Escape Everything!: Escape from work. Escape from consumerism. Escape from despair. Hardcover – 28 Jan 2016
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Witty and liberating, this book will help set you free from the traps of modern life.
About the Author
Robert Wringham is a writer, performer and editor of New Escapologist, a small-press magazine for working stiffs who sometimes need a little escape. Now in its tenth issue, the magazine has seen contributions from Alain de Botton, Richard Herring, Ewan Morrison, Tom Hodginkson, Leo Babauta, Luke Rhinehart and many others.
His first book, You Are Nothing (2012), is a history of Cluub Zarathustra, the comedy club that hit the London underground scene in the 90s. His humorous essays were compiled into his second book, A Loose Egg (2014), and have appeared in Idler, Playboy, HiLoBrow, the British Comedy Guide, Splitsider, and hundreds of others. He writes as a humourist and as an Escapologist, exploring both the minutiae and the larger mechanisms of modern life.
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Optimum health; As much free time as possible; A few dependable friendships; An appreciation of our existing surroundings; Sensual pleasure; Purposeful and purposeless intellectual stimulation; A satisfying creative output in which we have personal pride; A clean and dignified living space.
Sounds amazingly simple, up to a point. How Wringham himself managed it was to first perform a life audit, identifying the things that were important, what he wanted, and firmly interrogating his own motives. In this manner, he curbed his excesses, cut his consumption, defeated the innate urge to compare and contrast with his neighbours' lives, and saved up enough money to quit his job and move to Canada, where he inhabits a Stoical and Epicurean life for part of the year joyfully adhering to his own rules and living free of fear. And that, simply put, is the message–live free of fear. The Machine as he calls it pulls you in with fear and ties you down with fear. Fear of appearing different, fear of not standing out, fear of debt and worry and insecurity and loneliness; they all contribute to the chains that keep you in your place inside the mechanism. Without fear you can have all the joy you want in your life. You may not have Sky Sports, but you can always go to the pub with friends to watch the game, and pubs also have beer. You may not have a flash motor, but walking is healthy and meditative and a joyful act in and of itself. Best of all, you may not have to work 92,000 hours over the course of your short and pitiable life and fall exhausted into an early grave.
To balance the argument, it is worth noting that Wringham et femme don't and don't seem to want to have children. I can't see myself seriously devoting my days to leisure when there are school fees to pay and food to put on the table. But then I have found myself arguing vociferously with colleagues against the work at all costs mentality of Western life, advocating a more gentle and perhaps agrarian lifestyle over that of the daily commute and grind. I may have repeated, repeatedly, that even a small amount of work can stretch to fill the time that you are expected to be present, in your office or place of work, in the centre of your radius of action chained interminably to a desk or cubicle or cab or whatever. I may also have argued myself into a rationalisation of our team, which, if I'm honest, would likely see my expected presenteeism cut to 2.5 days from 5, and my purchasing power likewise. I frankly don't do a lot of work, or at least it doesn't feel like it. But I am required to be at my desk nonetheless.
So even if you, like me, can't jump from temp job to temp job at will, working only enough to cover food, reading material and idle intellectual dilettantism, you will probably find in this book enough sound, escapist wisdom, to take a good, long, hard look at your life and wonder what the duck you're doing. What happens next is up to you.
But Robert does not just focus on the problem; he also offers valuable and actionable thoughts and insights on how we can realistically escape from ‘The Trap’. That said, like me, you may not choose to act on or even totally agree with the extent of all of Robert’s views and opinions, or with his suggestions on ways we can escape ‘The Trap’ – for instance, he doesn’t choose to have a phone, chooses a minimalistic life-style, and chooses to work to earn just enough money to cover his living expenses; choices that won't suit everyone. Though I did think that the 'strength' of his expressed views served, consciously or not on his part, as both a humorous device, as well as a light-hearted way of challenging one's own prevailing situations and ideas, as listening to people with 'extreme' views to one's own usually does. But either way, by reading his thoughts and ideas, you will nevertheless gain some highly valuable and important insights about your own feelings, thoughts and the actions you are prepared to take to escape ‘The Trap’ as he describes it.
Arguably, a significant theme of the book hinges around examining our relationship to and ‘need’ for money. I think Robert does a very good job here, but don’t expect any detailed tools, tips or techniques about managing your personal finances or home-accounting – there’s plenty of other tedious and boring books and financial advisers out there dealing with such things.
Robert Wringham is described in the book as, amongst other things, a humourist, stand-up comic and editor of the New Escapologist magazine. So nobody reading this book should be surprised to hear that the rather serious theme of the book is written in a rather humorous style in many places – I think the title is the give-away clue here. In my view, this does not, however, detract in any way whatsoever from the central thesis of the book. It’s just a lighter-hearted, less-depressing and even an empowering way of thinking about things than all the other books I’ve read to-date on the topic.
So, I thoroughly enjoyed the book; so much so, I fact, that I have already read it twice to stimulate thought, having purchased a Kindle edition and printed hardcover copy for my library, as well as the current and all the back copies of the New Escapologist magazine (which I highly recommend too), and purchased a copy of the printed book for my son to boot. What more can I say? Just buy it, or stay in ‘The Trap’ if you really like it so much.
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