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Idleness Breeds Evil?

Müssiggang ist aller Laster Anfang

As long as I was an employee, I always worked a lot. On top of that, my husband and I took care of our son. And of our household. And built our house. And handled our finances. And our taxes. And and and…

We did not question this either. Everybody does it, right? But at some point, I started to have a nagging feeling inside.

Something was missing.

On the material plane, we were doing extremely well. We could buy everything we wanted. Take expensive holidays. Dine in top restaurants.

And we did enjoy that, too. A privilege, of course. It’s probably even easier to realize that you don‘t need this kind of lifestyle when you actually had it. A dream is always more perfect than a dream that has come true.

Nevertheless, something was missing.

 

Sometimes you need a little push

At the end of 2012, I had been a long-distance job commuter for three years, I was only at home during the weekends. Then some changes in our top management occured that I found less than ideal.

And interestingly enough, this external change kicked me off thinking about my life. I felt I was primarily driven by my obligations, performing rather than living. And with that, I had lost the self-determined balance that had made me happy in spite of a stressful job.

Some years before, I had even voluntarily increased my workload further when I completed a second university degree while working full time. But the degree I studied catered to my interests in the arts and humanities, and had nothing to do with my job. Balancing both sides of my personality dynamised me. An ideal situation.

 

A good life?

Now I was far from my ideal, my non-business side was being starved.

With all my obligations and the long commute, I didn’t see a way to regain room for balance in the status quo. So this situation became the starting point for diving more deeply into the financial implications of my potential early departure form coporate Germany.

But as a first step, I did something else: I went on a virtual quest for the good life. In the process, I came across many interesting protagonists and ideas that have inspired me on my journey, and still inspire me today.

I watched movies, read books and browsed through websites. I would like to share my sources with you in loose sequence. Maybe you‘ll find some food for thought as well.

Here we go.

 

Work less, live more

“The art of idleness”. This is the title of a documentary from the series “7 days”. It portrays a freelance social education worker from Bremen, who deliberately decided to only let work occupy a limited space in his life. He works 15 hours per week, thus earning a net income of about 1,000 EUR.

Apart from his work, he fills his lifetime with artistic projects, travel, relationships – and a lot of time for himself. I was quite positively impressed how satisfied and content he comes across. For many, his nonchalance regarding retirement would be a no go – myself included – but why not challenge my own convictions once in a while..

Check it out (in German):

ARD, 7 days, “The art of idleness”

 

Less is more

“Less is more – the trend to be happy with nothing”. This documentary is superficially about the trend topics “minimalism” and “sharing economy”. There are various protagonists, some of whom live a radical minimalist lifestyle. On top of that, different examples of the “sharing economy” are presented. And a philosopher and a social scientist provide some background info on current consumption and its sustainability.

What I found interesting is that the topics in the documentary also have a lot to do with reflecting what the really important things in life are – after providing for the basic needs, of course: experiences, community, friendships, simple living.

Check it out (in German):

Phoenix, “Less is more, the trend to be happy with nothing”

 

The simple life

And this leads me directly to the Scobel discussion “the simple life”. Gert Scobel talks with a psychologist and a Benedictine abbot what constitutes „a simple“ or „a good life“. The idea of ​​the “good life” has been discussed and advocated since the era of the Greek philosophers in the 4th century BC. The concept of the “good life” included time for philosophizing, discourse, but also for learning and friendship. And for idleness and self-reflection. The Greek philosophers found work that went beyond contracting or overseeing not conducive to the “good life”. The slaves were responsible for the “real” work.

With Luther, and especially Calvin, though, work or the tangible success of work became a possible proof of being chosen by God. Even if these religious roots have faded to the background, the idea that someone who is economically successful has “made it” prevails today. But does he or she necessarily have a “good life”?

Check it out (in German):

3sat, Scobel, “Simple Life”

 

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