Mainstream culture tells us that more is better. During the holiday season, our culture screams this at us.
But unless we are poor, it’s a lie that more is better. It’s actually a violent lie. More is often crazymaking and destructive, both to our personal lives, and to our planet, which has finite resources and a climate that’s destabilizing because we burn fossil fuels so rapidly.
In contrast, being joyful and rich in what matters often means practicing the art of subtraction. This week’s post is partially based on a recent piece by Leo Babauta of Zen Habits. The links are to Diamond-Cut Life posts; Leo and I have a lot of shared values. (Like me, Leo writes under the Creative Commons license: You are free to reuse and remix our content provided you link back to the original post, and offer your new work under a similar license.) Sharing makes us rich in what matters.
The tendency of our lives and holidays is to keep adding more: more decorations, tasks, gifts, baked treats. clothes, gadgets, appointments, features to websites and apps.
But continual addition isn’t good for us. It’s not sustainable or desirable. This is especially true in the holiday season. And it’s especially true concerning eating. See How To Not Gain Weight Over The Holidays for tips on being rich in holiday fun without overeating.
Too much gift-giving may not be in anyone’s best interests. If you already have credit card debt (most Americans do), consider not debting this holiday season. If you feel trapped by old holiday rules and want a way out of them while still preserving loving relationships, see How To Break The Rules At Christmas.
Too many things to do means we’re always busy, with no time for rest, nature, God, stillness, creativity, exercise, time with loved ones, being of service.
Too many possessions is clutter, visual stress, cleaning, maintenance, debt, less happiness. See here for ten commonly used items that I happily live without. And here are an additional ten.
Too many tasks makes it harder to focus on any one thing or get anything done.
Subtraction is beautiful: it creates space, time, clarity.
Too many things we want to learn means we never learn anything well.
Subtraction is necessary: otherwise we are overburdened.
Subtraction can be painful. It can feel like letting go of a child.
But other times, subtraction can feel like we’ve let go of a ten-pound rock we were carrying uphill.
Subtraction is an art that improves with practice. Subtraction can be practiced on your possessions, schedule, task list, commitments list, reading list, writing, product line, distractions.
What might you subtract this holiday season to make you richer in what matters?
photo courtesy of the Netz family.