“They were called ‘minimalists,’ and they thought that the best route to happiness was not by getting more, but by having less.” ― James Wallman,
It started with a book (Stuffocation: Living More with Less, by James Wallman), but in truth it began a long time ago. It is who I have always been (yes, that’s what I tell myself), but it was only in university that I learnt the words for what I felt was wrong and what was right. Words for the former being consumerism, capitalism, materialism. Ideas like McDonaldisation and Disneyfication. Words that made me very difficult to shop with and very difficult in general.
Fight Club didn’t help, with Palahnuik telling me things like,
“You buy furniture. You tell yourself, this is the last sofa I will ever need in my life. Buy the sofa, then for a couple years you’re satisfied that no matter what goes wrong, at least you’ve got your sofa issue handled. Then the right set of dishes. Then the perfect bed. The drapes. The rug. Then you’re trapped in your lovely nest, and the things you used to own, now they own you.”
“You are not your job, you’re not how much money you have in the bank. You are not the car you drive. You’re not the contents of your wallet. You are not your f***ing khakis. You are the all singing, all dancing crap of the world.”
“Advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate so we can buy shit we don’t need.”
These words have never left me. They’re there every time I enter a grocery store, clothing store, book store, plant store, car dealer, dvd store, home decor store, coffee shop, gym, sports shop, pet shop, restaurant, friend’s house, my house. They’re there every time I open a magazine. They’re there every time I wipe dust off all the things in my home.
They’re there every time I venture up a mountain.
And I find that they have never led me astray. They lead me only to a purer sense of joy, they lead me to myself. Wendell Berry understood this when he wrote, “My wish simply is to live my life as fully as I can. In both our work and our leisure, I think, we should be so employed. And in our time this means that we must save ourselves from the products that we are asked to buy in order, ultimately, to replace ourselves.”
On the mountain, you’re forced to make do with less, you’re forced to be with yourself, to feel yourself, the feet supporting you and the hands guiding you. You’re impelled to face life and as a result to live more fully and deeply. It’s a space no one can take away from you. When I find myself in a crowded mall, staring in disbelief at the Christmas tinsel and trees already adorning shops in October, I go back to this space, of emptiness and yet genuine fullness. Where there is such a thing as enough, where there is such a thing as contentment. One that does not need to be replaced as it does not break.
I go back to Christopher McCandless cutting up his credit cards in Into the Wild, burning his money, abandoning his car and walking into the wild to chase new horizons. But Christopher… well, he’s a whole other blog.
This Christmas, Lion’s Head will be my tree and the stars my fairy lights. My heart pumping in my chest as I run up the dirt paths will be my gift to myself and sharing it with my family will be my gift to them. This is what gives me pride, this is my bliss, because, “the best place to find status, identity, meaning, and happiness is in experiences,” not stuff, as Wallman writes.