Wednesday, May 1, 2013

the minimalism movement

Around Christmas time 1988, I was chubby 12-year old kid. During those days, my parents, sister and I drove down the hill and a few miles to my grandparents’ home to eat tasty treats, visit and watch a movie. This was an annual event which took place the during the week after Christmas, but before New Year’s.

I don’t recall how many years in a row we did that, but I do remember three of the movies we watched: The Mission, The Last Emperor and Empire of the Sun. Mission and Empire of the Sun had a profound impact on me as a kid. But one visual from Empire has remained with me to this day.

After Jamie and the POWs leave the air field prisoner camp and hike days and days, they arrive at a sports stadium. It is filled with cars, pianos, golf clubs, dressers and lots and lots of statues … . The visual was stunning – here are these starved-to-death British citizens, who just a few years ago “had it all”, then it was taken away and now here all of it sits – theirs for the re-taking. But they don’t need it. They need water; they need food. If ever there was a poster for the ‘why’ of Minimalism movement, this would be it.

As has been noted over and over again on the minimalism blogs, the movement is not about getting rid of stuff and living on less; rather it is about thinking about what joy and happiness means to you.  In my lifetime, happiness has meant having it all: the fancy car, the nice house, nice clothes, the pool ... all that.  But what we have learned and are still learning is that having possessions does not bring happiness.  Consumerism and all the gorging that goes with it only leaves people broke and empty inside.

Minimalism forces you to ask what it is that make you happy?  What are your priorities in life?  What should you spend your money and time on?  Do you really need all those possessions to achieve that goal of lasting happiness?

Living on less strips away all the irrelevant and unimportant and leaves only the truly valuable and worthwhile.

James Allen said, "The man who shrinks from self-crucifixion can never accomplish the object upon which his heart is set ... the sole and supreme use of suffering is to purify; to burn out all that is useless and impure"

And when all the useless has been burnt out, the pure gold - the pure joy is left.

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