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Studio Diaries: Virgil Abloh | Sparking Joy | Psychological Richness

Welcome to my Studio Diaries series! Each week, I share a list of what’s been thought-provoking and inspiring in the books, videos, art, podcasts, etc., that I’ve encountered in the last few days.

Here’s what I’ve loved this week!

Seeing: Virgil Abloh -"Figures of Speech" at the Brooklyn Museum

The exhibition of work by Virgil Abloh is overwhelming, prolific, and inspiring. From a curatorial perspective, I thought the show struck the perfect balance to tell a story in its size and the relationship between sketches and design outcomes. Virgil's vision across media and concepts transcended art, language, and fashion, leaving viewers with a lot to think about in terms of deconstructing aesthetics, industrial processes, and words themselves. While I loved seeing his fashion work for Louis Vuitton, Nike, or his brand, Off White, one piece that stood out to me was a ladder carved out of blue foam called "AS IMPOSSIBLE" (2019). The piece represents Abloh's venture into the world of sculpture and makes a statement about his fragile and unlikely rise to success in the fashion industry. The piece had a ghostly presence and worked in conversation with the prototype-stage shoes and other fashion items on display, showing his voice in everything he created.

Seeing: Sparking Joy – Marie Kondo

I realize I am years late to the Tidying Up with Marie Kondo craze, but I found myself immersed in the Netflix series this week and was moved by Marie's approach and process. I don’t have too much trouble getting rid of things (admittedly, books and paperwork might be the most challenging phases for me in the KonMari method), so my interest wasn't so much about needing help tidying up myself. I loved her ability to connect with the home, focus on beauty, love, and joy, and demonstrate respect for people and objects alike. Asking yourself, "does this spark joy?" when interacting with your belongings, is an intuitive approach that speaks the truth and provides instant clarity. Her method has provided a mental and emotional framework I will take with me to trust my instincts and feelings about the objects in my physical environment and even the items I consider purchasing or adding to my life. Her thought process has also inspired me to focus on feeling the joy in each interaction, whether pouring coffee into my favorite mug or folding a set of soft sheets. For me, this is a foundation to infuse mindfulness practice into everyday life.

Reading: A Psychologically Rich Life

This article begins by contributing to the literature on how to measure a "good life." Oishi and Westgate propose that in addition to measuring happiness and meaningfulness, "psychological richness" should be added to the roster of qualities to consider when assessing if a life was "well-lived." I heard this article mentioned in Steven Dubner and Angela Duckworth's podcast No Stupid Questions, where they discussed happiness levels in different cities and the inconclusive relationship between place and life satisfaction (essentially, it's the age-old question of correlation or causation). While this article doesn't address the relationship between where you live and your happiness level, it makes an argument about how we measure those happiness levels in the first place. Beyond serving as a fascinating intellectual topic, a study of this kind helps reflect on one's own life satisfaction and direction.

In the past, most research on "living a good life" has measured hedonic wellbeing—or feelings of life satisfaction and positive affect like comfort, joy, security, and relationships. Or, it has measured eudaimonic wellbeing—the sense of realizing one's full potential through purpose, societal contributions, and principles. Oishi and Westgate propose a third crucial tenant to measuring a good life through a category they call "psychological richness," which they characterize as experiences of variety, interest, and perspective change. This richness is connected to the idea of gaining wisdom and comes with experiences that change one's point of view, expand one's horizons, or alter one's understanding of themselves or the world. They give an example of the benefits of studying abroad, or experiencing challenges and adversity, only to come out the other side stronger.

"Thus, on their deathbed, a person who has led a happy life might say, 'I had fun!' A person who has led a meaningful life might say, 'I made a difference!' And a person who has led a psychologically rich life might say, 'What a journey!'" (Oishi & Westgate 2021, p. 5).

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