I’ve lived an unplanned life. I never had plans about what I wanted to do with my life. I never had any goals or ambitions. There was never anything I was particularly trying to achieve.
I think that what I always really wanted was simply to be as free as possible. Free to do what I wanted to do.
When I was a university student I turned down good job opportunities simply because I wanted to continue to live the undemanding student life. I didn’t want a full time job, however much I was paid.
When I finally, unwillingly, left university, I pretty soon became a freelance, self-employed software engineer. They were in demand at the time, and were highly paid. But it wasn’t the money that attracted me, but instead the freedom that came with the freelance life. I’ve really only ever wanted enough money to survive. And I’ve always had enough.
I’ve been an opportunist. I was offered the opportunity to go to university, and I took it. After I left university, I was offered the opportunity of becoming a freelance software engineer, and I took that opportunity too. They were always snap decisions, not part of any plan.
And in the idle time that I had (and I always had a lot), I pieced together Idle Theory, in which idle time – or free time – was the One Good. It’s a reflection of my own values. I didn’t think I’d ever be able to publish it anywhere, but when the internet came along I took the new opportunity to create the Idle Theory website.
A lot of other people seem to be very different from me. They want everything planned out in advance, with nothing left to chance. I remember once reading with horror, in New Scientist, someone’s entire detailed lifetime plan from age 30 to 70. It even included enough money set aside for their funeral. I could never have done anything like that: I would have felt imprisoned by the plan.
And in many ways it’s these planners who’ve become my enemies. Because it’s not just that they plan their own lives, but they plan everybody else’s as well. They’re always planning ahead to the end of their lives, and everybody else’s lives as well. They don’t live in the now, but in an imagined future. They don’t smoke or drink at age 20 because they’re planning to still be alive at age 85. And they don’t think anybody else should smoke or drink either.
Their ideal world is a completely planned world, from which all uncertainty has been removed. And this usually results in them wanting planned socialist economies in which everything is held in state ownership. But what they want is the very opposite of the freedom I’ve always wanted. They don’t want freedom. Freedom is fraught with uncertainty, and they can’t stand uncertainty. So they can’t stand freedom. In fact, I’m not sure they know what it is. They want a secure prison in which all the prisoners are well fed, well housed, and with their own assigned places in the prison graveyard.
I strongly associate smoking with freedom. I think I always have. It’s always required a certain amount of defiance to smoke. Particularly these days. Smokers are mavericks who prefer certain pleasure now to uncertain pleasure in 40 years time.
Whenever I see anyone smoking, I see someone doing what they want to do, rather than what somebody else wants them to do, and thereby demonstrating a degree of personal autonomy, or personal freedom. And so to me “smoke-free” really means freedom-free, and therefore unfreedom. So does “alcohol-free” and “fat-free” and “low-salt” and all the rest. For those things too are a part of what freedom entails.
The antismokers are planners. So are the global warming alarmists. And so are the politicians behind the EU “project”. All their thinking entails forgetting about right now, and instead thinking 40 or 50 years ahead.
I used to go on holiday with an antismoking friend. She’d always come up with the plans for where we’d go next, and what we’d do once we’d got there. I used to go along with all her plans, because I never had any plans of my own. If it had been down to me, once I’d arrived on Skopelos the Algarve, I would have just found a bar in which to sit, with a beer and a cigarette. And in fact my most vivid memory of Skopelos was sitting outside a breezy sea-front bar watching the ash flicked from my cigarette bounding away across the concrete floor into the distance, like little planetisimals vanishing into a concrete universe. I can get mesmerized by little things like that.
And when I visited Barcelona, and mi amiga was at work, would I visit Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia, or the Picasso museum, or any of the other tourist attractions? Of course not. I’d head for the little café beside the hotel where I stayed – the one that had big mirrors on opposite walls – and sit with a coffee watching my reflection vanishing into the distance, curving away in arc I once estimated to be a kilometre in radius. What more could anyone possibly want?
I still don’t plan anything. I didn’t plan to write this on my blog tonight. In fact I wrote it precisely because I didn’t have any plans for what to write. I never do.