A penniless Aristocrat’s defence of life in the leisure class

“The end of labour is to gain leisure”

Aristotle

Vemblen’s theory of conspicuous leisure has always appealed to me. It is the notion that those with the highest social standing, or more usually opulent wealth, advertise their success and their social status through their excessive pursuit of obscene amounts of leisure.  Conspicuous leisure is a statement to the community that you have reached a station in life where you have become so financially successful that you no longer need to work.  In fact you are so wealthy that you can waste extraordinary sums of time and money on trifles and trivialities.

What I particularly like about this is the devoting large amounts of time to idle living. I’ve always entertained a pleasant fantasy that one day I would have a Scrooge McDuck bank vault full of money and plenty of time on my hands. My dream was never about using that money to buy stuff. In my dream there was some uncomfortable swimming in the coin pit, a few painful dives off the high board, a butler catering to my needs and lots of time just hanging out in my mansion with different people just having fun.

Unfortunately conspicuous leisure has always been the privilege of the lords and ladies of the manor. Certainly not the prerogative of us working class folk. For starters you need substantial land holdings and local peasants to toil away to generate the opulent income that is required.

At the halfway point in life our family has neither of these prerequisites. Still it is entirely funny how one’s life can turn out.  I frequently engage in idle leisure pursuits that are not in anyway related to making money.  I don’t hide it. You could say I am very conspicuous in my enjoyment of leisure. Shall I therefore conclude that I am officially a member of the leisure class without having had to take the stringent entry exam?  This notion pleases me much more than being a white collar member of the working class.  Frankly my working class life sucked mittens.

True the primary difference between myself and the lords and ladies is that I don’t have an inordinate amount of wealth, a substantial land holding or many peasants to put to toil.  I have small landholdings that generate a small income.  The only peasant at my disposal is less than a foot tall and possibly a drunkard (he babbles and stumbles a lot and from my limited observation has never yet demonstrated mastery of all of his faculties). Still I have a peasant under my instruct (a 1 year old son that will one day be a useful addition to the family labour force) and so for these reasons I consider myself and Ms Simple to be penniless aristocrats and deserved members of the leisure class. It is far better for our self esteem than grubby urchins or some other unpleasant description of our poverty stricken existence.

Now as a penniless aristocrat I feel it is my duty to attempt to make some defence of our life in the leisure class as others more gifted have more successfully attempted.

To start my impassioned defence I feel that I must point out that most of my American friends are so bottle feed productivity and efficiency from birth that the notion of idle leisure is abhorrent to them. One must never be or be seen to be idle. It is the American way to work endlessly, and juggle many things at once. Proper conduct within this context is to replace freetime with education all while maintaining a part-time job, a full time job, therapy, gym based exercise and charitable activity.

While many other countries place the highest value on recreation and leisure for its citizens, idleness has received a very bad reputation in the US altogether. There are no afternoon siestas. No two hour lunches. No two month holidays at Christmas and almost no nights or weekends not gainfully employed to earn an improved social status. This is because leisure does not generate a dollar and the dollar is the foremost thing which we must have to be considered a mortal success in this world.

So it is my hope to convince all US and other proponents of speed, productivity, efficiency, hardwork, and self development that they are missing out on the romance of life. At the very least I hope that this blog encourages a small few to consider devoting at least a small part of everyday to utter idleness. My view is that idleness is so enjoyable, so beneficial and so constructive for the human spirit that the longest part of everyday should be worshipping idle pleasures. The more idle the better I say and the only way to debunk my thinking is to try this stategem for yourself for an extended period. After which if you think idle living is an utter waste of your life you are perfectly entitled to draw that conclusion. However, I suspect that you will not. The benefits of idle living are self evident.

My first piece of mortar to drop into this battle for leisure is to point out idleness isn’t synonymous with either inertness, laziness or stupidity. While all look similar closer inspection reveals clear differences. An idle fellow can day dream up great inventions and a quick scan of the history of monumental achievement proves this is the case. There are numerous stories where the provocateur is sat idle until suddenly from nowhere they are stuck by the most wondrous idea. Often they then spend the rest of their lives trying to fully describe or deliver the great mechanical or technical creation that they saw in the blink of their idle mind’s eye. The lazy or inert individual, unlike the idler would never make such effort to turn a dream into reality.

The idle gent or lady should then better be described as a thinker. Someone who consciously takes time out to ponder, to consider, and generally mentally wrestle the universe into submission.  I suspect the denigration of idleness and leisure is also partly to do with the avoidance of thinking. It is too apparent that people in our hyperactive world will go to great lengths and do a good deal of far more elaborate activities to avoid having to think. There is a strong preference in our society for physical activity over mental labour.  But why is this so? The idler then is someone that is willing to face the hardest graft while others turn away from the task to find easier work.

