Mist rises like the smoke of inspiration, genies’ clouds climbing the rock-speckled banks. The pomegranate trees are bare now. Winter has pulled off both their fruit and their leaves. Yet the olives and pines care little about winter’s bullying. They are greener than ever. January’s downpours have satiated their tough old roots. It’s eleven am, third day of a continual deluge of rain that hasn’t even let up long enough for me to visit the bathroom. When the need arises I have to don wellies, rain trousers and Macintosh. Even then, I’m soaked when I return. No one is moving. Not even the shepherds. The land is a silent sponge absorbing any wisp of ambition or haste. So I have sat in my mud home for three days doing absolutely nothing constructive other than inhale the fresh aroma of my liberty.
It wasn’t always like this. I’ve worked in the system just like most people, and the memory sits cold on my diaphragm, congealing. The sickening sound of the alarm. The bolted breakfasts. The dragging yourself to work when you are under par. The tedium and frustration of following a routine designed for someone with a very different sleep pattern, digestive system and work tempo than yours. The interminable boredom. And I know I’m not alone. If you watch the popularity of the more sensible online blogs, a surprising amount chews the dream-filled cud of escaping the daily grind. There’s little doubt, the driving aim of my Mud world was to eradicate the need for money and render the drudge of work obsolete. And this reminds me of something that happened two and a half years ago.
It was a full moon, September 2013. I’d just returned from a six month stint in Taiwan, the proceeds of which were supposed to keep me afloat for another year. And then I went and burned out the engine of my car (oh the metaphorical beauty of that). It wasn’t really surprising as I’d filled the poor beast to the brim with roofing felt, timber, a few bags of lime, and then driven it full pelt up a mountain in mid-summer. Ahem. Now, lest you’re anywhere as reckless as I am, let me tell you, burning your engine out is a very expensive business, even when your car is a twenty year old Turkish Fiat. If I’d been in the U.K. it would have been scrapped. It doesn’t work like that in Turkey. To cut a long story short, the burned engine devastated my finances. I remember sitting with the late Celal under my grandmother olive tree and bawling. The thought of going back to that; to work, to punch-in-clocks, to doing a job I’d long fallen out of love with, well, it felt like I was on death row.
‘You know what?’ I said to Celal. He was sitting on a stool in the shade and staring out at the view and chewing on a twig.
‘I think I might rob a bank. I mean let’s face it, if I get caught the worst that will happen is I’ll get three years in jail. Come to think of it, I wouldn’t even have to cook. What a bonus! I could just sit and write all day.’
‘Aye,’ he said. ‘There ain’t never been no point in doing an honest day’s work. Look at the rich, they’re all robbers anyway.’
But I was only half listening, because I was suddenly imagining doing a stint in a Turkish jail. Here in the Republic of 21st century, we are no longer in the era of Midnight Express. Turkish jails, particularly women’s jails, aren’t that bad. I came to the conclusion the food would be OK, because the Turks never serve junk food wherever you are. And who’d be in there with me? Badass Turkish women who’d murdered their abusive husbands, and left-wing political dissidents. The more I thought about it, the more attractive jail time was looking. Heating paid for. Warm showers. How bad could it be? Certainly not as bad as being chewed up by the teeth of The Machine’s cogs for another year.
I exhaled a very long slow yogic breath. Now seriously, what state have we reached when an educated quadra-lingual forty-year-old woman considers jail time preferable to a job? The longer I thought about it, the more unreasonable it all seemed. And I swear, the only reason I didn’t undertake a robbery was a sense of ethics and the vague threat of bad karma. I know not everyone hates their job, and good for those that are happy. Yet for the millions throughout the world that work in factories, fill supermarket shelves, populate the tight rectangles of cubicle land, are bullied by their work peers or, like me, whose hearts cry out to do something they love, The Job is prison.
It was the loathing of The Job that drove me to sell my car, to begin building using scraps, to start learning to survive on next to nothing. It became something of a game. How long can I keep this up? I wondered. Initially I worried about things like; What happens when I get sick? I don’t have health insurance. But I was hardly ever ill. When you live according to nature’s rhythms, if you sleep when you’re tired and get up when you’re awake, when you eat properly and rest properly and feel blessed to be alive, illness flees from you like an energy corporation from an environmental lobby. As one of my friends in the valley put it, 'It's nuts, people are stressed out working to pay their health insurance which makes them sick. Why not cut out the middle man?'
Yes, it's scary to leave a salary behind and not know where the next buck is coming from, but the wide space that opens up in place of The Job allows hefty gusts of creative power to enter. We are so much more resourceful than we have been taught to think. And life can be so much more benevolent too.
Two and a half years on and I've never been back to work again. Oh thank The Mud and the rain for that! I'm no longer a slave but a free woman. And let me say this, now I've tasted the sweet nectar of liberty, there's no going back to the grind. Yes The Job really is prison, and no you don't have to remain in it.
Want to read more about this topic?
Here's my post on why living without money is so much fun.
And here's some of the things I built for next to nothing.
Atulya K Bingham
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