Writing in Men's Health, and sadly not available anywhere I can link to, Will Self reflects on what we've collectively learned during the pandemic.
In it, he uses a quotation from Nietzsche I can't seem to find elsewhere, "There are better things to be than the merely productive man". I definitely feel this.
[T]he mood-music in recent months from government and media has all been about getting back to normal. So-called freedom. Trouble is... people from all walks of life and communities [have] expressed a reluctance to resume the lifestyle they were enjoying before March of last year. Quite possibly this is because they weren't really enjoying that much in the first place — and it's this that's been exposed by the pandemic and its associated measures.
The difficulty, I think, is that lots of people (me included at times) had pre-pandemic lives that they would probably rate a 6/10. Not terrible enough for the situation by itself to be a stimulus for change. But not, after a break, the thought of returning to how things were sounds... unappetising.
We all know the unpleasant spinning-in-the-hamster-wheel sensation that comes when we're working all hours with the sole objective of not having to work all hours — it traps us in a moment that's defined entirely by stress-repeating-anxiety, a feeling that mutates all too easily into full-blown depression. And we're not longer the sort of dualists who believe that psychological problems have no bodily correlate — on the contrary, we all understand that working too hard while feeling that work to be valueless can take us all the way from indigestion to an infarct.
I've burned out a couple of times in my life, which is why these days I feel privileged to be able to work 25-hour weeks by choice. There's more to life than looking (and feeling!) "successful".
It's funny, I have more agency and autonomy than most people I know, yet I increasingly resent the fact that this is dependent upon some of the very technologies I've come to realise are so problematic for society.
[I]t might be nice in the way of 18 months of being told what to do, to feel one was telling one's self what to do. One way of conceptualising the renunciation necessary to cope with the transition from a lifestyle where everything can be bought to one in which both security and satisfaction depend on more abstract processes, is to critique not just the unhealthy economy but the pathological dependency on technology that is its sequel.
Ultimately, I think Will Self does a good job of walking a tightrope in this article in not explicitly mentioning politics. The financial crash, followed by austerity, Brexit, and now the pandemic, have combined to hollow out the country in which I live.
The metaphor of a pause button has been overused during the pandemic. That's for a reason: most of us have had an opportunity, some for the first time in their lives, to stop and think what we're doing — individually and collectively.
What comes next is going to be interesting.
Not a sponsored mention by any means, but just a heads-up that I read this article thanks to my wife's Readly subscription. It's a similar monthly price to Netflix, but for all-you-can-read magazines and newspapers!
I read most things online, but I came across this one via my print subscription to Guardian Weekly (which I recommend highly). Leslie Caron, who danced and acted with a host of big names, highlights Cary Grant’s attitude towards money.
I’ve always found Cary Grant fascinating, and in fact my online avatar used to be a photo of him. It seems, as Leslie Caron points out, that one’s mindset can be out of step with reality — which is a lesson to us all.
Who was her most talented leading man? “Cary Grant,” she answers immediately. In 1964, she starred with Grant in the romcom Father Goose; Grant was 27 years her senior. “Cary was a complicated brain,” she says, pointing to her head. “He was a remarkable performer. He was very instinctive, seductive, intelligent. But when he got mad he would get into a terrible state. He worried about money.” Surely he had plenty of it? Yes, she says, but when you grow up poor you always think like a poor person. “I remember Charlie Chaplin saying to me: ‘If I were rich …’” When Chaplin died in 1977, he left more than $100m to his fourth wife, Oona.Source: ‘I am very shy. It’s amazing I became a movie star’: Leslie Caron at 90 on love, art and addiction | The Guardian
This article is based around a story about NASA engineers in the 1980s, but touches on something that I feel that we know instinctively. While every company will say they welcome risk-takers and rulebreakers, the reality is very different.
It’s one of the reasons I work with my co-op colleagues in solidarity. We can do what others cannot.
There is psychological evidence that rebelliousness is essential for creativity. Harvard psychiatrist Albert Rothenberg spent more than five decades researching individuals who had made ground-breaking contributions to science, literature and the arts, seeking to understand what drove their creativity. As part of a broader research project that encompassed structured interviews, experimental studies and documentary analysis, Rothenberg interviewed 22 Nobel Laureates. He found that they were strongly emotionally driven by wanting to create something new, rather than extend current perspectives. He found they consciously saw things with a fresh mindset rather than blindly following established wisdom – two qualities that would seem to suggest a rebellious, rather than conformist, personality.Source: 'Positive deviants': Why rebellious workers spark great ideas | BBC Worklife
We managed to get away for three nights last weekend, but I’m truly, deeply, looking forward to being able to do some of the amazing family trips we’ve done in previous years. Stupid coronavirus.
The neuroscientist Dr. David Eagleman, who’s focused much of his research on time perception, discovered something fascinating about novel experiences: they make time pass by more slowly. In effect, this can make your life feel longer. Think, for instance, about summers when you were a kid versus summers now.Source: The Brain-Changing Magic of New Experiences | GQ
“The only time you really write down memories is when something is novel. For a child, at the end of a summer, they have lots of memories to draw on because so many things are new. The summer seems to have taken forever in retrospect,” Eagleman explained. “But once you’re an adult, you kind of know the rules of the world, so when you get to the end of the summertime, you think, Oh my gosh, where did that disappear to? Why? Because you don’t have any “footage” to draw on. You can’t really remember much in terms of distinguishable memories of the summer because everything else was pretty much routine.”