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La Dolce Far Niente
July 1, 2012 6:25 PM   Subscribe

I am not busy. I am the laziest ambitious person I know. Like most writers, I feel like a reprobate who does not deserve to live on any day that I do not write, but I also feel that four or five hours is enough to earn my stay on the planet for one more day. On the best ordinary days of my life, I write in the morning, go for a long bike ride and run errands in the afternoon, and in the evening I see friends, read or watch a movie. This, it seems to me, is a sane and pleasant pace for a day.
Tim Kreider: The ‘Busy’ Trap.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane (107 comments total) 74 users marked this as a favorite

 
Seems like a good time to link to Bertrand Russell's classic "In Praise of Idleness".
posted by oneswellfoop at 6:36 PM on July 1, 2012 [12 favorites]


Ok so the start of the 2nd paragraph is kind of why I don't really care about this?
Notice it isn’t generally people pulling back-to-back shifts in the I.C.U. or commuting by bus to three minimum-wage jobs who tell you how busy they are; what those people are is not busy but tired. Exhausted. Dead on their feet.
He talks about some artist friend that moved to the south of France and goes to cafes and has a boyfriend now and feels much happier and yeah, duh. For those of you that can move to the south of France - wherever that happens to be for you - fucking do so, obviously. But that's not really an option for most of us. If you decide not to I can't really be bothered about your plight.

Also, the style of article that asserts that conditions in the world are [insert conditions here] and that's less than great are not really well conceived without some sort of empirical basis. For me anyway. It always feels like they're erecting a prop to argue against, rather than trying to grapple with any sort of actual issue. Really, I feel like this article would have been better written as a piece of fiction or a poem or an episode for a TV show or something.

But then, I'm not really saying anything new here, am I? That the NYT is a caricature of itself is something of a truism.
posted by kavasa at 6:53 PM on July 1, 2012 [9 favorites]


This guy is a twat. Especially in relation to parental time commitment. I'm not over the top with my kids and my wife is a stay at home mom - but if you have chilren, you are going to be busy no matter how you 'prioritize' you're life. Moving to the South of France is only an option for portentous New York Time writers and their friends.
posted by lexpattison at 6:56 PM on July 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


The major problem with idleness is that if your friends find out they'll ask you to help them move.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 6:59 PM on July 1, 2012 [36 favorites]


Wow, vitriol. Not everyone can move to the South of France, no, and it's not the most well-considered call for work/life balance, but at the heart of it, that's the point. Once people have money, the first thing they do is figure out a way to stop doing things that keep them too busy to do what they want - someone else answers email, someone else does the shopping, in the Jon Ronson piece that was FPP'ed a bit ago, YOU NEVER AGAIN LOOK AT BILLS.

The ability to have leisure of your choice should not be something left to people who can afford business managers. There is something wrong with a society where we're all so busy - need to be so busy in some cases - that we have no opportunity to rest.
posted by Medieval Maven at 7:02 PM on July 1, 2012 [34 favorites]


That's an interesting approach for someone who will surely lose his job to content aggregation and a horde of low-paid internet contributors in the next couple of years. If I were getting paid decent bucks to write for the NYT every third piece would be titled "Why writing opinion articles is miserable time-consuming work that I am uniquely qualified to do".
posted by ghharr at 7:10 PM on July 1, 2012 [19 favorites]


In the mid-Nineties it occurred to me that we in the decadent industrial West had actually reached the point long predicted by science fiction where robots were doing most of what needed to be done, and that we should now therefore be in the predicted Age of Leisure, but that everybody still seemed to be busy, and that the vast bulk of the work still being done was solely for the sake of giving people something to do.

It seemed to me that we'd all be far better off if we worked weekends and took the weekdays off rather than the other way around.

So I decided to experiment with that idea, and began progressively cutting back my expenditure. I got it down to the point where I could live comfortably and sustainably on AU$100 per week, which I could easily earn by driving four or five taxi night shifts each month.

And you know what? It was a bloody good way to live. I had so much time, and I could do pretty much exactly as I pleased with most of it.

Flash forward to 2012, and now I'm married and a landowner and a parent, and finding time to do all the things that need to be done is a constant struggle again. And most of that is down to parenting.

Truly, until you're doing it you have no idea how time-consuming the parenting task is. None. Which is why I got the whole Age of Leisure idea wrong in the first place.

On the other hand, if you do it right you get to see your favorite little person in the whole world grow into somebody capable of taking on that world with confidence and joy and love. So there's that.
posted by flabdablet at 7:38 PM on July 1, 2012 [34 favorites]


Another really excellent book, sort of a cultural history of striving and its antitheses, is How to Be Idle.

I agree with Medeival Maven; there is a very important social criticism at the heart of this, and the reality that most of our urgent deadlines, our important projects, our have-to-dos: really, most of them are not all that important. We only tell ourselves they are. Even having children doesn't have to make you "busy" in the way most families are busy; the choice to engage in all the things that make families busy is, for anyone who's not lower-income, a lifestyle choice.
posted by Miko at 7:40 PM on July 1, 2012 [8 favorites]


if your job wasn’t performed by a cat or a boa constrictor in a Richard Scarry book I’m not sure I believe it’s necessary.



o_O

The friend who brought this to my attention earlier noted that she didn't recall any animals cutting up dead bodies. (I reminded her there was a doctor critter, but could not remember what it was.) I vividly recall a cat in a spattered smock with a paintbrush and a beret, and we breathed a sigh of relief that Bob Ross, at least, had been validated.
posted by louche mustachio at 7:43 PM on July 1, 2012 [4 favorites]


I recently started keeping a timer on my phone at work. After 8 hours (not counting lunch or chatting with coworkers or browsing the web), I just h
posted by miyabo at 7:51 PM on July 1, 2012 [6 favorites]


I guess it ran out.
posted by Miko at 7:53 PM on July 1, 2012 [18 favorites]


Richard Scarry had a few critters playing doctor
posted by deliquescent at 7:58 PM on July 1, 2012


God almighty, what an annoying article.

On the best ordinary days of my life, I write in the morning, go for a long bike ride and run errands in the afternoon, and in the evening I see friends, read or watch a movie. This, it seems to me, is a sane and pleasant pace for a day.


Gosh, how sane and pleasant. I don't really feel he's congratulated himself sufficiently for his sanity and pleasantness; he should have spent another paragraph or two on it, if you ask me. Why aren't more people as sane and pleasant as the author? It can't be that they're obliged to WORK for a living; this isn't the eighteenth century, after all. HEAVENS. The very thought makes me feel like I've got DIRT under my fingernails. I'd go and wash, but I am SO comfortable, here with my feet up on the fucking SETTEE.

Funny thing is, most of the people I've asked recently are less busy than usual, and are a bit anxious about it, because being busy means there's paying work. Being idle is delightful as long as you know where your next meal is coming from.
posted by Sing Or Swim at 8:05 PM on July 1, 2012 [4 favorites]


My thing is just that I find it profoundly uninteresting to hear someone talk about how busy they are. Look, we all have jobs or routines or social responsibilities, we're all busy. It's like listening to to someone drone on and on about a dream they had, or if all their tweets and blog posts are about how busy they are these days. Unless we are married, I'd rather be over here with my own book or phone or whatever. If that's idleness or "leisure" so be it.
posted by mattbucher at 8:07 PM on July 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


i guess it's really worked out for the best this dude isn't a pediatric nephrologist
posted by chinston at 8:09 PM on July 1, 2012 [5 favorites]


I think the whole idea behind the "idleness as a virtue" philosophy is that in a sane society, no one would be crushed by the fear of having to organize your entire life around what your employers want you to do. This pervasive anxiety of justifying your continued existence through "productivity" isn't something we need. It's a symptom of a social sickness.

I agree with him. Five or six hours a day is enough. For any job.

And I like listening to other people talk about their dreams. Dreams are absolutely one of the most fascinating and amazing parts of being alive.
posted by byanyothername at 8:13 PM on July 1, 2012 [34 favorites]


As I was reading this, I realized there's a paradox about work in the modern world:

In order to get to a place where you can choose to work fewer than 40 hours a week, you have to work more than 40 hours a week consistently. But if you work more than 40 hours a week consistently, you're highly unlikely to ever recoup those hours when you start working less than 40 hours a week.

Now, I admit this is a sweeping generality, but there is some truth to this. People who "hustle" tend to have more success. And "hustle" for all intents and purposes means "working a hell of a lot to further yourself." And most people I know who "hustle" find themselves with more and more responsibilities -- to the point they never really reach the magical "I can cut my hours back!" moment, not unless health or unemployment or some other system shock leave them derailed long enough to see it.

And I've suffered from it myself. I neglect important things -- the yard, my weight, family issues -- in the name of "hustle." But I have a house. And a car payment. And a wife and kid. (And thus, perhaps, the dawn of the midlife crisis.)

But here's where I have a problem with Kreider: How did he become able to work fewer than 40 hours a week? I mean, he's a famous-among-thousands cartoonist and essayist. Did he just magically fall into his role thanks to some drawing on a cocktail napkin he slipped to an editor? No, I think he had to hustle. He had to work to get to the place he's at. So, oddly, I think he's gainsaying his own experience.

