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The default life An outside the box book about life as a 20 something, by a 20 something Review by Ashley Chapman

“We run heedlessly into the abyss after putting something in front of us to stop us seeing it.” – Blaise Pascal As a philosophy student at the University of Western Ontario, Sam McLoughlin quickly learned that his attempt to maintain a sincere belief in God was lame, while his friends’ nihilism and existential crises were cool. That didn’t stop his initial foray into apologetics, a term he defines as “the art of apologizing for being a Christian.” When relativism was discussed among friends, he turned to every youth-group-educated undergrad’s favourite absolute truth defence: “So you say all truth is relative — including that statement?” but had unfavourable results. “Turns out that wielding these maxims in the presence of even a C-average philosophy student is as useful as firing an arrow at a tank,” he writes. The Default Life is a survey of the big topics that shape us: from religion to technology to dreams. It’s an amalgamation of thoughts from cultural critics, philosophers, and academics; basically, it’s a pop-culture-infused liberal arts degree in 215 pages. McLoughlin adds much of his own insight and humour, constructing a case to prove his thesis: that modern society produces citizens who live in default mode, seeking money or popularity (or antique furniture or cardigans) instead of facing the meaning — or meaninglessness — of life. (Fun fact: this book was actually McLoughlin’s master’s thesis at Regent College.) As a self-published book, The Default Life lacks professional proofreading, perfect formatting, and that elusive pay ad-

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2013

vance that allows an author to eat during the months or years of writing. But these are tradeoffs McLoughlin accepted to take full control of crafting a truly unique reading experience — complete with QR code-enabled “recommended listening” suggestions for each chapter (“It’s a tragedy that movies can have soundtracks, but books can’t,” he explains). The choice also allowed him to become one of the youngest book authors you’ll have read. You don’t often hear first person reflec-

THe Default life: A manifesto for a disaffected generation Sam McLoughlin Self-published, 2012 available on Amazon

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tions of being a kid in the '90s in print — print! But don’t confuse youth with inability; McLoughlin’s style and depth of thought fully merit the permanence of binding and ink, and the presence of margins (and his published Twitter handle) for interacting with the text. McLoughlin chronicles his own initiation into the culture he both appreciates and critiques. He remembers at age nine how his ultimate hero shifted from Batman (who tries to save the world) to Zach Morris (who tries to be cool). He recalls learning the marks of mature adulthood by spending that golden after-school hour before his parents got home from work watching Oprah. “As a twelve-year-old,” he writes, “I learned to empathize with rape victims, sex addicts, and poor families who’d just been evicted . . . After watching a few episodes of Oprah, I felt that doing anything else, like playing hockey, was childish. Going outside was beneath me. I had a duty to listen to those rape victims, nod, and offer my condolences. And I wasn’t going to let them down.” As the book’s subtitle (“A manifesto for a disaffected generation”) suggests, McLoughlin explores the factors that leave Millennials longing for “a sunset over Maui without the hassles of flying coach.” In his two final chapters, McLoughlin travels to Disneyland, but instead of being haunted by the “It’s a Small World After All” theme song, the voice of Fight Club’s Tyler Durden plays on repeat in his head. Between High School Musical 3 parades and flirting with the princesses, he can’t shake Durden’s epigrams: “We are all part of the same compost heap;” “If you died

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This 11th issue we explore the ethics of hockey culture, and whether loyal hockey fans are mad at the NHL for the right reasons. We talk vir...

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