Well, look who came crawling back

Sometimes escapees come back.

Unplugging from the electrical grid was easy, or relatively so. What we didn’t realise was that we needed the human grid, too. We could replicate it for a while, in our beautifully isolated little neighbourhood, but in the end the longing for deeper, sturdier, more numerous human connections pulled all of us away from the mesa.

From a nice account of living in a remote commune and then returning to civilisation.

This nicely demonstrates a point I’ve been pressing since the first issue of New Escapologist. You can always come back. Escape is not an irreversible reaction.

And in escaping for a while, at least you’ll have tasted real freedom, have stories to tell about it, have learned amazing things in the process and be able to say “I did”:

My family’s 15 years there changed the land, and it changed each of us. In our new town, we live just a block from a lively main street, in a house where the toilet flushes, the lights never dim, and the neighbours’ dinner conversation floats over the back fence. But we don’t use any more power than we did off the grid, and we drive less. The habit of frugality has stuck, so much so that it’s no longer a hardship.

Now I see the mesa as a kind of training ground, a place that prepared us to begin another experiment. We’re trying to take what we learned off the grid and sustain it in a new place, one that’s embedded in society instead of isolated from it.

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The Working Dead

An employee is a zombie, a set of phantom limbs disconnected from the alien mind that commands them.

Professionalism is about squelching your values in favour of those in your job description — a sheet of paper in a filing cabinet somewhere, ominously collecting dust like the picture of Dorian Gray.

Happy Halloween!

I love my job!

I love being an Office Zombie, it makes all my bosses richer!

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What the print looks like

Wehey! Some cool kid has posted a preview of New Escapologist Issue 9 on some kind of new-fangled Internet video platform.

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Ask yourself, “What’s the worst that could happen?”

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Don’t wait for the perfect opportunity, just start taking action, using what you have, who you know, who you are.

Take it from me. New Escapologist‘s eudaemonology (science of happiness) editor, Neil Scott, knows an awful lot about productivity, satisfaction and mindfulness.

This document, then, is a kind of holy grail: everything Neil has learned about productivity and lifehacking in the past seven years.

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There are a million ways to sell yourself out

A comic strip with an Escapological theme.

Drawn by Gavin Aung Than. Spake by the hilarious, principled and all-round wonderful Bill Watterson.

Zen-pencils-watterson

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Neil Gaiman on Books

Coincidentally, I’m posting this on the day of the London Anarchist Bookfair, where New Escapologist is being represented.

I’d like to say a few words about escapism. I hear the term bandied about as if it’s a bad thing. As if “escapist” fiction is a cheap opiate used by the muddled and the foolish and the deluded, and the only fiction that is worthy, for adults or for children, is mimetic fiction, mirroring the worst of the world the reader finds herself in.

If you were trapped in an impossible situation, in an unpleasant place, with people who meant you ill, and someone offered you a temporary escape, why wouldn’t you take it? And escapist fiction is just that: fiction that opens a door, shows the sunlight outside, gives you a place to go where you are in control, are with people you want to be with(and books are real places, make no mistake about that); and more importantly, during your escape, books can also give you knowledge about the world and your predicament, give you weapons, give you armour: real things you can take back into your prison. Skills and knowledge and tools you can use to escape for real.

As JRR Tolkien reminded us, the only people who inveigh against escape are jailers.

This is Neil Gaiman on the joys of reading, the importance of libraries and books, and the value of escapism.

(Escapism is different to Escapology, remember, but Neil Gaiman in the above passage shows that it provides the faculty to see that your life or the world in which you live does not necessarily have to be the way it is — or any given way for that matter).

I do not believe that all books will or should migrate onto screens: as Douglas Adams once pointed out to me, more than 20 years before the Kindle turned up, a physical book is like a shark. Sharks are old: there were sharks in the ocean before the dinosaurs. And the reason there are still sharks around is that sharks are better at being sharks than anything else is. Physical books are tough, hard to destroy, bath-resistant, solar-operated, feel good in your hand: they are good at being books, and there will always be a place for them.

There’s a lot to like in this essay (originally a lecture).

We have an obligation to support libraries. To use libraries, to encourage others to use libraries, to protest the closure of libraries. If you do not value libraries then you do not value information or culture or wisdom. You are silencing the voices of the past and you are damaging the future.

We have an obligation to read aloud to our children. To read them things they enjoy. To read to them stories we are already tired of. To do the voices, to make it interesting, and not to stop reading to them just because they learn to read to themselves. Use reading-aloud time as bonding time, as time when no phones are being checked, when the distractions of the world are put aside.

Finally:

We have an obligation to make things beautiful. Not to leave the world uglier than we found it, not to empty the oceans, not to leave our problems for the next generation. We have an obligation to clean up after ourselves, and not leave our children with a world we’ve shortsightedly messed up, shortchanged, and crippled.

Full essay here.

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The Tabloid Incident

I was struck today by the strangeness of the word “tabloid”. I was reading an essay on the Web and I think I may have been expecting the word “tablet”.

“Tabloid” struck me as more futuristic-sounding than “tablet” and for a tiny moment I wondered what a tabloid might actually be. Some kind of new interface? A clever bit of portable tech? Astronaut food in pill-form?

Of course not. It’s a tabloid. An ink-and-paper publication, usually about celebrities and fashion and UFOs. My weird outsider life means I haven’t seen a tabloid newspaper for years and I’d sort of forgotten about them.

It was exactly like how I once struggled to convince myself that coca-cola was a real thing.

I think I’m properly beginning to identify with the protagonist of that novel, À rebours.

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Blurb 9

This is what the blurb looks like on the back cover of Issue Nine.

ne9-blurb

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Professionalism

What, precisely, is professionalism?

In the rather good movie Berberian Sound Studio, an unpleasant film director defines it for us:

Gilderoy, let me just tell you what it is to be a professional. It’s very simple. You cooperate, you don’t question. You don’t argue. You don’t look at your watch. You just do the work you’re told to do and keep your personal opinion where it belongs. Am I clear?

Very!

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Issue Nine

Finally! Issue 9 of New Escapologist is ready to go. The theme is money. The title is “Take the Money and Run”. This is what the cover looks like.

ne9-cover

Highlights of the issue include a short piece by Dice Man Luke Rhinehart; an interview with philosopher Joseph Heath; a short story by comedian Ian Macpherson; top-drawer humour from Robert Wringham; and articles by blog giants Jacob Lund Fisker and Mr. Money Mustache.

To whet your appetite, here’s the table of contents:

ne9-contents

It’s a massive 92 pages of nicely-typeset money-themed Escapological marvels.

Buy it now! Available in print and PDF.

Subscriber copies and pre-orders are already flying the nest.

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