Shocked about my own negligence, I just noticed that I not only owe you one, but two fresh Mountain Shores episodes. If you’re not subscribed to the podcast feed (yet), that would be an inexcusable omission.

About time to fill you in…

Lockpicking Imaginary Handcuffs (with Robert Wringham)

In the most political conversation in Mountain Shores history, we met up in a tapped cable somewhere in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean in order to talk with comedian and writer Robert Wringham.

We chat about Harry Houdini, humor writing, self help, life traps, and winters in Montréal. A juicy discussion of escaping bullshit jobs and consumer culture leads us to the question of all questions: Is “the destruction of all life on earth” too big a sacrifice just to get new iPhones every year?

Listen in here.

Writing for Wolves (with Kaite Welsh)

In our most recent episode, we meet Kaite Welsh, freelance journalist and author (and self-described MoSho fangirl!) who recently moved back to Edinburgh to pursue her writing work full-time.

We discuss Kaite’s preparations that allowed her to leave her job, the advantages of strategic planning, weird press trips, and our rum (and music) preferences.

After a brief look into pitching, sex toy attacks, and dealing with “impostor syndrome”, we become Kaite fanboys when learning about her super productivity – that not only allowed her to read 80 books in 3 months, but also to make sense of them as the chair of the judges for the Green Carnation literary prize.

In the end, we all agree that doing something that doesn’t make us want to stab our eyes out is always a plus – and we reveal Kaite’s secret habit-forming weapon: “I want more gold so I can buy a wolf.”

Listen in here.

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Post image for Shit I Learnt From Not Blogging

So I didn’t publish more than – what? – THREE blog posts in the second half of 2014. One of those was a guest post, so it doesn’t count. And another one was a podcast announcement, so it doesn’t really count, either. Which leaves me with a grand total of one (in numbers: 1) posts written and published in the second half of 2014.

Good that nobody’s paying me to write here.

Looking into the reasons for my silence, here’s some stuff I learnt.1

1. Talker’s Block, Revisited

Seth writes:

No one ever gets talker’s block. No one wakes up in the morning, discovers he has nothing to say and sits quietly, for days or weeks, until the muse hits, until the moment is right, until all the craziness in his life has died down.

Unfortunately, he’s right.

I have thought about this some more while not blogging.

I don’t know about you, but I actually do get talker’s block occasionally. Normally, I tend to be actively engaged in any discussion whatsoever. I chime in, I argue, I defend my point of view.

But when I don’t have a clue, I prefer to remain silent.

When I meet someone really wise, and she’s willing to talk, I’m a happy listener. And if I’m not, I’d better be.

Even when I’m just joking around with friends, there are times when I simply shut up and take a deep breath. To enjoy. Enjoy the moment. Enjoy being alive, and being in good company. Enjoy experiencing what’s around me.

Not a bad thing to do. Occasionally.

(See also: The right to remain silent)

2. Doing Stuff

This is directly related to number 1.

As mentioned in one of our podcasts last year, I had quite a nice time doing things in 2014. Instead of writing about them.

A few highlights:

  • I traveled to Lisbon, the Atacama desert, the Amazon, and through much of Colombia and Germany.
  • I helped a friend to open a kitesurfing and SUP school on the island.
  • In consequence, I learnt to stand-up-paddle. (Is that a word?)
  • I also like to lie to myself and make me believe I improved my ridiculously bad kite surfing skills. I still suck, to be sure. (It’s just too motorically challenging! But I won’t give up – yet…)
  • I worked more for money on the computer and for free elsewhere. I also earned more.
  • I created a tasty variant of the good old Cuba Libre. (I think I’ll call it Kruso Libre and I’ll definitely fix you one when you come to visit.)
  • I designed my first photo book (and got it printed).
  • I gutted a house, enjoying some of the most physically challenging work I ever did.
  • I spent a decent amount of time with friends and books and family. And taking walks. Long walks. Good things to do.

I know that quite a few bloggers use their blogs to hold themselves accountable when it comes to doing interesting things. Chris would call these things „quests“ and has created a bit of an outline of how to follow through. Which is a smart and fun thing to do.

But it’s not necessary.

We can simply do stuff, too. Without much planning. Without anybody knowing. Without a big picture. Without an official announcement. You lose some helpful public pressure on the way, sure. It’ll be a bit more chaotic.

But you save a whole lot of time to engage in interesting things. Or to sleep in. Whatever you prefer.

3. Planning <-> Experiencing <-> Reviewing <-> Reporting

And that leads me to my next lesson. Which shouldn’t be in this post because I’ve not yet reached a conclusion. Oh well.

I spent some time pondering the relationship between planning, experiencing, reviewing, and reporting: You think about stuff, you do it, you digest it, and then (maybe) you write about it.

