Needs

I love quitting things. Possessions. Habits. Jobs. But you know that.

At the moment, I’m trying to overcome a health problem by temporarily quitting things to see what happens: bread, alcohol, caffeine, prescription antihistamines, hot showers. Giving up hot showers has been the toughest so far but the one that makes the most difference. Try it! It’s Hell!

Anyway, all this has led to my marveling once again about the importance of decreasing one’s requirements for life. It’s no fun quitting bread, but who really needs it? It’s liberating to see if you can go without something for a while.

Consistent, back-of-the-mind reflection on what you do or do not need is Escapology 101 and just part of the machinery of living as a free person instead of a worker-consumer — but it really is good to do and it’s worth remembering to do it if you don’t.

It’s also, it seems, suddenly topical.

Leo Babauta has been posting sporadically to his mnmlist blog and his Lowering Your Life’s Requirements entry just plopped into my feed this morning. He’s quitting coffee and booze:

I saw a long line at Peet’s Coffee, and decided I didn’t need the coffee to be awake, happy or alive.

When something becomes a need, a requirement, it locks us in. We have to have it, which means we start structuring our lives around it.

For lots of us, it’s more than just coffee: we need a glass of wine (or beer) in the evening, we need some quiet time alone, we need things to be neat, we need to watch some TV to unwind in the evening, we need the Internet for entertainment and news. There’s nothing wrong with any of these things, but soon the requirements for a happy life start piling up. What are your requirements, things you can’t do without?

Then I notice that Russell Brand’s been plugging a book called Recovery: Freedom from our addictions. It seems to be a memoir about his personal struggle with drug addiction but also a sort of self-help guide on how to apply the 12 Step Programme to quitting less dramatic addictions like Twitter-checking, pornography and sugar.

And then I find that Mark Boyle, the “moneyless man” I mention in my own book, is writing for The Guardian again. His little essay series, written from the perspective of someone who has completely rejected modern technology, contain such plums as:

most of what afflicts us today – cancer, obesity, mental illness, diabetes, stress, auto-immune disorders, heart disease, along with those slow killers: meaninglessness, clock-watching and loneliness – are industrial ailments. We create stressful, toxic, unhealthy lifestyles fuelled by sugar, caffeine, tobacco, antidepressants, adrenaline, discontent, energy drinks and fast food, and then defend the political ideology that got us hooked on these things in the first place. Our sedentary jobs further deplete our physical, emotional and mental wellbeing, but instead of honestly addressing the root cause of the illness we exert ever more effort, energy, genius and money trying to treat the symptoms and contain the epidemics.

Knowledge of what you need and what you don’t need is escapological in that it helps your great escape from worker-consumer culture into the good life but they’re also acts of escape in themselves; the escape from coffee, the escape from tech, the escape from dependencies.

Look around. What can you do without? Would life be better without it? How so? Would it save you some money, save some time, help you to be healthier, make you stronger or less frustrated when you can’t get it? Would it help you move into the good life?

Try escaping something for a limited time at first and then escape it forever if you want to.

Support New Escapologist on Patreon. Thank you.

Long Conveyor Belt

This is ‘The Long Conveyor Belt’ (2007) by Misty’s Big Adventure, a band with the same accent as me.

Support New Escapologist on Patreon. Thank you.

Rules and Freedom

Here’s our great friend DC on the seemingly paradoxical issue of rules that facilitate freedom.

To say “I’m no longer going to let myself do X” can feel like we’re trading enjoyment and freedom for some drab moral aspiration like purity or perfection.

We’ve all experienced the pain of living under unfair or unsympathetic rules, especially the ones imposed on us as children by teachers and grownups. Having our freedom curtailed, often for reasons we don’t understand or didn’t agree to, is painful.

But setting rules for yourself is completely different. Freedom is the whole point. Who’s more free? The person determined to live on significantly less than their means, no matter what, or the person who shops like a “free spirit?”

Support New Escapologist on Patreon. Thank you.

Protected: Bored With a Capital “I”

This content is password protected. To view it please enter your password below:

29 Jul 2017 Enter your password to view comments.

Protected: The Expanded Reduced Minimalist

This content is password protected. To view it please enter your password below:

29 Jul 2017 Enter your password to view comments.

Time = Happiness

From an article at BBC News:

Using money to free-up time is linked to increased happiness, a study says.

In an experiment, individuals reported greater happiness if they used £30 ($40) to save time – such as by paying for chores to be done – rather than spending the money on material goods.

Psychologists say stress over lack of time causes lower well-being and contributes to anxiety and insomnia.

So lets put our efforts, as hinted at by the research, into accumulating time instead of stuff, yeah?

Yet, they say even the very wealthy are often reluctant to pay people to do the jobs they dislike.

Support New Escapologist on Patreon. Thank you.

Footage of a Man Dropping a Potato

I just watched a Channel 4 documentary called How to Retire at 40. Wow. I recommend watching it, not because it’ll tell you how to retire at 40, but to because it’s a useful reminder of how bad regular television can be.

