‘Tension is who you think you should be. Relaxation is who you are.’
Welcome, summer! Yep, she has finally arrived. As well as seasonal fruits (shout out to the magic of strawberries in June, mentioned later on), we’re enjoying lighter, longer days over here in the northern hemisphere, and more consistent warmth and sunshine. If spring is the time for rebirth, summer is the time for adventure and tuning into that exuberant yang energy. Hello, wiggly energy in our limbs (and consequent impromptu dance breaks). Hiya, long, sun-soaked walks. Howdy, socialising like nobody’s business. All of this said, high seasonal energy doesn’t have to mean constant, high human energy. We don’t have to exhaust ourselves just because the weather’s good, the days are long, and we want to make the most of it all before quiet, yin, winter arrives. High energy lends itself to chilling and riding a wave of peaceful contentment just as well as riding an actual wave.
Cover image: Gozo, being
Cover quote: Chinese proverb
G O O D S T U F F
Watch (in awe)
If you’re looking to marvel, we recommend Our Great National Parks. The Netflix docu series, narrated by Barack Obama, explores 13 incredible parks around the world and their native wildlife. Expect majestic whales in Monterey Bay and shy black rhinos in Kenya, as well as insights about the effects climate change, history, and national policies are having on these areas and animals. We laughed, teared up, learnt, ruminated and, of course, marvelled.
Pick, eat, enjoy
According to the Algonquin calendar, June’s full moon is the Strawberry Moon, named after this special, short time period in which strawberries can be harvested and enjoyed at their best. Get involved with those sweet red berries this month, whether you spend a day picking them at community farms, buy fresh punnets from local farmers and greengrocers, or even harvest your own after patiently watching them grow.
Curious about the origins of the phrase the bee’s knees? Love a good ramble through the etymology of a swear word? Us too! That’s why we’re big fans of The Allusionist. This delightful podcast is hosted by language fanatic Helen Zaltzman (who previously co-hosted podcast Answer Me This!), and each episode provides a witty, informative romp through one of the many treasures of the English language.
N O T E S O N
In ancient times, every country and continent had its own source of writing material, from birch bark in India to polished animal skins in Europe. But we credit the origins of paper to the ancient Egyptians and the swampy papyrus plant.
Today, wild papyrus plants are a rarity in Egypt, but during ancient civilisation they were abundant and thus, great providers. They were used for food and practical wares (baskets, sails), but paper is perhaps their best-known use. Ancient Egyptians laid strips of plant pith side by side, added another layer on top, pounded them together, and dried them with clay. There’s a reason that movies set in deserts often feature crispy, brown scrolls brightly inked — papyrus documents fared well in the arid air. Exhibit A: long scrolls of cultural wisdom from around 1500 BC have been found intact and readable.
Papyrus continued to be used as a source of writing material by the Romans and the Greeks. In fact, the word papyrus (‘paper’) is Greek, and the Greek word for papyrus pith is biblos — the root of bibliography and bible.
Centuries later, a closer example of the paper we know today was produced in China’s Han Dynasty by court dignitary Cai Lun. It was still made of plant fibres (hemp, mulberry) but also contained other economical materials such as old rags, replacing the heavy bone and expensive silk used previously. It was made by mills and used for writing, drawing, and money. This paper production process soon replaced techniques in the Middle East and Europe (it’s believed that the Europeans’ use of animal skins as paper predated the Egyptians use of papyrus, but writing material made from animal skin is technically parchment, not paper).
In the industrious 19th century, alongside the advent of the pencil and the printing press, the paper mill industry took off. Huge innovation lead to what we know as paper today — a bleached-white item made from wood pulp. Thankfully, people continue to innovate, and in an effort to save our planet, recycled, FSC-certified, and unbleached paper alternatives are becoming more readily available.
