surroundings // eye-openers

header-eye-openersIt is strange to live in Scotland. Half the time I am dreaming of being home in Amsterdam. The other half I enjoy the life I live.

And in between, I am suddenly amazed by the beauty. Especially when my loved ones come to visit. Everyone who comes to Edinburgh for the first time shows a same sense of wonder. Just like I did when I first arrived. I truly cherish these moments: they open my eyes over and over again.photo2

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// start of spring in portobello // scottish blue skies // loch lomond // city at night // seeing the city through Lot’s eyes // holyrood park // blossoming city centre of Edinburgh // low tide at the beach // cramond island with friends //

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reflecting // why I diy

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This post started as an exposition of recent gifts I made for dear friends of mine. I felt proud of some crocheting techniques I learned myself. I wanted to share how fulfilling it feels to give something handmade to someone you love…

Fulfilling or not, writing this post made me realise why DIY or crafting has become such a big part of my life. This realisation is a story that felt never clear nor worth sharing. Partly because DIY often feels so futile, partly because it is in basis a story about world views and politics. And how on earth do politics and frivolous creativity meet?

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My interest for DIY and crafting arose in a time when I felt stuck with my consumeristic behaviour.

I followed a course on Alain Badiou and Antonio Negri. Two thinkers and activists from the Marxist tradition, whose thinking touched upon problems with the Neoclassic and Neoliberal traditions. Reading their thoughts I learned that the Neo-classicist paradigm I grow up in, is just one of the possible paradigms. The system I grew up in was created and is not the only possible system. There could be other social economical systems, with other benefits.  Only it is not easy to calculate what benefits outweigh others, and what prices outweigh others.

Beyond the lectures, I started to encounter the world around me in a different way. What struck me most was my rising awareness of my geographical privilege within the neoclassic paradigm I lived in. I am born in a country – the Netherlands – where many people belong to the 1% most rich people in the world (that is an income above €50.000 a year). Of course I am very grateful for the life I am living with all its security and opportunities. Nevertheless this awareness caused me to feel a ‘so-called’ privilege guilt and a sense of shame; I have been taken my way of living for granted for so long. Before my encounter with Badiou and Negri, I had never really opened my eyes for living conditions in other parts of the world.

It is a very modest way and does not go far enough, but my way of dealing with this issue for now, is largely to understand where things around me come from. I follow this path of thinking: I can’t change the system I live in, but I can change my attitude towards my consumption. Through educating myself, I challenge my consumeristic behaviour and try to understand the processes by which we consume. By reading articles, following actualities in other parts of the world, watching documentaries, going to lectures, and – most importantly – talking to others about it, this kind of education can take place.

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As a consequence of this educational attitude, I also embraced the world of DIY. Like most people around me I bought (and often still buy) carelessly, without considering consequences for people on the other side of the world. Mainly because it is simply hard to track all the sources and resources, and it is hard to stand all the temptation. When making your own things or buying things that are crafted by someone (through Etsy for example), these two problems are more absent.  Another benefit is that you start to realise better what certain things in your life are worth. The real value of things; the time and energy it causes to create something.. the amount of supplies used.. where products come from.. how they can be reused and recycled..

Like the Arts and Crafts movement around 1900, the DIY movement can be understood as a reaction to global injustice in the creation of products we consume. It can even be understood as a form of activism, like Betsy Greer’s idea of craftivism. Betsy explains how craft can be a cheerful form of activism in which you fight ‘against useless materialism or making items for charity’ and simultaneously connect to the world and others around you. The more I think about it, the more I belief I might have a little craftivist inside me as well. DIY has value far beyond the pleasure of creating through craft. The beauty of it, is that the more you explore, the more you learn, the more you experiment, the more you create, the more joy it will bring you, and the more joy it can bring others.

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If I would schematise this process it would follow these 4 steps:

1) Try expand and open up your worldview by challenging it.
2) Learn from this challenge and increase your knowledge about it.
3) Grow by finding beautiful solutions to deal and live with it.
4) And last but not least: If you find yourself in the same place as me, try the world of DIY. It can increase a continuous awareness and the more you grow the more you can give in return (like amazing gifts for your loved ones).

So, that is why I DIY! What do you think about this approach to DIY? And could you relate to this idea of craftivism?

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challenge // happy thesis writing

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Writing a thesis can be quite challenging and aesthetically uninspiring at moments. Yes, it is absolutely intrinsically worthwhile, meaningful, and interesting. But, it is also monotonous (day in day out: books, laptop, articles, notes), long-winded (steady and slow, steady and slow), and solitary (‘Who can I speak to that gets what I am doing?’).

I know this, because I have been there before during my research master. And even though I always said, ‘Bring it on, I wrote a longer thesis before!’, the process is still challenging this time round.

So, to keep the process more fun and creative, me and my friend Xandra from Heroine Training, have come up with something: a happy thesis writing challenge on instagram!