Mr. Kreider loves in a lovely world. I'd love to live there too, but I have a mortgage to pay.
posted by dw at 8:24 PM on July 1, 2012 [8 favorites]


Yeah. I get that we have to work for a living. But it's entirely legitimate to question the structure of our working lives and who, really, that serves. It can be frustrating to recognize we're beholden to our employers, but that isn't reason to sneer at people who have figured out ways to secure more personal time while still achieving the income they need to live - even when that's a result of making very careful and often difficult choices about their needs (cutting corners, going without luxuries, moving, reducing consumption, traveling less, driving less, owning less, wearing less) - it's a reason to critique our somewhat archaic and often exploitive system of work for hire.
posted by Miko at 8:26 PM on July 1, 2012 [20 favorites]


Thanks for posting this, goodnewsfortheinsane. I agree with Medieval Maven and Miko: there is an important element of social criticism in articles like this, and it's glossed over all too frequently in the haste to portray idleness as a frivolous luxury that's only available to the rich and privileged.
Idleness is not just a vacation, an indulgence or a vice; it is as indispensable to the brain as vitamin D is to the body, and deprived of it we suffer a mental affliction as disfiguring as rickets.
I agree wholeheartedly (warning: relevant self-link), although I prefer the term leisure to describe this indispensable state of being, rather than idleness. Charles Eisenstein has called leisure "the experience of the abundance of time." I love that. I think everyone who wants it should be able to have this experience. That's one of the reasons I support the movement for an unconditional basic income.

Though I agree with the critics that the author's tone can be a bit off-putting at times ("...getting together with friends in the woods to chuck dirt clods directly into one another’s eyes"? WTF?), I think he makes some good points. I especially like this:
My own resolute idleness has mostly been a luxury rather than a virtue, but I did make a conscious decision, a long time ago, to choose time over money, since I’ve always understood that the best investment of my limited time on earth was to spend it with people I love.
I made a similar decision to value time over money, although it is a very costly decision emotionally and socially as well as financially. It took many years before I could accurately call that decision a "conscious" one, and even longer before I stopped feeling the constant need to rationalize it, soften it, cover it up, or apologize for it. Educated feminist women like me are supposed to "strike out on our own" and take pride in our "financial independence" and have "real" careers. But the reality, for me, is that I do not have career ambitions, I find "financial independence" to be problematic in many ways, and like the author, I hate being busy. Sure, I have work I want to do (I'm a writer), but I see money as little more than a means to an end. Unstructured time nourishes my creativity like nothing else. My dream is to find a viable way to arrange my life so that I control as much of my own time as possible. Selfish? Perhaps. But I'm done apologizing for it.

I would love to live in a world where everyone who wants to could enjoy more leisure and time with the people they love.
posted by velvet winter at 8:32 PM on July 1, 2012 [15 favorites]


If you work in technology you may have to work more than 40 hours a week just to stay employable. How many people do you know who are doctors or engineers or programmers who are in their prime earning age period working less than 40 hours a week?

I don't know any. They aren't all doing busy work. Some of them are. But maybe most of them are just trying to stay in the running in the rat race.
posted by bukvich at 8:35 PM on July 1, 2012


And most people I know who "hustle" find themselves with more and more responsibilities -- to the point they never really reach the magical "I can cut my hours back!" moment, not unless health or unemployment or some other system shock leave them derailed long enough to see it.

You actually have to plan to do the cutting back, plan how you're going to do that (it's not possible in all fields, it might require changing fields) and then execute the plan. It won't just happen.

The reason it doesn't happen more often to people who have the vaguely hopeful thought that this will be their plan (without actually mapping it out and then sticking to the plan) is that as their responsibilities and power increase they get addicted to their increasing income and spending levels. They spend right up to their income, get the home and the toys and clothes and vacations at the highest level affordable for everyone in the family, and then of course they're stuck continuing to serve the expectations that go with all that.

If you're following this plan, a key element is to resist those financial burdens (masked as temptatons) that incrementally build, and which you get plenty of messages that you need, but which ultimately keep creeping the spending upward so it stays near the level of the income. That never lets you bank enough, or reduce your expenses enough, to reduce your working life enough too.
posted by Miko at 8:35 PM on July 1, 2012 [3 favorites]


> Dreams are absolutely one of the most fascinating and amazing parts of being alive.
I agree with you a hundred percent!
> I like listening to other people talk about their dreams.
I disagree with you a hundred percent!
posted by jjjjjjjijjjjjjj at 8:45 PM on July 1, 2012 [15 favorites]


byanyothername: I think the whole idea behind the "idleness as a virtue" philosophy is that in a sane society, no one would be crushed by the fear of having to organize your entire life around what your employers want you to do. This pervasive anxiety of justifying your continued existence through "productivity" isn't something we need. It's a symptom of a social sickness.

Very nicely and succinctly put, and I agree wholeheartedly. Thank you.
posted by velvet winter at 8:51 PM on July 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


If you work in technology you may have to work more than 40 hours a week just to stay employable. How many people do you know who are doctors or engineers or programmers who are in their prime earning age period working less than 40 hours a week?

I don't know any. They aren't all doing busy work. Some of them are. But maybe most of them are just trying to stay in the running in the rat race.


See, this is exactly the problem. No one, in any field, should have to work excessive hours just to remain employed. But we as a culture let employers get away with this bullshit and even buy into it because we've swallowed the revolting lie that grinding ourselves into dust means we're "ambitious" and "achieving" and "hustling" and "indispensible" or full of "work ethic" or various other bilious Donald Trump cliches. Most Americans are stunned when they discover that the entire country of Sweden just about shuts down for a month or more during summer vacation and suspect it's due to moral turpitude. I say, Go Swedes!

If you love work, that's fine by me, but much as I like my job, it's not my life. It just finances my life, and I devote as little time and energy to working as I must to do the job well. The rest of the time, I do the activities I was born for: swimming, dog walking, record playing, vacuuming, and reading.
posted by FelliniBlank at 8:55 PM on July 1, 2012 [40 favorites]


One side effect of working hard is getting good at stuff. And once good at stuff, it becomes painful to contemplate that stuff being done less well by people who care less about it. So there's a tendency to just keep on doing it long after the point where it's still enjoyable in its own right, just because if I don't do this then I'm going to have to live with the knowledge that somebody else is screwing it up.

For many, being far too busy has nothing to do with Donald Trump being a useless social parasite; it's a hole we dug for ourselves with our very own hands.

For me, the way to see over the rim of that hole is to contemplate the many things I have screwed up along the way, and to reflect that it seems a little churlish to refuse somebody else the same opportunity.
posted by flabdablet at 9:15 PM on July 1, 2012 [6 favorites]


See also, Slack by Tom DeMarco.
posted by underflow at 9:22 PM on July 1, 2012


I was talking recently with my husband about the moment I made the decision to be serious about writing, which was about four years before I saw a single dollar from it. And it was pretty much the moment that I realized that if I didn't take it seriously, I'd have to work at jobs I hated forever and it would have sucked. So I hustled unpaid on top of working a "real job" so I could make it happen. It felt necessary. I dunno. Maybe I'd read the abolition of work one too many times.

Weird thing is, now that I'm doing the writing thing, I'd guess my life looks pretty lazy, like this guy's, from the outside. I spent today exercising, then taking my cat for a walk, then reading a bit, then skyping with a friend. I got a solid 4-5 hours of words down, but writing those words? Way more draining than anything I dicked around with at my desk jobs even though I was there for eight hours a day. And even when not writing, I'm thinking about writing--while exercising, taking my cat for a walk, reading. My conversation with a friend was spent working out a plot problem. I'm very rarely not in the head space of the book, whatever book it is. I think that's a common "problem" with creative jobs, plus jobs you work at at home. I wouldn't want to do anything else, but I'm only rarely purely doing anything else. In light of that, I'm probably paid very poorly. Even if I get to sleep in.

Still, it's a good life. Wouldn't trade it for any other.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 9:35 PM on July 1, 2012 [13 favorites]


Five or six hours a day is enough. For any job.

One of the dirty secrets of software development is that nobody really does more than five or six hours of productive work in a day. The rest is wasted on email, meetings, faffing around on the internet, and looking busy without actually accomplishing anything.

When I used to telecommute, I could just dig in and work, get my work done, and call it a day. I got just as much work done, but not having to keep up appearances gave me several extra hours of personal time every day, on top of the time saved not having to commute.
posted by Mars Saxman at 9:39 PM on July 1, 2012 [28 favorites]


I'LL GET AROUND TO READING THIS TOMORROW MAYBE PEOPLE. JEEZ GOTTA GO.
posted by barrett caulk at 9:40 PM on July 1, 2012


One side effect of working hard is getting good at stuff. And once good at stuff, it becomes painful to contemplate that stuff being done less well by people who care less about it.

I suppose that holds true if you're doing something for a career because you love it and can't imagine spending your time any other way. I'm sure plenty of professionals (doctors, lawyers, et cetera) fit that criteria.

But me... I'm just a basic office drone. My last job was as an admin. I worked hard and was good at what I did, which was updating spreadsheets and cleaning out offices and setting them up for new hires, and ordering office supplies and lunches for meetings and that sort of thing. And now I don't do that anymore, and to be completely frank with you, I don't give a damn if the job is being done well now that I'm gone or if the person who replaced me sucks mightily. I really, really don't. Maybe I would care more if the work I'd been doing actually MEANT something, but... it didn't.
posted by palomar at 9:42 PM on July 1, 2012 [4 favorites]


When I am on my deathbed and I reflect on my life, I will contemplate all the idle time, the time spent sitting on the couch eating Pop-Tarts and playing Skyrim, the time spent hanging out in bars swilling beer until the wee hours, the time frittered away on MetaFilter and Trailer Park Boys marathons. I will remember taking a whole week off work to drop acid in the woods. I will recall calling in sick just because I wanted to play with the new kitten all day. I will think back on a life of idleness, unproductivity, and outright indolence.

