Words for the Journey #4: The Modest Existence of Mister Martel

Last weekend, I was flicking through a copy of the weekend Telegraph Magazine,* and within its pages found an interview with Yann Martel, the Canadian author of Life of Pi and a new book, Beatrice and Virgil. It was a very good interview – Martel comes across as a thoroughly likeable person – and, during the account of his life prior to his enormous literary success, I was very pleased to come across the following comments endorsing the frugal and free lifestyle, demonstrating that Mister Martel is someone who has his priorities right…

In 1993, at the age of 30, Martel published a collection of short stories, The Facts Behind the Helsinki Roccamatios. It was well received by critics, but sold poorly. His first novel, Self, followed in 1996…It did not sell. He lived on next to nothing – small advances and arts grants, a modest sum for a literary prize. Two years before writing Life of Pi, he says, his income was C$6,000 – about £4,000. ‘I lived in Montreal. My rent was C$235. I had roommates. I don’t smoke or drink, I didn’t have a car. I was happy. I liked that lightness, and also I managed to live as a writer precisely because my habits were so light. So it was a self-reinforcing mechanism. Why would I burden myself with a mortgage if that meant I couldn’t write and had to get a job? So forget the mortgage…’

* DISCLAIMER: To avoid any confusion, I would just like to point out that I happened upon this copy of the Telegraph Magazine abandoned on a train, and wish to stress that I would never actually have purchased the Telegraph myself, since its right-wing political leanings do not fit in at all with the liberal demographic that I am nice and comfortable in, thankyou. If I buy a paper at all (which is a rarity), it is of course the Guardian (or, very occasionally, the Independent). I mean, just imagine the ideological confusion that might result if I began challenging my nicely pre-packaged opinions with some politically opposing viewpoints by buying papers like the Telegraph! It hardly bears thinking about!

Words for the Journey #3: 21 Hours

Over the last couple of weeks I have been spending my train journeys to and from Leeds reading and rereading ’21 Hours’, the fantastic recent report from the New Economics Foundation that I mentioned in my last post. The report very eloquently puts the case for a 21-hour working week as a beautifully simple and yet eminently logical solution to many of the personal, economic and environmental problems that we find ourselves facing today in our self-destructive work-and-consumption-obsessed society. With this in mind, I thought I would post up just a few of my personal highlights for those of you who – let’s face it – are just not going to touch a 36-page report by an economics think-tank with a proverbial barge pole, however many feet in length it happens to be.

I would still, however, encourage you to download the report and give it a go: it’s actually a very straightforward and wonderfully inspiring read, and contains hardly any numbers at all, and only a couple of very innocuous barcharts. Anyway, here’s a taster to whet your appetite…

21 Hours

The vision

A move towards 21 hours is, in our view, essential if we are to achieve three vitally important goals: 1) a decarbonised economy not dependent on infinite growth; 2) social justice and well-being for all and 3) a sustainable environment.

Today, poverty and hunger sit alongside overconsumption. In high-income countries we are consuming well beyond our economic means, well beyond the limits of the natural world, and in ways that ultimately fail to satisfy us. Natural resources are critically depleted and we have a ticking climate clock that, at worst, could see the end of conditions fit for stable civilisation.

…Highly competitive, rich consumer economies promise satisfaction for all but actually tend to deliver the opposite. Those who can afford to participate are never truly satisfied, however much they consume. That’s because the system is designed to promote dissatisfaction precisely to keep us all spending to boost and justify continuing growth. Meanwhile, those who cannot afford to take part are excluded socially and economically. Overall the model drives environmentally destructive materialism. Continuing growth in high-income countries cannot be ‘decoupled’ from carbon emissions sufficiently and in time to avoid catastrophic damage to the environment.

…A deliberately chosen shorter working week could provide the foundations for a more universal good life for two vital reasons. First, redistributing paid work will lead to a more equal society. Secondly, spending less time working to feed our consumer habits (which fail to deliver happier lives), means we will find it much easier to do the things we value but haven’t enough time for: looking after children and other family members and friends; spending time with each other; volunteering; getting out and about; reading; or learning that skill or language that we always said we would. These are all things that can increase our own well-being and that of others, making society a better and more convivial place to be. Importantly, these other ways of using time also have a much lighter footprint on the Earth.

