Showing posts with label minimalist. Show all posts
Showing posts with label minimalist. Show all posts

June 10, 2011

Archaeology and the Bible

Buon giorno. A few months ago, I saw a comment on an atheist's Weblog that astonished me in its arrogance and stupidity: Recent archaeology shows that Palestine was not even inhabited at the time of Jesus. This insipid remark reminded me of similar remarks that archaeology of the past hundred years is disproving the Bible.

Ostracon from Qeiyafa. Can you dig it?
That is just plain silly. Archaeology is not like other science (that is, not evolutionism) where hypotheses and theories are made, modified to fit data and even discarded when necessary. No, archaeology accumulates evidence. "New" archaeology is unlikely to "disprove" the archaeology that supports the Bible.

I've been up to my old tricks, and I called Greg Koukl of Stand to Reason. When I told Melinda the call screener ("The Enforcer") that I was calling about the claim that Palestine was not inhabited at the time of Jesus, she actually laughed! Greg expressed a bit of amazement as well.

In the course of the broadcast, Greg mentioned a strong site for evidence, Biblical Archaeology Review. (Let me add that wannabe "debunkers" like Finkelstein who are not taken seriously in archaeology have had their own claims debunked. Dr. Eliat Mazar has established strong evidence for the City of David.) Koukl explained further that archaeologists of the past hundred years have been taking an unreasonable and inconsistent approach to evidence. Whereas other ancient documents are "innocent until proven guilty", some "Biblical Minimalists" assume the Bible is wrong, it is not a valid historical document; the Bible is "guilty until proven innocent" by these biased approaches. Skeptics will discard good evidence from reliable archaeologists that has accumulated for many years in favor of those few philosophers who support their own presuppositions. That is intellectually dishonest, capice?

I would like to say that Greg and I had a lively conversation, but the truth is, I asked questions and he edjamakated me. Here, take about 12-1/2 minutes and listen to the conversation. By the way, I did a bit of editing to take out some verbal stumbling, but that is minimal. The entire two hour podcast is here. Addendum: Since I am in no mood (and too busy) to deal with trolls, I have shut off the comments.

April 27, 2010

Spiritual Minimalism

First, I have to tell you where this Weblog is going overall.

I do not know.

The primary purpose is to be multi-faceted with an occasional emphasis on political matters. I will not specialize in those (or in other things) because I believe that it would get boring to both you and to me.

Regular readers may have noticed that there have been some changes in my subject matter and writing style. That is because there have been changes in my life, and I am returning to my Christian roots. A renewal, so to speak. Some things must be changed, others given up, still others need to be brought into my life, or at least, given more priority. Nobody should expect me to be a shining example of saintliness because I still have a long, long way to go.

Also, I am making up for some lost time, getting good Bible teaching and letting the political input wait for a while. It won't be forever, but I do not feel that I should be making time for that. People who read my articles for political content, do not despair because it will return. I just do not know when, capice?

What does that have to do with "Spiritual Minimalism", Cowboy Bob?

It is a very natural tie-in. I've been exploring Minimalism as a philosophy, but will not be able to become a real Minimalist in the traditional sense. Instead, I am reducing the clutter and the unnecessary things that I have accumulated over the years in what feels like lifetimes; I was a different man when I owned this, another man when I studied that, yet another when I was into...

Opening up boxes or seriously looking at things on shelves naturally brings back memories and some of the desires that I had. I had to "get real" with myself and admit that things are doing me no good being in boxes, and I will not live long enough to read all of the books that I accumulated. Much of this was the desire for knowledge that will always be with me. Nevertheless, I managed to give several boxes of books away to the local library.

I will have to find homes for other things as well.

Some people caution me about getting rid of things, that they "might be valuable". That is part of the reason I have had problems, because of "potential resale value". Too much trouble, especially if something is questionable. Hanging on to sentimental things? They have been in boxes for years, so obviously, they are not that important to me (thank you Peter Walsh for that insight).

This is all a part of reducing the clutter for both me and for a Minimalist. It takes honesty and introspection. The essence of Minimalism is to cut down on the clutter because it takes away from y0ur time, costs you money, takes up space, draws your affection so that you love stuff instead of people and relationships. In and of itself, this process is somewhat spiritual.

