Letter to the Editor: The Sense of Freedom is Amazing

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Dear New Escapologist,

I love your blog and newsletter. It has been making my trip from ‘desk’ (shudder) to the ‘free world’ easier since late last year. I’m laughing again. I liked this quote from the blog of Catrina Davis to which you linked us in the May 2020 newsletter:

Millions across the ‘developed’ world are having to confront the fact that the future they worked and planned for, the one they were sold over and over again, by countless teachers and politicians and estate agents, is officially a dud.

Ha ha ha. So true. Sadly, many have been so cajoled into a particular way of thinking that they believe this is life. The office is a soul-sucking environment. You are paid a sort of compensation to die quietly of all the health issues caused by sitting in a chair day after day, staring at a screen like zombie.

You are tricked into believing that ‘team spirit’ is something you need to possess. It kills your creativity and is another term for ‘following the herd’. I walked out and never looked back. The sense of freedom is amazing. 

I’m enjoying my life and feeling far healthier and happier than I ever did while ‘working’. 

Thanks for your wonderful blog and sense of humour,

More for Four

“A group of cross-party MPs have urged the government to consider a four-day working week for the UK post Covid-19,” the Guardian reports.

Escapologists would welcome such a change, whether we happen to still be in work or if we’ve escaped and simply hope for better conditions and less work time for our incarcerated friends.

We have, of course, been here before. There have been moments where it felt like traction was being made on a four-day workweek, the idea being championed by high-level think tanks or being weighed up by eminently sensible economists. So let’s not hold our breath.

There is the fact, however, as the article points out, that “work patterns have already been dramatically altered as a result of the pandemic,” and there are many discussions taking place around post-Covid economic recovery so it seems likely that champions for a shorter working week are more likely to be listened to at this moment.

I’d point out as well that a modest reduction in weekly work is perfectly in line with historical progress. The labour movement agitated first for a cap on weekly hours worked, then for a weekend, and then for paid vacations and paid ill-health or parental leave. Another day off seems like the next reasonable step.

I’d also point out the idea that a society’s wealth might not, in a dignified future, be measured solely by GDP but also by the amount of free time a citizen is afforded.

Who knows? As ever, we watch with baited breath.

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Thanks to reader T for recommending Vivarium in which a young couple go shopping for a house… forever. Bwahaha, etc.

The film has a 5.8 rating on IMDB and even my favourite film critics, Mike and Jay, who are normally open to Twilight Zone– and Star Trek-like conceits, gave it a lukewarm reception. But it’s pretty good! It captures the fear of spooky suburbia quite well for me.

It is Escapological in that the characters are literally trying to escape a situation, but it’s also about a fear of mediocrity and settling and the pressure to embrace the suburban, boomerish dream.

It probably rings especially true to people with kids or those who feel a pressure from others to reproduce. In the film, the couple’s baby is delivered to them in a cardboard box as if from Amazon. The baby grows supernaturally quickly into a superbly creepy child to whom they struggle to relate. They don’t really know where the child came from or how it grows so fast or what kind of person or situation perpetuator it’s turning into.

I like also that the new suburban development to which they’re moving is called “Yonder.” As in, “over there,” “out of it,” a name grounded in the thinking of the Escapologist who wants out of The Trap or the system but doesn’t want to leave urban life completely.

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After the Storm

“Quarantine has forced me to slow down in ways I haven’t since I was a kid. From high school and college, through my 20s and a master’s program, I have been on the go constantly for half my life. I always said I was one who liked to be busy, but the last two months of forced slowdown has really called on me to think about what I want my life to look like.”

Reader Antiona draws our attention to the findings of a Vox magazine reader survey about the lockdown habits worth preserving once lockdown is over.

Such habits include consuming less, slowing down, prioritising relationships, finding the time for ethical action, taking regular exercise, cooking properly, spending more time in nature, and working from home.

Well, that’s the practically identical to our own decade-old ideas about how to live well! Good to see the world catching up. Again.

You might remember from Escape Everything! that the same conclusions are usually drawn by people approaching the end of their lives and my saying something like “it shouldn’t take an existential crisis to come to these conclusions.”

This may be so, but crisis certainly puts a flame under people’s bottoms and makes everyone reassess what’s important, what should be rescued from the burning building. All I’ll say now is: don’t forget about these important things until the next crisis.

Don’t let a return to work and the reopening of non-essential shops eclipse this all-important crisis-baked knowledge.

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Walking and Coffee

I like walking. You can stop and look at menus in restaurant windows and make eye contact with dogs. If you stay vigilant, you can pick up a surprising number of stray quarters. But most walks are not adventures. Most walks are to the grocery store to pick up diced tomatoes. I would like to say I am perpetually enchanted anyway, because I think that would be a testament to my character — She just finds magic everywhere she goes! — but I’m not. That is why I need the coffee.

I tend not to walk with coffee. Just as I tend to horse my popcorn before the movie starts so that I can concentrate on the film, I drink my coffee before I go walking. I find it a distraction from what I want from walking.

However! I enjoyed this article (brought to my attention by McKinley) about the joys of walking with coffee. The author clearly enjoys it as an activity and her enthusiasm is delightful. She also makes nice points about walking and coffee independent of each other. Most importantly, I just like essays about simple things, especially when they’re in the area of “quotidian sensory experiences.” It’s like something from Jerome K. Jerome’s Idle Thoughts of an Idle Fellow. Just lovely.

Walking doesn’t improve the taste of coffee, but coffee improves the experience of being in the world. It blunts the harsher edges. Without coffee, there is “public space” and “private space.” With coffee, the whole city is your living room.

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