I’ve finished work a while back on the Narnia movie again. I was initially on for a month, which is where I wrote the previous post, then off for a month, then back on for 2.5 weeks and now yet again I’ve not worked for a few weeks. Since I finished up I’ve been thinking about
this crazy life of mine and how it flies in the face of the Western method of work, whether it’s valid or irresponsible of me, if I’m burning my bridges for my future or if maybe I may actually have something here.
When I finished I knew I had to do the whole readjust again back into the mental head-space of just hanging out doing my thing again. It’s very easy to plug into work, as once I’m on a Job there is a first morning where I get up and head off to another first day and from then on it’s routine. The longer I work in that one place the more ingrained the routine becomes and the more comfortable it all is. That is until the routine becomes boredom. Then another type of stress starts where I question my existence and waste of life in that environment and yet again I have to leave to find myself.
That is very much the way it is for most of the permanent work that I’ve done and the great advantage of working contract is that normally I can stick it out long enough until the project is complete which hopefully isn’t too long and then I get the change that I need. So film work often suits me well in this regard.
Finishing and readjusting to no work is not as easy as compared to starting as I don’t have the distractions that work gives me from what I call the “Void” or “Nothing”. However there are two ways to approach this.
- Get another Job is what everyone asks and expects. In a lot of ways that is the easiest option. But for me after all these years of doing the variations on this lifestyle I know that it will go the way that I’ve outlined above. Normally six months and I’m a spent force, bored and ready to move on. It even tends to manifest in physical disturbances in my body brought on by the low but permanent levels of stress.
- Embrace the Void. Now it’s not exactly Nothing. It’s not as though I wake up sit down and do nothing until I go back to sleep that night as I have my personal projects and day to day order to keep functioning so there is a whole range of activities and a constant supply of new and interesting opportunities turning up daily to keep me active. However compared to the 40 hour week, 48 week year work model it appears to be a void that requires filling.
The challenges with embracing the Void is that there is no order projected onto the future, no planning and no surety. It’s very much living in the moment and taking the opportunities as they arrive on a moment by moment time frame. That flies in the face of the Western model of how to get things done. I’m supposed to have lists, goals, plans for what I want to achieve and a step by step approach to achieving them. I’ve read the books on goal setting and that’s the way they say to achieve what your after. Sure that’s the model and if you have a specific goal that is what you do to achieve it, I get that.
But what if you haven’t the goal at the moment?
For the last couple of years my podcast Your Story has been a goal, a huge goal, to get the knowledge and have a production model in place but I never knew what I was going to do with it beyond getting it up and running and hoping that some opportunities may come of it. So I’ve been working at learning everything I needed to get it going but now that’s been achieved it’s bubbling along and I don’t have the next step.
Welcome to the Void, Ian.
The easy fix as mentioned above and the one recommended by all is to go get a job and for two reasons.
Money and activity.
The number of people who say it must be good to have this free lifestyle or it must be good to have money, as they say they would like to not have to work but they need to, as they need the income, they need the money to maintain the lifestyle.
- Let’s look at the obvious side of this first – Money.
Are we addicted to the money and income from our work?
I think most people would agree that the answers is yes. Most don’t realise that the addiction is based on having an income to support a lifestyle that is far in excess of what is necessary. They scream that they want the “stuff”. You know the “stuff”… It’s all that consumer stuff that we surround ourselves with, from the house and car to the holidays and widgets. It includes everything beyond our base needs. Everything that the advertisers throw at us but more insidiously it’s the subtle daily reminders that to be a person of respect in our society (and just look at the business and social pages in the paper to understand this) you need to have a style and attitude the requires all the “stuff”. These are the things that identify you to the rest of society and you need to surround yourself with them at any cost and the cost is debt and/or work very hard to generate the income.
This is not to say live in a cave with only the basics to have a good life but do you really need all of that “stuff”? Do you constantly have to upgrade as soon as the next version of it comes out? If the answers is yes then you need to fund the never ending need for those consumables and there is always more “stuff” coming on the market to necessitate the increase in your income – consume, consume, consume. It never ends.
I know that many would say that they are only just getting by on the minimum of what they can afford with no luxuries and that is valid. They are trapped by this system of the things that they must have or are expected to have. The biggest of these for the average family but far from not the only, is the cost of housing. Once a mortgage is activated you are indentured to the system to work as a wage slave for the duration of this debt with rent being no different. However by todays standards we need far more than in the minimum. Our grand parents were happy with far less.
