Coming Soon: The Most Important Book in the World

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Ladies and Gentlemen, we offer you escape. Escape from work, escape from consumerism, escape from loneliness and despair. This book shows once and for all that escape is possible for those who want out.

Well, folks. It’s the long-awaited Escape Everything!, the [potential] New Escapologist book.

If the plan works, the book will be published by Unbound (a company set up by people from QI and the Idler — perfect for us) and distributed by Faber.

Needless to say, this is a very big deal for New Escapologist.

We’re dependent, however, on reaching a certain number of pre-sales.

If you’d like to see this on the shelves of bookshops (and on your own personal bookshelves or in your eBook reader), please (please!) go here to help fund the book.

The Radius Of Leisure

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“Radius of Action” is a term used by sailors and aviators. It refers to the maximum distance a ship or aircraft can travel away from its base and return without refuelling. For those in the business of employing ships and aircraft, a large Radius of Action is desirable.

But what if we twist the concept somewhat and apply it to our lives? Is it beneficial to go far?

In the absence of life having any particular meaning (I’ve checked…it doesn’t) we live for leisure: general enjoyment of life without unnecessary toil. The question, really, is not how far we can roam, but rather how far we need to roam, in order to enjoy life.

Enter the “Radius of Leisure”: the distance a person must travel in order to achieve a satisfactory degree of leisure. In contrast to the Radius of Action, a large Radius of Leisure is a bad thing. It is directly related to how much we need to earn (and therefore work) in order to satisfy our leisure pursuits. And it is inversely related to our happiness: a very large Radius of Leisure likely means we’re living in the wrong place.

How big is your radius?

Do we know what kind of life we want?

workinglife

I just finished reading Joanne B. Ciulla’s book The Working Life: The Promise and Betrayal of Work.

I’d selected it with the intention of finding a useful quote for something I’m working on, but wound up reading it cover to cover.

It’s excellent. So usefully critical and written with personality and lightness of touch.

It could almost be a prologue to Escapology. Look at this piece of the epilogue:

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A Rebours

I’ve been writing a piece about the challenges (and merits) of the escape from convention.

It put me in mind of À rebours. Look at these nice covers!

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against the grain

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Observations From Out Here

Dick's Lake, TRT

They who have been traveling long on the steppes of Tartary say, “On reentering cultivated lands, the agitation, perplexity and turmoil of civilization oppressed and suffocated us; the air seemed to fail us, and we felt every moment as if about to die of asphyxia.” (Thoreau)

My wife and I are taking advantage of temporary homelessness by meandering through northern California, Oregon, and Washington. We’ve lounged around and sampled the excellent local fare, but mainly we’ve spent time in the woods. Read the rest of this entry »

Changing Attitudes

[The proposals of Carlos Slim and others to work fewer hours and to maximise leisure] are lovely utopian ideas, but they also seem quaintly out of place in an age where work has expanded, like the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man, to invade every hour of waking life.

Elizabeth Renzetti of the Globe & Mail sits on the fence somewhat, but nails the fact that we need to change our societal attitude towards work.

It’s fine to talk about taking more vacation or working fewer hours, but attitudes would need to be adjusted alongside punch clocks. As the Washington Post reporter Brigid Schulte writes in her enlightening new book Overwhelmed, we have become addicted to busyness. Psychologists, she writes, talk of “treating burned-out clients who can’t shake the notion that the busier you are, the more you are thought of as competent, smart, successful, admired and even envied.” To be on the brink of collapse, perversely, is the height of success.

Seeming busy is not important and it’s about time we all understood that. We need to develop the idea that the person with the most idle time–not the person most harried–is the winner.

Buy the new Issue Ten in print or PDF today.
Buy the complete back catalogue of New Escapologist with a 10% discount.
Or buy the complete back catalogue on PDF, with £1 off the price each issue.

Billionaire Calls for Three-Day Workweek

Second-wealthiest Earthling Carlos Slim suggests we adopt a three-day workweek.

“With three work days a week,” he says, “we would have more time to relax, for quality of life.”

Alas, he also suggests we work longer shifts (grueling 11-hour days) to offset the loss of earnings and productivity, so it’s not entirely an idler-friendly idea. This being said, a 33-hour workweek is still shorter than the currently typical 40.

It’s a better-organised approach to labour. Since a worker is basically knackered and good for nothing but a quick dinner and a DVD box set after eight hours of work, she might as well go the extra mile and work into the night if it results in fewer commutes and a routine four-day weekend.

If dudes of establishment renown like Carlos Slim, Larry Page and Professor John Ashton are calling for less-orthodox work schedules, maybe employers will begin to look more favorably upon the flexier work modes more generally. Part-time work, for example, should be more readily available to everyone: something I’ve long-thought could be the solution to the “Freedom versus Security” problem for most people.

It occurs to me I’ve been sounding a bit like an organizational psychologist lately, but in a world where billionaires and top doctors are starting to sound like Escapologists, anything’s possible.

To make up for it, here’s a picture of a tortoise eating a strawberry:

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Post-Scarcity

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Rare things (gold, love, flow) are usually worth seeking out and holding onto. Less rare things (plastic bags, recent superhero movies, dust) are usually not.

