I had the profound joy of translating the more than 100 posts of Sade Yaşamak from Turkish to English. Written by Begüm Başoğlu (curator of the Vitali Hakko Creative Industries Library, Istanbul) and Ege Erim (freelance writer), the blog is an offshoot of their book Sade and chronicles their weekly musings on life, directed by the central theme of minimalism. Often philosophical in tone, Sade Yaşamak aims to simplify life not just through the deduction of the tangible, but also through the simplification of the intangible.
25 August 2016
Should we tackle an issue today that never veers toward fights, misunderstandings, and especially haughtiness? ‘Who is more of a minimalist?’ or ‘who is the right kind of minimalist?’ We are all individuals who have fretted over at least one important examination within the framework of the national education system and therefore lived through the apprehension of surpassing others. Even though this pubescent conditioning doesn’t make us happy, we continue to internalize it, and when we realize that another kind of life is possible, we dream of being the most ideal representation of it. The diagnosis is thus quite simple. But how can we cure ourselves of this quagmire of idealism?
If we’ve taken a step towards minimalizing our lives, the first stop is usually our belongings. Our wild souls want to relax and purge the hundreds of useless things that we stuff into our homes, cupboards, drawers, and closets. In fact, these cleaning sessions aren’t completed the first time around. Once we get used to it, we often repeat the weeding out process of useless items. Because it feels good. Free space is not just opened up in our homes and rooms, but also within our souls. We begin to consume less and question why we buy certain things more often. We feel the litheness of living with fewer belongings. A person can stay at exactly this point and be minimalist for the rest of their lives.
The other level in minimizing (which is not lower or higher, but just ‘other’) is focusing on how we spend our lives. Are we content with our work, what we choose to do, and the people we spend time with? What do we need to get rid of, keep, and make space for in order to truly live our lives as we desire? A person can build a whole lifetime around this question, spending their lives finding the answer and making it a reality. They can choose to be fully independent of other’s choices and live a minimal life with their own truths.
Or let the manifestation of minimalism translate to leaving a smaller footprint, harming the earth as little as possible, and using our talents to help others. On this path our aim is not just to consume less, but to consume that which is natural and fairly produced. We see minimalism as a longer and wider path where single aims give birth to plural results. We prioritize natural materials, fibers, clothing, and food; instead of traveling often by plane, we travel to the destinations in our proximity with our tents; and even organize volunteer projects. Who can tell us we’re not minimalists?
Let’s say we associate minimalism with austerity and trust, then we think deeply about how we can use our money for smarter and more long-term fulfillments, we focus on paying our debts as soon as possible, and comfortably postpone luxurious necessities so we can be more at ease tomorrow. It’s another name for the dream of retiring earlier than everyone else (even though we love our jobs) through saving enough money. When we’re unable to sleep, we draw the plans for our future calm and beautiful home. Because a person can be a perfect minimalist and still place their relationship with money in the center of their lives.
Minimalism can be some, all, or none of these things. As long as it makes us happy and makes us feel good, we don’t need to compare ourselves and our choices with anything or anyone else. There’s no winner, champion, or favorite upon this path. There’s definitely no medal at the end of this road!
Consolation for Mediocrity
13 April 2017
‘Surrender to your mediocrity.’
This quote belongs to Cheryl Strayed, the author of Wild.
Ever since I’ve heard it, the words seem to have found themselves a comfortable corner in my mind, lying on pillows whose escaped feathers tickle my expectations. What happened to surpassing ourselves, to always striving for the better? Wasn’t the principal idea to evolve, to aim for perfection even when we were unable to manage it?
I’ve begun to think that the concept of simply doing—creating ideas, notes, colors, numbers, or words within a certain order—is wonderful and absolutely sufficient. Perhaps it’s not perfect. But it’s definitely enough. If we’ve set out on the path from A to Z, it’s certainly sufficiently marvelous to arrive at B. Sometimes a person can decide that they really like B and abandon the original path to enjoy B more thoroughly. Yes, the goal has not been fulfilled. But must goals be so rigid and inalterable?
Sure, none of us want to possess mediocre qualities, be remembered for mediocre work, or present a mediocre performance. But, striving for perfection, before we have even begun the journey, makes our goals seem gargantuan in comparison to our now tiny selves. It makes every beginning more difficult. All the things we’re afraid of initiating are usually due to this fear mediocrity. We believe that if we can’t be the best, there’s no point in any attempts whatsoever. Even those two hours we avoid every week to finally begin that artistic endeavor, novel, or business plan, are all victims of our non-tolerance policy for mediocrity.
The ideal of perfection has put us off the idea of mediocrity, as if it were some sort of contagious epidemic. However, since we are all human, existing with our mistakes and weaknesses, it’s not enough to wane us off the idea of mediocrity itself. A lot of us exist below our societal or personal expectations. Even if no one is outwardly reprimanding us, our inner headmistress is enough to hurt us. Whereas, to simply try, is having the courage to simply do, without overthinking the results. It’s not mediocre to risk being mistaken or looked down upon. No matter how unassuming our talents or accomplishments may be.
Maslow, Socrates and Nails
9 February 2017
You may be familiar with this quote by psychologist Abraham Maslow (father to many famous ideas regarding the nature of man): “If your only tool is a hammer then every problem looks like a nail.” There is of course criticism in this utterance. Maslow highlights the profound damage caused to our own and others’ lives, as well as our mental cause and effect relationships, by being one dimensional and generic. And that’s all well and good until Adam Robinson took this saying and turned it upside down, opening a whole new page in my mind: “If all you have is a hammer, concern yourself with finding the nails.” Focusing on characteristics that we don’t possess, aspiring to be someone completely outside our personal nature, and spending time/money/effort on this path is one option. The other option is to embrace who we are with all our positive and negative qualities and focusing on what we can accomplish with what we have. Of course what I’m talking about is not abandoning the idea of becoming a better version of ourselves. But to be content with where we are and our choices in general, when being better is not possible or sustainable. Because our expectations and search for family, career, love, friendship, and every relationship is more satisfying when we first know ourselves.
In short, after much meandering the issue comes back to the point Socrates declared almost 2500 years ago: Know thyself. Perhaps you’re a hammer or a wrench or a screwdriver; there is a befitting purpose and a certain problem to be resolved for every one. Perhaps you’re an introvert, or slow, or loquacious . In general we don’t perceive our attributes (before we have declared them as futile or imperfect) to be (in fact) exactly befitting to something in our lives, to fit perfectly for a certain need, or having the potential to being our greatest strength. Whereas, all of us are naturally inclined to do something well, we are all a hammer to a nail. But societal expectations often remove us from our hammer-selves, or programs us to become unaware of the nails. Whether it’s the educational system or pressures from family/spouse/friends, all of us are forced to become a screwdriver trying to hit a nail in some regard. And we’ve all lived through and are aware of the result: the undeterred feeling of being in the wrong place, at the wrong job, or with the wrong person no matter how much outsiders perceive it as right.
After we’re done reading this, if we find ourselves rebelling against something in life, or complaining about what we do and where we do it, then can we please ask ourselves these two questions: What are the innate tools which I possess? And where are my nails?