may mustafa for varsity

There are umpteen articles written about what to do with the newfound lacuna in our once hectic schedules now we’re in lockdown. About productivity, about a lack of productivity, about connection, and about a lack of connection. Is now the time to write that seminal book we’ve been planning since our teens? Or is it time to lift the lids off of our chaotic personalities and take a look at what lies beneath? Maybe now is the time to become a devout yogi, or perhaps now we can get that summer body we’ve always wanted. With all this time we could surely find God, or at least work hard enough to get that First.

Alas, this is not an article about any of those things, and I have no advice on these matters. Instead I’m writing about the minute and the mundane — the observations we make when have the time and space to really observe. 

Our sense of curiosity still has fertile ground to thrive

I think there's an element of truth in one of Kafka's more impractical aphorisms where it's stated that, "it is not necessary that you leave the house. Remain at your table and listen ... the world will present itself to you for its unmasking, it can do no other, in ecstasy it will writhe at your feet." In our current state of being we can no longer exercise our curiosity on the wider world. Travel, May Balls, even shopping centres: these are all temporarily inaccessible. But although our circles of tangible experience have reduced drastically, our sense of curiosity still has fertile ground to thrive.

Slowing down is not easy. It means we’re alone with our thoughts, and we’re confronted with the physical presence of our environments, wherever they may be. If you have itchy feet and a restless mind, the prospect of a seemingly never-ending window of time is one that may seem overwhelming.

Saying that there is a kind of beauty in the everyday is not a hot take; mankind has known this from the very moment we felt speechless at the sight of a setting sun. It is a maxim, however, that is difficult to understand when life at university seems to move at 100 miles per hour and we spend hours a day plugged into a hyperreality: tapping, clicking, and scrolling through endless word documents, PDFs, profiles, and messages.


Mountain View

Lockdown top tips: the Varsity guide to the new abnormal

Taking time to notice the world around us, no matter how mundane it may seem, is a humbling, boring, peaceful, and often amusing pastime; perfect for our mandated daily walks. You can start by noting down four things you can see, four things you can hear, four things you can smell, and four things you can feel. Chances are, you might become aware of something curious you hitherto hadn't even acknowledged. 

I've jotted down some of the things I've come to notice and that have given me a smidge of joy in these unparalleled and remarkable times (yes — I googled synonyms for unprecedented). It's likely I wouldn't have noticed them at all had life gone on as normal.

I hope that wherever you are, you'll find that your sense of curiosity can flourish on not only on the grandiose, but on the very mundane too!

  • The sight of an old man in a bobble hat and scarf cycling down my street on a child-size shiny new BMX bike. He pedalled quickly, but moved slowly.
  • The beauty of an unkempt and slightly overgrown garden
  • Running past the same jogger every day for a fortnight
  • Discovering a swan with arthritis in Richmond Park
  • Listening to birdsong for so long that you can identify different species
  • How some birds are actually really irritating
  • How quickly grass grows
  • The sound of my (student?) neighbours playing the notorious B.I.G coming in softly through the window 
  • Discovering an actual farm 3 mins away from my house (!)