I contend then that idleness is an excellent use of time. Idle folk are not lazy or stupid. They are preproductive. Their vita contemplativa is the precursor to great achievement. Idlers are thinkers and all of our greatest achievements are born of ideas.  The conspicuous leisure of the penniless aristocrat should not be scorned for somewhere within it might be the genesis of the next great achievement of humanity. Idleness is a rejection of the trivialities of forced labour. A statement of personal anarchy. A throwing off of the constraints of expected behaviour. Idleness is good. No in fact it is great!

Praise be to leisure and idleness in all their varied disguise!

Advertisements

Melancholy of the mobilised: The rise of rudeness and the death of leisure

“I don’t even own a cell phone”

Jack Nicholson

People are genuinely surprised when I tell them that I don’t have a mobile phone.

I suspect more than a few think that I am impolite and that I do in fact have a phone, but I don’t care to give them the number.

It’s an even split between those who confide that they wish they didn’t have one and the rest who can’t understand how I organise my life. Especially the business part of my life.

I’ve never really been into mobile phones. Now I just see them as a silly bill, a leisure stealing device and socially acceptable form of rudeness (that should not be accepted by anyone).

Thanks to the mobile phone millions of workers never get to leave the office. They are contactable and contacted by their employers at night, very early in the morning and all through the weekend.  No single modern inconvenience has stolen so much leisure time as the mobilisation of the phone. This has become quite extreme now that phones are smart enough to cope with emails, the internet, and video calling.  The phones may be smarter, but we are getting dumber as we forfeit our leisure and further enslave ourselves to the machine and the corporation.

It is interesting to note how many organisations are now requiring their employees to pay some or all of the costs of their phone. In many outfits the company pays a modest contribution towards minutes and data with a contribution towards a glamorous handset. The employee may use the phone for personal use if they agree to pay the additional charges. Young people are particularly excited about getting a work iPhone and seem not to appreciate that it comes with a liability of $85-200 of their own money every month.

Cost aside my main objection to free range phones is that they encourage rudeness and impolite behaviour. For some reason nobody thinks twice about sending a text, a tweet, a message or making a call at an hour that would have been deemed unacceptable when the phone was still attached to the house. When we knew the location of the phone we must have mentally projected what we expected another family might be doing at that point in time. As a result calling at dinner time or when a person might have to get up from their bed was not common place. Now it appears to be acceptable to contact other people whenever a whim takes our fancy.

The availability of the phone also gives rise to hostility. In anger or haste we can fire off a poorly considered message when previously we would have had to wait until we got ourselves to a phone. Oftentimes the commotion and emotion would have dissipated before we had the chance to respond to our base impulse.  Our messages are often confused and in emails. Shorter messages like texts or emails sent from tiny inconvenience key pads are far worse at conveying the intended meaning.  Accidental hostility and acts of offence are all too easy with a smart phone.  This says nothing of our open hostility to a stranger talking loudly to them self on the bus. Unfortunately as mobile users we ourselves are equally guilty of unwitting acts of rudeness in social situations.

During dinner at a fine restaurant it is quite common to see someone take a call or check a message as their companion is mid stride in an interesting and engaging conversation. The message: any beep from my phone (entirely likely to be junkmail) is more important to me than you are!

Worse still is the integration of phones and cameras. This has publicised our lives like never before. The invasion of privacy is immense. One moment we are acting privately at a small social gathering and the next moment we being disciplined by our boss for inappropriate activity bring the company into disrepute. All because some acquaintance paparazzi snapped and shared.  We no longer have control over the images of ourselves that are shared. Unfortunately the ones that travel furthest and fastest are usually the most unfortunate moments of our lives. No longer do we gather just with friends. Now we dance in a giant glass bowl!

The mobile phone is the public window to previously intimate affairs.

Before I conclude I’d like address the myth that we need mobile phones in order to be safe. I rarely have a mobile signal during the most dangerous pursuit that I regularly participate in  – mountain biking. My highest risk of death or serious injury in modern life is at the hands of the automobile, and so I should definitely not be trying to use my mobile when driving around or walking city streets. If fear of personal attack is of concern and praise not the security of your mobile phone instead consider the greater risk it presents.  Who faces more personal security risk the person in the underground car park distracted by smart phone emails or the unphoned highly alert individual who moves swiftly and does not loiter getting to their vehicle? If you were to be jumped by some fiend do you really think you will have the opportunity to make a call for help from the trunk of their car? Here a pound of prevention is far better. Last I fear that the mobile phone is a very poor weapon that is consuming purse space that could better be filled by a heavy brick. The mobile phone then is neither a safety nor a security strategy. It is inefficient, rude and time stealing.

