Can’t get enough minimalism

A few people emailed us recently to declare a new-found enthusiasm for minimalism. Believe me when I say that if these particular individuals are excited about minimalism now, there’s hope for the whole world yet.

There often comes a point when a fringe activity becomes adopted by the mainstream; a point when a living practice is no longer seen as eccentric. Recycling is a good example. In the 80s, my family seemed fairly alone in separating our garbage into plastic, paper, glass, and organic waste. We weren’t exactly hippies, which suggests the tipping point was already on the horizon, but our activity was certainly seen as odd by our friends and neighbours. In the 90s, recycling became seen as a responsibility, but it was still fashionable to shirk it. Today, the infrastructure to support recycling is convenient and ubiquitous, and recycling has become a matter of civic pride. What do you mean you don’t recycle?

I think minimalism (or ‘Reduction’ if you remember the most rejected of ‘The Three Rs’) is in a similar place to where recycling was in the 90s: people are becoming aware of the advantages, to stop reacting so violently to the suggestion that they voluntarily curb their consumer privileges, and to appreciate the minimalist aesthetic. Tablet computing is already encouraging a post-materialist attitude in some areas of consumption, and cloud computing promotes a certain distance between you and your stuff.

I think we’re on the brink of a third wave in terms of our attitudes to stuff. The new cycle will concern itself with empty space and quietness as the new luxury goods. Why a third wave? Peak Oil: the idea that we’ve already reached the point in time when the global production of oil reached its maximum rate, after which total global production gradually declines. We have to get used to not being able to buy cheap, disposable, largely-plastic products. We have to get used to inaccessibility due to products not being so readily and cheaply shipped.

Technology will partway solve the problem. Oil can be replaced by renewable energy resources. But to really solve the problem, we have to adjust to a new relationship between humans and stuff. It’s not a greenie fantasy anymore, but a cold necessity. Out goes the cheap and disposable, in comes the expensive and durable. Out goes lots of pointless stuff, in comes maximum utility and beauty. Out goes the idea that high-tech will save everything, in comes the balance of Brave New and Brave Old Worlds.

Space and quiet will be the new luxury goods. You’ll see. Buy shares in the quiet industries.

An Escapologist’s Diary. Part 30.

Blimey. It has been a very busy few weeks. I’d have had a far more relaxing life if I’d only kept my office job. Just kidding. I’d be doing less, but I’d also be having a horrible time. I hate computer solitaire.

After a successful meeting in Cardiff about my writing a [non-escapological] book, I went travelling in Eastern Europe. A friend and I explored Zagreb, Ljubljana, Budapest, and Bratislava. We visited a Turkish bath house, went to the ballet, spotted a voodoo chicken claw, ate too much pickled cheese, and enjoyed a demonstration of a Tesla cage.

I was perhaps inordinately excited to see Budapest because of its inclusion in the Ray Bradbury quote in the first ever New Escapologist:

See Istanbul, Port Said, Nairobi, Budapest. Write a book. Smoke too many cigarettes. Fall off a cliff but get caught in a tree halfway down. Get shot at a few times in a dark alley on a Moroccan Midnight. Love a beautiful woman.

Working on the rest of that one now. Not sure I fancy falling off a cliff though, if I’m honest.

(By the way, that quote has shown up in a LOT of self-helpy contexts since we put it in New Escapologist! I know for a fact New Escapologist is the source of its proliferation because it almost always includes my very own typo!)

After the Eastern European leg of my recent journey, I stopped briefly in Scotland to say goodbye to Glasgow for a while and to perform at Edinburgh’s Traverse Theatre before flying out to Montreal, where I am today.

I started this diary as a way of qualitatively answering the frequently-asked question “what do you do if you don’t have a job?” and I think my activities of the past few weeks demonstrate some of the best things about the post-escape life. In short, you probably do what you like.

Of course, what daring escape stories often fail to mention is the maddening paperwork that comes with super-mobility. I spent many hours this week trying to get the Internet working at our new Montreal apartment; recovering from jet-lag, and applying for local services like Social Insurance, Medicare, Tax Credit, mandatory French classes and so on. All I really want to do at this point is sit down and write my book, but these annoying things have to be fixed first. It must be possible to escape admin completely, but I’ve not found a comfortable way yet. Such an escape would almost certainly involve some kind of shack and a woodland grove. Not completely unthinkable, of course.

Tired of the everyday grind? Buy the latest New Escapologist at the shop.

New Escapologist Newsletter #6

Welcome to the sixth New Escapologist occasional email newsletter. This time, we’d like to tell you about the sixth issue of our magazine, and about a few past and future events.

1. Issue Six

The sixth issue of New Escapologist is out now. It is titled ‘Against the Grain’ and features Reggie Chamberlain-King’s essay about the unconventional career of naturalist Leonard Dubkin (nicely illustrated by Landis Blair); several escape stories; an interview with Leo Babauta; Aislínn Clarke on unorthodox funereal practices; poetry to commemorate office life by Graham Fulton; lavatorial fun with Jon Ransom; and plenty more. It enjoyed a splendid launch at the Edinburgh Festival earlier this year.

The new issue is now available to order at the shop.

2. Issue Seven

Issue Seven is due for release in the new year. It will be titled “On The Lam” and will explore the idea that Escapology is sometimes akin to a state of constant flight. Even when you leave the system amicably, it still does all it can to pull you back in. The issue will feature personal escape stories; practical articles on how to evade Agent Smith; and real-life profiles of interesting fugatives, vagabonds, duckers, divers, and prison breakers.

3. Expozine 2011

There will be a New Escapologist stall at Montreal’s Expozine independent media fair this year. The dates are 26th and 27th November.

4. New ordering system

You may have noticed some small changes at our online shop. This is because we’ve changed the way we distribute the magazine. In the old days, we would store all printed editions at New Escapologist HQ in Glasgow and ship every single copy by hand. This was getting a bit much to handle, so we essentially outsourced the process to our printers,

Your ordering via Lulu has the added advantages of secure shipping, better packaging, occasional discount coupons, discounts on batch orders, and cheaper shipping for most international readers. The disadvantage, however, is that New Escapologist loses a money in the processs, so the jury is still out on whether the new system is good for us.

I’d like to hear any feedback you have about the new Lulu ordering system. Drop me a line by replying to this email if you especially love or hate the new system.

5. The Salon

I recently spoke at a now critically-acclaimed and completely sold out performance art event called The Salon, by Unitled Projects, at the Traverse Theatre in Edinburgh. It was a brilliant experience and I’d like to extend thanks to the organisers for inviting me along. I presented a diatribe called The Escapological Eutopia: Five Dodgy Prophecies to paint a portrait of a future friendly to Escapologists. I’ll post something about this to the blog soon.

6. New Escapologist on the Web

As ever, there are a number of ways to engage with New Escapologist online. In addition to our website and active blog, we have accounts on Twitter, Facebook, and an RSS Feed to which you can subscribe. We get especially excited about your subscription to the latter. We are the Borg.

Thank you for the continued support. Enjoy the latest issue!

Robert Wringham
Editor, New Escapologist

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