The power of the clock

Like work, time in industrial societies has been commodified. It is considered precious and is used to control people in paid work to create efficiency and profit. To a large extent, time in the private or informal sphere has also been commodified, as people are increasingly urged to use their unpaid time for consumption.

As part of this relatively recent development, paid time at work has come to be regulated by the clock, and clock time has become the regulating feature of modern societies – widely regarded as natural, although it is nothing of the kind…But the new era carries new risks of exploitation, as well as exclusions and inequalities: there is no end to what employers can demand, and no end to what is demanded of our unpaid time as we play our pivotal role in the consumer economy. While the old industrial clock ceases, in fact, to regulate our lives in discrete chunks of time and space, the tempo quickens inexorably. The pressures mount, both to work to earn and to earn to consume, with effects that are far more burdensome for some than for others. So the challenge for us now is to break the power of the clock without adding to these pressures, by freeing up time for living sustainable lives.

Consuming less and differently

A 21-hour week would help get people off the consumer treadmill. If a much shorter working week became the norm, with everyone using their time differently and many people earning less, ideas would change about what really makes a good life and how much money is ‘enough’ to live on. To serve the interests of ‘hyper-capitalism’ over the last half-century, we have grown used to the idea that we live to work, work to earn, and earn to consume. We consume not just to survive and flourish and enjoy our lives, but to signal who we are and where we stand in the world, especially in relation to others. What we feel we need and what satisfies our needs are inflated well beyond what is actually required to live a good and satisfying life. We buy much more than enough stuff. Directly or indirectly, the stuff we buy consumes finite natural resources on which our lives ultimately depend. A much shorter working week would transform the logic of paid employment and help to change how we value things. By helping to develop a more egalitarian culture, it might also reduce the kind of consumption that is driven by status anxiety, or the need to keep one’s place in society. We might become less attached to carbon-intensive consumption and more attached to relationships, pastimes, and places that absorb more of our time and less of our money.

Time for living more sustainably

Many of the ‘consumer choices’ we make are in the name of convenience. We buy processed food, ready-meals, pre-prepared and packaged vegetables, motorised vehicles, airline tickets, and a range of electric appliances because they are supposed to save us time. Most of these purchases involve a lot of energy, carbon, and waste. If we spent much less time earning money, we would have more time to live differently, and less need to purchase for the sake of convenience. We could grow, prepare, and cook more of our own food; repair things more often rather than replace them; travel more slowly on foot, bicycles, buses, or trains. We could learn more practical skills, make more things ourselves and generally become less dependent on energy-intensive technologies. This is neither a sentimental longing for a ‘News from Nowhere’ idyll, nor nostalgia for the days of hippie communes. It is rational anticipation of essential low-carbon living, which can only be achieved by slowing down the pace and using time more than money and consumer goods to deliver what we need to live a good life.

A better deal for parents and children

Spending much less time in paid work would, of course, leave parents with much more time to spend with their children. In particular, it could help fathers to be more engaged with their children, which would benefit children and mothers as well as the fathers themselves. However, the effect of a significant shift of time-use towards family settings would not simply create more time for ‘parenting’ – the troubled craft that is subject to so much political soul-searching – it could also change the way we all think about the worlds of adults and children, and relationships between them.

Childhood is what we make of it. In the course of time, assumptions are generated and reinforced about what are ‘childish’ and ‘grown-up’ characteristics and activities, with strong expectations that these should be age-related. The demands of a ‘normal’ working week entrench such distinctions. By appropriating so much adult waking time for paid work, they cast home and family in a subordinate role, supporting the formal economy – with invidious effects on parent-child relationships.

