Cleaning Up

I’m into minimalism.

I can’t say I practice it well. I mean, I come from a long line of respected Michigan hoarders. Not in the Hoarders TV show sense, but in the “Let’s buy this / keep this because we never know when we might need it” way of collecting.

hoarders

So, while I continue to evaluate the things I own using the questions–

  • Is it used regularly?
  • Will it be used in the next month?
  • Does it bring me joy?

–I don’t go overboard like some Scandinavian hygge fanatic (although I believe strongly in these principles of living Danishly).

I’ve followed The Minimalists for years: read their books, listened to their podcast, watched their documentary. They were the catalyst that prevented me from joining my ancestors in their hoarding habits.

But . . . when Joshua and Ryan came to Australia earlier this year, and had a ‘show’ at a popular concert venue in my city, I didn’t attend. Not only were the tickets a little higher-priced than expected, but I was surprised to see a ‘meet-and-greet’ ticket for an additional hefty sum. It seemed to me that things were going a little too far and this was becoming a money-making enterprise beyond what had begun as a grassroots ‘live with less’ movement. Then they announced their move to L.A. and the setup of their own recording studio . . . The lure of celebrity for all intents and purposes, had found its prey.

I share this story to say this: sometimes things start off well and show a lot of promise. People are attracted to the potential of a simple idea. Then, before too long, the idea takes on a life of its own and starts expanding. People who originally had led a ‘back to basics’ movement start advertising, building, marketing, promoting and going on speaking tours.

It’s not simple any more.

‘How difficult is it to be simple?’ Vincent Van Gogh is claimed to have asked. It’s not hard at all, really. That is until you start buying into that rhetoric that tells you that this–what you hold in your hands right now–is not enough.

Churches, schools, charities and ministries–even well-intentioned business owners–start with simple core ideas surrounded by some amazing people and end up down the track as very large and complex structures, selling out their values, buying into the dominant popular culture or latest trend. At what cost?

‘For what shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world and loses his own soul?’ the Teacher asks.

When the soul–in this case a symbol of that amazingly simple core value–is lost, it doesn’t matter how attractive you look, how many books you write, how many venues you fill, how awesome your brand is, how much money you bring in, what celebrity status you might have, or what great buildings you build.

It’s time to clean up. To get rid of some of that junk you’ve hoarded. To ditch some (all?) of the labels you’ve accumulated. No, you really don’t need it all. In the long run, it’s not worth the cost. Maybe it’s time for a ‘packing party’ and a sell-donate-or-dump run. Hygge really does have its rewards. Perhaps, it’s time for you to take the advice of a wise old bear and get back to . . .

. . . The bare necessities
The simple bare necessities
Forget about your worries and your strife
I mean the bare necessities
That’s why a bear can rest at ease
With just the bare necessities of life

 *  *  *  *  *

By the way, this is our 400th blog post! There has been a lot of water under the bridge since I started blogging several years ago! If you read through what I’ve posted, you’ll see some subtle changes in my life and way of thinking and some that are more far removed from where I began. I hopefully get around to telling you about these in the next hundred or so posts.

Peace.

Jon

Simplicity

Here is something of which I need to be reminded often (and I suspect I’m not alone in this), from Richard Rohr:

We are all complicit in and benefiting from what Dorothy Day called “the dirty rotten system.” That’s not condemning anybody; it’s condemning everybody because we are all complicit in and enjoying the fruits of domination and injustice. (Where were your shirts and underwear made? What wars allow us to have cheap food and gas?) Usually the only way to be really non-complicit in the system is to choose to live a very simple life. That’s the only way out of the system!

Thus most of the great wisdom teachers like Gandhi, Saints Francis and Clare, Simone Weil, Dorothy Day, Jesus and Buddha—lived voluntarily simple lives. That’s almost the only way to stop bending the knee before the system. This is a truly transfigured life in cultures which today are almost always based on climbing, consumption, and competition (1 John 2:15-17).

Once we idealize social climbing, domination of others, status symbols, power, prestige, and possessions, we are part of a never-ending game that is almost impossible to escape. It has its own inner logic that is self-maintaining, self-perpetuating, and self-congratulating, as well as elitist and exclusionary. It will never create a just or happy world, yet most Christians never call it into question. Jesus came to free us from this lie, which will never make us happy anyway, because it’s never enough, and we never completely win.

Adapted from Spiral of Violence: The World, the Flesh, and the Devil (CD/MP3 by Richard Rohr)

Places of Simplicity and Peace

Dear God,

We give thanks for places of simplicity and peace;
let us find such a place within ourselves.

We give thanks for places of refuge and beauty;
let us find such a place within ourselves.

We give thanks for places of nature’s truth and freedom,
of joy, inspiration and renewal,
places where all creatures may find acceptance and belonging.

Let us search for these places;
in the world, in ourselves and in others.

Let us restore them.
Let us strengthen and protect them and let us create them.
May we mend this outer world according to the truth of our inner life
and may our souls be shaped and nourished by nature’s eternal wisdom.

Amen.