I’ve noticed an odd pattern in my media consumption lately: I’m intentionally seeking out experiences that I’d normally consider boring. I’ve fulfilled this desire in a variety of odd ways, from watching ASMR videos on YouTube (which don’t even give me the reaction!) to replaying the JRPG Trails of Cold Steel II with New Game+ settings that entirely remove its challenge.
I think this is a response to a general sense of overstimulation I’ve felt recently, particularly from social media and world news. To counterbalance that, I’ve apparently been attempting understimulation. A tranquil emotional state sounds even better than a positive one right now, to be honest; if there were a spectrum with despondency on one end and euphoria on the other, I’d be aiming for the zero point on its graph.
Last weekend I saw an exhibition called Seeking Stillness at the MFA in Boston. Part of its description read:
Artists help us see and make sense of our world. Many, in this divisive moment, have engaged directly and powerfully with the social and political issues of our age. No less powerful or relevant, however, are the works that can lead us beyond the unsettled present: to places of respite, contemplation, transcendence, stillness.
Much of the exhibition featured aggressively plain works: Chinese scholar’s rocks, simple porcelain bowls, a quiet John Cage soundtrack, large rectangles filled with white and beige and taupe. I loved it.