And I will smile and whisper, "I. FUCKING. WON."
posted by BitterOldPunk at 10:07 PM on July 1, 2012 [100 favorites]


The writing style and how the article is set up irks me to no end; however, there is some part of this article that really rings true to me, a new college graduate scared shitless about life to come.

Many of my classmates are headed off to the world of "high" finance and consulting, where working 80+ hours a week is considered the norm. Having secured these jobs relatively early in our senior year of college, as the year wore on, they would every so often ask what I wanted to do after I graduated. For the first half of the year, I was set on applying and hopefully attending the Army's OCS (an idea that was absolutely ridiculed to death by 90% of people I knew), but that fell apart after I kept triggering old injuries. For the rest of the time, no one really understood why I didn't give a shit about the few on site interviews I managed to land at companies that recruited heavily from my school, most likely for the reason that the student body tends to be very hard working/intellectual AND rather clueless about life outside of school and/or work. I decided I didn't want to work for a lot of these companies because when I asked the interviewers, "What are your frustrations about this company?" most of them answered with, "It allows me to be a workaholic. They really don't discourage it and sometimes feel like it's encouraged." Then a few would go on to talk about how sometimes they spent the night at the office doing work.

The most frustrating thing about the entire job search was that people I knew blamed ME for not wanting to even consider working for companies like that. I listened to endless rants from well meaning friends about how the economy sucked, how I was lucky to even get that far in the interview process, how I was an idiot for deciding I didn't want to work for the company after an hour into the on site visit, how I was so naive to believe that the perfect position would fall into my lap etc etc. No one understood me when I said, "I want to hike the entire length of the Appalachian Trail!", or "I'd love to just be a wild fire fire fighter for a while.", or "I'd like to go work on a farm for a little bit." These statements were always followed up with, "Why the hell would you want to do that?? Don't you want to have a real career? All that seems like such a waste of a college degree." For such an intelligent group of people I knew, they failed to grasp that a career doesn't necessarily need to define who you are as a person and that you don't need to be known to everyone you know as an "investment banker", a "management consultant", a "doctor", a "lawyer", or any other job title.

From what I've experienced as a new graduate looking for positions, it is too much to ask for a work/life balance because we should just be happy that we landed a job in the first place. Just like how there were always millions of starving children in Africa when we were little and not willing to finish that plate of peas, there were hundreds of thousands of other people out there who are jobless when we turn down opportunities that seemed incredibly soul draining. That in itself is absolutely soul crushing: listening to people I looked up to at one point in my life telling me to just accept my lot in society and keep grinding away. I understand that there is a certain about of time that I am expected to put into a new career, but at the degree of 80 or so hours a week? No thank you. My job will not be my life. My job will fund my life.

I'm not sure if I achieved what I wanted to by taking a job far away in Hong Kong, where I'm still not sure what responsibilities and time commitments will be required from me. One thing I can be sure of is that for the 14 days of vacation I get, I will damn well be spending it in places I've always dreamed of going as a kid and then unapologetically posting everything to Facebook.
posted by astapasta24 at 10:28 PM on July 1, 2012 [23 favorites]


Although other writings suggest he is capable of more nuanced perspectives, in this case I have to say it would be great for people who have no children to keep their meaningless opinions on how busy it is necessary for people with children to be to themselves.
posted by nanojath at 10:53 PM on July 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


Okay... and as a person who has had to stick around at work and cover for all the parents who take time off to run Kaitlin and Caitlin and Khaytlynn to soccer practice and softball practice and jiujitsu practice and basketball practice and dance lessons and art lessons and acting lessons and horseback riding lessons to maybe stop scheduling every waking second of their childrens' lives and instead maybe spend some time with their children that doesn't involve shuttling them from one activity to another while simultaneously jamming convenience food into their mouths.

Just a friendly suggestion from someone who may not have children, but was once a child, and who enjoyed the hell out of not having every second of every day planned to the tenth of a second.
posted by palomar at 11:42 PM on July 1, 2012 [10 favorites]


Aw, dangit. Please insert "I'd like to suggest that you" before "maybe stop scheduling". In my idleness I neglected some words, tra la la fiddle-dee-dee.
posted by palomar at 11:46 PM on July 1, 2012


I used to want to be a counselor, and help kids and adults understand their lives better and feel better.

Now I know myself better. And what I really want is to just take care of my family. And if I have to work, I want to work a 40-hour office lemming job, like the guys in Office Space. Same thing, day in and day out. No one really knows if I'm there or not. And when I go home, no stress. Not thinking about anything that happened. Not the person to call if there's a fire. Just a cog in a machine.

They say, to find a career, do what you love. I don't love anything that's a job. I'd rather have a job that leaves me alone in my free time to do what I love then instead.
posted by Night_owl at 1:09 AM on July 2, 2012 [7 favorites]


for the 14 days of vacation I get, I will damn well be spending it in places I've always dreamed of going as a kid and then unapologetically posting everything to Facebook.

As one fully in favour of savouring every blessed scrap of idleness that comes my way, I put it to you that every minute spent on Facebook flipping the bird to the Wrong is time not spent in glorious idleness. Leave them to their delusional joyless grind, and when you're all very old, have them over to sit on the porch and sip home brew and watch the sun go down.
posted by flabdablet at 1:10 AM on July 2, 2012 [4 favorites]


It can be frustrating to recognize we're beholden to our employers, but that isn't reason to sneer at people who have figured out ways to secure more personal time while still achieving the income they need to live

People tend to do that because this trick is like following a succesfull diet: a few people manage without great problems, some more people through self discipline and pure luck manage too, the vast majority of people fail. And because we all pretend that this success or failure is solely due to individual effort, it's held up as a moral failing if you aren't successful.

So people get annoyed. Because they know the author is rubbing their noses in his success, scolding them for their failure.
posted by MartinWisse at 1:19 AM on July 2, 2012 [3 favorites]


Moving to the South of France is only an option for portentous New York Time writers and their friends.

Hi. *waves* Maybe you haven't noticed me before. I'm the MeFite from the middle of nowhere just outside of Springfield, Oregon, I've never set foot in the US Northeast, and I live on the French Riviera. I wouldn't go so far as to say that anyone could move to the south of France: you need to speak at least some French, and either have a job in the country before coming, or be able to support yourself and prove that you can. But if you're set on it, you research what that means, you accept the responsibilities and consequences (such as being further away from family, going through more bureaucracy, for instance) and you work consistently towards that goal, well heck, if I was able to do it with nary a penny to my name but a lot of hard work (my BA is in French, I built a successful freelance translation business that nabbed me a permanent position with one of my best clients, in IT), then there is definitely no requirement to come from inordinate privilege to do the same.

One of the saddest things is seeing how the super-long workweek in the US keeps increasing in spite of so much proof that it's not worth it in productivity. From that article:
It’s a heresy now (good luck convincing your boss of what I’m about to say), but every hour you work over 40 hours a week is making you less effective and productive over both the short and the long haul. And it may sound weird, but it’s true: the single easiest, fastest thing your company can do to boost its output and profits — starting right now, today — is to get everybody off the 55-hour-a-week treadmill, and back onto a 40-hour footing.
posted by fraula at 1:55 AM on July 2, 2012 [17 favorites]


because we all pretend that this success or failure is solely due to individual effort, it's held up as a moral failing if you aren't successful.

We really need to quit doing this.

I want to emphasize Miko’s point about the importance of examining the structural elements of the work culture and the status quo, rather than mis-directing ire toward individuals who’ve managed to carve out some space for idleness in their lives. As a culture, we should be asking ourselves questions like “Who ultimately benefits from all this busy-ness?” and "Why have we been taught to believe that idleness equals moral turpitude?"

People need spaces where they’re not instantly made to feel shameful or shouted down – whether it’s by others, or by the voices in their own heads – or derided as lazy ungrateful entitled bums who should be slavishly grateful to have any job at all.

We are deeply conditioned to view any problems with employment as an indication of some kind of deficiency in the individual, rather than in the socio-political and economic conditions of our culture. This serves the status quo very well, of course…because, as a sage once quipped (and as I quote from Steve Solomon's Soil and Health Library), “If they can stop you from asking the right questions, you’ll never come up with the right answers.”
posted by velvet winter at 2:04 AM on July 2, 2012 [14 favorites]


I wouldn't want to do anything else, but I'm only rarely purely doing anything else. In light of that, I'm probably paid very poorly ... Still, it's a good life. Wouldn't trade it for any other.

To me, that is the test for work/life balance, and it's a test everybody would benefit from doing regularly. And if what you're doing makes no sense as part of a plan to get you to that point, it would be worth your while figuring out exactly and specifically why not, and then doing whatever you can to fix that.

I have been lucky enough to have had the opportunity to spend almost my entire professional life being paid to play with toys I'd probably be playing with anyway. And it is largely luck. I certainly had no control over having been born to amazing parents in a prosperous country at the right time to be 17 years old when the Apple II+ came out.

