By Lentus Ambulandus, currently strolling aimlessly in Santiago, Chile
In the opening chapter of his book Reflections of a Metaphysical Flâneur, Raymond Tallis supplies an eloquent argument in favour of walking as a catalyst for seeing and thinking. While Escapologists don’t require convincing as to the benefits of walking, a little reinforcement from an alternative perspective never hurts.
…the philosopher’s walk has much to commend it. Like philosophy itself, it has few infrastructure costs, involving neither getting nor spending, apart from a negligible outgoing on shoe leather. Crucially, it has no external purpose; you end up, after all, precisely where you began and nothing visible is achieved on the way…the number of unticked boxes is undiminished, the to-do list is unshortened. The walk does not even have the aim of promoting cardiovascular health…
For we are not talking about power-walking, but strolling, which sits on the happy midpoint between doing something and doing nothing, between generating and discovering a trickle of Elsewhere that moves so slowly that it does not wash away Here.
At its heart is the primordial recreation of looking: the exercise of the fundamental freedom of one who surveys a world from the tor that is his head. You take said head out of the house, along the streets and into the park, for the primary purpose of harvesting qualia, surveying the endless treasure chest of artifacts…
For, while the aim of the peripatetic philosopher may be to untie the seeming insoluble trichobezoars that have grown up in his sedentary mind, the walk may cause him to forget those hairballs, to loosen up into a metaphysical flâneur, distracted by what he sees when he looks purely for the sake of looking. Trees, birds, vehicles, people and houses all offer themselves up to the travelling gaze; and, when the walk is going well, some of these items turn themselves into conversation pieces…
When we walk, we see things that we would not otherwise see, and we think of things we’d otherwise not think about.
Sweden are experimenting with a shorter working day:
“I used to be exhausted all the time, I would come home from work and pass out on the sofa,” says Lise-Lotte Pettersson, 41, an assistant nurse at Svartedalens care home in Gothenburg. “But not now. I am much more alert: I have much more energy for my work, and also for family life.”
The Svartedalens experiment is inspiring others around Sweden: at Gothenburg’s Sahlgrenska University hospital, orthopaedic surgery has moved to a six-hour day, as have doctors and nurses in two hospital departments in Umeå to the north. And the trend is not confined to the public sector: small businesses claim that a shorter day can increase productivity while reducing staff turnover.
Despite the positive signs, the experiment is likely to end next year – the centre-left coalition on Gothenburg council has lost its majority, and the Conservatives and Liberals are firmly opposed to reduced working hours.
Should we choose “freedom from” or “freedom to”? The safe cage or the dangerous wild? Comfort, inertia and boredom, or activity, risk and peril? Being human and therefore of mixed motives, we want both; though, as a rule, alternately. Sometimes the desire for risk leads to boundary-crossing and criminal activity, and sometimes the craving for safety leads to self-imprisonment.
Such a great article by Margaret Atwood.
Minus our freedom, we may find ourselves no safer; indeed we may be double-plus unfree, having handed the keys to those who promised to be our defenders but who have become, perforce, our jailers. A prison might be defined as any place you’ve been put into against your will and can’t get out of, and where you are entirely at the mercy of the authorities, whoever they may be. Are we turning our entire society into a prison? If so, who are the inmates and who are the guards? And who decides?
I make quite a song and dance in Escape Everything! and New Escapologist about commuting time.
It’s seldom counted as part of the working day, so any number of hours are lost to sitting in buses or train or traffic jams. It’s completely unpaid and completely fruitless. You’re trapped in a tin box and you’re slowly dying, en-route to somewhere you don’t really want to be.
Well, it looks like there’s been a breakthrough:
Large numbers of workers could be entitled to more pay or a reduction in hours after the European court of justice ruled that travel to and from some jobs could be counted as part of a working day.
At the moment it applies to people who don’t have a conventional, static workplace and instead commute from home to a job site. Social workers for example, might travel from their home to the home of a client. This sadly doesn’t include those who travel from home to the same office each morning. Still, it’s one hell of a start.
The judgment said: “During the necessary travelling time – which generally cannot be shortened – the workers are therefore not able to use their time freely and pursue their own interests.
There will, of course, always be a Negative Nancy:
one employment lawyer said the judgement could have unintended repercussions […] “The need to pay employees for travel time means that for some businesses the servicing of clients in remote areas may no longer be profitable.”
Good! There’s a popular school of thought that if your business is dependent on involuntary free servitude, you shouldn’t be in business.
A clickbaity item detailing “9 telltale signs it’s time to quit your job” reminds us that the ball’s in the employee’s court when it comes to staying or going, but misses that the nine “signs” are actually just common traits of almost any modern job:
– You dread going to work;
– You know more than your boss;
– The company is circling the drain;
– You’re out of the loop;
– You’ve lost your passion;
– You have a bad boss who isn’t going anywhere;
– There’s no room for advancement;
– Your health is suffering;
– Your personal life is suffering.
All offices lead to bad health because of the stress, the cakes, the sitting on your backside all day, the lack of natural light and the boredom.
Everyone‘s smarter than their boss because (to put it bluntly) shit floats.
Anyone with a brain in their nut dreads going to work because work is horrible.
And passion? People who say “passion” in relation to work almost certainly don’t know what the word really means.
Staying in a bad job for too long can be very harmful to your career. If you’ve tried everything you can think of to make things better and haven’t seen any big changes, it may be time to move on.
It’s also “very harmful” to your life, liberty and marbles.
Still, I agree that we can always be classy about making an exit:
If you do decide to leave, be smart about it. Don’t burn bridges by venting about all of the reasons you’re leaving. That accomplishes nothing, and could even haunt you later. Instead, simply explain that you’re leaving to pursue another opportunity, and then do so graciously.