Pockets of Joy In A Pancake

By Dan Aceda

Greetings, friends:

This week’s newsletter is a little different as I’m handing over this week’s From The Curator’s Desk to my friend and colleague Dan Aceda, whose credentials are too many to list here – but the purposes of this newsletter he’s showing up as Director of online music platform StudioTISA, as well as Founder and CEO of Semabox, our podcasting partners at Baraza. I’ll be handing over this section of the newsletter to my fellow colleagues and to Baraza members from time to time, as building community also means hearing from each other. ~ Christine Mungai, Curator

I don’t know if she remembers, but one of my oldest friends and I had this conversation once about the idea of joy. What we said in that conversation, which I still remember all these years later, was that unbridled joy — running in an open field laughing from the depth of your stomach, eyes wide open and caring about nothing except what is happening in this exact moment kind of joy – is something that only children can freely experience. 

Because as we get older, what we get instead is pockets of joy. It’s smaller, more concise. That sip of a glass of wine, the first swig of a nice cold beer, a text from somebody you really care about, and MPESA confirmation messages kind of joy. You know, the kind of joy that you feel after you pay your rent. I mean, you are happy – but it’s rent, i.e. money out of your pocket. 

Still, pockets of joy are still joy. The feeling is the same. Maybe you don’t run in a field anymore or laugh so hard, but you are still happy.  But if we’re honest, this pancake (that’s my name for the pandemic, joyfully borrowed from Schaeffer Okore) made it quite hard to find these pockets of joy. 

The reason especially is because the way that I typically find joy for myself and share it with others, suddenly became dangerous – many people gathered in a room with the lights turned down, enchanted by melody, swaying to the rhythm and feeling only this rhythm. Here. Today. Right Now. Hugging, reckless embrace, breathless existence inspired by the thump of the kick drum. That stuff was suddenly dangerous. 

And so we tried something different. We brought in a handful of cameras and the best sound engineers in the country, and began to record these concerts for people to watch at home. With StudioTISA and SemaBOX what I discovered was that we, creatives, are actually not the joy mafia, manufacturing and kind of peddling joy, but were more like doctors. We’re specialists in treating ‘lack-of-joy-osis’. You see, what we do as creatives is to conduct surgeries to restore joy which is present in everyone but maybe just hidden by a swollen deadline. Or a malignant bill. 

We work upstream in the joy value chain. We spend countless hours developing new therapies to overcome lack-of-joy-osis.  And that ends up being our new source of joy. And so, what we must learn in this pancake is that a sense of community can be diversified. We can actually feel, be with and connect with people without ever actually seeing them. This is a reality that I kind of knew but never fully understood until being physically close to someone became dangerous. 

So I know I say this all the time on Twitter, but I must repeat. Do that thing that gives you joy. Be in that place that brings you joy. In all you do, find joy. For in this pancake, we battle not against the principalities of evil but more against the lack of joy. 

Yours,

Dan Aceda


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