WITH, a live album recorded during their tour with a dream team of ten musicians (on Spotify).
- One thing that’s brought me joy are musicians broadcasting live concerts from their homes. The Tallest Man on Earth shares his love for music , playing originals and covers including The Shins’ New Slang. NPR is getting into it too, with their Tiny Desk (Home) Concerts on YouTube.
◦ selected words
“… art continues on regardless of the situation; art always finds a way, always, even when everything stops. The limitations shape the work: they are part of the art but not something that prevents it. But this was not art just for art’s sake; it was vital to understand what was happening, to capture and explore the possibilities of this moment. What is the meaning of the big pause, the great stop, the apausalypse? What does it tell us about ourselves, our bodies, our nature, and our systems?”. A multimedia experience combining writing, a cello piece by Bach, and dance on a closed airport runway from the fantastic Emergence Magazine which I first wrote about in Align Center’s May 2018 issue.
Emergence Magazine (14min read + 4min of videos)
In Canada, the first easing of restrictions began May 19, with several countries such as Portugal and Greece announcing the lifting of the mandatory quarantine ban for tourists by mid-June. We’re all feeling the exhaustion from the discipline these limits have demanded and I’ve been guilty of dropping my guard as well. A behaviour economist explains why it’s so hard, and that quarantine fatigue is real. (I’m feeling major Zoom fatigue as well, a phone call has become a relief.)
The New York Times (6min read)
An R&D center used to design products three to five years out, Patagonia converted their mythic Californian facility in order to produce and repair masks on a three to five-day timetable, while using available materials and keeping employees safe. A look inside a company trying to be an example of an organization doing the right things despite being their position in one of the worst polluting industries.
Gear Patrol (4min read)
With the gradual re-openings, it seems like ages ago when heated arguments amongst friends were filling news feeds after yet another “documentary” released on YouTube. An excellent breakdown on why Plandemic was so successful, and what you can do when someone shares it (without losing a friend).
Forbes (13min read)
Here in Canada, most tax-filing citizens whose work has been affected by the pandemic are eligible for up to four $2,000 payments. The speed to which our government has provided this and other benefits has many sharing a renewed pride in being Canadian (though the Trans Mountain pipeline will never be excused). And with Spain announcing a basic income to 2.5 million citizens, there is a renewed talk of UBI and calls for Canada to adopt it (don’t count on it). But a recent study by researchers at Helsinki University found several positive effects of Finland’s two-year trial.
The Guardian (2min read)
◦ listen in
Sometimes a book or an interview hits you with so much depth and beauty that you wished everyone would listen. A 2019 MacArthur Fellow, poet and author Ocean Vuong so carefully weaves his words to the greatest affect, speaking as a gay only child of a Vietnamese manicurist and an American father who abandoned them. In this live interview in a room with podcast makers at On Air Fest in Brooklyn before we entered this crisis, Vuong speaks to Krista Tippett on the violence of language, our relationship with war, and the heartbreak of this world. His book, On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous, has leaped to the top of my reading list.
On Being with Krista Tippett (51min podcast)
Elizabeth Gilbert’s Creative Path: Saying No, Trusting Your Intuition, Index Cards, Integrity Checks, Grief, Awe, and Much More
I can listen to Liz for hours. I love her honest and how real she remains. Being a Tim podcast, the two riff on Stoicism and psychedelics, but his curiosity leads the author of City of Girls towards her speciality, creativity, as she touches on the power of The Artist’s Way, her process, mercy, and poetry as she sneaks in a T.S. Eliot poem. One of Tim’s best episodes.
The Tim Ferriss Show #430 (2hr13min podcast)
◦ eat well
We’re getting an early taste of summer here in Vancouver, so for a physically-distanced picnic I prepared this refreshing take on “slaw” with yogurt and apples. I learned from my roommate that if you don’t have a julienne peeler for the carrots, a cheese grater will do just fine (watch your knuckles!), I also found that Napa cabbage was perfect. Despite it’s name, Napa cabbage is not from California but is a Chinese cabbage I’ve been eating since I was a kid in many typical Chinese dishes. The more you know… ✨
Tara’s Multicultural Table
◦ read slow
The Atlantic’s CityLab made a call to readers to draw maps of what their lives are like in lockdown. 400 readers responded in all forms – sketches, water-colours, computer drawings, clay and photography. As varied as the tools used are the emotions contained in the responses. Browsing through a selection of these colorful maps feels like a walk through an art gallery, with the placards as mini-diary entries capturing each artist’s unique experience in time.