A much shorter working week…would make time for extended conversation between parents and their children, for two-way teaching and learning, for games and adventures, and for sharing a whole range of experiences. In other words, it would break down some of the barriers between the worlds of adults and children. This might help children to widen their horizons, share responsibility and grow up more easily, as well as bringing adults closer to the simplicity, wonder, and spirited inventiveness we have come to associate with childhood. These are vital human resources that we shall all need to develop if we are to meet the challenges of the twenty-first century.

21 Hours

It’s not often that I feel much cause to get excited about what economists have to say, but this week has been an exception; for it has come to my attention that major thinktank the New Economics Foundation – “Economics as if people and the planet mattered” – have published a report calling for the standard working week to be cut to just 21 hours. According to the nef, various factors including “the lasting damage to the economy caused by the banking crisis, an increasingly divided society with too much over-work alongside too much unemployment, and an urgent need for deep cuts in environmentally damaging over-consumption” makes such a move not only desirable, but imperative for our collective future. Here’s a quote from Anna Cooke, co-author of the report:

So many of us live to work, work to earn, and earn to consume. And our consumption habits are squandering the earth’s natural resources. Spending less time in paid work could help us to break this pattern. We’d have more time to be better parents, better citizens, better carers and better neighbours. And we could even become better employees: less stressed, more in control, happier in our jobs and more productive. It is time to break the power of the old industrial clock, take back our lives and work for a sustainable future.

Wise and encouraging words indeed! Let’s hope that this eminently sensible report causes more people to reconsider our present overworked, over-stressed, environment-squandering and generally pretty self-destructive way of life, and make the bold move towards allowing ourselves to relax into a freer, more satisfying and more planet-friendly existence.

You can read a summary of the report, and download a full copy, here: 21 Hours

Words for the Journey #2: An Apology for Idlers

I know what you’re thinking. And you’re right: it has been six months since I posted up ‘Words for the Journey #1’, in which I did indeed state my intention to regularly post inspiring bits of wisdom from fellow freedom-seekers. Well, dear reader, please allow me to set your mind at rest: this is certainly not due to my being too busy. Far from it! I have had, and still have, a plentiful amount of time to play around with and spend as I please, and may it always be so. No, as is the way with things, I have simply neglected to get around to doing it. Sorry. But now I have got around to it; and please rest assured that I shall endeavour to post these quotes up much more regularly from now on.

Though I ain’t promising nothing.

Anyway, to the business in hand: what follows is a few extracts from Robert Louis Stevenson’s wonderful early essay, ‘An Apology for Idlers’. It was written in 1876, when Stevenson was 26 years old, and before he had yet written any of the novels, such as Treasure Island and Jekyll & Hyde, that made him famous; and it is, I think, probably one of the best arguments for the idle, unjobbed life that exists. It is rather a long quote, as there’s just too much good stuff in there to keep it short; but I’m willing to guarantee that the few minutes it will take you to read it will be one of the best possible uses you could make of your time.

An Apology for Idlers

Just now, when every one is bound, under pain of a decree in absence convicting them of lèse-respectability, to enter on some lucrative profession, and labour therein with something not far short of enthusiasm, a cry from the opposite party, who are content when they have enough, and like to look on and enjoy in the meanwhile, savours a little of bravado and gasconade. And yet this should not be. Idleness so called, which does not consist in doing nothing, but in doing a great deal not recognised in the dogmatic formularies of the ruling class, has as good a right to state its position as industry itself.