On the other hand, I'm now extremely fat and need to spend an inordinate amount of time and effort trying not to be. So I have a lot of sympathy for folks who really are doing it tough job-wise, and see no way out of doing it tough. Being told that they should just maybe choose not to do it so tough? That's annoying.
posted by flabdablet at 2:09 AM on July 2, 2012


We are deeply conditioned to view any problems with employment as an indication of some kind of deficiency in the individual, rather than in the socio-political and economic conditions of our culture

Indeed. Being gainfully employed is pretty much a precondition for respectability, and arguments for a more redistributive approach are far more often simply howled down than answered rationally point by point.
posted by flabdablet at 2:14 AM on July 2, 2012 [5 favorites]


Paul Lafargue, 1883: The right to be lazy
posted by monocultured at 2:17 AM on July 2, 2012 [3 favorites]


Another south of France mefite here - although for nowhere as long as Fraula. For anybody who is interested in a country where relatively abundant leisure time is considered the norm France is an interesting test case. Both foreigners and more northern dwelling French seem to praise the unhurried pace of life here - but they also complain about shops which are closed for Sundays, workers who are government subsidised to go on long holidays and other consequences of other people's right to be idle.

While many foreigners dream of down-shifting to a life in France there is an equally strong tendency of many younger French to dream of life in a less hierarchical and rigid country - the UK or the USA perhaps - where they can be prized for their creativity or have a start-up where everybody works 80 hour weeks to succeed.

So both of these dreams have their flaws in reality. Personally I think those who are happiest in their working lives are people who have periods of frenetically hard work followed by quite long periods of relaxation: like lions or greyhounds rather than like bees or sloths.

This article on working hours and productivity in Europe makes interesting related reading. The country putting in the longest hours at work is....wait for it... Greece! But pay attention to the fact that none of the countries featured on the "works most hours" list also feature on the "most productive" column. France (and Germany) seem to do well by way of compromise.
posted by rongorongo at 2:38 AM on July 2, 2012 [3 favorites]


dw: Mr. Kreider loves in a lovely world. I'd love to live there too, but I have a mortgage to pay.

Do people who respond like this to Kreider's essay (there are plenty in the comments on the original piece, too) truly not see that they are demonstrating the very problem he's writing about? If you think you can only survive by working hours that you consider insane, one of two things is true by definition: a) you're deluding yourself about what "surviving" really entails, and you need to take some tough choices to rebalance your life, or b) you're not deluding yourself, and your situation therefore provides more evidence of how urgently we need to rebalance society and the economy to allow you to take such choices. The latter may be depressingly unlikely to happen any time soon but that's not Kreider's fault.
posted by oliverburkeman at 5:00 AM on July 2, 2012 [15 favorites]


Hi south of France mefites, isn't there a bike race you are obliged to be watching?
I don't know if it is necessary to move to France to achieve this end. 9 years ago I moved from contract work to full time but with two days a week working from home. It was a 1/3rd pay cut, but allowed me to move outside the city. The lower housing costs and some careful budgeting let my wife mainly be a stay at home mom. My kids walk to school after they feed the chickens. 4 days a week I get to make scrambled eggs or porridge and sit with them over breakfast. Today is the first day of school holidays so I have had a bunch of interruptions from young people all day while I worked.
The trade off has been fewer trips to the theatre, less eating out and, regrettably, seeing less of some friends we used to spend a lot of time with. And probably some soul searching as I compared myself to executives who stayed on the 'hustle' track and are earning more and have more prestigious job titles than me, and similar feelings for my wife from ex-colleagues who don't really value the role of a stay at home parent.
So I guess what I would suggest is consider what is important to you. Like flabdablet said, if you just wish for a better work/life balance you will keep on wishing (hmm...also the case with my waistline). But if you do make it a priority it is very achievable.
And the chorus of parents saying parenting is just busy. Well, I suppose I get a lot fewer sleep-ins since I became a parent. But I have plenty of kids and a pretty relaxed life most days. Maybe it is the high mortgage/have to work more for more money/need the kids to get into the best schools regime that is making things busy rather than just being a parent.
posted by bystander at 5:03 AM on July 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


Do people who respond like this to Kreider's essay (there are plenty in the comments on the original piece, too) truly not see that they are demonstrating the very problem he's writing about?

I think you're forgetting a third point: Kreider is able to live in this way not only because he's made choices that let him pare down his lifestyle, but also because he has the talent to work just enough to support that lifestyle. There are probably a lot of people who'd be glad to pare down their life to the point that writing, or theater, or whatever their life's passion, would be able to support their living - if they ever got to the point that it would.

I would be perfectly happy to cut back my own expenses to the point that theater would pay for them, if your average stage management gig paid more than unemployment insurance does. I've done the math. No matter how much I cut my living expenses to the bone, a career solely in stage management would not support me. Part of that is just the nature of the business - but part of that is also because I'm simply not good enough. If theater paid any more, if Actors' Equity had better pay rates for stage managers, things would be a lot different. But it doesn't.

So the only choice we have is to find another thing to support us and maybe do some of that bit of our passion on the side, maybe, when there's time between the demands that that job requires us.

So how dare you tell us that our not being willing to make sacrifices is why we're so busy.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:22 AM on July 2, 2012 [3 favorites]


All I can say is, the last honest 40-hour-a-week job I had, I could easily do my actual work in 3 or 4 hours a day. Of course, I had to look busy the rest of the time. This doesn't seem to be that uncommon.

Now, as a freelancer, with all the constant where's-my-next-paycheck-coming-from, do-we-still-have-health-insurance anxiety that goes with it, I try to take the Travis McGee approach: taking retirement* in bits and pieces now, instead of saving it all up for the end. (Or at least I did until we became parents.)

I guess the point being - and one the author should have acknowledged more- working for yourself is a special case. If you choose to, and can afford to, you can actually do something enjoyable and relaxing in those less-than-40 hours besides pretend to be busy.

*sometimes indistinguishable from "having no work"
posted by gottabefunky at 5:24 AM on July 2, 2012 [3 favorites]


Or, what EmpressCallipygos said.
posted by gottabefunky at 5:26 AM on July 2, 2012


So how dare you tell us that our not being willing to make sacrifices is why we're so busy.

Well, there is something you're not willing to sacrifice, and that's non-remunerative work.

Another person in your shoes might read the tea leaves and say "OK, I'll never be able to survive on this without a second job. Therefore, maybe I'll change careers to something that entails fewer hours worked and/or better money, and scratch this itch for theatre by doing it as a side/volunteer gig in a more affordable part of the country."

It might not be the choice you want to make, personally, but it's not a choice you can't make. People do things like that.
posted by Miko at 5:43 AM on July 2, 2012 [3 favorites]


One side effect of working hard is getting good at stuff. And once good at stuff, it becomes painful to contemplate that stuff being done less well by people who care less about it. So there's a tendency to just keep on doing it long after the point where it's still enjoyable in its own right, just because if I don't do this then I'm going to have to live with the knowledge that somebody else is screwing it up.

I'm susceptible to this, but the older I get the more I see it as the relentless pushing of my ego. Sure it's frustrating to see somebody do something differently and perhaps less well than we'd do it. But why does it matter? Once you step out of the grind, it's not actually that hard to watch someone else screw something up and have the opportunity to grow and learn. You can't control all the events, and one day you'll be dead and have to leave it to other people anyway, and they could royally fuck it up. That's life. Sure you could do it better, but you really don't have to, and chances are it's not that important that it be done to that level of excellence anyway. You're not required to save the world.
posted by Miko at 5:47 AM on July 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


Well, there is something you're not willing to sacrifice, and that's non-remunerative work.

Another person in your shoes might read the tea leaves and say "OK, I'll never be able to survive on this without a second job. Therefore, maybe I'll change careers to something that entails fewer hours worked and/or better money, and scratch this itch for theatre by doing it as a side/volunteer gig in a more affordable part of the country."


Please read my comment again, which states that this is exactly what I am doing. The point is that making that choice leaves us with less idle time, not more, which is what oliverburkeman was lecturing us about.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:05 AM on July 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


Well, it wasn't clear exactly what the employment arrangement was. But I've been focusing more on the "work less" aspect than the "be idle" aspect. As long as you work less, you can be idle if you want, if that's what feeds your creativity; but if being idle isn't what does that, if maybe volunteer projects are what do that, working less allows you to do that more. That's more my situation. I like my 'dreamtime' but I also fill my free time with projects (maybe too much, because I don't prioritize the downtime which really is healthy; I agree that [seemingly] idle time is very good for the brain and the imagination and the emotions and it's good for people to have it, in general).

But what I want to speak up for is that people often confuse the compromises they've chosen to make with their time with having no choices. Usually, apart from dire and extremely complicated situations, we actually have a lot of choices, and are taking the set of circumstances that pleases us most from what is available. If you don't want idle time, then I think that it's great to fill your non-working time with activities. The article isn't really critiquing that as an active choice as much as it's critiquing the hypocritical way in which most people plead they're "too busy" to engage in things other than work and errands, when in fact it's often very much within their control to determine how busy they are.
posted by Miko at 6:24 AM on July 2, 2012 [4 favorites]


Buy less stuff.
Buy used stuff.
Don't watch TV with commercials.

These things alone are like a 40% life rebate.
posted by srboisvert at 6:30 AM on July 2, 2012 [9 favorites]


I was with him, sort of, until "More and more people in this country no longer make or do anything tangible; if your job wasn’t performed by a cat or a boa constrictor in a Richard Scarry book I’m not sure I believe it’s necessary."

