we’re bone-heavy creatures…keep close

I wrote yesterday in Sunday Life about going retro with my work habits…that I write out things longhand and that I’ve taken to using index cards to map out ideas before sitting down to a computer screen. It gets me closer to my creativity and slows things down to the pace at which I create and think.

By Neil Stewart

So happens I was reading David Malouf’s essay The Happy Life in The Quarterly Essay yesterday. He writes longhand, too. Then types. And he discusses – beautifully –  the idea that part of our unease, our contemporary unhappiness, comes from having so much our life occurring at a speed that our bodies are not aligned with.

He writes that it is integral to our happiness to be curious and to delve and to investigate. And that our bodies are our reference point, to determine direction.

“We start always from the body, and relate all thing back to it.”

And indeed everything about our bodies are in relation – think of Vitruvian Man (Da Vinci’s figure that shows every bit of our body is  proportional and symmetrical.)

But life goes so fast now.

“These days we can travel around the globe at hundreds of kilometres an hour and project ourselves into space at several times that speed; but in some part of ourselves we are still bone-heavy creatures tied to the gravitational pull of the Earth, lumbering along as our great-grandfathers did…at four hundred paces, and tiring.”

Yes, and tiring.

The question,  he writes, is:

“whether emotionally, psychologically, we can feel at home in a world whose dimensions so largely exceed …what our bodies can keep in view.”

He suggests we can’t. He suggests we’re happy within limits. When things are brought in small and view-able. Think of a man in jail who finds happiness in the routine, or in the way the sun rises each morning. We hear these stories. Victor Frankl springs to mind for me. We are capable of being happy in the most dire of circumstances – think of smiling Africans living in squalor – if things are brought in close, to “human dimensions”.

I like this theory. It intuitively makes sense. It explains things like, “it’s the simple things…” and staycations. And why we’re all finding it harder to be happy – in the still, calm, contented sense – amidst all the frenetic action out there.

It’s consequences are this:

* It might be good to create limits to how big your life gets – limit the depth of the rabbit hole you descend down when on the internet, narrow your reading choices online.

* And to bring things in closer and slower – write longhand, make bread from scratch, handwrite a letter.

* And move a little less – enjoy the things in your immediate vicinity…the routine, the way the sun rises each morning. To pretend you’re in jail.

What do you reckon? Can we get closer to our own, subjective happy spot by honoring our bone-heaviness?

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