The legalism of minimalism


I just finished watching the documentary, “The Minimalist”. Since the trajectory of my life seems to be aligning more with a minimalist approach, I thought I would enjoy this documentary. Instead, my boyfriend and I ending up getting into a pretty complex argument over what should be a simple idea.

Because, The Minimalist goes beyond people sharing stories and describing a minimalist life, to sharing a path of sanctification and salvation. It ends up turning into just another “to do” program with tons of rules that one must follow to “be a minimalist”. No doubt, it seems like ridding our lives of our busy schedules or our massive amounts of crap would give us more control over our spirits, hearts, minds, bodies, relationships and lives. But the questions that must be asked are:

Does less stuff give us more control?

Does more stuff give us more control?

Does control give us more freedom?

Isn’t that the point? Isn’t freedom the one thing we are all desperate to get? We have lived in a culture that has taught us that freedom is found in “doing”. We believe that just the right program and just the right amount of stuff can free us to live happy and enjoyable lives.

Initially, we thought daily living and basic tasks controlled our lives and the development of convenience foods, convenience stores, convenience services and convenience machines would free us to have more control over where we spent our time and energy. Yet, the freedom that these conveniences created came at a cost.

To afford our new stuff, we needed to spend more time and energy in other places to earn money. The very things we had bought to free us, actually controlled us. Instead of facing our new reality with truth, we justified our new prisons by equating stuff and busyness with identity. Having all this stuff and the ability to manage these crazy lives stuffed with stuff told us who we were (smart, strong, capable, important and valuable people).

Today, we are suffering the results of having sacrificed our bodies, hearts, minds, relationships, spirits and lives to have stuff. We are not free, even though we are controlling way more things than ever. Instead of all this stuff and control giving us rest, we are completely exhausted. We are stuffed but empty and we are so busy but void of purpose.

Our lives reflect us. What happens when we finally have it all but we realize we have nothing? What happens when find out that stuff and busyness was nothing more than stuff and busyness. What do we do next?
Do we become a minimalist?

Because if consuming massive amounts of shit and activities didn’t make us happy, then not consuming massive amounts of shit and activities can. If doing life as a savvy consumer doesn’t give us peace, love and happiness, then doing life as a savvier consumer will. Right?
I had no idea, that being a minimalist required so much instruction. It seemed with the minimalist life came a lot of rules about minimalism. Tiny houses, 5 shirts, one suitcase and lots of sacrifice to find freedom, joy, peace and happiness. I often wondered why the one guy so easily gave up his relationship with his girlfriend to promote minimalism. Doesn’t minimalism mean giving up things like money, fame and working an angle to have time for the important things in life like yourself and others?

As much as we don’t want to believe it, control doesn’t result in real freedom and lifestyles cannot give us the freedom we need to experience and enjoy life. Because freedom isn’t birthed out of control and it can’t be found in a ton of stuff or a minimal amount of stuff. The stuff isn’t the real problem and it isn’t keeping us from freedom. We are the problem.

We are keeping ourselves from experiencing our freedom by the way we respond to our own emptiness, angst, guilt, shame, pain and fears. Our response has been an attempt to control what ails us through our lifestyles, relationships, programs, eating, not eating, religion, culture, drugs, shopping, sex, schools, education, politics, social agendas, entertainment, hobbies, sports, work, music, vacations, homes, cars, fame, money and a million other things. We believe if we create just the right circumstances and consume in just the right ways, we can sanctify and ultimately save ourselves.

There’s no doubt we have a part to play in our becoming and the choices that we make. We need to create space and time to breathe, listen, think, look and move. Yet, there is no way that we will find that space in a tiny house or a McMansion, if we haven’t found it in ourselves and if we are not experiencing and enjoying our spirits, hearts, minds, bodies, relationships and lives regardless of our circumstances or our stuff (or lack there of).

Perhaps, minimalism helps to create the time and space to stop and smell the roses. There’s no doubt that you can’t stop to smell the roses, if you don’t have time to smell the roses or if you or someone else didn’t have the time or energy to plant them. But can we really stop and smell the roses when we are intentionally trying to smell the roses?

To stop and smell the roses is more than an intentional act, it’s being in a place and a posture that has a rhythm and flow that’s begins with who we are and moves us to what we do. The same truth applies to freedom, joy, peace, patience, joy, hope and love. We don’t find these things in 20 boxes of shoes or just 1 box of shoes. We don’t find these in moments, cross country journeys or even lifestyles of intentionality. We discover who we are in love and we experience love setting us free to be who we are in every moment of every day.

It is only in being loved that we can find rest from our doing and experience the fruit that only love can grow. Hope, joy, wonder, mystery, passion, purpose, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, mercy, truth and self-control aren’t things we can get or control. It is who we are and what comes out of us when we taste, touch, smell and hear love in all of life’s gifts. Especially, in the most amazing of life’s gifts, ourselves and other people.

So, instead of placing faith in stuff or the lack of stuff to make us kinder, happier and gentler people, perhaps we put our faith in love and we spend our time, money and energy loving ourselves and others well. I think the minimalist of all minimalist, The Grinch, taught us that love doesn’t come from a store where you buy 1 t-shirt or 40 t-shirts. We can’t find love in a tiny house or a big house if those houses don’t have people who are willing to give their time, talents and truth.

When we all look back on the greatest moments of our lives, we look back on the people we love and who love us. We remember the love that was shared and the love that filled up the spaces in our homes and our hearts.
Maybe, we do need to declutter and spend a lot less time, energy and resources on whatever lifestyle we choose and more time creating a space for love to be given and received. The best part of all this is love is free and it will fill us and our lives up to overflowing to transform who we are, how we feel and what we think and do.

I hope, if anything, we don’t want to be minimalists when it comes to love. Lifestyles can’t love us back but love does and when love loves, it is big, bold, obnoxiously ginormous, ridiculously magnificent, grossly undoing and the most beautiful thing we will ever experience.

Consumerism at its maximum or minimum doesn’t change us because real change doesn’t happen from the outside in but from the inside out and real change doesn’t come from our doing but from us being undone- by love.

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