Deep Thoughts

It’s interesting, I think. When I started this Minimal Challenge, I would not have considered sitting in the depths of my shoe closet fighting the spiders over my rubber boots to be a spiritual journey. I’m still not sure I would consider climbing Mt. Laundry, or raging against the current economy to be a religious experience.

However, our little blog here had the honor of being referenced yesterday in an interesting post on Simplicity, Minimalism, and the Ancient Ascetic.

It’s not that I disagree with Professor Caraher. Perhaps there is something ascetic about minimizing. I just think it is interesting that he has arrived at this conclusion, when the most challenging part of  my journey  has not been giving away my material goods, but giving up my pilgrimage to the coffee stand every day.

I will admit that I arrived at a free afternoon for soul-searching the other day, but I have to wonder … is this thing he calls ascetism the cause or the result of the Minimal Challenge? 

I’m not sure I have the capacity to ponder that question at the moment. I need to go find one of this family’s four towels so I can take a shower, using the newly-purchased bar of soap, since we effectively managed to decimate the left-over body scrubs from bygone days of throwing our money at random “stuff” that smells good.

It may not be deep, but it is my reality at the moment.


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5 Responses to Deep Thoughts

  1. Bill Caraher says:

    Thanks for noticing my post. Of course, among ancient ascetics, it was the little decisions and distractions that were the greatest struggle and the daily struggles provided the training for the most dramatic spiritual confrontations. So rather than downplaying the little victories over conspicuous consumption, regard them as your foundational triumphs for bigger battles.

    Or using a sports metaphor, it’s having sound fundamentals that will allow you to be successful in the big game.

    Or just take the parallel as two interesting examples of how society responded to the perceived evils of over consumption and take comfort in knowing that you had pious fellow travelers!


    • I love it. I’m trying to keep my blog in a non-political, non-religious, non-judgmental center, but there are some undeniable truths about our society and culture that I am discovering on this journey, including the small victories and little changes that slowly add up to a whole new perspective on life. Thank you for reading, and for providing the lens of historian to this adventure.

  2. Susan says:

    Admitting that I am a *huge* fan of the Desert Fathers of the 4th century, I have to say that I do not find the Minimal Challenge an ascetic practice by definition.
    I don’t find any exhortations to denial of self and needs so much as a re-definition of the satisfaction we expect from the fulfillment of those needs.
    It may seem ascetic in a consumerist culture to exercise active choice in the material goods we include in our nests. I believe it to be the truer heart of capitalism – to choose, or hunt, instead of suckling.
    What I see is a more like the adage: To the degree the learner is prepared to empty the vessel, the teacher can offer new opportunities for fulfillment.
    Creating space consciously, both materially and psychologically, is generative.
    But that’s just my thinking. I could be wrong.

    • Susan says:

      Also, I think Asceticism may become a word like Quality or Temperature in that it is defined by experience or acclimatization without the benefit of a true norm.

  3. Bill Caraher says:


    The metaphor of the empty vessel is deeply rooted in ascetic practice! And remember that our friends in desert did not practice asceticism as a form of torture, but as a way to achieve a much more fulfilling existence. By striping away their dependence on the world (in your term suckling), they were free to achieve true existence with God. It was voluntary at the highest level in that ascetic practice insisted that the individual could meet God half way.

    Thanks for the response!

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