Recently, the exploration of what it is that brings unhappiness has been at the forefront of my mind. Many of the things are…”things.” The upkeep and acquisition of goods seems like it should bring joy, at least that’s how things are explained.
Oddly enough, though, I find that the less I have the more time I have to focus on things that really matter to me. I recently had a very nice laptop cease to work, and I made a conscious choice to use an older Linux laptop I had sitting around. While it’s not even close to as high performance, I can say that limiting myself has brought about an odd sense of joy. Rather than play video games, I have found myself resuming training for rock climbing. Doing so has in turn altered my own view of my time and actions.
Minimalism has been in the forefront of my mind for a while. As I have mentioned previously, I have spent some time as a monastic. Learning that you don’t actually -need- all of the things is useful, but it’s a very different thing to decide what is worth keeping and what isn’t. Moreover, it may still be too conservative in how we come to understand the value of items.
I do not personally see it as “What can you live without,” but rather, “What things bring your actual life goals into view?” I know a few people who embrace minimalism that insist that the few things you own should be of a high quality and value. This, while right, is a very subjective stance to take.
I could write pages upon pages about how the Nagas, Buddhist Monks, and Early Christians (primarily the ‘Desert Fathers/Mothers’) would turn away from any concept of ownership. This…may not be totally wrong. What having less things seems to do is not really cause us to miss out on anything, but to bring into much clearer focus what we actually care about. In my own case, it’s family, friends, and adventure. Bouldering requires very little gear, and I do not need to own the boulders that I go to solve. These belong to the Earth, and I am just a visitor. Perhaps all of life is like that, and we are better off the sooner we recognize it.
εἶπεν δὲ πρὸς αὐτούς Ὁρᾶτε καὶ φυλάσσεσθε ἀπὸ πάσης πλεονεξίας, ὅτι οὐκ ἐν τῷ περισσεύειν τινὶ ἡ ζωὴ αὐτοῦ ἐστιν ἐκ τῶν ὑπαρχόντων αὐτῷ. (And he said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” – Luke 12:15)
“A man who gives way to pleasure will be swept away by craving and his thoughts will make him suffer, like waves.” – Buddha, Dhammapada v. 339
अहिंसासत्यास्तेय ब्रह्मचर्यापरिग्रहाः यमाः ॥३०॥
“Non-violence, Non-falsehood, Non-stealing, Non-cheating, and Non-possessiveness are the five Yamas.” — Patanjali, Yoga Sutra 2.30
“Whoever knows what is enough will always have enough.” – Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching
As I grow older, I find that the truth of this is apparent. Possibly worth mentioning, I left a very lucrative career to move to a cabin about 1/5th the size of my old home, and that led to me realizing that I not only do not need the same amount of money to survive, but that I find much less worry about the shifting nature of the world around me.
Essentially, this has led me to make even more decisions to reduce the things I own down to the point that if it does not directly benefit my individual goals or my family, then I do not want it. The joy of spending time with people you love will always outweigh buying them things, and to spend time with those you care about adventuring through a big world will create memories that matter.
A story: “A Zen Master lived the simplest kind of life in a little hut at the foot of a mountain. One evening, while he was away, a thief sneaked into the hut only to find there was nothing in it to steal. The Zen Master returned and found him. “You have come a long way to visit me,” he told the prowler, “and you should not return empty handed. Please take my clothes as a gift.” The thief was bewildered, but he took the clothes and ran away. The Master sat naked, watching the moon. “Poor fellow,” he mused, ” I wish I could give him this beautiful moon.”
There is a caveat, though. It is not the reduction of things that makes the difference, but the reduction of desire itself.
Diet: Tuna wraps with apples, Alcohol = None (and figure I can drop explaining this one since I have no desire to go back to drinking), Workout = Wim Hof Breathing, Yoga, and tons of climbing work: front/back levers, hangboard, etc.