There’s a documentary on Netflix, “Minimalism – A documentary about important things.” It’s about a movement of those who have “discovered” that material things don’t bring happiness, but are, in fact, chains to the unimportant. It’s nice to know this generation has made this startling discovery.
I’m making this discovery myself. I have gone through “my stuff,” cleaning out storage, reorganizing drawers, throwing stuff away. I don’t want to die and suffer the embarrassment of my heirs discovering what a materialist I was. I have two of everything. I live in a house twice the size of anything my parents had and I still need a storage unit. This Christmas I found out that I’m the least favorite name to pull. Apparently I am impossible to buy for because if I need (or want) something I just buy it. Now that’s materialism.
Some of my generation ditched materialism, for a while, over fifty years ago. We called them “hippies.” They realized that their parents had fought the great war to live mundane lives in cookie cutter VA financed homes. They turned away from making the same mistakes in Vietnam and took on drugs, sex, and rock and roll. Most of them are now retired from lives eventually lived working for “the man.” They still like drugs, sex and rock and roll, but in relative moderation.
This generation is turning from the “material world” in exchange for mini-houses, yoga, and gluten free diets. I predict they too will also end up retiring from corporations. They will probably end up with smaller houses than my generation, and with more “peace” and fewer pounds. They will probably also end up liking drugs, sex and rock and roll, in moderation.
You see, the problem with giving up on the material world is that you have to replace it with something. We are, in fact, designed to learn that the material world is insufficient to satisfy. After the fall, we are born with a hole. A hole that can’t be filled with anything material, but oh how we try. The trick is to find filling that truly satisfies.
Jesus was the original “minimalist.” He didn’t have a place to lay his head. There is no evidence he owned anything. It’s not clear what happened to the magi gifts. They probably financed the escape to Egypt in his childhood. Upon his death, the soldiers cast lots for his robe. It’s apparently all he had. His followers were (and are) called to leave everything and follow Him. You see following Jesus is the substitute for materialism. Hippies and minimalists leave everything… then just wander about.
In Revelation, John envisioned the last triumph. “11 And they overcame him (Satan, ie. the material world) by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death.” The meaning we seek is found by appropriating the blood of the lamb, experiencing a life change that becomes something worth sharing, (our testimony), and loving not life now (the material) but life eternal.
The hippies of my youth and the minimalists of today are on the right path, turning from the world. They just need to take the final step: substitute stuff with Jesus. It’s minimalism to the max. A lesson this materialist is still learning.