Minimalism: my personal Ideals

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About a year ago I read Everything That Remains  by Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus. A book based on the wonderful, if not original, idea of cutting out all the unnecessary possessions and focusing on the really important thinks. People have been advocating living a frugal, simple lifestyle to magnify the remaining elements since Sparta. If you want to get Biblical: Adam and Eve could have been the original minimalists: they, at least before they were expelled from the garden, lived to worship God–what little else they needed was provided them.

Still, Millburn and Nicodemus, or the Minimalists as they call themselves, put a fresh coat of paint on the idea and have taken it to almost a religious level. (They have a documentary coming out next year. See the teaser below.) They are like voices crying not from the wilderness (as if to continue the Biblical references), but instead of a wilderness it is more like the crushing throng of the post-modern world where we all are bombarded with ads telling us we are somehow incomplete or insufficient without the latest car, clothes, bling, electronic gadgets, or things that would make us look beautiful, sexy, and well, you get the idea.

Before reading Everything That Remains I felt I needed more crap in my life to make me happier. Perhaps the most emblematic of this problem is my collection of satchels, messenger bags, backpacks, briefcases, and panniers. I would buy one, tire of it quickly or see another one in a catalog or on someones body and decide I had to have it. Only three weeks ago I was walking out of my work with my friend Chip and I saw he had an urban backpack. (A single-shoulder, European-styled pack.) I never had one and the pang to pull out my phone and look up this kind of pack ran into my fledgling minimalist sensibility. (Be advised, dear reader, I may have embraced minimalism, but Madison Avenue’s programing is tough to shack and I still feel the need to “Keep up with the Jones.”)

It hurt, I was always looking for the latest thing to carry my crap. I can also say the same thing about watches, PDAs/smartphones, tablets, not to mention books–books that I could check out from the library, but would rather have just one more clean, shiny book with the smart-looking binding for my burgeoning and bulging bookshelves.

I embrace minimalism for two reasons. The first is for similar reasons the Minimalists have: It simplifies my life and therefore amplifies “what remains”–what is really important. For me that is my family, yoga, meditation, and reading.

The other reason is a political one that could have been the sole reason why minimalism was created, but wasn’t. The more stuff we buy that is manufactured outside of the U.S. the more we justify the international trade agreements like NAFTA and all the other free trade agreements that have wrenched our economy and has helped destroy the middle class of this country. By purchasing less stuff created in free trade centers by workers that earn 15 to 20 cents an hours and either make do without that very cool urban backpack or not jumping at the latest iPhone I am saying No to the free trade economy that is killing our middle class not to mention people in sweatshops in the Third World. Besides the free trade argument there is also the carbon footprint we leave behind by buying more and more junk not due to necessity, but because it is the latest style, etc.

The fruits of living a minimalist life purely on political or ecological reasons is tough to see because it does not reap any immediate benefits like the personal reasons do.  I like to look at our walk on this earth as foot prints. How heavy will your foot prints be in the sand by caring all the junk you have collected over your life span. Time to lighten up!

“Grinning like a cat eating shit” Or is it “a shit-eating cat”? My struggle with basic English composition–despite my college degree

My English sucks! What’s worse is I graduated with a BA in Journalism and a minor in History–two subjects that require a student to write many essays and news pieces. I don’t know why I didn’t get kicked out of college. Perhaps it was because I (my parents, actually) kept paying for tuition.

Early indicators of just how bad my English is was when my friend Rick, who was the Entertainment Editor of the American River College Beaver (thankfully renamed The Current some years after I left) encouraged me to write a letter to the editor about a concert review which I vehemently disagreed. When I wrote the piece I used the “word” “worthwild.” Thankfully, Rick changed it to the correct “worthwhile.” That wasn’t a typo–I actually thought that was the word.

This post and all posts on this blog from July 1, 2014 onward have not been proofread by an outside source (i.e. an online service like Papercheck.com which did the lion’s share of editing for this blog before that date. Lame for two reason: One, this is just a stupid, self-centered blog that no one reads, and Two, well, go back to the second sentence of this post.

My English is so bad that I don’t remember grammatical terminology and when I have committed such grammatical crimes, what the offense is called. Okay, that didn’t make sense, right? (Part of this is because it is late, I’m waiting for a load of laundry to dry and then I’m going to bed.) 

Take, for example the title of this post; for years I used to say, “So-and-so was grinning like a cat eating shit” When Rick,again, heard me say this he laughed and said, “What? It’s “grinning like a shit-eating cat.” I didn’t understand the difference at the time and only recently have figured out the difference. Still, my English suffers, mostly thanks to my old age: I just don’t give a shit.

So, my dear mystery reader–I haven’t told any of my old friends that I have resurrected this self-serving blog, so you are most likely a stranger–if you have peruse these posts and wondered what’s with the horrible English, now you know. So stop grinning like a, well, you know!

Back on the mat and the bike

Trying, in vain, to meditate before my Vinysana Yoga class.
Check out the boxing BOB looking at me in the background.

Now that my exercise restriction has been lifted I have returned to hatha yoga three times a week. The first two sessions felt like I hadn’t been practicing in three months though it had only been about three weeks. During inversions I could actually feel pressure on my scar!

