Minimalism is dead – Long live minimalism

What? “Minimalism is dead”? But we just got here!
That was my reaction too 🙂 But let’s start from the beginning.

Everett Bogue, radical minimalist and curator of Far Beyond The Stars, recently published on (!) a post basically saying the following:

– minimalism is at the end of its path: “Every aspect of the idea of being minimalist has been discussed, rehashed, republished, and challenged in the last year”.

– minimalism has gone mainstream, therefore can’t be innovative anymore: “The time between idea generation and mainstream acceptance is shortening. […] Once an idea reaches mainstream acceptance, the idea isn’t pushing an edge anymore. When 100 people are writing about living with 100 things, the point has been made. We know already!”

– minimalism is just a tool. We used to free us from clutter, now it’s time to move on: “Minimalism was never a lifestyle, it was simply a transition point. We can’t live in a transition point forever”. For Everett, this new path means that his ebook won’t be sold anymore (starting from February) and that his blog will change its course. The intro to Far Beyond The Stars now reads: “Cyborgs are humans who have made the technological leap from using physical tools to mental tools, expanding awareness using services like Twitter and allowing them to live and work from anywhere. I will teach you how to create a thriving second self on the Internet which will learn to take care of your physical body.”

Everett is known to be extreme and provocative, but obviously this little “stunt” got quite a discussion going – also because the article suggest minimalism has been exploited commercially, mentioning as examples the many ebooks on the topic published in the last year (Everett’s included); and, of course, a big part in this discussion is played by the “new course” of the blog (explained here in more detail). As for many radical positions, I find it partly fascinating and partly terrifying (and I guess I’ll write about it in a separate post).

Let’s go back to the reactions to Everett’s post by the so called “traditional” minimalists:
A public message for Everett Bogue – “Minimalism is not mainstream, yet. It only seems that way […]. We’re the fringe players. Not the majority. While I respect your mission to keep pushing forward, there are plenty more that are still caught in a high-overhead, consumerist lifestyle with no end in site. […] We need explorers like yourself, but we also need farmers to maintain the ground we’ve acquired.”

Minimalism is just fine, thanks – “Here’s the thing: minimalism is about what is important to you. Not me. Not other bloggers. […] Minimalism is fine.”

Cyborgs and Amish – “I will tell you right now once and for all: becoming someone who is continuously plugged in to the internet, relying on this system as their ‘mental arms and legs’ to me sounds like hell on earth. I’m a minimalist alright, but I long for a simple life. A quiet life. A small impact on this planet. And while I may not be tied to one physical location ‘because my stuff keeps me here’, I actually find joy in living in one place for an extended amount of time, being a part of a local community and enjoying real life, twitterless, face-to-face relationships.”

I completely agree with the complementing critical perspectives expressed here. The first: minimalism is not mainstream (yet), isn’t something which can’t generate something innovative anymore. Not in US, and not in Italy for sure! We have a long way in front of us, and every contributon is welcome, small or big: someone will find it not original, someone else even radical. Who’s to decide what’s to value and what’s not? Based on what? How many readers a blog has, something depending (also) on a series of variables and abilities having nothing to do with its contents? It doesn’t make sense. If minimo attracts readers, obviously I’m glad, and happy if somehow I happen to inspire a positive change in someone’s life. But I’m writing this blog for me: I found something I consider good and helpful, and I feel like sharing. (besides, writing helps me thinking more clearly)

The second idea: minimalism is alive and kicking, because it actually doesn’t exist as a fixed entity with a set of defined rules. Everyone will have an experience of his/her own, and I can’t see why one should be worth sharing more than another. I don’t think there are rules here: that’s why saying “minimalism is dead” doesn’t make sense. Whose minimalism? The thirty-something woman’s who’s just started decluttering her closets and asking herself questions about her consuming habits? The “radical”‘s  with less than 100 things? The blogger’s who’s travelling the world with a backpack and a laptop, or the eco-mom’s? It’s true, getting rid of unneeded clutter gives us more freedom; to the extreme, this could mean being able to jump on a plane and change one’s life in an instant. But this is not necessarily the arriving point for everyone (if there is one at all!). There are people out there who’d find the thought of not having a house deeply disturbing. As Junino says in the last post mentioned above, the idea that becoming a “cyborg” is our destiny, like Everett says, is (also) terrifying; and I consider absurd the concept that there’s a predetermined path we’ll all have to converge to. I also think this perspective (Matrix, anyone?) is not consistent with the whole “The world needs you to turn off the screen, go out into the world, and explore” concept (that’s what Everett wrote at the end of his post). Maybe I misunderstood the whole “cyborg” thing, but he just said it: in order to go out into the world I must shut off my computer. Which is something I’m planning to do more and more often, by the way.

I partially agree with the idea that minimalism is a tool, meaning it shouldn’t become the final purpose, the absolute goal, but a mean to the end of becoming more aware, and happier. That’s the real goal, I think. Just because the basic idea behind it is quite simple (“more is less”), though, this doesn’t mean its application can’t vary, have so many shades, and yes… be complex. Actually, its very power resides in this. As many blogs and ebooks may exist about minimalism, I don’t think it’s likely we’re getting so quickly to the point where we would have exhausted the topic. We’ve been asking questions about the human condition practically since we made the first bonfire and had the first complex thought: are we really stating that in a year we said everything that could be said on minimalism, which is so intertwined with “big” topics like happiness, freedom and awareness; that the circle is closed, thanks and good night, we can move on to being happy (?) always-on-cyborgs on our beautiful digital playgrounds? Really? I don’t think so.

Last but not least, the beautiful post written by Courtney: Minimalism and blogging are here to stay – “Remember what is important to you and do that. Read and write about that. Love and breathe that, and them. I want to connect, be vulnerable, love and be loved. I am not a zombie. and neither are you, even if you have a job, watch TV, and eat french fries. I may not be able to predict the future but I can promise you this; I am a real person writing for real people…writing for you.”

As always, comments are very welcome, also on Facebook 🙂

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