We must learn not to care

What makes us anxious? Everything it seems: job, relationship, traffic, people in general – ha! The quote below by Tom Hodgkinson says anxiety compromises our creative natures; that’s the most important message. To get creative again, which is our natural state, we must overcome anxiety. And to overcome anxiety, we must identify the things that make us anxious and counter them. Identify and counter. Here are some notes from my reading of this text.

Generally speaking, the pursuit of security is the root cause of anxiety. This pursuit includes all the biggies of modern life: career, mortgages etc; they make us anxious because they cancel our creativity.

The pursuit of security gives anxiety which cancels creativity. That’s the present formula. The new formula could be the rejection of security reduces anxiety and reinstates creative nature.

One antidote to security is fatalism. The mystical, ecumenical, smells and bells, communal, mindful, slightly superstitious faiths, with icons and saints and processions make us less anxious. Why? Because they emphasize fatedness over security and control; they help us to see our place in the world as haphazard, willed by some force outside of ourselves. They free us back into our natural creative natures.

From How to be Free:

Anxiety is the sacrifice of creativity in the service of security. It is the giving up of personal freedoms in return for the promise, never fulfilled, of comfort, cotton wool, air conditioned shopping centres. Security is a myth; it simply doesn’t exist. This does not stop us, however, from constantly chasing it.


Another simple solution to anxiety is to embrace a fatalistic theology. Catholics, say, are probably less anxious than Protestants. Buddhists are certainly less anxious than Jews. If you believe that there’s nothing much that you can do that makes any sense other than to enjoy yourself, then your anxiety will fade. If you have that Puritan cast of mind and feel that you are terribly important in the world and it really matters what you do, then your anxiety will increase. Self-importance breeds anxiety. We must learn not to care – not in the sense of being selfish but in the sense of being carefree.

Tom Hodgkinson, How To Be Free, p 11



the cult of overwork
June 19, 2014, 7:08 pm
Filed under: brave new world | Tags: , , ,

Reginald Herman

Working excessive hours results in low quality and productivity, fatigue, mistakes etc. But we still overwork. That, I suppose is what makes overwork a cult. Cults are groups with belief systems that are dubious and often deleterious. Koolaid anyone?

So in our work we cling to dubious beliefs. Why? I think the US is more committed to this cult than most other places. In my last job interview, after nearly 20 years commitment to my profession, I was offered, by a very earnest man ten years my senior, two weeks vacation.

Why do the people of the US work longer than the people of western Europe, as an example? No doubt a million reasons. I think of the US as a country of aspiring immigrants who have allowed themselves to become unbalanced in their lives. Government oversight is pushed to the side, the safety net all but dismantled, the myth that hard work will lead to success firmly in place, the odious myth that you deserve your relative successes and failures ascendant, and a million people striving to prove themselves – all of these conspire to turn us further and further away from a life in which work is held in balance with other equally fulfilling uses of our time.

Of course the original immigrant was the puritan Pilgrim, who brought with him a dour, retributive, shame and blame, angry sense of the world: a “slavish literalness, [a] deficient sense of proportion, a bearing down upon minutiae with the same emphasis brought to larger and fundamental points.” (Perry Miller, The Puritans) That may have something to do with it: the minutiae of working every minute with every ounce of effort precluding the more fundamental point of living one’s life well.

So, in spite of all of the evidence that overwork is not good for business, or health or a balanced life, we go on working. Definitely a cult.

The perplexing thing about the cult of overwork is that, as we’ve known for a while, long hours diminish both productivity and quality. Among industrial workers, overtime raises the rate of mistakes and safety mishaps; likewise, for knowledge workers fatigue and sleep-deprivation make it hard to perform at a high cognitive level. As Solomon put it, past a certain point overworked people become “less efficient and less effective.” And the effects are cumulative. The bankers Michel studied started to break down in their fourth year on the job. They suffered from depression, anxiety, and immune-system problems, and performance reviews showed that their creativity and judgment declined.

The Cult of Overwork, James Surowiecki

Do your work, then step back
June 19, 2014, 6:49 pm
Filed under: brave new world, the sweet life | Tags: , , , ,

Fill your bowl to the brim
and it will spill.
Keep sharpening your knife
and it will blunt.
Chase after money and security
and your heart will never unclench.
Care about people’s approval
and you will be their prisoner.
Do your work, then step back.
The only path to serenity.

Lao Tzu

words may fly
June 13, 2014, 11:26 am
Filed under: chronotopes, the sweet life, unseen world | Tags: ,

Spotted in the Albion Beatnik bookstore in Oxford, UKAlbion Beatnik bookstore in Oxford, UK

the stars are very near and bright
June 12, 2014, 2:46 pm
Filed under: the sweet life | Tags: , , ,

 In Norm MacDonald’s online interview with Russell Brand they talked about sex and love. MacDonald, a Canadian, is a sad repressed 50 year old who clearly has had trouble throughout his life with loving. Brand is a Brit who has had many trysts and I suppose relationships too. MacDonald’s schtick is naïve bumpkin – the language of the repressed; Brand’s is erudition, the tool of the seducer.

Playing a naïve bumpkin is a trap: you’re put in the role by upbringing and then you are held there for life by your own fear. Freya Stark said, “the thwarting of the instinct to love is the root of all sorrow and not sex only but divinity itself is insulted when it is repressed. To disapprove, to condemn –the human soul shrivels under barren righteousness.” Teach me how to get out of the pit – MacDonald pleaded between the lines with Brand.

Here’s another example of erudite lover to help us dig our way out. Must read more love letters; and even better, must write more.

Come back. Because tonight you are in my hair and eyes, And every street light that our taxi passes shows me you again, still you, And because tonight all other nights are black, all other hours are cold and far away, and now, this minute, the stars are very near and bright. Come back. We will have a celebration to end all celebrations.

Excerpt of love letter by Kenneth Fearing, The Lost Art of the Love Letter, The School of Life


six hours work for one drink
June 4, 2014, 9:23 pm
Filed under: brave new world, the sweet life | Tags: ,

The average African beer drinker works 2-6 hours to earn enough to buy half a litre. The average American needs to work just 17 minutes

The average African beer drinker works 2-6 hours to earn enough to buy half a litre. The average American needs to work just 17 minutes.

The Economist