Friday, 14 June 2019

Gallery of Minimalist heroes

Here follow some minimalists in whom I rejoice.

St Francis, my hero for nearly fifty years —

I love that he said: "We must bear patiently not being good and not being thought good."

Our self-esteem and the positive regard of others are cherished possessions; it is not easy to let them go. Finding humility is a descending stair cut roughly into the rock and clay of life, taking us down to the bedrock of peace. It involves letting go of all bolstering opinion, whether our own or that of others. It is part of our invisible minimalism.

Diogenes, my favourite philosopher —

He slept rough here and there, but often in a large disused water jar in the market place, and he begged his food. He saw himself as a citizen of the world and distanced himself from partisan tribalism. He famously had no possessions but his staff and bowl — then one day when he say a boy drinking from cupped hands, he realised he didn't need the bowl and threw it away. Diogenes was an essentialist to the core. In our household we felt surprised that he saw the staff as more useful than the bowl, and we spent a while talking about that. By the end of the conversation we'd decided we could all do with staffs!

I delight in Bashō's student Mizuta Masahide (17th century Japanese physician), for the little poem he wrote —

— that says when his house burned down it gave him a better view of the moon. I don't know if it really did, but Bashō liked the poem and it offers us the clearsighted courage of minimalism expressed in a nutshell.

I love St Martin of Tours —

— not only for cutting his cloak in two and giving one half to a beggar on a cold day (a model for minimalist generosity, sharing the one thing you have), but also for hiding in the poultry run when the church dignitaries came to make him a bishop.

I cherish the teaching of Bodhidharma (said to have brought Zen Buddhism to China), not least for his portraits —

Just when we might have thought nothing could be more minimalist than buddhism, Bodhidharma provoked us into seeing we had a way to go yet, teaching that the essence of the way is in no longer being attached to anything, even words and appearances, finding enlightenment simply, directly, in and through everyday experience. Giving yourself up without regret, using everything without using anything, travelling all day without going anywhere at all. Bodhidharma expounded the zen of the minimalist mind.

And I am enjoying my newest friend, Ryokan Taigu —

— who put it like this:


Bean said...

excellent list.

Pen Wilcock said...

Yes — good dinner party! Great conversation, not fussy about food.

greta said...

yes! but i notice (this is not a criticism but an awareness of my own lack of thought on this subject) that there are no women on the list. yikes! after much wracking of brain, i managed to come up with dorothy day and little sister magdeleine of the little sisters of Jesus. while i was never able to meet sr. magdeleine, i did meet several of the little sisters, including the community who lived in one of the scariest neighbourhoods in chicago. their poverty and simplicity were shining, beautiful and awe inspiring.

so delighted that you have befriended ryokan. there are two books of poetry, both translated by john stevens. 'one robe, one bowl' and 'dewdrops on a lotus leaf' with charming illustrations by koshi no sengai. both have travelled with me through the years.

Pen Wilcock said...

I felt uneasy about there being no women on the list. It's an oddity, in terms of the company I keep day to day, I enjoy the company of women and often find them easier to relate to than men. When it comes to working within an authority structure, I find men way easier. And in my aspirational/imaginative journey, the guides I reach for are men.
Have you come across Mark Boyle (googling the Moneyless Man finds him)? He lived two or three of years without money, and then recently has been living strictly off-grid, refraining from dependence on modern technology. He's written a book about it, "The Way Home". One of the things in it I found seriously annoying is that he refers in it to Thoreau and other examples of people who've gone back to a life of great simplicity, but doesn't bother to find the women. These are the ones I would go for:
Hope Bourne

Juliette de Bairacli Leviïracli_Levy

Hannah Hauxwell

There's also, of course, Peace Pilgrim

and Heidemarie Schwermer.

(I'm also conscious that I've omitted Daniel Suelo from my original post, and he has immensely inspired me. )

Dorothy Day who you mention, is similarly a great inspiration — and I have read of the Little Sisters of Jesus and like you I admire them very much.

These women have made a deep impression on me. I think it would not be too much to say I revere them. I know well how hard it is to make such a journey through life as a woman. There are others we haven't mentioned as well — I'm sure you'll have come across them — buddhist nuns who live as hermits, Alexandra David-Neel — the list goes on once you start looking! .Amazing women. And then there are these who I've never read about:

I cannot explain it, but though I greatly honour them, I cannot find an imaginative way in to them, if you see what I mean. When my mind rests on them I feel discouraged and inadequate. But when I read about the men in my original post, something in me gets up and wants to go with them. It's all at an instinctual level — something to do with the animus perhaps — not something I fully understand.

Buzzfloyd said...

That's probably to do with who gets published as much as anything. What about Mary Oliver? Or St Clare?

greta said...

oh, peace pilgrim, of course! i'll have to look up the others that you mentioned as none of them are familiar to me. i am familiar with mark boyle and daniel suelo. you and i must have a similar issue since i had to really search my brain to come up with even two women! going to have to look at that more closely as it feels quite shame making.

Rebecca said...

I look forward to investigating these links as I stretch out my legs in idleness...😊

Pen Wilcock said...

A grand and regal pose for relaxing — "as if we were the happiest people on earth" as Thich Nhat Hanh would say. Ooh — and he's yet another one who has inspired me.

Pen Wilcock said...

Greta — interesting, isn't it. Opens the lid on how male-centric our culture still really is.

Pen Wilcock said...

Buzzfloyd — Mary Oliver! I hadn't put her into this imaginative category. But, yes of course! And St Clare — yes, she took the extreme simplicity of St Francis and of necessity remodelled it for indoors.

Gosh, I'm enjoying this comment thread!