You don’t normally find gold nuggets lying around in the street and you don’t usually have to stockpile tap water.

The more scarce a commodity, the more valuable. The less scarce a commodity, the closer it is to being garbage.

Maybe one day — through technology — no commodity will be scarce. Everyone will share unlimited abundance. This design is called a post-scarcity society and is fueled by post-scarcity desires and post-scarcity economics. The word ‘rare’ will come up primarily in steak houses.

Most of us would see post-scarcity as a beautiful Utopia: enough for all, no poverty, no insatiable commodity lust. Post-scarcity Anarchists believe the Utopia’s already here (or at least already possible if only we’d distribute the abundance more evenly).

Many of you will know of my aloofness to material goods. By choice, I don’t own much of anything. My idea of heaven is a spartan, minimalist enclave where nothing exists save for the relevant, the useful, the beautiful. Most people share this sentiment but don’t observe it, or their definitions of relevance, utility and beauty are broader than mine.

A good guide for deciding what to keep and what to jettison as a minimalist is to “act as if” we have a post-scarcity economy. This way, you’re more likely to keep things of value and less likely to waste your time fussing over garbage.

I have a friend who isn’t a minimalist and doesn’t think in post-scarcity terms. He’s a spectacular fellow, but he basically lives in a man-shaped cavity in a cube of refuse.

He accumulates all manner of stuff. A thousand DVDs, hundreds of books, a graveyard of superfluous kitchen equipment (salad spinners and the likes). The effect is of a clogged-up nest, a hoarder’s den, the walls closing in, empty space at a premium. His home is the very antitheses of minimalism.

If he likes to live this way, so be it. But he “acts as if” airport paperbacks and unused kitchen appliances were somehow scarce; as if having them in his proximity at all times is worthwhile; as if it gives him some advantage.

He thinks his stuff provides an advantage because he thinks he still lives in a pre-scarcity world: a world where there aren’t enough salad spinners to go around. He thinks he’s richer than his neighbour because he hasn’t noticed that these things are in massive abundance.

The kind of books he’s accumulated, for example, are not scarce. Should one of his books vanish or be destroyed, he’d be able to replace it in moments. The local library undoubtedly has a copy, as will the local bookstore. eBay is chock full of them. A digital edition floats in the ether, ready to be captured at a moment’s notice. To all intents and purposes, this book is not scarce.

Realising that these things are not scarce leads one to believe that maybe we really do have a post-scarcity society already. What, really, is scarce any more? For what do we want today?

If an era, as Arthur Miller said, is over “when its basic illusions are exhausted,” maybe we’re at the end of the era of scarcity?

Buy the new Issue Ten in print or PDF today.
Buy the complete back catalogue of New Escapologist with a 10% discount.
Or buy the complete back catalogue on PDF, with £1 off the price each issue.

The Condensed Minimalist

There has, ironically, been a lot said about minimalism in books and online. But to live minimally really just requires adherence to two simple objectives:

1. Don’t buy or otherwise acquire anything inedible;
2. Rid yourself of anything not frequently useful or aesthetically pleasing to you.

That is the whole of the law!

Go Outside!

Out Is InIn the United States, July is National Park and Recreation Month, and the US National Recreation and Park Association has challenged people to get outside as much as possible.

July is also National Ice Cream Month, National Blueberry Month, National Grilling Month, and National Hotdog Month. Nitrates aside, this surely makes July the best month of the year, don’t you think? Then again, the party has been somewhat dampened by an additional designation for July: “National Bioterrorism / Disaster Education Month”. Let’s just pretend we didn’t know about that one.

Instead, let’s focus on the positive: Parks and Recreation! Getting out there every day to enjoy public green space is a truly noble objective, whether you live in the US or elsewhere. I’m certainly doing my best to take up the challenge, and have filled my July calendar with cycling and hiking.

How about you? Have you been out in nature lately? Or have you been hunkered down in your office, gazing longingly (between clandestine games of advanced Minesweeper) at the greenery on the other side of the window? If so, please do yourself a huge favour by getting outside for some quality leisure this month. You’ll be better for it.

Out is In.

Buy the new Issue Ten in print or PDF today.
Buy the complete back catalogue of New Escapologist with a 10% discount.
Or buy the complete back catalogue on PDF, with £1 off the price each issue.

Latest issues and offers

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Issue Eight

Staying In. Featuring an interview with Luke Rhinehart; Robert Wringham on the pleasures of illness; Matt Caulfield on cigars; Nicollette Stewart on alternative dwellings; and Ellie Harrison on becoming a good citizen. 94 pages. £6.

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Take the Money and Run. Featuring a short piece by Luke Rhinehart; an interview with philosopher Joseph Heath; comedian Ian Macpherson; and blog giants Jacob Lund Fisker and Mr Money Mustache. 92 pages. £6.

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Featuring interviews with novelist Ewan Morrison and comedian Richard Herring; Raptitude's David Cain on post-job liberty; a new essay from Justin Reynolds; and a story of sick-day freedom by Allan Wilson. 104 pages. £6.