Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Materialism and the New Minimalists (or Is This Reduction?)

At first I was intrigued as I read an article on the BBC about today's minimalists who are getting rid of their things and living in sparsely equipped apartments. I was attracted to the idea of shedding stuff and perhaps gaining new spiritual insight through the discipline of reduction.

I'm keenly tuned to my own attachment to things because I'm a person who has had to pack and unpack it all one too many times. Things, things, things. I've moved them between 6 countries on 3 continents. I've also gone through a house fire which took most everything I had of material value. Topping it off, I live in a developing country that reveals my standard of simplicity as relative. I live simply compared to some friends in the States. I live like a flippin' crazy person compared to most Africans. I know full well that my local friends think we're nuts to "need" all of this.

So I was interested in this cult of less, as the BBC called it. I was kind of hoping for an insight that would help nudge me toward being able to lighten the cargo more readily. But I was disappointed. The minimalists turned out not to be very minimal at all. Sure, they have less physical stuff, but they're building up a warehouse of technology all stored in their laptops. They have gadgets and gizmos galore, as Ariel sang, only it's all inside their Macs. I'm sorry but it seems to me that they are still driven by the urge to own, the need to posses. Owning a technology isn't that much different than owning a "hard copy" of something else. The obsession with the latest application or plug in or WHATEVER mirrors any shop-till-you-drop mall crawler out there.

And I believe we're often worse off for being so heavily wired to the cyber universe. The impact of everyone being tied to their computers and glued to their screens is no small thing. Relationships as well as the ability to experience solitude suffer. What's more, materialism or pride in possessions is just as poisonous whether the thing I "own" is made of solid materials or made of electronic impulses and a lot of crazy code.

I'm not out to reduce my home to a monk's quarters, but I am looking for more of the freedom of simplicity in my life. I just don't want to be duped into thinking I've found it if my treasures are out of sight.

9 comments:

Kirk Bartha said...

I think you'd like: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jacques_Ellul

dana said...

oh lisa...

my kindred spirit once again...

my younger friends here nudge me to smart phone and facebook and I dismiss their urgings because I don't need that "stuff"...but I still clutch tightly to my own belongings and "ownership" and need to consume...

where is the balance and quiet and rest? you make me ponder...

josephjen said...

Well said....

elise Witek said...

ditto of jen's comment. i couldn't agree more.

Sue said...

okay, well, ...just don't take my sunflower & veggie garden!
Watering little seedlings set in our patch of dusty brown earth has been quite soothing to my soul this summer. I guess gardening has even become a consumer's pastime if one thinks they must have the right tools to produce a delicious tomato.

Yes, to dumping our load of unnecessary things that really don't breathe life into us!

sifluralin said...

Lisa!

Your beautiful book just came in the mail yesterday.

Love the poetry and photography, and can't wait to read it. What a woman you are!

Hug your fam for me...xoxo.
cari

lisa said...

Wow, Cari! That's great. Look at the photo in God as Mother chapter of the African mother brushing her little girl's hair. Steve Denler took that. There are also some lovely photos by Joel Phillips. There's a tiny photo credit thing near beginning of book so you can figure out who took what.

Love to you!

Carolyn said...

I am so feeling the burden of having "things" right now as I am packing and getting ready to move. What to keep, what to throw, what to recycle? What do I REALLY need for the next two months while I stay with others? Attachments; why IS it that we get so attached to things? :-)

Brooke Collier said...

thought-provoking, slightly convicting... thank you for this.