Radical minimalism is modern asceticism

Apropos of my last post, I came across two very relevant pieces. One on the success of paper as an interface (we forget that paper is a successful technical achievement) and one in Time on radical minimalism.

This flight from materialism seems to be part of the national zeitgeist. Many of us are overwhelmed by modern life in all its complexity and ambiguity. At a certain level, has modern life become opposed to our basic nature? Partly due to temperament, I look back and wonder if we lived better lives a few generations ago when the tendency was to stay near family and to live simply with more humble expectations for what life had to offer. Aside from advances in prosperity and medicine, have we improved the quality of our lives?

I think the trend away from materialism is spiritual in nature, despite the popular media lens of “clutter”,”Getting Things Done” and “lack of control”. In an age of material decadence, we are deeply unsatisfied. Maybe we need to struggle, though we seem to reject all suffering. It is a basic urge to want, to hunger. Animals live their entire lives consumed with this one theme, roving far and wide and without end. A dog will nearly eat himself to death in the presence of abundant food. Maybe we are killing ourselves with the same lack of control.

Satisfaction is the end of desire. Satisfaction is empty. When we sate ourselves, we can no longer want. In this way, minimalism is a form of asceticism. By seeking denial, maybe we try to mortify our bottomless hunger.

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