Miles Davis and other jazz kings talked a lot about how music is defined by the space between the notes, rather than the notes themselves. It was the notes they didn’t play that made the sound.
This seems like ambiguous word-play, but I suppose it was an attempt to describe the abstract mind-set of their musical genius. Or maybe they were just really high on dope.
Considering this frame, we recognize that the sound is given its shape by the silent void it inhabits. Everything in the composition is relative to the nothing that the something interrupts.
So the notes they played were given ‘more weight’ when they had extra room to breathe, so to speak.
Minimalism is the final destination of this abstraction; the nothing becoming the focus of the artist’s execution.
Painters and musicians explore minimalism by stripping down the implied substance to its geometric bones.
Visually these bones are represented as lines, points, circles, angles and planes.
Audibly as spacious arrangements of simple rhythm, melody, beat and ambient harmony.
The point of all this, from an artist’s perspective, is to empower the form over the substance.
Like a candle shines brightest in a darkened room, the form of the art is most pronounced when the substance is minimalized.
There is a profound purity in minimalism. All that empty space invites one’s imagination to ‘fill in’ the missing parts of the story. In this way, the audience is engaged with the art at a deeper level of perception.
Minimalism exposes your true form
When you minimalize the clothes, the car, the conveniences, the comforts, the status symbols, the social identifiers, the luxury, the strong likes and dislikes, the heated opinions… what’s left?
What are you when there is nothing external to relate to your individual self-identity?
Are you capable of defining yourself without these add-ons?
What remains when they are gone?
More plainly stated – your creativity, your balls, your integrity, your spirit, your wits, your mind-set, your will-power and your personality.
These are the things that form the man that you become.
These are the things that make lasting impressions on your social audience.
As a philosophy and a lifestyle, minimalism puts your character first and emboldens it by reducing the white-noise of material vanity and mindless chatter.
Minimalism makes you strong
Conditioning yourself to survive and thrive on less builds a resilient body and an adaptable mind.
Little first-world inconveniences will not phase you.
The urge towards constant pleasure and novelty will fade and lose its power over you.
Where consumerism leaves others soft and weak-willed, you are firmly anchored like a rock in the storm.
Plain meals with simple taste will appeal to your warrior spirit.
You are comfortable being uncomfortable.
Minimalism is flexibility
It has been said that your possessions end up possessing you… if you are not careful.
Car, clothes, furniture, house, expensive hobby-things are a liability once you’ve invited them into your life.
They are a part of you now.
Their presence weighs on your conscience.
Whenever you think of leaving your job or traveling or changing your lifestyle – there they are, an ever-present nuisance complicating your decisions.
If you’ve bought things on credit… then they really own you.
But even without debt, your possessions become extra sticky because they are a sunk cost, a psychological debt.
For the true minimalist, there is nothing material in his life that he isn’t willing to set-on-fire at any given moment if it threatens his independence.
So… he carefully considers the things that he brings into his life.
He is aware of the compromise he is making.
Minimalism will make you rich
As has been documented in painstaking detail by personal finance bloggers (see resources), living way below your means is the undefeated champion of ‘good habits’ leading to wealth and financial independence.
Minimalism in the financial sense is akin to anti-consumerism, anti-debt and anti-wastefulness.
If you treat your personal finances like a business, then you aren’t going to invest in depreciating assets whose cost is inflated by some perceived luxury value.
In a simple business, there are only two ways to improve profit: increase revenue or lower costs.
You have complete control over the latter.
You can buy your food in bulk, bike to work, cancel the entertainment, skip the overpriced restaurants, cut all the bills and instead bank the income on appreciating assets.
You don’t need that much to live well… you think that you do, but you really don’t.
Toys are for children, and expensive toys are for uber-rich men self-medicating their terminal boredom.
Minimalism keeps you focused on what matters
When asked how he carved a perfect statue of the masculine physique out of a slab of marble, a famous sculptor simply remarked: ‘I chipped away everything that was not a man’.
As a lifestyle and philosophy, minimalism is a chipping away (and barring from entry) everything that does not align with your goals and idealized life-image.
If presented with something that does not help you actualize the life you want to lead, then you simply dismiss it as clutter; noise; distraction… and thereby absurd.
We are all the victims of stimulus-overload. Everywhere we look we see a hostile culture vying for our dollar, attention and engagement.
In order to focus on what is important to you, a commitment to minimalism will keep you vigilant in avoiding and removing things that drain your energy, time and money.
You are either all about it, or you are without it.
There is no lukewarm in-between.
Minimalism lightens your cognitive load
…and that means clear thinking.
We each have a finite amount of attention to pay.
Everything that we own, think about and are a part of demands a piece of the pie.
Dedicating a portion of psychic energy to one endeavor takes us away from another.
So… minimalism is not just getting rid of physical things, but rid of mental things too. People and projects to which we cannot dedicate our full-selves are better avoided completely than dabbled in half-heartedly.
When we have one-pointed focus, we have total immersion.
We cannot give the world our best unless we are ALL IN.
Minimalism removes unnecessary complexity from your life
A simple life only becomes boring because you do not have art or some other project in which to involve your creativity.
You go out seeking distractions and amusement to escape yourself, because you are not content with your own company. Quiet space and plain settings make you nervous.
Solitude is a prison for you because you have not learned to love yourself completely.
A man with boundless imagination and creativity wants nothing more than an empty space, free from disturbance, un-cluttered of needless things, in which he can immerse himself completely in his projects.
He just wants to be left alone to work, without having to explain himself to others.
He does not care for novelty and fun just for the sake of alleviating monotony.
He wants deliverance from distractions that knock his creative mind-set and take him away from his projects.
He does not involve himself in people or in endeavors that distract him from his will on earth.
He thinks like a soldier.
His socks and undergarments are all black, same brand.
His wardrobe is all jeans and plain t-shirts.
His home is nothing but a bed and some desks.
Besides books, tools and necessary consumables – he keeps nothing.
He bikes or he walks when he wants to go somewhere.
He prepares and eats the same plain meals, day after day after day.
He’ll be a millionaire and still living in a shotgun studio, eating rice and vegetables.
The more space he gives himself, the more room he has to grow.
Of course… he is not a robot. His life is not rigidly legalistic. Occasionally he lets go of it all and plays hard. He throws himself back into luxury and hedonism. He spends money wildly and gets it all in.
And because he has been so long in the absence of those pleasures, he enjoys them like no one else can.
The dopamine and serotonin receptors in his brain are fresh and sensitive, having not been hammered with constant abuse. His body responds with ecstatic readiness and he is primed to fully enjoy the fruits of life.