[personal profile] ministry_victim
The Sunday edition of the Vancouver Province ran a full one page spread on the minimalist lifestyle. Now, if you know me at all, you know that that's something of a mostly unrealized aspiration for me. I have a zen for austerity; a subtle yearning for simplicity, so last night while I was driving the Blue, I made a mental inventory of all of my personal possessions. What I found was a little shocking.

I personally possess, and not share, less than 100 items that I can claim sole ownership over (excluding books). With the exception of four cups, two for water, two for coffee, I own none of the dishes, bowls, cups or cutlery in our kitchen. None of the pots and pans are mine, ditto for the rags. The toaster is hers, the spices, the tea-press (but not the tea) and the coffee-maker (but not the grinder or the coffee).

The couch and chair, graciously donated by our friends as housewarming gifts, will be contested ground, but most of the things on them won't be. They're mine and they're books, which I own in abundance. In truth, I own more books than I own anything else. Bookshelves, though, are in short supply. The playstation 3, and by proxy, the games, even the ones I bought for her, are hers. As are the television and stand. Anyway, to make a long and boring story short and reasonably succinct, I think I'm doing decently well on the austerity drive. If I do find myself suddenly single, I may actually need to purchase a few essentials for survival.

The point of the exercise isn't merely to pare down your baggage and upkeep, but the very Taoist (or Zen-Taoist, maybe) concept of unloading the superfluous emotional and spiritual weight, thereby finding release from the clutches of the 10,000 things. For others, it's a change of pace and a rejection of consumerism's core credo of competition through the quest for distinction. It's working fewer hours and making less money and enduring less distractions. That rout seems contradictory and self-righteous to me, but I'm sure these folks mean well.

For me, it's life the way I've always lived it. I've gone through periods of accumulation, and then later on suffered periods of contraction. I can't, for certain, say that I would accumulate much more than I have right now. I purchase practical things that I have a need for, rather than idle fancies or vanity pieces. You'll never see me behind the wheel of a Lexus or a Mercedes, but I may someday drive a Buick or a Honda. So far, my largest expenditures have been on my education. I've spent approximately $60K through two schools and maybe five years of post-secondary. I consider myself enriched by both experiences, but don't wear them as badges of distinction.

You'll note that earlier I wrote that austerity is mostly the lifestyle I've always adhered to the strongest. The reason for this isn't a lack of opportunity, as I've enjoyed enough of such to have engaged in the consumption behaviour, but it's from a simple lack of understanding. Why do people fight each other on Black Friday? Why do people line up, sometimes camping out for days, for a new smartphone? What is it, mostly, the sets of Gucci or Versace aside from the average handbag? Yes, I enjoy Mad Men, and I've read No Logo and it's counterpoint - The Rebel Sell - and I've studied post-positivist notions of identity construction as it pertains to advertising. I understand all of these things in a highly theoretical, rationally-based manner. They are abstractions, neat and causal, like math without physical representation. What I don't have, and need for full comprehension, is empirical embodied-knowledge. Experiencing is believing.

It sounds both crude and condescending to say this, but I fail to understand how anyone can allow themselves to be defined by their belongings. Why let anyone else define you? Why adopt someone else's semiotic standards? Why compete if there is nothing, except perhaps a hollow victory, to achieve? There's competition for resources, space and mates and all of these are perfectly valid reasons, even if modern technology and the social world we live in have made competition largely unnecessary. Why do we feel the need to drive a better car than our neighbours?

Now, again, I know that the answer to this is that ad-agencies construct 'false-needs' and do their utmost to create a 'buying-mood' and all of that jive, but again, these are conceptual understandings. The branding phenomenon is a business model, and will only have a maximal effect on a cross-section of the population and will be subject to diminishing returns the further one gets from the core, cultural demographic. You can't sell Nike basketball shoes to Latvian pensioners, for example, with the same efficiency as a lower middle-class American teenage boy.

This leads me to questions surrounding community, ritualism, and meaning construction. The going narrative is something like this: "In the absence of God, can the brand fulfill the promise of a stronger rapport?" These again are rational understandings, as I've never really felt connected to a community, or a higher-power. I suppose in a way that makes me lucky, as I was never really seriously indoctrinated in any belief-set beyond the standard memes required for citizenship. Even those are not beyond challenge; not in the way some of the more potent memes, like God, heaven, hell, markets and other articles of faith. While I recognize that I'm not, and nor was I ever, tabula rasa, I feel that the assumption of sometimes contentious and seemingly contradictory identities is entirely within my grasp. I am free to be whoever and whatever want to be with minimal risk.



March 2013

34 56789

Style Credit

Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags
Page generated Oct. 23rd, 2017 04:00 am
Powered by Dreamwidth Studios