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  • Karis O'Leary Smith

February: New Perspectives on Importance

Dear World,

Every month, each of our humans has an allocated Inspiration Budget they can spend on trying something new. As an insight agency, we feel we can only claim to be cultural commentators if we are continually and proactively engaging with the culture that surrounds us. This February, we found ourselves at various events and in public spaces we can only dream of now!

In the morning hangout call, we took turns sharing our adventures and then reflected on the common theme which ran throughout them: new perspectives on importance.  We all experienced a different way of being in / thinking about the world we live in (which may indeed be what our Inspiration Budget is all about!).

Paul learnt about a new approach to our inner critic; Doug was pleasantly surprised by a book that had been gathering dust in his living room; Karis delved into the various ways masculinity is lived; Shems had a taste of what it's like to live without sight; Charlie developed an appreciation for deck-laying and Astrid attended a panel discussion hosted at one of London's first sustainable kitchens...

Shems - I went to Dialogue in the Dark with my sister, which is an immersive experience of what it is like to be blind. Being submerged in total darkness had a strange effect on my perception - I kept imagining things were in front of me but when I reached out, nothing was there and I found my sense of smell came alive.  What I actually got out of this (which feels even more relevant now) was how much I depended on my sister to help me through each stage, something I'm not used to doing as the older sister - I relied on her guidance even though she was also in total darkness. I would really recommend the experience, to get a small insight into what it is like to navigate the world with a different set of skills.

Doug – I picked up a book in our living room which had been sat there so long it had become part of the furniture. It's called 'The Creativity Challenge' (by Tanner Christensen) and I re-found it when looking for some homeschooling inspiration since the kids have to stay home now. We've found a bunch of great ideas and activities but the one I shared with the team was a '5-minute free-writing exercise'. It challenges you to write freely and without judgment, as fast and detailed as possible for 5 minutes. This enables you to stay as open as possible to your thought process and creative potential. It's great when you engage with something in your environment which you've forgotten about and then it becomes a source of new inspiration - especially when you don't have to spend a penny or even get off the sofa.

Karis – I’m the sort of person who really wants to enjoy art galleries and exhibitions, but largely come away feeling disappointed (the same goes for camping). However, the title of the Barbican’s most recent exhibition Masculinities: Liberation through Photography was enough to persuade me that this one might be the one! Masculinity is often prefixed by ‘toxic’ so I was hoping it would both acknowledge this toxicity and also challenge it. I think the exhibition achieved this balance, by continually demonstrating how masculinity is a social construct – putting the onus on society rather than individuals. It left me thinking about how real this social construct becomes when it emerges in lived experience. I thought about this in relation to research and how people create their own truths that feel real to them. Yes, it’s important to acknowledge the 'constructing' that goes on and context, but it is also important to take their truth as true. It is then that we can start to dig deeper to build empathy and authentic understanding.

Paul – This month I was a little bit caught up and ended up in lockdown before I could go wild with my inspiration plans, so through the medium of modern technology, I immersed myself in a lecture on positive psychology by Vanessa King. Being a glass half empty kind of a bloke, I thought this would be a new helpful angle for me but it turns out positive psychology isn’t just about looking at the bright side of stuff! It’s about being aware of your strengths/weaknesses, challenging feelings and your core innermost values (an idea that underpins much of what OMTM does)  …those things that give you a buzz when you do well. I love this idea. It goes beyond talent and skill and gets to the very heart of our being. I’m going to make it my mission in the next few months not just to embrace my own strengths but try to facilitate those around me to acknowledge theirs and live them consciously. Perhaps, not such a different perspective – the same view but just from a different angle … (Ed – that’s what a different perspective is Paul!)

Charlie – My partner and I have been working on re-doing our garden for months and our latest development was laying the patio. It looks great but it took a long time and was much more complex than I anticipated. It's also meant that I can't go anywhere without appreciating a nice even pavement or the skilled craftsmanship which must've been involved for costa's outdoor seating area.  I am impressed by construction work everywhere which previously I took for granted. It's made me reflect on how learning a new craft opens your eyes up to where else that skill has been employed, and all the variant ways it can be applied. Understanding things or processes make them appear to you in a new form; sometimes it is like you didn't even see them at all before or you saw them as mundane and with this new knowledge, they suddenly appear to you as remarkable, impressive. And of course, the same can be said for humans - taking the time to truly 'learn' other humans' way of being can make even the most different people make sense to you.

Astrid – I attended a Sustainable Food Futures event at The Cookery School at Little Portland Street with a friend I was at University with. We used to write for the Food & Drink section of The Mancunion newspaper together, so it felt like a fitting event for our reunion, having not seen each other for 2 years. I'm passionate about food but haven't pursued a career in it, whereas my friend has, so she invited me because it was specifically targeted at women in the industry. I was intrigued to see how food sustainability would be discussed in this space of experts (bar me!). Yet, I didn't find the content of the panel discussions particularly enlightening. It made me reflect on perhaps the shadow side of what the rest of OMTM found - it's easy to forget we can exist in such narrow socio-cultural bubbles where truly new perspectives are actually hard to find. If the things you choose to experience are driven by your interests or the interests of people you associate with, in locations you are familiar with, the chances are it won't feel that radically different. It made me reflect on how we can bring these types of conversations to people for whom it really would be new, rather than just preaching to the converted.

Hold tight for next month's inspo learnings; we will be taking a leaf out of Doug's book to find something inspiring on our very own doorstep (or bookshelf, kitchen cabinet etc).

Until then, stay indoors and stay safe everyone!


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