Friday, August 31, 2012

Soul on Nice

I once asked my friends on Facebook what they found fascinating or exciting. None of them had a really intriguing answer; they offered tepid things like, "I like to pet my cat" or "I like to watch clouds" or "I like to watch TV in the evening." While those things are perhaps pleasant, I was floored to think that no one could think of anything more lively than that. These are activities that fall, in my humble opinion, into the dreaded category of "nice".

This is a word that can be used in a myriad of ways, such as an admiring "Niiiiice!" (often said about a new car or electric guitar), or a sarcastic "Oh, nice, Tracy!" There is nothing more devastating than working on something for an extended period of time only to be told, "That's, um, nice." While I see a place for "nice" in the universe, especially following a time of stress, I also see it as a giant manhole in life to avoid, where the very best to hope for is a nice day, a nice drive, a nice lunch, with nice people. You lose the ability to recognize the magical. You stop hoping for mind-bending, perception-altering, earth-shattering, and settle for...nice.  Now, life, to be sure, is made up of many, many nice days with a much smaller number of life-changing ones. But to habitually settle for nice, as if it were the pinnacle of possible enjoyment, well, as Louis Jordan once sang,

All the breath has leaked out of you
If your friends gather round the bed
And look at you and say "Mm mm, don't he look natural?"
When that happens to you, daddy,
Jack, you're dead.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Lost baggage

It seems to me that the truest measure of forgiveness is not how we feel about the person we have forgiven but how we perceive and treat the next person. If we have let go of what happened, then we can relate to other people without emotional baggage. That seems to me to be a clearer indicator because the original relationship may be cluttered with all kinds of mixed feelings and history. It's easier to step back and assess the new relationship with a bit of detachment. Does all this energy really belong to this new situation?

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

The Equilibrium Point

The other day, I read a post saying that all things are junk, that everything is worthless. In the eternal sense, I agree with that; we really can’t take it with us. But while we’re still here on earth, I think this stance misses something important: gratitude. We can’t avoid having to own and use things, however few or simple. We are forced to deal in the physical realm, despite our being at our core spiritual beings. To despise physical things as meaningless puts us in conflict with reality and creates needless guilt. The first goals of minimalism, especially as it relates to the spiritual life, are gratitude and contentment. Yes, it’s also vital to keep from developing an unnatural clinging to things, or putting an undue value on them, but it is in these qualities of gratitude and contentment that the balance is found. This is real freedom.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

"Even" Jesus was a minimalist

I read recently in a minimalist blog that “Hell, even Jesus liked the idea of voluntary simplicity.” I would ask you to consider two ideas; firstly, Jesus didn’t just like the idea, He lived it and taught it:

Jesus replied, "Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head." (Matthew 8:20)

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. (Matthew 6:19-23) 

Secondly, Scripture also says that He actually invented everything that stuff is made of:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. (John 1:1)

Does this really sound like someone who was borrowing an idea? Food for thought.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Remains of the Tea

After I’ve given an afternoon tea and it’s all over and everyone’s gone home, there is a particularly sweet time in which my guests' presence is still felt in my house. I think back on the giggles and the confidences, the little moments of connection. I like to take time to sit and enjoy that feeling of satisfaction, like a warm summer evening fading into darkness. It’s a part of the event, much as the last note dying away into silence is part of the music.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

100 or bust?

I’ve been following several minimalist blogs for some months now. It seems that arguments have arisen about the “100 Thing Challenge”. Some think this is obsessing over counting possessions, while others insist that it’s meaningless unless one actually maintains the goal of 100 things or less. I think that reducing belongings is an important starting point (whether it results in owning 100 things or not), but it’s ultimately only a tool to transform one’s thinking. At first, you will focus on sorting and deciding, but hopefully that process gets you thinking differently about having and buying stuff, which then frees your attention to focus not on things but on doing and being. This is why some minimalists say that the number is not really important.

I have heard monks conducting services in which they periodically chant, “Let us be attentive.” This is an important spiritual concept, and it applies to minimalism as well: where is your attention and energy going? If a minimalist is agonizing over buying that 101st object, then his attention has now shifted back to things. If he doesn’t take up photography because it means owning a few more than 100 things, then minimalism has restricted him instead of freeing him up, and that’s missing the point.

As Bob Luman once sang, “Let’s think about living, let’s think about life”.

Monday, October 11, 2010

One common mistake people make when moving

What I’m about to say seems incredibly common-sense, but I have seen people make the same mistake time and again. The first day that you think you might be moving, go into your bathroom and look at your shampoos/conditioners/body lotions, etc. Do you have multiple bottles going? Are there some you could finish off before you move? Then go into your kitchen and do the same thing. How many half-eaten boxes of cereal, pasta, etc do you have? Anywhere you have supplies, go look! I see people looking shell-shocked by it all, because their mindset is that since those rooms are packed last, they don’t need to be dealt with until the day before the move. By then, of course, it’s too late. They have to either throw out usable stuff or pack/move/unpack it. They also have to dispose of things at a time when the recycling bin and the garbage can are probably at capacity.

So think about it early and save yourself time, effort and money!