It becomes more spiritual when you make a commitment to Jesus. Yes, I did use the "J" word! People are afraid that if they become serious Christians, that they will have to "give up" the things that they like. Perhaps that is so, but also, some of the things that are given up are done out of habit and not because they honestly give pleasure. Giving up things, cutting away the nonsense that is unnecessary or even harmful, will make room in your spirit for better things to take up "space".

Let me give you some more from my own experiences. Books that I gave away were from failed attempts at expertise, and that just makes sense. Other books were occult, and I am destroying those because I do not want other people to be diverted from the truth. For this reason, I also destroyed my Tarot cards.

Getting rid of the spiritual "clutter" that distracts you from spiritual truth and things that you should be doing gives clarity of mind and peace in the spirit. At least, that is what is happening with me lately. Physical Minimalism is a great illustration for spiritual Minimalism. I recommend cutting away the things that weigh you down and getting in line with where God wants you to be.

February 26, 2010

Minimalist Introspection

Buon giorno. In my last post, I was emphatic that if someone is going to be a Minimalist, that they should do it at their own pace and in their own way. There is no creed or code other than the consensus that you cut back on non-essentials as much as possible so that you have time and money for things that you think are important.

I want to expand on the part where I said that Minimalists can make themselves miserable by viewing every move they make through a filter of, "Does this fit with the Minimalist lifestyle?"

"Yeah, the buttons on your shirt say you've been expanding again!"

Clam up, Nicky. You do want that bonus, don't you?

Anyway. If you go around testing and judging yourself, filtering your every action through whether or not it fits your chosen philosophy, you'll make yourself miserable. This is mainly because there is no creed or code. That thought should be liberating, so do not make it into a prison! Here are some ways that I can imagine people upsetting themselves:
  • Web sites. If you have an online business, sure you don't need all the glitzy bells and whistles. But if you get extreme and take away the coding required to make sales or whatever, you'll lose business.
  • Cooking. Sure, many Minimalists like to have recipes that are only three ingredients. But if you took pride in your cooking, you're destroying a hobby that you loved. Or, perhaps you want to have something that has six ingredients. So freakin' what? Do it! If you're really sold on the three ingredient thing, you can go back to it later. My point is that it's an optional guideline, not a requirement.
  • Dishes. OK, so you gave in and made something with more than three ingredients. Then you have boring dishes (if any) because you judged them to be "Minimalist" dishes. Well, if you saw a pattern or color that you really liked at about the same price but turned it down, you suffered for it. Get what you want. Perhaps the Minimalist bit comes in when you limit the quantity instead of the quality. Just a thought.
  • Computer. If you need a scanner, printer, external hard drive, then by all means, get them. If you cannot justify the cost because you really do not need them, fine. Just don't limit your capabilities because you want to be a Minimalist.
  • Computer software. If you need something like Microsoft Office, then pony up the money and buy it. But do you really need it? I don't have it, but I use Open Source and other free software as much as possible so that I can minimize the impact on my Windows-operated computer. Other aspects of MS Office are useless to me, and I would have wasted time, money and disc space on it if I had purchased it. What about you? Get it if you need it, but in this case, there are clear options to keep it to a minimum.
  • Font. No, sorry. If I'm writing or composing to get attention (advertising, for instance), I'll use whatever I have to so that it's readable and grabs the reader's attention. After that, I'll scale down to something simpler.
  • Job. What would you consider to be a Minimalist job? Shoveling horse crap, maybe? I really do not know. All I know is that you have to get and keep a job to pay your bills (with the obvious exceptions of a legitimate disability or a short time between jobs), so you cannot be picky about filtering what kind of job fits a Minimalist philosophy. If you want to be "you", you have plenty of time when you're not working for that.
  • Lunch. I get microwave lunches, and I don't care if they're Minimalist or not. Just get me through the day, tasty morsel! If you want a Minimalist lunch, then you probably have to make your own.
That's enough. You should be getting the picture that you have to meet your own needs and not make yourself miserable instead of forcing yourself into your chosen philosophy. Remember the thing that got you into Minimalism in the first place? You wanted to reduce the stuff in your life. From there, you make gradual adjustments in other areas, trying them on for size and leaving the adjustments if they don't work for you. Who are you trying to impress? This is for you, capice? I strongly suggest that you back off from the introspection and remember to actually live your life.


