Caroline Suinner: What is Wise to Design Now?

Wisdom has grown in me out of shame and regret. It is about insecurity and broken hearts. Wisdom is a post-reflection reaction based on knowledge and intuition, not born from experiences or trauma as such but from sitting with them.

I ran into a video on TikTok. On the video Eva Gutowski (@mylifeaseva) told a story about how she lied to her boyfriend when she was young about being a virgin and pretended to have sex for the first time with him. The purpose of the video was to share something that was shameful but now can be laughed at. I started to think about all the funny and weird stuff I did in my youth and as an adult, too. Patriarchal and racist structures such as misogyny, exoticization, and nepotism have made sure that the need to belong and the validation and attention received from outsiders have been extremely important to me. It’s been important to me to find where I feel wanted and important.

In recent years, I have realized that I can shake off feelings of injustice by understanding more of myself, my history, and the context in which I live. If one’s environment does not enable introspection, it is difficult to be wise or know how to behave. This makes it difficult to work on one’s identity. I have defined myself based on attention from others, become attached to insecure people, defined myself through racist stereotypes, and directed myself to countless dangers in the hope of acceptance. I have wanted to feel that I can survive anything. Fortunately, through my work, I’ve had to learn to know myself and my intuition. I’ve given myself the space I wish I always had. I have begged for forgiveness and forgiven myself and many others.

Hello, is this what wisdom is? Sometimes I question my intuition, meaning the part of my wisdom that guides my emotional decisions and my relationship with the world. My intuition may not always be right. Yet it plays a big part when I navigate through my life. I trust my intuition when I want to make a decision that is exactly right for me. If I don’t do that, I am out of balance, explosive and cynical. If I don’t listen to my inner voice, it is difficult for me to be grounded, stay calm and recognize my limits. This is not appropriate if one wants to create a change and be a radical, intersectional feminist. Most of all it is not appropriate if one wants to be humble about one’s art and to harness the lessons one learns to use meaningfully later. I am dedicated to learning about myself beyond facts.

The wisest thing in my life has been the decision to live for myself only, shamelessly. In recent years, shame has often been associated with my educational background or health status. Sometimes it is the fact that what is happening in the world or in my personal life seems to be moving too slowly.  I am ashamed of my fear of missing out. I have been afraid of not being able to influence my own life. I have also been afraid of my voice not being heard without an important title. I haven’t believed in my own message.

It is hard to be with oneself every day, trying to shake off the shame. It is not easy, but it is wise. It is also wise to internalize and accept one’s own story. The narrative can be changed if necessary. At the same time, you change your relationship to the future and the past. This process is hard as hell, and I don’t recommend it to anyone, but at the same time I would hope that everyone goes through it.

Wisdom requires reflection, deliberation and knowledge of your own relationship with the world. It is wise to be aware of one’s own intuitive needs and possibilities. It is wise to be compassionate. It is wise to listen, understand and pursue extreme empathy and work from that place. Being skilful, smart or clever is not synonymous with wise, and hardships and pain do not produce wisdom. Wisdom can come with age, but only if we have used our time to our advantage.

Wisdom is acceptance, dialogue and reception, without any sense of urgency. Quiet wisdom is overrated, it only serves the individual. That is why I want to, in this emotional essay, encourage you to share your wisdom. Creative wisdom must create energy and strength where they matter the most. Wisdom is active. Don’t get stuck; make room for failure, even shame. By exploring our shame we are often able to intuitively start learning what kind of people we want to be. Only when we understand this are we able to act not only purposefully, but sustainably.

Caroline Suinner is an activist and an artist from East Helsinki, currently interested in acute empathy, connections, clubs and the marginals of the art scene. 

The theme of Helsinki Design Week 2021 is What is wise to design now? More perspectives on the theme can be found here and here. Helsinki Design Week 9–19 September 2021.