In 2014 I wrote the least in… probably 15 years or so? I also took relatively few photos, at least in “daily life”. I didn’t follow any grand strategy, even though I played with the idea. And it turned out nicely, because – as I said above – I managed to do so many things. And to sleep in. Sweet!

But I also noticed how the year slipped a bit through my fingers. The digesting part – thinking and feeling – still happens, but it happens less than when I write about things. Same thing for planning. Which probably means getting back into writing mode, in one way or the other.

(See also: Focus, entertain, or both?)

4. Living Rooms

Blogs are living rooms.

A living room shouldn’t be owned by a government or corporation. It should look like you like it, even though others might despise your wallpaper. And while you may have an open-door policy, ultimately it’s for you to decide who gets to sit on your couch and who has to leave.

This also matters when we look at reporting. In my living room, I might enjoy to undertake profound philosophical discussions. Or I might laugh about a fart joke. It’s my personal decision, just as it is your personal decision whether you want to read it.

Which leads me to my next point:

5. A Personal Blog (To Rule Them All)

Personal blogs rule.

Not blogging did a lot of bad stuff to my writing.2 It also changed my reading behavior.

Full disclosure: I never read many „pro bloggers“. But by now, I’m almost exclusively reading personal (in the sense of: 1-person) blogs, and the larger part of those are published by folks who don’t earn a living with them. A few of them do, at least in part, but they do it in a low-profile, non-pushy, tasteful manner.

No sales pitches that make me want to grind my teeth out.

One thing I’m glad to miss out on. JOMO!

6. JOMO

JOMO was just named the word of the year, and this seems to be a perfect coincidence, considering my experiences with unblogging:

JOMO, n. The pleasure derived from no longer worrying about missing out on what other people are doing or saying.

It’s derived from the phrase „joy of missing out“. People tend to use it in the context of having a „social detox“, but I’d like to extend the usage to books, articles, and online chatter.

When I was still blogging regularly, my RSS reader was sacred. Spending hours to review the writings of my peers seemed of crucial importance. Productivity nerdism became another (related) timesuck.

These days, it’s different. While I still enjoy my online reading, I also enjoy missing out on the latest hypes, deals, trends and „limited time offers“ that became part of many mainstream blogs.

I also continue to be happy missing out on the latest fads in social networks. Still no Facebook for me, and still no Ello either. (Despite a much appreciated invite by Milo.)

The only allowed network is Twitter every now and then. And, of course, my email.3

Speaking of which…

7. The people behind blogs rule

This isn’t limited to the writers. It definitely extends to the readers. Even after I hadn’t written anything for months, I still got regular emails from new readers who had stumbled on The Friendly Anarchist while browsing the web, and enjoyed a post from the archives.

I also stayed in touch with a few fellow bloggers and long-time readers I really like. This has been delightful, to say the least.

Now to a couple of less delightful lessons.

8. Snowden

Ever since Edward ███████, I don’t feel free ███████ ██ ███ ██████ █████ and also in ████ ████. The ███ ██ ███-███████ ██, █████ ██ happily keep watching Netflix. For me, this █████ ████████ █████ ██ █ self-censorship that makes me want to ████. ██ ███ and █ really ████ ███████ in our █████, we should keep asking ourselves whether we really want to live under these conditions.

9. Muscle Memory

The writing muscle is indeed that, and it will degenerate.

It feels hard to get into writing again. It won’t get easier, but it will get better once I get started. Here’s to experiment as method, once more, because…

10. …I Like Blogging

Why deny it? I like blogging. I missed it. When it doesn’t feel like a chore, it’s marvelous.

Austin Kleon would say: Keep your day job. I’d say: Escape your day job. But I still agree that blogging, as a job, seems like a pretty meh choice by now.

I’d like to see blogging more as a work in progress once again. Long posts like this one can easily take 6-8 hours to write and edit. While I believe it is worth it, I also began to enjoy a more fluid and minimal writing style among many bloggers recently. Expect some more of that.

Which leads me to my last point:

11. Feck perfuctionism

And thank you for sticking around.

[¶]

People asked me to tell more about my post images. So here we go: The photo shows a dog contemplating the sunrise on an island in the Salar de Uyuni. He went up to the hill with us, seemingly not caring about the people, but about the moment. The zenest dog I’ve ever seen. And definitely one of the most impressive places on Earth I ever had the priviledge to visit.

  1. I wrote “shit” in the headline not to be more offensive, but because I’m a bad headline author. If you’re offended, I won’t take it personal. []
  2. We’ll look at that below. []
  3. No push notifications, thank you. []

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Just when you thought your headache would kill you, you grimly look around your room and you hear a sound:


*Ping*

At the time this gets posted by a friendly robot, even those of you trying to recolonize Howland Island (at UTC-12!) are welcoming the new year. If you’re reading this, you made it out of 2014 alive and kicking!

