How I designed my life around the things that matter most to me
This is a work in progress. It is published but incomplete and will be updated regularly.
I wake up in beautiful places. A different place every day. Sometimes surrounded by hills, sometimes on a beach, other times next to a lake with acres of woodland to explore.
We always need to start somewhere. We can’t start at the beginning, it’s too far away and too uncertain, but as everything builds on what went before we can start anywhere and know that it includes its past and all that led to that point.
From art and life
We shall start in the autumn of 1995. With my rucksack packed with all that I owned I boarded a coach to Sheffield to study Art.
I considered my art in the tradition of Conceptual art; creativity embodied in the process not the final product. I had painted, mostly landscapes, but as a visually means to explore ideas about how we fit into the world around us rather than to produce paintings. In the studios and gallery spaces of Sheffield Hallam University I could leave behind any need to create in order to be creative, to produce in order to think, to document in order to explore. Inspired and influenced by Kaprow, Lewitt, Turrell, Hockney the universe of ideas I could inhabit expanded all around me.
Hockney taught me to see
Kaprow blurred art and life
Allan Kaprow’s writings were a “sustained philosophical enquiry into the nature of experience and it’s relationship to the practice of art”. In Essays on the Blurring of Art and Life, and all of his other works, he investigated the meaning of life. This was what art practice was about for me. Never about making pretty pictures. It was discovering the meaning of my life.
“A self-described “un-artist,” Allan Kaprow championed an artistic practice that moved art out of the museum and into the everyday. His works insistently blurred the boundaries between art and life, requiring active participation rather than passive spectatorship, interactive collaboration rather than solitary creation” – Annette Leddy
In ‘The legacy of Jackson Pollack’, Kaprow talks about how Pollack judged his work by how good or bad the gestures were that he used to create his paintings. The painterly splashes, drips, and pours that we regard as unmistakably Pollack were less important than how those expressions came about. It was the process that mattered. The actions that were important. Creating more than producing.
Hours spent working in studios, researching, exploring, discussing ideas. An idea that persisted and was frequently revisited was the question of ‘how should an artist interact with the world? Should they retreat from the world so as not to make things worse, an approach we described using the analogy of ‘the monk’, or should they take the path of ‘the evangelist’ and go into the world with the intention of taking positive action to make things better. Our discussions returned to this question time and time again.
All these influences shaped my thinking and my creative expression.
The first principle of Stoicism is to live in harmony with nature-human nature and physical nature.
Vice Admiral Stockdale served on active duty in the regular Navy for 37 years, most of those years as a fighter pilot aboard aircraft carriers. Shot down on his third combat tour over North Vietnam, he was the senior naval prisoner of war in Hanoi for seven and one-halfyears -tortured 15 times, in solitary confinement for over four years, in leg irons for two
The life of a hermit
Articles about being a hermit
- Why this man became a hermit at 20
- What hermits can teach us about isolation
- Intimate photos show what it’s really like to be a modern-day hermit
- Alone, Not Lonely: On Modern Hermits
- The Case for Becoming a Hermit
- British hermits: the growing lure of the solitary life
A theme runs through all of this; intentionality. Doing things on purpose. Designing a life.
Where am I today: some questions
What do you do each day?
A typical day for me involves waking early with the daylight as my alarm clock. I don’t really take much notice of the time or even what day it is sometimes. I make breakfast, usually a mixture of cereals and dried fruit with soya milk, and then I head off for a hike. Sometimes I’ve planned where the day before and sometimes I’ll pick somewhere that morning or just start walking and see where it takes me. I walk for a couple of hours every day. Sometimes I focus on clearing my mind and thinking of nothing, just the experience, and other times I’ll take a topic of discussion with me and discuss it with myself as a walk.
Once back at my car I switch my laptop on. I either have work to do, other I study, or spend time thinking and writing about the stuff that interests me. Sometimes this is focus time and other times it’s more free-flowing and exploratory. I’m really lucky that my job can be done remotely and fits my lifestyle really well.
Sometimes I work, write and read late into the night. Other times, if I have personal admin tasks on my list for that day I’ll go shopping, do laundry, etc., but I try to keep these to a minimum to give me more time for the things I’d rather spend my time doing. Evenings are also for moving on to the next beautiful place. I hardly ever stay in the same place for more than two days, there’s just too many places to see.
“No way of thinking or doing, however ancient, can be trusted without proof. What everybody echoes or in silence passes by as true to-day may turn out to be falsehood to-morrow.” – Thoreau
What do people say when they find out you live in your car?
I don’t tell many people that I live in my car. Mostly because I just don’t talk to many people, but also because when I do it doesn’t often lead to interesting conversation. The questions are usually about ‘how’ rather than ‘why’. “How do you wash?” (Same way you do, with soap and water). “Is sleeping uncomfortable?” (Only if your stupid enough not to make it comfortable). “Do you get cold?” (Sometimes but my car has heating and I have warm clothes and sleeping bag).
Sometimes they’ll ask if I’m going to get a van, to which I reply that a car suits me better and that I’d rather get rid of more stuff than get more space. When I see a nice camper van I remind myself that it probably costs five times what my car cost and that I’d rather have the money in the bank.
What are the downsides to living in a car?
It seems to me there are far fewer of them than living in a house, but only if you want the lifestyle that goes with it.
My biggest worries are my car having a major breakdown, being broken into, stolen or damaged in an accident. If either of those happened it would seriously impact my lifestyle, at least in the short term while I got my car repaired or bought another.
Everything else that is part of life in a house is part of life in a car, just on a smaller scale. I still have to keep it clean and tidy, maintain it, pay the bills.