For a moment I felt panic. Wasn't there a pig at a desk in a suit with a flume of papers over his head in What Do People Do All Day? I pulled out my copy from my shirt - it is only the abridged version, but, no pig. No pig at a desk. There WAS however, a cat bank teller (so I guess the bankers are safe) and a cat housewife whose cat husband the blacksmith brought her a new dress because she kept the house so clean! I think one of the cat flour mill workers had a bow on her head, meaning female cat, but the rest of the cat females were housewives and/or giving birth to litters at the hospital.

I still kind of love Richard Scarry but seriously man, what an anachronistic reference.
posted by newg at 6:51 AM on July 2, 2012


The cat or boa constrictor doesn't have to match your gender to demonstrate a form of work.
posted by Miko at 6:53 AM on July 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


So how dare you tell us that our not being willing to make sacrifices is why we're so busy.

I think you must have missed the part of my comment where I said that lots of people don't have the choice to give up working hours that they consider insane, and that I interpret Kreider's essay as calling for changes that would enable more people to make those choices...?

Anyone can choose to work less than they do, in principle. For a certain large subsection of the population, though, making that choice would mean a degree of suffering in other ways that nobody would consider acceptable. Reducing the number of people to whom that applies is a good thing. And reducing the number of people who think that it applies to them when it doesn't is also a good thing. I saw Kreider as doing both. No lecturing!
posted by oliverburkeman at 6:59 AM on July 2, 2012 [5 favorites]


Oliverburkeman: there is an olive branch in your memail.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:14 AM on July 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


And I will smile and whisper, "I. FUCKING. WON."

I wish I could favorite this twice.
posted by RolandOfEld at 7:24 AM on July 2, 2012


Whenever I come across these threads I am reminded of Hawai'i at the time of the plantation era. The new overlords were dismayed that the native Hawaiians would not be good serfs. They needed industrious, obedient people to make their sugar (wealth) grow - people who would gratefully slave in the hot sun from morn til night. They ended up importing boatloads of desperately poor Asians.

The native Hawaiians may have lived a life of 'leisure' by our standards today, but leisure was probably not an intentional goal. They lived a life that was based on survival with limited resources. Their culture flourished because of values -- such as non-ownership of land/resources and, especially, of deep cultural-spiritual beliefs about aina (preserving and maintaining land/life essence) and ohana (the interdependence of community/family). Living on an island in the middle of the Pacific for thousands of years can have that effect on people.

Or not. (When one considers this planet is just another island ...)
posted by Surfurrus at 8:01 AM on July 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


Some people don't want to just survive. Some people like working hard. Some people like having nice/expensive things. I want a new camera. I'm not going to get it by having a late breakfast. That's a choice I make for myself. Why do people have such a hard time when other people make different life decisions than they do?

I just went on a nice vacation with friends. You know what the best part of it was? Knowing that I could completely disconnect from real life and just laze about, drink before noon if I wanted, stay up until sunrise if I wanted. I could do all that stuff and know that A- I had the money to pay my fair share and wasn't freeloading from my friends, and B- that my job was waiting for me when I got back because I had worked the previous 49 weeks to earn that privilege.

And I have a sneaky, unprovable suspicion that the kind of society we have that allows him to have his life of ease would not be possible if there weren't other people working 8+ hours a day.
posted by gjc at 8:16 AM on July 2, 2012 [4 favorites]


So much resentment in this thread. It's possible to live a life like that no matter how much money you make, especially if you're single. You just have to not give a fuck about status. Don't go to college on loans. Buy everything with cash. Don't buy a house. Buy a used car cheap. Cook your own food. Get an apartment near your job.

I've been living like that for a couple of years, working a tech job that I was underpaid for, but that I found easy and interesting, and saved enough money so that I could fuck off down to Guatemala for a few months. I'm currently reading metafilter while sitting on a hammock by a volcanic lake in the highlands at a hostel I'm paying $3 a night for. I have absolutely nothing to do but read, write, learn Spanish and work on music until the few thousand dollars I saved up for this runs out. Then I'm going to find another tech job back in the us and hopefully repeat the cycle again.

You could do the same thing waiting tables or working at a grocery store or anything else.

Everyone in the us thinks they need so much stuff that they don't actually need.
posted by empath at 8:38 AM on July 2, 2012 [6 favorites]


Also, I think a big part of the reason that people work so hard at jobs they hate is the bullshit health insurance system on the us that basically makes people indentured servants. If we had a genuine social safety net in the us, a lot more people would tell their bosses to fuck off and demand less hours and so on.
posted by empath at 8:41 AM on July 2, 2012 [11 favorites]


Empath: if you do ever have some kind of injury, I'll check in on you and see how much is in your "vacation savings" after that.

Saying "you could just save your money while working bullshit jobs and then quit and fuck off down to Guatemala for a vacation" is easy to say, but if you've had a life setback, not so easy to DO, and telling the people who HAVE been thus unfortunate is kind of adding insult to injury.

I mean, my vacation savings was doing great until 9/11 and that subsequent year and a half of unemployment happened....
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:07 AM on July 2, 2012 [3 favorites]


See my follow on comment about the us's bullshit health system.
posted by empath at 9:12 AM on July 2, 2012


Yeah, but acknowleding that the US health system is bullshit doesn't make up for the fact that you've written off people who were screwed over by it.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:18 AM on July 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


I could fuck off down to Guatemala for a few months. I'm currently reading metafilter while sitting on a hammock by a volcanic lake in the highlands at a hostel I'm paying $3 a night for.

Profiting from the exploitation of labour as much as any capitalist. Nice for you, but the Guatamalans that serve you don't have your choice.
posted by MartinWisse at 9:19 AM on July 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


The major problem with idleness is that if your friends find out they'll ask you to help them move.

I like helping people move, and I generally can be bought for a lunch or a beer.

I also love idleness. I was unemployed for a year and a half and enjoyed every dole check fully.

My thing is just that I find it profoundly uninteresting to hear someone talk about how busy they are.

People who talk about how busy they are are not actually very busy at all, or else why would they be talking to you so much? They are usually covering for something else.

Don't ...

empath, I think you're being surprisingly unempathetic here. I'm sure you can imagine some life situations for which your advice seems laughable.

One other very necessary proscription that you curiously do not mention--"don't have children." I assume you expect my kids to be wiping your ass when you are 90 and incoherent? ;)

Or more simply, your advice for living is fine ... if you want human civilization to end in a generation or two. Raising the next generation of humans takes time and resources ... you're giving your share in taxes, but you have shifted most of that burden (among other things) to unknown others.

Everyone in the us thinks they need so much stuff that they don't actually need.

Prima facie, sure. No argument that we are about to experience a global hangover from our binging consumer culture.

But on the other hand, 20 million Americans are spending 50% of their income on housing now.

What America buys
posted by mrgrimm at 9:51 AM on July 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


You could do the same thing waiting tables or working at a grocery store or anything else.

Pay your bills AND save up enough to completely take off work for a few years? A tech job is one thing, but something as unskilled, tiring and low-paying as waiting tables or grocery store cashier? Color me skeptical.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 9:58 AM on July 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


Nice for you, but the Guatamalans that serve you don't have your choice.

The guy that runs the hostel I'm staying at was spending all day doing what we were doing, chilling by the lake drinking beers, etc. looked like he was doing about two hours of work a day, tbh, and enjoying it. It's paradise down here. He definitely seemed happier than the Guatemalans I see working at McDonald's in northern Virginia.

I think maybe the farmers up in the mountain side don't have it so easy, but if you're buying fresh fruit from central America, you're exploiting them as much as I am.
posted by empath at 10:32 AM on July 2, 2012


I hate to say it, empath, but you're kind of sounding like a guy who was born on third base and thinks he hit a triple.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:33 AM on July 2, 2012


I own basically nothing, I'm currently unemployed and I have a few thousand saved up. I'm not exactly rolling in dough. My whole point is that if you buy less stuff you can live the life he is talking about. Assuming you don't have kids/health problems etc, obviously. For those of you who have kids, life has its own rewards, and not working very much is obviously not going to be one of them.
posted by empath at 10:40 AM on July 2, 2012


My whole point is that if you buy less stuff you can live the life he is talking about. Assuming you don't have kids/health problems etc, obviously.

....I think you're getting the reaction you're getting is because it wasn't clear that that "assuming you don't have kids/health problems" point was "obvious" to you; or, that maybe you're not quite clear just how many people fit that particular category (I personally would fall into "etc.").
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:46 AM on July 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


Maybe it is the high mortgage/have to work more for more money/need the kids to get into the best schools regime that is making things busy rather than just being a parent.

No, it's the wake up at 5:30am to go to work to get off by 4:30pm to pick up the kids at daycare, go home and make dinner while the tired and hungry little one screeches like banshee (then gets eerily quiet when she finds some unseen scrap of food on the floor, pops it in her mouth, and sprint crawls under the kitchen table, leaving me to follow on hands and knees and try to pry whatever in hell it might be out of her mouth), then get two young kids to eat all their food and have a bath, and brush teeth, and get dressed for bed, and put to sleep, and clean the kitchen, and make lunch for tomorrow, and try to (usually unsuccessfully) seduce my wife, and then read or write a few chapters before I pass out that is "making things busy."

We rent and use private daycare but will send out kids to public school. ... I don't buy much of anything at all except occasional books and music.

But what I want to speak up for is that people often confuse the compromises they've chosen to make with their time with having no choices.

