The Art of the Minimalist

by Linus

In this age of acquiring as much as possible, and having the most up-to-date gadgets as soon as they come out, I am beginning to embrace the other side of that equation.  I actually find that my life is easier, and definitely more fun without all the fancy toys that everyone else has.  There was a time when I was one of the go getters, I had multiple blackberries and iPad envy, but after getting rid of one of my blackberries and spending the train ride reading The Economist instead of surfing the net, I find life a bit more enjoyable.

I saw a news story the other day focusing on a man who was going to go 90-days electronic free.  I am not exactly sure why that was news worthy, but I congratulate him none-the-less on his desire to simplify his life.  Most of us remember the days when not every high-schooler had a cell phone, when land lines ruled the world, when it was common to have to go to the library to use the computer, and when you didn’t know what every single person in your life was doing at that exact moment because Facebook didn’t exist.  I still do carry one blackberry, it is for work and it also represents my only phone, as I own a home but refuse to get a house line.

During my train ride to and from work, I notice hardly any human interaction.  Instead I notice people listening to iPod’s, playing video games on iPad’s, scrolling through iPhone’s and blackberries, or sleeping (I am envious of those people).  I can’t really scrutinize the iPod listeners as occasionally I listen to mine, but what seems to be going on here is that people have an insatiable desire for information and a need to know everything about all their friends, essentially we are all, in the words of my wife’s grandmother, yenta’s.  I mean really, do I honestly care if Katy Perry and Russell Brand are getting a divorce, or is it really going to alter my life because one of my friends scored a 26 pointer during our game of words with friends…no, not at all!  Everyone seems to be on a path of more, more, more.  More information more frequently, more online acquaintances, more iPhone apps, more gigabytes, more RAM, more information!!

I have only watched a handful of Oprah episodes in my life, maybe five, but during one of them I remember the story was about stress and dealing with it.  One of the main outcomes that I took from the show is that everyone needs to have some part of their day where they have no imputs.  By input I mean nothing coming in to their brain, no music, no television, no conversation, just time to give your mind a rest, outside of sleep time.  For me that time is the afternoon train ride.  During that ride I used to listen to music and scroll through one of my blackberries, but since watching that show I now find that the best use of that time is spent alone, mentally at least.  I find that it is a good time do de-stress from my day at work, and to get ready to spend time with my family.  I try never to bring work home, or to bring home to work and this has significantly helped with that.

I don’t think people fully understand what the digital age, and this desire to acquire things and to continuously populate our brains with information is doing to them, and doing to us as a society.  I still prefer to talk to people on the phone versus texting, and I prefer even more having a conversation in person to one over the phone.  Minimizing that amount of information you take in, the amount of activities you try to participate in, and even the amount of people you know and things you have is a good thing.  There is a phrase, jack of all trades, master of none.  If people constantly try to spread themselves to thin, things will suffer, and most importantly, they will suffer.  Take some time to evaluate what is really important in your life, and I am pretty sure your iPad will not make that list.  Take some time to re-connect with the people that are important in your life, but not through Facebook.  If everyone spent a little more time scrolling through a book as opposed to their iPhone, or if everyone would do a bit more charity work as opposed to giving their time to Facebook, this world would be a considerably better place to live.