February 25, 2010

Complicating Minimalism


One of the things that I like about writing Weblogs is that I can do whatever I want. Part of that comes from pondering things, keeping my eyes and ears open, pondering some more and then being able to write them out. That is why I have done several articles on Minimalist philosophies.

Defining
"What is the definition of Minimalist, Uncle Bob?"

Actually, the term really applies to a minor form of art, and also to a kind of music. People also decided that it was a good term for a philosophy of having fewer possessions. It goes beyond simplifying to get rid of needless clutter, and getting to having and doing the fewest things in order to survive. This sets one free because there are relatively few possessions to cling to so that time and energy can be spent doing things you love, and to focus on people and relationships instead of the pursuit of more stuff. A good definition can be found here. Addendum: An excellent resource is here. Even the basic definition of "Minimalist" is up to the user, but there seems to be more agreement on the basics.

Once the basics are covered, further usages of the term "Minimalist" are up to the individual. This is something that attracts me to the movement. It is very individual, and attractive to a cowboy like me.

And this brings me to something that I would very much like my Minimalist friends to understand: It is your belief system. You do what you need to do.

Complications
As I see it, your Minimalist philosophy can be complicated in a few ways:
  • Leaders. There are people that Minimalists look up to, if course, but there is no organization, no Archbishop of Minimal or anything like that. If someone acts like a leader, well, remember that he or she is just like you. My advice is that you do not let someone else tell you how to be a Minimalist, because they do not make the rules; there is no canon. You do what is best for you. No need to give the time of day to anyone who will browbeat, harass, coerce, intimidate or heavily influence you to do what they think you should be doing. It is like a tree. Being a Minimalist, owning fewer possessions and so forth — that is the trunk of the tree. What you do from there, what you believe and do, all that can be likened to the branches. All are part of the tree, but branches are not absolutely essential to the tree.
  • Filters. Sort of like rose-colored glasses, or some kind of filter over your eyes. You see the world through this filter, always judging what you're doing, every step of the way. "Does thisWho cares? If "this" that you're questioning is something that you need or want to do, then do it. Otherwise, you can be making yourself miserable by constantly second-guessing what you're doing every minute of the day. fit in with the Minimalist lifestyle?"
  • Excesses. Again, I recommend staying with the basics. There is no need to throw out everything you own and live in a cardboard box under the I-475 overpass. Sure, it could be considered Minimalism, I suppose. But it could also be (rightfully) considered insanity. You can progress in your lifestyle as you need to, but give yourself time to think and experience. There is no harm in doing things gradually. After all, you are tweaking your lifestyle, and you will always be tweaking it. Also, there's nothing wrong with changing your mind, you really do want to keep that book that your father gave you, for instance. Or you really do want to live with a roof over your head.
  • Radicals. Nobody is going to change the world through Minimalism. Remember, your goal is to improve your own life, not coerce anyone with your views, or the views of a "leader" in the movement.
I hope you're catching on to my friendly advice. Again, it's what you want to do, and there's no need to let anyone bully you into their version of Minimalism. Including yourself! You're doing this because you think it's right for yourself, and if you make yourself miserable (or let someone else buffalo you), then there's no point in doing it.

    February 17, 2010

    Decivilize

    "It takes an awful lot of people, working together at an awful lot of jobs, to keep a civilization running. Smash the installations and kill the top technicians and scientists, and the masses don't know how to rebuild and go back to stone hatchets. Kill off enough of the masses and even if the planet and the know-how is left, there's nobody to do the work. I've seen planets that decivilized both ways." from The Space Viking, by H. Beam Piper
    Interesting how this comes along while I'm looking at material on simplifying and on minimalism. In this far future story, the survivors of a planet's war devolved into barbarism. This came about because nobody was able to take care of what was needed to keep the technology going.

    In times of power loss, we realize how dependent we are on technology that is driven by electricity. Once the power is restored, we can watch television, make telephone calls and go online. Some people are only slightly inconvenienced from those things, since they have battery-operated devices. But batteries run down. The East Coast blackout of 2003 shows the electricity dependence on a large scale. Electricity goes away, it feels like civilization itself goes away.

    There was an episode of "The Family Guy" where power was lost. Since there was no television, the family was at a loss for entertainment (the suggestion of lighting candles and reading books was laughed away).

