The Open Mind

Zen in its essence
is the art of seeing
into the nature of one’s being,
and it points the way
from bondage to freedom.

~ D. T. Zuzuki ~


Yesterday’s post here weakly advocated for minimalism. The quotation with which I chose to introduce this post might rightfully be considered when one considers minimalism. In my view, the capitalist’s devotion to consumerism is a form of bondage; breaking free of that bond could, I suggest, let freedom emerge in ways we cannot even image.

The topic remains on my mind. A friend responded with a comment about the matter and sent me a link to a somewhat dated documentary about a Hutterite community—in southern Canada—where minimalism is practiced as just one element of a utopian way of life. The Hutterites emigrated from Germany before the first World War, going to the U.S. Then, before World War I, they immigrated to Canada. Pacifists, their refusal to fight in World War I made them personae non gratae  in the U.S. I haven’t yet finished the 30-minute video, but I ‘ve watched enough to get the flavor of the film and the culture it portrays. Minimalism, for the Hutterites, is one component of a lifestyle dictated in large part by the group’s interpretation of the Bible. But it’s easy to see the nonreligious impacts of minimalism on their day-to-day life. Their lives are simpler than those of the rest of us. Their minimalism contributes, in my opinion, to their ability to maintain a commitment to peace and community. Perhaps watching it in its entirety will change my perspective; I think not.

I’ve found a problem in years past (and I expect that will continue on today and tomorrow) with minimalism. That is, the responses to an interest in minimalism ranges from a tepid “hmmm” to a weak semi-commitment prefaced by “yes, but…”  The “but” introduces commitments to the pleasures of our complex lives. Consumerism—materialism on speed— fights tooth and nail to cripple minimalism, even while superficially expressing gratitude for the concept. I can do nothing to change cultures’ ideas about minimalism or consumerism; I can only live my life with as little hypocrisy, with respect to the concepts, as possible.


Today, we will skip church in favor of packing and moving materials from one house to another. Yesterday, we did a little of the same, plus I made tentative arrangements to put my dining table and (up to) 9 chairs and my canopy, posted queen bed out for consignment sale. I’d rather someone just approach me and buy them, but that’s unlikely. But, just in case, here are some photos of said “for sale” items.

I welcome any and all offers. In an ideal world, I would replace neither of these items, opting instead for stepping boldly toward minimalism. This world, my friends, is complex; it is anything but minimalist. We live in an environment in which consumerism is trained into us from an early age; an environment in which “more” and “better” and “nicer” are sacred concepts that form the basis of our fervent, almost religious beliefs in capitalism and the allure of all its sparkling, glittering, shiny bits and pieces.  But, seriously, we all need a place to sleep and a place to eat, so I truly welcome your interest and offers. 🙂


I think I am considerably more open-minded than most people. Though I find many activities or behaviors distasteful and would not pursue them, I have no objection to others engaging in them. But my open-mindedness might be considered stepping toward the fringes of  “normalcy” by many of my more traditionalist friends and acquaintances. Nudity, for example, which I think is a natural state of humankind that we’ve made into something disturbing and “wrong.” Though I am not personally a fan, I do not think “threesomes” are revolting. Ditto for sharing partners; though I am unwilling to participate in any form, I do not judge those who do. And if people want to sacrifice goats to pagan gods, be my guest; I only ask that the sacrifice be as quick and painless as possible.

It’s interesting that so many people (I include myself) call themselves open-minded but, when presented with concepts in opposition to our own, close our minds like a bank vault guarding money. Think of topics like “open-carry” and “right-to-life” opponents to abortion. Open-minded? Please! We allow ourselves self-congratulation for our open-minded convictions at the same time we condemn others for theirs.

Where do we cross the line between open-minded and narrow-minded? I think we sometimes confuse to two lines.


Enough for now. Time to attempt to be progressive and open-minded, while allowing others their freedom to oppose my positions. It’s gonna be a hard road to hoe; always was, always will be.

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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