That’s more than most people can say. Specifically, you’re better off than about 56 million people – who saw the dawn of 2014, but didn’t have the chance to see its end. Not to mention our 100 billion human ancestors who died even earlier.

You may not be a part of the “one percent” but – if you’re reading this – you’re at least part of the 6.5 percent of humans who ever saw the light of day and made it to 2015.

Congratulations!

Enjoy curing your hangover!

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Houdini, the original escpaologist!

When it comes to work, idleness and the pleasures of life, (friendly) anarchists and (new) escapologists have always thought along similar lines.

While some time has passed since their last appearance here on The Friendly Anarchist, the escapologists have been anything but idle in the meantime. Well, actually, they have likely been mostly idle, as this is part of the concept. But on top of that, New Escapologist editor Robert Wringham and his crew have also managed to create a substantial amount of publications and propagate the escapologist lifestyle far and wide.

Robert’s newest project, a book proposal with the tentative title Escape Everything, is currently being funded. I jumped on board as a supporter – and invite you to do the same. Today, I am delighted to have Robert as a guest contributor to raise awareness (and, hopefully, a few bucks) for a worthy cause.

Enter Robert…

[¶]

Work is a scam. It’s a forty-year sentence to wage slavery. Who would sign up for that? It turns out, almost everyone.

Belief in the twin lies that “the devil makes work for idle hands” and “work will set you free” is maintaining a terrible status quo, gradually destroying the natural habitats of the world’s diverse and abundant life forms, and trapping the well-meaning majority of us humans into lives of stale drudgery.

If you’re unlucky enough to have a job, you’ll know that work takes up all of your time: when you’re not actually at work, you’re probably travelling to or from work, preparing for work, or recovering from work. Quite often, you find yourself dreaming of work, only to be interrupted by the alarm clock waking you up to go back to work.

Your home–historically a safe haven for relaxation, husbandry and merriment–is reduced to a fuelling station for work. Work, work, work. Would it not be wonderful if we were no longer expected to go to work?

Almost every ideology and political party sees work as good. Conservatives think hard work and competition are the solutions to everything. Socialism is obsessed with work and finding jobs for everyone. Anarchist writer Bob Black states the problem thusly: “Unions and management agree that we ought to sell the time of our lives in exchange for survival, although they haggle over the price. Marxists think we should be bossed by bureaucrats. Libertarians think we should be bossed by businessmen.”

But in the gaps between these ideologies is a proud tradition of rebel thought, which mercifully sticks up for those who’d rather not work.

Bob Black wrote that “work is the source of nearly all the misery in the world”; philosopher Bertrand Russell said “there is far too much work done in the world [and] immense harm is caused by the belief that work is virtuous”; and merry rebel Tom Hodgkinson of the Idler magazine and Idler Academy encourages us to reclaim our leisure time from the corporation and to say “life is absurd, be merry, be free”.

Before these modern thinkers were ancient philosophers like Epicurus and Seneca and Diogenes, all of whom felt that work for work’s sake was a fool’s errand, that status and wealth were unworthy of single-minded pursuit, and that it’s aginst human nature to suffer so persistently when the best things in life come without effort. The central place of work in modern life would have baffled the Ancient Greeks and Romans. Why would anyone sacrifice the good life–a life of voluntary simplicity, spiritual improvement, intellectual contemplation, and sensual pleasure–for soulless drudgery?

In 2007, I set up a magazine called New Escapologist, which sought to continue this discourse about alternatives to the work system. We look for ways to escape work and the various other things about the consumer economy which prove so depressing and all-pervasive.

New Escapologist seems to be onto something. Even though we’re just a small-press publication with no funding or professional staff, we’ve sold thousands of copies worldwide and we’re getting ready to publish our eleventh edition. I suppose the secret of our modest success is that we’re one of few publications (though the Idler is the best) to acknowledge the obvious truth that the devil does not make work for idle hands and that work does not set anyone free.

The reason that the vast majority of us go to work is to make money to pay the rent (on property built on once-common land, no less) and to pay for material goods we’re told are needed for a good life. We do not work because we enjoy it and we do not work because it is virtuous, though maybe some of us have convinced ourselves to vaguely believe in a combination of the two.

Any semblance of dignity or craftsmanship has been bashed out of today’s work by the division of labour, by technology that allows anyone to do anything regardless of their abilities, and by the new consumer economy which preys upon our weakness and fatigue after work, and fills us with insatiable desire. There is no dignity in working for a supermarket or in an office or in a call centre. There is no dignity in finding conniving new ways of selling junk to your fellow human beings.