    What would happen if power was out for a long period of time? If people learned to live in a simpler manner, their civilization would not have to deteriorate as completely as the one in Piper's story. Maybe the most skilled minimalists would be the new rulers?

    In Spy by Ted Bell, The Xucuru warriors of the Amazon are about to wipe out a boat crew. The boat has all sorts of high-tech weaponry, but has to travel very slowly. The Xucuru are primitive, almost naked, using blowguns and poisoned arrows. How to stop them from boarding the vessel? Carpet tacks spread all over the deck.

    Just some things for you to ponder and discuss.

    February 16, 2010

    Working on the Minimalist Philosophy

    Buona sera. As you know, I've been examining minimalism. It turns out that there are several sites devoted to discussing the subject. Some writers have made statements that made me uncomfortable. I began to wonder, "Am I getting into something that looks good on the surface, but is a plank in a platform that I cannot sanction?" Not really.


    The philosophy of minimalism is disparate. One writer seemed to advocate something resembling communism, where everyone shares what they have, and nobody owns anything. Ummmm....yeah.Who regulates? Well, there is no overseer. Oh, I get it: anarchy. That may be your goal, Poindexter, but you're probably alone in that (people are selfish at heart, you see). Another advocates "social change through minimalism". That won't happen, Cupcake. You need some kind of uniform code and many like-minded people.

    A third writer on minimalism is a Christian. He finds that the philosophy fits in with Christian values. I have stated that clinging to stuff is contrary to the teachings of both God and Buddha. Just own what you really need, the rest is distraction.

    One guy is pretty extreme: Quit your job and have everything you own in your backpack. No thanks, Bubbles. I need some things to be able to function, and I need my job to pay bills and honor my commitments. But you go right ahead, let me know how that works for you. I would love to know where you stand on this in five or ten years.

    Going the minimalist route is great for the youthful nonconformist, that is certain. This from "The Prisoner" (the good series, not the 2009 drivel) comes to mind: "...youth with its enthusiasm, which rebels against any accepted norm because it must..." As I got older, I realized that this was true, youth rebels because it is part of the nature of youth. Anti-establishment, rock and roll and all that (except that the "values" of rock and roll today have become the "establishment" that was the target of rebellion). I know what it's like to be caught up in some kind of idealism. After learning and experiencing life more, the idealism has to change and deal with reality. Rebelling in a minimalist direction can be a good thing because you will not be as inclined to be like some people that I know, who love things and use people.

    So, what is minimalism? The core philosophy is simply to own and use as little as possible so you have time and money for what matters most in your life. After that, it means different things to different people. Personally, I am very interested in going one notch above minimalism: Simplifying. Get rid of clutter, unneedful things, distractions. This would fit in very well with many philosophies (with the probable exception of hedonism). I don't care what you believe, as long as you're not a drain on society.

    If you're interested in my links on personal productivity, simplifying and minimalism, click here. Note that workplace firewalls may block you simply because the page is at Angelfire. Try again at home. It's simple.

    Next: You might be glad to have minimalists around in this extreme "what if..." scenario.
    A little while before: Does "minimalist" government exist?

    February 9, 2010

    Does "Minimalist Government" Exist?

    The thoughts just keep on rolling! But I think this will be the last one on "Minimalist" philosophies for a while because I have some other things to talk to you about.

    Let me remind you that I am still working through these things. As far as I can figure it, a Minimalist is the ultimate clutter reducer. Leo Babauta describes it this way: “Minimalism isn’t about having or doing nothing – it’s about making room in your life for the things you love doing most. In this way, by getting rid of all the clutter in our lives – physical clutter and commitments – we are freeing ourselves, so that we can focus on what truly matters, and not all the extra crap people tend to do and have for no good reason”. You can read some more interesting discussions on that here, here and here. Note: Use your right-click and "Open in New Tab" feature on Firefox so you don't get lost and forget to finish this article that started you off.

    As I said before, Leo takes things further than I am willing to go. But these philosophies fit quite well with Buddhism and Christianity because both discourage fondness for (and clinging to) possessions. Minimalism seems to be a state of mind. That means it will have an effect on just about every aspect of your life.

    Is there such a thing as Minimalist government? Frankly, the terms create an oxymoron. By its nature today, government is big, bulky, cumbersome and pervasive. Minimalism could conceivably lead its practitioner to anarchy, where there is no government and everyone does what is right in their own minds. That would lead to chaos and violence, so anarchy is right out.

