Finding Joy In Difficult Times

Joy is that intense rush of positive emotion, that sends an electric spark of feel-good vibes throughout bodies. It has this marvellous ability to appear at any moment, inspired by the smallest of things. But, the real magic of joy is that it does not rely on the big picture of what is happening around us. Joy has the ability to share space with other emotions; we can find joy even while we are feeling fear, sadness or anger. Joy can be found even in the middle of the most challenging times, and this is important to remember. 

In this time of upheaval, uncertainty and global crisis, it can be hard to stay in a happy state of mind. But the ability to feel joy is always available. Joy needs no reason. It carries no burden or expectations. Happiness is connected to what’s happening to us. Yet, joy can exist regardless of the external circumstances, which is why we can be surprised by joy even in the most difficult moments. This little spark of feel-good-vibes is a small unexpected gift when we most need it.  

Joy can be sparked in so many ways; seeing the sun shining through your window, or listening to the birds singing in the garden. It can pop in for a visit any time of the day or night and comes at the most unexpected times.

We can also actively seek out joy and inspire it with our senses; the sight, touch, smell, sound and taste of things that bring pleasure. Knowing how to find joy in this way means we can add pockets of joy into our daily lives and the lives of others. 

We can find joy in the sight of a cat lying in the sun, or in a photograph that brings back a happy memory. 

We can find joy in the feeling of a soft blanket wrapped around us, being hugged by someone we love.

We can find joy in the smell of freshly baked bread or the aroma of a hot cup of coffee.

We can find joy in the sound of a favourite song or the laughter of our children.

We can find joy in the taste of a piece of chocolate or a freshly picked strawberry. 

Joy can be found all around us, and if we pay attention, we can find it in the most simple things or the most usual experiences. The key is to find the things that bring us joy and add more of them into our lives. For it is these moments of joy that will help us weather any storm and remind us that there is always light to be found even in the darkest of times. 

Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy

– Thich Nhat Hanh

Culture From Your Couch – 17 Places To Find Inspiration From Home

With all the fashion shows cancelled, and the museums and art galleries closed, how can we still get our fix of culture when we are stuck at home? We came up with 17 great places to help fill that culture void while stuck at home:

Take a virtual tour through the empty Musée d’Orsay, Paris

Wander through this fantastic museum without any crowds, and enjoy the stunning artworks from Monet, Cézanne, Gauguin, and many more.

Visit the Uffizi Gallery, Florence Italy

In the centre of Florence stand the Uffizi Galleries, housing one of the best collections of Renaissance art anywhere in the world. Now you can visit from the comfort of your home. 

Wander Through The Vatican museum

Take a virtual tour of one of the most famous buildings in the world. Lose yourself in the art of the centuries and marvel at the stunning beauty of the Sistine Chapel. 

Visit the ‘Christian Dior, Designer of Dreams’ exhibition

Dior has decided to help us all get a little more culture from our couches by filming a virtual tour of this celebrated exhibition at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris.

Visit Machu Picchu

Follow a guided tour through one of the most mysterious and spectacular wonders of the world.  

Take an interactive tour of the Great Barrier Reef with David Attenborough. 

This interactive site allows you to explore and learn about one of the most beautiful natural wonders of the world.

Discover Koala Webcam

Eighteen live webcams follow the Koalas in Australia’s Lone Pine Koala sanctuary. While these cuddly creatures sleep for 18-20 hours a day, there is something comforting about watching a snoozing Koala resting in a tree.

Follow An African Wildlife Webcam  

Visit the elephants in the Tembe Elephant Park in South Africa via remote webcam. Not only will you spot some of the largest elephants in the world, but you might also catch a view of the lions, leopards and buffalo which also live in this large wildlife reserve.  

Marvel at The Northern Lights 

Enjoy a magical natural light show via live webcam of the northern lights, or aurora borealis: Live and unedited shots of this natural wonder. 

Revisit Your Childhood Favourite Books

Put your feet up, close your eyes and enjoy channelling your inner child with bedtime stories read by celebrities.

Sing-Along with Carpool karaoke

Most of us only commute as far as the kitchen table these days, so watching a compilation of James Corden and friends singing carpool karaoke is a culture-filled alternative to that daily drive.   

Join a global concert – One Earth Live Concert 

An ‘online transformational festival’ to celebrate global unity. This concert is happening on the 23 and 24th May and is free to follow online.

Attend Royal Albert Hall From Home 

The famous Royal Albert Hall is streaming exclusive sessions from artists’ homes to your screen. This is true culture on the couch.  

Discover some of the Best of British Theatre 

The British National Theatre has also made videos of their plays available free online.  

Visit the Vienna State Opera 

Enjoy world-class opera and ballet for free from the comfort of your living room. The Vienna State Opera House is releasing their live-stream archives for free each evening. Follow online to find out what is on each night. 

