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The Patience of Ordinary Things

Pat Schneider

It is a kind of love, is it not?
How the cup holds the tea,
How the chair stands sturdy and foursquare,
How the floor receives the bottoms of shoes
Or toes. How soles of feet know
Where they’re supposed to be.
I’ve been thinking about the patience
Of ordinary things, how clothes
Wait respectfully in closets
And soap dries quietly in the dish,
And towels drink the wet
From the skin of the back.
And the lovely repetition of stairs.
And what is more generous than a window?

Hello! We’re glad you could make it to the first issue of The Yelli Pages. Today we’re battling the annoying question of what is going on. If you’re from foundation, you probably jumped on what seems to be a running train heading who knows where. If you’ve entered second or third year, you’re waiting to go back to the place you thought you were leaving for a week. The college is still working at figuring out where they are, our friends in fourth years don’t know how will they do what they are doing. If you were to ask us, in the manner that people often do while trying to be polite in a boring conversation, where we are planning on going with this newsletter, we’d probably tell you the very same thing.

We get the feeling, by and large, that people haven’t figured out what they’re doing. That’s great, at least we’re all in the same boat.

Pat Schneider’s ‘The Patience of Ordinary Things’ seemed like a good place to start, considering the six months we have all spent at home now. Her approach is one that fills us with a sense of hope that transcends logic and rationale. It reminds us to look at the world like children do everything interesting, everything new. One might wonder if the world has survived wars, pandemics, fascist rulers and polarisation, only through the adoption of a perspective as refreshing as hers. 🟡

Pick of the Web

Irrespective, here are a few things that might just spark joy, inspiration, or the thought that leads to your next project that tanks, which then leads to the project that makes you Arrive© :

1. Dadaism fought the notion of ‘High Art’, and also handed us the perfect recipe for bizarre and insightful art making. Perhaps, making a Dada poem is what you need to break out of that rut you’ve been feeling stuck in? (attached is an example, discussing a way to make raita).

2. Using time ‘well’ has grown to be more stress-inducing than it used to be in the pre-pandemic world. Lots have tried to get back to reading and have found it hard. Austin Kleon might just have the answers you need here.

3. Here’s some Schneider-esque advice on making that you didn’t know you needed to hear. And while you’re at it, you could stop by here and look at how a few designers envision the world 100 years from now. 🟡

Manasvini SN

(1. Dada poem) It's easy to feel overwhelmed by the news, so cut it up and remix it into something stupid.
Foundation may have seemed useless, &
Why that isn't all that bad

Abraham Flexner on 'the usefulness of useless knowledge'

In an attempt to get you to sign up for our newsletter I, regrettably, promised you ‘useful stuff’. Why wouldn’t I? The last thing you might need in your mailbox is another email which you may not even open if there wasn’t the promised incentive of having something that wasn’t a waste of time, which you could ‘put to use’. Well, it’s a stupid promise to make because I don’t believe in that myself and it makes sense to tell you why. Sometime last year, before I joined Srishti, I came across an article on BrainPickings which was on an essay by Abraham Flexner titled ‘The Usefulness of Useless Knowledge’, written in 1939. The original blog post by Maria Popova has some great highlights and I’ll link to it in a while but in the essay, Flexner used various examples from the sciences to illustrate how there is rarely a revelation which is completely original and can be attributed to one person. In one paragraph he says: 

Almost every discovery has a long and precarious history. Someone finds a bit here, another a bit there. A third step succeeds later and thus onward till a genius pieces the bits together and makes the decisive contribution. Science, like the Mississippi, begins in a tiny rivulet in the distant forest. Gradually other streams swell its volume. And the roaring river that bursts the dikes is formed from countless sources. 

He’s talking about science, but for students like us who tax our brains with creative thinking and making new things every day, this holds even truer. We’re familiar with this, right? Every idea is second hand, nothing is original. So it follows that to have such good ideas, in a way, we must put an unusual emphasis on ourselves to be well-read (or feel guilty if we aren’t), in the sense that whatever we read or seek to read should have some sort of purpose or a foreseeable return-of-investment. Why is that? I’d rather be widely read than well-read. It is Flexner’s central point that reading and research should be supported without thought to its use because we really don’t know where these ‘rivulets’ might come from or where they will finally lead. 

One of the best things about this idea of cultivating and sharing useless knowledge is that the second you bring it up, everyone has something to share. I’ve had countless interesting conversations about the most random of things, from how porridge was used for alliances between countries and fictional ‘paper-towns’ used as copyright traps to how there can be pissed-off ravens and crows and even fat cats (percentage of American cats that are overweight? 58). The people who shared such things didn’t need to know them, neither do I and nor do I have much practical use for such information, but life is far more interesting with this data on obese and chonky pets at hand. I’m quoting links and articles, but they might as well come from TV shows or movies. Augustana University even has a dedicated “Society for Preservation of UnNecessary Knowledge (SPUNK)”, where people “…[share what they’ve learnt] because they are curious rather than because they’re motivated by the instrumental benefits of education and training”. 

I’m also a pompous hypocrite because for one full year, I’ve complained at every possible chance about how useless some of my foundational classes are because I couldn’t see myself using most of them anywhere. I’ve learnt very late (and I’m still not all there yet) that that is a very stupid and narrow-minded thing to say. Foundation year embraces Flexner’s thesis to the fullest. If information can be useless, so can some of the ‘skills’ we learn, and sometimes that’s okay. Maybe it isn’t useful, maybe it is an outright waste of time, but to quote Flexner again: 

I am not for a moment suggesting that everything that goes on in laboratories will ultimately turn to some unexpected practical use or that an ultimate practical use is its actual justification. Much more am I pleading for the abolition of the word “use,” and for the freeing of the human spirit. To be sure, we shall thus free some harmless cranks. To be sure, we shall thus waste some precious dollars. But what is infinitely more important is that we shall be striking the shackles off the human mind and setting it free for […] adventures.’ 

