Issue XVII: Resilience

Issue XVII: Resilience

Welcome, dear reader, to the 17th issue of Dis-Course. In this issue, like a couple before it, I will be introducing to you the theme of our newest collection and talking a little bit about the thoughts and sentiments behind it. The theme is the DIS-ORDER Surf Club, and the talented product design team drew their inspiration from the idea of Resilience. The resilience that one must display when surfing, as one does in life. The idea is to find your balance, surf the waves of life, to face the ferocious tide, and to get back on our board when life knocks you down. 

As you read on, you will find a description of the collection, some remarks about the resilience of the sea, and some thoughts on adaptability and growth-you might also find a small token of our gratitude at the bottom!


The Collection

The collection consists of four designs, each addresses a different element of being resilient. Find Your Balance symbolises the idea that finding your steadiness is a process of stumbling and faltering but figuring out what works for you. There is no one way to surf a wave. We are each unique in the ways that we “find [our] balance”. Send Love reminds us to check in on one another. In the universality of our challenges, we should reach out to one another and foster community. Especially because it's hardest to remember your resilience when you feel stuck under a wave. The design reminds us to encourage ourselves and those we care about to get back on their board even when the waves seem too big. The Surf Club alludes to the fact that we are all “surfing the waves of life”, facing and overcoming challenges with each wave we ride. This design aims to be a reminder that we can’t stop the waves, but we can grow from our experiences and become more competent, resilient, and flexible in how we handle them. Souls In The Sand [poem written by yours truly!] is inspired by the ebb and flow “the rise and the fall” of the sea. It may feel that the ferocious tide of life often engulfs us within its waves. We must approach these challenges with a surfers mentality. The bigger the wave, the more rewarding the surf will be. The poem, by using the homophony of “souls” and “soles” aims to emphasise the universality of these challenges. We must all face the ferocious tide, and we must dive deeper.

The Sea 

In discussing resilience, you may notice that there is a part of this collection that honours the resilience of the sea itself. Yes, we speak of the human resilience that comes with getting back on your board. But we cannot go without acknowledging the fact that the very tide that we often feel that we have to fight against is a display of centuries of resilience. I often find myself thinking about the centuries old wisdom the oceans hold. The fact that the tide that wreaked havoc on the shore lead by the moon, the tidal waves and tsunamis that hold so much power is the same nurturing force that has bred life below its surface for aeons. I think of the sting ray and the sea turtle, the forces of nature that have survived against every odd set against it. I think of a capricious and seemingly volatile ecosystem that has managed a balance. 

I feel the power of the sea most when it reminds me of my humanity. In the sense that I am merely an organism. I will exist, I will wither, I will die. We are fleeting creatures, merely bobbing around with little more impact on the universe than some plankton. Whilst this may be an unpopular opinion, I find the confrontation of the sheer magnitude of the sea a comforting one. I was waiting for my coffee order in town the other day [Ceramique on Plein 1992] when the massive wooden whale structure hanging overhead caught my attention. Just this installation was easily four times my size. It got me thinking about ever being in the presence of a creature that large; how humbling and freeing it is to be confronted with our cosmic insignificance. As I stood there, a poem started to materialise:

Poem for the sea -

I see the sea 

And she sees me

Swift sway of century old fin

Sets me free

I have no purpose

Nor intent 

Than to simply be…


I am


I am


I am


That which existed

long before me

And will persist

Long after I flee… 

The knowledge that each individual existence is a blip on the radar of the cosmos, if even that, is one that I find liberating. Mostly because it reminds me that just as I am miniscule, so are my problems, really. And this is not to say that our sense of overwhelm and despair at life's challenges are invalid. Because at the end of the day, even if they are small to scale to the cosmos they are proportionally large to us. Yet I find that it gives me perspective when I feel too lost in the deeper, murkier waters of life.


I find myself writing about resilience and thinking about rigidity. It's as far from the truth as they come. Resilience comes from malleability. Much like a wave, it is the embodiment of the architectural principles of the skyscrapers built to bend but not brake. We may sway in the wind so that a gust does not topple us. We learn to move with the current so that we do not bend to the waves. If we are not adaptable we do not survive the gust. 

In a previous issue I spoke of a conversation I had with my three closest friends, wine glasses strewn, caution of thought thrown to the wind - we spoke freely and openly. In the conversation we named the adjectives we most resonated with each other. My sunflower friend used the word “resilient” for me. She said that no matter what life threw at me that I took it in my stride. I was taken aback by it. Because at the time, for all intents and purposes I thought I was flailing. I thought that anyone who looked at me could tell that I was drowning in stress and debt. She gave the example of the time I was presented with a 1.7k fine for not having Dutch health insurance - every international student in the Netherlands knows exactly what I’m talking about - I was a case of someone who fell through the cracks of bureaucracy and what was originally a wrongful fine had turned into a convoluted messy beast. One which I had to fight for a year and a half to have lifted. To my friend, the mere fact that despite the flailing and drowning I kept on going was a show of resilience. To me, there was simply no alternative. As she says, “step by step” I had to keep going. 

In the poem design I used the word survive which sparked some debate in the team on whether or not to “survive” is enough. Perhaps we should be using a word like “thrive” instead. I argued that survival is an essential part of resilience. There are times you are categorically not thriving. And whilst we all strive to thrive sometimes all you can do is survive. Sometimes resilience is the bare minimum; “if I can breathe through it I can live through it”. And once you get past those times and you've regained your strength you can allocate resources to the prettier side of things - to the thriving. 


Life will continue to come at you no matter what you do. The only thing you can do is to develop your resilience and to practise adaptability for the times life decides to throw you a particularly hefty curveball. There is no one way to become resilient. I believe it is an amalgamation of habits and mentalities. The same thought about the vastness of the oceans, whilst soothing to me, can trigger an immense anxiety in someone else. I will not claim to know exactly where resilience comes from - many who read this newsletter have seen me at my most fragile and defeated. However, I do believe at the end of the day it truly comes down to the stubborn will of persistence. We can build strength of mind, body, and community so that persisting comes with as little resistance as possible. Put your infrastructure and your fail safes in place for when the ground becomes shaky.

Reading next

Issue XVI: Power
Issue XVIII: Conviction & Paul Hughes

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