A L B U M S F O R W H E N E V E R
Heard It in a Past Life
“Back In My Body”
To celebrate Maggie Rogers’ new singles, we’ve been revisiting her 2019 record, Heard It in a Past Life. Growth is the salient theme on this record, as evinced by lead single “Light On”, a meditation on the sudden, overwhelming launch of her career and her gratitude for her fans. There’s also the ambient, clarity-seeking “Alaska”, the self-aware “Back in My Body”, and “Give A Little”, a call for dialogue on gun laws following the National School Walkout. Musically, it’s a delight — poppy, loop-tastic, and the ideal balance of produced and raw (many of the songs include Rogers’ own recordings of nature doing its thing).
Rogers came to the public’s attention when a video of her playing “Alaska” to Pharrell during an NYU masterclass (and him having ‘no notes’) went viral (on the day of her graduation, no less).
In 2020, she released Notes from The Archive: Recordings 2011-2016, a compilation of original songs (many unreleased) written prior to Heard It in a Past Life. Her next album, Surrender, is set to be released this July.
D I V E I N
There are lots of questions about time. First and foremost, what is it? Then, once your mind is sufficiently boggled: is it a man-made construct? Is there more than one way to measure it? There are endless scientific and philosophical debates about these massive questions and very few definitive answers.
Something we do know, though, is that most of us are slaves to the clock. Our lives are shaped by our understanding of time which is based on a schedule — going to work, eating dinner, picking children up. We rarely simply do things when we want to or when they feel right. Instead, we do them according to the dials on a clock (or, increasingly, the digital display on a phone), rather than nature and thus, our gut instincts. We can’t define this way of living as ‘good’ or ‘bad’; it’s more complex than that. Regardless, many of us feel we have to adhere to the clock if we are to survive in this modern world, yet we feel discontented with the specific times we must do certain things and the quantity of time we spend doing them. Can we live by a clock without being a slave to it? Or, at the very least, can we have boundaries when it comes to our time?
The answer is: yes. In France, employees have the legal right to ignore work communications outside of working hours. In Sweden, maternity and paternity leave is generous, allowing parents to spend time with their children. In our former home, a small island in Hong Kong, the little, independent shops opened when they wanted to (one shop remained closed for months, simply because the owner was doing other things). In many Mediterranean countries, there’s a deep cultural understanding of balance. They carve an unspecified period of time into their days in which they stop working or shopping and have a rest, a nap, or lunch. Here in the U.K. and likely elsewhere, too, we refer to this as a ‘long’ lunch because, by our own cultural standards, it exceeds the prescribed length of a lunchbreak. Cue clock versus culture. As Smithsonian Magazine says, ‘While it’s possible to syncronise clocks, syncronising cultures has proven more challenging.’ What a muddle; most people adhering to ‘global time’ (thanks to trade) yet perceiving the value of time in entirely different ways.
We are intimately familiar with one of the Greek concepts of time. Chronos — the root of chronological — is linear, measurable, and quantative. Chronos is personified as an old, cruel man, stifled by the constraints of time. As Dan Kieran says in The Idle Traveller, ‘we all wear our watches in honour of him.’
But the Greeks had another concept of time that offers us more than just a clock. Kairos is the god of ‘the right time’. The winged deity represents qualitative and divine time, and is interested in moments rather than minutes. He darts by fleetingly and must be grabbed when seen so the opportunity he’s providing at this right, critical time isn’t missed. Tellingly, kairos is the modern Greek word for ‘weather’, and the plural (kairoi) means ‘the times’. The root of the word kairos is believed to relate to archery, specifically the optimum moment when an arrow can be fired to achieve the best results.
Time is inherent in nature and thus our bodies. Indigenous peoples have always known this, relying on nature’s rhythms to ascertain the time of day, month, or year. They look to sunrise, sunset, and noon to shape their days, and to the sun and moon’s movements (e.g. the sun sitting over the ridge of a specific mountain) to establish the seasons and the equinoxes. Many tribes need to know the rough time because certain rituals and ceremonies can only happen at certain points during the year in accordance with nature’s cycle. Some also use the seasons to keep track of age, e.g., if you were born when the trees did something specific, it’s obvious which month that was. To reference a specific time, some tribes point to a place in the sky where the sun will be positioned. They observe the movements and characteristics of the sun and moon, and use them to navigate their daily lives.
