About that…

This morning my friend asked that I clarify the title of this whole thing. Personally, I thought it was pretty self-explanatory, but in order to keep doing this I need to continually find things to write about. You win universe!!

how to be freePeople have complemented my choice of title. In the spirit of full disclosure though, I must admit that it is not my combination of words. It originated as the title of the final chapter of the book to the left, Tom Hodgkinson’s opus “How to be Free” (or “The Freedom Manifesto” here in the states). “Stop Working, Start Living” serves to make the point that our society has slid down one of those “slippery slopes” people are always talking about. Once the puritanical mindset became the norm, especially here in the America, fun and revelry became a commodity, a thing we’re allowed to buy once we’ve finished working all those hours. The world wasn’t always like this, there was a time when we all worked only as much as necessary, making enough money to keep the wolves at bay. Let’s take a little looksie at Mr. Hodgkinson’s ideas and why he earned the title of this blog.

Let’s begin by taking a look at a quote for the honorable Mr. Hodgkinson’s book for more insight into better, more relaxed times:

Before the Reformation, England was one non-stop party…Christmas, for example lasted a full twelve days, during which you were not allowed to do any work. This was quickly followed on 2 February by a holiday called Candlemas and then more merriment on St. Valentines Day on the fourteenth. Then came Shrovetide, which started on the seventh Sunday before Easter and lasted for three days. Easter lasted a full ten days, till the festival of Hocktide. There was just time for a bit of work. Then there was St. George’s Day on 23 April, another day off. A week after that came May Day, of course, which marked the first day of two months of merry-making and sex in the woods. Then there was 24 June, or Midsummer Eve, and the feast of Corpus Christi. The came St. Peter’s Eve on 28 June, followed by Lammas on 1 August, opening a season of summer fairs and harvest suppers. In November came Martinma, followed by the fasting of Advent, and then it was back to Christmas once again.

So what the hell has happened? In essence, what we perceive as work and play have been separated. We’ve created modular lives for ourselves. From nine to five we make our money for the explicit purpose of being able to use it for revelry. Of course some of you reading this have most likely escaped this reality. You’ve managed to turn your vocation, meaning something you truly love to do, into a paying gig. “If you enjoy work,” Hodgkinson says, “it’s not really work.” If you are lucky enough to enjoy being a designer, lawyer, sales or retail person, butcher, etc. , you’re doing it right.

Many people aren’t quite as fortunate as you in terms of their working life. Too many people work simply for the sake of working. Two months ago I quit my job in Seattle and ventured back to Cincinnati, a far cheaper city, and thus better for the lifestyle I wished to procure for myself. Towards the end of the chapter Hodgkinson gives this advice: “If you are thinking about quitting your job, then let me say I can highly recommend it. I think it’s a lot easier to live without a job. For one thing, it’s a lot less work.” How beautifully simple a sentiment! I took his advice and have been jobless for about a month and a half. I have to say, I thought I would get bored, but I was oh so wrong. Spending your days listening to records, writing, reading books and comics, gardening, taking walks, rewatching movies you’d forgotten and playing music simply does not get boring.

Of course, nobody can do this forever. Eventually, most likely soon, I’ll have to return to the working world. This time though, I have one simple rule, a rule that is the reason it has taken me a bit longer to find a job this go around. While I’m not necessarily looking to work via my vocation as of yet (I suppose I’d need to know what that is first) I’m simply looking to work in an environment where I’m happy. I talk to too many people that say they hate their job. Why do we put ourselves through the proverbial cosmic wringer just to get a paycheck? Sure, we all need to pay rent and insurance, of course we need a couple new pairs of pants, but I think that given a little time and patience we can all find our sweet niche. There isn’t a person out there that doesn’t deserve their own happy place in life.

If you’re unhappy with your job and can survive a month without working, trash the job. If you’re in a career you’re unhappy with, only continuing on with it because you’re told you should be career minded, trash the career. Live happily, do what you want to do. Learn a new skill. See yourself as a novice in everything. Do what you feel like. If that happens to be work, beautiful. If, at present it’s absolutely nothing, get to it! The most important sentiment of Hodgkinson’s book also happens to be the final word.  One line down from the final paragraph, in the center page we find his entire 318 page tome concentrated into one word:

PLAY

And that’s why I named the blog that. I want this to be a celebration of doing what I feel like and encouraging others to do the same. We’re totally going to have fun together guys! No puritanical, reformation style, no-fun-post-industrial thinking here.

Love,

John

P.S. Below are links to buy what should be your new life bibles:

“The Freedom Manifesto” by Tom Hodgkinson at Amazon.com

“How to be Idle” by Tom Hodgkinson at Amazon.com

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