Walking the cliffs of East Yorkshire with the sounds of a Coldcut Solid Steel afrobeat special in my ears. Yes. Sometimes it’s good to connect to your immediate audioscape (currently the sound of my own heels on the path, the waves on the shore below…) and sometimes it’s beautiful to be able to carry pieces of your own sonic identity with you, out of the context you usually place them in.
In the words of Saul Williams: “not until you’ve listened to Rakim on a rocky mountaintop have you heard hip-hop…” Or something like that.
A Poet Reflects: “There is nothing more difficult to outgrow than anxieties that have... -
“There is nothing more difficult to outgrow than anxieties that have become useful to us, whether as explanations for a life that never quite finds its true force or direction, or as fuel for ambition, or as a kind of reflexive secular religion that, paradoxically, unites us with others in a…
I’m guilty of it as much as anyone else, if not more. Here I am talking about empathy, day in and day out, continuing to ignore my emails. Ignoring my fellow human beings, people who want to forge or desperately maintain a connection with me. People for whom my silence is waiting, wondering, irritation, aggravation, inconvenience, rejection, confusion, lost opportunity, added work, a denial, a sign. Yet I continue to not respond. —
Email is People | Pleasure & Pain ☯ by Whitney Hess
Aaaand we’re back. Celebrated a birthday at the weekend, which fell in the middle of a zone of focused attention (redecorating, taking care of some familial obligations, attending to a few pressing deadlines, restarting some disciplines…), which has meant that I’ve been a little difficult to get hold of recently. I’m catching up now (thanks for the birthday greets, if I haven’t already responded to something you sent— I’m working on it!), but there’s a fair amount to wade through. And I’m thinking about related issues, the balance between the focus/attention the world demands from you and the focus/attention you need to pay to the things you really want to do.
I do as best as I can to be responsive. While that’s a word that’s been claimed by current coding and design trends driven by the explosion of different screen dimensions and particularly with mobile devices in mind, the core principle remains: there’s a wide range of people who have license (by virtue of the fact that I’m a creative freelancer and educator) to contact me, each with their own set of expectations. There’s a finite body of time I have to do “work” which may or may not include the requests and expectations of those people. And there are the things that I want or have to get done. Not to mention the time that must be reserved as personal. These things sit alongside each other like neighbouring countries disputing shared borders, each prone to launching full-on land grabs. The map is constantly rewritten. And I sit at the centre of it all, negotiating and keeping the peace as best as I can.
I do as best as I can to be responsive, and sometimes I fail. Sometimes the need for focused and dedicated time trumps my daily aspiration to get to the bottom of my todo list or empty the inbox and attend to every action item appropriately. Sometimes the weight of the inbox screams loudly for attention, to the exclusion of everything else. I must make things (text things, learning experiences, and more) but I must also do the work of managing that making and all the other things that come hand in hand with living in the real world. Maker time, manager time.
The major takeaway from Hess’ post is the importance of remembering the people behind the communications and requests that we receive. With that said, I’m slowly getting better at managing expectations (gotta love those auto-responders). At the root of it all, there’s always the understanding that I’m ultimately responsible for the constant potential for busy-ness— it’s the price of doing the business I do.
Doesn’t the world demand
Doesn’t it insist on it?
And why not?
At the leaves,
Look at the weeds.
Look at the least blade
Of grass in the breeze.
None of them begs off
Or offers excuses.
None of them refuses
—Gregory Orr, from “Doesn’t the world demand,” in River Inside the River: Three Lyric Sequences (W. W. Norton & Co., 2013)
“Remember that the present day is given to you in order to gain the future day of eternity; make a firm purpose to employ the day well for this intention.”
—St. Francis de Sales
(Source: facebook.com, via apoetreflects)
When I was younger, I saw 20-somethings sitting at coffee shops and thought they must be so happy now that they’re older and have their lives together. Now I’m the 20-something and I see that life doesn’t slow down and fall into place just because you’re old enough. Being older just means that you have to make time to stop and enjoy that coffee. — (via rebeccasusanne)
Okay, so I never actually used to see/idolise people at coffee shops when I was a teen— I don’t do coffee, and as a kid in south east London the closest I got to a coffee shop was a greasy spoon café. That said, this resonates today. Things don’t just fall into place with time. You make them so. You curate your time as carefully as a garden— you sow the seeds of beautiful/rewarding things, you do your best to see them mature, you trap and pull the weeds. When I was young, we grew an apple tree in the back yard. It took a few years to learn that without pruning, the tree produced no fruit (there was no Google, and I had no access to expertise). You cut away the things you don’t need and double down on what’s left. Funny— I’d totally forgotten that tree until now.
(Source: griffshot, via peeringintomylookingglass)
Taking a moment after teaching today, I’ve found an exhibition of African beauty. This is probably the most conventionally “beautiful” portrait I could have picked as an example, but the exhibition celebrates a wide range of representative portraits from African groups and sub-groups.
As an aside, I bumped into photographer Franklyn Rodgers while browsing through. Had a brief but intense conversation about exoticisation in African portraiture, the need to continually challenge one’s own perspective, and the need to ask questions not only of the subject but also the eye that sees. We also spoke about the phase of life we’re both living through, whereby we’re both responsible for parents and elders whose lives have been reduced to smaller parodies of the lives they’ve lived before, through illness or even simple familiarity.
How do we see? How has your seeing been constructed? How easily do we take our respective perspectives for granted? How do we challenge ourselves authentically? And how do we stay fresh and alive to the world and all its offerings? How to resist that tapering of perspective that often comes in hand with age and experience?
“The internet is ubiquitous, yet its detailed inner workings remain wrapped in mystery. We rely on a wide range of myths, metaphors and mental-models to describe and communicate the network’s abstract concepts and processes. Packets, viruses, worms, trojan horses, crawlers and cookies are all part of this imaginary bestiary of software. This new mythology is one of technological wonders, such as live streams and cloud storage, but also of traps, monsters and malware agents. Folk tales of technology, however abstract and metaphorical, serve as our references and guidelines when it comes to making decisions and protecting ourselves from attacks or dangers. Between educational props and memorabilia, this series of objects visualises and celebrates the abstract bestiary of the internet and acts as a tangible starting point to discuss our relationship to IT technology.”
David Benque: Specimens of IT Fauna