Less is More

Everything is about More. More is better. Even more, even better. It expands exponentially like we all wish our investment accounts would do. When we make the claim that we know more about “More” today than we ever have, this graph seems to perfectly capture it.

The S&P 500 over the past 50 years

We know a LOT about more. Since 1990, the western world has seen an abundance and accumulation of wealth that history has rarely witnessed. To call America an empire would almost be too antiquated. The velocity of wealth is astounding, even compared to the contesting nations of old. Egypt, Greece, Rome, Persia, the Byzantines, the Ottomans. These nations all had their wealth concentrated among an elite class of rulers, the prosperity was not widespread. Today we have very common people encased in the wealth-making machine. Everyone has a chance to make their own utopia by buying in to the next tier of the elite.

And why not? As a person, we simply want to measure ourselves and find out that we are successful as a person. A dollar amount is a simple measure. And so it makes perfect sense to try and slice off our share of the green mountain pictured above. We want to stake our claim on it and know that we have done well at our role in this life and economy.

Everything comes at a cost.

Self-helpers talk about it until they are blue in the face. “Work Life Balance.” That’s the name it’s gotten. A frail, pathetic, name. A title that doesn’t even come close to depicting the truest cost and epic benefits of seeking a much more elusive and rare idea. Maybe the word “Less” has the sting needed to capture it in some form.

It’s completely contrary to exchange the simple measure of a dollar and replace it with something way more complex like “depth” and “quality”. Time is even another attractive life metric, but that falls too short as well. The beauty of something can impact you in a split second, or over years. No, time won’t cut it either. Maybe we need to lay off taking measurements of our life for a second.

The best way to capture the idea of “Less” is to just start observing it in our lives, then calling the fruit of it good, rather than inconvenient.

Take the allure of a boat. Oh how nice it would be to own a boat. But we don’t, and so we found the most economical and crafty way to enjoy the water. A beach. We hadn’t gotten up in time to procure a stand on one of the more desirable beaches. Money kept us from the boat, time kept us from the beach. And so we were forced into fewer options. We spent $3 and went to a park. It just so happened to have a beach. It also happened to be completely abandoned, not a soul in site. And so we rested on what ended up being the most pristine and private beach we could have found, listening to the waves, not feeling guilty that we weren’t wasting money by sailing around in our boat. Absolutely no “thing” had a grip on those moments, it was totally free to be enjoyed. But it was born in the limitations of time and money. We didn’t have enough of either. But it was still an incredible day? What?

And that’s Less.

Less guides us, it makes decisions for us, it simplifies our existence into the simpler pleasures. It’s like squeezing through a small doorway into a room that is actually bigger on the inside than it is on the outside. Like some wardrobe in a quiet and hidden room, leading to some other land.

It has to be the absolute hardest thing to grasp in the post-modern, western world. We say a lot about simplification, but in the end, we still want to own something, just the simplest version of something. What about going without it at all? Imagine an empty room in which you can place your most precious things. Nothing distracts you from those few pieces, things that you love. And so you enjoy the maximum visceral and aesthetic value from those items. Less is uncluttered. A single chair in a small room get’s used every day, 8 chairs in a large room may only be used a few times a year. Less means more value derived from functional use.

It’s not minimalism. That’s an extraction of every unnecessary excess. This is “Less” which is ceasing to desire More all the time. Call it contentment. Seeing what you have as a wholesome boundary on your life, and being grateful that in a world filled with things to do, things to buy, things to take care of, you don’t have to be chained to so much. A spare moment is truly spared. Spared of the million distractions that you could have paid to attach to it.

Less is not a bad thing.

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