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Posts Tagged ‘Minimalism’

Yesterday, I was listening to an NPR On Point interview with Ann Patchett about her essay in the NYT – she had decided to spend 2017 as her year of “No Shopping.” Her friend, Elissa Kim, inspired her to give up shopping for frivolous things. Kim had returned to the US after a trip to India and felt, “…obscenely rich.” She was shocked by our sheer abundance compared to the street people she met on her journey; so, Kim gave up shopping for a year. https://www.npr.org/podcasts/510053/on-point-with-tom-ashbrook

The rules were simple: No clothes; No shoes: No bags; No jewelry

WHAT?! What if your winter clothes, shoes, bags and jewelry were all in a Pod stacked somewhere in a warehouse? What if you had to buy holiday presents? Patchett said this didn’t apply to food, which is good since I’d seen her a few times at Whole Foods, and even though we’d met at her store, Parnassus, and I’d sat in front of her at the Love Bug’s Grandparent Turkey Day, I never imposed myself on her celebrity.

Living in Rumson taught me one thing, you may get introduced to the Boss at the gym, but you never fawn over him.

Still, after reading ALL of Patchett’s books, and knowing her husband is also a doctor, I felt a certain connection and found myself stuck to my Sonos on the Nashville NPR station. This year of living without shopping came about seamlessly. She said it had something to do with, “…the state of the country.” Oh I hear you girl. Also realizing that, “I had enough!” To which I would add, I am enough. And finally, she thought she’d been spending a little too much time, “…chilling out by browsing online.”       http://www.wbur.org/onpoint/2018/01/02/author-ann-patchetts-year-of-no-shopping

There were so many questions I had after listening to this interview. How do I chill out?Why do we shop? As I’m typing, an email shoots into the right corner of my screen from Eileen Fisher, telling me about their new blue… Oh dear God. I ignore it. Then the doorbell rings, it’s an Amazon package…

But mostly, I am left wondering why people are so darn mean on social media?

I made the mistake of checking On Point’s Twitter feed to add my opinion to the mix, and there were all these nasty comments along the line of, “…it’s called poverty/what a bunch of pretentious, entitled/this is the worst etc.” A TED talk featuring a woman who saved $37,000 one year by not shopping seemed to really set the mob mentality over the edge.

Still, I listened to the subtext. What would happen to our economy if everyone just stopped shopping? And I heard the anger, the anguish of a certain part of society, the part that likes to pit US against THEM. They don’t just cling to their guns and their religion, they like to shop! They not only rejected the idea of doing without, they disparaged the “liberal elite” for trying to do so.

It left me wondering when Republicans became the party for the working class; of course I know it started with LBJ and the South, with that drum roll of racism that still underscores our gerrymandering. My Daddy Jim never finished grade school, worked his whole life and taught me to always root for the “little guy.” The Flapper always said, “Charity begins at home” because we were so poor. She idolized FDR! We came from the coal mining hills of Pennsylvania and always thought the GOP was out of touch, was the party of (and for) the rich. This latest tax scheme should enlighten us all.

Because a certain British rag couldn’t reach Patchett for a comment, they headlined their article about her abundance of lip balm, because at one point she thought she might have to buy some but found more in her coat pockets. My comment was about how Millennials are more interested in the Fashion Chain, ethically sourced materials, and so they love to shop vintage. I was actually trying to listen to the interview, not judge the panel.

I must admit I’m starting to like web browsing ever since we bought our mattresses online, and mea culpa, I’m guilty of standing in a Target aisle wondering how the heck I got there and what I wanted. And then there’s the problem with shoes…

Still who wouldn’t want to find more time and money by not craving that one (insert consumer product here) that will change your life forever? Maybe this will redeem me? Here is a picture of our adorable Cali cousins, little Frankie is in a red beret wearing a lilac bunny sweater that the Flapper knit for the Bride thirty some years ago. I’d call that “Sustainable Knitwear!”

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Sorry to be quoting a Russian, but we spent a recent evening at an art show to benefit the Love Bug’s school. And because we had a mini-tour the day before with Nancy and Great Grandma Ada, who has converted her family room into an art studio, we had a long conversation with one of the Lost Boys from South Sudan. James Makuac paints memories from his dreams of Africa. They are bright, vivid colors, and some are not for the faint of heart. http://jameskuolmakuac.tumblr.com

His work is about resilience, about people fleeing their homes in the midst of war, walking through rain with the ubiquitous yellow water barrel on a woman’s head.

And I thought of all the artwork my Sister-in-Law Anita collected over the years. She left my brother Dr Jim surrounded with bright California images and fragile pieces of art glass. He loved her with all his heart, their last years together spent tenderly caring for each other, collecting Amish quilts on sunny rides through the country. And as we tried to organize, to make sense of her collections, it dawned on me that she too was trying to recapture her home. To bring the Northern California aesthetic into her Twin City life.

And I wondered yet again, what will my children do with the things I leave behind? Will they find them beautiful, or will they be a burden?

One night, in the midst of my visit to Dr Jim’s MN home, we watched the Minimalism documentary on Netflix. It opens with the abundance of cheap stuff people fight over the day after Thanksgiving. And the take-away is that we should:

“Use things, and Love people!”

The Bride had wanted me to see the film, because she thought Bob and I are heading in that minimalist direction, divesting of “stuff” and living a simpler life in our two bedroom town home. And it is somehow freeing, to put out on a table or up on a wall only those things I love, that bring me joy.

For instance, I have an Irish ceramic vase that had lived its life on display in my VA guest bedroom, one of four bedrooms. It is now happily holding utensils on my small kitchen counter. I couldn’t part with it because it had been a gift from my Irish cousins, but I also loved its line. To me, it is beautiful.

Fyodor Dostoevsky said, “The world will be saved by beauty.” He also said

By interpreting freedom as the propagation and immediate gratification of needs, people distort their own nature, for they engender in themselves a multitude of pointless and foolish desires, habits, and incongruous stratagems. Their lives are motivated only by mutual envy, sensuality, and ostentation.

Maybe our country needs to adopt a new interpretation of freedom, because the American dream, like all dreams, is changing. We need to stop loving cheap shiny objects that appear at Walmart and on our Twitter feed, and make a point of listening to the people we love. Finding the truth in another’s story. Understanding why we are in Niger. Stop fighting proxy wars, and search for beauty in the world, and not on Google.

Painting by James Makuac

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