Wednesday, 4 March 2009
Constructive Apathy - a Lifestyle Philosophy
I have always felt that my true role in life was to be at the head of my own religious cult. Some set-up whereby lots of adoring people would pay me lots and lots of money just to turn up and…BE. I don't have to do anything, I don't have to say anything, just turn up and, well, ... BE.
Problem is, the only slight cloud on the horizon is the somewhat worrying tendency for such cults to end in a kind of casual mass suicide.
Another slight problem was…well…Me. If you don’t mind someone with a face like a full set of haemorrhoids and the personality of a used tea-bag, I’m your man. It’s like when a pal of mine googled me recently. “I didn’t realise, Ray,” he said, “you’re quite famous”.
I like that. ‘Quite’ famous. It’s a bit like being ‘almost interesting’.
What I needed was a concept that was good on the longevity stuff, wouldn’t involve me getting too energetic and was universally attractive and applicable to others.
So a good few years ago, I was sitting in the office of what was (then) laughing called a Production Company, sitting at my computer, and it staring blankly - but lovingly - back at me, contemplating the glorious Summer that was supposed to be happening out there beyond the window.
Someone passed me. “Bored, Ray?”, he said with that sort of Matt Damon smile that makes you want to put your fist in his face.
“This isn’t boredom,” I wittily riposted. “This is Constructive Apathy”.
And that’s when the light bulb when on in my brain. My ideal lifestyle philosophy, fully formed and complete and the instant panacea for the twenty-first century’s supposed surfeit of leisure time.
Suddenly my mind shot into second-gear. Visions of them turning up at massed rallies of the faithful, all of them desperate for me to raise an eyebrow or crack my lips into the merest hint of a smile, perhaps utter the odd word or two. I was in thrall to my own self. I almost started referring to me in the third person.
Pressed for a definition (and I would have to be pressed in extremis), I would say it was: The Science of watching Life pass you by. It is most surely a Science, for it can be replicated; and it is a state ideal for the writer with ample opportunity to write about life rather than actually live it.
I recalled something Jeffrey Archer (that worrying doyen of hyperactivity) once said about writing: “Every morning you face that blank sheet, and there are a thousand and more reasons for not writing, but only one for actually doing it; and every morning you have to find that one reason all over again”.
But why?, I thought. Cannot one spend such time reflecting positively on all of the reasons for Not doing something?
Believe me, dear follower, what I am launching here in this blog is the merest tip of my vast intellectual iceberg. It is no bogus, ill-constructed philosophy knocked together by some pathetic over-compensating loser.
Oh no. It is completely thought-through, a faith beyond post-post-Modernism whose time, I feel, has come.
It is not the comatose staring into space traditionally associated with serial television watching; it is more positive inaction, rather akin to that practised by our posthumously-anointed guru Sir Alec Guinness.
We have out own ready-made anthem in John Cage’s “Four minutes, thirty-three seconds”, that battle-hymn to tranquillity and of life carrying on relentlessly outside. We have our own salute: not so much the gloved fist, more a casual shrug of the shoulders.
And although this may sound contradictory, we even have our own goals and ambitions. In my case, it is: Early Retirement. I would commend it…most particularly to Lord Archer, who might perhaps consider taking early retirement from life itself.
You see, Constructive Apathy gives you a chance to take control of yourself, to listen to what Life is saying to you - even if all it does say is: Does it Matter?
It offers one the opportunity to address the really pressing issues of our time like: how many beans make the perfect beanbag? what happens to the darkness when the light comes on?, and why did they build Windsor Castle so close to the airport?
Thus, I am saying to you all: get out of the rat-race, seize control of your destiny: join me and consider the cult of the half-closed eye. Remember, no problem is so big or so complicated that it can’t be run away from.
And at a time when City types are being released onto the unemployment market in lemming-like quantities, I can foresee the need for a lifestyle option that offers them a positive alternative. For I, who have been there, seen it, done it, bought the t-shirt, decided ‘No’ and walked away from it, offer it now to a waiting world.
So here shall I sit, winking knowingly back at my monitor screen, raise a glass in wait of 3rd September [National Procrastination Day in the USA], take another delicate sip if my Industrial Chardonnay and contemplate Constructive Apathy and my constant self-belief that the world owes me a living.
You know, over the years since I’ve been working on C.A., many of my friends have encouraged me to consider working this all up into a book. And I might just do that.
On second thoughts, I don’t think I’ll bother.