Last night I watched “Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things” on Netflix, which is heavily focused on Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus’ (The Minimalists) book tour.
During one of their stops, one of the audience members makes a comment (and I’m paraphrasing here) saying more minimalists need to be like them, sharing this message of minimalism and anti-consumerism since they are the people that will actually make a difference, taking down Wall Street and the big corporations that take advantage of others. He also comments, in a negative way, on how the monks and the silent minimalists are essentially useless since they are not bringing minimalism to the attention of others.
In a sense, I can see how their usefulness to society as a whole is decently small. They are definitely inspiring to a certain group of individuals, but most of our society couldn’t care less about monks, and no one actually knows about the silent minimalists. The Minimalists, however, have motivated a large group of people, myself included when I read Josh’s book back in 2013, to take on, or at least intentionally consider a lifestyle of minimalism.
The difference between these two groups (the activist minimalists, and the silent ones) are their purpose. The activists are just that, actively trying to spread awareness about minimalism and the ability to intentionally buy and use what you actually need. Their goal is to spread this message, and as the audience member said, “scare Wall Street.” Looking, in contrast, to the silent minimalists, we see instead the ones who simply want to apply this minimalist style to their own life. Their purpose isn’t to spread it and preach it to all those who will listen. Instead, they find comfort and happiness by simply living minimalism, and don’t find the need to spread the word.
In today’s society, most would argue that if you don’t have utility in the greatest way possible, you are useless, and maybe even a detriment to others. Perhaps that’s true, but do those mindful and minimalist folks actually care? Since they find themselves avoiding the societal norms of high achievement, defined in our lives as having more money, or more things, they instead choose to ignore the societal need for the greatest contribution towards society.
As conflicting as it may sound, perhaps it is this idea of needing to effect the most amount of people possible that creates such selfish and ignorant people. If anyone gets in our way or contradicts what we say, we feel attacked and oppressed. Instead, maybe we should be more open to the comments of others, and focus on the things that make us happy. We don’t have to preach about it to everyone else, but instead only to those who want to listen with an open mind. I believe that is the goal of The Minimalists, and likewise the goal of the silent minimalist and the monks. Neither group is trying to convert those who don’t want to be converted, but instead simply live their minimalist lives as they feel makes them happy. The activist minimalist reap joy from spreading the message to those who seek it and the silent ones are equally content by simply living it.