CityLab (25min read)
◦ current read
A book that’s part philosophy, part self-help, and part manifesto, David Brooks argues for a shift from our hyper-individualistic culture where individual success, freedom and self-actualization are the most valued, or “the First Mountain”, to a relational, committed, community mindset. The author is well read and the book quotes others frequently, but after gaining new perspectives from the first third of the book, I’m struggling to finish the rest it starts to lose its way. Still I’ll take several concepts with me, particularly the concept of the aesthetic life and the valley.
The Second Mountain by David Brooks (384p book)
◦ humble thought
“I wake each morning torn between the desire to save the world or to savor it. And then I realized that in a way, the savoring must come first because if there was nothing left to savor there would be nothing worth saving.” – E.B White
It’s staggering for a generation to have the entire planet share a collective experience like this pandemic. It’s also fascinating to observe the shift from the complete unknown in February, to the panic and “doom scrolling” at the end of March, to the since-quieted conspiracy theories, and more recently to a joint struggle to remain disciplined while restrictions are being lifted and wondering what the future holds.
What has me most optimistic are the sounds of a larger grassroots movement that see this as an opportunity. It’s a difficult word to use during this time, however we can’t go back to business-as-usual and let this go to waste. The rapid unveiling of the vast cracks in our systems have exposed many structural issues, none more discouraging than the continued ineptitude of some of the biggest governments (America and Brazil). If we learn nothing from this, we’ll be going back to living to pay our bills, waiting for the next outbreak or impending climate emergency.
Krista Tippett so eloquently expresses this pivotal time in her response to a reader’s question “How can I find my footing in a shifting world?” on April 14th:
“One of the things that’s so stressful about this transition/threshold is that we don’t know what it’s moving towards. We never knew, in the days and weeks when this was imminently upon us, we didn’t know that everything we had planned up to then was going to shift, utterly, and that just the ordinary ways we structure our days and our life and our sense of time and space, that that was going to be disrupted.
But more than that, we know what that life was. And I think it’s clear to all of us that, given all the things that are happening, not just the illness around the virus, but all the things that have had to stop — that there’s so much that coming out of this is not going to be the same. And that’s true of things we really relied on and loved and that just felt ordinary and comforting in the shape of reality. And it’s also true of this notion of what the Greek word “apocalypse” really means. I always cite my friend, the Rev. Jen Bailey, for reminding me of this: that in the original Greek, apocalypse doesn’t mean the catastrophe; it means the uncovering. And this crisis, this virus, is uncovering a lot of things. It’s uncovering kindness and generosity. It’s uncovering things that we didn’t know we knew how to do, like cook and clean and be quiet and stay at home. It’s uncovering our physical frailty; we’ve had so many devices to convince ourselves that it’s not as true as it always is. And it’s uncovered all these holes and flaws and gaps in the web of our relationship to each other and how we have not structured our society around that.
So here we are, in a communal, collective, global transition. That’s another thing that’s different about this transition: that we’re all in transition together. And where we started, on those days when we now look back, just weeks ago, before the world changed, is different. But that unknown we’re moving into is something we share. Our vulnerability and frailty before this transition is different. And that’s also part of what’s being uncovered because of the nature of this crisis. It has made the ways in which certain people fall through cracks, in the way we structure our society, unbearable. And so I think part of the transition I’m looking at is, how do we hold onto that sense of it being unbearable and work with it and factor it into what we create together, coming out of this?” Source: Living the Questions, On Being, April 14 2020
As other news has begun to eclipse that of the coronavirus, including another tragic police killing of a black American and China’s insidious timing to vote in a national security law that essentially makes it a crime to undermine Beijing’s authority, paving the way for suppression of any dissent against the state, we must do our best to not fall into complacency. If we return to “normal” as fast as the stock market has, we’re in trouble as the next emergency is inevitable. We can’t allow ourselves to be distracted and allow the old powers to reclaim their positions.
It is up to us now.
◦ a tiny action
Do something nice for yourself this week. Maybe buy that fig jam, order take-out at your favourite restaurant, or take an extra-long walk to somewhere beautiful. The chores can wait. It’s difficult to have an abundance mindset during these times, but it’s hard enough as it is, so if you have the means, treat yourself or someone else to a morsel of pleasure that’s out of the ordinary. For me, I’m heading to the mountains and jumping into a lake tomorrow. I’m curious to hear what this is for you. Email me by replying to this, I love hearing your thoughts and how you’re doing right now.