We have gained nothing unhooking our phones from our house.  Toss the phone from your pocket. Eradicate the unsightly bulge. Reduce the radiation leeching into your spongy undercarriage and precious cranium. Find more effective ways to be safe. Claim back your leisure. Retain your wealth. Don’t let the machines steal your manners. Plug your phone back into the wall, connect directly with your friends and embrace your freedom.

 

Simplicity, a very old idea indeed!

“The secret of happiness, you see, is not found in seeking more, but in developing the capacity to enjoy less”

Socrates

Living simply or living with less is by no means a new idea.  Many long lost minds have linked simplicity to happiness. Socrates, Lao Tzu, the Buddha, Leonardo da Vinci, Thoreau and Albert Einstein have all commented that less maybe the path to happiness. There are also examples of those living simple uncomplicated lives who claim to experience greater happiness than their peers. Such reports can be found on every continent in every culture and throughout all periods or recorded human history.

In the modern world we Westerners have been fooled into accepting the predominant ethos of our better-faster-bigger-more culture.  This preaches the worship of an insatiable list of never ending needs that must be paid for with ever decreasing freedom, recreation and family time.

Corporations have responded and provide us with ready made store bought solutions for problems we never imagined ourselves ever having. We are dislocated from the natural environments that support us and isolated from the mutual support of a community around us. The convenience of these shop ready solutions has reduced our problem solving intelligence, our ability to adapt to our environment, our capacity for creativity, our knack for gathering wisdom and our ability to garner support from community around us. Our essential humaness has become lost.

There is a better way.

The way of <=>.

Solve your own problems with your intelligence, your hands and your skill. Save your money for the freedom slot machine. Break free from the unfree world.

Idle thoughts of an Idle fellow by Jerome K. Jerome (1886)

Now, this is a subject on which I flatter myself I really am au fait. The gentleman who, when I was young, bathed me at wisdom’s font for nine guineas a term–no extras–used to say he never knew a boy who could do less work in more time; and I remember my poor grandmother once incidentally observing, in the course of an instruction upon the use of the Prayer-book, that it was highly improbable that I should ever do much that I ought not to do, but that she felt convinced beyond a doubt that I should leave undone pretty well everything that I ought to do.

I am afraid I have somewhat belied half the dear old lady’s prophecy. Heaven help me! I have done a good many things that I ought not to have done, in spite of my laziness. But I have fully confirmed the accuracy of her judgment so far as neglecting much that I ought not to have neglected is concerned. Idling always has been my strong point. I take no credit to myself in the matter–it is a gift. Few possess it. There are plenty of lazy people and plenty of slow-coaches, but a genuine idler is a rarity. He is not a man who slouches about with his hands in his pockets. On the contrary, his most startling characteristic is that he is always intensely busy.

It is impossible to enjoy idling thoroughly unless one has plenty of work to do. There is no fun in doing nothing when you have nothing to do. Wasting time is merely an occupation then, and a most exhausting one. Idleness, like kisses, to be sweet must be stolen.

Many years ago, when I was a young man, I was taken very ill–I never could see myself that much was the matter with me, except that I had a beastly cold. But I suppose it was something very serious, for the doctor said that I ought to have come to him a month before, and that if it (whatever it was) had gone on for another week he would not have answered for the consequences. It is an extraordinary thing, but I never knew a doctor called into any case yet but what it transpired that another day’s delay would have rendered cure hopeless. Our medical guide, philosopher, and friend is like the hero in a melodrama–he always comes upon the scene just, and only just, in the nick of time. It is Providence, that is what it is.

Well, as I was saying, I was very ill and was ordered to Buxton for a month, with strict injunctions to do nothing whatever all the while that I was there. “Rest is what you require,” said the doctor, “perfect rest.”

It seemed a delightful prospect. “This man evidently understands my complaint,” said I, and I pictured to myself a glorious time–a four weeks’ dolce far niente with a dash of illness in it. Not too much illness, but just illness enough–just sufficient to give it the flavor of suffering and make it poetical. I should get up late, sip chocolate, and have my breakfast in slippers and a dressing-gown. I should lie out in the garden in a hammock and read sentimental novels with a melancholy ending, until the books should fall from my listless hand, and I should recline there, dreamily gazing into the deep blue of the firmament, watching the fleecy clouds floating like white-sailed ships across its depths, and listening to the joyous song of the birds and the low rustling of the trees. Or, on becoming too weak to go out of doors, I should sit propped up with pillows at the open window of the ground-floor front, and look wasted and interesting, so that all the pretty girls would sigh as they passed by.

