Just a Quick Thought…

I just thought I’d make a quick post about a thought I had while watching It’s a Wonderful Life.” The message that the movie carries is really quite foreign to modern audiences isn’t it? Here you have George Bailey, a man who all his life has wanted to travel the world and do big, important things. And yet life, and his own conscience keep him in his hometown of Bedford Falls, seemingly trapped in his average existence.

Now the modern sentiment in movies is to “follow your dreams” or “be yourself.” Can you imagine how different a movie it would have been if George had said screw you to Bedford Falls and gone on his world tour? If he had followed the advice of today’s mass media, or your average Disney TV movie he would have left to become an architect like he planned.

Instead George put his family first. He thought of others before himself and did what was right by his community. Everything in his life that he thought he would do ended up changing over time. Naturally he is bitter over this at first, but if you have seen the movie (Spoilers for a 66 year old movie!!) you know that he finds an appreciation for the life he has been blessed with, not the life he could have had. How different than the modern idea! By putting his principles and those he cared for above himself George achieved happiness equal to if not greater than he had imagined.

May we all remember to keep our priorities straight, and not be so caught up in ourselves. Though our plans for the future might not always come to pass and we can’t always get the things we think we want, we shouldn’t let regret or selfishness blind us to the wonderful life right in front of us.

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Things a Minimalist Should Have: Gratitude

With the holiday season in full swing we all turn our attention to preparation for the festivities. Thanksgiving turkeys are thawed, stuffing made, Christmas lists written, and a fever of busyness takes hold. In all the rush, and especially with the extreme commercialization of the holidays, people often forget to have gratitude in their hearts. After all, that is what these days were meant to remind us of. The Pilgrims had their Thanksgiving feast to express their gratitude to God for delivering them from persecution in England into a new world full of freedom and promise. Christmas is a celebration of the Christ-child’s birth and a reflection of gratitude for the life He would lead and the death He would suffer.

In this modern age however the meaning of these days of gratitude is lost. Even from a secular perspective, the higher virtues that Thanksgiving and Christmas represent (such as thankfulness,  charity, togetherness, and family) have been lost to wave after wave of soulless materialism. The audacity of the irony that is Black Friday astonishes me sometimes. The thankful spirit and thoughts on Thursday are replaced not 24 hours later by mobs of people trampling each other and clamoring for the latest and greatest toys.

So what use does a minimalist have for the kind of attitude that has taken over the holiday season? I’ll leave it up to you to answer that question.

What needs to return to society today is gratitude. Gratitude for the things you have, not jealousy against those who have more than you. Thankfulness for the gifts God has given you and the people in your life. I have said before that minimalism is the active practicing of contentment. Continuing in that train of thought, gratitude is the natural result of contentment. When we are content with what we have we realize just how important each thing, or person in our lives is and we become that much more appreciative of it. Gratitude springs naturally from a contented heart.

This Thanksgiving and Christmas remember to be grateful for the blessings you have in your life. Take the time to tell your loved ones how much they mean to you. Survey the possessions you own and appreciate how each one makes your life better. Choose to use your time wisely. Put thought and meaning into the gifts that you give to others. And most of all be grateful. For that is something that everyone, not just minimalists, should have in abundance.

Things a Minimalist Should Have: Power Over Self

If there is one thing a minimalist seeks it is power. While this might seem strange, it actually makes total sense. Also it isn’t anything to be ashamed of. After all, ultimately that is what every human being on the planet seeks. Power to change the world, power to protect the ones they love, power to bring themselves and others happiness. There isn’t anything inherently wrong with wanting power.

The problem is, power is hard to achieve. Many people try claiming it through money, fame, or command over others. But these types of power are fleeting and not always achievable by everyone (or used to the benefit of others). But there is a power that everyone can access. It can influence how others see you, give you the tools you need to succeed, and shape your life in a positive direction; it is the power of self control.

In a world where your attention is being drawn every which way and there are so many temptations everywhere, it is hard to develop self control. The culture in America (and many other places) is heavily influenced by people’s lack of self control. Today’s consumer culture is geared towards the idea of “the new shiny”, that one thing you must have in order to be happy. A lot food today is laden with fat and sugar and things that may give us a rush of good feelings, but in the long run leave us unhealthy. Today’s youth are very easily able to drink heavily, smoke, use drugs, etc. I know because I am one. This epidemic has even reached our government (or did it start there?) with the massive debt based spending that is used for programs that don’t work or aid that goes to people that hate us.

So how do you combat this lack of self control that has seemingly swept our nation? Well the bad news is that no one can. At least not on their own. If more and more people began to reign in the whims, and “feel good” actions that seem to rule in so many lives today, then I think that change would be inevitable. Just as decay starts out small, so to must positive growth.

So how exactly does one begin to practice self control? It is easy to say it needs to happen, but much harder to achieve. It takes a dedicated movement towards the return to self control and discipline in order to accomplish something. This is true in both a personal and societal sense.

  • In order to build your self control, it takes a can do attitude.
  • Remind yourself that you are aiming for a goal much bigger than that rush of feeling good, or the momentary satisfaction you may get from giving in.
  • Remove yourself from temptations (or vice-versa). If you know that a certain situation or thing causes you to lose your self control, then do your utmost to distance yourself from that temptation. It may lead to some awkwardness or discomfort, but it is better in the long run.
  • To achieve power over yourself it takes discipline and the ability to fight through hardships. You must be dedicated to change.

Whatever your reason for achieving power over yourself, whether it be eating healthier, reigning in your spending, or becoming a better student, it should be the light at the end of the tunnel for you. Place that goal in your mind and you will be surprised how much you can overcome. You will not only reach your goal, but in the process, you will learn more about yourself and become the confident, disciplined person you were meant to be.