A Rational Minimalism

A “rational minimalism is not a decision to live with nothing. It is a decision to live only with the essential.”  This is a paraphrased quote from an author unknown.

This is about not allowing ourselves to be defined, smothered, by things. So now you and I need to determine for ourselves what is essential. And our first efforts may well look like this famous scene from “The Jerk” starring Steve Martin.

[Navin R. Johnson]
“Well I’m gonna to go then! And I don’t need any of this. I don’t need this stuff, and I don’t need *you*. I don’t need anything. Except this.

[picks up an ashtray]
And that’s the only thing I need is *this*. I don’t need this or this. Just this ashtray… And this paddle game. – The ashtray and the paddle game and that’s all I need… And this remote control. – The ashtray, the paddle game, and the remote control, and that’s all I need… And these matches. – The ashtray, and these matches, and the remote control, and the paddle ball… And this lamp. – The ashtray, this paddle game, and the remote control, and the lamp, and that’s all *I* need. And that’s *all* I need too. I don’t need one other thing, not one… I need this. – The paddle game and the chair, and the remote control, and the matches for sure. Well what are you looking at? What do you think I’m some kind of a jerk or something! – And this. That’s all I need.

[walking outside]
The ashtray, the remote control, the paddle game, and this magazine, and the chair.

[outside now]
And I don’t need one other thing, except my dog.

[dog growls at him]
I don’t need my dog.

If this is how your first attempts at pairing things down to “the essential” have gone, don’t give up. I’m getting rid of my ash trays this weekend… promise.

What is the definition of “essential”? Absolutely necessary, indispensable.

There are not many things I can think of which truly qualify as indispensable. I can get along without most of what I possess. “All I need is this toothbrush, and this razor…” Yes, my toothbrush is indispensable. My toiletry bag is indispensable. But then most of what I consider to be indispensable, essential, will fit into one carry-on sized suitcase, and one laptop bag. If only I’d have had a kindle 20 years ago, I’d be able to keep all of my books too!

Perhaps nomadic people groups, with their dog travois, were onto something. If you could only keep what was easily carried as you moved from one place to another, you’d be right in the “100 thing” zone. Nomads found more value in the journey, and in the company they kept, than anything else. That sounds right to me.

Our efforts to live simply are not merely about having less, but about living better, becoming alive. Jesus’ example, and admonition, to give away what you had in order to enter the Kingdom of Heaven was very practical. The next time you think you absolutely need something, first picture yourself on the street, holding an ashtray, pants around your ankles, wearing your spouses bathrobe.

That should distract you long enough to make your escape, and save you a few dollars to boot.


About chuck

Aha! Look what I've created. I... have... made... FIRE!!!
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