I’ve had a moment of realisation. What I want out of life is tranquility. Yes, I want to contribute to the world, to use my skills and knowledge to make it a better place, perhaps even to have some influence on actual constitutional developments. But I’d like to do it slowly and gently, with more leisure to read, think and write at my own pace.
I’m not ambitious in the typical sense. I don’t want more. I don’t want luxury, I want secure sufficiency. I’d just like to be able to proceed through life at a more gentle pace. I don’t crave novelty or excitement or – heaven forbid ‘new challenges’; I crave stability, continuity, settledness, and a way of life that is scholarly but also leisurely.
I’d like to be left alone in my library for days at a time – perhaps working, or perhaps playing with model trains. I’d like to emerge occasionally to enjoy some learned conversation over a few ales in a good pub – one without piped music or annoying fruit machines.
I’d like to potter more and rush less. I’m willing to consider the idea of an allotment, but only on the proviso that it doesn’t have to be squeezed in to a busy schedule, and that my time spent there will mostly involve sitting in the shed sipping cider and whittling sticks while listening to Test Match Special.
I feel that much of modern life, especially professional life, is just too fast for my tastes. It’s geared around horrific concepts like ‘performance’, based on lifeless metrics which miss out on so much of what is really important.
Besides, there’s far too much paperwork, admin, online banking, stupid emails, and other nonsense to deal with. I know that it all has to be done. My vain and hopeless protest against busyness is not a complaint; it’s more of a lament.
This is not, it must be emphasised, a product of laziness. Far from it. I believe in hard work – and to do scholarly research and writing well is hard work. But it is also slow work. It needs time to mature, to percolate, to settle. It cannot be rushed.
Someone asked me what I’d do if I had enough money not to need to work again. My answer is that I’d continue doing exactly what I’m doing now, but I’d stop worrying about not doing it fast enough. I’d do it three and a half days a week, forty-two weeks a year. I’d probably do a much better job, too, because I’d be able to be more deliberate and reflective about it.