How to be Idle with Tom Hodgkinson

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Idler editor Tom Hodgkinson discusses the secrets of the idle life over this six part course.

Based on Tom’s global best-selling books How to be Idle and How to be Free, this course is designed to help anyone who is at a crossroads in their life, and is looking for more freedom, fun and autonomy. Whether you want to free yourself from wage slavery or make better use of your leisure time, this course will help. Using Tom’s idling philosophy, we will explore both practical tips and philosophical approaches to help you grab hold of your own life and free your spirit.

This is a warm, witty, fact-filled course which will draw on Tom’s extensive research into idleness and the free spirit across his international best-sellers and his twenty years of editing the Idler. Tom will also draw from his own experience as a shopkeeper, experimental smallholder, freelance journalist and author.

Course Outline

Lesson One: The Good Life
In our first session we will examine ideas of the good life through the ages, from Aristotle to the present day. We will look at the Greek concept of eudaimonia, literally “being at one with your demon”, and also the Taoist idea of living close to nature and going with the flow. We will decide what constitutes the good life.

Lesson Two: The Importance of Thrift
Thrift is often rejected by leftist political philosophers. They think it means accepting poverty while others feast. This week we examine to what extent money is necessary for a good life, and how thrift – or careful household management – can be liberating. Thrift means thriving: it can mean creativity, romance and freedom.

Lesson Three: How to be Enterprising
Freedom-seekers will often become self-employed or try to make money from their own business. This week we will examine what it means to be “enterprising”. Can you start your own business? Do you want to? For example, it could mean that you are very happy in your day job but that you recreate your leisure in an interesting way. What about the idea of shopkeeping? Could the petit bourgeois be the real revolutionaries? Could you be a creative entrepreneur?

Lesson Four: Back to School
What is leisure for and how to use it wisely. The idea of the Trivium and the Quadrivium in classical and medieval education. The importance of grammar, logic and rhetoric in everyday life. How to continue our own education throughout life. The therapeutic importance of doing things for their own sake.

Lesson Five: Contemplation and the science of idling
This week we will look at the concept popularly known today as “mindfulness”, but which we would rather call “contemplation” or even “doing nothing”. We’ll also look at the causes and cures of depression or what used to be known as “melancholy”. We’ll study the latest research on the science of idling, which shows what the brain does what it is apparently idle.

Lesson Six: How to Engage with the World out There
This week we will explore the limits of positive psychology. We will explore the philosophical idea: it’s not your fault. We will attack the dominant idea that you are the sole architect of your fate. We will come to understand that luck plays an important role in your life and that some things are simply beyond your control. The world out there can be very difficult to deal with, and it’s not your fault. This understanding itself can be liberating. We will decide how much to engage with the world and how much to retreat from it.

About the tutor

Tom is editor of the Idler and author of the best-selling manuals, How to be Idle and How to be Free. Other books include a book on smallholding called Brave Old World, a book on parenting, the Ukulele Handbook and, most recently, a manual for creative entrepreneurs, Business for Bohemians.