And twice a day I should go down in a Bath chair to the Colonnade to drink the waters. Oh, those waters! I knew nothing about them then, and was rather taken with the idea. “Drinking the waters” sounded fashionable and Queen Anne-fied, and I thought I should like them. But, ugh! after the first three or four mornings! Sam Weller’s description of them as “having a taste of warm flat-irons” conveys only a faint idea of their hideous nauseousness. If anything could make a sick man get well quickly, it would be the knowledge that he must drink a glassful of them every day until he was recovered. I drank them neat for six consecutive days, and they nearly killed me; but after then I adopted the plan of taking a stiff glass of brandy-and-water immediately on the top of them, and found much relief thereby. I have been informed since, by various eminent medical gentlemen, that the alcohol must have entirely counteracted the effects of the chalybeate properties contained in the water. I am glad I was lucky enough to hit upon the right thing.

But “drinking the waters” was only a small portion of the torture I experienced during that memorable month–a month which was, without exception, the most miserable I have ever spent. During the best part of it I religiously followed the doctor’s mandate and did nothing whatever, except moon about the house and garden and go out for two hours a day in a Bath chair. That did break the monotony to a certain extent. There is more excitement about Bath-chairing–especially if you are not used to the exhilarating exercise–than might appear to the casual observer. A sense of danger, such as a mere outsider might not understand, is ever present to the mind of the occupant. He feels convinced every minute that the whole concern is going over, a conviction which becomes especially lively whenever a ditch or a stretch of newly macadamized road comes in sight. Every vehicle that passes he expects is going to run into him; and he never finds himself ascending or descending a hill without immediately beginning to speculate upon his chances, supposing–as seems extremely probable–that the weak-kneed controller of his destiny should let go.

But even this diversion failed to enliven after awhile, and the ennui became perfectly unbearable. I felt my mind giving way under it. It is not a strong mind, and I thought it would be unwise to tax it too far. So somewhere about the twentieth morning I got up early, had a good breakfast, and walked straight off to Hayfield, at the foot of the Kinder Scout–a pleasant, busy little town, reached through a lovely valley, and with two sweetly pretty women in it. At least they were sweetly pretty then; one passed me on the bridge and, I think, smiled; and the other was standing at an open door, making an unremunerative investment of kisses upon a red-faced baby. But it is years ago, and I dare say they have both grown stout and snappish since that time. Coming back, I saw an old man breaking stones, and it roused such strong longing in me to use my arms that I offered him a drink to let me take his place. He was a kindly old man and he humored me. I went for those stones with the accumulated energy of three weeks, and did more work in half an hour than he had done all day. But it did not make him jealous.

Having taken the plunge, I went further and further into dissipation, going out for a long walk every morning and listening to the band in the pavilion every evening. But the days still passed slowly notwithstanding, and I was heartily glad when the last one came and I was being whirled away from gouty, consumptive Buxton to London with its stern work and life. I looked out of the carriage as we rushed through Hendon in the evening. The lurid glare overhanging the mighty city seemed to warm my heart, and when, later on, my cab rattled out of St. Pancras’ station, the old familiar roar that came swelling up around me sounded the sweetest music I had heard for many a long day.

I certainly did not enjoy that month’s idling. I like idling when I ought not to be idling; not when it is the only thing I have to do. That is my pig-headed nature. The time when I like best to stand with my back to the fire, calculating how much I owe, is when my desk is heaped highest with letters that must be answered by the next post. When I like to dawdle longest over my dinner is when I have a heavy evening’s work before me. And if, for some urgent reason, I ought to be up particularly early in the morning, it is then, more than at any other time, that I love to lie an extra half-hour in bed.

Ah! how delicious it is to turn over and go to sleep again: “just for five minutes.” Is there any human being, I wonder, besides the hero of a Sunday-school “tale for boys,” who ever gets up willingly? There are some men to whom getting up at the proper time is an utter impossibility. If eight o’clock happens to be the time that they should turn out, then they lie till half-past. If circumstances change and half-past eight becomes early enough for them, then it is nine before they can rise. They are like the statesman of whom it was said that he was always punctually half an hour late. They try all manner of schemes. They buy alarm-clocks (artful contrivances that go off at the wrong time and alarm the wrong people). They tell Sarah Jane to knock at the door and call them, and Sarah Jane does knock at the door and does call them, and they grunt back “awri” and then go comfortably to sleep again. I knew one man who would actually get out and have a cold bath; and even that was of no use, for afterwards he would jump into bed again to warm himself.