I believe that these seemingly useless bits and scraps become valuable extensions of who we are, and it is from such stores of irrelevance that we create the best of things. Some of my favourite things I’ve made or ideas I’ve had were a result of random tangents, loose ends and digressions that I wasn’t even looking for, a feeling I’m certain must be shared by many. I’ve been stupid about terming things useless, I hope you’ll do better. Here’s to unproductive wandering and to gathering more useless information. 🟡

Aman Bhargava

Around the Corner

I have a friend

Even though its unlikely that you’ve never come across a Zen Pencils comic before, it still makes sense to share this gem especially given the strange, disconnected time we live in. To quote the author, Gavin Than:

Most Zen Pencils comics are meant to leave you feeling inspired, positive and optimistic, but I enjoyed how this poem leaves you with a feeling of melancholy. Well ‘enjoying’ the feeling of melancholy is an oxymoron, but you know what I mean. The poem hits you ‘right in the feels’ and I think my comic really rams that gut punch home. I would rather you feel sad after visiting this site than nothing at all.

Read it for yourself, and maybe text an old friend afterwards too? 🟡

Student Artist Spotlight

Kanishk Patel

Have you ever looked at a piece of art and thought, ’How did they do that?’ Well, to start with, maybe we can ask some of our own student artists just that. So for our very first issue we have Kanishk Patel. He is a third year Visual Communications Student and freelancer. Talking about his work, he says,

“My work is largely based on my day to day activities and things that I find interesting, I never tend to restrict myself from anything. “

And he means it. Anything from trucks to video games or Walkmans finds place in his work, refurbished with expressive colours and brilliant textures. Talking of artistically inspiring experiences, he even shares a tip,

“I would advise everyone to go out there and explore, do things which cause you discomfort, because that’s how you grow. This mindset has helped me create new comforts, by doing things which I wouldn’t ordinarily do, and create more art which I couldn’t have if I had restricted myself to my comforts.”

On learning digital art, he says, that only after 2 years of exploring does he now feel like he knows what he’s doing. As a parting thought, he says to our first years,

“Right now, it is time to be imaginative, wild, and try out new things. So don’t restrict yourself, try out whatever weird things you’ve not been able to do because of school. And really, just enjoy Srishti!

Be sure to follow him on Instagram, check out his projects on Behance or drop by his website. And when you’re back in Yelli, keep your eyes peeled for his work around the neighbourhood (marked by his Instagram handle) and our various campuses 🙂 🟡

The False Dichotomy of Everything.

Like most students who want to study art, but are stuck in a science curriculum, I detested my higher secondary education. I didn’t spare one chance at complaining about how I was wasting all my time rote-learning, how a lot of what these textbooks teach as ‘facts’ are just speculation based on arguably vague experiments, and most of all, how none of my teachers cared about real learning, they only wanted us to get marks. 

The one thing I never did complain about, though, was the actual concepts. Because, if I’m being honest, I don’t hate learning the concepts in science. I don’t think anyone does. The rush of understanding a concept, when the last piece of information ‘clicks’ in position, provides a joy few other activities in the day bring. But consent is an important thing. On one such gloomy evening, when my mind was as saturated as the organic compounds I was trying to study, I came across Neri Oxman’s talk about Design at the Intersection of Technology and Biology. Having watched it, for the first time I paused to consider that maybe, taking computer science and chemistry wasn’t a decision that had to make my life tougher. Oxman certainly made a case for science and design working together, and the tools it provided. 

Talking about her core values, she recounts what her grandmother used to tell her childhood self: “On the third day of creation, God commands the Earth to grow a fruit-bearing fruit tree.” She then goes on to explain, “For this first fruit tree, there was to be no differentiation between trunk, branches, leaves and fruit. The whole tree was fruit. Instead, the land grew trees that had bark, stems, and flowers. The land created a world made of parts. I often ask myself, what would design be like, if objects were made of a single part? Would we return to a better state of creation?” She’s talking quite specifically about the interplanetary garments she made here, but this concept applies to the overarching theme of the divisions between design, technology, and biology as well. It applies to all of everything, from parts of our body to the division of time into years and months. 

So maybe, in trying to answer Oxman’s question it is worth a shot to stop viewing means of creating as ‘science’ and ‘art?’ The division between science and art is created on land, by us. It’s as arbitrary a division as the one between two seas.

I mean, the water doesn’t stop to turn around, does it? 🟡

Harshita C.

Eating with Your hands

Tales From the road begrudgingly traveled :
a comic in ten parts.

Anvay Sudame

We would like to use this first edition of the newsletter as an opportunity to welcome the new batch of Foundation. It sucks that we are have to do this virtually, but we hope that you have a great time making yourself at home in this wonderfully weird community. Welcome to Srishti; and to those moving into a new semester and year, good luck! 

We wrap up the this issue with a special call to action — our personal request for your contribution to The Yelli Pages. Whether its something you’ve read or written yourself, we’d like to have it here (foundies, you too! Send in your questions for seniors if you have any). More on that on the submissions page.

Want a suggestion? Take today’s newspaper and make a really, really stupid Dada poem in 30 minutes. Send it to us and we’ll put it here, whatever it is. With enough of you, we’ll have a silly anthology to go through. 

Remember to share this with students who might not have subscribed yet, we’d like to reach out to as many people as possible over the next issues. 🟡

  • The Patience of Ordinary Things
  • Pick of the Web
  • Foundation may have seemed useless, &Why that isn't all that bad
  • Around the Corner
  • Kanishk Patel
  • The False Dichotomy of Everything.
  • Eating with Your hands