Yet Untitled 15 - Endurables
Ringing the Bells for Things that Last
Did you know that another name for the Buddha is “the one who can endure”?
I find that in the past weeks, there has been an ongoing war on my sanctity. The news cycle has been disturbing my sleep, giving me surreal dreams. I find myself jumpy, short-tempered and more prone to despair. Fortunately, Buddhism was invented specifically for the effect of the ongoing ups and downs of the world on our beings. We are reflective creatures who reflect our environment via ourselves, making us prone to manifesting chaos when we see it happening around us.
Buddhism tells us that the opposite is possible as well. If we manage to tap into the unlimited Wisdom, Courage and Compassion already latent in out lives, the tables turn: the environment will become the shadow, reshaping itself according to what’s happening in our inner lives.
We must Endure!
Welcome back, dear Yet Untitlers, to Edition 15. Following from this preamble, I’m going to speak to you today about Things That Endure, with the intention that we all may find some inspiration to do the same.
Read more about the unforgettable Karumadikuttan Buddha here.
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Once, at the Cannes files festival, I saw this guy wearing a very worn out pair of leather shoes. They had the kind of look that Wes Anderson’s production designer works overtime to recreate. Looking at those shoes, and my response to them, I learned something about myself.
For those of you have been really reading these newsletters (and not just leaving them in your promos tab 🤨), you know that I like my stuff. However, the stuff that I like best over all other stuff is the shit that lasts. I’ve liked this sort of thing ever since I was a youngie, knowing that there’s something to be said about grandpa’s gentleman’s razor and shaving soap in the hollowed-out sandalwood tub that he’d been using for eons (and it still works!).
Here’s a list of my endurables that I hold in especially high regard:
My Tilley Airflo hat - it floats, it has a pocket to keep cash in, and the company promises to give to a new one at half-price if you lose it - no questions asked.
My Leica Q - it it has the haptics (stealing Craig Mod’s words here) of a vintage doorknob, the heft of side-arm and the quality of a cinema instrument 20 times its size. When it goes for a routine service it comes back ready to work like a war-horse for another 6 years.
My Billingham camera bag - the older and dirtier this bad boy get, the better he looks.
My kids’ LIKEaBIKE wooden balance bikes - they had a blast with these for three years, after which another set of kids have enjoyed them for a similar period, and have passed them on to yet another set.
My Muji Hoodie - It’s looked the same for the half decade that I’ve owned it, has no discernible branding or markings and the fabric feels more and more snug as it ages.
My Orange Onitsuka Tigers - bought ten years ago, before they were a thing. They’ve fallen apart twice but have also come together stronger than before. They look busted up but continue to take me forward, mile after mile, in great style.
Check out “Yet Untitled” 011 - Who We are Through our Stuff for more of my perspectives on the things we keep around us.
Also…consider sharing this edition of “Yet Untitled” with a fellow stuff-afficianado:
As a friend of mine recently said upon seeing me after over a decade - “Age has made it’s mark on you!”
One of the things I like about all my favourite endurables is that age has made its mark on them too. Like the massive crack across the Karumadikuttan’s body, the mark of age becomes the node for a story.
What they say about Karumadikuttan is that a marauding elephant attacked it for unknown reasons, breaking it in two. Already a great story, no?
This newsletter keeps coming back to Leonard Cohen
Because he makes so much sense! Just listen to the refrain of “Anthem”:
Ring the bells that still can ring Forget your perfect offering, There is a crack, a crack in everything That's where the light gets in. from "Anthem" by Leonard Cohen
I watched the video posted below a few times though and was blown away afresh by the man’s humility. He was performing this in 2008, and before singing he says “we are so privileged to be able to gather in moments like this when so much of the world is plunged in darkness and chaos”. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?
Hearing this before he went into the body of his song, I realised that ol’ Leonard was telling us to stay hopeful. Shit is broken, but so what? - everything is broken and that’s not a bad thing. Pick up the stuff that still works. Rings those bells that still can ring!
No wonder I used to feel so reassured when Leonard was alive. Thank god he left us his voice!
Since I’ve gone on and on about kit in this one, I feel compelled to quote from the poem The Highwayman by Alfred Noyes, a poem that I once knew almost entirely by heart because of…academic requirements.
He’d a French cocked-hat on his forehead, a bunch of lace at his chin, A coat of the claret velvet, and breeches of brown doe-skin. They fitted with never a wrinkle. His boots were up to the thigh. And he rode with a jewelled twinkle, His pistol butts a-twinkle, His rapier hilt a-twinkle, under the jewelled sky.
Reminds me of…me? Minus the firearm swag.
Here are some of the things I value, which I receive from my Endurables:
I have great respect for people who make stuff that just won’t wear down. Of course, all stuff eventually wears down, but I find there’s so much joy in using something that just refuses to desist from its function.
Buddhism has an interesting take on reliability - the reliability of our own self. According to the Lotus Sutra, we can evoke ‘Buddhahood’ - the life-state of unlimited wisdom, courage and compassion - anytime by making the right causes i.e giving ourselves the right stimulus. One of these correct stimuli is the Bodhisattva cause - working for the happiness of others.
Here’s a great short story by Leo Tolstoy that illustrates this principle - how a King saved his own life by being mindful of the life in front of him.
Three Questions by Leo Tolstoy.
What’s your favourite endurable?
What’s the story behind it? I want to know.
Do respond in a comment, or reply to this email (if you have received the newsletter so):
I’m going to leave you with a great book recommendation: KINTSUGI by Anukrti Upadhyay.
Things break. So do people.
Things come together. So do people.
Things endure. As do people.
Someone in Japan embraced this principle to the level of profundity and came up with the art form of Kintsugi, joining pottery with golden paste, accentuating and gilding the cracks rather than hiding them.
Anukrti explored our fragile yet enduring human condition through these six interconnecting stories set in Japan and India.
My best read of 2021!
…watch this space, there’s something cooking here (suspenseful music plays)!
That’s it for this week!
See you next time.