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Appreciating Incompleteness

It's not something we tend to look very favourably upon, loose ends. Unfinished projects, and limbo lands. But perhaps there's something to be appreciated about these moments of incompleteness.

Menka Sanghvi
Menka Sanghvi
5 min read
Appreciating Incompleteness
Photo by Benjamin De

It's Menka here with a final-of-the-year Just Looking Letter, all about slowing down to notice more of the everyday. "Every day is all there is" the great Joan Didion (RIP) once wrote, to explain why she always uses the good silver!

Before we start, I'd like to thank you for the many unreasonably beautiful Moons that flooded my inbox after the last Letter. Here are the first nine I got: from Sheffield and Argentina to Spain, LA, and Vienna.

A further thank you to all those who signed up for paid membership of this project. I feel deeply grateful to have your support. Many of you I've never even met. Looking forward to our collaborations in making meaningful things.

About the New Year

Tomorrow we celebrate the New Year. We look back and reflect, and look forward and plan. But of course, both the calendar and this way of celebrating are human-made constructs. It originates with the ancient Roman god Janus, where the name January comes from. He was the god of beginnings, transitions, and doorways. Typically he is depicted as having two opposite faces - one looking into the past, and the other peering forward to the future. And the Romans would offer promises to Janus to celebrate the new year.

January 1: Two classical Roman faces back to back, one young, the other old.
The ancient Roman god Janus. Image via tablesbeyondbelief.

In the past, I've found the end of the year, when things get quieter with work, a wonderful time to acknowledge the journey I've been on, identify areas for growth, and clarify my intentions. But this year has been different for me. Maybe it's the same for you? Things feel a little incomplete and uncertain, and I'm struggling with the larger-scale reflection. It's always hard to do this stuff well, and then to try and sync it with a certain point in the year, makes it very tricky - and potentially superficial. There's that comical saying "Wherever you go, there you are" even if it's crossing the grand threshold of a new year.

And so instead, I'm doing something simpler for now and just trying to focus on today. And go even more micro when I can, and notice the moment. This one. Then this one. And this one, too.

I love the words used by the author Jonathan Fields recently:

"Step out of the spin of the past, and the slipstream of the future and bring yourself into the here and now."

So that's my invitation to you - either as a complement to a deeper new year reflection or simply an alternative for those like me who don't have the bandwidth for the bigger picture right now - simply look at today as another day. One that's worthy of your best silver. One that may not feel like an end of an episode just yet. But one that could still, paradoxically, be your final day. As we transition from one year to another, don't forget to notice and appreciate this moment.

Looking Exercise

Noticing Incompleteness

It's not something we tend to look very favourably upon, loose ends. Unfinished projects, and limbo lands. But perhaps there's something to be appreciated about these moments of incompleteness. Perhaps they are, in fact, complete in some way too. It's not a very New Yearsy thing to suggest, but let's pause to notice something that's seemingly incomplete, and oblivious to today's calendar date.

If you like, make a photograph.

Image by Lee Chang Ming

If you give this a go, you can reply to this email with your photo (I love seeing these!), or go big and share it with the wider community on Instagram using #wearejustlooking.

Windowology [Visit /Read]
In London's Japan House there is currently (until April 2022) an exhibition all about windows: "Windowology". Created by the world's only Window Research Institute! Among many other projects, they've published several photography books of views from windows around the world.

Photo by Takumi Ota

Paying Attention in New Ways [Read]
Nine "works of art" that have pushed us to pay attention in new ways. From the eight-hour black and white static shot by Andy Warhol of the Empire State building, through to Tik Tok's algorithms!

Do We Need Distraction-Free Devices? [Read]
This essay explores whether apps that help us focus are enough, or do we need single-purpose physical devices (like Kindles etc.) to resist distraction? It's one of the reasons I like "real" camera rather than phones for photowalks, even though phones are excellent, and obviously so much more convenient.

The Little Things - Miranda Keeling [Watch]
How did I not know about her until now? A fellow observer of everyday life. She's on Twitter.

The Art of Pia Bramley [See]
A visual complement to Miranda's tweets, artist Pia Bramley calls attention to life's humbler moments in these wonderful illustrations. She's recently released a book called Pandemic Baby. The image below is called "Soggy"!

Illustration by Pia Bramley

Sending my love and gratitude your way. It's always a pleasure to hear from you, so feel free to hit reply with your news.

Yours in curiosity,‌‌‌‌‌‌

For more:
Just Looking Website
Just Looking Instagram

Photo by one of my favourites, the playful-eyed René Maltête


Menka Sanghvi Twitter

I'm a researcher, writer, and designer working on the theme of mindful curiosity. Just Looking is a project I started to help myself and others slow down and experience more wonder in the everyday.

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