The majority do not work to grow food or heal the sick or push the envelope of what humanity is capable of. (We will always need farmers, nurses, and scientists and we should reward them better than we do). The majority now are dissatisfied wage slaves, conned or forced into doing what we do so that we can pump wealth back into the system, further feed the obese rich, and have cell phones and cars and cable television and all the rest of the grubby things that help to perpetuate our malaise.

New Escapologist would be overjoyed to witness the end of work. This, we think, closely echoes what Anarchists want.

How so? There’s a combination of oppressive forces that work against the majority. Anarchists tend to call it The System or The Machine. Ken Kesey called it The Combine or The Thing. Whatever we call it, this strong force lends itself well to a very particular way of life and works hard to make the alternatives look ridiculous. If you live under the control of the strong force–as almost everyone alive today does–your life will look something like this: eduction>work>retirement>death. If your life doesn’t look like that, you’re probably considered eccentric or subversive.

Our individual experiences on this treadmill will differ, but not by as much as we might imagine. Whether we attend a good school or a bad school, whether we’re employed to pick potatoes or command armies, the treadmill rattles along in the same direction.

Stepping off this treadmill is the only way to escape the system. Were enough of us to step off the treadmill, the strong force would lose its power. In such a scenario, the system may not be “smashed” but at least it will be cut back enough to feel human and manageable again. Small is Beautiful.

In case you’re not certain that the treadmill lifestyle is actually bad or if you’re under the impression that there’s no alternative, let’s consider a few of the problems with it. In the West it makes us work in offices. In the East it makes us work on assembly lines. In every direction it molds us into wage slaves, makes us miserable and fat, corrodes our willpower, leaves us spiritually dissatisfied, disconnects us from nature, obliterates our individual free agency, and ultimately exhausts us entirely. Thanks to the consumer economy that has grown up around the treadmill to further exploit our human energies, the gap is widening between rich and poor, the rainforest is being incinerated, our planet’s atmosphere is being heated and poisoned, and an estimated 200 to 2000 animal species are yearly condemned to extinction.

At New Escapologist, we believe that the weak link–the Death Star design flaw–in the treadmill is what many would imagine to be the strongest and most inevitable: we believe that we can (and should) put an end to work.

Without work as we currently understand it, the rest would fall apart. Without work, schools would no longer have to be drone factories. Without work, we wouldn’t have aimless, poverty-stricken retirements. Without work, we’d have willpower, unrationed daily freedom, creative integrity, and richer lives both in public and inside our own heads. No more anxiety. No more competition. No more struggle. People would start coming up with their own ideas instead of being told what to do.

All of this will seem idealistic or unrealistic to people living on the treadmill, but there are hundreds–thousands!–of example alternatives that work extremely well. New Escapologist celebrates these cases and shows that another world is possible.

Stop consuming. Stop working. Step off the treadmill. Await in comfort the system’s inevitable collapse.

[¶]

Robert Wringham, 21st century escapologistRobert Wringham is the editor of New Escapologist magazine. He is currently running a crowd-funding campaign for a new book called Escape Everything! If you saw value in this essay and would like to see these ideas expanded upon, please visit the fundraising page and pledge today.

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Post image for What You Can Learn from a Wild Donkey

When the Spaniards reached the highlands of the Atacama, they brought some donkeys along to carry their arms and supplies. As it turned out, though, the donkeys wouldn’t really perform that well under the high altitudes and the extreme weather conditions of the desert.

When fighting the indigenous tribes, the Spanish conquerers soon stumbled on the lama: Well-adapted to the area, this animal always seemed to be ready to serve.

So the Spaniards decided to screw the donkeys. They got themselves a bunch of lamas, put all their stuff on their backs, and left their useless imported donkeys alone in the desert, facing a slow and horrible death.

[¶]

Guess what happened next? The Spaniards continued to fight their battles. For the most part, they managed to subdue the Indians. The role of the lama isn’t known to me. All I know is that, at some point, the locals got fed up with their conquerers and threw them out. They built their own countries. So the Spaniards are long gone.

But: What about the donkeys? The donkeys those Spaniards left there hundreds of years ago? Without water, without food, without any care whatsoever?

Turns out they’re still there. Grazing in the plains. Undomesticated for a few hundred years now, servant to none. The donkeys simply refused to die. Instead, they started to enjoy their newly found freedom, and have been chilling in the desert ever since.1

Derive your own life lesson from this.

“Become a wild donkey” probably doesn’t sound like much. But it’s a story that makes me smile every time I remember it.

  1. See the admittedly bad photo proof on the top of this post. It was taken earlier this year from a moving van with a toy lens. Still better than most Yeti and UFO shots out there, isn’t it? []

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