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Far from idleness being the root of all evil, it is rather the only true good. – Soren Kierkegaard

It is in our idleness, in our dreams, that the submerged truth sometimes comes to the top. – Virginia Woolf 

 

I’ve already written one post today so I’m pretty tired. I remember some time ago making a photo essay about being idle. I used the verb ‘making’ because ‘shooting’ would have been incorrect. I didn’t have the idea then decide to go out and take pictures. On the contrary, I had the idea after looking at pictures. This was a great idea and really fits into my theme because I didn’t have to do anything. In fact, as I type I have just realised that I am going to just recycle some old pictures from Facebook and re-post them on here. The reason I want to write about idleness is because I am particularly tired after recently working quite hard. I realise that in my day-to-day life I may have the time to ‘blog’ but I don’t necessarily have the will. I believe this lack of will stems from some part of my brain or soul being spent.

I believe quite passionately in a particular kind of ‘creative idleness’. I use this  term to make a distinction between simple laziness or idleness. When you are tired after working a long day you may want to lie down on the sofa, ottoman, or some other type of comfortable furniture. If your brain is spent, like mine often is, you may resort to watching a conventional soap opera or drama. Let’s take Coronation Street, Eastenders, Emmerdale and any other type of soap. People watch them because they are shit. After a hard day’s work these types of soaps act like a kind of anaesthetic to dull our creative impulses. This is the reason I have not written a blog post for so long. Even if I have a good idea it cannot swim to the surface because of extreme apathy. By the way, I don’t watch any of those soaps. I have thought about watching them, but only if they were animated with more cartoonish violence.

I have come to understand the lack of creative idleness on an almost spiritual level whilst living in Korea. Koreans work the longest hours in the OECD yet have the lowest productivity. The lack of holidays and the culture of working ‘hard’ instead of working ‘smart’, means that the highly intelligent workers returning home on the subway only have the cerebral potential to play phone games. Everyday I see the empty gazes of Seoul’s workforce as they stare blankly into whatever trivial game or social media they are looking at. I’m not saying that  salarymen should be composing sonnets or contemplating the Hegelian Dialectic, but simply acknowledging another human or appreciating something outside their smart phone would help. I wish I could show people the infinite ways of passing idle time.

I consider myself very lucky indeed to come from a country where I could save up money then travel for a year, in trying to enjoy idle bliss. Ironically I spent most of this year working, but that ties into the ‘idler’s paradox’ – more of that later. On my journey to various parts of the World, the biggest gift I got was perspective. To see the World objectively and to question common ways of doing things. After seeing that some Samoans only work for 3 months in a year, and that Australians often go for month-long fishing trips, I was intrigued to know why this didn’t really happen much in the fast paced ‘real World’. After returning to the UK after my trip I became obsessed with productivity and the use of time. I had a time-consuming job in the back office of an academic booksellers. I was never much into counting things, so the idea of making reading lists and counting money seemed abhorrent to me. However, what I found was that I really enjoyed finding ways of saving time and saving man hours. Many of the practices I tried to fold into everyday life were not necessarily ‘good practice’, but the combination of various useful time-saving tips really helped cut the amount of time counting money. This extra time could then be used for creative idleness.

This is the paradox which I mentioned earlier. Being extremely well-organized and efficient ultimately leads to the creation of idle time. If your brain is not spent you can use idle time to do more worthwhile things than making money for the ‘man’ or chasing the Yankee dollar. Most of the great ideas in the world have appeared out of context. We are at our creative best when we daydream, when we swap ideas over coffee and draw on napkins. Most conventionally bad ideas come when we are sitting in a ‘study’ or sitting at our desk. Unfortunately we have inherited an industrialized world in which we generally have to conform to set shift patterns and gruelling hours per week measurements. Most people, given the opportunity could easily condense their week down drastically leaving free time to do creative things, or to be with their friends and family. The biggest fears of course are money and public perception. Nobody wants to be seen as a slacker, and money is a drug in the sense that the more we get the more we spend, and the more we spend the more we want. I wonder how much time at work is spent doing almost nothing? Hopefully, as we enter an era of post industrialization work practices will become more flexible and allow us to do things which make us human. There are some new cultural trends which will really make life much better. The ‘mini retirement’ is one of the best. Stopping work to do other things actually makes us more productive and focussed in the long run. many companies and industries are not set up for this yet, and of course it relies on reasonably well paid jobs where paying the rent isn’t a constant worry.

Now I find my photographs which I hope will illustrate how being idle can ultimately lead to increased happiness, longevity, and a sense of self.

Befriend foreign nationals to see if they have any tips on finding time to be idle. If they don't have any revolutionary ways then you could always help them into an idle lifestyle. Yasu and Kohei come from a land which is known for it's low tolerance for slackers, however as you can see, they have no problems leading an idle life

Befriend foreign nationals to see if they have any tips on finding time to be idle. If they don’t have any revolutionary ways then you could always help them into an idle lifestyle. Yasu and Kohei come from a land which is known for it’s low tolerance for slackers, however as you can see, they have no problems leading an idle life

Make time to make music. The guy on the right got up at 4 am to play his dig at sunrise. The Digeridoo also vibrates your body on a sub atomic level which helps to relax.

Make time to make music. The guy on the right got up at 4 am to play his dig at sunrise. The Digeridoo also vibrates your body on a sub atomic level which helps to relax.

Be sure to take a holiday and don't be bashful about telling others. You may lose some business in the short term but a well rested individual is far more productive in the workplace.

Be sure to take a holiday and don’t be bashful about telling others. You may lose some business in the short term but a well rested individual is far more productive in the workplace.

