‘Don’t explain your philosophy.
Somehow, we find ourselves in December and at the end of another strange, surreal 12 months. Still, there’s a joy that comes with the last month of the year as we begin to reflect, rest, and find closure.
For those who have been with us since being launched in September or have read previous issues of being, thank you for returning and supporting our humble little zine. We’re grateful for your time, attention, and lovely emails.
We hope you enjoy the fourth issue of being and savour the last that 2021 has to offer, including Christmas festivities, cosy weather, and some time to pause and take stock. We’ll see you in the new year!
Cover image: Tai Mei Tuk, being
Cover quote: Epictetus
G O O D S T U F F
Make yourself laugh
Interesting fact: The body doesn’t know the difference between real and fake laughter. This means that we can reap the health benefits (including improved kidney and bladder function, lower stress levels, and stronger immune systems) from any laughter. Cue: laughing yoga. To start, shake your body out. Inhale deeply and raise your hands up to the sky. Exhale with a long ‘ha’ and drop your arms. Repeat, but instead of saying ‘ha’, actually laugh. Fake it until you’re genuinely laughing, which does happen!
Founded by philosopher and writer Alain de Botton, The School of Life helps people find fulfilment through workshops, therapy sessions, books, and online resources. It focuses on things we don’t learn at school but must navigate on the daily nonetheless, such as how to have healthy relationships, manage anxiety, and find career satisfaction. We’re fans of its online articles which run the gamut, from “Why We Secretly Love Bad News” to “How to Read Fewer Books”.
Save the planet
GUPPYFRIEND is a washing bag that protects the environment and your clothes. When we’re doing laundry, microplastics (small plastic fibres) travel in the wastewater and end up polluting our rivers and oceans. GUPPYFRIEND puts an end to this avoidable madness by collecting the fibres in the corners of the bag so you can dispose of them at the end of the wash. It’s super simple: put clothes into the bag, put the bag into the washing machine, discard the fibres, have healthier clothes and a healthier planet.
N O T E S O N
“Auld Lang Syne”
Singing “Auld Lang Syne” at the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve is a tradition beloved by people around the world, especially in English-speaking nations. In Scotland, where the song originated, people celebrate the last day of the year (known as Hogmanay) by forming a circle, crossing their arms in front of their bodies, and joining hands with their neighbours as they sing the song.
“Auld Lang Syne” is a Scottish poem written by Robert Burns in the late 1700s, but it was based on a popular old folk song. In 1799, almost ten years after Burns sent the poem to the Scots Musical Museum, it was set to a traditional tune which is the one we sing along to today.
Its title, when translated into standard English, means ‘old long since’ which can be interpreted as ‘for the sake of old times’. The lyrics refer to adventures had, such as paddling in a stream and running about the hills, making it the ideal way to reflect and say goodbye.
“Auld Lang Syne” isn’t just sung on New Year’s Eve but also at funerals, Scout camping trips, graduation processions, and independence ceremonies. The melody has been adopted and the lyrics adapted worldwide; in Thailand, it's a patriotic song about the King, in the Netherlands, a football tune, and in Japan, a signal letting people know that stores will be closing soon. In the early 1900s, the South Korean government in exile even adopted the tune as their national anthem.
A L B U M S F O R W H E N E V E R
One Foot in Front of the Other
“Heart of Gold”
If you’re into compact modern pop, have a listen to Griff’s One Foot in Front of the Other. The British, half-Chinese, half-Jamaican singer learnt to produce her own music in her bedroom and has been dropping singles and EPs since 2019. One Foot in Front of the Other is the 20-year-old’s first album, released three months after her Rising Star win at the Brit Awards.
Considering the record consists of a mere seven tracks, it covers a lot of ground in subject matter, from aging to taking tiny steps in a relationship. “Black Hole”, the first single, is emblematic of the entire mixtape; catchy, modern, simultaneously rich and pedestrian in lyrical content, and replete with Griff’s wide vocal range and raw falsetto. More than just another pop offering, One Foot in Front of the Other is a lesson in cohesion, theme, and production (most notably the art of using synthesizers and layering simple sound effects).
For extra insight into Griff's musical origins and everyday life, have a gander at her Spotify RADAR documentary on YouTube.
D I V E I N
The word self-care has become synonymous with health and wellness over the last few years. But, as with most ubiquitous new ideas in the time of the Internet, it’s also been set adrift in a sea of potential meanings, prompting us to ask: what is self-care?
When it first came on the scene, most people (myself included) ‘got it’ immediately. Self-care was about watching Netflix, ordering a takeaway, and scrolling social media without having to justify it to anyone (least of all, our unforgiving selves). Self-care became a byword for permission, encouraging us to do whatever we want.
Only, the activities we often turn to don’t give us what we actually want: care. They make us feel good, entertain us, distract us; for sure. But offer true pleasure? Give us a moment to reconnect? Allow us to put our real needs first? Not so much. This is evident in the after-effect for many of us; if you wash-rinse-repeat this routine every time you feel down or, conversely, want to reward yourself, it’s possible that you’ll end up feeling the opposite of cared for: strangely guilty, not adjective enough (the media has a way of doing that to you), and ultimately, untended to in the deeper, truer sense.