But it's also not like choices are made in a fucking vaccuum. I have parents, siblings, children friends, etc. who depend on me, no matter what I do (or how often I wish they didn't).

Yes, of course, we have plenty of choices. But making those choices align with your wife's choices, and your parents' choices, and your in-laws' choices, and your local government's choices for educational options, etc etc.

I don't like Christmas, yet I'm gonna spend $xxx every two years to fly to my parents' home for it. Could I choose not to? Of course, but that might affect my life pretty dramatically in many ways. Plus, both the kids of course want to go. (Who wouldn't?)

No one is an island, but people who can relocate to a foreign country are perhaps a bit more islandish than others. Doing it yourself, sure, not too hard. Doing it with 2-4 other people (esp. with juveniles) gets exponentially harder, especially if you have expectations set upon you, which is fairly universal.
posted by mrgrimm at 11:01 AM on July 2, 2012 [3 favorites]


Pay your bills AND save up enough to completely take off work for a few years? A tech job is one thing, but something as unskilled, tiring and low-paying as waiting tables or grocery store cashier? Color me skeptical.

Waiting tables pays really pretty well, especially in a fine dining place that serves drinks. I was making more hourly doing that 10 years ago than I do in my FT arts admin job. But I get better benefits and hours in the profession than I would as a waitress. And it's no way to grow old. But in your 20s or 30s and healthy and with no debt, you absolutely could save a lot and travel by working in restaurants. Bartending, even better.

No, it's the wake up at 5:30am to go to work...and then read or write a few chapters before I pass out that is "making things busy."

I don't think typical routine family life time at home is what this guy is referring to as "busy."
posted by Miko at 12:13 PM on July 2, 2012


I don't think typical routine family life time at home is what this guy is referring to as "busy."

Exactly. And that's why it fails.
posted by mrgrimm at 12:14 PM on July 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


Exactly. And that's why it fails.

Eh, I disagree. A lot of young families I know don't spend every day like what you described, doing routine weekday maintenance. They sign up for lessons and activities, do drop-offs and pickups for those, attend a lot of friend events and family events and public events, and in general try to pack their days wildly. Maybe you don't, because you basically are talking about being at work, dropping by daycare, and being at home, but a lot of people embusy their lives much more than you, and they don't have to. I'm sure even you can identify some choices you could make to make those days less busier, but being less busy may not be important enough to you to make those changes. Your day sounds intensive and your children sound young, but that won't be forever. And in fact because I hardly ever get home in the evening due to my somewhat pathological need to be "busy," there are ways in which it sounds pretty nice to be home with family making dinner and running bedtime and reading instead of at another committee meeting or volunteer work session or planning session or public event that I'm running or attending just to show support for people who will eventually come to my event or drafting proposal documents or having a conference call.

There's busy and there's busy, and I think the author is trying to draw a distinction between "I'm tending to the real needs of myself and my family in ways I find valuable and rewarding uses of my time," or good-busy, and "I'm running in circles trying to maintain my sense of personal status and claw my way into better compensation at my profession while I distract myself from the basic unpleasantness of the conditions of my life."
posted by Miko at 12:24 PM on July 2, 2012 [4 favorites]


Tim Kreider is single, so there's no family for him to be tending to.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:28 PM on July 2, 2012


Says who? Because you're single, you don't have a family? That's crazy talk.
posted by Miko at 12:37 PM on July 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


No less crazy than assuming that everyone has total control over choosing how much time and effort they need to expend to meet the needs of themselves and their family.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:42 PM on July 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


No, it's pretty crazy; or at least, somewhat offensive. The fact that a person may not have children in their own household in no way indicates they have no family. People like that have parental relationships and often parental care, sibling relationships, aunt and uncle relationships, cousins, and close friends and children of close friends and godchildren and mentorees, they may have partners, and they may have pets, all of which amount to 'family responsibilities'. Equating having children with having "a family" is kind of a big mistake, and using children as a barometer of how busy a person is is going to produce abundant errors.

No one is assuming that everyone has "total control" over their schedule. Still, no one on this earth has more control over your schedule than you do.

Though I think the author is making some excellent points, and clearly touching quite a sensitive nerve, I do think it's a pity that he is in a position to be attacked for naivete or privilege because of his own apparent life circumstances (which we actually know little about, unless someone here knows him. I've spent some time reading interviews with him and can't glean much about his relationships and the obligations that may come with them). His ideas, though, are not ridiculous to suggest to people with children.

It may be that they don't seem shocking or ludicrous to me, simply because I've already spent years reading and participating in the Slow movement, including slow parenting, slower family life, and voluntary simplicity. It's not ridiculous to suggest that anyone can benefit from changing the pace of life and reducing unnecessary busy-ness - even, and perhaps most of all, people with young children. Time Krieder may not be the poster boy you identify with, but if he's not, it's certain you can find people in many different kinds of family situations, even ones that mirror yours, who have decided to make some changes.

It's entirely possible to say "this stuff wouldn't be easy for me right now even if I really wanted to do it and here's why" and quite another to say "it's not possible." For most of us, certainly most of us in the demographic that reads and writes here, it's definitely possible to ramp down our overcommitments in life, if we want to and are willing to make the sacrifices it entails.
posted by Miko at 12:57 PM on July 2, 2012 [6 favorites]


Miko, we're just going to have to agree to disagree here.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:00 PM on July 2, 2012


My whole point is that if you buy less stuff you can live the life he is talking about.

What stuff? I have to work the mandated hours because I need a well paying, secure job to cover the rent, pay my bills, service my debt, feed into my pension (no one's going to pay for you when you're old!), contribute to my 'it wouldn't be nice to be homeless if you get made redundant' savings fund and maybe allow me some over for food and a night out a few times a month. Stuff would be nice.
posted by Summer at 1:02 PM on July 2, 2012 [3 favorites]


My old colleague Ted Rall recently wrote a column proposing that we divorce income from work and give each citizen a guaranteed paycheck, which sounds like the kind of lunatic notion that’ll be considered a basic human right in about a century, like abolition, universal suffrage and eight-hour workdays.

It's funny, I suggested this in a conversation with a guy who was superficially several political spectrums to the left of me, and he was horrified by the idea. I really think that this is the way it should work, as soon as possible.
posted by jacalata at 1:12 PM on July 2, 2012 [4 favorites]


Miko, we're just going to have to agree to disagree here.

Disagree about what?

You don't agree that you don't have to have children to have family obligations?

Or you don't agree that some people who have children have figured out how to be less busy than other people who have children?
posted by Miko at 1:29 PM on July 2, 2012


I don't agree that it is fair to assume that the people who are pointing out flaws in this article just need to practice "voluntary simplicity". You admit you don't know Tim Kreider: you also don't know the circumstances of the people with complaints about this article. You don't know that "most of us reading this site" really can "definitely ramp down ourovercommitments in life" and that our claiming to not be able to is due to not being "willing to make the sacrifices it entails."

Summer, just a little further up, has a good example.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:44 PM on July 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


I suggested this in a conversation with a guy who was superficially several political spectrums to the left of me, and he was horrified by the idea.

Yeah, I agree with you, but I am a communist. It will take the collapse of the protestant work ethic (and perhaps Protestantism as well) for something like guaranteed welfare. I'm not seeing it happen before we destroy the world.

I have to work the mandated hours

That's really the big rub. I am a very privileged and lucky person with strong support, and I have had some hard times in my life trying to find work. Some people just aren't good at it.

It's entirely possible to say "this stuff wouldn't be easy for me right now even if I really wanted to do it and here's why" and quite another to say "it's not possible."

Oh, it's not "impossible," it's just hard and very unlikely without financial independence, which usually comes from inherited wealth.
posted by mrgrimm at 1:52 PM on July 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


maybe allow me some over for food and a night out a few times a month

"Food"? "Night out"? Bah. Voluntary simplicity and a little industriousness will cure those ills.

Kill two birds with one stone: Did you know that if you walk around your neighbor's yards at 3am you can often find lots of fruits and other food for free? Food + night out AT NO COST!
posted by mrgrimm at 1:54 PM on July 2, 2012


I don't agree that it is fair to assume that the people who are pointing out flaws in this article just need to practice "voluntary simplicity".

I see. That's not what I said. I said that it's not fair to critique Tim Krieder's ideas on the basis that Tim Krieder seems not to have children, since there are many other people who embrace Tim Krieder's ideas who do, in fact, have children. As well as people who do not have children, but who have other obligations. So one needs some other basis on which to critique his ideas.

You don't know that "most of us reading this site" really can "definitely ramp down our overcommitments in life" and that our claiming to not be able to is due to not being "willing to make the sacrifices it entails."

Basing this statement on the many MeFites I have met in person, and having heard about the life circumstances of many more through this site, I am actually pretty confident that I can indeed say that it is probably true for a great many people, probably the majority of people, who maintain a presence on this site. Not everyone, for sure, but I suspect that all of us could identify a way to find more time, if that were our highest priority. It reasonably might not be your highest priority right now, but it is most likely possible.

None of us will be very busy at all when we're dead. Then we'll really be victims of circumstance.
posted by Miko at 2:14 PM on July 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


Basing this statement on the many MeFites I have met in person, and having heard about the life circumstances of many more through this site, I am actually pretty confident that I can indeed say that it is probably true for a great many people, probably the majority of people, who maintain a presence on this site. Not everyone, for sure, but I suspect that all of us could identify a way to find more time, if that were our highest priority. It reasonably might not be your highest priority right now, but it is most likely possible.

