Start Big: An Essay

Listen. I might have discovered a previously-unobserved source of human misery. If we can work out how to escape this thing, we can probably all be a lot happier.

We might even be happier at work and not want to escape it if only we could escape THIS problem instead. We could be happier at school, happier in our own heads and, yes, happier on the toilet.

I know it sounds grandiose to go claiming a new discovery and all, but describing sources of misery–revealing them for what they are–and working out how to escape them is sort of my job now. And I’m digging deep.

This is from a New Escapologist essay of 2019, one of my exclusive-to-Patreon efforts.

I wasn’t sure about the quality of the essay at first and my struggle with it was part of the reason I stopped doing Patreon.

The struggle might have been worth it though because, revisiting it now, it doesn’t seem too bad. It garnered some good feedback from readers at the time (including wise Henry and sage McKinley) and the truth of the essay still rolls around in my head today.

I’ve dropped the password on the essay and dusted it off for general consumption. If you’re interested, you can freely read it here.


Robert Wringham is the editor of New Escapologist. He also writes books and articles. Read more at

2 Responses to “Start Big: An Essay”

  1. Tom says:

    If only this had been published two decades ago! Then perhaps I wouldn’t have wasted so much time on the means, rather than the end. I had a good chuckle about the oxbow lakes part. We actually learned about those in school too, and for some reason it stuck in my head, just like another geographical phenomenon: isostatic rebound. Completely useless knowledge, in most contexts, but makes me sound knowledgeable as f**k when it comes up.

  2. Haha. The Oxbow Lakes thing (for me) fits into the broader “what is the purpose of school?” discussion. The usual answers are “to prepare us for life” (um, with the crude basics of Oxbow Lake formation and the hardest mathematical problems we’ll ever face?) and “to teach us the value of knowledge” (um, with these esoterics?). Cynics might says it’s to “keep us off the streets” (plausible) and/or to mold us into perfect worker-consumers (which I don’t quite believe because, as bad as school can be, we’re not generally told there how to get jobs in any intelligent way). I’m not knocking the knowledge of Oxbow Lakes really (it’s relatively interesting) but I would love to know why they saw it as more essential than say, “what the Home Secretary does” or “why we pay taxes,” or “how the UK became a thing,” or “the costs and benefits of travel.” You know, something relevant to life that we might already be curious about! The actual purpose of school today? There isn’t one. It’s just a tradition too big to question. That or: industrialised daycare.

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