…Extreme busyness, whether at school or college, kirk or market, is a symptom of deficient vitality; and a faculty for idleness implies a catholic appetite and a strong sense of personal identity. There is a sort of dead-alive, hackneyed people about, who are scarcely conscious of living except in the exercise of some conventional occupation. Bring these fellows into the country, or set them aboard ship, and you will see how they pine for their desk or their study. They have no curiosity; they cannot give themselves over to random provocations; they do not take pleasure in the exercise of their faculties for its own sake; and unless Necessity lays about them with a stick, they will even stand still. It is no good speaking to such folk: they cannot be idle, their nature is not generous enough; and they pass those hours in a sort of coma, which are not dedicated to furious moiling in the gold-mill. When they do not require to go to the office, when they are not hungry and have no mind to drink, the whole breathing world is a blank to them. If they have to wait an hour or so for a train, they fall into a stupid trance with their eyes open. To see them, you would suppose there was nothing to look at and no one to speak with; you would imagine they were paralysed or alienated: and yet very possibly they are hard workers in their own way, and have good eyesight for a flaw in a deed or a turn of the market. They have been to school and college, but all the time they had their eye on the medal; they have gone about in the world and mixed with clever people, but all the time they were thinking of their own affairs. As if a man’s soul were not too small to begin with, they have dwarfed and narrowed theirs by a life of all work and no play; until here they are at forty, with a listless attention, a mind vacant of all material of amusement, and not one thought to rub against another, while they wait for the train. Before he was breeched, he might have clambered on the boxes; when he was twenty, he would have stared at the girls; but now the pipe is smoked out, the snuff-box empty, and my gentleman sits bolt upright upon a bench, with lamentable eyes. This does not appeal to me as being Success in Life.

…There is no duty we so much underrate as the duty of being happy. By being happy, we sow anonymous benefits upon the world, which remain unknown even to ourselves, or when they are disclosed, surprise nobody so much as the benefactor…A happy man or woman is a better thing to find than a five-pound note. He or she is a radiating focus of goodwill; and their entrance into a room is as though another candle had been lighted. We need not care whether they could prove the forty-seventh proposition; they do a better thing than that, they practically demonstrate the great Theorem of the Liveableness of Life. Consequently, if a person cannot be happy without remaining idle, idle he should remain.

…Look at one of your industrious fellows for a moment, I beseech you. He sows hurry and reaps indigestion; he puts a vast deal of activity out to interest, and receives a large measure of nervous derangement in return. Either he absents himself entirely from all fellowship, and lives a recluse in a garret, with carpet slippers and a leaden inkpot; or he comes among people swiftly and bitterly, in a contraction of his whole nervous system, to discharge some temper before he returns to work. I do not care how much or how well he works, this fellow is an evil feature in other people’s lives. They would be happier if he were dead. They could easier do without his services in the Circumlocution Office, than they can tolerate his fractious spirits. He poisons life at the well-head.

…And what, in God’s name, is all this pother about? For what cause do they embitter their own and other people’s lives? That a man should publish three or thirty articles a year, that he should finish or not finish his great allegorical picture, are questions of little interest to the world…Alas and alas! you may take it how you will, but the services of no single individual are indispensable…And yet you see merchants who go and labour themselves into a great fortune and thence into the bankruptcy court; scribblers who keep scribbling at little articles until their temper is a cross to all who come about them…and fine young men who work themselves into a decline, and are driven off in a hearse with white plumes upon it. Would you not suppose these persons had been whispered, by the Master of the Ceremonies, the promise of some momentous destiny? and that this lukewarm bullet on which they play their farces was the bull’s-eye and centre-point of all the universe? And yet it is not so. The ends for which they give away their priceless youth, for all they know, may be chimerical or hurtful; the glory and riches they expect may never come, or may find them indifferent; and they and the world they inhabit are so inconsiderable that the mind freezes at the thought.

Getting busy in the springtime

When Kat and I first left our jobs and moved up to our little cottage in the Calder Valley, the most frequent comment from people up here who learned we had just arrived from down south would always be: “Ah – so you haven’t experienced a winter up here yet…?” This would always be accompanied by a slightly sadistic glint in the eye; the assumption presumably being that these foolhardy southerners had no idea what they were letting themselves in for, and that once they had discovered just what the phrase “It’s grim up north” really meant, would go scurrying back to London wrapped in a skinny frappuccino. Well, with the sun shining bright and warming our faces and our cockles, spring is well and truly in the air here at Gardeners Cottage, and so we can triumphantly say: Yes! We have survived our first winter up north! And Yes, it was sodding FREEZING! But then, the weather this winter has reached new heights of wintriness over the whole of the country, hasn’t it? As opposed to the few isolated days of snow we get most years, the stuff has stuck around for the majority of the season – causing absolutely glorious chaos, unprecedented outbreaks of fun and many wonderful excuses to have days off work to stay in bed with a mug of something hot and get stuck into a good book. But now it seems the last of the snow has finally gone slip-slidin’ away, and we can turn our attention to enjoying the glorious springtime sunshine!

