25 February 2021

A Minimalist State

Fumio Sasaki, Goodbye Things, tr. Eriko Sugita (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2017):

Anyone can imagine the invigorating feeling that comes with de-cluttering and minimizing, even if there are mountains of things lying around at home right now. It’s because we’ve all been through something like it at one time or another. Think, for example, of going away on a trip. 

Before you head out, you’re probably busy packing at the last minute. You go through your checklist of items to take with you and although everything looks fine, you can’t help feeling that there’s something that you’ve forgotten. But the clock is ticking, and it’s time to go. You give up, get up, lock the door behind you, and start rolling your suitcase along the pavement — with a strange sense of freedom. You think then that yes, you can manage to live for a while with this one suitcase. Maybe you’ve forgotten to bring something along, but hey, you can always get whatever you need wherever you’re going. 

You arrive at your destination and lie down on the freshly made bed — or the tatami mat if it happens to be a Japanese-style inn. It feels good. The room is clean and uncluttered. You aren’t surrounded by all the things that usually distract you, the stuff that takes up so much of your attention. 

That’s why travel accommodations often feel so comfortable. You set down your bag and step out for a walk around the neighborhood. You feel light on your feet, like you could keep walking forever. You have the freedom to go wherever you want. Time is on your side, and you don’t have the usual chores or work responsibilities weighing you down.

This is a minimalist state, and most of us have experienced it at one time or another.

I was reminded of this book when I saw Solzhenitsyn's exhortation to “own only what you can always carry with you” on Laudator Temporis Acti yesterday.

Yosa Buson, Lone Traveler in Wintry Mountains (c. 1778)