If you subscribe to my newsletter, you must have learned that a few weeks ago, I began reading Designing Your Life – How to Live a Well-lived Joyful Life by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans. I can’t say for sure what came first – the book or the external factors driving change in my life, but like many books over the years, this one seemed to have arrived at the right time.
I listened to the audiobook and also borrowed the print copy from the Singapore library to do justice to the recommended exercises in order to make the most of the book.
Do you know where you are?
The question is not about whether you can pinpoint your GPS coordinates for where you physically stand right now but where you stand in your overall life. I was intrigued by the question and the suggestion to take stock of my life dashboard at the moment.
It turns out that for most of us, life plays out along these four axes:
- Health – the basis for everything else
- Work – where we spend most of our waking hours
- Love – personal and social interactions
- Play – the things we do purely for fun
Writing down how I felt about these areas of my life was an eye-opening exercise. To my surprise I found that my tank on the health, work and love aspects were pretty full but my play score was really pathetic.
While I do take time away from my job and my writing, most of what I do, including leisure activities like reading or going for daily walks around my neighborhood have hidden motives attached to it such as writing book reviews or meeting a fitness goal.
Most people binge-watch streaming shows. Not me. I watch for a few minutes each day, usually with my family, over a meal. If you’re curious about this family tradition, read about my Modern Family fascination.
I’m more likely to listen to a TED talk or an educational podcast that helps me make connections between disparate ideas. No wonder I feel exhausted most days – all work and no play and all that cliche takes a toll.
In an effort to correct the imbalance of my life dashboard, I decided to take a deliberate break to do something that had no tangible benefit or desired outcome attached to it.
Watching Glass in Bloom
On a weekday evening after shutting down my laptop, I went to the Glass in Bloom exhibit by American artist Dave Chihuly. Massive installations of his creations made in glass were scattered around the outdoor grounds of the Gardens by the Bay in Singapore. Against the backdrop of the towering Marina Bay Sands, the majestic sculptures inspired awe. Not only were the sculptures beautiful but the care with which they had been installed at exactly the right spots in harmony with nature, made it spectacular.
I recalled a visit to Seattle more than a decade ago, when I visited the town of Tacoma, Washington, famous for its blown glass industry. At the Museum of Glass, I had been amazed to watch a live demonstration of how glass is blown to create fiery, beautiful pieces of art that can be displayed inside and outside homes and buildings. Completely mesmerised, I had been tempted to buy everything in sight at the gift shop.
Being a hometown tourist
As I walked towards the flaming red and yellow rays of the gigantic debut installation named Setting Sun, I spotted only a handful of other visitors on the vast green lawns. If it wasn’t for Covid, these spaces would typically be overrun by tourists from dozens of countries. The next installation was a cool blue assembly of discs in various hues of white, opal and blue. It looked like a giant lollipop from afar but looked like its celestial namesake, Moon.
From chandeliers to towers to suspended shells of color and light, the outdoor and indoor installations (inside the Flower Dome and Cloud Forest), brought on a feeling of calm. Of course, there was beauty in the art of creating these sculptures and the engineering marvel at assembling them plus a logistical exercise in bringing these fragile objects all the way to Singapore, but what was truly inspiring was the way they were integrated into the existing environment.
Every piece was integrated with the color scheme with an artistic flair and fit right into it’s surroundings. From the eye-popping orange-yellow balls afloat on a boat in the lake to the impressive green-blue tower arising from a bed of green in the garden, it seemed as if each of these carefully curated exotic creations belonged right here amidst the tropical foliage.
I learnt many lessons from my tiny excursion:
- It is possible for humans to create objects of beauty that fit into our natural world
- When we make time and space for beauty, our life is enriched
- In the golden hour before sunset on a slightly overcast day, even a novice like me can take breathtaking photographs
- Making time for play is the best way to return refreshed to your life
I sipped a cappuccino and enjoyed a chocolate muffin as I studied the gigantic Supertrees that appear in iconic photographs of Singapore. Families in bicycles rode by the edge of the water, couples skated together and people like me stopped to watch life in its various forms move about in a world that has come to a standstill in many ways.
Yet, life goes on.
Every activity does not need to be tagged to a goal. Productivity is not the only altar at which we are meant to worship.
Life is richer when we stop to acknowledge it with the openness of children, through play.
Have you tried being a hometown tourist during the pandemic? What do you do to simply unwind? Play?
If you want to see more pictures of the Glass in Bloom exhibit, follow me on Instragram here.