I think myself that I could keep out of bed all right if I once got out. It is the wrenching away of the head from the pillow that I find so hard, and no amount of over-night determination makes it easier. I say to myself, after having wasted the whole evening, “Well, I won’t do any more work to-night; I’ll get up early to-morrow morning;” and I am thoroughly resolved to do so–then. In the morning, however, I feel less enthusiastic about the idea, and reflect that it would have been much better if I had stopped up last night. And then there is the trouble of dressing, and the more one thinks about that the more one wants to put it off.

It is a strange thing this bed, this mimic grave, where we stretch our tired limbs and sink away so quietly into the silence and rest. “O bed, O bed, delicious bed, that heaven on earth to the weary head,” as sang poor Hood, you are a kind old nurse to us fretful boys and girls. Clever and foolish, naughty and good, you take us all in your motherly lap and hush our wayward crying. The strong man full of care–the sick man full of pain–the little maiden sobbing for her faithless lover–like children we lay our aching heads on your white bosom, and you gently soothe us off to by-by.

Our trouble is sore indeed when you turn away and will not comfort us. How long the dawn seems coming when we cannot sleep! Oh! those hideous nights when we toss and turn in fever and pain, when we lie, like living men among the dead, staring out into the dark hours that drift so slowly between us and the light. And oh! those still more hideous nights when we sit by another in pain, when the low fire startles us every now and then with a falling cinder, and the tick of the clock seems a hammer beating out the life that we are watching.

But enough of beds and bedrooms. I have kept to them too long, even for an idle fellow. Let us come out and have a smoke. That wastes time just as well and does not look so bad. Tobacco has been a blessing to us idlers. What the civil-service clerk before Sir Walter’s time found to occupy their minds with it is hard to imagine. I attribute the quarrelsome nature of the Middle Ages young men entirely to the want of the soothing weed. They had no work to do and could not smoke, and the consequence was they were forever fighting and rowing. If, by any extraordinary chance, there was no war going, then they got up a deadly family feud with the next-door neighbour, and if, in spite of this, they still had a few spare moments on their hands, they occupied them with discussions as to whose sweetheart was the best looking, the arguments employed on both sides being battle-axes, clubs, etc. Questions of taste were soon decided in those days. When a twelfth-century youth fell in love he did not take three paces backward, gaze into her eyes, and tell her she was too beautiful to live. He said he would step outside and see about it. And if, when he got out, he met a man and broke his head–the other man’s head, I mean–then that proved that his–the first fellow’s–girl was a pretty girl. But if the other fellow broke his head–not his own, you know, but the other fellow’s–the other fellow to the second fellow, that is, because of course the other fellow would only be the other fellow to him, not the first fellow who–well, if he broke his head, then his girl–not the other fellow’s, but the fellow who was the– Look here, if A broke B’s head, then A’s girl was a pretty girl; but if B broke A’s head, then A’s girl wasn’t a pretty girl, but B’s girl was. That was their method of conducting art criticism.

Nowadays we light a pipe and let the girls fight it out among themselves.

Try well. They are getting to do all our work. They are doctors, and barristers, and artists. They manage theatres, and promote swindles, and edit newspapers. I am looking forward to the time when we men shall have nothing to do but lie in bed till twelve, read two novels a day, have nice little five-o’clock teas all to ourselves, and tax our brains with nothing more trying than discussions upon the latest patterns in trousers and arguments as to what Mr. Jones’ coat was made of and whether it fitted him. It is a glorious prospect–for idle fellows.

Money to escape money: you need less than you think

“All I ask is the chance to prove that money can’t make me happy”

Spike Miligan

This is a post that I’ve been meaning to write for some time.

If you are interested in joining the leisure class you will need some seed funding. How to get it is up to you. How much you need…I hope I can help.

The simple steps to living simply are:

  1. Live very simply.
  2. Save all of the money you were spending living cluttered and complex.
  3. Put that money to work to escape the need to work.

Voilà you have left the working class and graduated to the leisure class!

Congratulations to you and the class of right now.

But, how much money do you actually need before you can turf in your job. Millions right, hundreds and hundreds of thousand at least?

Several years ago I did some planning for our retirement. At that time I worked out that we would need about $2,900,000 inflation adjusted, to live comfortably during 30 years of retirement. Simple math told me that the standard advice of saving 10% of our income was totally insufficient to accumulate $3 million before age 65.

