Issue 27, Meditations in an Emergency
On the idea of a post-work economy and how I am making the journey to art as a meditation rather than as an amusement
I have been spending time over the last few weeks re-introducing art and other meditations into my life. I have been thinking about work and my relationship to work for half a dozen years now. What started from moving away from Silicon Valley to taking a sabbatical from work a couple years ago, to returning to the comfortable lap of paid work in the midst of the pandemic - it’s been a see-saw. I’ve been slowly unlearning deep conditioning around what constitutes work and challenging the old order while still having to live within this one. I came across a series of Tweets by Erin Drake Kajioka recently which hit the nail.
Art can often seem like amusement, something inconsequential and unproductive. I’ve been finding myself overlaying the same sense of dismissal as I make more time for “frivolous” art or play. It doesn’t help that language we use to talk about time is the same we use for money – “spending”. Reinforcing the idea of scarcity around time and that we must use it for production of value. And yet, I find myself picking up the stylus while preparing for a stressful work day, almost as if my life depends on it.
Today, I wanted to share a poem by Cameron Awkward-Rich. I love how Cameron talks about the daily heartbreak of reality when your entire being wants to dream. Being hopeful in these times of emergency we’re living through is perhaps the most heart breaking and audaciously brave act of all.
Meditations in an Emergency
By Cameron Awkward-Rich
I wake up & it breaks my heart. I draw the blinds
& the thrill of rain breaks my heart. I go outside.
I ride the train, walk among the buildings, men in
Monday suits. The flight of doves, the city of tents
beneath the underpass, the huddled mass, old
women hawking roses, & children all of them,
break my heart. There’s a dream I have in which I
love the world. I run from end to end like fingers
through her hair. There are no borders, only wind.
Like you, I was born. Like you, I was raised in the
institution of dreaming. Hand on my heart. Hand
on my stupid heart.
Have you found yourself being self-critical when spending time that isn’t “productive”? I invite you to share some of your own personal emergency meditations in comments below.
This week’s art in an emergency
On Friday on a whim I went to see the celebrated dancer/choreographer Akram Khan’s solo show XENOS at the Sadler’s Wells in London. I was absolutely mesmerised by the sheer power and particularity with which the show was produced and performed. As he moved between Kathak and contemporary dance seamlessly, I found myself riveted by the power of dance, of the human condition and of a single individual’s ability to carry a narrative of war through only their body.
You didn’t think you’d get away without the mention of flowers did you? I picked up this gorgeous book by botanical illustrator Adriana Picker. Having spent trying in vain to capture of the beauty of flowers for about a hundred days last year these breathtaking illustrations are quickly becoming a talisman I call upon when I feel anxiety or panic approach. It’s hard not to feel more grounded with each saturated flower petal.
Sometimes the mind doesn’t have space for planning or purchasing wonder - we must keep tools for wonder handy.
The other day I was emptying one of the last packed boxes from my house move and found an old kaleidoscope. I spent a few minutes peering through it at my newly decorated tree and for a few still moments allowed the edges of my world to be dissolved by wonder.