Aside from the occasional digital box set (Mr Robot, Twin Peaks) and cherry-picked YouTube show (Best of the Worst, Binging with Babish), I’ve not consumed much in the way of telly over the past decade. This is because television is WOMBAT and, unless you genuinely love it, a distraction from the good life. There are better, cheaper, more intelligent ways of doing nothing.

In this programme, a trio of grinning, boggle-eyed presenters who speak up-and-down and up-and-down patronise the audience and their interviewees and give something like 10% content to 90% waffle — intros, recaps, rhetoric, point-laboring, commercial break, establishing shots of Wolverhampton and footage of a man dropping a potato. The actual message (that we “super save” or “trend spot” to escape the rat race) is so cursory as to be barely useful at all.

There’s a great moment when one of our gurning tellyfolk asks a young business owner how quickly she made her seed capital through crowdfunding (possibly crowdcube, though we’re never told). The answer is nine days, to which the presenter says something like “I’m really sorry, I’m going! Because this is a waste of my time, working in television!” She says it as a joke when she should have said it in earnest. And then done it.

Never forget the bad old days. Escapologists should try getting a bus during the rush-hour commute every so often or eating at Pizza Hut or, in this case, watching television. Just to remind ourselves that shunning these relatively normal pastimes is far from missing out. FOMO be damned!

Support New Escapologist on Patreon. Thank you.

A Handy Acronym

Stephen King says that FEAR stands for “fuck everything and run”.

That is all for today. Class dismissed.

Powysland

Some of you will remember the article we ran in Issue 8 about the work of John Cowper Powys. It was written by Tim Blanchard who has now gone on to write a whole book about JCP, which is now, naturally, in the hands of Unbound. Congratulations, Tim.

John Cowper Powys is something of an Escapological character, so here are some applicable passages from Tim’s manuscript:

We make such a fuss, he said, about the importance of political events, our careers, our finances and all the material things to our happiness, but pay little or no attention to how we think about and feel the world around us. We fill our waking hours with a cacophony of duties and varieties of prescribed leisure and entertainment, and miss out on the many gifts of perception and response.

and:

What mattered most to Powys is what’s been crushed by the relentless wheels of rationality and its systems of education and entertainment: the unimaginably long, slow and patient absorption of being, that relationship between the human mind and the inanimate which was formed among billions of pre-modern minds over thousands of years, and comes to us only as an unnoticed inheritance. Along with it have come many practical abilities – and the capacity for reason itself; but also the larger sense of meaning, of solace, and emotions like kindness, forgiveness, pity, maybe even happiness itself. These “primordial wells of deep delight” have been clogged up, warns Powys. We are destroying in the space of centuries what has taken millennia to build through webs of intricate impressions of places and things. We’re destroying a priceless inheritance, carelessly.

We look forward to the publication of Powysland in 2018.

The Dud Avocado

Our bedtime reading at the moment is The Dud Avocado by Elaine Dundy. We chose it because we liked the title, the cover and the phrases that jumped out at us in the bookshop.

The book is about a young woman’s decadent period in Paris. The first chapter contains a flashback in which our heroine invites a wealthy uncle to bankroll her two years of freedom.

He agrees but on the proviso that she graduate from college first. It’s a nice passage:

One sees this sort of conversation not infrequently in books of the mid-twentieth century, so I presume they actually happened sometimes.

I wonder why this kind of permissiveness — even with strings attached — is so uncommon today. I mean, what would it cost parents and aunts and uncles to give a much-loved child some freedom?

Expense, I fear, is not the reason: it’s a now-established skepticism towards “doing nothing”. Two years off? But you’ll not be earning! You’ll not be pushing forward! You’ll fall behind! Worse, you might find out about something new and — gasp! — go off-course!

Having said that, how often do we ask? I know never did. Too proud. Too incapable of gratitude. Besides, I’d have been laughed out of the room.

★ If you’d like to re-live the glory days of New Escapologist, please pledge to my Patreon campaign to immediately access 4 new essays (and 4 dusted-off classics) as well as getting a brand new essay at the end of this month. Thanks!

Latest issues and offers

1-7

Issues One to Seven

A bundle of our first seven issues. Featuring minimalism, Houdini, Leo Babauta, Bohemianism, Alain de Botton, Sartre, and Tom Hodgkinson. 567 pages. £35.

8-11

Issues Eight to Thirteen

A bundle of our last six issues. Featuring Luke Rhinehart, Flaubert, Mr Money Mustache, part-time work, Will Self, home life, Richard Herring, and E. F. Schumacher. 593 pages. £30.

Issue Thirteen

Our final issue. Featuring an interview with celebrity mortician Caitlin Doughty; Matt Caulfield on zen fool Ryokan; and Reggie C. King on David Bowie and Sun Ra. 122 pages. £7.

Escape Everything!

A hardback guide to scarpering. Essential reading for wage slaves and slugabeds alike. Published by Unbound. 230 pages. £12.