After playing with the calcs I became frustrated. I rejected the idea of working my whole life away (to about 70 years old) in a McJob while living in abject poverty in order to enjoy a fabulous retirement. According to my math we needed to save 50% of our income to bulk up the retirement fund. At that time I just couldn’t envisage how we could live a good life on 50% of what we made. Then a simple thought dawned on me –  if we could save 50% of our income and if we could live on the other  50% then we would be earning two years of life from every year that we worked. That meant I could be free from work in half the time leaving me free to do something more fulfilling than often unethical work maximising shareholder profits.

I toyed with these calculations until I struck upon the idea that  if I did one year of work and saved 75% I could live for three years (75/25 = 3). Ah the beautiful math! Working backwards and making some assumptions (like I could live on 25% of my income) the maximum I’d need to work at that level would be 15 years and I’d have well over a million stashed away. Trouble was that this was even less to live on and hey I was the guy questioning the feasibility of living on double that – 50%. Math to be determined I resolutely closed the door on the consumer life. Whichever retirement future I was travelling towards ($2.9m or $1m or even a lot less) I could not afford to redistribute every pay check back to merchants and sellers of things. Working only to spend all of our money was the prescription of fools. A masterless itinerant man in my mind far better than being corporate tool. From this critical decision we have/are transitioning to a form of simple living akin to old skool husbandry that Virgil would have been proud of.

Our approach to simple living is enabling us to finally acquire the cash that we need to free ourselves from the constant struggle for money. So exactly how much money do we think we need now to escape from money (more accurately your willing slavery in your workplace)?

In my experience about 3 years worth of labour saving between 50-70% of your total income is enough to enable part time leisure status. Between 5 and 7 years if you are looking to withdrawn to your hamlet completely. That is a maximum of 7 years of hard labour for a life of total freedom. Of course you will never stop working entirely. You will work all of your life. If you live our version of the simple life you may find yourself working harder than ever! The key is that you now have the choice and your labour is of direct benefit to you so it is enjoyable. Stapling coversheets on TPS reports for 8 hours will never be as satisfying as 8 hours tending your vegetables, making chutney or brewing very bad beer.

The numbers are all relative of course. The actual figure being entirely related to your outgoings (or not) and any other sources of income, but here is the thing…If you can save 75% that means you are able to live on 25% so you only the dollar figure equivalent to 25% per year for however many years you plan to live (adjusted by 2-4% to cover the cost of living rises). When you do the math the amount of capital you need in your fund might be as little as 10% of what you think you need. For example we thought we absolutely must have $2,900,000 but really it’s more like $300,000 for us. Just $300,000 to join the leisure class permanently. This is one membership fee I will gladly pay.

I am very aware that most people will never consider voluntary simplicity. Others will not think $300,000 is sufficient for a good retirement. The irony of course is that they will likely work all of their lives and retire with a lot less. Most people retire without very much of a retirement fund at all and so retirement is an awful shock. Right at the time in your lifecycle when you are least capable of dealing with awful shocks!

My view is as always. You can look  at information and try to make it work in your situation or you can stand still, worry and cast stones.

Some of our friends like the idea, but feel it too much of a sacrifice to live on so little money. I don’t see living on a tiny household budget as a sacrifice anything like the sacrifice of my life in the enslavement to a silly job that I only do for money. I fear this sacrifice and believe it is far greater than baking my own bread instead of buying it from the supermarket.  In my case I’d unwittingly forfeited a decade doing errands for fools before I plotted my scheme so cunning you could put a tail on it and call it a weasel.

To become a corporate Houdini yourself simplify, simplify, simplify your life (thank you Thoreau one simplify is sufficient!). The less you need to pay for your food and shelter the less you need in your financial fund. You don’t have to be a vagabond and a beggar, but it sure helps if you don’t mind living like one. It isn’s a life of squalor and grime either. It is simply a life lived at the fashionable intersect of minimalism, frugality, husbandry and high finance.  This is your only life. Please don’t waste it all working for shareholders. Better to become a shareholder instead.

The delightful decapitation of myself

“Last night I lost the world, and gained the universe”

C. Joy Bell C.

[If you are very happy and contented in life, don’t bother with this post. Seriously stop now. If like me you struggle to understand what this life is all about, who you are, what your purpose is…then descend down the rabbit hole. All other readers, you have a lovely day! :)]

The first time I experienced the wonder of self decapitation I was lying idly in my garden watching a bumblebee struggle to emerge from a clump of fresh cut grass.

There was no catastrophic accident as is the case with most instances of decapitation. It was incidental. It just happened. My head rolled off it’s perch on my shoulders. There was no surprise. No thud.

