‘What matters is not what we seem to be but what we know we are.’
Welcome to the second issue of being.
To those who read our last issue, thank you for returning to sloth around with us some more!
We hope you all enjoy this instalment as we continue to navigate being conscious and living slow.
Cover image: Peng Chau, being
Cover quote: Henry David Thoreau
G O O D S T U F F
Sharks in the Time of Saviors by Kawai Strong Washburn calls upon Hawai’i’s sacred mythology and America’s poverty crisis to tell the story of Noa, a boy who seems to have something of the gods in him. The effect this has on his family members, who eventually disperse across the country only to find themselves in the same state of discontent and poverty, cuts deep and has devastating consequences. Each chapter is told from the perspective of a different family member, providing a beautiful, insightful meditation on what it means to be Hawai’ian, American, and ultimately, human.
Cannable is Hong Kong’s first CBD massage parlour. CBD (cannabidiol) is a compound found in the hemp cannabis plant, but unlike the drug cannabis, CBD can’t get you high. Instead, it relaxes both body and mind, and has been proven to help with issues such as stress and depression. Cannable, which opened at the end of July this year, offers a variety of massages incorporating your choice of CBD oil blend. The space is calm, the staff are friendly, and the nourishment continues after your massage with a cup of CBD tea.
Get more chill
If you’re into the warm, soulful sounds of early ‘90s R&B, Leon Bridges’ new album is the one. Gold-Diggers Sound is simple but deep, replete with space, atmosphere, and, of course, Bridges’ beautiful voice mastering both fast, narrative phrasing and slow, drawn-out laments. We recommend listening to this from start to finish and reaping all of those nourishing vibes..
N O T E S O N
Tarot cards have garnered a bad rep in modern society, mostly due to the common misconception that they claim to have psychic powers. But most tarot card users would argue that it’s not about fortune-telling, it’s about intuition.
Tarot cards first came about in 15th century Italy where they were known as ‘triumphs’ (trionfi), a fifth card suit added to the traditional four-suit deck. Each triumph card depicted a Roman illustration with a moral, and their purpose was to add a ‘superior’ (or ‘trump’) suit to the typical deck. Triumph cards were intended to be used in card games, but in the 1700s the French began using them for the occult. They believed that each card conveyed a message, and that by listening to the card (intuiting it in your own way) you were more likely to live your best life.
We all have intuition – gut instincts, immediate inklings – but as we’ve evolved into modern humans who rarely need to flee from danger, our intuition has been buried under external factors like what’s socially acceptable. Accessing our intuition has become a near-Herculean task, so perhaps we need help tuning into it more than ever right now.
As they did at their inception, most tarot decks today contain 78 cards: 22 major arcana (characters, forces, morals, etc) and 56 minor arcana (four suits containing numbers, kings, queens, knights, and pages). While there are different ways to use tarot cards, all that’s required is to ask a question, shuffle and split the deck, and see what comes up. There are books that explain each card (shout out to Modern Tarot by Michelle Tea), although it’s recommended to intuit the card first before looking it up (for extra practice)!
A L B U M S F O R W H E N E V E R
“Love is a Wild Thing”
Kacey Musgraves is best known for putting her tongue firmly in cheek when it comes to making music under the country genre, but her third album, Golden Hour, isn't provocative so much as just really damn good. The record has a dreamy sheen to it (it sounds how the album art looks), particularly palpable in slow tunes like “Butterflies” and “Slow Burn”. Even the upbeat tracks have an endearing gloss over them; a kind of warm tint that binds the album together and makes it easy to listen the whole way through. The singer traverses a variety of topics, from feeling a mix of emotions at the same time (“Happy and Sad”) to being strong in a relationship (“Wonder Woman”), all explored with her signature storytelling prowess.
D I V E I N
“We attempt to reprise moments (of happiness) by acquiring new possessions,” so say The Minimalists. “Peace is buried beneath the hoard we've added to our lives.”
The Minimalists came on the scene in 2010 via a website, their presence radically shifting the image of minimalism many people had hitherto held: sparse, sterile spaces and fussy, joyless people.
The duo shared their personal experience with minimalism, which had less to do with getting rid of stuff and more to do with life beyond the stuff. They left corporate careers and material luxury in order to emotionally and physically declutter (the latter accomplished by packing everything in boxes and seeing what remained, untouched, 30 days later). After doing the work, they acquired a sense of freedom, realising that no amount of money or purchases would make them as happy as society had promised. Their solution was not deprivation but consideration: what brings value to my life?
One of the most important tenets of Buddhism is non-attachment, based on the idea that suffering comes from expectation and attachment to our desires and beliefs. Often, we refuse to accept things as they really are and want them to be different to such an extent that when reality presents itself and doesn’t match our expectations and desires, we then attach ourselves to other expectations or desires. This cycle often involves, among other things, the consumption of material goods.
Monastery-dwelling monks live with few possessions in order to practise detachment and in turn, appreciating life’s subtleties. Many believe that the goal isn’t to own nothing, but rather that nothing owns you.
