.......................................APRIL '11

  Celebrating the IDLE life  


Back home from Spain …. what a trip! Only just recovered - the flexing lifestyles of past weeks need time to settle back from. The idle life I’m used to is like a cool elixir. I’ll write something about the trip later.

In the meantime: I’m constantly reminded – increasingly these days – of what nudged me to go on permanent strike back in 1989 when I quit WORK... (for ever, except for 15-months part-time as a BT telephone operator in 2000 as it turned out - so far!)... and went off travelling several parts of the world where they speak at least a variation on English... much simpler when you know the language. I mention those nudges in ‘Self-Help' – to which it recently struck me should be added this from Henry Miller:

p-45 ‘The Colossus of Maroussi’ 1941

I would set out in the morning and look for new coves and inlets in which to swim. There was never a soul about. I was like Robinson Crusoe on the island of Tobago. For hours at a stretch I would lie in the sun doing nothing, thinking of nothing. To keep the mind empty is a feat, a very healthful feat too. To be silent the whole day long, see no newspaper, hear no radio, listen to no gossip, be thoroughly and completely lazy, thoroughly and completely indifferent to the fate of the world is the finest medicine a man can give himself. The book-learning gradually dribbles away; problems melt and dissolve; ties are gently severed; thinking, when you deign to indulge in it, becomes very primitive; the body becomes a new and wonderful instrument; you look at plants or stones or fish with different eyes; you wonder what people are struggling to accomplish by their frenzied activities; you know there is a war on but you haven't the faintest idea what it's about or why people should enjoy killing one another; you look at a place like Albania - it was constantly staring me in the eyes - and you say to yourself, yesterday it was Greek, today it's Italian, tomorrow it may be German or Japanese, and you let it be anything it chooses to be. When you're right with yourself it doesn't matter what flag is flying over your head or who owns what or whether you speak Eng­lish or Monongahela. The absence of newspapers, the absence of news about what men are doing in different parts of the world to make life more livable or unlivable is the greatest single boon….

Ignoring Miller's wise advice (an all-too-frequent shortcoming of mine), I listened to Radio-5 today for an hour: they were discussing Depression. Not once did anyone mention or even hint at the kind of 'therapy' Miller discovered (and I too, when still a kid!) as explained in that extract. I suppose anyone aware of it wouldn't have been listening. I read Miller's book belatedly about a decade ago - most of his work is scattered with little flashes of wisdom like this, perceptions almost unique to him - except they might also be found in books on Zen. 


This, on the other hand, I discovered more recently: WARNING “If you read this… you may quit your job.” So responds a reader of Studs Terkel’s ’Working: People Talk About What They Do All Day and How They Feel About What They Do’… (see: update Nov 09)

These realisations, awakenings - together with the constant droning of articles these days more than ever on the political websites (and in the general media) on how greed, how the drive for great wealth, how capitalism... is constantly expanding its focus, how the superrich increasingly strive to embrace more of the world and how they exploit and drain us slave-workers of more than the shirts on our backs... how all this is making the struggle to emerge from poverty and grind ever more impossible, ever more an ordeal, and the effort ever more futile…  realisations that well justify my reason for going on permanent strike back in 1989 (under the then relatively gentle - though implacable - heel of Thatcherism).

I just thought: What is the point? Why slave when you can (sign-on the dole and) be free? That's how the rich think - except instead of signing-on they fix the law so they can steal with impunity from us poor to support their extravagant lifestyles. But who needs an extravagant lifestyle when it's freedom that counts... that is: freedom from enforced WORK? It might take a little adjusting – even for me (on the anticlimactic return from my first escape trip) – but WORK can never form a solution (just a pointless diversion, a marking-time, a period of stagnation), and that's where something akin to Miller's experience becomes key. Within 2-years I was off again: to Aussie. And by the time I returned from that, adjustment was complete.

I’ve done virtually nowt in the past 2-decades - apart from, briefly, that part-time BT job - yet in NOT WORKING I've suffered no depression, no anxiety, no stress, no hassle…. not even when money was tight. In fact, I’ve enjoyed the precise opposite: a protracted period of unrivalled contentment, augmented by (sometimes, perhaps 'contrasted against') the occasional drama of intimate 'relationships' (but I guess that's part of the make-up, wake-up, richness of life). My conclusion so far: BRILL…. or maybe: AWESOME!  

Doing nowt means avoiding compulsory Work! Crucially: Time happens only once - making my time, at least, priceless - too valuable to sell (unless it's the only way to survive). Though in fair cause, I'll happily give it away to anyone...



Miller's outlook in the above quote needs no qualifiers: the context is sufficient. Objections such as: 'What if one's home/friends are under attack?' or 'Won't the Fascists end up running everything?' are irrelevant - and 'diversity' is a fact; if there's no way you can help a situation, especially one that isn't under your nose, then why drag yourself down to some arbitrary level when the precise opposite is within reach? THAT's the essence of my own outlook... has been for at least the last two decades... considering inherent limitations, what else might I have done? Or to put the question another way: Of what, that would be significantly useful, am I capable? Ans: not much - which is a fact I accepted a very long time ago.

Who couldn't gain from reflecting on their circumstances and accepting a few hard facts?

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