University of Southern California
Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy
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Clarissa

Uselessness is Gorgeous

Jan 29, 2014, by Clarissa · 1 comment

Normally, there’s a little lull at the beginning of the semester before it goes into full swing but this semester hasn’t been like that at all.  I hit the ground running once the semester began.  I’m really busy and I love it.  In order to stay balanced, though, I’ve started thinking a lot about concepts I learned last semester in my Health Promotion and Wellness class.  Particularly, I thought about a lecture we had about happiness and how I can ensure I have personally meaningful moments in the midst of my hectic schedule. 

I thought our happiness lecture related really well to an art exhibit I saw when I visited Chicago over the summer.  It’s called “The Happy Show” by Stefan Sagmeister, an individual who struggled with depression after his mother’s death.  Because of his depression, he became interested in whether or not people can train their minds to be happy, similar to how people train their bodies.  This one particularly beautiful art piece of his was made out of post-it notes and spelled out “Uselessness is gorgeous.” It looked like this:

Sagmeister accompanied this art piece with a personal experience that relates to the concept of “flow” which we also learned about in our Health Promotion and Wellness class.  One experiences flow when completely absorbed in a satisfying activity and ceases to notice the passage of time.  By this art piece, he wrote, “Uselessness is gorgeous.  I came up with a reputable technique to artificially produce a moment of bliss: take a scooter, drive it on a beautiful road with little traffic so I can ride without a helmet and feel the wind in my hair while listening to about a dozen carefully selected songs, music that I don’t know well (so it won’t have any baggage) but am likely going to like.  And very important: there can be no purpose to the drive, just cruising without any goal. This recipe would send shivers down my spine every time.  To identify something without any goal and without any function has its own beauty: it’s the difference between a walk in the park and a commute.  It’s the different between art and design.”

This quote also reminded me of a pediatrics lecture my professor Dr. Erna Blanche gave where she said that without participating in activities that we do “just for the heck of it,” life wouldn’t be worth living.  I found that Sagmeister’s view really complemented OT’s value of participating in activities simply because they are meaningful. 

As for me, the closest moment I’ve experienced to Sagmeister’s description of bliss was my climb up Yosemite’s Half Dome, pictured below.  When I reached the top and looked over all of Yosemite Valley, I forgot about time and space.  I have decided to incorporate more nature into my life this semester in order to encourage a work-life balance. 

Comments

1. Comment by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on Jan 29, 2014

I had the opportunity to visit Yosemite National Park once. It is breath-taking. Just as your picture above!
Kim

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