Perhaps these activities are better suited to the label self-soothe than self-care. Junk food, video games, manicures, alcohol, social media, TV binges; they soothe in the moment. They pat your back and say, ‘here’s some relief’. They enable you to unload the weight you’ve been carrying. However, they don’t usually help you take it apart, have a look inside, and understand it so that you won’t have to haul it back onto your shoulders tomorrow. And that’s fine. No disrespect to TV marathons or sugar comas. They do what they do. But it’s possible that, thanks to the way self-care is presented in popular culture, many of us don’t know that that’s all they do, that these things cannot care for us.
* * *
So what’s the difference?
Neither of them solve all of our problems, but while self-soothe distracts us from daily life, self-care works with it, giving us the tools to navigate the rest of our days. Self-soothe makes us feel better temporarily, while self-care makes us feel better (and hopefully better and better) for life.
But perhaps the real difference lies in one behaviour: listening.
When we self-soothe, we don’t listen, we react. Deep down, we know we need something: to let loose, to express ourselves, to be alone, to challenge our brains, to move our bodies, to be creative, to be still. But instead of hearing ourselves out, we reach for the default (fire up the laptop/crack open the wine/pull out our phones/bulk-buy at the supermarket, etc). Ultimately, we tune out and turn away from ourselves before we know what we really want.
Self-care is the opposite. It’s about hearing that needy person inside and responding instead of reacting. Self-care often looks one way (‘wholesome’) because a lot of associated practices are proven to be good for our wellbeing (e.g., eating well, meditating, getting good sleep, etc). But self-care isn’t about being virtuous. It’s about giving ourselves what we need — no matter how it might seem to others (or ourselves). It might be doing a crazy dance in the stairwell to get our energy out, or lying on the living room floor for a minute.
There’s nothing wrong with self-soothe. In fact, we probably need it, too. But the key is balance, and to find that, we have to understand that there's a difference.
* * *
In recent times many people, perhaps also confused and overwhelmed by self-care, have started to question it, and thus this clearer definition is coming to the fore. Still, understanding what self-care is doesn't equate to doing it (or knowing how to).
Perhaps one obstacle is the word want. There’s a tension between the things we want. Right now, I want to take a walk but I also want to sit and stuff my face. The nature of these ‘wants’ is different. One is an intuitive want, coming from deep within, and the other is distraction dressed up as desire. We often end up choosing the latter because it’s familiar and isn’t emotionally, physically, or mentally strenuous (even though it often ends up this way when we overdo it and no longer feel soothed). Also, it’s louder. Most of the time we aren’t open to hearing our inner self, so what we really want passes us by; a flicker that evaporates, a whisper from within that gets dismissed. The more we listen for, and to, this gut response, the stronger and clearer it will become.
We need to disengage autopilot and engage with our inner self in the present moment. What do I need right now? It might be a nap. It might be to scream. It might be a banana (you never know). It might even be Brooklyn Nine-Nine re-runs. Whatever it is, you know it's going to satisfy your full being.
* * *
It’s not just our inner selves we tend to ignore but our bodies too. Many of us, especially in the West, grow up believing (and still believe) that suffering a migraine or a stomach-ache is normal. But of course, it isn’t. Physical ailments mean we're at dis-ease. Somewhere in the murky depths of our ancestral, biological roots, we hear this cry and know what our bodies need. But growing up in a modern age, living fast among shiny things our primitive bodies don’t understand, it’s hard to tune into that. We reach for Aspirin or more TV or maybe even do nothing at all about it, instead of pausing and thinking that perhaps something isn't quite right.
* * *
All of this is to say that bestowing acts of self-care upon our whole being is a skill. It has to be learnt and fostered. It’s no easy feat, although popular culture often makes us feel otherwise, presenting it as basic, instinctual, obvious. It was when we were early humans, before we were flooded with things that distracted us, rewarded impatience, and encouraged us to compare and disconnect. But we live in a different time now, and we need all of the compassion and support we can get.
Self-care requires a real desire to put ourselves first. It doesn’t require feeling like we have to journal even though we don’t enjoy it, or shaming ourselves if we watch too many episodes in one sitting. It also doesn't require madly cutting things from our diet or our down-time. Self-care is an exercise in balance and commitment. And, as with most skills worth having, the more you nourish it, the more rewarding it will become.
R E A D S F O R W H E N E V E R
Notes on a Nervous Planet — Matt Haig
Navigating today's world and staying sane and safe in the process can be difficult. Matt Haig knows all about this, having experienced serious mental health issues (and shared them in Reasons To Stay Alive). In Notes On A Nervous Planet, a kind of follow-up, he explores aspects of daily living (including social media, news, sleep, and time) in digestible essays and lists. The pieces may be short, but the power they pack is big and the message, beautiful (see: the ancient ocean telling us it ‘literally doesn’t give a fuck’ about how our bodies look in swimwear). There are many such poignant, attitude-altering gems to be found in this guide to 21st-century living, such as how we’re primed from childhood to fixate on the future, and the way tech companies encourage individualism but forbid us to be individuals.
R O O T S
A solstice is when the sun is directly above either the farthest point north or south of the equator, aka the two times of the year when we experience the longest hours of day and night. The two solstices happen in the summer (June) and winter (December), between the 20th-23rd. The origins of the word ‘solstice’ pretty much reflect the definition we use today. ‘Solstice’ is derived from the Latin sol (sun) and sistere (to come to a stop). Linked to this is the Latin word solstitium, which translates as ‘point at which the sun seems to stand still’. Old French gained the word as solstice, and it was then adopted into English retaining the same spelling.