What Minimalism Means to Me

15 Jan|Michael Palin

Picture copyright John Swannell

Michael Palin on minimalism

This will be a short piece, because it’s all about minimalism and how we all have too much, and I’m aware that if I go on and on about the importance of thinking very carefully about the associations that certain possessions evoke and the danger of emptying one’s memory bank by the dogmatic eradication of such possessions, which have had significance at one stage of one’s life and may well have significance again, as opposed to the deliberate rejection of all but the essentials, we may very well end up confusing ourselves over what we really need and what we think we need, and in so doing confine ourselves and our experience to narrow limits which all too soon can prove uncomfortably ephemeral, and instead of restoring a sense of balance and cleanliness to our lives, in fact produce quite the opposite effect, which is to inflict upon ourselves a sense of loss, a sense of instability and dislocation which can often only be cured by the acceptance that there are unspecific elements of our innate sense of being which cannot be quantified by any conventional description but which are, by their very purposelessness, more thoroughly indicative of our essential nature than a stripped down severity imposed, not by our deep desire to cleanse ourselves of distractions in order to better lead a contemplative, meaningful existence, but rather to conform to an aesthetic which, by its very nature precludes the opportunity, or even the consideration, of the importance of the unspecific, but derives the force of its argument from the dismissal of any notion other than that there might be some spiritual benefit to the eradication of the unnecessary which, once de-mystified, might create a physical and spiritual self-discipline which can supplant the oppression of desire and create a loosening of the implications of ownership and a re-engagement with our internal space bringing with it the consequent concentration of our feelings on the discovery and identification of those previously dormant areas of our consciousness which can, if acknowledged, effect nothing less than a re-ordering of the most basic primal priorities, a redistribution of inherent physical and mental sensitivities, engendering a liberation of those restrictive forces which, though useful in marking the parameters of our everyday life, nevertheless confirm and install boundaries by which we like to define ourselves and beyond which we dare not cross for fear of incipient disorder and the erosion of moral protections but, once explored, can release instinctive strengths which, when fully engaged, can surprise and stimulate a wholly different awareness structure than that which went before, clearing minds, subjecting consciousness to an almost Maigret-like scrutiny and at the same time stimulating the flow of the very essences of existence.

This is what minimalism means to me.

This piece appeared in Idler 58, January/February 2018. Buy a copy here.