Watch Out

van gogh clock“How to pursue the art of living has become the great quandary of our age," writes Roman Krznaric, author of How Should We Live?, as reviewed by Elizabeth Lowry in The Wall Street Journal (2/4/14). It’s a question rooted in the advent of "the mechanical clock … invented in the 13th century. The meager one-hour lunch break was a 14th-century German innovation; by the 1800s, pocket watches had become so affordable that laborers could carry them about … Wristwatches appeared in the 1880s," and the Industrial Revolution ushered in the "round-the-clock work shift."

All of the above "is closely tied to the notion of market efficiency and … the rise of consumer culture" to a point where "the modern economic man … regards shopping as a form of leisure … Since we acquire all of our goods ready-made, we have forgotten basic craft skills. With the advent of social media and online dating sites, even our relationships … have become subject to market forces." Roman’s advice is to use "an awareness of the historical contingency of our cultural attitudes … to reshape them."

In short: "Stop checking the clock, skip the trip to the mall, step away from the internet and take time: time to cook a slow meal, talk to your neighbors, to put up your own bookshelves, to go camping." Roman cites Vincent Van Gogh’s "career trajectory" as a model. Van Gogh "began as an art dealer, taught in school, sold books and then trained as a missionary before finally deciding to dedicate himself to painting, ‘which he did with absolute intensity, amidst bouts of mental illness, until his death in 1890, at age 37′." Yes, and you can buy a Van Gogh wristwatch here.

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