Then again, maybe we shouldn’t tempt fate just yet. Kat and I made the mistake of being overly optimistic about the weather last weekend, when we were getting very excited at the prospect of veg-growing season finally having come upon us! We’ve been waiting for this time to come round for a while, and encouraged by the beautiful spring-like weather we’d been experiencing for a couple of days, decided that the time had come to take a trip to the garden centre. So it was that, last Saturday, off we went and eagerly filled our basket with seeds feeling like excited kids at a pick n mix: parsnips, beetroot, leeks, fennel, peppers, tomatoes, chillis, rocket, shallots, broccoli, broad beans and spring onions (yes, we may possibly be accused of being a tad ambitious, but it’s our first growing season, and we’re not gonna do things by halves!) We took them home, along with some seed trays and compost, and went to bed that night very excited about getting into the garden for a mammoth planting session the following day – then woke up in the morning to find…yes, everything was once again covered with several inches of snow! It’s probably the first time I’ve ever woken up to a thick white blanket outside and felt a little disappointed; however, that didn’t last long, and I was soon feeling that excitement at the sight of the white stuff covering the hills of the Calder Valley once again! Besides, refusing to let our plans be totally foiled, we decided to get busy planting our tomatoes, peppers and chillis, as these are being grown inside on windowsills anyway; and once we’d done that, Kat spent the rest of the afternoon making bread, which filled the cottage with that most delicious of smells, and meant the disappointments of not being able to get out in the garden mattered not a jot. We shall, however, be getting out there to plant our crop as soon as we can, and I’ll be sure to keep you updated on their progress.

In addition to the veg-growing and breadmaking, we’ve also both been using our abundance of free time at home to explore other new creative pursuits: Kat has taken up knitting with a quite unprecedented passion, and in the past fortnight has already steamed through two gorgeous scarves and is onto a third (she assures me she has ambitions to progress onto other garments when she feels confident enough, but until then we certainly need never fear a cold neck again!). Both of us have also been using our long evenings to improve on our culinary skills, and while Kat’s been filling the house with the smells of freshly-baked bread, I’ve learned how to cook more new dishes in the past few months than I have in the whole of my previous lifetime (inspired in no small part by Kat’s recent subscription to Good Food magazine and growing collection of River Cottage cookbooks). And our musical activities have also found time to flourish: in addition to our continued participation in our fab local community choir, the Calder Valley Voices, I have joined an 8-part male vocal group called Men Folk Waits, who last night all trekked up the hill and squeezed into our living room for an evening heartily belting out Manly Songs about sex, drinking and sailing. We were also lucky enough to enjoy a personal workshop with the wonderful Janet Russell on Friday, who really helped to whip us into shape – which is a good thing, since we now only have one more rehearsal before the first ‘proper’ gig at the Harmony Open Mic, a night of a capella singing at lovely local hostelry The Stubbing Wharf (Sunday 14th March if anyone’s in the area and fancies coming along!) – an event for which Kat and I are also rehearsing some duets together, including my own arrangement of Robert Wyatt’s gorgeous ‘Sea Song’. And finally, while the snow was still thick on the ground, it also provided the perfect opportunity to wander around with a microphone recording lovely crunchy noises which will, when I get around to sitting down to it, get turned into beats for the electronic element of the music Kat and I are working on. It’s a slowly developing project, but it is developing, and we hope to be able to record some new material at some point fairly soon. Progress has been hampered, of course, by the sad demise of my iMac, and with it the ability to use Logic Pro; however, I have downloaded Reaper onto Kat’s PC, which for a piece of shareware is a remarkably versatile sequencer, and have been getting to grips with its functions so that I might carry on my electronic noise-making endeavours until I think of a way to lay my hands on a MacBook without having to sell parts of my body to medical science….

