The Campaign for Real Life

Photo Credit Ayd Instone

[box options]You’re in for a treat today… from the UK! Today’s post is a guest post by Ayd Instone. Ayd is an international speaker, philosopher and entertainer on the subject of creativity. He’s the author of a number of books and writes regularly on his blog ‘Ding!’ When you’re done reading his post, head on over to his blog. [/box]

Instant coffee. Horrible and pointless. Someone has gone to a lot of trouble to make some coffee, boil off the water and freeze dry the gunk that’s left so you can pour hot water on it and have a horrible ‘instant’ cup of coffee.

‘Convenience’ they call it. Convenience foods – so you don’t have to cook, don’t have to chew (and with most, almost don’t even need to swallow). You don’t get any flavour, nutrients or vitamins but at least you didn’t have to do any work. God forbid you’d ever have to lift a finger.

For the past sixty years or so our society has been obsessed with convenience. We invented fast foods so you don’t have to wait and savour the anticipation. You can then eat in a rush, on the move, while you’re busy doing something else.

What exactly have you got to rush off and do? Everything has been made so convenient with all the enjoyment and experienced boiled and freeze dried out of life that there’s actually nothing worth rushing off for.

Convenience is a creeping pernicious evil that destroys life and creativity. Creativity is by its very nature inconvenient. It’s about not rushing off, but stopping to ponder. It’s about being obsessed with the tiny details. It’s about taking the long way round and to do it the hard way.

Take the iPod. No seriously, take it, take it away. So, you’ve got the whole of humanity’s recorded music in your pocket, digitised (so you only have part of it) compressed (now you have even less of it) and you play it through cruddy little headphones while you’re busy doing something else.

What’s wrong with you? If you claim to love music, get a record player and some vinyl. Hold the sleeve in your hand and slide out the record. Notice that it’s precious, fragile. It has value. Look at the microgrooves on the surface of the disc. You can actually see the music, see the length of the tracks. Put the record on the spindle, setting thirty-three and a third if it’s an LP. Be careful lowering the stylus – you could cause irreparable damage to the needle and the record if you rush it. Now sit back and listen, looking at the wonderful artwork on the 12” sleeve while you do so. But only for 20 minutes, then it’s the end of side one and you’ll have to turn it over. So don’t leave the room, you’ll have to stay and listen. After all, you don’t want it playing to an empty room knowing that it and the needle are slowly wearing out with each play.

The Campaign for Real Life

I’m not suggesting we reject technology, far from it. I am saying that it should be chosen and used appropriately to enhance experience, not remove it.

We already do it in a few areas of our lives.

We should all be sleeping on beds with foil blankets, much more efficient and sanitary than duvets. But we prefer the cosy feel of the duvet.

We should be wearing thermal jump suits. But we prefer a variety of fabrics and styles and choose what to wear to compliment the weather and our feelings.

We should get all our nutrients from a condensed pill. But we prefer taste and texture.

So our civilisation isn’t finished quite yet. There’s some hope. There’s still some signs of life.

In fact vinyl record sales are on the up, year on year over the past six years with 310,000 units last year. It’s predicted that they’ll overtake CD sales within just a few more years.

Fountain pen sales are on the up, year on year over the past six years. Retailers noticed a 10% rise during 2011.

Why? Because more and more people are realising that it’s the experience that counts. If you’re going to do something in this short life we have, do it properly, get the most out of it and enjoy it.

If you feel you want to be more creative, then start to jettison convenience and go for experience. Because your creativity IS your experiences, rewired. Take the long way to work, to the shops. Go for a walk without a destination in mind. Listen to new sounds, look at new sights, smell new smells, taste new tastes.

Get creative: choose real life.


Author: Andrew Zahn

I'm a son, husband, dad, business owner, actor and good sleeper/eater. On this blog, I pave a highway for creative growth by providing food, water, and shelter for those wishing to live, work, and play with creative zest.

  • Lesley Beagley (@LesleyBeagley)

    Well said, Ayd!