Even with the sundial, one of our earliest physical clocks, time was firmly rooted in, and dictated by, the natural world.
We often inhibit ourselves through the way we talk about time. It’s rare to have a conversation about doing something (meditating, holidaying, reading, etc.) without the phrase ‘I don’t have time’ being spoken. Modern productivity culture is so ingrained that we refer to any time not filled with plans as ‘free time’, which tacitly implies that we pay in some way for the time that’s filled. We also call it ‘spare time’, which suggests that unfilled time is some kind of different, additional time, not central to our lives, perhaps even unnecessary or useless (as per the phrase a spare part). Psychology of language aside, it can be boiled down to priorities. As the School of Life says, ‘We say time is precious, but our actions reveal our real priorities: we devote a huge portion of our existence to making money… We have a highly concrete and detailed sense of accounting around finances, while time invisibly slips away.’
Since the start of the pandemic, this has started to shift. Our work, social, and home lives have changed dramatically, forcing most of us to re-assess how we want to live. Maybe we’ve also been reminded that giving someone or something our time is an act of generosity, especially if you think about your life in its entirety. If giving the gift of your time to a work spreadsheet or a childhood friend brings you joy, that’s wonderful. If it doesn’t, a re-evaluation of values could help. Right now is the ideal moment — kairos — to evaluate who or what gets the gift of our time.
What if we’re unable to practically change our current situation to better suit our values and schedules? There is another way.
In Travels with Epicurus, philosopher Daniel A. Klein recounts a conversation with a friend in Greece. They are discussing kombolói, a string of beads within Greek and Cypriot culture that look similar to prayer or worry beads. When Klein refers to them as the latter, his friend admonishes this translation, saying that they are nothing to do with worry. ‘Kombolói have to do with time, with spacing it out, making it last,’ he says. They go on to explore the idea that time is malleable and can be what you want it to be.
Being at an appointment at a certain time or at the office for a set amount of time is what it is; we can’t change the clock. But we can change our perception of time. If we shift our perspective, we could still be at work at 9am but possess a deep understanding that time itself (before, during, after) feels however we want it to feel. There’s something liberating about realising we can experience time however we want, even if our days contain structure or schedule. We can choose to see time as limited, set in stone, or increments on a clock. Or we can choose to see it as generous, flexible, and open. It’s possible that we could live by time, not according to a clock or society but according to ourselves.
R E A D S F O R W H E N E V E R
Lost Connections — Johann Hari
The title of this book strikes a familiar chord right now. Many of us have experienced the negative effects of our swiftly changing world, including feeling lonely and suffering from depression. But one simple thing we can do for ourselves and each other is become informed — and this book is a great place to start. In Lost Connections, Hari investigates the true cause of depression, busts a ton of myths about it, and discusses solutions. He approaches the topic in an accessible, intersectional way, interviewing a mix of scientists, doctors, and everyday people, retelling astonishing stories from around the world, and sharing his own personal experiences.
R O O T S
Callisto was a nymph in Greek mythology (who was impregnated by Zeus and turned into a bear by Zeus’ wife, Hera), considered to be extremely beautiful — the fourth moon of Jupiter was even named after her. So, there’s little doubt that there’s a link between her name and kallisto — a Greek word for ‘beautiful’, derived from kallos which means ‘beauty’. It’s believed that kallos may have come from kalyana, which is defined as ‘beautiful’ in Sanskrit. When paired with root word graphein, which refers to the act of writing or a writing itself, you have calligraphy — beautiful writing. Calligraphy itself is believed to have originated in 1200 BC with the Phoenicians, and later became popular in ancient Greece and Rome.