Tag Archives: small beauties

Not seeking calm

There are times when being calm is good – most especially when trying to go to sleep! Otherwise, I find it a state of questionable value. It has some value around meditation, but it’s not a very meaningful state to be in.

I find I am generally at my most calm when I’m depressed. It’s a state of disinterest, and unfeeling response to the living world around me. It’s not a state of wanting to move towards anything, nor one of wanting to let anything in. I see a lot of content online preaching about the desirability of calm, and I find I disagree.

There are states of being that I want to cultivate in myself. These are ways of being in the world that enrich my life and that open me to good things. Existing in a state of gentle curiosity is good. That opens me to experiences, to the alternative perspectives of other people and to investing care and attention in whatever is around me. 

I find it helps to cultivate a state of openness-to-joy. That’s not a toxic positivity that denies a whole array of feelings and experiences. It’s about being open to the small joys and beauties that can be overlooked if I’m not careful. Actively seeking that kind of joy definitely helps.

I’m also trying to cultivate compassion and tenderness. This will make me open to pain and distress whenever I encounter suffering. I do not want to ignore the distress and suffering of other beings, and I want to meet that with the best I can bring. A tender state means I will experience pain, but I can respond to it in useful ways.

I think part of the problem here is that we’re being offered a binary – stress or calm. The idea that being calm is the right response to everything only makes sense when that state is set up in opposition to stress. Calm isn’t the only state you can start from. A gentle, open, engaged response to the world can be full of feeling, it can bubble with the potential for excitement, and delight, and at the same time be open to facing the difficult things.


Creating in a hostile climate

  • The world is terrifying right now. There are so many big issues, so much that needs changing, that any small creative act seems too little in the face of it all. We may feel guilty about not undertaking other forms of activism, we may feel our art *should* be able to do more and be frustrated that it can’t. The climate is not a good one in which to be a sensitive and creative person.

Logically I know what the answers to this are – it’s just that emotionally I can’t get it to work (yet). The answer is to think about the kind of world we want to live in, and act as individuals, and in groups, to make that real. The shit out there is nothing more than the cumulative effects of other people, deliberately and cluelessly doing stuff. We can push back. All forms of creativity can be a valid form of pushback.

I suspect the reasons I struggle emotionally is because I’m often attracted to whimsy and small acts of silliness. Small beauties, small projects, small publishing houses… I know my scale, and my very sense of where I belong conflicts with the need to be doing more. I have to work on this.

Like many people, I’ve been exposed to the folk who say ‘why are you even bothering with that when this is so much more important? Why help refugees and not feed the homeless? I have to keep reminding myself that these statements are made purely to derail by people who do nothing to help anyone. People who just spend their time knocking other people down. But they’re like toxins thrown in the ocean – my personal ocean may be bigger than them, but it still feels the effects.

One of the things we can do collectively is to affirm that each other’s contributions are good. That any small act of good, any kindness, any generosity or warmth or expression of hope, any good idea, or effort in the right direction is good, and welcome and wanted. I’m reminded of an anecdotal activist in the habit of shouting ‘don’t you want a future’ into the faces of people who do not agree with him. We have to not be that guy. We have to be the opposite of that guy, because well intended demands to do more can grind people down just effectively as trolling does. Always demanding that other people do more does not make for a better world or even get the outcomes we may seek. We have to help each other to do more, inspire and encourage each other to do more. If we lift each other, and support each other, we can do far, far more than if we pick holes in each other. And we can, with small good things, shared and appreciated.

Thank you to everyone who has contributed with ideas, experiences, shared what’s working and what isn’t. I was paralysed for a long time by what was happening with my creativity, I could not have started a rethink alone.