The Well-Tempered One

By: Matthew Battles
January 17, 2013

Richard from England Your England on Vimeo.

In a discussion of the relative merits of ebooks versus the paper kind, a friend mentioned that the Kindle is a key tool in a low-impact lifestyle increasingly chosen by folks in their mid-twenties (a subset of the generation that HiLo poobah and generational taxonomist Josh Glenn, for obscure reasons, has recently renamed the Social Darwikians). This friend describes a growing tendency among twenty-somethings to live a peregrinatory life, avoiding long-term employment or living arrangements and eschewing material possessions to the maximum possible extent.

Richard, the piano tuner profiled in the short film above, seems to encapsulate a limit case: tired of the clusterfuck of consumer electronics and student debt, he leaves his flat behind, stashes a couple of boxes in his parents’ house, and takes to the streets. Only this isn’t your grandaddy’s sleeping rough: Richard has help from space-age fabrics and ultralight camping gear; when not tuning pianos, he wiles away his time making digital photographs. He doesn’t shoot heroin or hustle; he goes to work and takes a nice pedal through the park.

From squatting to rail-hopping to going West or taking to sea, people have shaped their escapes from modern life in response to peculiarities of the political, economic, and material scene. Richard’s version is one for our time, living without shelter as a lifestyle choice — one made possible by the unreal materiality of the very world that drives him to sleep rough.