“Perfection is achieved not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.” This wonderful quote by French writer Antoine de Saint-Exupery, is a powerful inoculation countering the corporate sponsored narrative extant here in the U.S. that more is always better. The dissociation between modern advertising and any resemblance to real life experience clearly illustrates the necessity for a dissenting viewpoint.

The fact that the things you own have very little correspondence to your happiness is just the sort of bare knuckle truth that gives corporate executives, whose only goal is the maximization of profit, night terrors. The only thing that might seem worse to them would be the average consumer awakening to the reality that “newer-is better” has, in regard to many products, become patently false. Instances abound of newer being more complex and difficult to work with, more expensive to purchase, more maintenance intensive, and less efficient. Examples of this are sitting on every store shelf as I type.

Armed with the understanding that more and newer is not always better we’re prepared to circle back to minimalism and apply it correctly, resulting in less work and more unallocated time and resources, which can then be directed in ways that better benefit our lives. We’ve begun removing the obstacles to a more contented life.


My Simple Life 6

In this post I want to explore deeper into the misconception introduced last month regarding possessions. The current narrative that the more we have the better our life will be is pathologically wrong. It also happens to be the root cause of a great deal of suffering when foolishly used as a measure of personal value. It’s an idea worth letting go of.

The why of it is very simple. Your possessions are not you. This ancient precept can be found everywhere from 3rd century B.C. Stoic philosophy to Buddhist non-attachment.

One useful and necessary step toward a simple life is developing a clear understanding of who you are. Minimalism helped me in a general way by cleaning out the clutter, after that I had to turn off the T.V. and give a hard look at the correlation between myself and the things I had. I couldn’t find a single one that was intrinsic to who I was. There were tools for chores, items related to hobbies I enjoyed, things with sentimental value, but not one thing that would render me incomplete if it were lost.

I don’t mean to imply that possessions are bad in and of themselves. They aren’t, and the ones that serve us should be meticulously maintained, what they shouldn’t be is loved. Liked, yes. Appreciated, certainly. Not loved. They are things, their only value is in what we can accomplish with them.

Now that we’ve employed minimalism to remove the junk and begun separating our belongings from our identity we’ve initiated the process of coming to know who we are through reverse engineering. In other words, we’re discovering who we are by learning who we’re not.

My Simple Life 5

Last Month’s post ended with the suggestion that some time be spent considering those things which move you toward contentment within your own life. Hopefully you’ve made some effort to do that since it inextricably relates to what is to come.

I think it’s fairly safe to say that among those answers was; wealth, freedom, love, happiness, and influence. At least in the larger abstract sense. My own list was composed of freedom, simplicity, peacefulness, and meaning. keep in mind here that what your list consists of, and how you define those things, is entirely personal and there is no requirement that your definition be the same as anyone else’s.

What I found when I did this was that I still had many scattered remnants from past versions of myself that didn’t serve a useful purpose for the person I was working to become. There were mental fragments in the form of attitudes, and conclusions, held over from paths that didn’t take me where I wanted to go, as well as associated physical items. My mental picture was of a tangled, unruly mass of loose ends that lead nowhere and obscured the way to the things I’d decided were truly important. From discussions with others this seems a quite common observation.

Logically, spending time, money, and effort on things which have become obstacles is foolishly counter-productive, yet here is where we first find ourselves in conflict with what passes for common sense in today’s culture. At every turn we’re brought face-to- face with massive, grossly overstated advertising intent on convincing us that contentment can be found in products sold by the parasitic corporations represented.

It may help to understand that corporations are not inherently bad. With the advancement of industrial civilization and urbanization of a larger percentage of the population retail marketing evolved from need based sales into desire based sales. Envision a corporation as an organic entity that feeds on currency and the increasing use of advertising is nothing more than an act of self-preservation. Corporations, after all, exist only on paper instruments, but they are made up of people. viewing them as organic entities is reasonably accurate, and what organic entity lacks a survival imperative?

Though not necessarily bad, they do engage in distracting us from an important truth. The possessions you own are not the cause of happiness, often they are a burden that must be set down in order to pursue the things that genuinely do increase our happiness.

What worked the best for me in practice was to start small. I filled a couple of bags with general bric-a-brac. Inexpensive impulse purchases which I neither had a need for nor a strong connection to. Getting rid of these dust collectors proved to be the easiest part of the process. Next were the things I’d held onto because I liked them despite not having a use for them. These items tend to have some monetary value and can be sold or donated. It’s worthwhile to take your time and be sure that in the heat of the moment you don’t get rid of anything that adds value to your life. Inadvertently causing yourself regret halts progress as you learn to deal with the emotion or are compelled to re-purchase the item.