As I said, we're going to have to agree to disagree.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 3:45 PM on July 2, 2012


Summer, just a little further up, has a good example.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:44 AM on July 3 [+] [!]


Exactly. Summer (not to call you out, but I think your list of priorities is similar to a lot of mainstream people) has a list of things she considers essential, but are really just choices like the choice to slow down and take it easy.
In fact, I see from her profile she is in the UK, so she has few health care concerns, as the NHS will look after essential health issues (sure, she could choose to top up cover with private, if she chooses not to slow down).
She saves for her pension, which is a great choice, but many (the bulk?) of british retirees depend on the old age pension, so it is quite conceivable that those savings are another choice she is making rather than slowing down.
She chooses a high paying IT job, which I can agree probably has minimum hours, but that is a choice she is making in preference to, say, contracting for three months then living in Guatemala like empath.
She pays rent. I'll assume on a place on her own or with her partner/family. Perhaps her rent would be cheaper if she chose a slower path that found her employed in a regional location instead of London or if she chose to live in alternative not as nice lodgings.
She saves against the threat of redundancy, which is admirable, but again the state has a welfare programme if she ends up seriously destitute, and if she chose alternative work arrangements and a slower lifestyle she might find she has lower overheads with less need for savings, and more options for alternative work if she is not only targeting highly paid gigs.
She has to service debt. Well, she doesn't say what it was for, but it must either be for stuff (credit card, car etc.) or perhaps education. If it is for stuff, a change to a slower pace cuts down on new stuff, and a plan to slow down, with attendant reduced spending, allows more current income to pay off debt.
And going out and food can be trimmed back to be very low cost exercises, if you choose it.
Again, not to target Summer, but if she made a simpler life a priority nothing she wrote suggests she couldn't have it. If her priority is a lifestyle she enjoys and to maximise her security beyond the basics, that is fine and admirable, but it isn't accurate to suggest it is because she cannot choose it, just that she doesn't want to.
posted by bystander at 1:00 AM on July 3, 2012


And I'll follow up with the observation that others don't get this scot free.
In my case, I moved 60miles from work and family, and have slower career progression, lower income and some other minor quibbles.
empath is clearly giving up seeing his mum for sunday lunch while he is away (or whatever other example you want to choose to illustrate he has chosen a slower life over proximity to family, for example).
Miko talks about going without some luxuries, travelling less, driving less.
No doubt the friend in the South of France in the article misses Park Slope (did I do that hipster reference right ?)
These are all examples of the choices that can be made.
mrgrimm talks about how it doesn't suit him to skip flying home to see his family. Fine, nobody is suggesting you must, just pointing out you need to be aware you are making that choice, and you do have the choice to prioritise other things if it suits you.
posted by bystander at 1:09 AM on July 3, 2012


bystander, for a lot of people making the choice NOT to save towards a pension means you are making the choice to be completely destitute in what medical science is ensuring will be a very long old age. That is a choice so bad I see very few people making it, so saying that people can "choose" to not save for their old age is laughable at best and a cruel thing to suggest at worst.

That said, I am too close to this issue, partly because of my own unique circumstances and partly because I have unrelated issues with the author, so I should bow out.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:00 AM on July 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


for a lot of people making the choice NOT to save towards a pension means you are making the choice to be completely destitute

I don't really agree with this. In the UK (and where I live) there is an old age pension which is the main source of income for about half of retired people. Even in the US, isn't Social Security the main source of income for the bulk of retired people?
Destitute doesn't mean having to share a house or being unable to fly across the country once per year. Certainly, it might be some people's choice to make minimal savings for retirement and accept a low income from state or social security sources. Shrug.
One side of my family largely funded their own retirement, the other largely relied on government welfare. They both had similar happiness in later life, though the poorer side caught the bus, had a dramatically smaller house and lived in a country town. She happened to live 5 years longer, but I don't attribute that to simpler living ;-)
posted by bystander at 4:30 AM on July 3, 2012


One really funny thing is that everyone here seems to have abundant time to read and comment in lengthy threads. Clearly there is downtime present - and if it weren't enough and something had to go, there's a lot of time to be gained back here

Earlier in the thread, MartinWise said:

this trick is like following a succesfull diet: a few people manage without great problems, some more people through self discipline and pure luck manage too, the vast majority of people fail. And because we all pretend that this success or failure is solely due to individual effort, it's held up as a moral failing if you aren't successful.So people get annoyed. Because they know the author is rubbing their noses in his success, scolding them for their failure.

While I don't think there's much of the "rubbing noses" involved on the part of people advocating a slower existence, I do think he's on to something here with this analogy of following a healthy diet, and I do think he's right that when someone for whom choice-making is apparently easy says "look at me, do what I do," there's a naturally defensive response from people for whom choice-making feels harder or is harder. But the truth is, just as with a healthy diet, and even if you aren't about to stage a total personal revolution and lifestyle change, most of us have some room to make improvements and would benefit from making improvements. Quite often, though, people call "impossible" what is really only "difficult" and "not a high priority right now." It's not impossible. It may not be easy, and it may not be what you want to do, and both of those things are fine to acknowledge. But very choices in life - such as how you spend your waking hours - are actually sitting outside the realm of possibility, inaccessible to anyone.

I really don't have a problem with people who say "yeah, I'd love more time, but it would be really difficult to rearrange my life in such a way that I could achieve it, and I'd have to let go of X, Y and Z which I really value probably more what I could gain from additional time. So I'm good, thanks." Some people in this thread have acknowledged liking to be busy or choosing to do something that keeps them busy for a certain time (kids, schooling, two jobs) because of an anticipated payoff for that time investment in the future. Makes total sense. Some people have acknowledged being busy because the lifestyle they've chosen, or the projects they're interested in, require a certain level of income.

All that is fine, but refusing to acknowledge the role of agency, of choices, in setting up those particular situations seems dishonest to me. There are people for whom greater choice-making is more difficult or quite constrained or near-impossible due to infrastructure problems or poverty or overwhelming obligations. There's not a single story in this thread which describes a scenario that is that constraining, though, and the very fact that everybody's got an internet connection through some means or other, and the time to hang out here argues that yep, they've got some choices.

Life is about priorities, and it makes sense to me to establish your priorities and be able to say "right now, this is my set of choices, and this is where I want to put my energy." Critiquing the array of choices is a good structural critique of society, but we always, always have choices. To be human is to have choices. We all have more room to change our lives than we believe, though to many people that seems invisible until circumstances or internal impetus requires that (sometimes unwelcome) change. But recognizing that the room exists enables you to periodically assess your set of choices, determine how satisfied you are by them, and find places you may wish to change, tweak, reduce, add, or adapt to improve your sense of satisfaction or progress or whatever it is you want.

And Bystander spotted the role of governmental structures and a social safety net in increasing choices and reducing pressure on individuals. That's important, and I think it's a huge part of advocating for the ideas in the op-ed and in the Slow/simplicity movement as well as simultaneously advocating for greater individual productivity. When our choices are narrowed by economic conditions that threaten to undermine our safety, security, and comfort, we necessarily have to prize income and benefits more highly than if they were equitably distributed throughout all income levels. There are interesting implications to our healthcare reform plan - when people no longer have to indenture themselves to a specific employer to achieve a healthcare benefit, what kinds of entrepreneurialism and creativity and independent professions may open up to people? Being able to purchase your own care on the exchange for a reasonable rate means that hundreds of thousands of people will be free, for the first time in ages, to consider other fields of endeavor without having to make the sacrifice of good, affordbale preventive and emergency care. It'll be interesting to see.
posted by Miko at 5:59 AM on July 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


isn't Social Security the main source of income for the bulk of retired people?

It may be the main source of income for many Americans but it's a pretty big challenge for many people to live on it:
Living on only Social Security isn't a happy prospect. It means stretching every dollar, depending on a patchwork of family, charity and state programs to pay for what Social Security doesn't cover — and sometimes doing without.
It's not really a benefit that would give you, on its own, what you'd call a comfortable life in your senior years - particularly for housing choices. Most people who are still in their earning years would really like to put more money away so they don't have to rely on SS alone. Also, we're all feeling pretty tentative about what will happen to this "Entitlement" in the political climate and with our ongoing debt and deficit problems, so you get a little nervous about counting on it being there. No question, living in the UK provides the support for people to make a broader range of lifestyle choices. Hope that we get there some day, although we sort of need a total political revolution for that to ever happen.
posted by Miko at 6:04 AM on July 3, 2012


I'm mostly with Miko, in that we are all making choices. But at the same time, we need to acknowledge how constrained those choices are. In my location and in my field, I can fairly easily be working full time (with the usual middle class benefits of health coverage, 401k, etc). Or I can be unemployed, or find something part time in some other field, whatever, the choices are broad.

What I don't have the option of (at least, not without creating something new for myself from the ground up) is part time employment with benefits, and in my field. That simply doesn't exist as an easy option to select from. It's not totally unattainable -- with time and effort, I could probably work out a some kind of deal, and fairly easily if I wanted to work something more like six months intensively and then take off for the rest of the year, though definitely not with benefits.

But as an easy option, available for me and all of my coworkers to be selecting from? Nope, no more than the EmpressC can just magically create a high-paid stage manager job out of nothing. We are making choices, a lot more than some critics above are crediting, but those choices are highly constrained by what is available and realistic.
posted by Forktine at 6:34 AM on July 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


Late in the thread but worth it if you've made it this far: partner the original article with this: "How to Have a Career: Advice to Young Writers."
posted by Mo Nickels at 6:34 AM on July 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


at the same time, we need to acknowledge how constrained those choices are.