Participate in an Online Design event. 

The design calendar has a huge list of creative talks, workshops, conferences and exhibitions you can join remotely from all over the world. Alternatively, Everbrite also has an extensive list of virtual conferences that are free to attend. 

We hope you enjoyed this small taster of the amazing talent and creativity that is being offered freely by organisations around the world. Please support them, share their links and let them know how much they are appreciated in this time of physical distancing.

“We were together even when we were apart.”

Shannon A. Thompson

Seven Timeless Truths To Help In Strange Times

The right words at the right time can help us get through the strangest of times. These timeless truths serve to encourage us by reminding us that as a human race, we have overcome challenging times through innovation and adaption, and we will again. 

1. Imagination is everything. 

Regardless of the limits we might feel in this pandemic, our imagination and creativity are limitless. Albert Einstein understood the power of this when he said:

“Imagination is everything. It is the preview of life’s coming attractions.”

It is through our collective imagination and creativity that we will create new ways of living within the limitations of this pandemic and beyond.

2. If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.

Extraordinary claims must have robust and exceptional evidence to support them. We are all clutching at straws in the hope that a miracle treatment will quickly rid the world of COVID-19. It is because of this hope for an escape that we can easily fall into the trap of believing every article or information pushed by someone with a medical degree or an important-sounding title. Wait for the evidence. If something is real, it will be proven with solid and sound evidence. Until then, it is only a theory. 

3. Actions speak louder than words.

What you do defines you. It does not matter what you say or what you believe; it will be your actions that others hear. This timeless advice relates equally to our leaders; we hear your actions louder than your words. 

4. Learning Curves Can Be Steep At First

The human race is always learning and growing. Much of what we considered to be a scientific fact even 100 years ago is no longer valid. When there are new facts, the learning process is often one of trial and error. The learning curve about COVID-19 has been steep and happening at light-speed. What was considered to be a fact two months ago may not hold to be true tomorrow. Be comfortable that this steep learning curve is normal as new information is learned. The curve will flatten. 

5. Adaption is in our DNA

Every one of us is alive today thanks to a long line of survivors. Our ancestors survived through impossibly difficult upheavals in our world, and as the descendants of this endless line of survivors, we have learned how to adapt in order to survive. Consider how quickly we have adapted every part of our societies to cope with this pandemic. It is in times of dire need that our innate ability to adapt to survive comes to the front through innovation and reorganisation. 

6. Professionals are amateurs who learned from their mistakes.

L’amateur in French is someone who does something because they are passionate about it. Now we have more time on our hands to do the things we love. We do not have to be productive all the time and can instead embrace this chance to be an amateur. Take time to enjoy honing and perfecting new skills, for it is in embracing the passion of the amateur that new ideas, creations and opportunities are born, and new professionals are formed. 

7. Treat others as you wish to be treated.

This is the Golden Rule of humanity. It reminds us to treat others with the respect and kindness we would expect to be treated with. More than this, it reminds us to be considerate of the impact our actions have on others. Wearing a face mask is a modern parable for this rule. I wear it not because it protects me, but because it protects you. And, if we both wear one, we keep each other safe and protected. 

In the long history of humankind (and animal kind, too) those who learned to collaborate and improvise most effectively have prevailed.

Charles Darwin 

How and When Did The Quest For Profit Become More Important Than The Lives of The Workers?

Here at ILNI, we strongly believe in workers’ rights. We object to the exploitation of workers for profit.  Our articles on fast fashion have placed a spotlight on the plight of workers placed in unsafe conditions by companies that pursue profit over worker safety. But, never did we imagine we would be writing about these issues in relation to workers in the world’s most developed nation. Yet, here we are, two months into a pandemic and we are already witnessing CEOs and a President choosing economic profit over human lives. 

Perhaps ethical manufacturing seems a little less abstract now we are talking about American workers. This issue might feel more real to us now the workers we expect to go back into an unsafe meat packing plant are citizens of a developed, democratic nation.   

We are in shock that an executive order of a President can force meat processing workers back to work in an unsafe environment. We cannot comprehend that the largest economy in the world can insist their people return to work without protection from a virus that has already killed thousands of their fellow citizens? In this executive order, the President points out that the closure of a single large beef processing facility will result in the loss of over 10 million individual servings of beef in a single day. Yet, his order does not mention the 5,000 meatpacking workers and 1,500 food processing workers who have tested positive for Covid-19, nor their 20 co-workers who have tragically died from this virus. Working in a meat processing plant was already one of the most dangerous jobs in the US before the pandemic hit. Now, these workers must choose between risking their lives to keep the meat industry profitable or losing their jobs, their benefits and their health insurance. 

The most modern, developed nation with the biggest economy in the world has now valued the production of meat above the safety of the workers.

