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How (And Why) To Become A Minimalist

Last week, we talked about how to become wise by becoming a fool. This week, we will discuss the concept of ownership.

As with many things in life, our desire for property tends to lead us into trouble if we are not careful. 

After all, that’s the American Dream, right? Work your ass off doing stuff you hate to impress people you don’t like to buy things you don’t need, all so that one day, maybe, you can spend the last of your savings on a combination of luxury travel, HOA fees, and healthcare premiums.

Or you could say, “Fuck that,” and live a life of total freedom right now. Like we’ve talked about the last few weeks, the ultimate goal of philosophy is to set you free, not from people, but from ideas that hold you back.

Ownership is one of those concepts that tends to hold us back.

Quote Of The Week

“Never say of anything, ‘I have lost it;’ but, ‘I have restored it.’ . . .  While [the universe] permits you to possess it, hold it as something not your own, as do travelers at an inn.” - Epictetus

You Can’t Own Anything

Here’s the bitter truth: you can’t own anything. Every single thing that you can lay your hands on in this universe – including your own body, and even your life – can be taken from you:

  • A tragic accident could leave you missing a limb, or perhaps even the use of one of your senses
  • A disaster could destroy every object you’ve ever collected over the course of a single night
  • A thief could decide he deserves your stuff more than you do, and run off with it
  • A distracted driver could take your loved ones away forever

Only one thing cannot be taken from us: our ability to choose –– not between outcomes, but between desires. This is the power of a rational mind. Should we lose this, we lose ourselves.

Everything else in the universe we might lay hold to is simply on loan, either to help or hinder us on our journey to freedom.

For this reason, is it wise to chase after property that can never truly be ours? 

Now, I wouldn’t argue that having access to a bed, a pair of underwear, or a cup is bad. I might argue, however, that having access to ten or twenty of those things may be more trouble than it’s worth.

Yet, this is how we live our lives. We fill giant boxes of concrete and wood with things to look at, sit on, or wear, and when we run out of room, we rent a bigger box. Then, to pay the maintenance bills for our horde of bullshit, we work, and work, and work.

Meanwhile, dolphins live their lives happily naked and make a home of the entire sea.

How tragic that we, the greatest of all the apes, have become smart enough to build our own prisons, yet not wise enough to see them.

So, why should you become a minimalist?

Because you can’t own anything anyway.

Question Of The Week

Have you ever made a significant sacrifice for the sake of a major purchase? If so, do you even still have it, and was it worth it?

Live On Purpose // Die Without Regrets

Each Wednesday, I publish a 3-5 minute newsletter + video podcast that applies ancient wisdom to modern life.

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