On Less

He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not, but rejoices for those which he has.

-Epictetus

adobestock_112332370We consume the king’s share, the vast majority of us in the West. We are in a constant loop of consumption. What is perhaps most disturbing is that most of us are practically unaware of how consumed we are by this cycle. Like programmed automatons, we have been conditioned to feel perpetually hungry, conditioned to subconsciously turn wants into needs, conditioned to be constantly on the hunt for the next thing to fulfill whatever fleeting pang it is to which we are both obsessively and unknowingly affixed. Some among us who are aware of this cycle just accept that this is the way the world works. Some among us recognize the cycle and actively remove themselves from it. I challenge you to take back your autonomy and power by adopting a mentality of less. Start by picking the thing that you’d normally say, “I can’t do without my __,” and then test yourself by doing without it for a short period.

  • Eat less. WAY less. Especially less meat and dairy. Do not fear a bit of hunger. Of what you do eat, drastically increase the proportion that is plant-based. You will lose weight and become healthier and feel better. You will spend less. You will be less of a burden on the planet and on society.
  • Buy less. Our compulsion to purchase stuff is a conditioned behavior. Pay attention to the way that you are manipulated by advertising. Let’s employ our business acumen and account for the cost of inventory in our personal lives. Unencumbered by so many things, your wallet and your sense of satisfaction will become more full.
  • Use less water. Short showers, an extra wear of your clothes, eat less beef. Do a quick audit of the ways you use water in your daily life and adjust each.
  • Drive less. Walk more. It makes you feel good. It’s good for you. It’s less harmful to the planet and less harmful to the economy. Traffic jams and excess capacity (meaning the mostly-emptiness of cars on American roads) costs the economy  MANY TENS OF BILLIONS OF DOLLARS.
  • Use devices less. Cut out a chunk of time where no electronics are on and stealing your time. Be present in the moment with the world and people around you. Our lives are only between two to three seconds in length. What we perceive as “right now” is roughly a three second chunk and the chunk before “right now” is the past. The chunk that is yet to come is not promised to anyone. How much of your three second life are you willing to give to a device? A nice side effect is that you’ll be less compelled to go buy things.
  • Work less. Work hard, but don’t forget why you work. Those extra hours you give to a job can never be retrieved and they’re unlikely to make you any more productive. Be engaged with your organization but prioritize time at home, time with family, and time doing what you want to do. Remember, you’re only alive for a few seconds.
  • Worry less. This one is the product of the list above. When we zoom out a little bit from the particulars of our particular moment, it’s plain to see that much of what we worry about matters very, very little.

To be American is to have too much, most of the time

-Robert Hughes


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