Sunday, November 12, 2006

Bare Essentials

And What I Think About It...

"Perfection is not when there’s nothing to add,
but when there’s nothing to take away."
-- Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (1900-1944, French aviator and writer)

What a great quote. I could (should) apply it to hundreds of things in my life.

The quote gives more guidance than the well-known saying, "Less is more," but the two are closely related. "Less is more" was the mantra that guided Ludwig Mies van der Rohe (1886-1969), a German-born architect who designed minimalist skyscrapers, such as the IBM Building and the Lake Shore Drive Towers in Chicago.

His [Ludwig Mies van der Rohe's] mature buildings made use of modern materials such as industrial steel and plate glass to define austere but elegant spaces. He developed the use of exposed steel structure and glass to enclose and define space, striving for an architecture with a minimal framework of structural order balanced against the implied freedom of open space. He called his buildings "skin and bones" architecture. He sought to create a rational approach that would guide the creative process of architectural design, and is known for his use of the aphorisms “less is more” and "God is in the details".


Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (whose thought about perfection I quoted above) studied architecture in Paris before becoming a pilot, so perhaps he was influenced by minimalist thought there. He wrote a number of books about flying, but I think most Americans would know him better as the author of "The Little Prince."

I admire the idea of minimalism (things stripped to their essence, unnecessary detail eliminated). There are very few areas where I've achieved such perfection. It remains a goal, and I try to keep reminding myself.

A few years ago, one of the children at church wanted me to buy a magazine for their school fund-raiser. I looked through the list, and the title "Real Simple" caught my eye so I subscribed. To my surprise, it is mostly a shopping magazine. The magazine's theme is, "Life made easier," and they think you need to buy a lot of stuff to achieve that goal.

"Less is more," and "Life made easier," don't perfectly contradict each other, but they don't perfectly parallel each other either.

I think this relates -- we don't own a weedeater or a rototiller. There are times when those tools would make life easier, but if we owned them, we'd start imposing higher standards of perfection on the lawn and garden. Without them, we get a little more exercise occasionally, but most of the time, we save ourselves a lot of work and expense. Even better, we spare ourselves from the guilty feeling of owning expensive yard tools that we think we should use more.

Our yard doesn't have to be groomed to perfection -- we live out in the country. Enough is enough.

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Wrkinprogress said...

We've been trying to cut down/cut back/do without here lately, too, though admittedly not doing as much (or as little!!) as we could. One thing we're particularly trying to do is decrease our energy use, and make as much of a switch to greener energy as possible. Watching the documentary "Kilowatt Ours" by Jeff Barrie, who happens to attend our church, gave us a lot of good information and good ideas for going forward.

Genevieve said...

Good for you, WIP. Did you hear that report today that said that the Hollywood movie industry is second only to petroleum manufacturing as a source of emissions and consumer of resources in southern California? Amazing. (Story here.)

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CONTENTMENT: Keep your heart free from hate, your mind from worry, live simply, expect little, give much, sing often, pray always, forget self, think of others and their feelings, fill your heart with love, scatter sunshine. These are the tried links in the golden chain of contentment.
(Author unknown)

IT IS STILL BEST to be honest and truthful; to make the most of what we have; to be happy with simple pleasure; and to be cheerful and have courage when things go wrong.
(Laura Ingalls Wilder, 1867-1957)

Thanks for reading.