Monday, 20 May 2013

My Slant on Minimalism

What does the term Minimalism mean to ME?  This really is the very first thing we need to talk about.  To understand this Blog you need to understand me, well maybe not all of me (my wife would say that’s not possible) but you need to know how I personally define minimalism and I bet you a home cooked meal your definition is different to mine. Never fear I am a very good cook !!

Firstly I want to refer to the way the word is grammatically defined, I like to look at minimalism as having two definitions, the dictionary definition and the “REAL WORLD” definition.  Minimalism, as defined by the oxford dictionary, is :
1.  A person who advocates or practices minimalism.
2.  A person advocating moderate reform in politics.

Adjective (also minimalistic)
1.  Relating to minimalism. Lacking decoration or adornment; deliberately simple or basic in design or style: his recently renovated minimalist Conran kitchen
2.  Advocating moderate political reform.

Early 20th century: first used with reference to the Russian Mensheviks. Usage in art and music dates from the 1960s

Here is another definition from >>


1. One who advocates a moderate or conservative approach, action, or policy, as in a political or governmental organization.
2. A practitioner of minimalism.

1. Of, relating to, characteristic of, or in the style of minimalism.
2. Being or providing a bare minimum of what is necessary.

Below are two more definitions, although not completely fitting my personal definition they are quite close.

The Dangers of a Definition:  Zealots BEWARE!!!

What’s wrong with having something perfectly defined??  Well nothing if you are talking about mathematics, chemical science, physics or a similar field of endeavour.  When building a house it is a really good idea to have your building plans concise and well defined, you don’t want ambiguity when putting up a roof.  The reality however, is that a considerable amount of the language we use to communicate is to some degree or another open to interpretation.  This is why I want to clearly explain how I personally define minimalism.  Having said that, I have what I call a ”margin of error” component associated with my definition, that way I can modify my thinking, take on new views and understand the views of others better.  I simply evaluate the suggestion/concept/idea against my core values and make a choice what to do.   I guess about 80 percent of my definition is what I would call my “Foundational Credo”, the other 20 percent is, as mentioned above, my “margin of error” component.  To set anything completely in concrete allows no room for change and minimalism is actually all about change and being open to new ways of living and new ways of SEEING the world.  It’s about losing the shackles of societal indoctrination and living according to a new set of PERSONAL VALUES. 

As we change personally, as we age, as society changes we need this “margin of error” buffer zone.  Our lives are in a constant state of flux, we just don’t always see it happening around us.  Here is a quote that always reminds me of this truth: “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven .A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; a time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; a time to tear, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; a time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace.”
So many of the words, phrases, allegories, metaphors, and other literary devices that we use to communicate can have immeasurably different meaning from one person to another.  A good definition with a built in “margin of error” allowing an element of flexibility is essential.  A simple paper based definition is, for my liking, too open to be misinterpreted thus the quintessential meaning of being a minimalist may be lost or we may risk becoming zealots and miss the point of minimalism.  This blog, for me personally, is my way of finally listing, evaluating, re-evaluating and testing my value set with an openness to change and a view to improve/simplify/clarify my current stance.  It also allows me to ratify the importance of those values which remain constant and true in my life and therefore won’t (for now) be changing.  There are dangers of adopting a definition with no element of flexibility, but there are even bigger dangers associated with having a definition that allows too much flexibility. 

To sum it all up I can see dangers in having a definition that is too rigid.  Who wants to feel guilty when you break your own concrete rules ?? Some flexibility must be associated with your final definition.  Next post I want to have a brief look at what can happen if your definition is too liberal.

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