One minute I was a confused self obsessed, angry, unhappy fellow, then next moment I had disappeared into a void.  Deep and dark. It went a long way back. I gave up the search in that direction and widened my search. There was only one direction back. Like Bond in Skyfall I fired my emergency torch and found the crack in the ice. Back through the hole. Back to life came I. Something had happened. Something significant. Something deep and amazing. It left a scar too. I no longer had a head, but what was this left in it’s place?

Strange and alarming as decapitation might sound. It was actually quite calming, deeply nourishing and peaceful. This is not a fictional story.  A piece of prose…in case that is what you are thinking. This is my real life experience. It is the story of how I had woken from the slumber of the corporate dead. Suddenly the world was bright, new, and amazing to me!

Let me explain.

I’d been a treasure seeker for some time. Like the ancient Samurai or Sufi I was curious to know the world beyond the world. Who am I? Why am I here? What is my purpose? Should I be working harder to become…? Why do I do what I do? Why do I do what I don’t want to do?

I had read Metaphysics by Aristotle, the teachings from Pythagoras. I had never lived in a monastery. I didn’t even know anyone that wasn’t a Christian. Maybe I did, but if so they never revealed themselves to me. One afternoon I picked a random book from the library and within a few hours I had begun to understand the parallel between all the religious teachings of the Buddha, the Arab mystics, the Hindu Sufi, Thomas Aquinas and philosophers like Eckhart Tolle, Einstein, Aristotle and other smarter Greeks who said “The true value of a human being can be found in the degree to which he has attained liberation from the self.”  At this time I realised that there were so many people throughout thousands of years of human history that had already figured out something perplexing to me. It was this…[shout out to Bob].

The other trigger, if there was one, was a friend confessing something and telling me that he ‘couldn’t live with himself”. I thought more on his statement than his confession. ‘With himself’ implying two or many. So who were these selves that he could no longer live with?

I understood the perspectives/religions could be traced back to a singular common route. The basis of all of our religions was the same? I’d learned that there was a label for the questions I was struggling with. Anatta, Anattman, Non-duality.  By the time that I found my way to these labels I’d already had my awakening. I then stumbled on this fairly strange self portrait. What struck me was the viewpoint. A normal self portrait illustrates the artist from a distance of about 1 metre looking back. We all view ourselves or imagine ourselves how others see us as. A three dimensional object with a face and a head. The portrait I have shared doesn’t portray how the artist might see himself if he were shaving. He has drawn an image showing how he actual sees himself in every moment. Faceless. Or more accurately from behind his face. With no head. Perhaps a blur that could be thought of as a nose, but not enough of a nose to stand up as evidence in court.

Back to the garden. Here I was lolling. Enjoying the idle life. Then I saw a bee. He landed on the newly clipped grass. A large tuft tumbled over him. Slowly, but surely my little friend emerged from the grass. Quickly, meanly I tossed another large clump over him. Once again he slowly emerged and surveyed the field. As I looked at the bee I wondered if it would ever have an identity crisis as I was having at the time.  I became more and more absorbed with the bees struggle to climb to the top of a stalk of grass my inner dialogue slowed and then stopped completely. From that moment I no longer viewed myself as I once did. Everything changed I was headless, faceless. I was something other than my physical body. Here I truly was with all of the layers of the onion peeled back.

From then I could observe others from a new perspective. I was detached. I watched the bees for a good long while.  I began to wonder why we smarter souls squabble and fight. We act like a knight protecting the Queen’s Chamber from the horde. Now I wonder how some might react differently if someone told them that the Queen wasn’t even in the country.  With the Queen out of residence the guards can relax and let life happen. We are all like the guards of no Queen.

Even now years without a head I still use words like ‘I’ and ‘me’ to communicate with others. It is a function of language and it helps me ‘fit in’, but my understanding of what I mean when I say ‘me’ or ‘I’ is totally different than it was the day before that bee jolted me out of my self delusion. I thank the bee for waking me from sleep.

If you have not yet been lucky enough to meet your bee, you flower or your mentor you may very well be wondering what the heck I am talking about. Has the pin holding the plate in this guys head slipped? You may be very curious to know how I see myself since I am claiming to be headless. That is a less important question. You know what you suppose you look like because you have seen yourself in the mirror applying makeup, brushing your hair or shaving, but you are wrong. The real question you should be asking is not who you are from a half metre away, but who you are at zero distance from yourself?

Your quest to answer this question can begin here. This is a link to an excellent series of video resources. Unfortunately I discovered them, the book and the author five years after I met the bee. I know though that I would have really benefited from this video library. Hopefully they will be of use if you choose this path to self improvement no self.  If many of us make this journey a great number of conflicts, confusions and the ills of the world might be resolved and this world could become a better place.