A few years ago I went against the grain and didn’t get myself into huge debt to purchase another property as I realised that I would have to flog myself just to maintain the mortgage by being in this exact situation. Instead I still live in my humble two bedroom unit and I have a small investment unit in the same block. When I say humble I mean very humble, these units are 49 square metres but in the wonderful suburb of West End in Brisbane. I have an old car that is cheap to maintain and run but with most things local I use it minimally. I have a simple frugal life with little that I need additional to my current situation. I have a small income from the investment unit that pays for itself and a little left over towards my other bills so in effect I need just a few hundred dollars a week to live my life. With a cash injection as I’ve just had from the film work I can often survive for several weeks before I start to run lean on funds.
The stuff that I have in my life above the basics of life are by the standards of our society few. I don’t need a large income to maintain it. This enables me to have this life where I’m not always chasing the almighty dollar and can spend time on more important things instead of work, like Life.
- This brings me to the second of the two reasons for having work – Activity.
Everyone complains about work and how good it would be to not have to do it but
the reality is that once you do unplug from the workforce there is a desire, almost a need to stay active. Sure sitting on a beach for a few weeks may sound fine but once you’ve done that it starts getting boring. If you have been spending half of you waking life working, with the rest doing the functional support things, once work is removed there is a huge void that requires filling. In not too many weeks most people find the desire to return to work in order to have activity. Work here I include as self employment, study as well as working for others but also hobbies and recreations that keep a person active. Also our society demands that we are working to play our part to support the system, if we’re not we’re said to be sponging off the system.
What Do You Do?
The number one question asked when people meet and start a conversation is “What do you do?”
This is where work is your identifier. It could be a way of pegging you in someones memory when they meet you but then the question could just as easily be “Where did you go for your last holiday?”
The reason the work question is so good is it places you in the pecking order of society, where your value as a member of it. Work defines you by what you do and how you do it not to mention how much money/stuff you have and if you wish to be a valued member of that society you’ll feel the need to play the game according to the rules as laid out above. Notoriety, affluence and stuff. We use the work standard for as a quick measure of that and we feel the pressure to strive towards meeting those requirements.
What about if you have nothing to do for a period of time. You have enough basics to keep going for a time, there are no goals to achieve and there are no desires for stuff. What then?
What about the idea of doing nothing unless something, i.e. desires or needs, comes along? Just wait until then.
Our society says that we can’t do that, we can’t do nothing, we have to do something… anything!
After all we have all these things to worry about in the future that we have to prepare for/against. So even if you don’t want to, go and do anything, it’s necessary to stash away more “stuff” for the future. Actually, while your at it get a bigger, better, faster “thing”and before long you trapped into the cycle where you have to work to keep the cycle going.
What about winding the cycle in the opposite direction. As you acquire the things you need to support the basics of life wind back the effort that you need to get anything that isn’t necessary. Sure get the house, but one that is adequate, no more than is required and once you have it, there is less of a need to work as much creating space in you life. Have a modest vehicle. Go on good value holidays but the whole time only as much as you need. Eventually there is a point reached where there is no need to be working as much with more time available and there is nothing to do. You have it all, no need to buy more and it’s time to stop.
A lot of the activity that we do is like the things we buy, it’s “stuff”. It’s just the noise that we generate so that we have something to do. Could there be an alternative? How about doing Nothing… Yes actually doing Nothing as an activity. What I mean here is if there is nothing to do, not creating noise by creating an activity of stuff but just being quiet and doing Nothing! Sit, stand or lie and wait in the void doing No Thing.
Doing nothing to such an extent that there is not even a desire to do anything just to create some noise, to not do Any-Thing but to do No-Thing. Just simply being in the moment allowing the constant stream of time to wash over.
Then at some stage there is an urge to do something, not out of a reason to create a distraction from the void but additional to the void, so do it. It could be anything as simple as changing physical position to starting a project that lasts a life time.
The difference to the Western model of work is that it is not out of a need to generate the income to get the stuff and it’s not in order to create a busy mind through activity. It’s the thing that needs to be done now, because it feels like the correct thing to do. So it’s done now.