“In life, the first challenge is to survive. The second is to do so in a way that allows us to live better.”

The people who really matter in your life are always the ones who introduce you to ideas that, when you hear them for the first time, it's like you've always known them – like walking into a room of your own house that you'd never gone into before. 

I was lucky enough to see Frank Chimero speak last year at my friend Andy's conference on web design, called BUILD, in Belfast.  I'm not a web designer, or designer of anything for that matter, but Andy thought I should hear Frank's talk anyway – and I'm glad he did.  It was a wonderful presentation on creativity, story-telling and the thought process of design.

Then comes Frank's post last week:  If you've time to read it all, I highly recommend you do, but here's a stand-out section:

"There’s a bit in Nicholson Baker’s The Anthologist where the narrator corrects a translation, so that we may better understand how we should approach our days on the other side of the drawn line:

“Carpe diem” doesn’t mean seize the day—it means something gentler and more sensible. “Carpe diem” means pluck the day.

What Horace had in mind was that you should gently pull on the day’s stem, as it were, say, a wildflower or an olive, holding it with all the practiced care of your thumb and the side of your finger, which knows how to not crush easily crushed things—so that the day’s stalk or stem undergoes increasing tension and draws to a thinness, and a tightness, and then snaps softly away at its weakest point, perhaps leaking a little milky sap, and the flower, or the fruit, is released in your hand.

When I think about the times I connect with the work of others, it is a bit like this. A moment has been plucked from the day-to-day and made special, and I have been snagged, put under increasing tension, and drawn to a thinness. I snap softly at my weakest points, drawn away from my typical numbness, and sometimes I will even let out a barely audible sigh, overflow with a bit of laughter, or leak out a tear. From this, I hope. I hope I can do these things with what I make, and wish that the people around me can do so as well. We want to be pulled tight. We want to pluck the day. The times that the work of others or their presence makes us feel this way are surely the fruits of life. This is why we make things. To make ourselves feel this way. This is why we share it with others. To make them feel that way, too."

I'm sure if you're reading this, you can relate to Frank's experience here of "plucking the day" thanks to the creative work of others.  I often feel this experience as a thin crack in the curtain of life's everyday-ness, like another world has leaked through to me and behind it I can see something greater than myself – or as Joseph Campbell put it "I think what we are looking for is a way of experiencing the world that will open us to the transcendent that informs it, and at the same time forms ourselves within it – that is what the soul asks for". 

"To make is to be optimistic…We make in the hope that what we produce can carry us somewhere better, to a place more satisfactory. If we can do this for ourselves, we are lucky. When we are able to do so for others, we are tending towards glory."

Glory's a strong word, but it's appropriate for this feeling – this "peak experience".  So one question remains: what will you make today?

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“In life, the first challenge is to survive. The second is to do so in a way that allows us to live better.”

Nigeria 70

One of my favourite compilations from last year was Nigeria 70 – at times super funky, then laid back then freaked out, the compilation tracks funk music's influence in 1960s and 70s Nigeria, as well as the development of Afrobeat during the period.  The above cut is on the mellow side, but a great intro to the albumAside from the fact that the album's named after the name that Fela Kuti'd given his band during their brief stay in the US in 1970, he'd just coined the term Afrobeat in 1969, and you can see where the sound came from all over this record.

This kind of revisionist compilation really blows my mind – starting with my discovery of the always amazing Numero Group in 2005, I've seen more and more labels gain traction by releasing out-of-print or rarely-heard recordings from obscure artists that released their records during a specific genres hey-day – (1970s Afrobeat for Nigeria 70, 1950s-60s Soul and Funk for Numero Group).  And for that we can only thank the internet.  There was simply no way this music could've reached my ears in the early 90s – yet here it is today, getting my hard-earned £££, because it's quite simply amazing music.  

I always like to remind myself that "new" music isn't just the latest blog-buzz band – it's music that's new to my ears, even if it's 40 years old.  And thanks to the web, there's a WHOLE lot of that easily available, if you know where to look.
Nigeria 70

Initiation

In relation to recent thoughts about "home", belonging and identity – 

At the crossroads, hens scratched circles
into the white dust. There was a shop
where I bought coffee and eggs, coarse-grained
chocolate almost too sweet to eat.
When I walked up the road, the string sack
heavy on my arm, I thought
that my legs could take me anywhere,
into any country, any life.
The air, dazzling as sand, grew dense 
with light: bougainvillea spilled
over the salmon walls, the road
veered into the ravine. The world
could be those colors, the mangoes,
the melons, the avocado evenings
releasing their circles of moon.
I climbed the pink stairs, entered
the house as calm and ephemeral
as my own certainty:
this is my house, my key,
my hand with its new lines.
I am as old as I will ever be.

Nina Bogin
Initiation