In October, I will hit the ripe old age of fifty. While some may cringe at hitting the half-century mark, I am simply happy to be above ground and in reasonable condition. For all I have been through that in itself is a miracle. If life’s a journey, not a destination, then I’m somewhere in the middle of the journey and curious to know what’s around the corner.
One thing that has become clearer as the years pass is that information and technology have completely permeated and engulfed human life. Information overload. How can you possibly keep up with the news and all the changes in the world? Is this information and junk cluttering our mind and our space necessary? How can we progress if we are so busy processing the information we have no time to use it?
Thirty-five to forty years ago, there was no internet, no cable TV, no HBO, Showtime or ESPN. There were only four channels, ABC, NBC, CBS, and PBS. VHS and Betamax were engaged in a format war and there were no compact discs, DVDs, iTunes, iPhones, smart phones, digital cameras, or digital downloads. Cellular phones were the size of a shoebox and only the most important or rich had them. It cost ten cents to make a call on a payphone and people still wrote letters on beautiful stationery where penmanship was valued and etiquette was expected. Nowadays, when you get an email you're lucky if there's a hello or goodbye or if you're even referred to by your name.
Call up your bank or internet service provider and you may find it difficult to reach a human being. Instead, you're asked to press a number to coincide with what you need, then another number and maybe even another. If you're lucky you'll hear, "Please press zero for an operator," at the beginning of your call. Call Pizza Hut and you're asked question after question when all you really want is a pepperoni pizza! McDonald's feels it necessary to ask if you want to super size your order. At Starbucks where they're trained to up sell, if you order an apple juice instead of, "That will be $3.00 sir," you get, "Would you like a coffee with that? How about a banana muffin?" I understand it's good business but if I want something else I'll ask for it. I don't need someone kissing my ass and adding to my clutter all in the name of the dollar.
Approximately 2.3 billion people now have access to the internet and over 5 billion have a cellular phone subscription. The printed newspaper, magazines and even books are quickly becoming outdated and there are 500+ cable channels. If you want news, there are literally hundreds, if not thousands of options. Everyone needs to make choices in life but too much of a good thing inhibits happiness and growth.
Before moving to Thailand, I sold off my belongings and packed what remained in two bags, a suitcase and a backpack. One held my clothes, the other my compact discs and miscellaneous junk. What a feeling. I had money in my pocket (and in the bank), no one to tell me what I could or could not do, no job to go to every day, and I could go where I wanted, when I wanted. I was unencumbered by life and by stuff. For a brief period, I was truly free.
After living here a few years and getting married, then having two children, this changed. Marriage and children have a way of complicating life. Now it is time to get back to those old days when life was less complicated. I have decided to trim the fat and live a more simple life. I believe the word used today is minimalism. I prefer simplify, however, it doesn’t much matter what word you use for the end goal is the same; remove the clutter and make life less complicated.
Thanks to the Hand, Foot, and Mouth disease that has quickly become a problem here in Bangkok schools, my two children are home for the next few days. Today and tomorrow have been deemed cleaning days and they have already been informed it is time to say goodbye to all of their unused toys collecting dust. My own closet is full of clothes, shoes, ties, and socks, many of which I never use, there are papers in my office that have not been read in years, and I could get rid of many of my books and never give them a second thought. In short, I am going to sell, throw or giveaway what I view as unnecessary and see what remains. Then I will whittle away until satisfied.
There were far fewer choices in the past but somehow, even without the internet and social media, HBO, Amazon or iTunes, people managed. I think we will manage too.
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