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Life 'in Orbit'


Many people struggle to avoid getting sucked into the system of a meaningless nine-to-five job, while a few are lucky enough to find a job which is meaningful and which pays a regular salary.

If we are driven by the idea of making more money as our first principle, we can waste year after year after year thinking up dozens of wonderful schemes, none of which come to anything at all, adding up to time wasted damaging other aspects of life in ways that are often only realised later.

Years ago, I found that when it came to setting something up, organising it, training people and so on, I was less effective at it than if all that was done by someone else, and when some delivery was required, I was the man.

Then there was a shift in my reality. I think it happened over a long period, but it began when I did something radical: after a personal crisis, I sold up all my property, put most of my stuff in storage, and purchased a sizeable motorhome. Apart from saving money, and being fun, I wanted to challenge the whole template of society and to try to live as unusual a life as it was possible to do within my circumstances - to live a life ‘unmoored’ to the usual stable things of society, to seek solitude, and to find out what I, myself, considered to be important, uninfluenced by anyone around me. I would go ‘off-grid’, not appearing on electoral rolls, or other normal databases, not having a ‘fixed abode’ and all that comes with that.

It worked. I discovered that I much preferred to keep the noisier aspects of society at more than arm’s length, and that I spiritually flourished in terms of a richer inner life than at any previous time. This included challenging quite a few of the ‘now-I’m-supposed-tos’ that are embedded in our culture .

Was I immediately ecstatically happy and rolling in money? Well, in a sense, I was ecstatically happy - I discovered a deeper understanding of Life and my own place in it. This isn’t a phantom notion, an ‘airy-fairy’ idea: at earlier times I was consumed with the daily grind and had little time to really consider meanings. As for money, I had financial troubles, yes, but a lot less to worry about: no Council Tax, no bills, no rent or mortgage payment.

There was more to this too. For many years, I had seen people motivated by selfish urges, even when they were inside supposedly altruistic groups, to the detriment of themselves and those around them. Most people need to come to grips with their own personal issues before they can expand to something else, but likewise some realise that they want to better the world. What actually happens next - I mean, what actually happens, as opposed to what people think happens or fool themselves into believing has happened - is the key. Placing a focus on the self before anything or anyone else can also lead to a selfishness to which a person can be blind. With a goal of ‘Let’s create a better life’ the result can often beg the question ‘Better for whom?’

Life in a motorhome brought certain advantages, some foreseen and some unforeseen, part from relative financial freedom: I was able to spend nights in ‘secret’ locations, in the middle of forests, on the edges of moors, on cliffs overlooking the sea. I could fall asleep watching the sun set over the sea through one window and watch it come up over the fields in the morning; I could awaken in the middle of the night tools out of the window and see what looked like snowfall, bright, sparkling whiteness everywhere, only to be startled by the call of an owl into realising that it was moonlight. I saw corners of urban landscapes that I had overlooked before; I saw forgotten places and sometimes forgotten people.

On one occasion, I parked in the path of an oncoming blizzard, just to see what the experience would be like. The storm howled and whirled invisibly in nearby hills as it approached, then suddenly the windows were hit with the full blast of snow and the whole van rocked with the violence of it. It didn’t take me on to revise the wisdom of parking in such a place and soon I had removed myself to a quieter valley, only to awake the following morning to a Christmas card scene outside.

But a longer term and more subtle effect was the slow growth of a personal honesty. I saw through illusions that I had wound round myself; many dense falsehoods fell way over time.

Being ‘outside’ society, even if only temporarily or partially, gave me new insight into those deeper within. This did not result in judgement, but in sympathy and understanding. There are certain economic realities which pertain to life in any mode, on the edges of society or not, and these eventually pulled me back in with a force comparable to gravity. I will never forget, though, the brief but potent glimpses of life which my time ‘in orbit’ had revealed to me.


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