It’s great to get back into the swing of things though I still do not practice as often as I would like. I have attempted mindful meditation, but my tangential brain won’t allow it at this time.

I’m back on my bike, too. That return has not been as dramatic on my body as yoga has, though it it is amazing what a difference three weeks can make when it is near the Autumnal Equinox. My rides home from the club are now in total darkness and the skunks are out. Drag! 

I have forgone the bike trail on my ride home after yoga, but not on my ride in, which are just as dark. A skunk crossed the bike trail in front of me just a few days ago. I don’t know if the light on my bike attracts them or just does not scare them off. One time, about a year ago, a skunk ran along side of me! It would have been funny if I wasn’t so afraid of getting sprayed.

… as I was saying about the fedora


I’ve always loved the fedora as I stated way back in May of 2006, but was afraid wearing one would either make me look old (which I am) or like I was covering up my baldness (which I also am). Now, there’s a more practical reason: ever since my skin cancer the wide-brimmed hat has become a necessity. So here I am. Call me an old fart with old fashion head gear or an old far trying to be fashion-forward. Actually, it’s a cancer screen. Sexy, eh?

Astrological Bangle: My Quest for Magic Bling

I am currently reading Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramahansa Yogananda. I was encouraged to read it after seeing the movie trailer to “Awake: the Life of Yogananda.” While I am not completely enthralled by the book as so many millions have been since it was originally publish in 1952, I am fascinated and jealous by Yogananda’s faith. Also, the book reveals many miracles that are not common during the modern age and even more during this post-modern one, so my skepticism always kicks in whenever Yogananda’s master, Sri Yukteswar, performs miracles either by healing someone, prophesying that something specific will happen, or summonsing clouds on a clear-blue sky.

My faith is weak.

One thing that jumped out at me was the astrological bangle that Sri Yukteswar told him to wear. Like anything I hear that makes me wonder, “Hey, can I get one of those?” I looked up what the do-dad is and immediately wanted one. I was taken by how beautiful and elegant the item is: three metals (gold, silver, and copper) twisted together and worn usually around the wrist. The gold represents the Sun and is thought to give a positive charge; the silver element represents the Moon as gives off a negative charge. The copper is a balancing charge:

The Universe receives different types of charges each and every moment – depending to the earth´s rotation and planetary positions. According to that, there are days when particularly good charges reach the earth–these days we may call “holy days.” On such days the metals gold, silver and copper will get charged.

If we twist them in a certain manner during a particular time of the year, that whole unit will get some good charges. This process is also described in an ancient book called “Sidda Nagarjuna Tantra.” Source: Wellness-Shop


This explains why these are especially made for each individual. Too, because gold and silver are precious metals, their value fluctuates. The first time I looked up how much an astrological bangle would cost I could not get a price–I could not even get an estimate. Instead, what I got was an international number and specific times to make the call. But I read on a message board that someone said his bangle cost him $1250. Another said some years ago he bought one for $350. This is crazy.

Reputable sites don’t mess around with trying to sell you one on a cheap bangle. This thing should not be treated like a piece of jewelry for the vain (though I must admit it is very attractive). The bangle must be manufactured at a particular time of the year and with certain preparations to have the desired effect. So, besides the cost you might have to wait nearly a year, if you ordered yours at what the manufacturers deemed the wrong time for you.

Long before I ever heard of an astrological bangle, there was a copper bracelet that my parents handed down from my paternal grandfather–the only grandparent that I was close to. I nearly wept when my mother clipped it on my wrist one Christmas evening just as my wife and I were about to leave. I wore it until my wrist literally turned green. After that I followed a local jeweler’s instructions and applied clear nail polish. That worked! I wore it night and day until I noticed it missing from my wrist. I felt sick–it survived all these years and I lost it only a few weeks after receiving it. When I finally tracked it down at my work’s Lost and Found box I vowed to not wear it until I get a new clasp for it. That was nearly a year ago though I still want to wear it. Sometimes I wonder if family heirlooms are the true magical trinkets. The irony to that is while I look at the bracelet as something special and nearly-magical, my grandfather wore it because he was taken in by the quackery that copper wards off arthritis. Still, I will wear it again when I can mitigate the clasp problem–quackery or not. 

As for the astrological bangle I am emotionally looking towards the bangle the same way my grandfather bought into the copper > arthritis racket. There are intelligent ways to approach faith just as there is the prevention of arthritis, but that doesn’t make me want to buy the bangle any less. This goes back to my old problem of wanting to buy myself into something that will complete me. (See My All-Too Mortal Game posted August 2, 2007 for another example of my throwing money around, hoping nirvana will occur.

I need to believe first, then go in for the magic bling.

BOOM! A must-watch!

Jeff Daniels’ character from the cable TV show “Newsroom” gives quite possibly the most honest assessment of the United States of America you will ever see on American television this side of Bill Moyers or Amy Goodman.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lNkPpunu7go 

If only news anchors were this honest in real life. Funny, Daniels’ character also suffers from vertigo. That’s two things his character and I have in common!