Be open mided about other cultures and habits which you may have overlooed in your daily regime.

Be open mided about other cultures and habits which you may have overlooed in your daily regime.

Iberia (41)

Make and take time to appreciate your surroundings instead of walking in straight lines to your office. Old businessman = hunched , fat and depressed/ Artists = slim, flexible and happy

ital 091

Too much to explain so just go here instead –
http://www.slowfood.com/

no 193

Set aside a place for relaxation.

nzn092

Time spent cooking and eating is always time well spent. Generally the longer something takes to cook the better it is to eat.

KK (31)

A hot tub, sauna and plunge pool rotation is always good for the idler. Saunas are especially good because you have a rare window to do nothing at all. In case you are confused, sauna sweat is good sweat, gym sweat is bad sweat.

nyc005

Learn from you ancestors. Life was tough for my Armenian family so they moved to New York to make enough money to do less work.

par009

Allow time for play, in this case third world pool (less balls more insects)

peru006

Take a hint from your environment

sk050

Getting perspective. I find that a good view of things helps me to realise how trivial most worries are. I used to ascend this hill to escape studying in Barcelona.

Take the time to enjoy simple pleasures. In this case a sunset. I myself like watching people who watch sunsets, I believe calmness is contagious.

Take the time to enjoy simple pleasures. In this case a sunset. I myself like watching people who watch sunsets, I believe calmness is contagious.

You don't always need to sit in a lotus position to meditate.

You don’t always need to sit in a lotus position to meditate.

Avoiding clutter and mess helps the mind and body achieve true idleness.

Avoiding clutter and mess helps the mind and body achieve true idleness.

Be prepared on excursions. Hunting round for food at lunch time infringes on time in the park. Most food groups are represented in this simple pack lunch combo.

Be prepared on excursions. Hunting round for food at lunch time infringes on time in the park. Most food groups are represented in this simple pack lunch combo.

Choice is generally bad for the true idler, imagine how much easier this decision would have been if there were only one shot of liquer.

Choice is generally bad for the true idler, imagine how much easier this decision would have been if there were only one shot of liquer.

Herbs and spices are full of wonder. Look at the ingredients on everything in the supermarket on your next visit, you will soon realise that making things for yourself is more fun and healthier. Spices used to be essential for medicinal purposes and wellbeing but Victorian protestants attached a stigma to them as they probably hampered the 'work ethic'.

Herbs and spices are full of wonder. Look at the ingredients on everything in the supermarket on your next visit, you will soon realise that making things for yourself is more fun and healthier. Spices used to be essential for medicinal purposes and wellbeing but Victorian protestants attached a stigma to them as they probably hampered the ‘work ethic’.

Why work 9 to 5 when you can work whenever you want?

Why work 9 to 5 when you can work whenever you want?

 

Further reading:

http://idler.co.uk/ – This is a great magazine site made by Tom Hodgkinson. If you like the site then there are also some books published on the same theme.

http://www.fourhourworkweek.com/blog/ – Tim Ferris has become famous by trying to do things really quickly and easily. I question some of the content but the overall message is one of working less and enjoying life. There are many interesting ideas in the various books. e.g – only responding to e-mails at certain times each week, deleting all facebook friends and having people ‘follow you’, taking mini retirements.

http://www.ted.com/playlists/60/work_smarter.html

 

 

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When people ask me, and they often do, ‘what’s your favourite food?’ I usually make up a quick answer to avoid unnecessary complications. Korean cuisine is infinitely complex and I have several ‘favourite’ foods. What I can say with some degree of certainty is that for my favourite meal or meals there should be several key elements. These elements are instantly Korean and instantly delicious. I sometimes get nervous when there is a table missing these key dishes or side dishes. They are of course: rice, kimchi, ssamjang, and some kind of meat. Other elements make these taste better, but these are the foundations of flavour. My favourite way to eat these foods is in a ssam.

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A ssam is basically a wrap. The wraps can differ, but the most common is just some green lettuce. You can wrap meat and vegetables in seaweed (or lava) and different kinds of leaves. Once you start free-styling you can even use two different kinds of leaves e.g a sesame leaf and a plain lettuce leaf. The most common places to eat ssam are at any typical Korean BBQ place or at a Bossam/Possam(보쌈) restaurant (the clue is in the name). The reason I love ssam so much is that you make them yourself to match your own palette. You can also develop them over time to include other key elements, garlic and beansprouts often find their way into my own ssams. I think ultimately, there is no taste better than one’s own taste. The ssam, like the humble sandwich in Western Cuisine, is completely subjective. My own ssams rely on a good dollop of ssamjang – the suffix jang can be added to foods to imply a kind of condiment or paste. I also like cooked kimchi if possible, especially for samgyeopsal (삼겹살) which is bbq pork belly. Obviously the most important thing is the actual meat. This combination of textures and flavours makes for a perfect meal. You don’t need to eat lots of meat and rice for ssam, in fact they can be very healthy relying on fresh seasonal vegetables and leafy greens.

possam (1) possam (3)

Here is a DIY guide to making a decent ssam. I think the order in which the food goes on doesn’t matter too much, but I usually put the meat on towards the end. The most important thing, and a common error, is the size of the ssam. A good ssam should be bite sized; it should fit whole into your mouth without spillage. It’s also great to drink soju with ssam, usually a shot goes together with each saam. If you don’t like soju I recommend trying it with ssam before you give up on it. There is something amazing about the ritual of nailing a shot after each ssam, or before each ssam.

ssam_stages