Man, what a week.
In chronological order
- the Grenfell Tower fire started on the morning of 14 June killing
6 12 17 30 5479;
- early on 19 June, a clean-shaven white man attacked people near the Muslim Welfare House in Finsbury Park; and
- later that day, Brexit talks between Britain and the EU began.
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So, I took a quick spin through the reading list on my phone to see if it would throw up anything with the right tone for the blog.
An Illustrated Manifesto For The Artist’s Duty In Hard Times seemed to stray too far into the realms of solipsism, like the second album about the woes of touring, or the cocaine-fuelled third album.
Maybe a more prosaic version of The Artist’s Duty is that we should just throw ourselves into work? But then I came across another article in the reading list: The Disease of Being Busy.
It talks of how that blog favourite remark that the unexamined life is not worth living… for a human. How are we supposed to live, to examine, to be, to become, to be fully human when we are so busy?
This disease of being “busy”… is spiritually destructive to our health and wellbeing. It saps our ability to be fully present with those we love the most in our families, and keeps us from forming the kind of community that we all so desperately crave.
The article continues to bemoan that, the technological advances of the past seven decades which were supposed to have made out lives easier, faster, and simpler have left us with no more leisure time.
Besides. I’ve tried throwing myself into my work.
So, let’s take a minute to contemplate the world around ourselves and, as George Nelson would say, How To See. Paul mentioned in a comment to the recent post on airports, design and movies, that a particular article on the political significance of fonts
seemed tangentially related to your writing this week so I figured I’d share!
Well, if going off on a tangent isn’t the blog’s defence against busyness and the insanity of the 24-hour news cycle…
How Fonts Are Fueling The Culture Wars is an interesting read, I think. Two points in particular jump out.
First, I’m reminded of the linguist’s observation that a Serb and a Croat can readily understand each other when they talk, but are talking different languages. Just as a, say, Glaswegian and a Londoner (or an Edinburger and an Aberdonian) might not, even if they’re all speaking the same language.
It turns out that Croatian and Serbian are similar languages that could hardly look more different in their written forms. The East-West hybrid Balkan Sans – the article continues – makes them mutually intelligible, so that two neighbors might be able to correspond over email without thinking twice. [Designers Nikola Djurek and Marija Juza] transformed typography from a barrier between nations into an olive branch.
That seems a pretty cool endeavour this week. Particularly when an earlier passage in the article discusses how colonial rule changed Arabic script.
In English, each letter stands on its own, while Arabic connects every letter in a word, allowing many letters to take on new shapes based on context. Arabic lends itself to lush and poetic calligraphy, but it doesn’t square with traditional European methods for making typefaces.
I’m reminded of the Futuracha latin font that adjusts as you type.
In The Disease of Being Busy, Omid Safi writes
In many Muslim cultures, when you want to ask them how they’re doing, you ask: in Arabic, Kayf haal-ik? or, in Persian, Haal-e shomaa chetoreh? How is your haal?
What is this haal that you inquire about? It is the transient state of one’s heart. In reality, we ask, “How is your heart doing at this very moment, at this breath?” When I ask, “How are you?” that is really what I want to know.
I am not asking how many items are on your to-do list, he continues, nor asking how many items are in your inbox. I want to know how your heart is doing, at this very moment. Mine hurts a little for where we are, and I even feel a bit angry, but I’m glad for my good fortune and the opportunity to blether away with you.
I hope you’ve enjoyed a few minutes with this post, just tangenting away. Maybe you’ve got a tangent you’d like to share. And, anyway, how is your haal?
3 thoughts on “Tangents”
As you know I also had a job where one would be, as the stereotype goes, busy. In fact I would go as far as to say that I had a job where, by virtue of it taking basically all of your time, you had transcended busy to being consumed. Now I’m not complaining – I did it all voluntarily and stuff and I liked many parts of it very much – but it made me think a lot about busy.
And it made me think about it in one particular way. I would ask people “how’s it going” and they would say “busy”. And I decided to never ever say that. I’d say “well” or “bit tired” or “excited for my next meeting” or “dreading my next meeting” but never busy.
Because, I mean come on. Of course I was “busy” but that’s really not a badge of honor. It’s a way of perceiving your surroundings. And once I stopped saying “busy” I could allow myself things like “30 minutes to figure out a problem”
So it’s one of the words I try to never use. It is not descriptive of your actual state, but rather it’s just a (usually work-masochism or work-machismo based) narrative you place on top of your actual state. And I realized that narrative didn’t help me.
Your mileage may vary, though, as they say. No value judgements. Just didn’t work for me.
Anyway, thus ends my commentary on the word “busy”.
It’s a way of perceiving your surroundings. I like that. I’ve been using Headspace to meditate on “acceptance” recently, and the guidance is not so much to force oneself to accept things as to note what it is one is resisting. I dunno, that seems related? Perception, and all that
But of course, busy is loaded with meaning and value and judgment. The platitude that would often slip out of my mouth in the hourly-billing world in which I worked would be, “Well, better that than the other!” And that sentiment leads to busy work. It occurs to me as I write that one of the pieces of advice about praising kids is not to say something as general as “That’s good,” or praise innate ability, but praise instead the effort that goes into something. And that makes sense – why praise dumb luck? And learning to put effort into things, and enjoy the pleasure of a job well done, are good things. But then one day it looks normal to put a kid into a 9-5 impression of a job at kindergarten, and I’m not sure that’s a good thing.
But then, these observations are all very specific, aren’t they? YMMV, indeed. But maybe valuing effort and the pleasure of a job well done over busyness is a start for me. Wurdz.
Yeah. The “calls with client clarifying terms; 3/4” lifestyle does encourage you to have your time be filled. And praising effort seems smart; perhaps even better is praising progress. Replace “that’s good” with “wow your hard work means you are much better at that than you were 3 weeks ago”
But who knows. I’m just some guy in the comments section. This seems like one of the areas of human endavour where the (somewhat noxious) phrase “you do you” applies the most!