Getting virtual mud under my fingernails

Getting virtual mud under my fingernails

"It’s enough to make you want to hide under the duvet until spring shows up"

13-03-2023 · Column

It’s that time of year again: when I start to feel like a car whose owner has ignored the fuel warning light one too many times. Maybe it’s the final traces of last summer’s vitamin D leaving my stubbornly South African body. The rants dominating my Twitter feed certainly don’t help, nor does clicking over to the selective but unrelenting bleakness of the news sites. To all this, add this year’s dawning realization that more government funding for higher education is unlikely ever to make a dent in actual academic workloads. It’s enough to make you want to hide under the duvet until spring shows up.

At times like these, I find it’s the smallest and most tangible things that keep those tires turning on the road. Refocusing my attention from the abstract to the concrete ironically allows me to see the bigger picture again, and gives me strength to keep tackling the larger problems. My social media might be blowing up, but that student in the front row had an interesting question after yesterday’s lecture. That grant proposal I stayed up all night writing might not work out, but a cup of smoky tea still tastes good—and even better when enjoyed next to a sympathetic colleague or a child still warm from the bath. Snowflakes may be floating across my office window again as I write these words, but I passed a cluster of acid-yellow daffodils on the way in.

It’s a strange thing, this craving for people and real things. I’ve recently discovered the world of ASMR videos online. Who knew that watching strangers binding books by hand or mixing paint could be so therapeutic? Judging by the view counts, millions of people, actually. Paradoxically, these clips tell me that we long to get our hands dirty again, and to make stuff. And they remind me we’re such social animals that watching someone else do these things feels almost like doing them ourselves.

The tulips are just beginning to poke up next to the daffodils. Until then, if you need me, I’ll be curled up on the couch watching a farmer turning mud and straw into bricks.

Elsje Fourie, assistant professor of Globalisation & Development Studies




Author: Redactie

Photo: Archive EF

Tags: work pressure,virtual mud,ASMR videos,elsje fourie

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