Airstreamin', Alan's Musings

Minimalism? A Brief Criticism of a Modern Fad

Alex and I have been attracting the attention of a lot of “minimalist” people, and that’s ok. But I wanted to share with you faithful readers why our page name “Living Bite Sized” is not about minimalism. Plus, I want to introduce a thought I may explore more in depth in a later post: I want to introduce the idea that minimalism is little more than a modern fad incapable of making long-term impacts on our culture. Although I admire those who are finally able to see what I’ve known since I was, like, 15… materialism is not good. People who buy things just to buy things, or to show off their bit of wealth, or maybe to remain popular, are wrongheaded. But in many ways, so are the minimalists.

Since we are renovating our Airstream with the goal of living in it, most people think this is a cool move towards minimalism. Wrong. Our purposes are more distinctive. I’ve kept up with other Airstream bloggers, primarily so I can learn from their experiences with Airstreams. In doing so I’ve noticed a common denominator among most of them: they sold a big house and got a lot of money for it so they could buy a new Airstream, new truck, new gear, new life. I think it’s safe to say most of these bloggers think it is cool to be a minimalist, and again, that’s ok. But we do not have a house that we are selling. We cannot buy a new Airstream, new truck, new life. We like our life, and we are putting a lot of sweat and tears into the remodel of an older Airstream that I received as a gift from my Grandpa. We’re not rich, and in fact, have no real estate at all. Our choice to remodel the Airstream and make a go at full time travel is a huge, huge, huge (did I say huge) leap of faith. Minimalism if fine, but we should also acknowledge that most people who choose to be minimalist are doing so with a well-to-do background. We don’t have that. Minimalism is a fine goal, but it could never be enough to convince us to live and travel in an Airstream full time. And I dare say that many Americans who enjoy Airstreams and camping in general do so because of something much deeper than another new “ism.” It has to do with making memories, spending time with family, relishing the sights of God’s creation, and having clean fun. Isn’t that enough? Must there be an “ism” attached to the growing Airstream community? I think not.

Minimalists are rather proud of being minimalists, without knowing that they’re not the first to think this way. It would appear as if the process of purging oneself of superfluous belongings makes one feel successful or accomplished in some meaningful way. It shouldn’t. Life is more than the sum total of our accumulations. It is also more than being proud of a dearth of things in one’s possessions. It seems to me that minimalists, tiny-house people, and back-to-the-landers all have one underlying concern in common… after years of building successful careers, these people have realized what tradition-minded, old-fashioned Americans have known for over a century: the modern world is seriously lacking in good manners, taste, and good living, and it is not inevitable that one should obey its low standards.

So what is Living Bite Sized about? It simply means we are living our life one bite at a time, one day at a time. As the old saying goes, “Don’t bite off more than you can chew,” we are simply moving forward with our dreams, bit by bit by bit. I turned 30 this year, and I’ve learned that pleasing other people is never a good motivation for life decisions. I’m with the minimalists on the point of thinking outside the box and doing something unconventional, especially in the context of what the modern world of wealth and progress deems acceptable behavior. The minimalists are right in their philosophy that it is useless to work for things you don’t need. But they are wrong if they think hard work is simply about gaining possessions. Work should be fulfilling, something that brings a sense of accomplishment and reward, monetarily and/or otherwise. It should never be drudgery. Stupid people live in drudgery, much for the same reason that only boring people are easily bored. But any mildly educated person should know that much work could be done to improve one’s life and the lives of others, work that is meaningful and actually accomplishes something more than making someone else richer. How does one make that happen? One bite at a time! As the old Indian said in The Outlaw Josey Wales, “Endeavor to persevere.” Life is a huge gift from God. He has given us the ability to make choices, and there are far too may people in this country who are letting someone else make their biggest decisions. As we learned from Gone With The Wind, time is the stuff life is made of. Don’t squander it.


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