Wednesday, October 20, 2004


My favorite thing about ìhomelessî living was the pace of life. As a work-slave I was always in a hurry. As much as I was a slave to a wage, I was a slave to the clock. Get up at 8:00... rush to work by nine. Eat lunch at 12. Home at 5. My life was regimented and my rhythms controlled by the employer and his stopwatch. It didnít matter how I felt... what my rhythms were... that maybe I was a ìnight personî and was most energized later in the day. Nope. Same schedule for everybody. Punch in... shuffle along.

Freed from wage slavery I also freed myself of the shackles to the clock. This was a more insidious form of mental slavery.... as it persisted for some time. In the beginning, it was very hard to escape a gnawing feeling that I should be ìdoing somethingî . But Iím a natural ìdo nothing man of Taoî so in about a month I cured myself of that disease and for the first time since starting Kindergarten, lived completely according to my own whims.

I followed the sage advice of zen masters. When I was tired I rested. When energized, I walked, ran, wrote.... engaged myself in stimulating activity. When hungry, I ate. If I was depressed, I moped around and allowed myself to be sad and useless. When enthused, I ran with it. I napped in the afternoon. I danced in the middle of the night. Whatever my body or mind needed, I gave it.

This, I think, is a workable definition of freedom: the ability to live according to oneís own nature. Itís a zen/taoist notion.... not fighting yourself... but flowing. The more I sank into this lifestyle, the quicker my anxiety melted away. Without a clock and a taskmaster.... depression or illness or fatigue were nothing to be worried about. I responded to them appropriately, let them run their course. As a result, they rarely lingered. Likewise, I could indulge every restless impulse. There were times, when "employed", when I felt like a wolf in a trap... desperate enough to gnaw off a leg. I yearned to be running in the woods, or paddling a river, or throwing a frisbee,... or to just feel the sun and wind on my face. Tension and anger would mount inside me.... building to an unbearable knot of stress.

But homeless... that is, living as a voluntary unemployed nomad.... I could let that be as it was. That restless energy was no longer ìa problemî. When it built... I released it. And so my life established a kind of effortless flow that I'd almost forgotten. Ever since Kindergarten I had been subjected to forced regimentation. Finally, over 30, I was free.

That taste of freedom was so exhilarating, so addictive, so humanizing... that I have never looked back. Never again will I subject myself to full time wage slavery. I may, for the sake of eating & income, have to resort to work from time to time. But in short bursts, or as a freelancer, or part-time. Once you taste freedom... once you remember it....thereís no going back. This is something the social workers and administrators and politicians do not understand. For a sizeable section of the homeless population there is no going back either. Its not that they want to be hungry, or ragged, or dirty, or miserable. Its that they're unwilling to trade away their freedom for an apartment and a steady income. They are not willing to be slaves to fit in.

And for that, I respect them.


Anonymous said...

I hear what you're saying about flow. There was a time in my life where I didn't have a worry in the world (rent paid/food in the fridge), and I was working on a freeware software project. There was no reason to get up in the morning so I woke up whenever (usually 2pm or so), worked whenever I felt like it (usually at night) and often achieved quite amazing "flow" as in getting sucked so deeply into my work I would look up and be surprised to find sunshine outside. What, morning already? :)

In later days, when I actually took up "software engineering" as a "profession", I realized that programmers working for corporations hardly ever hit "flow" like this. They're bogged down in retarded policies, have their time wasted in meetings, and besides they're too tired from having to get up at 7am and commuting to work to write any inspired code when they sit down at their desks at 9am. By the time I'd hit my "sweet spot" (9pm-3am) I'm not even at the office.

I'd say that it would probably take a few developers, testers, and a manager about 6 months to "manufacture" what i cranked out within 2 months by just going with my inner feelings.. That's amazing isn't it? Makes you wonder what humanity could achieve if people were left alone to work and create as it suits them, without fixed rules or imposed office hours.

AJ said...

Yes... absolutely.

Since I became blissfully unemployed... that is, a part-time freelancer... I've been "working" like a manic madman.

One reason is that I work WHEN I want to work and don't when I don't. As a result, when I do work... I'm super-energized and inspired. I get more done in a typical day now than in a week- or more typically- a month, of any job I've ever had.

Of course, another key ingredient is that I'm doing only WHAT I want to do. I decide.... not some ego-tripping bureaucratic idiot.

On the "half empty" side of things: it shows what a crushing tragedy the whole phenomenon of "work" and "jobs" is.

The "half full" side: Freedom is possible... and exhilerating. And contrary to what the bosses of the world would have you believe... it is also energizing. Once you've had enough time to recover from the soul-crushing effects of work.... which took me over a year of loafing and doing nothing... you find that creativity and passion and energy comes flooding back.

If anything, that's the message I want to promote and encourage on this blog: It's possible and it's great!

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