Certainly for myself. I am thankful I met Mr Bee.  He knocked my head from my shoulders and showed me the world again.

On Laziness by Christopher Morley (1920)

Today we rather intended to write an essay on Laziness, but we’re too indolent to do so.
The sort of thing we had in mind to write would have been exceedingly persuasive. We intended to discourse a little in favour of a greater appreciation of indolence as a benign factor in human affairs.
It is our observation that every time we get into trouble it is due to not having been lazy enough. Unhappily, we were born with a certain fund of energy. We have been hustling about for a number of years now, and it doesn’t seem to get us anything but tribulation. Henceforward we are going to make a determined effort to be more languid and demure. It is the bustling man who always gets put on committees, who is asked to solve the problems of other people and neglect his own.
The man who is really, thoroughly, and philosophically slothful is the only thoroughly happy man. It is the happy man who benefits the world. The conclusion is inescapable.
We remember a saying about the meek inheriting the earth. The truly meek man is the lazy man. He is too modest to believe that any ferment and hubbub of his can ameliorate the earth or assuage the perplexities of humanity.
O. Henry said once that one should be careful to distinguish laziness from dignified repose. Alas, that was a mere quibble. Laziness is always dignified, it is always reposeful. Philosophical laziness, we mean. The kind of laziness that is based upon a carefully reasoned analysis of experience. Acquired laziness. We have no respect for those who were born lazy; it is like being born a millionaire: they cannot appreciate their bliss. It is the man who has hammered his laziness out of the stubborn material of life for whom we chant praise and allelulia.
The laziest man we know–we do not like to mention his name, as the brutal world does not yet recognize sloth at its community value–is one of the greatest poets in this country; one of the keenest satirists; one of the most rectilinear thinkers. He began life in the customary hustling way. He was always too busy to enjoy himself. He became surrounded by eager people who came to him to solve their problems. “It’s a queer thing,” he said sadly; “no one ever comes to me asking for help in solving my problems.” Finally the light broke upon him. He stopped answering letters, buying lunches for casual friends and visitors from out of town, he stopped lending money to old college pals and frittering his time away on all the useless minor matters that pester the good-natured. He sat down in a secluded cafe with his cheek against a seidel of dark beer and began to caress the universe with his intellect.
The most damning argument against the German’s is that they were not lazy enough. In the middle of Europe, a thoroughly disillusioned, indolent and delightful old continent, the Germans were a dangerous mass of energy and bumptious push. If the Germans had been as lazy, as indifferent, and as righteously laissez-fairish as their neighbours the world would have been spared a great deal.

People respect laziness. If you once get a reputation for complete, immovable, and reckless indolence the world will leave you to your own thoughts, which are generally rather interesting.
Doctor Johnson, who was one of the world’s great philosophers, was lazy. Only yesterday our friend the Caliph showed us an extraordinarily interesting thing. It was a little leather-bound notebook in which Boswell jotted down memoranda of his talks with the old doctor. These notes he afterward worked up into the immortal Biography. And lo and behold, what was the very first entry in this treasured little relic?
Doctor Johnson told me in going to Ilam from Ashbourne, 22 September, 1777, that the way the plan of his Dictionary came to be addressed to Lord Chesterfield was this: He had neglected to write it by the time appointed. Dodsley suggested a desire to have it addressed to Lord C. Mr. J. laid hold of this as an excuse for delay, that it might be better done perhaps, and let Dodsley have his desire. Mr. Johnson said to his friend, Doctor Bathurst: “Now if any good comes of my addressing to Lord Chesterfield it will be ascribed to deep policy and address, when, in fact, it was only a casual excuse for laziness.
Thus we see that it was sheer laziness that led to the greatest triumph of Doctor Johnson’s life, the noble and memorable letter to Chesterfield in 1775.
Mind your business is a good counsel; but mind your idleness also. It’s a tragic thing to make a business of your mind. Save your mind to amuse yourself with.
The lazy man does not stand in the way of progress. When he sees progress roaring down upon him he steps nimbly out of the way. The lazy man doesn’t (in the vulgar phrase) pass the buck. He lets the buck pass him. We have always secretly envied our lazy friends. Now we are going to join them. We have burned our boats or our bridges or whatever it is that one burns on the eve of a momentous decision.
Writing on this congenial topic has roused us up to quite a pitch of enthusiasm and energy.

“On Laziness” by Christopher Morley was originally published in Pipefuls (Doubleday, Page and Company, 1920)