(Incidentally, the aforementioned death of the iMac after only three-and-a-half years of moderate use has got me thinking a lot about the murky area of the materials economy and planned obsolescence – a subject which I may expand upon in another post…until I get round to that, I’d heartily recommend watching the fantastic online video The Story of Stuff – and being very wary of the motives of anyone whose second name is Jobs.)

I’ve also been spending a lot of time reading some most inspiring literature around the subjects of work, play, freedom and the simple life recently; and so I am going to begin compiling a recommended reading list for this blog, and maybe include a few reviews too, simply for anyone who is interested in the concept of taking full control of their life and sculpting it into the shape they would like it to be, and would like to look into both the philosophies and the practicalities more deeply. I shall hopefully be getting around to posting the first of these up very soon, so watch this space!

But right now I’m off to enjoy what remains of this lovely sunny spring day before eating a stew, toddling off to choir for a good sing and then supping an ale or two with my fellow singers. Until the next post…cheery-bye freedom-seekers!

New Year’s Evolution

Bless me, O Holy Blogfather, for I have sinned: it has been almost three months since my last post. However, permit me to say in my defence that, since this is a blog detailing my own personal quest for a life of true freedom, I think I can safely claim this lapse as part and parcel of the ethos I’m promoting, and therefore entirely in keeping with its spirit. So, on second thoughts, you can forget the blessing: thus absolved of guilt, I shall simply make my first post of this new year a brief update on my happily retired life so far.

Since quitting my job, discarding all notions of having a Career and moving from London to Hebden Bridge exactly five months ago, I have been doing a variety of things with my time: some paid, some unpaid. I have personally tried to make no distinction between these activities myself, for fear of falling back into the trap of regarding the Paid Activity as Work, and the Unpaid Activity as Play. And this would, of course, be completely missing the fundamental point of my retirement: that what I am doing is simply seeking Work that IS Play, thus transforming all of my time into “Leisure Time”. However, I am fully aware that those of you who are even remotely interested in the concept of achieving True Freedom before the age of 65 will naturally be most interested in those activities which are paid, since the practicalities of living in a capitalist society unfortunately mean that, for most of us, enjoying a life of early retirement significantly before the Officially Sanctioned Age requires that at least a proportion of the activities we fill our time with are paid (that is, unless we choose to live in a squat and grow all of our own food: a perfectly viable and extremely sensible option for those who are courageous – and organised – enough to do it). Therefore I shall, just for the moment, make the distiction between paid and unpaid activities, merely for the purpose of clarifying where the money to pay my rent and buy my food is coming from.

But that’s enough of that, onto the main point: what have I been doing with my retirement? Well, my paid hobbies presently include accompanying a student with muscular dystrophy to his classes at a local college in Leeds (this is great fun – I’ve met lots of new, interesting people, am learning some new skills, and greatly enjoying my expanded social circle!) Another current paid activity involves spending some time every week with a local DJ who has a brain injury: we do a variety of things with our time together, I help him manage some of the practical aspects of day-to-day life, he helps me to expand my knowledge of contemporary music with his enviable record collection, and we each get a lot from the deal! Presently I’m helping him to convert his basement into a home studio, and having a lot of fun doing it. Kat’s paid hobbies also currently include spending time helping out some people who live near us, two of whom both have brain injuries, and one who has multiple sclerosis. We both find these activities incredibly interesting and rewarding: we’ve made new friends out of them, and have been learning a lot in the process!

