Quote Challenge – day 3

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Day 3 of the quote challenge. I was nominated by the fab Laurie from the great blog Meditations in Motion, where she writes very thoughtful on a range of subjects. When I started this challenge I wasn’t sure that I would mange it, but I think I have done ok. I think this was one of those instances where it has been good to try something new.

Here are the rules:

  1. Thank the person who nominated you.
  2. Post a quote for three consecutive days.
  3. Nominate three bloggers each day to do the same

Todays nominations are:

  1. Blue Velvet Jacket – this is a thoughtful blog that covers a range of interesting things.  She recently wrote this lovely post about a pair of pearl earrings as her ‘objects with meaning’, which I liked very much – get over there to have a read.
  2. LA of the blog Waking up the Wrong Side of 50 – I really like the witty posts on this blog, which are combined with some thoughtful posts on gratitude. A great read.
  3. Suzanne of the blog Being in Nature – I discovered this blog relatively recently and have really been enjoying her thoughts on ‘being in nature’.

Today I wanted to quote from the book Empathy: a handbook for the revolution by Roman Krznaric (which I think is now available under the far more boring title Empathy: why it matters and how to get it – I think I liked the other title better but there we are). It’s a long one, so bare with me…

‘The idea of collective empathy is especially relevant today because it counterbalances the highly individualistic focus of modern self help culture, which tends to view the search for happiness or wellbeing as a personal pursuit concerning our own ambitions and desires, rather than one that involved working with others towards common goals. Yet thinkers going back to Aristotle have recognised that we are social animals, and that joy and meaning in life grow, in good part, from being immersed in something larger than ourselves. Human beings thrive on ‘we’ as much as ‘me’.’

So I really liked this section in this book as it spoke very clearly to thoughts I have been having about the social mess our highly sophisticated society appears to have got itself into. While being quite introverted, and craving solitude on a frequent basis, I also believe that the work we put into building rich relationships with people close to us is an important foundation to wellbeing. In my day job I work in mental health research, and while I don’t want to get into reviewing the science here, there does seem to be a growing consensus that social isolation and loneliness are harmful to us. The job we have then, collectively, is to build a society that supports connection more that it supports commerce. I don’t think it is shopping that will set us free.

Don’t for a minute think about stopping you lovely bunch of creatives

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[EDIT: So I had a nice formal sounding title for this post, but then I went and changed it because this feels better in getting across what I want to say]

I was procrastinating before work this morning and read this article from George Monbiot on the Guardian website about neoliberalism and loneliness and mental health. I thought it was an interesting article and feel he has a number of valid points about how the two things are connected. I was particularly interested in the scientific work he referenced about the link between stress, pain and physical contact. Anyway it’s a good article – I’m not going to re-write what he says here – go check it out for yourself.

The article this morning happened to come to my attention just two days after I had stumbled onto the work of Prof. Paul Crawford from the University of Nottingham after I me him during a day job event. Paul has been suggesting some really interesting ideas about how we enable people to use arts, humanities and creativity in looking after their own mental health and in their recovery from mental illness. He has a particularly interesting ideas around some form of collective healing through arts and humanities. He’s recently published a book called Health Humanities on the subject with Brian Brown, Charley Baker, Victoria Tischler and Brian Abrams. I’ve not read it yet but I’ve downloaded it and will be putting it on the list.

Both Crawford’s talk and Monbiot’s article have lead me to thinking a bit more about our culture and the role of arts in it. I feel over the last decade and probably for longer there has been this odd political positioning of people who are ‘Artists’ who get to do the making of things, and the rest of us as consumers, who are consumers who are meant to buy things. And things have become very easy, and very cheep to buy. This feels like quite a different situation to the one my parents and grandparents grew up in. My grandfather would probably not have called himself an artist, but he could make anything, and it was common for people to make things for each other, like jam. I like jam.

When I was younger I think I had quite a dismissive attitude towards people who made things (unless they were one of those special, magical, serious people, a proper artist), especially people who made things in groups or clubs. I was a child of the 80s, and while I grew up in the countryside without much stuff, the prevailing political climate was one of stuff worship (and not hand made stuff either). I’ve completely changed my mind about this. For people to gather together to share their making, like a meal, or to make things together, like kitting or music, or in staging a play, is a profoundly creative act. To be connected to each other through our creativity is a profoundly human one.

I think there is a backlash towards this at the moment, and it is thrilling. The internet used to be full of cats. Now it is full up of people having a go at being artists. And crafters and cooks and gardeners and poets. And people making Jam. It is full of artists cheering on other artists. A community or creatives supporting other creatives. Brilliant. Don’t for a minute think about stopping you lovely bunch of creatives.