How did this happen? When did the quest for profit become more important than the lives of the workers? 

It started to happen when we were apathetic to the plight of workers in developing nations. When we continued to buy products produced by companies who were content to put workers in unsafe working conditions to cut costs. This choice of profit over worker safety happened far away from our home nations, where we could quickly put it out of our minds. It continued to happen because we did not make brands pay an economic cost for their unethical decisions. We did not effectively boycott the brands or call out the CEOs. And, now the same calculations of profit over life are happening closer to home. So, will we finally start to get angry about it? As we should have done when it was happening to workers in developing nations.  

Will we demand a change to the calculation that values profit above life? Will we get more serious about it now that we are talking about the safety of working-class American citizens?  

Is this what it takes for us to finally understand that the quest for profit should never outweigh work safety, regardless of the location of the factory? 

We can only answer these questions by our actions. As consumers, we can send a strong message of change; we value life above all, and will only buy from companies who feel the same. Only by the force of our collective purchasing choices can we ensure that companies will never again place profit before worker safety. 

To be free, the workers must have choice. To have choice they must retain in their own hands the right to determine under what conditions they will work.

SAMUEL GOMPERS, Founder of the American Federation of Labor 1886

Five Of Our Favourite Books In Lockdown

A common side-effect of being under stay-at-home orders is the amount of extra time we all seem to have on our hands. It is a great time to dive into a new book for a little escape from the reality of our four walls. Here are five great books we can recommend.

A Very Stable Genius – Donald J. Trump’s Testing of America

By Philip Rucker and Carol Leonnig

There is one thing this pandemic is showing us: leadership matters. This book is a deep-dive into the shambolic presidency of Donald Trump, chronicling his pathway to the Presidency, from the moment he rode down the escalator to announce his candidacy to the revelation of the phone call he made to the president of Ukraine. 

Co-written by two NY Times reporters, this is an eye-opening depiction of what happens when a man rises to a position of power in which he comes to believe that he can do anything without facing the consequences. An incredible outline of how the US ended up with the wrong person in leadership at the wrong time. 

Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops

By Jen Campbell

If you sometimes find yourself shaking your head in amazement at the stupid things people will say and do, this book is for you. A fantastically funny collection of genuine questions recorded by the proprietors of two independent bookshops. Be ready to laugh-out-loud at some of the unbelievably cheeky or outrageously weird things people say in bookstores. A great book to read if you need a little distraction from these strange times we are living through. 

 Quote from the book:

 CUSTOMER: I’ve been looking through your geography section – I can’t find any books on Atlantis.

 BOOKSELLER: You know, I think we managed to lose those.

The Muse 

By Jessie Burton

From the author of The Miniaturist, this book intertwines art, mystery and intrigue with historical fiction and feminism. An elegantly written tale of passion and desire following the lives of two women: Olive, a young artist, with a natural inclination towards painting, who feels the sexist society of Spain in the 1930s represses her talent, and Odelle, a young poetess from Trinidad growing up in England in the 1960s who faces many obstacles triggered by the colour of her skin. A beautiful story of two strong female characters and a powerful mystery that ties them together.

Very British Problems – Making Life Awkward for Ourselves, One Rainy Day at a Time

By Rob Temple

Very British Problems is a fabulous book to lose yourself in and pleasantly pass the time in lockdown. This book is a loving self-portrayal of the weird and quirky habits of the British. Every page will make you giggle if not howl with laughter at their constant need to apologise and their obsession with queueing. Enjoy being entertained by the British addiction to tea and biscuits and their preoccupation with the weather. In the chapter “Repressing One’s Rage”, Temple outlines the perfectly beautiful British ways to deal with annoyance:

 Dealing with a queue jumper by staring fiercely at the back of their head.

 Becoming so furious that you beg someone for their pardon.

Thanking people under your breath as punishment for them not thanking you.

A Paradise Built in Hell –The Extraordinary Communities That Arise in Disaster

By Rebecca Solnit

If there was a small silver lining to this pandemic, A Paradise Built in Hell, would be the place to discover it. This wide-reaching book examines how disasters have changed the societies that survive them by birthing new social possibilities and highlighting the best side of human behaviour. Covering major calamities such as the 1906 earthquake in San Francisco, the 1985 Mexico City earthquake, 9/11, and Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, this book uncovers how disasters can result in vast outpourings of altruism and philanthropy allowing the positive sides of humanity to shine through. With many examples of how strangers will go to extraordinary lengths to help one another, this book gives us hope that humanity is more durable than the current crisis that faces us. 

We hope you are staying safe and well in your homes and can take some time out to relax and lose yourself in a great book. 

Maybe this is why we read, and why in moments of darkness, we return to books: to find words for what we already know.

Alberto Manguel