Lately I have been reading a lot about minimalism. I am not a minimalist, I have very few belongings, that is true, but I love all of them, and wouldn’t want to part with any of them if I didn’t have to. But minimalism as an opposition to the extreme consumerism we have been living with the last decades is, in my opinion, a necessary and welcome trend. We have become too heavy for our planet to carry, we have weighed our home down with too many things, things that we don’t really need.
In the book “Goodbye, things” by Fumio Sasaki,the author explains how he went from being a maximalist and a hoarder to someone who hardly owns anything at all. In his experience, things have today become a status symbol. We want to adorn ourselves and/or our houses with the latest trends to gain approval and admiration from others, and it is first when we gain this longed for response that we truly feel happy. Fumio Sasaki says that we have moved our measure of happiness from inside ourselves to outside, we have handed that power over to “the others”. The author explains how the happiness we gain from owning a new trendy item is only fleeting, as we soon grow tired and bored of the item when it loses its newness, and then, in order to get the next happiness fix, we buy something new. In Fumio Sasaki’s opinion, in order to feel a true sense of happiness we have to stop partaking in this materialistic rat race to happiness, and rather feel content with less, with what we have, and feel grateful for that.
I do not disagree with this. Happiness can certainly not be found in things. Happiness is a state of mind that comes with a feeling of inner peace. And inner peace is something we can only achieve for ourselves. It cannot be found anywhere, but inside of ourselves, independent and regardless of what happens on the surface. The ocean’s depth remains calm.
A lot of spiritual people call this partaking in modern consumerism egotism at its worst. Consumerism is feeding our greed and giving into our ego’s desires. But what is the ego? Is it our lower nature, our animalistic side, that which an enlightened person has broken free from? I do not think so. I think that is simplifying matters. I think it is a spiritual understanding and interpretation from the past that is too banal to hold any truth anymore. For what if we dig a little deeper into what it is that is making us chase so desperately after all these things. We can take a psychological approach, like the author of “Goodbye, things”, and say that it is about finding meaning through social acceptance, or we can take a more biological approach saying that it all stems from instinct to find food and hoard food so that we don’t starve. But I have chosen to take a more spiritual approach.
We are all evolving beings. Whatever you believe the motivation for this evolution is, you cannot deny that we have, and continue to, evolve. It is not only an evolution of the body, but also of the mind, of the intellect, and of our psyche. Our emotions are evolving, our sensitives, our senses, our creativity, they are all evolving, towards what remains a mystery, but humanity is certainly moving somewhere. Now, what drives that evolution? Perhaps our thirst for knowledge, or our curiosity about the unknown, about that which we yet not understand, like space and the human brain, and the beginning of time, or perhaps it is creative intuition; our need to explore and express our artistry; perhaps through abstract art connection us to the subconscious, or our ability to inspire certain emotions in others; linking us to a mystic togetherness through music and poetry.
What if the instinct that tells us to move on, to go further, to leave behind and look for newness, is about moving us on as human beings? What if our greed is simply a misplaced instinct that tells us to know more, to be more, to search for more? What if our ambition is about not wanting to stagnate, what if it is about trying to use every ability we have and even develop new abilities?
I think most of us have sat in front of our screens watching YouTube and felt inspire by a video about the latest fashion trends, or mobile phones or cars, thinking that yes, it is about time I update my old wardrobe/mobile/car, and then felt excited, uplifted, happy to be going somewhere, to be moving towards something new and exciting. What if this is really not about that fashion trend/mobile/car at all, but rather about something much deeper, an innate instinct in us telling us that it is time to move on, to keep growing, to keep exploring and learning?
Newness is something good, movement is something good, necessary even, change is the inevitable movement that creates time, that takes away the bad, that dusts away the pain and replaces it with something better, something we couldn’t even have imagined ten years ago.
Sometimes the world goes through such an immense spurt of growth, that it hurts, it creates confusion and pain, but growing is necessary, it is one of those in-built traits that no life can escape. And why would we want to? Growth is what makes life possible, and not knowing what will come shooting out of the earth is part of the excitement, of the mystery that makes life so interesting.
Be inspired, but be inspired about your abilities, about your creativity, about the development of your mind. Gratitude is wonderful, and so is contentment, but do not let it lead to stagnation. In the search of inner peace, do not let go of your excitement, your curiosity and your wonder.
I believe all our instincts are good, even the ego; the poor beaten down ego serves a purpose, even that which a lot of people now call this generation’s narcissism serves a purpose, a beautiful purpose: the pure need to know ourselves, to explore our minds, our subconscious, our selves, and to use our abilities to contribute to the world. Perhaps it is only when we do not let ourselves evolve intellectually, emotionally, creatively, that these instincts get misplaced, for somewhere they have to burst forth, the energy has to be brought into something, it cannot be simply stopped. We all know that, energy needs to move, that is the nature of energy. And without energy there can be no life.
If we live our lives without mindfulness, without deep thinking, without self-awareness which will lead to empathy, it is easy to judge; to judge ourselves and others, to divide ourselves into good and bad parts, to lose faith in humanity and to fall into a pessimistic outlook on the world and the future of it.
The coin always has two sides, or rather, the ocean always has two surfaces; one which you see with the naked eye and perhaps choose to stay on top of; looking only at your own two-dimensional reflection, and one hidden beyond your vision; on the other side of the depth of the ocean. Both two sides of the same reality.
How you choose to navigate your life is up to you, you can stay safely on top of things, floating happily along with the current, or you can dare to dive into the mystery and learn to be mindful of both sides; that which is visible and obvious and that which is hidden and mysterious, either way, your instincts will keep leading you on, inspiration will keep pushing you forward, the pull of ambition will keep teasing you, and greed will tempt and entice you. Are these chattering companions only disturbing noise, something to unnecessarily stir us up and create dissatisfaction and stress, or are they something more, something which we might have judged a tad too quickly?
I will leave you to find out the answers for yourself…