Minimalism— 5 minute read — Jack Edgson
We are a society of constant voyage. Seldom can we recall the shores we’ve departed, nor foretell what lingers beyond the horizon. We reach but do not grasp, live lives without joy or fulfilment, peering around an endless series of alluring corners. We cloud ourselves with a fog of habitual behaviour, moving forward but without progress — always on the hunt, and near ceaselessly miserable. “The point of life” forever dangling mere inches from our face. It eluded us then, but tomorrow we shall surely find more beautiful shores.
“Happiness is like a butterfly: the more you chase it, the more it will elude you, but if you turn your attention to other things, it will come and sit softly on your shoulder.” — Henry David Thoreau
See, we are caught in a contest, the universal gameshow of mankind. A great, never-ending treasure hunt for the most valuable, and the most grand. There is simple beauty in life which we faithfully scurry from, afraid to see how little we care about the things that have taken so much. Because a large part of what makes life enjoyable has nothing to do with the grand or costly, but with the modest pleasures that go unnoticed. Reason tells us that a first class trip across the world will always be better than a walk in a sun filled park, or that more will be better than less. Unfortunately, this reasoning is false, a self-deception, a collective delusion that we are for the most part, unable to release.
In the darkest of rooms, lights shine brightest. We crowd our minds with so much that we can no longer make out the faint yet beautifully iridescent light of something as simple as a bird singing, our lungs breathing, or storm clouds bursting with thunder. Get back to nature, tilt your view down from the penthouse and towards the grass and plants. Understand that nothing worldly will bring you lasting happiness. Once you’ve got it you’re only worried about losing it, and that’s no fun, it makes you anxious because you have something really important to lose. And that defeats the whole purpose of wanting it in the first place.
“It is quite impossible to unite happiness with a yearning for what we don’t have. Happiness has all that it wants, and resembling the well-fed, there shouldn’t be hunger or thirst.” — Epictetus
In its purest form minimalism is nothing more than the practice of self-reliance. Which is just non-reliance on superficial circumstances. Derive thrill and delight intrinsically, since the most beautiful things cannot be seen, but only felt.
It is easy to underestimate the need for voluntary simplicity, but there is wisdom in moderation — as individuals we become more by needing less. As a species we find emptiness to be a truly frightening state, perhaps it serves as a stark reminder of death. It’s profound: many of us would rather subject ourselves to torture than sit quiet and still for even a single minute. Maybe what we don’t see is that void, space, lack, are all fundamental parts of life, perhaps the most fundamental, for all of this arises out of nothing, out of empty space. There can be no “things” without a nothingness for them to reside in. I am of the opinion that we could all do with a little more emptiness, that is to say, with a little bit less.
This of course, as with every great humans idea, is taken to an extreme. The hardcore “Minimalists” among us have stepped out one gameshow, only to fall into another. Now it’s a contest of who can own the least. But it’s still the same sort of contest, just at the other end of the scale. So this new extreme is really the same face with a plainer mask.
The point of minimalism is to be mindful of what is or is not necessary, and to act upon that. In this sense we may call it the middle way, you have deprived both gameshows of their contestants; stepped out one door and danced off into the sunset. This is the essence of minimalism, finding what we really care about — that which adds meaning and value to our life — and discarding the rest.
“Those obsessed with glory attach their well-being to the regard of others, those who love pleasure tie it to feelings, but the one with true understanding seeks it only in their own actions.” — Marcus Aurelius
Do not act as though you have longer than one lifetime to live. The inescapable is approaching. Nature’s great act of mercy: where mere moments after birth you were flung from the edge of a colossal rock face. And you’re headed straight for death. And still, despite your most sincere desire for life, despite your flailing and clawing, despite clinging and screaming, you are still plummeting towards that unshakeable ground. So eventually, you realise it was of no use, you are fated for what you always were — and no amount of clinging or crying will ever change this — so you let go. And what’s left to you in that moment is nothing but laughter. Because there really never was anything to look forward to. You’ve already got it. The humour of it all becomes clear.
So breathe a sigh of relief. Because some day, willing or not, your affluence, fame and worldly power will fade away. It will not matter what you owned, or owed. Your grievances, resentments, envies and pains will disappear; and with them your dreams, aspirations, hopes and plans. The triumphs and tragedies that once seemed so important will be forgotten. Your property will rot, wither, and in time, become dust. Yes, someday soon you will die, and you will be forgotten. What will be remembered is not what you owned but what you created, not what you learned but what you taught. What will matter is not how many people you knew but how many people you inspired. What will matter is every act of love, honour, courage, and sacrifice that empowered others to follow your lead. Possessions cannot help you on this journey. They will only weigh you down.
“Perfection is achieved not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.” — Antoine de Saint-Exupéry