Minimalism – a study in health and happiness
I’ve had these thoughts bouncing around my head more and more lately and had them nicely summed up and supported when I discovered a fellow wordpress user’s blog with the appropriately succinct title minimalistlifestyle
Now this may not seem relevant to a blog on music writing but indeed it is, allow me to explain dear reader. A big part of being an electronic musician is the exposure to “gear” and the associated demon of gearlust. From what I have read in many sources it becomes almost impossible not to gather ever more gear, buying the new synth; be it hardware or software, whether you really need it or not. As I’ve mentioned in an earlier post my girlfriend and I lost our house and quite a few belongings in the earthquake here in Christchurch, New Zealand last year. Due to the inevitable housing shortage following we ended up living in a caravan for over a year, 3 months of this was in a very small camper van (RV) on the road travelling around the country.
Rather than being the frustrating experience I expected, the clarity that came out of this experience was quite life-changing for both of us as we came to realise the unnecessary excesses of our lifestyle prior to the ‘quake. It became obvious that not only were we ok with not having access to quite a lot of these “things” we were actually happier. Life became distilled down to a minimal state, admittedly sometimes too minimal, but we had pretty much everything we needed for happiness in that tiny little 16ft caravan. My gear-laden studio was reduced to a Macbook Pro and a 3 octave mini-key Korg keyboard and a few soft-synths and my musical productivity went through the proverbial roof (check the blog post linked earlier for more details on this)
I re-discovered the simple pleasures in life of sitting in the sun reading a book for a few hours, no internet access, no big-screen tv, no playstation, no STUFF but a much more relaxed mind. We went for walks, we explored, we went climbing and fishing and just sat on the beach watching nature. We discovered how to make many of the things we used to buy as packaged products but without all the e-numbers. We expanded our love of foraging for wild foods and growing good healthy veg to the point that now we very very rarely buy vegetables or much of anything actually but are both healthier and happier as a result.
I left my IT job that I’d hated for many years and am now writing music full-time, working on a couple of ideas for books and we are hoping to build just enough money to buy a small property up in the Golden Bay area in New Zealand, a place where many people of similar philosophy gravitate. We don’t want some huge mansion and we don’t want every bigger piles of cash, just enough to give us what we need to make us happy and now we realise how little that actually is. I don’t really want some massive room full of synths, I’ve got to the point where I realise some hardware does make a big difference to the sound of the tracks I write so I intend to end up with 3 or 4 really good analog synths from a few manufacturers to give me a range of timbres.
Too many people have forgotten the simple pleasures of life before all this technology and rampant desire for money, if the technology is genuinely enriching your life then all the best but I wonder how many people are stuck, as we were, blind to the fact that without all that stuff and with much less money to buy more stuff you really can actually be much much happier.
In the end it’s a shame that it took something like the earthquake and associated death and destruction to shake us out of our acquisition brainwashed state but I think it’s often the way. Although the loss of life and the change to the city saddens me, in a strange way I am grateful for what was at the time a terrifying and shocking ordeal but is now something which has changed my life immeasurably for the better and has set me on a path which I can see will get better still.
An extreme state of absolute Minimalism isn’t for everyone, but maybe just take a few minutes every now and again to take a look around at the stuff that surrounds you and the things you are spending your hard-earned money on. Take a hard look at your studio, do you need all that stuff? Does it make you happy? Do you need that new soft-synth?
Can you remember things you did as a kid that made you really happy that you just seem to not have time to do any more? I know I can but lately I seem to have a lot more time for those things.