WHAT IS IT?

The idea is simple:

1) make a photo during every thesis study day of a happy moment. This can be a quote that you just read. A good coffee. Your favourite pens, like Xandra blogged about. Lovely stationary. An awesome little break you took. Your inspiring workspace. Happy notebooks.. I think you’ll get the idea.

2) post your photo on instagram! The official hashtag is #happythesischallenge. You can find me @happystudyflow to get an idea of how to get started.

WHO IS UP FOR THE CHALLENGE?

Please join us if you want to sparkle up your thesis time with some creativity. Because aesthetics matters during the study process, doesn’t it! It would be awesome to follow your happy study process and support each other this way.

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What do you think about it? Please let me know if you have any questions.

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diy // feathery pillow

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I will honestly admit that this diy is a little tacky. I mean, fake gold leather, really? Yes really! In my new ‘dull beige all-over Ikea’ rental room, a little bit of boldness felt absolutely in place. And since it is spring and the birds are everywhere, why not add a little feathery sparkle!

So here I proudly present: a lovely tacky feathery pillow case diy!

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supplies Not much is required for this easy diy. First you need a fake golden leather pillow case. Of course feel free to go for other colours and materials. Especially since fake leather has the tendency to pull, which you can see in my result as well. The rest of the supplies entail white thread (in my case wool for the contrast), an embroidery needle, and yellow and purple feathers. (Some of my friends will probably laugh at this stage since I used to detest the yellow/purple combi: age definitely changes opinion.)
Steps_feathery-pillowThere are 3 steps in this diy. Repeat this 3 times to make 3 arrows. The outer ones are similar and the middle one is a little bigger (see picture bellow)

1) Embroider the point of the arrow: the two outer arrows have 12 lines, the bigger middle one 18 lines.

2) Create a shaft with one line of thread.

3) To create the ‘fletching’ of the middle arrow: first, tie two crossed yellow feathers to the pillow case at the end of the shaft with a firm knot (I improvised and it turned out firm enough). Second, tie two crossed purple feathers above the yellow ones (see picture 5).

4) To create the ‘fletching’ of the two outer arrows: layer one yellow and one purple feather and tie it with a firm knot to the pillow case at the end of the shaft.

This is how the pillow case will look like:

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feathery_pillow_result2All that is left, is to find a lovely nook for your pillow so you can snuggle in there with a good book. Enjoy making!

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signs // spring

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gentle vibrations in the air

waking up nature within

 

a beautiful pattern

that comes about

 

over and over all by itself.

 
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little corners // a vintage feel

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It has been a while since I have introduced the little corners post. I assumed many other posts would follow easily. And oh boy did I not had many ideas! Life is strange however. Before I knew it I was packing boxes. Saying goodbye for a year to the place I call my home. You often hear the cliché words that home is not a fixed place. “Home is where your heart is.” “Home is where the wind will take you.” “Home is not set in stones.” Well for me, it is that fixed place.

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In the meantime I try to take the spirit of my old home with me. It is challenging to make a temporary residence feel just like your true home. But – for all of you wandering around in temporary places – it is good to realise that it does not have to be your home. Embracing the change can be liberating. At least that is what I try to tell myself. And when something is a challenge, it definitely does not mean it is completely impossible.

Here is a little corner that feels like my home away from home. Only a little different: all the pieces in it have their own story – some things are lovely gifts, others thrifted books of the first day I arrived in Edinburgh, or old friends in a new setting. The only thing that remained the same is the complete impracticality of it! Did I already mention this is my working space? Indeed, I have tried it once for 5 minutes. Luckily it is the feel that counts!

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little_corners_7 Do you also recognise this home away from home feeling? And how do you create your little home away from home spaces?

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TEDtalk // What We Have In Common With The Religious

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A couple of weeks ago I shared my thoughts on transcendence and religion in our modern age in a TEDtalk. I gave this talk for the student speaker choice award of TEDxUniversityofEdinburgh. Together with 13 other students I took the stage after weeks of workshops and preparation. I’d was an amazing experience. Not only taking that stage and giving a talk that breaths your own thoughts word by word, but also working on that talk.

My reasons for giving this talk were clear to me. For years I’ve occupied myself with a thorough study of the notion of religion, secularism and transcendence. A rather solitary process, since not many people (in respect to the world population – or even my surroundings) are familiar with the debate, the jargon, the problems, and questions. But I truly believe that addressing the notions of religion and transcendence today, is addressing a topic that occupies everyone. In one way or the other.

“Belief in transcendence is a fundamental aspect to religion, because of the character of religion; whether it is polytheistic, monotheistic, or non-theistic, religion always refers to something transcendent, something higher or beyond, to something that goes beyond our own capacities, responsibility, and control. The notion of a sense of fullness is crucial for our practical context. All human beings ask questions about the quality of their life and are concerned with living a life that is worthwhile.”

