Sometimes, it feels great to disappear off the radar for a while; just not be available. Journalist Caroline Buijs discovers why itâ€™s so important and also how difficult it is to achieve.
MINDFULNESS FOUNDER JON KABAT-ZINN
“I thought: This is exactly what I’ve been looking for my whole life” While studying microbiology at university, Jon Kabat-Zinn discovered Zen meditation and decided he wanted to incorporate it into mainstream health care— and that was the seed of the global mindfulness phenomenon. He spoke with journalist Nina Siegal about his past, present and future.
Feel con nected
I JUST CAN’T WAIT We want to see a movie and—ta-dum!—we download it. We’re craving strawberries; they’re available, even in winter. We want to see our friends across the world: Skype! We hardly have any time to savor anticipation anymore. Journalist Lisette Thooft asks how we can bring that feeling back into our lives.
ecently, my friend Micky waited a week before buying a book. “I passed by the bookstore a few times, longing for that book,” Micky said. “That gave me another seven days of enjoyment. It was so much more fun than getting it right away.” Oops, I thought. I always buy a book right away, as soon as I decide I want it. Then it usually stays on my growing pile, eyeing me reproachfully, because there are so many other books that I really needed right away for which it turns out I have no time. Would it be different if I postponed buying it, and looked forward to it for a while? “Things and experiences gain value when you have to wait for them,” says Harold Schweizer, professor of English at Bucknell University in the US and author of On Waiting (Thinking in Action). “Instant gratification makes them worth less.” Anticipation is also good for you, say the experts. It makes your brain produce dopamine, and that makes you feel excited and happy. Research shows that people are happier looking forward to a vacation than during the actual vacation itself. Anticipating a holiday also makes you feel happier than looking back on a successful trip. And the more you anticipate something, the easier it becomes to overcome any obstacles. At least, so long as you don’t get stuck in unrealistic fantasies. CHILDLIKE MAGIC
Remember how you felt as a child just before you went on vacation? Or if it was nearly your birthday? Why don’t I look forward to things like that anymore? Sometimes I’ll have a fleeting thought, like: Oh, I’m going out for dinner tonight, that’s nice. But usually I’m too busy to dwell on the good things of the future. Mostly I want it all right now. “Impatience is a form of greed,” Schweizer tells me. “Perhaps patience is like generosity: an act of generosity to give yourself the time to wait for something, to give something to yourself.” Social psychologist and author Susanne Piët is an advocate of cultivating anticipation. “If you’re very rich or influential, you can get anything you want right away,” she says, “but that often leaves people feeling empty and disappointed. The multimillionaire Jean Paul Getty said he once got a box of crayons for his birthday, and that it was the best present he’d had in years. It was just a small gift, but it had to do with something that he could anticipate. And of course, it recalled childhood memories. Anticipation is an innocent, naïve state that children know all about and that is in danger of disappearing later in life.”
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Calligraphy: it’s the kind of thing you can really lose yourself in for hours, which is why it’s so much fun. It’s a true art, and it takes many hours of practice before the results start looking presentable, but with the tips we’ve collected here from the pros, beginners can get off to a flying start.
“The best tip I can give is to pick out a lettering style that you really love and study it in depth before you even start. Take a good look at how each letter is shaped and what kind of lines it has,” says Seb Lester, a big name in the world of calligraphy and design. Seb began work in the ’90s as an illustrator and letter designer, and has created new fonts and logos for clients such as The New York Times, H&M, Apple and NASA. His decision to focus on calligraphy was brought about by unhappy circumstances, when his girlfriend was diagnosed with cancer three years ago. For eighteen months, Seb didn’t accept any assignments so he could care for her full time. The only distraction he allowed himself in this dark period was his sketchbook, in which he began practicing calligraphy. Now that his girlfriend is better, Seb is applying these newly honed skills to his work. He is using calligraphy for brands such as Victoria’s Secret and Nike—and for his own shopping lists, too. But let’s go back to his tip: picking out one style. “Success doesn’t come easy in calligraphy,” says Seb. “Perseverance and focus are key. It’s easier to stick with it if you pick a style that really fascinates you. I started by studying Copperplate, a very elegant font. It is one of the most difficult styles, but that made it easier to subsequently master other fonts.” Seb lives in Lewes, East Sussex, and his studio is near one of the oldest castles in Great Britain. He is known for his online calligraphy videos, and has more than 555,000 followers on Instagram (@seblester). See his work at seblester.co.uk.
American calligrapher Lindsey Bugbee swears by ballpoint pen—for beginners, that is. “It’s really not necessary to spend a fortune on materials at the beginning,” she says. “I started once upon a time with a black ballpoint pen. It’s cheap and works perfectly. Feel how the pen lies in your hand and what happens to the lines when you move it across the paper: up, down and sideways. Vary the force you use and the thickness of your lines.” Lindsey is a big fan of snail mail. “A handwritten letter has more personality than an e-mail. It’s a good way to organize your thoughts and you feel more of a connection with the person you’re writing to. Of course, I do my best to turn the addressed envelope into a true work of art,” she says. Lindsey’s decision to turn her calligraphy into art didn’t follow the most obvious career path. She studied English literature and was working in an administration department of a software company when she “started drawing on envelopes out of sheer boredom,” she says. “A colleague said I could make money with the things I was making, and I sold my first calligraphy-decorated envelopes via Etsy. Soon, I was selling so well that I could take up calligraphy and illustration full-time. In the beginning I felt kind of insecure; I hadn’t gone to art school, after all. But maybe that’s why I’ve been able to develop my own style.” Lindsey lives in Boulder, Colorado. On her blog, thepostmansknock.com, you can find tutorials and practice sheets she’s made. See also thepostmansknock.etsy.com.
The wonderful world of the
BLOOMSBURY GROUP Virginia Woolf was the hub of a group of artists and writers known as the Bloomsbury Group, which was formed at the beginning of the 20th Century. They threw so many conventions overboard that, even today, people still talk, write and make movies about them, as Liddie Austin explores.
Above: Members of the Bloomsbury Group in the garden of the Charleston Farmhouse, 1928. Right: The network of relationships in the Bloomsbury Group, illustrated by Rory Midhani.