Would you do it? I remember when I was little, when I was alone, I used to watch my face in the mirror for a long time. Just as a word loses its meaning when you repeat it over and over again, I would focus on the eyes rather than the whole of the slowly alienating figure in front of me, and I would sit in front of the mirror for minutes, not knowing exactly what I was looking for, hoping that I would be able to see beyond it, deeper and deeper.
After a while it would turn into a bit of a sad process. At that time, I would get caught up in this state of “strangeness” mixed with longing for a while longer, but with an instinctive effort I would also manage to return to the joyful world of my toys.
However, even in my childhood, I felt an inwardly indefinable pleasure in this semi-sad mood, so much so that in my early youth I was always suspicious of people who walked around me with an unreasonable joy. I never wanted those who entered the canteen of the architecture faculty with a high-pitched good morning in colorful sweaters, while I hadn’t even had my morning coffee – in my black clothes, of course – to be part of my closest friend group. But wasn’t it so, my dear, with all the troubles and worries in the world, what was this joy for no reason? Moreover, an artist, a designer is a person who is gloomy and anxious. These people either don’t think enough or they lack depth. Get away from me!
Thanks to my life experiences, it didn’t take me long to realize that wisdom, art, a black sweater or a joyful laughter are deeper, other dimensional concepts that cannot be measured by my immature and formal prejudices! However, since then, I can say that the state of cheerfulness, which for me requires a conscious awareness and for others can easily exist in its natural flow, has been a subject of observation that has attracted my attention both in my professional and social life. And I’m not alone!
I met Ingrid Fetel Lee through her TEDx talk at a design seminar I recently attended. In his talk, Lee was talking about the surprising power of ordinary things, such as objective objects, to bring joy, and as you can imagine, it immediately caught my attention.
Lee became aware of the effect his designs had on making people smile when he was still at university and consciously built his career around researching the causes of this effect. He started his speech by asking us the following questions:
Why do we smile when we see exploding confetti and colorful balloons?
Why is it that the orange glow before the sun sets or the cherry blossoms in bloom fascinate us and we can’t stop watching?
The answers were varied, as you can imagine. Let’s keep Lee’s comments on these questions and his hints about cheerful places for those who want to read his book. But to summarize briefly, Lee has renovated various spaces in line with the principles he has determined after long research and has observed that people who live, work or study in these spaces have started to live their lives as more “cheerful” people. Rather than making happiness a utopia that is difficult to achieve and requires intense effort, Lee addresses the issue step by step with practical prescriptions and aims to contribute to this by presenting the principles of designing objects and spaces that bring joy in line with his area of expertise.
I have great admiration for all people who give people hope, who are able to simplify seemingly complex issues and produce benefits. Long live Ingrid Fetel Lee!
In the evening, while reflecting on the seminar with this enthusiasm, I remembered a short movie I had seen years ago, the name of which I unfortunately cannot remember now. The film was set in a remote village in a remote corner of Scotland, a gray and rundown village inhabited by sullen and sad people who could not open their eyes because of the rain. Far from all Lee’s cheerful suggestions. One day, the village priest, who had a stern temperament, was too old and a new priest was appointed. The young pastor, despite all the warnings of his elderly predecessor, was so saddened by the village’s plight that he prayed for days for God to make the sun shine, and finally, perhaps for the first time in the village’s history, the gray clouds completely dissipated and a clear blue sky greeted them with the sun shining brightly.
Days passed, no sign of clouds. Everyone was very happy. People threw off their coarse clothes. Tables were set in front of houses, deserted village streets gave way to joyful laughter, children running around with joy, and melodies emanating from open windows. However, when the man who took the villagers’ handicrafts to the city market every month, fell asleep at a table because he had danced until dawn, they were left without money. Only some of the cabbages in the field could be saved because they neglected harvest time for fun. Pastures that did not receive enough rain turned yellow, and the milk of animals that could not be fed decreased. On top of that, shouldn’t the butcher, the village’s exemplary family man, fall in love with the widowed seamstress, with whom he had been living across the street for years, but with whom he had never been intimate beyond a dry hello, and leave his house? In the midst of all this confusion, the film ends with our young pastor crying and praying fervently for God to send the gray clouds again.
I think the seminar replayed these scenes in my mind because I had the same thoughts when I saw the movie. Duality is the language of the universe. One pole cannot exist without the other. You cannot comprehend white without black, sweet without bitter, good without bad, joy without sadness. Traveling to both extremes in some matters adds depth and color to life experience, but if we are not at the level where your sadness is pleasant and your joy is pleasant, the people of wisdom say that we should not deviate from the mediocre, that is, the balance, the middle way.
Well, then, if we have tasted both sadness and joy, I wish you a balanced day!