Poverty, simplicity and getting drunk

Inside Out Edition #11


This week I read George Orwell’s Down and Out in Paris in London. It’s a small book about what happens when an Eton boy winds up starving on foreign streets.

He says:

It is altogether curious, your first contact with poverty. You have thought so much about poverty—it is the thing you have feared all your life, the thing you knew would happen to you sooner or later; and it is all so utterly and prosaically different. You thought it would be quite simple; it is extraordinarily complicated.


Poverty is one of those things we often romanticise—the simple life, the primal problems, the fundamental pleasures.

As it happens the things that are the simplest to perceive are often the most complicated to construct. An overnight success is a decade in the making, a well-behaved dog is months and years in training, living on little takes planning and scheming and a whole lot of groundwork.

Simple is a varnish, a last step, an end result. It is something to strive for.

But do not let the appearance of simplicity fool you into thinking that it was simple to get there. And do not begin to think, even for a minute, that simple is somehow easy.

Simple is a life’s work.

Welcome to #11.

Article I liked: Why Do We Like to Get Drunk?, by Edward Slingerland

In fact, archaeologists have begun to suggest that alcohol wasn’t merely a by-product of the invention of agriculture, but actually a motivation for it. The first farmers were driven by a desire for beer, not bread. We could not have civilization without intoxication.

In this brief extract from his recent book, Drunk: How We Sipped, Danced and Stumbled Our Way to Civilization, Edward Slingerland analyses the influence of alcohol on our minds, our hearts and our civilization.

Our taste for alcohol has to be more than just an evolutionary error, more than just a simple a bug in the programming. Slinger takes us through the origins of fermentation, explaining that alcohol must be doing something good for us if we’ve come this far and are still lining up at the bar for it.

Something I wrote: The First Thing

There’s a new project in town and it’s hitting inboxes at 5am every weekday.

It’s called The First Thing, and it’s a little like the first parts of Inside Out, except it’s designed to be read first thing in the morning, before your email, before your messages, before your Twitter feed.

Check it out and sign up if you like it when I turn up in your inbox.

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Quote to ponder:

We must strive to reach that simplicity that lies beyond sophistication. —John Gardner

Something I’m thinking about:

An unintentional act can hurt just as much as one filled with intent. Carelessness, thoughtlessness, forgetfulness: these bring their own kind of hurt.

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