Absolutely. That's where I think we need to work on the structural issues that determine what kinds of employment and benefits our economies and governments offer. And I think discussions like this where people voice a systemic critique of some of those structures are where these constraints can finally be recognized as conflicting with a set of humanistic values, and are the key to gathering enough energy to redevelop those structures. Rather than shouting down the values, let's examine what makes some kinds of choice-making more difficult, and advocate to redevelop those systems.
posted by Miko at 6:55 AM on July 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


But as an easy option, available for me and all of my coworkers to be selecting from? Nope,

I guess my background, living in a society where everyone has pretty adequate healthcare, and even the pretty marginalised have food on the table and a place to live, taints my view on this.
And to that point I guess I respect Miko and other American simple lifestyle people more, as they have a set of challenges I don't have.
I would still suggest, however, that there is a gulf between what you earn and how you live that can pretty rapidly be set up to deliver you a better quality of life, which we've called a slower life in this thread (although as Miko said, and my own experience bears out, is often equally full of different things).
I'm not arguing you should let your family go without health cover, but perhaps skipping private schooling would be possible if your family moved to a regional town, where the job market might pay less, but the housing costs were lower. Or whatever trade offs make sense for you (obviously EmpressC values theater highly, so a place where that is serious would be mandatory, but perhaps unimportant for somebody else - though I hope not).
In fact I will explicitly go further and say it isn't an easy option - even though it may require less work, lower mortgages, fewer savings, happier families and better lifestyles - because it takes some work to envision a lifestyle that is not the one presented in every Kmart catalog or TV show.
As a rule you will probably have to create large parts of your own lifestyle's meaning if you work toward something simpler. And I certainly reject a bunch of stuff my fellow simpler travelers are into (homeopathics and henna tattoos right away!)
But none of that devalues the idea that there is a reward in radically, substantially rethinking just what is the important part of your life. To much of most people's lives has accumulated like barnacles (how much is your cable bill?) and can be shed with a serious review of what is important.
But it is fine if you are OK with it. I'm just suggesting it isn't impossible to fix if you aren't OK with it.
posted by bystander at 7:20 AM on July 3, 2012


Mo Nickels, I'm having a hard time knowing whether that article was parody. It wasn't advice I'd value.
posted by bystander at 7:25 AM on July 3, 2012


I guess I respect Miko and other American simple lifestyle people more

I pursue the value set but I wouldn't say I'm an enormously vivid example. I work a full-time job and it bothers me sometimes. I'd like to reduce the structure and length of working hours in order to spend more time on school and other research projects - that's the endgame, but right now I'm having to put in the time. I've made a lot of choices help me live within my means - living close to work so I can walk, minimal driving, gardening etc, and I've given up some voluntary leadership roles so I can focus more on my relationship and family and home life - but there's plenty of room for more trimming some day. I don't live every aspect of the simple life as gospel but I embrace the values and work toward them. I think it's important.
posted by Miko at 7:44 AM on July 3, 2012


Sure, having national health care would change the parameters within which people are choosing; every country has constraints, some severe and some mild. I am in no way complaining about my very cushy situation; my point was just that there are sadly far fewer options available than there should be. An easy example is the way a lot of fields are quite binary: you are either fully in (overtime and all) or fully out, with no middle ground. But you see it in housing too, where we have built cities where all the new houses are large and require car ownership, say.

It's easy to say just make better choices, but like with the food comparison above, there are good (and structural) reasons people aren't mostly eating organic greens for every meal.
posted by Forktine at 7:59 AM on July 3, 2012


One really funny thing is that everyone here seems to have abundant time to read and comment in lengthy threads. Clearly there is downtime present - and if it weren't enough and something had to go, there's a lot of time to be gained back here

But there's a LOT of people posting while "working" ... admittedly, sure, I could be using stolen work time to write my book. But bits and snatches of time stolen from work are so easily and temptingly filled here it is tough to compete.

It would be interesting to know how many people are getting paid to post and comment here. Not explicitly, just posting "on the clock."

It may be that they don't seem shocking or ludicrous to me, simply because I've already spent years reading and participating in the Slow movement, including slow parenting, slower family life, and voluntary simplicity. It's not ridiculous to suggest that anyone can benefit from changing the pace of life and reducing unnecessary busy-ness

I've been thinking about this a lot over the past day, because my wife is also a casual aficionado of slow movements (whereas I prefer to redefine "fast food" as "raw vegan") and I am a strong proponent of walking, bicycling, and public transport (usually slower than driving a car, so I suppose it could be called a slow movement).

I could drive to work in 15 minutes. It takes 45 by walking + public transit. In essence, living slow (and doing the right thing, imo) makes me *busier* (it's also more expensive to boot).

I could buy frozen dinners and processed food for my kids instead of taking the hour or so it takes every night to make dinner myself. We could probably afford to order pizza, or mexican food, or thai food or whatever 2-3 times a week if I wanted, instead of cooking healthier options at home.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that "voluntary simplicity" is great (I'm down with Epictetus, even if I'm atheist), but it doesn't always necessarily free up time, especially when you try to combine it with a non-slow schedule (work, relatives, etc.)

I suppose I'm talking a bit at cross purposes. Part of my problem is identifying with the "busy" people mentioned in the article vs. the "exhausted" ... I am definitely exhausted, nearly every day. I knew what I was getting into, though, and my kids, as you say, won't be babies forever.
posted by mrgrimm at 9:23 AM on July 3, 2012


What I don't have the option of (at least, not without creating something new for myself from the ground up) is part time employment with benefits, and in my field.

That's a very good point. I wonder what advice you could give to doctors and lawyers other than "get a different career."

Late in the thread but worth it if you've made it this far: partner the original article with this: "How to Have a Career: Advice to Young Writers."

Mo Nickels, I'm having a hard time knowing whether that article was parody. It wasn't advice I'd value.

Really? I sorta liked it. A few gems:

* "When requesting a favor in writing, ask outright and respectfully for what you want. Don’t write what appears to be a long, friendly letter full of compliments and then ask for help at the end, pretending it’s an afterthought."

Too true. Insincerity is a total turn-off.

* "When you find great work, help it along; expect nothing in return. Bringing great work to the world is your job, whether you or someone else created it."

* "It should go without saying that you must be kind to everyone you meet."

* "When asked an ignorant question, take it as an opportunity to educate the questioner; compassionately explain his error in judgment or perception."

* "Learn graciously to decline." (Please, someone teach my wife how to do this.)

* "Don’t expend energy in writing and publishing that would be better used in your family or community. Become tempered by life. Make compromises for love. Provide a service to the world."

I dunno. I think there's a lot of good advice in there. Some of it is aesthetic and subjective; other bits are more universal.

(And "It may be worth paying for psychotherapy sessions now instead of paying for inpatient treatment next year; see someone in-network." made me smile.)
posted by mrgrimm at 9:31 AM on July 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


An easy example is the way a lot of fields are quite binary: you are either fully in (overtime and all) or fully out, with no middle ground. But you see it in housing too, where we have built cities where all the new houses are large and require car ownership, say.

Well, exactly, but these are governmental/structural issues too, and part of what I refer to. What kinds of houses are built is a policy-driven and constrained result of government activity. As far as the structure of fields, there is some change that can be made through policy (like FMLA, disability and ADA policies) but other change has to come from leaders and/or workers within the field. We forget about the power of workers to structure their fields in this anti-organizing, anti-union age.

I don't like our easiest set of options either, but I'm engaged in trying to change them.

But there's a LOT of people posting while "working" ...

Yeah, I think that's exactly the problem. People are sitting idle performing the idea of work, which is not really work, but they don't have the freedom they'd need to make better use of their time because they're "working."

I get it with the other set of compromises you mentioned. I actually moved so I can walk to work in 8 minutes rather than commute by train and walk for 50 minutes. But I could move again and drive in 5 minutes and probably find a place with lower rent. But I'm weighing the value of living in a downtown within walking distance to most services and being a daily part of my community against the value of having more disposable income (or savings) and being disconnected. No, you can't always choose this, and when you have a partner it's pretty rare for both to sitting pretty with regard to the commute. But you can think about it. The choice is available. You can think about biking to work, and if you find it affords additional value and that you prefer it to driving, you might choose to do that anyway. If you had to work two hours less a day, the biking time would be a wash. If you already go to the gym for an hour every day, you might not need to if you biked. When I was commuting, I didn't like being stuck on the train two hours a day, but I did like getting my reading done. We can't all make the same set of choices, but we can make the choices we have available.

And where the structure fails us, we can look hard at where we can change that structure.
posted by Miko at 10:05 AM on July 3, 2012


Really? I sorta liked it. A few gems:
Well, I guess things like:
"Don’t give favors to people or institutions that lack authority or consequence."
"Learn to live on air...Invest in ear plugs, good sneakers, and a coffee machine."
"Avoid all messy and needy people including family; they threaten your work. "
"Recognize those who will never help you, and ignore them"
"Those who offer or ask for favors might be enemies in cheap disguise. "
Made it seem like an off-kilter parody of something like the 48 Laws of Power.
Suffice to say I would probably find the author who wrote that in earnest a bit of an aresehole.
posted by bystander at 4:50 PM on July 3, 2012


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