Wednesday, 24 August 2011

What if life in the future was all about doing less?!

The book I'm leaving on the bench is "How to be Idle" by Tom Hodgkinson.

“How to be Idle” as a title doesn’t conjure up the idea of Transition, does it? But then again, this isn’t really a Transition book. It’s a more of a motivational book, part of the “Heart and Soul” side of Transition. That might sound a bit ironic too, one might think, until you read it. For me (and I should think for many others in this fast-paced modern world), the idea of doing less (especially less of the boring stuff) seems like a great solution! Life is far too hectic, and this attitude is only exaggerated by the perceived necessity to “buy more!”, “earn more!” and “do more!” that is promoted by mainstream media, the government and our employers.

This book is written as a series of essays, each one representing an hour of the day, and each with a different theme of something that you could be doing in that hour instead of hard work. Chapters include “4pm: Time for Tea”, “5pm: The Ramble”, “Midnight: The Moon and the Stars” and many more of life’s little pleasures that come from just taking time off.

So you might still be asking, “what has this got to do with Transition”? Well, for a bit of help answering that question, I’m going to refer to Tom Hodgkinson’s further work “How to be Free”, which although not on the bench because I gave it to someone at the Transition Conference, I heartily recommend (possibly more so than “How to be Idle”, in fact). “How to be Free” is a kind of manifesto for the Idler. Specifically, I suppose, for the author himself. In this book, each chapter represents an action that one might take (and the author has taken) on the road to freedom. And it is here that one can see the connection between an Idle life and a life beyond Transition.

Tom advocates “Cutting up the Credit Card”, “Growing Your Own” and, on a slightly less straight-forward tack, “Playing the Ukulele”. Altogether, the image he gets across is one of a great life – one of fewer working hours, more connection with our loved ones and with nature, more time to do what we want, rather than what our employer expects of us. What isn’t immediately obvious (he doesn’t really dwell on it in either of the books) is how sustainable this kind of lifestyle is too. Most of the pleasures he mentions come at little cost, to us financially, and to the environment, whilst boosting our well-being far more than buying the latest gadgetry ever could.

It may sound at first like this is an idealistic proposal for a world of no work and many pleasures that is obviously unrealistic, but he’s not really saying this at all. What he is saying, however, is that work should be done on our terms, at a time when we want to do it, life’s little pleasures should be enjoyed now, rather than continually postponed, and cooperation should stand taller than competition when it comes to trading and industry. To me, it sounds like one possible manifestation of a great life beyond Transition.

All images from

STOP PRESS: Having had a quick browse of the Idler website, this quote was prominent, and backs up my final paragraph - "Idleness does not consist in doing nothing, but in doing a great deal not recognised in the dogmatic formularies of the ruling class." Robert Louis Stevenson

1 comment:

  1. Love this book, I lazilly leafed through it a couple of years ago whilst at Secret Garden Party..seemed fitting. Will take a peek at your review.x Clarissa