Issue 41, Playthings by Rabindranath Tagore
On upcoming changes, my artistic journey and mistaken bees
“If you want to be a grocer, or a general, or a politician, or a judge, you will invariably become it; that is your punishment. If you never know what you want to be, if you live what some might call the dynamic life but what I will call the artistic life, if each day you are unsure of who you are and what you know you will never become anything, and that is your reward.”
I am at the stage of burnout recovery where I am starting to get a lot of ideas that I want to do, but don’t quite have the energy to start any of them just yet. Though I am told that I have a tendency to overthink, I am a big believer in the power of idea gestation. Often productivity culture makes us feel guilty about slow and intentional movements - everything has a veneer of manufactured urgency solidifying the belief that you are behind, even when you’ve just begun.
We can all feel a bit behind. Behind on what, it’s not clear – but we know we’re running fast to catch up.
I have been slowly learning more about art, letting myself invest in more creative tools, honing in on my own artistic style and voice. As you would have noticed in the content of this newsletter of the past few months - it no longer just about poetry, its also about my journey as an artist, my journey to creative freedom.
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In the era where every human is a brand with hyper specialisation and niche, I want to spend more time in a space where people who resist labels operate. You’ll see some changes in the upcoming newsletters to reflect that.
For now I am continuing to make art, write poetry and plot how I can (while on my own journey) help others who have artists lurking within them, and want to let out to play.
I came across this poem by perhaps the most famous label resister/polymath India has ever known - Rabindranath Tagore – a multifaceted artist and thinker who was the first non-European to win the Nobel Prize for Literature, also known as the Bard of Bengal.
by Rabindranath Tagore
Child, how happy you are sitting in the dust, playing with a broken twig all the morning.
I smile at your play with that little bit of a broken twig.
I am busy with my accounts, adding up figures by the hour.
Perhaps you glance at me and think, "What a stupid game to spoil your morning with!"
Child, I have forgotten the art of being absorbed in sticks and mud-pies.
I seek out costly playthings, and gather lumps of gold and silver.
With whatever you find you create your glad games, I spend both my time and my strength over things I never can obtain.
In my frail canoe I struggle to cross the sea of desire, and forget that I too am playing a game.
This week I went to the Royal Academy of Art in central London. At the entrance was a gorgeous installation by the artist Christina Iglesias titled ‘ Wet Labyrinth (With Spontaneous Landscape)’ a structure made of mineral slate, aluminium, mirrors and artificial materials to create a labyrinth, where water flows freely over these green root-like structures. Unintentionally, there were swarms of bees getting attracted to the labyrinth, perhaps because of the humidity that mimics natural spaces - hoping for some nourishment, when in reality not a single drop of nectar was to be found.
As I navigate my own journey of unlearning, and disengaging from environments that look and feel like nourishment but aren’t, I find this image both ironic and reassuring. Eventually the bees understand what is going on, and move to greener pastures. So can we.
If what you’re after is some more inspiration yourself, I recommend The Sample, a newsletter that curates a new type of newsletter to your inbox every time, or check out some books from my curated Bookshop.org list.