    And whilst we are at it what about the “Package Tour” … herded like cattle into a flying metal tube with so little space that actually livestock wouldn’t be ALLOWED to travel like that, plastic, homogeneous hotels with the compulsory meeting on the first morning to sell you homogenised excursions… all because we are too lazy (or frightened) to go off and explore the world as it really is!

    And don’t even get me started on the “convenience” of shopping malls and high streets that are identical across the country! Grrrr!

    • Oh don’t! I find those massive shopping malls quite disturbing. They’re like indoor cities except they don’t have the hallmarks of a real city: no churches, no museums, no charity shops, no parks, no libraries, no butchers, bakers or candlestick makers. Only massive evil brands. And the whole thing sits there like a massive fridge heating up the world so that we can purchase at an ambient temperature.

  • Chris

    Good work Ayd!

    I’m off to wind up my gramophone.

    • And I bet it only plays 78s! There is also a growing interest in those now too. So search your attics and hang onto your shellac!

  • Great post, Ayd. Our microwave broke a few years ago and we never bothered to replace it. It was about the same time we chucked the TV. We heat up our leftovers slowly on the stove and cook new meals the “old fashioned” way. It’s a wonderful way to slow down in the middle of the day.

    I see your point about the record player, though I’ve been listening to music exclusively on the iPod for about five years. I think it’s time to get the old stereo out and make it the centerpiece. I still have some vinyl that probably needs a little attention. Thanks for that.

    • Great stuff. You’ll be surprised that the more you engage with effort in life’s diversions, the more rewarding they become. We only live on average 2365200000 seconds. Isn’t it better that we pack in quality experiences not a quantity of poor ones?

      Some people (on Twitter, not here) have said ‘oh, so you want to go back to the bad old days’ – I didn’t say that. You’ve found you don’t need the microwave, or even the TV.

      Another example I could have used would be that no-one would suggest replacing a philharmonic orchestra with a synthesiser (even though it would be cheaper and few would know the difference). We keep the orchestra because that’s the best and most beautiful way of doing it.

  • Ken Stewart

    Point taken about recorded music. Why not take it a step or two further and learn to play an instrument or two? Before music boxes, the only way to hear music was to make it oneself or listen as one’s companions did.

    • You’re right! Andrew said to write 500 words (but I did 750) but I could go on and on with this topic (and probably will). I aim to learn a new instrument every year (except this year because I’m still on the trumpet from last year which is the hardest so far…)

      I believe to fully engage in life and what it has to offer we need to fully take part in the duality of: listening and playing music, reading and writing stories, watching and being on the stage, eating and cooking, cheering on and taking part in sport, using and making things, learning and teaching.


  • I have been pondering similar matters lately, learning again to slowdown, smell the flowers. I find there’s a certain willfulness required in slowing down–it takes discipline, volition–because I’m so accustomed to the distractions.

    Great post, Ayd!

    • “Smell the flowers” – great idea and great metaphor. Thanks!

  • Ayd, you are spot on!

    We don’t meet “real” people anymore. All this Social Media stuff online is great for creating awareness and a following. But nothing beats good old fashioned meetings in pubs and coffee shops (with real coffee of course).

    Ayd, I look forward to meeting you again in real life this summer:-)

    • It’s the old ‘confusing activity with accomplishment’ all over again isn’t it? We think we’re living but sometimes we’re just existing. Thanks Arvind!

  • Sharon Langford

    Arrghhh… why does everyone think that ‘fast’ is best? Yes, we only have one life, but let’s live that life with some quality in it.

    Just Slow Down…. check out The Slow Movement, and read ‘Slow’ by Carl Honore…

  • Robert Bell

    OK, it may be that oldies are accused of wallowing in nostalgia. That’s why it’s so refreshing to hear these views expounded with such passion by someone not yet picking up his pension! Well done, Ayd – keep fighting for a real world, where our children can experience inky fingers, the daily effects of wear and tear, heat and humidity, the bruise on a windfall apple.

    • Nicely put Robert and quite poetic. When we speak, it should be as if it’s poetry, when we make a mark, it should be as if it’s art and then when we live, it may well be a masterpiece.