Mission: Enjoyable

TAoN No. 72: A reason to seek "blue spaces" (or something else you like). PLUS: Invisible art, and more

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Via Getty

The Prompt: Plan a pleasurable, multi-part “mission” that will take you to new places — and has a deadline. (Bonus: Consider making it water-centric.)

This is supposed to be a comparatively happy time — in the U.S., at least, it’s all about re-opening, rejoining society, reconnecting — but I’ve been cranky for weeks. This weekend, however, I had a mood-lifting moment: I gave myself a mission. It’s not an important mission, and in fact it might be sort of a silly one. But that’s part of the point. I’m really looking forward to it.

I like to swim, and I’ve visited all four of New Orleans’ year-round indoor public pools plenty of times. But there are also five outdoor public pools operating this summer; every year I visit the one nearest, multiple times. I’ve never considered going to the others because, you know, they’re farther away. I go to the convenient one. Efficient.

What happened this weekend is that I suddenly realized that’s exactly why I should visit the less convenient ones — all of them, the less efficient the better. That’s my new mission! Here’s some of what I like about it.

  • First, it’s containable: just four steps.

  • Second, it offers direct novelty — I’ve never been to any of these pools.

  • Third, it offers indirect novelty (contact novelty?): they’re mostly in areas I don’t go that often, off my beaten paths.

  • Fourth, there’s a deadline! They’ll all close up by the end of August, so I can’t postpone indefinitely.

  • Fifth, while this is definitely doable, it’s challenging: obviously I have to balance the mission against my schedule, and since weather and other x-factors may close any given pool on any given day, that might not be easy.

Those, I think, are very solid “mission” parameters.

Just after I resolved to make this my mission, I remembered a recent Washington Post article I’d set aside, all about the benefits of “blue spaces.” Playing off “green space,” this is a way of saying places involving water. According to the piece, there’s now research to back the intuitive belief that “being near water can boost mental and physical well-being.”

Being around water allows you “to relax and restore your cognitive processes,” said [environmental epidemiologist James] Grellier, and there are specific beneficial features: “The sound of water, for example, is known to be more relaxing than urban noise.” The researchers also found that people are more physically active when they visit blue spaces. “They walk for longer, and they tend to do it in a more sociable way,” Grellier said.

While that often means a day at the beach or a trip down a river — as opposed to laps in a pool, per se — I think that seeking water is a pretty legit starting point for a mission that could change up your routine in a useful way. Think about the closest bodies of water to wherever you are: maybe it’s a lake by a park, a fountain in a plaza, a nearby creek or pond. These are all good sparks for devising a mission. Visit (and perhaps picnic in?) all your city’s public parks with water features? Perfect!  

Of course you don’t have to be water-centric; I’m just mentioning that as a prod. Your enjoyable mission could be to visit all the parks within 15 miles of your home, or go to all the sushi restaurants or try all the taco trucks in town, or explore the area around every stop on a subway line, or play on every public basketball court in the county, or something else I can’t think of because I don’t know where you live.

The point is to make it … pointless! That is, something personal and pleasurable, yet borderline random, that cuts against efficiency on purpose, to shake up your routine. Make it something you will enjoy, because that’s what we all need right now. For those of you who have signed up to follow along with the new Summer School series, consider this a strictly joy-focused bonus assignment: Devise a mission, give yourself a deadline, and start exploring your world(s) again.

Invisible Art, Cont’d

Last week I mentioned Buddha In Contemplation, an “invisible sculpture demarcated by a square of tape on a cobble-stoned walkway” near a museum. “This form generated by thought is here now,a video of the invisible art work explained. As I confessed earlier, I actually like this ridiculous-sounding idea.

Well, there’s an update. Bloomberg financial columnist Matt Levine points to news that a mime claims to have stolen and destroyed the invisible sculpture. A video of this act is now for sale as an NFT.

Silliness aside — and yes, yes, everyone hates mimes, I know — I continue to like all of this.

In fact, to keep riffing on the subject, I really think someone should start an invisible public art campaign. Imagine a walking tour of a neighborhood, where every couple of blocks the tour stops and someone describes the invisible sculpture that they have invented for just this location, and explains why they did so. At some junctures, participants could be invited to add a sculpture of their own. Everyone could take a minute to contemplate, silently, what one person has imagined could be there.

Programming note

Just a word of thanks to everyone for sticking with TAoN during this transitional phase as I increase the frequency for those who want more — while still respecting the inboxes of those of you who prefer more occasional dispatches. I’ve been taking in your feedback and making adjustments. Much obliged!

Very soon the new & extra posts will be going to paid subscribers only. So of course if you don’t want to miss anything, subscribe! Thanks, either way, for your patience as I work my way to a new routine.

In Other News

  • Recently I interviewed artist/designer/tech provocateur Danielle Baskin, for Ceros.com. She’s really brilliant — funny and off-kilter and makes you see the world in a different way. The piece is very fancily designed! Check it out here.

  • All about the dunce cap.

  • David Hockney silently pages through one of his sketchbooks. From March 2020.

  • Friend of TAoN Paul Lukas had some interesting thoughts on Naomi Osaka. Among other things: how do we balance work and well-being, and is that changing, post-pandemic? Worth the read.

  • People can be so brilliant.” Quite charming.

Okay that’s it!

As always, I value your feedback (suggestions, critiques, positive reinforcement, constructive insults, etc.), as well as your tips or stories or personal noticing rituals, things we need a word for, and of course your icebreakers: consumed@robwalker.net. Or use the comments!

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All this by Rob Walker PO Box 171, 748 Mehle St., Arabi LA 70032 

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