Thursday, February 25, 2010

Living green and lean

Google “minimalistic lifestyle” and every one but one of the first 100 websites focuses on getting rid of stuff you own and discarding ownership. Both concepts are ridiculously simplistic, and, unfortunately, completely unrealistic. It is the realm of starving artists and struggling students.
Perhaps the term “minimalism” leads us into an overly basic view of living minimally. And the term evokes different ideas for different people. Ask an environmentalist, and your response probably will focus on cutting back on non-renewable consumption. Ask a survivalist, and expect to hear how “going minimal” means eschewing government, big business and big-city lifestyles. Ask a young person and money, furniture and belongings will be the focal points. For an entrepreneur, it will mean “trimming the fat” from operations.
This bias of interpretation comes from the subjective perception of “doing without.”
Back in 1984, Canadian Prime Minister John Turner bragged about he had grown up in relative hardship. Apparently, the house staff had been let go due to hard times when he was a child! Not to be outdone, his opponent, future Prime Minister Brian Mulroney bemoaned his own hardships – a corporate lawyer with an affluent background! How many millions of Canadians wished they could have faced the same tough times.
Minimalist lifestyles could more simply be viewed as living “green and lean.” But that catchall phrase misses a basic human characteristic. Appreciation of beauty is innate, and may be one of the reasons we adorn our homes and ourselves. So we need to extend the quotations to include the word “living.” Living is not existing, subsisting, or depriving oneself. So, to be minimalistic, one must appreciate living, and learn to appreciate beauty wherever it exists.
Beauty may come from a newly opened flower, or a panoramic view of the wilderness. It may be found in the innovative scribbling of a graffiti tagger. It may be found in the dyed purple hair of a rebelling teenager, or the concentric, expanding circles from a rock tossed on the water. However, it should not come from a need to accumulate, to own bigger, to climb over others, etc. True beauty, for a minimalist, is found in unique and exciting places, and there is no need to own beauty. Instead, beauty needs to be appreciated, where and when found.
Understanding and framing the concept of minimalism in relation to your own lifestyle and needs is essential to being able to adopt that “living green and lean” philosophy. Once you are able to identify your concept of beauty and comfort, once you prioritize your needs versus your wants, and once you realize that being minimalist is less realistic than going minimalist, you have taken the first step to going lean and green. After all, like life itself, a lifestyle is a journey, evolving, adapting and embracing new ways & days.
I wish you good luck on your journey. Can if offer you anything less?

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