October 2016 // Spurred on by encouragement, maintenance and unblissful ignorance

barton-on-sea-wellies

October’s pickings centre around persevering. Continuing well, or at least the best that you can. This isn’t to invite concern – life’s rhythms are more extreme than we would choose, but we are learning to keep our heads up while our feet keep walking on. We are fortunate; we know it is not forever.

Perspective is brought by two episodes of This American Life. The first is Abdi’s story of incredible perseverance to reach the place he most wanted to be. The other, about an activist drawn into the lives of people in unimaginably terrible circumstances, and learning to integrate supporting them with her life in Sweden.

I was provoked by this exploration of whether remaining ignorant of the sometimes terrible state of the world – a means of coping – is a luxury, a privilege. Those who can choose not to engage with the life’s darker aspects can do so because they don’t experience them personally. The podcast is honest, asking “Isn’t there a humanitarian or philosophical or ethical mandate to not just know but be a part of your world?” and what is the morally appropriate position of someone who is safe? To listen I think. To hear people’s stories. The podcast reminds me that community can both help – to avoid feeling overwhelmed – and hinder, when it replicates an ‘echo chamber’, just repeating your perspective back to you.

Unblissful ignorance can apply not just to others’ circumstances, but our own. Andrew Sullivan writes about his experience of using online distractions as a coping mechanism, but one that ultimately fails to satisfy. “Yes, online and automated life is more efficient, it makes more economic sense, it ends monotony and “wasted” time in the achievement of practical goals. But it denies us the deep satisfaction and pride of workmanship that comes with accomplishing daily tasks well, a denial perhaps felt most acutely by those for whom such tasks are also a livelihood — and an identity.”

On the note of the life’s daily tasks necessary, this Freakonomics podcast explores how our desire for the new means we underinvest in the old. This makes the old unsatisfying, perpetuating our desire for the new. A cycle that despises the good that maintenance can be, the vital part it can play in our lives.

A couple of very personal encouragements to continue down this writing road:

Finally, the outdoors, as always. The south of England has put on its Autumn dress and is wearing it well. We’ve been inspired by nature further afield too, putting on repeat the trailer for Planet Earth II, set to Hans Zimmer’s heart-expanding score. Unparalleled.

autumn-new-forest-sunset
Source: T Kendal

This is part of a monthly series on the things that spur me on to keep going with intentional living. What has spurred you on recently?

Today’s soundtrack: Foy Vance // Joy of Nothing

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