    Leftism, or liberalism, in the USA is only slightly better than anarchy. But liberal government keeps getting bigger and more invasive, eventually collapsing under its own weight. It seems to me that an honest Minimalist would want to shun liberalism. The "green" movement, with its pseudo-religious chant of "reduce your carbon footprint" is liberalism in action, creating more government involvement and intrusion in our lives. You want to live "green", fine. But don't force the rest of us to buy into any of your philosophies with unnecessary laws.

    Also, vegetarians are, in my experience, usually liberals as well. Hey, if you do not want to eat meat or any animal products at all ("vegans"), that's up to you. That's your choice. It's not my choice. By the way, did you notice that some of your teeth care called "canine"? Yep, your teeth are made for eating meat. That means you have no right to pretend to be morally superior to those of us who use our teeth in the way that they were designed. So, I don't want you telling me what I can eat, and I do not want the government making more and more laws to force me to act in a manner that is "green" enough, capice?

    Bluntly, an intellectually and emotionally honest Minimalist would become a Conservative. We want to conserve the Constitution of the United States. We want to help people, but do not want to create reliance on the government. We want less government. Less is better. And that fits quite well in with a Minimalist philosophy.

    Addendum: Jim DeMint reportedly said on February 18, 2010, ""Reducing the size and scope of the fed government is the only way to truly cut spending."

    February 4, 2010

    Cluttered and Cumbersome

    Buona sera. I am still on a journey, attempting to simplify things in my life and to remove as much clutter as I can. It started with the possessions around the house. This led to introspection. (Nicky hates it when I use that word, I put it in there just for him.) I was asking myself why I am hanging onto some things, even though I had removed other things that are just taking up space.

    It is much, much easier to get things done if you have clutter removed (or at least reduced) in your life.If you are interested in this area (or arena), there is some good material at Unclutterer.

    This moved into an effort to simplify my life itself. But as I have said many times before, balance is the key word. I don't want to live an austere or extreme minimalist lifestyle because I simply like gadgets, pleasures and conveniences too much. But I do not want a lifestyle that is cluttered with excessive gadgets, pleasures and conveniences. I have to have a balance.

    I do not want an iPhone. It's an overblown gadget, and I want my telephone to be separate from any organizer that I use. Sure, my telephone has some gadgetry to it, but I can't help that. I just ignore it. Someday, I'll do an article on stuff that is overdone and could be simpler.

    One of the writers that I have been reading lately is Leo, author of Zen Habits Simple Productivity and Zen Habits Offloaded. He goes further than I am willing to go in simplifying, but I can still learn from him. One thing he pointed out is My Text File, a way to write just text without all of the clutter (you do need a Google account to use it, however). You can save it and all, but one thing I don't get: Why not use the simple text editor that comes with your computer? The only real plus that I can see for this is that you can edit this text anywhere that you have an Internet connection. But if you have to sign up for a Google account, you may as well use Google Docs and just keep it simple.

    Leo also likes a bookmark saver called Pinboard. There is a small fee to sign up (as a spam reduction tool), and you can store your bookmarks online in an uncluttered format. They can be for the world to see, or for your eyes only. I should point out that Xmarks is a free service that lets you synchronize your bookmarks between browsers. I use it to back up my Firefox bookmarks and passwords, and I can access them online as well as synchronize them between computers. Xmarks is for your eyes only, and Pinboard has the option of being public and/or private.

    There is a wide world out there that irritates the hell out of me. That is the "social networking" stuff. Big, overblown applications to share your stuff (Stumble Upon, Del.icio.us, Digg and so forth). Well, most people do not care what I like, and I do not care what they like. Is this a mark of conceit that people think everyone wants to know what they like?

    But I digress.

    I am tired of the clutter online, and tired of clutter in my life. All of the clutter, the contraptions, the complications — no wonder many of us want to simplify. When I signed up for Facebook, someone said, "Oh, good, now we can stay in touch!" Uh, yeah. You already have my e-mail address. Facebook is clutter and full of distractions unless you use only the few things you really want to use. MySpace? Fuggedaboudit! Glitz for kids.

    Less crap in our lives is less distraction. And less distraction leaves more time for what is important to us.

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