Sunday, February 8, 2009

The Minimalist Effect

Ok, so I originally had no clue what the ACTUAL idea behind Minimalism was, so I did some scholarly research, which, in 2009 consists of typing the words "Minimalism" into a search engine and clicking on the top, seemingly most relevant return. Here's what I learned.

"Minimalism describes movements in various forms of art and design, especially visual art and music, where work is stripped down to it's most fundamental features."

**That's all I found that was particularly relevant to this post, so I'll spare you the cut and paste.
Given my predilection toward making things/concepts applicable to real life, here's my sociological interpretation:

Life is an intricate and elaborate piece of work in which people and systems interact in a way that influences, heck...DETERMINES the course of human history. Despite this intricacy, there are only a few elements that we cannot live without as humans(love, hope, peace, joy, justice, etc), barring what society says. What is fundamentally necessary to me is probably necessary to others, therefore we are connected in that vein. We all impact one another, both consciously and subconsciously. Fundamentally, we are linked and our realization of such a fact helps us to look beyond the petty happenings and sometimes tragic events of our lives to glimpse into the suffering of humanity. It also help us to realize that, regardless of what we endure, there is the potential of hope that lies dormant at our very core.

In short hand cliche phrases: Something bad happens you, it could be worse, at least you are still alive. Minimizing thinking about past hurts and failures, helps to maximize our potential to do great and meaningful work in the earth. The glass is half full, etc.

These sub-concepts have in common the premise that we focus on the POSITIVE and the NECESSARY, what is most essential to human survival and growth, leaving all other things behind. Most importantly though, we are to structure, design, our lives to reflect those things that are fundamental and necessary. Fundamental and necessary to what? To our life's purpose. If you have at least a vague idea of what your life purpose is, the minimalist approach will work for you (or at least it shouldn't be too hard to understand). While I know that society is fraught with way too much cynicism and judgment and pity to actually operate out of this model, it's something to consider.

Example: So I was in an accident last week and I was pretty broken up about it. Then I realized that I, the other dude, or some bystander could have died, there could have been major damage to my car. and further more, that I could have not had insurance to pay for it. Or to turn on the evening news and learn that a young man, your age, celebrating college graduation, is killed in a hit and run. Well, when you put it that way, my fender bender sucked, well....less.

Another example: Sitting around thinking about how much debt you're in, wallowing is a pool of self-pity, only to receive a call hours later telling you that your cousin has just lost her battle with lung canger.

I'm not suggesting that we should all live in world of relative pessimism. I am simply observing that a little bit of perspective goes a long way. These kinds of sobering realizations draw us away from the smallness of situation and into the fullness of life. We are given permission to strip away the unnecessary, even if that only consists of other people's opinions. In a more idealist-realist view: We understand, simultaneously, the world as it is and as it should be.

I saw the movie, Revolutionary Road, last night and it framed my thinking about this concept in a very interesting way, more focused on the outward expression of many of these same concepts. Oh, and here's a SPOILER WARNING:

A young, fresh, married couple start as idealists but quickly become jaded by the business of social climbing (stuff accumulation). This realization weaves a web of emotional turmoil in their lives. They attempt to simplify. They try desperately to move to another country where people "really live" but are unable to escape the life that they have built for themselves. The life that is supposed to make them happy. What a tragedy. Perhaps the bigger tragedy?

The inevitability that many of us will end up this way if we aren't careful. Not to say that you can't drink the kool-aid every once in a while, get married, have some kids....but we risk building fortresses around our comfort, getting wrapped up in the simple mindedness of our own struggle and loosing that thing that causes us to live....passionately. I see that in some of my friends....already. I don't plan to spend the rest of my life lacking permanent companionship, but I will (I vow) to have enough flexibility to, should I choose,wake up one morning, turn to my husband and say "Baby, lets move to Dubai....tomorrow" (my friend Sarah and I decided that a week would give a foothold to too many obstacles and doubt). He'll be like "Cool. Let's go." Or the freedom to say, "Let's move to and join the revolution." There should be room in our lives, and more importantly, room in our thinking for just a little bit of that."

Back to the movie: The couple couldn't, try as they might, leave behind something that they themselves had created. They became victims of a utopian existence. Who has ever heard of that? Probably not many people. Because we are taught that people who live as they lived, have lots of stuff, good looking kids and a house to put it in...have all that they need. There existence, however narrow, is secure. But after awhile, we are prisoners of these things and people and societal pressures. Especially in circumstances where the man wears the pants and the woman wears the high-waisted pencil skirt. To make matters worse, they knew, because they had tasted, what was so epherial, invigorating and TRUE about life but did not have the guts to recapture it. Such as shame.

The STANDard here, and my strong advice: Live life, giving special and strong consideration to minimalism (in both speech and action) and the freedom and TRUTH therein. The minimalist approach to thinking and living isn't minimal in practice, actually, it's quite rich and abundant. It is so, because it incorporates the abundance of humanity without the smallness that keeps us from believing that it's unimportant.

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