The question remains whether religion is the only way to connect to something transcendent and reach a state of fullness. The religious landscape has changed dramatically in our contemporary society, especially compared to to the year 1500. Moreover, the distinctions between different sorts of religious or non-religious practices and beliefs have become less definite. In addition, new forms of non-belief as well as beliefs outside Christian orthodoxy have risen.

Maybe you are a fervent atheist, and annoyed by being discriminated or even worse silenced because of this belief. Or maybe you’re born in the bible belt, loyal to your religion and having troubles with certain legislations in the modern society because of this. Maybe you don’t believe anything at all, but at the same time you are searching for ‘something’ because this world of fast consumerism doesn’t make sense.  A topic that is engaging to so many people on so many levels, needs to be addressed. Preferably to much than to little. And this is why I the TEDtalk. To contribute to this engaging topic. Where philosophy sometimes lakes the possibility to reach many people, youtube video’s like the TED video’s can.

 

If you want to read more about the transcendent in our modern world, have a look at the “Immanent Frame” theory of philosopher Charles Tayler (in another fragment of my thesis).

According to Taylor, we all share an immanent frame nowadays. This immanent frame is a central concept in Taylor’s theory and one of his most influential and useful notions. The immanent frame must be understood as a shared structure that constitutes a natural and immanent order over against an order that is supernatural and transcendent. Furthermore, the immanent frame is characterised by a modern scientific world view, modern exclusive humanism, and the buffered self which is disciplined and individualistic. Our lives take place in an order that is self-sufficient and immanent, on a social, moral, and cosmic level. Here, a reference to a higher or divine realm lacks necessity. We can do without a God, because we can attribute everything to “Nature” and even to “developing human motivation”.

Accordingly, our idea of religion has changed. Nevertheless, despite our immanent frame and the lack of a necessity of transcendence, we can still choose to be open to something beyond: to the transcendent realm.

Taylor frames the idea of transcendence as an option as follows. He states that the immanent frame can have two different ‘spins’. These spins can have a tendency towards either closure or openness. Taylor calls immanent orders closed when they ignore or deny the possibility of transcendence completely. Reasons for choosing an immanent frame that is closed are fear for religious fanaticism; the attraction of the idea that we belong to the order of nature; and the belief that there are no miracles or mysteries. An immanent frame that is open keeps the option of transcendence open. The main reason for open immanence is the belief in a higher, and possibly collective, good: the idea that there exists a better, more moral, way of life which we can reach by aiming at something higher. A second, negative, reason expresses that there is a need for transcendence because we feel that something is lacking in the immanent order. We cannot believe that this is all there is.

Of course my position here (and if you’ve seen the talk you can probably guess this) is that this being open to the transcendent, the having of the open spin, does not necessarily have to be connected to the religious. It can be religious of course, and it often is. But as Dreyfus and Kelly have learned me, as well as my own personal experiences: all things can, potentially, be shining. The transcendent can be found in the other person that you love. During a football match. In a song that has a personal meaning to you. In the beauty of nature. In the encounter with a work of art.

If this grasps you as well, and your informative hunger is not yet satisfied, have a look at the immanent frame blog: an amazing online space where great scholars share their thoughts on this and related issues.

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surroundings // change of season at necropolis

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Nature is changing again. In its own phase. In its own way. Winter is almost there.

During a little trip to Necropolis in Glasgow I noticed this phase and way. Green trees and winter ready ones stood side by side. Golden leaves contrasting against juicy green grass.

There is beauty to be found in very moment of the year. It is a privilege to live in a place where the seasons change and foretell what is coming. Nevertheless, I do already long for the moment where nature revives. But isn’t it so much more appreciated after a leafless winter!

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diy // tassel cushion

headerIt’s time for a new DIY! In these dark winter days, many houses can use an extra bit of coziness. This tassel cushion will absolutely help.

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What do you need? A soft (velvet) pillow cover (which you can also make yourself of course), soft wool, a card, a needle and thread, and a pair of scissors.

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For the cushion you have to make 16 tassels. The tassels are made like this:

Step 1: Take a card to use for winding the thread. Wind the thread around the card in loops, about 18 times. (The more times the fuller the tassel will be).

Step 2: Take a second piece of thread. Slide the wound thread off the card. Tie the second piece of thread into a tight knot in the middle top of  the looped thread.

Step 3 & 4: Cut through looped ends, and adjust into tassel shape.

Step 5: Turn the ends inside out. Now the top knot is inside the tassel.

Step 6: Cut a third  piece of thread to wrap around tassel’s neck and make a tight knot. As you wrap, make sure all the threads in the head and skirt are in place. Trim the ends of the tassel with your scissors.

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After your tassels are ready, all that is left to do is sewing them to the cushion and finding a spot to lie it down!

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Are you going to give the tassel cushion at try during one of these dark evenings? If you love tassels just as much as I do and like to see more, please have a look here.
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