Today I would like to share another insight into what inspired me on my virtual search for the good life. The first article of this series can be found here.
What is the good life? Are there objective criteria? What role does work play? These are all relevant questions. I was particularly interested in the topic of work at the start. I felt that my job had taken up too much of my life. At the expense of other areas that were important to me to be happy.
And then, by chance, I came across a movie that really got the ball rolling for me …
Frohes Schaffen (Keep Up the Good Work)
I do not remember exactly what I was looking for on Youtube. I think I used the search term ‘work less, live more’. In any case, I came across the short documentary about the ‘idler’ Felix Quadflieg. And in the sidebar I saw the link to the documentary fiction ‘Frohes Schaffen’ by Konstantin Faigle. At the time it was still available in full length on Youtube free of charge. I consider this quite a wink of fate, because the film has given me a lot of interesting food for thought on our society’s collective view on paid work and my own belief systems.
In ‘Frohes Schaffen’, statements, interviews and uncommented sequences alternate with the interwoven fictional stories of six protagonists:
- Werner, the well-paid engineer, who is in danger of losing his position as a team leader after a burnout
- Marion, the emancipated freelancer who has not had a full-time assignment for several months
- Herbert, the diligent insurance employee, who, despite his secure employment, occasionally dreams of a simple life somewhere in the countryside
- Sabine, the expectant mother, work and survival artist, who keeps herself and her shop afloat with ‘cheap raw material procurement’
- Hartmut, the typical German retiree, who checks out the hardware store as “phantom client” three times a week
- and Jochen, single without principle and happy idler with a 3-day part-time job in a mattress store
Konstantin Feigle lets various academics from the fields of psychology, economics, history, social sciences, philosophy and education speak. But also ‘average’ citizens, stock traders, activists, unemployed people and many more. And he travels not only in Germany, but to Wall Street and to Ground Zero in New York, to California and to Paris.
From eye-opening to bizarre
The film explains how the perception of ‘work’ has changed over time and illustrates how much work is part of our identity today. There are insights into new ways of cost arbitraging by outsourcing work to the emerging markets. And you’re shown a project for dealing with unemployment, the Real Life Center, an activation measure for unemployed people in Hamburg which comes across as quite bizarre.
The fictional story around the protagonists which shows a way to define work differently than a full-time job and nevertheless – or maybe just because of that – to be happy with your life – might be to your taste or not. I quite liked it.
But judge for yourself:
Konstantin Feigle: ‘Keep Up the Good Work – a Film to Lower Working Morale’ (no affiliate link)
The Idler Academy
If you watched ‘Keep Up the Good Work’ you can guess how I came across the ‘Idler Academy’. One of the interviewees is a slightly eccentric-looking Englishman, who is also shown as a ‘lecturer’ at the ‘Idler’s Academy’. That looked interesting and I researched Tom Hodkinson and his ‘Idler Academy’.
I was actually pleasantly surprised. The sequences in the film were rather absurd. But I was very pleased that the ‘Idler’s Academy’ offered not only courses in London, but also online courses on diverse topics such as philosophy, the history of cooking and rhetoric / public speaking. And an online course with the founder, Tom Hodgkinson, on how a good life with less work and more time for leisure can look like in practice. Not in the sense of doing nothing. But in the sense of pursuing creative activities or social encounters independent of employed work.
More from the Idler
The origin of the ‘Idler Academy’ is the magazine ‘The Idler’, which Tom Hodgkinson launched with a partner in 1993. After a crowdfunding project (which I participated in), the magazine is now published six times a year. It is available in print and digitally, and the Academy’s offerings have been expanded. This year, for the first time ever, there was a dedicated Idler festival in England. The Idler team regularly travels to other festivals and organizes various retreats.
If you’re looking for a sometimes quirky view of things, content produced with passion, and are into the topics the ‘Idler Academy’ has on offer, I’m sure you’ll find some inspiration for the good life.
But check it out yourself:
And the ‘Idler’ has also taken me one step further on my own journey. One of the authors who regularly writes for the publication is Robert Wringham. He alternately lives in Glasgow and Montreal. Wringham has published the journal ‘New Escapologist’ for several years and operates a blog by the same name. What I became particularly interested in was his book ‘Escape Everything’.
The book is written in an extremely entertaining style and takes apart our understanding of work, consumption and a good life. Did you know that in the Middle Ages there was an unbelievable amount of public holidays compared with today? What do occupation and vocation have to do with each other? Why have the ever-shorter working hours economists expected at the beginning of the 20th century not materialized?
Escape to something
What I like very much is that Robert Wringham describes concrete possibilities to put less work – more life into practice. He himself is the best example. As an author, comedian and freelance librarian he earns enough money to finance his life between Glasgow and Montreal. And in his book he describes other real people who have achieved their personal work-life balance through ways that can be reproduced. You’ll probably relate more to some and less to others. But I think there’s something suitable for everyone.
Even though his book is called ‘Escape Everything’, it’s not just about escaping the system of work and consumption. I think that’s very important. He also explicitly dedicates part of the book to the idea of ‘escaping to something’. There are plenty examples of things that escapists engage in during the free time they have gained by changing their way of life. So that really inspired me.
But have a look yourself:
Robert Wringham, ‘Escape Everything’ (no affiliate link)
Financial Independence Rocks!
Annika AshramJanuary 15, 2019 at 12:59 pm
Your post made me read Mr. Wringham’s book. Very inspiring! And he’s so right:
“Reduction is the least observed of the three R’s of environmentalism (‘reduce, reuse, recycle’) but it’s probably the most important (….) why not neutralise the problem of overproduction at the source? Instead of choosing to act efficiently at the end of a product’s life cycle by reusing or recycling it, we should stop said product from being made in the first place by eliminating consumer demand for it. If the rainforests must be burned and the oceans poisoned to cater for the essentials of human life, then so be it and we’ll call it an inevitable pity; but for that to happen in the name of games consoles, cell phones and chocolate fountains is a wanton and avoidable shame.”
Financial Independence Rocks!January 15, 2019 at 1:13 pm
Hi Annika Ashram
Thanks for reading and for your appreciative comment. Love Robert’s book!