Comfort Versus Connection
“Comforts, once gained, become necessities. And if enough of those comforts become necessities, you eventually peel yourself away from any kind of common feeling with the rest of humanity.” — Sebastian Junger
We build our abodes and collect the stuff that occupies them to make us feel safe and secure. We build our lives to have a semblance of okayness. We develop our lifestyles and homes with only a modicum of intention. Aside from a few key features, it’s throwing spaghetti on the wall to see what sticks and then forgetting to clean up the rest.
We all have different parameters for what feels like a material necessity. And our parameters are developed at expenses we don’t acknowledge: self-inflicted financial obstacles (ex. overspending, anxiety, mismanagement) and stress (ex. the activity of finding products, disorganization, guilt associated with stuff)). But the common thread is the need for security, even if the strategies employed counter that result. So we allow ourselves to be pulled away from the human world into the material one.
As we develop our homes and lifestyles, we find ourselves in a flurry of advertisements: internet ads that flash on our screen via website banners, social media, and pop-up windows, catalogs and uninvited flyers that populate our mailboxes, clothes and accessories flaunting their brand name on the bodies of strangers and friends, movies and shows, and social media influencers. Oh, and commercials.
We are inundated with a subtle idea: it’s normal to have all these things. In fact, it’s preferred.
We shop online or visit stores for one product, finding other products along the way that will seemingly solve our problems. They may or may not. But even if they do, what issues need solving via a new product? And was that problem all that much of a pain in the first place?
We are masters of rationalizations, so we can defend everything we keep, purchased or otherwise. Yet, we don’t acknowledge the actual cost: a simpler, more minimalist lifestyle. More profoundly, the trap of perceived safety, couched in “necessities,” brings us further away from finding what’s most important to us, including people.
Even the most introverted introvert needs people to feel connected to the broader network of community, country, and world. No amount of gadgets, kitchen tools, books, or reusable water bottles (in every shape and size!) can bring us closer to those around us. The more we think we need, the more we build mini-fortresses between ourselves and others.
While we may find momentary security in building abodes filled with things we think we need and love, most of us aren’t prepared for basic emergencies. Acknowledging the possibility of an actual emergency isn’t fun. It doesn’t have the qualities that keep us keeping things we don’t need. So we remain thinking we’re safe and secure when we are far from it.
There is another way.
I encourage meaningful minimalism because we have an opportunity to be more thoughtful about our consumption habits and what is worth keeping, while protecting the world’s commons. In addition, meaningful minimalism is a way to address the many questions we stumble through as we look for security. We are then open to more connections with the world around us.