“Nothing is as perfect as you can imagine it.” -Chuck Palahniuk
I remember watching an Amish documentary, and the most striking line of the six episodes was something to the effect of “we can’t buy everything at the grocery store with many kids or it would be too expensive.” That is when it hit me how far we have gone from necessity to want. We think of eating out as excessive, but grocery shopping, economical. Our perspective continues to move.
You can see this in the church as well. Since Paul’s church in the New Testament, the secular world has barely moved in terms of morals. They are just as they were then. But the church has moved far. There is no right and wrong when it comes to dress and manner anymore.
In Paul’s church, he asked women to wear coverings, to refrain from gold and pearls, expensive clothes, or from braiding their hair. He did this because wealthy women had those things – slaves/servants to braid their hair, so they showed off their hair — jewels and expensive clothes. This provoked others to envy. To love someone is not to provoke them. In the Amish church, it is the same as it was then. The women dress alike. There is no temptation to wear anything revealing or expensive. This builds up. You can see the church has moved far.
We as Americans cannot differentiate anymore between want and need. Everything has become a necessity, so we are dependent on a sizable income for bare minimal living. Contentment in whatever we have is lost. We cannot sit in quietness as adults. There has to be technology, cards, games, or travel. These are now necessities to a halfway decent life. But contentment can be found in much less, in quiet and in suffering, just as the Amish and Paul had found it. We can develop a taste for anything we want, any lifestyle we want.
We can get used to bitter. There are people who grow up on tea without sugar, and they relish it. There are those who have become accustomed to beer and smoking, although at first they disliked it perhaps. It is human nature that whatever we incorporate, we can love — no matter how bitter. So it is that we can create the life that is beautiful in all ways because contentment is found wherever we decide.
We are bombarded with advertisement. This is an overused point on many minimalist blogs. However, advertisement is subtle. It’s not just paid advertisement. It’s advertisement on Facebook from our friends; advertisement on magazine pages, especially the ones that aren’t paid. Every idea is an advertisement. Every lifestyle is an advertisement. We have to discern between them which is right — not most exciting. We are shown every day what is the good life or what is worthy of praise by our friends and family. We have to decide the life that is worth living.
Perhaps the biggest reason to live a bare minimal life is because it is an ethical one. Both right and left should desire ethics. I am not talking particularly about bare bones living, but examining everything that we have become accustomed to as a requirement to happiness and contentment. Is our happiness tied to what is temporary?
What is a necessity?
If you boil it down to simplest terms:
food/running water (garden)
Almost everything else is a luxury. We can choose to keep things, definitely; the main thing we want to do is to examine everything we believe, because what we believe determines where we are going. What do we want to be seen as by an outside person or by our kids? Do our actions match our priorities? It’s never too late to live the life we always esteemed.