To Minimalize or Not?

Lifehacker had a post commenting on the minimalist lifestyle. The post suggested that such a life, avoiding owning too many physical things had advantages, but shouldn’t be oversold. Many responses ensued that raised existential questions aplenty. One post was this one:

I live in the real world.

In the real world, I am judged to a certain extent by my possessions.

What I have is a reflection of how well I’ve done. My ability to have nice things is concrete proof that I am a person of some means.

I live in the real world.

Women judge me to a certain extent by what I have to determine if I can be a good provider. They may not admit it to me. They may not admit it to themselves.

I live in the real world.

My peers judge me to a certain extent by the manner in which I present myself. My ability to have nice things in varied formats allows me to present myself in a manner that suits the occasion. My ability to do this conveys the message that I have some degree of taste and that my opinion should be respected.

I live in the real world.

While I may like minimalism or whatever "zen"-type adjective I choose to use, I also know that as soon as I start trying to evangelize about minimalism, I immediately put myself in a certain category and marginalize my ability to persuade.

The response seems like a suggestion that life’s purpose was established by evolution as:

survive and procreate.

At least that’s what I read into it. Each paragraph basically says have more stuff because that will:

impress women (allowing you to reproduce);
make your opinions more respected (give you power, ensure your
impress peers including those who can give you the opportunity to
acquire opportunities to acquire still more stuff; and
in general to follow an imperative of competition promote your own
success and to know that you have "been successful".

Owning and acquiring things usually does do all these things. Realistically that’s true, and hence the chorus of "I live in the real world". The responses bottom line seems to be: "he who dies with the most toys wins". I find this sentiment (that I think is pretty common), kind of sad and depressing, and I hope it’s not all there is.

Aren’t we at the point of being self aware enough to think we have purposes other than just success in the sense that living long enough to pass our genes along defined it. I think God gives this awareness, and the Christian Gospel reflects it. Aren’t we aware that we are part of a larger whole? I’d like to hope that my life and existence will have ultimately contributed some things that will make the world better for others better in some way.

Bill Gate and Warren Buffet with their philanthropic activity I think realize this. They don’t want their legacies to be just a bunch of stuff they accumulated for themselves, and none of which likely will prevent their dying like the rest of us. Most of us won’t have the opportunity to have such a potential positive impact, I certainly won’t.

I hope that things I’ve acquired or produced may in a very few cases be of use to people I’ve never met. Things that I’ve accumulated but given away. Photos or writing that can be copied for other may stimulate an interesting thought or make someone’s day a little brighter. That’s part of why I’ve been putting a lot of stuff on the web of late hoping something useful for others will survive me.

In any case, case I hope there’s a better answer to the "why do we exist?" question than to accumulate stuff to:

survive and procreate.


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