As you begin to untie your own Gordian knot, don’t rush. It’s perfectly OK to change your mind about something several times before making a final decision. In short order you should start to feel pleasantly unburdened as you create space in your house as well as your head.


Courteous, concise comments relating to the post’s subject matter are always welcome.


My Simple Life 4

My apology for the long delay between posts. If you’ve managed to follow along from the beginning of this series the discordant nature of it’s organization was glaringly  apparent by my publication of no less than three essays before it occurred to me that I needed to write a prequel so that we may start off on equal footing.

There were several causal factors for the incongruity. Foremost among them being my seat-of-the-pants writing methodology. Secondarily, my guiding life philosophy is a work in progress and while I usually have a reasonable conception of it’s skeletal appearance the overlying tendons, ligaments, and muscle tissue remain in a constant state of evolution.

Now that the apologies and confessions are out of the way, let’s pick up the thread where we left it in the prequel. I put forth the premise that viewed through history’s lens nothing unnatural what so ever was happening. A brief glance back to previous societies illustrates this clearly enough, and is why I asserted that panic is not a useful response to the current circumstances. As we go along we’ll discuss various types and degrees of response that are considerably more likely to be of some benefit.

The other suggestion ending the prequel was making an effort to prepare the next generation to successfully cope with a different set of realities than those we were conditioned to. The responsibility for doing this lands squarely on our shoulders. After all, we helped make the mess, and sidestepping the cleaning chores now is far beneath the heights we like to believe we’ve reached.

This seems a fair point at which to close for now. In the interim prior to the fifth installment I urge you to spend some time meditating on what things are necessary to move you toward a state of contentment within your own life.


Courteous, thoughtful comments are always welcome.

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My Simple Life (prequel)

The clock of industrial society is winding haltingly down to midnight. The truth of that statement isn’t difficult to see once you allow yourself to look beyond the heavily powdered and rouged façade of  “want to be” and into the unadorned countenance of “what is”.

There are a plethora of Doomsayers of every stripe imploring us to see that unlovely face as the Armageddon and prepare for the penultimate moment. Across the figurative way are the Soothsayers, insisting that everything is fine while they haul buckets of rouge.

Both groups can be unbelievably entertaining to watch, being equally clueless. They resemble nothing so much as travelling snake-oil salesmen, hawking the virtues of one useless paradigm or another.

If you’ll kindly pause breathlessly while I climb up on my soapbox I’ll offer an, err…… anti-climax. Friends and neighbors across the world, there is no need to panic. Nothing, not one thing, unprecedented is happening. We are simply hitting a few pot-holes on the descending side of societal arc. Every previous society has experienced it, as will every one that comes after. It is part of the natural order of our Cosmos.

Latecomers to the show, noticing that the doomsday clock stands at two minutes to midnight, have assumed imminent annihilation is upon us and reacted either with panic or utter denial. What they missed is the context in which that clock operates. It doesn’t tick off minutes and hours, but rather decades and centuries.

As I type this, mainstream media is busily expounding the “horrors” of the federal government shut down this morning. The vast majority of us dealt with this emergency by going about our day normally, which is the correct response. We’ll do the same thing tomorrow, and the day after that. This shutdown is one of those pot-holes I mentioned. Further along on our descent they’ll increase in size and number while the effort needed to cope with them gradually increases.

We may well be far enough along to hit some frighteningly large ones in the short term. They will no doubt be upsetting, none however, will be apocalyptic.

It’s time, passed time in fact, to prepare ourselves and our children to function within a society in decline.


During this period of working backward I stumbled onto a concept that helped more than you’d think, minimalism.

No, I didn’t try to live with only a hundred possessions, or anything equally extreme, but although some parts of my life were gone, I still had all the accoutrements and still spent time cleaning and maintaining those things. Things I no longer had any use for.

As you may have guessed, when life suddenly and fundamentally takes an unexpected turn, confusion follows. This confusion is different from the ordinary confusion of being temporarily befuddled by a task or idea not immediately understood. It’s a howling beast with sharp claws constantly tearing apart concentration and sending trains of coherent thought into the abyss.

While wrestling with the ugly brute added distraction is the last thing you need. This is where minimalism shines. By disposing of possessions that had lost their purpose and value, I not only made space in my house, but space in my head as well.

That mental space was essential. It allowed me to view the beast from different angles and slowly begin finding ways to tame it.

The take away for me was the insight that owning something, regardless of what it is, is a commitment. I was committing time, energy, and resources to every single thing I owned at some level. When I looked at things from this perspective I found many that, rather than add value or joy to my life, did the exact opposite. They weren’t things I needed, but things I needed to be rid of.