Of course, stuff is not inherently bad. Why we acquire stuff, however, can have negative undertones. In 2016 documentary Minimalism: A Documentary about the Important Things, our misuse of the word ‘materialistic’ is brought to the fore. The argument is that, for all of our excessive consumption, we’re not materialistic at all in the true sense of the word. That is, we don’t buy items for their materiality but for their believed symbolism (and even then, we don’t look after them the way a materialist would). A lipstick to gloss over the stresses of the day. An iPad so we can fit in with our friends. A dress to make us feel special. Even the most mundane of things, a plate or tumbler so our home more closely resembles that of our favourite Instagrammer.
Henry David Thoreau’s 1854 work Walden chronicles the two years spent in a cabin he built on a patch of land in Massachusetts. Thoreau’s intention was to ‘live deliberately’, which meant doing odd jobs so he could afford basic amenities, marvelling at nature, and lolling around the lake outside his little wooden abode. Sidestepping the lively debates about Thoreau actually being just a few miles from home and getting his mother to do his laundry, Walden has a lot to offer in terms of understanding the nature of possessions, such as proffering the idea that the cost of something isn’t monetary but “the amount of life which is required to be exchanged for it, immediately or in the long run.” What, beyond money, are we sacrificing when we bring a new item into our lives? A moment to check in with ourselves? Time spent with others? The joy in imagining or creating? The present moment and our reality? A chance, no matter how fleeting, to see that what we are and what we have is enough? Thoreau, an ardent minimalist, tossed aside three pieces of limestone he’d placed on his desk after discovering that they required daily dusting; he wasn't willing to do this when the 'furniture of his mind’ remained undusted. At first this seems ridiculous, but then something starts to stir within. How often do we truly nurture ourselves? Or do we hope our stuff will do it for us?
The journeys both in and out of our current predicament are explained in Stuffocation, an exploration of ‘living more with less’ by trend forecaster James Wallman. It tackles everything from the GDP (‘it helps us keep up with the Joneses but does nothing for our wellbeing’) to minimalism (‘minimalism has many merits…but it’s not extreme enough’). Wallman repeatedly tells us a truth we're all familiar with yet go to great efforts to forget: trying to find meaning, status, or happiness in stuff just doesn’t work. He concludes that the key to contentment is experientialism. Less having, more doing. It seems that others have caught onto this, evident in the array of access-only platforms available to us (e.g., Netflix, Spotify) and the popularity of hands-on workshops, such as making kombucha or mastering urban gardening.
While focusing on experiences can sometimes be a lateral move (many social media users have replaced seeking the ‘right’ items for the ‘right’ experiences that, by posting about online, provide status), the link between experientialism and happiness makes sense. After all, we likely remember more things we did than things we bought, two, five, ten years ago.
It’s not just about the stuff we buy. It’s about the stuff we keep, too — photos, ticket stubs, things we never look at but continue to stow away. In both my family home and my current home, I have storage boxes stacked with journals. As someone who simultaneously hates clutter and loves mementos (and, all the while, is attempting to emotionally detach from earthly goods), I’m reaching a pivotal moment. I must decide the fate of these journals (and the ones that will follow).
But the real question isn’t: what to do with twenty-odd years’ worth of notebooks? It’s: what are they for? I rarely read them and I don't particularly want anyone else to. The value (a kind of therapy) was reaped at the time of writing and does not linger on. Yet part of me still feels caught between the past, present, and future, reluctant to detach from these physical artefacts of my life so far. But I know they’re just mementos; they don’t change what’s inside. An easy enough truth to acknowledge, but seemingly much harder to act upon.
Some stuff we need. Some stuff brings us value or joy. For everything else, perhaps we ought to take a closer look. Are these items, to borrow an idea from The Minimalists, simply pacifying us? Keeping us from our true selves or the present moment? One thing’s for sure: only by looking at the stuff on the inside will we be able to truly see the stuff on the outside.
R E A D S F O R W H E N E V E R
Bonjour Tristesse — Françoise Sagan
Bonjour Tristesse (‘Hello Sadness’) was published in 1954 in France. Having just failed her university exams, 18-year-old Sagan translated her circumstance into fiction, resulting in her first book and national celebrity status.
In the novel, Cécile attempts to enjoy a lazy summer in the Mediterranean. Alas, a love interest, her father, and her father’s love interests seem to get in her way, leading to devastating consequences. Bonjour Tristesse forces you to question your moral compass and capacity for empathy, an impressive feat for such a short, simple tale. It's also vivid in its imagery and languid in its language, which may lead you to believe you're biting into juicy oranges and revelling in the afternoon sea breeze — even if you're actually navigating the MTR at rush hour.
R O O T S
It turns out the word ‘nice’ didn’t used to be so, well, nice. Its origins lie in the Latin nescius which comes from nescire, meaning ‘not to know’ — aka ignorant. In the 1500s, its definition transformed into ‘fussy’. Debates rage on regarding whether it was meant as a compliment or if it referred to insincerity. The first record of it being used as a compliment was in the 1700s when it came to mean ‘agreeably delightful’, likely in relation to the expectations of women at the time. In the 1890s, it transitioned into ‘kind’ or ‘thoughtful’. Today, we use ‘nice’ to describe anything positive, although for many it still retains an air of negativity, implying emptiness or vapidness.