Why this is and isn’t a blog about minimalism

No doubt about it, this blog and the things I’m currently discovering and looking into owe a lot to minimalism. I’ve always been interested in minimalism in architecture, and to some extent in music, but have always viewed these as reductionary, intentionally taking away, with less being in and of itself the end goal. I got this wrong, a case in point being Jon Cage’s 4:33 appearing to be the complete absence of sound, but actually being the creation of silence to allow environmental sound or background noise, to be heard.

It’s much the same with minimalism as a lifestyle. Neither aesthetic nor ascetic, I like to think minimalism is concerned with focus. Here’s a brilliant definition from Joshua Becker of Becoming Minimalist:

The intentional promotion of the things I most value and the removal of anything that distracts me from it.

Now, here’s why this isn’t a minimalist blog: For most people, and even it seems most minimalist writers out there, the ‘intentional promotion of the things I value most’ part can be replaced with ‘the pursuit of happiness’. This can easily lead to looking inward, and focusing on not what’s important to you, but what’s going to make you happy, which in my experience aren’t always the same thing.  This is not only selfish but, bizarrely, pretty much the exact same goal as the antitheses of minimalism, consumerism and materialism. The key is finding out what you most value.

However, there are undoubtedly elements of minimalism that can be seen all over the bible, not only in Jesus’ teachings but also in the way he and the apostles lived. Pretty much the whole of the Sermon on the Mount is a great example – here’s the end:

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.  But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

“The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!

“No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?  Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

“And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin.  Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these.  If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith?  So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’  For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.  But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.  Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

This passage in particular has been really key for me over the last few months as I’ve thought about what’s important. If it interests you, Jay Pathak has a podcast called ‘Do not worry’ based on the above which is just awesome and brought a lot of clarity to the passage for me. Hopefully I’ll get the opportunity to look deeper into that passage in future blogs – verses 22 and 23 in particular.

Some more Jesus teaching, from the parable of the rich fool in Luke 12:

“Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.”

So hopefully that’s a good introduction into the part that I think minimalism has to play in what I’m driving for. If you’re up for reading more about minimalism, here’s some good links:

Becoming Minimalist – Joshua Becker

Man vs Debt – Adam Baker

Defining Minimalism (article) by Naomi Seldin

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~ by jgebrown on 2 November 2010.

One Response to “Why this is and isn’t a blog about minimalism”

  1. Very good insights. Keep going and you’ll be stripped down to nothing but you and Christ! And He can give what He sees is needed.

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