Unpaid hobbies presently include singing with the awesome local choir, Calder Valley Voices: we recently sang at a fantastic concert with Leon Rosselson, Martin Carthy and Janet Kerr, which was a huge success and lots of fun. We’re also increasing the amount of music-making we’re doing just for ourselves at home, playing instruments, singing together, expanding our repertoire of songs – I’m beginning to write some new material myself too! We’ve also been expanding our repertoire in the kitchen: Kat has subscribed to Good Food Magazine, and we’ve been trying our hand at making lots of exciting new dishes. And as for the garden – well, Kat and I did do a fantastic job of clearing and de-junglifying the space, but then things just got too cold and wet, and not being particularly fond of getting soaked to the skin in sub-zero temperatures, we’ve elected to leave the serious veg-growing until being out in the garden again becomes a pleasure rather than an exercise in stamina. (Growing as much of our own food as we can is still an important part of The Plan – but there’s no point in doing it unless it’s also fun, eh?) So, these are some of the activities, paid and unpaid, which I am currently enjoying in my retirement so far. And as for what 2010 holds – who knows? Some of the unpaid activities may become paid (beginning to earn some money playing some gigs and selling fresh produce being a couple of longer-term aims), and vice versa (the things we presently do on a paid basis being equally fulfilling on a voluntary basis).

But if there’s one thing that my early retirement has taught me, and one point to this first post of 2010, it’s this: that dividing our lives into Work (BAD) and Leisure (GOOD) is a fundamentally unhealthy way to regard our precious time on this planet, and that the horrible phrase “Work-Life Balance” misses the point altogether. I mean, just look at it for a moment: isn’t it suggesting that a good proportion of our lives should be spent not actually living? And are we actually going to accept that? I believe we should all be aiming a lot higher for ourselves: why not aim instead to achieve a Life-Life balance, injecting joy and freedom into every area of our lives – including those things we do to earn money – so that Work becomes indistinguishable from Play, and ALL of our time can be reclaimed as Free Time? This has been the fundamental principle at the heart of my retirement, and is my wholehearted recommendation to anybody looking to improve their lives as they enter this new decade: instead of making a handful of New Year’s Resolutions, let’s achieve a New Year’s Evolution in our way of thinking! Let us cast off our shackles, stick two fingers up at the so-called “Work-Life Balance”, and reclaim our lives – every single day of them!

Happy New Year!

(Incidentally, for more on the specific subject of the Work/Play dichotomy, http://www.theplayethic.com is a website I’d like to wholeheartedly recommend. The brainchild of Pat Kane (ex-Hue and Cry – anybody remember them?), he calls for a rethinking of our work-obsessed culture, arguing the case for injecting play into every area of our lives. Check it out!)

Words for the Journey #1: A Sane Revolution

I have decided it’s high time that I begin including in this blog some words other than my own. I began writing this blog with the conviction that freedom-seeking is a vital activity – perhaps the vital activity – for our health, happiness and humanity; and that sharing our thoughts, ideas and stories was an essential part of the process of lifting ourselves out from among the trees so that we can take a clear-headed look at the forest, survey it objectively, and thus be in a position to decide whether it is really to our taste or if we wouldn’t actually prefer something a little less woody.

With this sentiment in mind, I see no reason why this blog should merely be a vehicle for my own views on the subject; and having spent the past year or so reading my way through an awful lot of stuff abount unjobbing, idling, permaculture and general freedom-seeking, I have decided to regularly share some choice words from other, more seasoned freedom-seekers for your delectation, amusement and (hopefully) inspiration.

And I can think of no better passage to start off with than the following wonderful poem, written by the great D.H. Lawrence in 1929. Enjoy!

A Sane Revolution

If you make a revolution, make it for fun.
don’t make it in ghastly seriousness,
don’t do it in deadly earnest,
do it for fun.

Don’t do it because you hate people,
do it just to spit in their eye.

Don’t do it for the money,
do it and be damned to the money.

Don’t do it for equality,
do it because we’ve got too much equality
and it would be fun to upset the apple-cart
and see which way the apples would go a-rolling.

Don’t do it for the working classes.
Do it so that we can all of us be little aristocracies on our own
and kick our heels like jolly escaped asses.

Don’t do it, anyhow, for international Labour.
Labour is the one thing a man has had too much of.
Let’s abolish labour, let’s have done with labouring!
Work can be fun, and men can enjoy it; then it’s not labour.
Let’s have it so! Let’s make a revolution for fun!