Transcending boredom, finding stillness: radical observancy in restricted times

‘Beautiful Imperfections’ by Alessandro Albert, Turin, Italy.

Finding Stillness is a lockdown project about rehabilitating the mundane: outflanking tedium by revisiting and celebrating the thoroughly known.

As many of us work from home across all corners of the world, much has been said about finding ways to fight boredom — and there’s a lot of good in that. However, there exists a parallel approach that also has its merits.

Boredom can be beneficial. As numerous commentators, writing in our age of incessant stimulation (pre-virus), have demonstrated, we need moments where nothing is happening. That’s where our leaps of creativity often come from.

The Finding Stillness project was created with the aim of helping remote workers stop looking out of their windows and start gazing out of their windows — effectively and with diligence.

As many of us stayed close to home during the past weeks and months for our unexpected pause, Punkt. asked its audience for an insight into their new quieter lives.

The results provide a fascinating and personal account from across the globe. A window into the lives of people at a period not experienced in our lifetime, and at such odds with the usual lens of how we go about our hectic daily lives.

The videos were published on Punkt.’s website and social media accounts, and are hopefully inspiring home-workers around the world to find hidden treasures in their environment.

Some people have nice views from their windows, others do not. This project was open to everyone everywhere; the aim to use alchemy to transform even the plainest scenes.

With short video edits captured from 22 different countries, Wales to Vietnam, Panama to Finland, here are the highlights of some of the fascinating results.

Tokyo, Japan by Sumire Sakuma: ‘Does the view from my window stay the same or is it different from yesterday?
It is how I see, listen and feel the outside world. I am different everyday, every minute, so the view could be different even though it seems to be the same. Stillness for me is something solid which is always there no matter how noisy the world around us; it remains the same. We could find it within the space of the moment maybe when we listen to fan noise, birds singing, or merely the voice of our heart.’

Venice CA, USA by Glenn Webb: ‘It’s detrimental to our development of individualism to live life without boredom. With a smartphone constantly in our pocket, I think it takes a hell of a lot of discipline to embrace it… And I don’t know if boredom even exists if you are paying close attention to your experience.’

Tokyo, Japan by Ry Van Veluwen: ‘This is the view from my apartment, overlooking Shibuya station and with a hint of the famous Shibuya Scramble crossing in the distance. I find the noise and filthy concrete to be particularly calming and attractive — which is funny, given that I grew up in a small beach town that most of my friends from Tokyo think is easily a more attractive view. It can be a little hard to tell from the footage, but it’s significantly less bustling in the current lockdown situation. Usually people swarm the platforms.’

Waterloo, Canada by Matt Borland: ‘The time I am spending at home during the pandemic is bittersweet. I teach design at a university and my days have been split into two halves: time spent online emailing, video chatting, and content creating; and time spent alone with my church-in-a-suitcase, my pedal-steel guitar. Stillness comes through this instrument I wouldn’t normally have time to play. It is a balance to the increased levels of connectivity in my new digital life. The view from my guitar brings inspiration and balance.’

St Fagans, Wales by Nick Russill: ‘An early alarm abruptly wakes me, because I have a meeting. My hurried commute is by bike. Just 10 invigorating minutes from my warm bed.
It’s just me at this meeting. (Me, the cacophonous birdsong and wind in the trees whispering shhhh back at them…)
I’m sitting at the edge of the forest. Here’s where my day starts.
My meeting’s with the rising sun. And the low shadows it casts at the foot of tall, citrus-scented pines.
Now, in a moment of calm, I can be present with myself and my environment.
I walk curiously into the woods, always rewarded by surprises.
Here I set good intentions for a great day!’

Milan, Italy by Stefano Mirti: ‘From my bedroom, I can see a railway disappearing into green grass, behind a wall. At day time there is a lot of things to see. At night time, everything disappears, but the rail tracks. It looks like a dream: every night, before to sleep, I always stare at this eerie view.’

Punkt. also received a series of lockdown videos from loyal friends (best watched with the sound turned up), including:

  • Jonathan Margolis, Financial Times journalist: History from my window ‘This is the view from my desk in my 17th century loft apartment on the north bank of the River Thames, right opposite Kew Gardens. Charles Dickens used to stay in the building and may have started Nicholas Nickleby right where I’m sitting. The stainless steel monument on the riverside marks where Julius Caesar led two legions across the Thames in 53 BC to do battle with a British tribe where my local supermarket now stands. Across the river behind the big tree to the left of the picture stands Kew Palace — you can see it in winter — where King George III went mad, as dramatised in The Madness of King George.’
  • John Tree, industrial designer: Urban soil ‘This view from my office keeps my eyes fresh with ever‑changing light, plants, and wildlife. I try to spend time out there but seem to spend more looking at it which is a real benefit.
    It is a sort of reverse garden where I planted a few things but maintain it by selectively removing stuff I don’t like. It’s amazing what plants can appear on a bare piece of urban soil.’
  • Alessandro Albert, portrait photographer: Beautiful imperfections ‘New and perfect things don’t seem to have a past. I live in a courtyard in a space that was once a carpenter’s workshop. The courtyard is rather run down, like the façades of the houses looking on to it. I like this about it; it’s an authentic and sincere place. At certain times of day the sunlight shines on the worn and paint‑peeled walls revealing their imperfections. It’s a living testament to past times and lives.’
  • Sam Walton, publisher: Working from the garden shed ‘This is the view from my office window on April 29 2020. I returned to work from my garden shed for lockdown; it was the place I started Hole & Corner in 2013. The place had become a junk room over the last few years, but now it’s almost back to its best. I have some shelving etc. on order and some paint arriving soon. I’m glad to be back, the stream that runs past the window used to supply the brewery (now our home) with spring water from the village. The water is freezing! But the trout and ducks love it, and occasionally otters turn up too!’
  • Philip Syse, tech support at Punkt.: The tree of life ‘Before lockdown I was rarely home, so I barely noticed the huge tree outside my window. I now drink coffee and watch the life that rotates within and around it during work breaks. I recognize the two old ladies that meet up there at 1 pm, the man that walks his five small dogs at 8.30 am and again at 2 pm, the kids that emerge at 3 pm to stretch their legs and holler. At 6 pm a group of elderly men gather there at a metre’s distance to chat. My favourites are the birds — I don’t listen to music anymore — their songs connect me to the world.’
  • Marcia Caines, head of communications at Punkt.: Birds and things ‘My desk is deliberately facing the window of my studio. I like to look out. Just looking up and out beyond the screen broadens my vision and soothes my eyes. Before lockdown I stockpiled some wild birdseed, and since then, I have seen blue tits, great tits and coal tits in abundance, I’ve spotted a robin and a wren, and more recently I get prized visits from a woodpecker. I can identify their songs and know their visiting hours. I have given them, and the pesky grey squirrel, names. The window is still the same, only now it has a world to offer.’

Further reading:
Wikipedia: “Boredom”
The BBC: “Psychology: “Why boredom is bad… and good for you”
Bored and Brilliant, by Manoush Zomorodi

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