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All the Things I Do Not Need

Photo Credit: Unsplash

I recently read this thought-provoking start to a blog post:

“The story is told of a man named Arenius who lived in the fifth century. Determined to live a holy life, he abandoned the modern comforts of Egyptian society choosing instead to follow a simple, solemn lifestyle in the desert.
Yet, whenever he visited the great city of Alexandria, he would spend time wandering through its bazaars and markets. When asked why, he explained, ‘My heart rejoices at the sight of all the things I do not need.’”   

Photo Credit: Unsplash

This post, entitled “The Joy Of Not Wanting Things,” is found on Joshua Becker’s blog called “Becoming Minimalist.”  Becker explains that after reading this story ten years ago, he has “both repeated it and thought about it repeatedly since then.” As soon as I read it, I knew it could have a similar impact on me.  What freedom to look around at common temptations, at the many little luxuries and indulgences available, even at what we might, at one time, have seen as “needs,” and to feel a serene sense of detachment with no desire to possess or consume them.  To feel a quiet conviction that we have no need of any of it.

I am only beginning to learn this.  I thought I had learned it before, but  it appears that the learning was temporary or partial.  It didn’t stick forever, or at least, was applied towards certain kinds of possession and consumption but not others.  In our culture “more” has a way of sneaking up on us without us ever even realizing it. We are all swimming in a sea of more and the decision to make do with less, to be content with less easily makes us look, and often feel, like a “fish out of water.”  People will wonder how we do it.  How do we survive without this or without that?  “I could never do without sugar.” “I could never live without alcohol.” “I could never have such a small t.v. with a basic sound system.” “I could never shop at a thrift store for my clothing.” “I could never wear the same bathing suit multiple years.” “I couldn’t go without foundation.” “I have to have my expensive shampoo and conditioner.” “I couldn’t not take a vacation somewhere warm.” “I couldn’t go without Hulu.” “I can’t imagine not having Spotify.” “I couldn’t drive around a car with rust on it.” “I couldn’t get by with one bathroom.” “I couldn’t cope without a walk-in closet.” “I have to have my [expensive] daily supplements.” “I need everything in my home to match.” “I need to refresh my wardrobe every season.” “I need to refresh my home decor thoroughly every year.” “I couldn’t not buy gifts for those people.” And on, and on, and on, and on….  Do you feel tired yet?  Do you feel your strained wallet stretching to the max?  It’s exhausting and demoralizing when you really look at all our “needs,” all our “nevers,” all our “couldn’ts.” Is it any wonder desert-dwelling Arenius enjoyed an occasional visit to the city to peruse the bazaars and markets?  How expansive and utterly exhilarating to survey all the conveniences, all the delicacies and speciality wares, the subscriptions and memberships and so-called “necessities” and to realize, “I don’t need them! I don’t need any of them!  There are very few things that I truly need.”

I think I would benefit from taking some time to drill down to what it is I truly need.  What do I (and my family) really need to survive and to thrive?  What can I really not do without?  I am likely to be surprised by how little I really need to make a good and useful life.  I suspect that what I find will feel at turns both liberating and frightening.  My hunch is that, when I realize how little I truly need, I will begin to conceptualize all the changes that are possible, all the different ways of living that are achievable when I relinquish my stranglehold on various non-negotiable “necessities.”  That is both thrilling and scary, depending on whether I choose to activate faith or fear, skepticism or hope.    As a rule, the bigger our lifestyles, the more confined we become by them.  The simpler our lifestyles, the more freedom we have.  Just how much of life, of real living, am I prepared to give in exchange for my “necessities?” 


Do you ever feel trapped by your non-negotiables?  Are your desires and your requirements confining you to a certain kind of life, a life different from the one you feel called to live, when you stop and really listen to your soul?  These questions open vast, unchartered territories for me to navigate and explore. 

Photo Credit: Wix Media

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