This morning, I was listening to a podcast on my iPod called Philosophy Bites. The podcast is just what it sounds like – short “bites” or explanations of great philosopher’s writings, explained in layman’s terms. The shows are typically about 15 minutes long.
One episode was titled “M.M. McCabe on Socratic Method.” McCabe explains Socrates’ famous Method, and also discusses Socrates’ statement “the unexamined life is not worth living.”
I think this is something that people who are new to Minimalism often miss – the idea of the “examined life.” Minimalism is not just giving away everything you own and sitting in a white room, eating rice and doing yoga. It’s examining the things you own and deciding if they really serve your goals. It’s looking at your job, your home, your lifestyle, and asking – what fits? And removing what doesn’t.
The fact is that over time, this process often does result in removing a LOT of things. But it’s important to approach the minimizing of possessions in a methodical manner, or it will just result in a return to consumerism, and the acquisition of more things. Ask yourself, “WHY do I have a car? Do I need it, or is it just a habit, something that I own because all my neighbors have one?” You may decide that you live two blocks from the subway in a large city and really don’t need a car. On the other hand, you may decide that you do need to keep it. But you will be making a conscious decision, rather than mindlessly following the crowd.
This consciousness, in my opinion, leads to greater happiness and satisfaction with your life and the things that you choose to keep in it. Often what makes me unhappy is a sense that I don’t have control over my life and what happens to me. By making conscious decisions about small things (such as whether you will EVER actually use that mini-fondue set) you can set the stage for making decisions about the things that really do matter, the decisions that will shape the course of your life. The life examined is a life well worth living.