Minimalism: How I Protect My Treasures from Moths and Rust


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As I do every year, I spent Christmas morning reading the Sermon on the Mount.

As a non-Christian, the Jesus origin story doesn’t do much for me. But Jesus’ teachings – summarized beautifully in the Sermon – are fantastic.

Truth be told, some of the Sermon gets under my skin. The word Hypocrite is sprinkled throughout the Sermon. The hypocrisy lives on today and it irks me.

This post began in my journal as an airing of grievances against the Hypocrites, but I’m turning the other cheek – and turning the calendar to 2017 – with positivity.

Go F yourself, 2016. Here’s to a dope 2017!

If you’re still stuck in negativity, I totally get it. You might read my post How I’ve Recovered from Trump before continuing.

Still here? Great! This post is about minimalism and a Sermon on the Mount passage that I really love – Matthew 6:19-20.

Jesus was a Sandal-Rockin’ Minimalist

I think it’s fair to say that Jesus was a minimalist. Beard and sandals. Giving unto others. Lack of McMansion in the suburbs of Nazareth.

Dude didn’t even build a megachurch or rent a stadium to deliver his most important message. He just stood up on a hill (a Mount?) and started droppin’ knowledge bombs.

And maybe my favorite knowledge bomb of the Sermon is recapped in Matthew 6:19-20.

“Do not store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal. Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal.”

Wait! If you have trouble with the Heaven word, just stop and breathe. Heaven doesn’t have to refer to the afterlife. Instead, think of it as the when or where or how through which you reach peak spiritual fulfillment.

And the when or where or how is rarely a treasure stored up here on earth. It’s rarely (never?) a material thing.

That’s why, for the most part my treasures are stored up in my own Heaven – in the relationships I’ve built, in the causes I support, and of course the roads that I meander.

As far as I’m concerned, those are all moth-, rust-, and thief-free zones.

OK, So Maybe I’m a Semi-Minimalist…

Admittedly, I have more than a few material things stored up here on Earth.

For example, I’ve got an absurdly American-sized TV and I watch way too much of it during bowl season. Also, I splurged on vanity plates for my Subaru this Christmas. (It may seem a little thing but I resisted the, ummm, vanity of it for years.) vanity plate on subaru outback

And I do love the idea of home. A kitchen where I can prepare food. A backyard where I can relax, garden, and host guests. A king sized bed where I can store unfolded laundry.

Hell, I even started a retirement account as part of my adult-ing initiative last year. It’s 100% safe from moths and rust but quite vulnerable to the thieves who prowl Wall Street.

I don’t think having a little bit of money and owning a few things makes me a bad minimalist.

I just ran five Ziploc bags through the dishwasher! I think it’s a minimalist act to simply follow the adage: Use it up. Wear it out. Make it do. Or do without.

That mindset is good for the planet, good for the pocketbook, and good for the soul.

As far as I’m concerned, minimalism isn’t about living out of a backpack or dining out of dumpsters.

Minimalism is about balance.

Minimalism is about Balance … and Gratitude

Living in post-WWII America comes with some pretty sweet financial perks. We are part of the most powerful economic engine in world history.

To enjoy the benefits of minimalism, I don’t have to be a pauper.

I just spend less and appreciate more.

By denying that American urge to have exactly what I want exactly when I want it, I’ve cultivated deeper appreciation for Little Free Libraries, the clearance shelves at Fry’s, free admission days at museums, and the five boxes of girl scout cookies I found at Kings Canyon National Park last year.

I make time for sunsets. I get excited to shower in grimy smalltown YMCAs after days of camping. I attach fond acquisition memories to almost all my material things.

I’ve been incredibly blessed financially, both as a child with hard-working dedicated parents and now as an adult with a rewarding and flexible career.

But for the most part I store up my treasures in relationships, service, and experiences.

To me, that’s Heaven. That’s where God (or Universe or Spirit or Source) resides.

And, to quote JC, “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other.

“You cannot serve both God and money.”

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Camelback Santa

Coal? WTF Santa?!? Guess I’ll try harder in 2017.

My Bodhi tree is a Coastal Redwood

I’m sitting inside the hollowed base of a very tall tree. How tall? I don’t know. Maybe 200 feet? Its circumference is at least 25 feet around the base. I know because I just tried to spoon it six times.

My Bodhi tree is a Coastal Redwood.

My Bodhi tree is a Coastal Redwood.

They say you can’t see the forest for the trees. When you get lost in details you miss the big picture. With a tree of this size, it’s all about the details. Why? Because you can’t get far enough away from a Coastal Redwood to see the whole thing.

At Yosemite, I tried to photograph a Giant Sequoia. I failed. Then I figured out panorama mode. I failed again. I’d try again today with a Redwood, but I dropped my camera in a tide pool earlier today. Oh well. There’s no chance I’d capture this entire majestic Redwood in a single shot.

The base is massive. The bark is moist and springy to the touch like a very dense sponge. Inches deep wrinkles run the vertical length of the ancient trunk. The air inside these crevices is musty and old.

Each chunk of bark and each deep winkle is an ecosystem unto itself. Moss and funguses cling to the surface. Small spiders call the crevices home.

And when one of the giants falls, countless plants – including new Redwoods – grow from its corpse as it decomposes slowly over the decades.

You look up. The green branches don’t start sprouting for at least 40 feet above the forest floor. And then the tree just keep going and going, reaching toward a sun that’s obscured by dense fog from the coast.

The trees grow in such tight proximity that their fallen needles and their skyscraping tops mingle to enclose the space between a cushioned floor and a dark canopy. The trees are so overpowering that they not only block cell service but they also block consumer GPS signals.

There’s no sound. Redwoods are impervious to insects, so even the chirp of birds is rare. Occasionally, you hear water dripping down the sides of ravines. That’s about it.

To me, it feels claustrophobic. After an hour or so in the forest, I’m ready to retreat to the sunny meadows. The Redwoods are truly a force. A force of nature. And, for me, a force of spirit.

The oldest Redwoods are 2,200 years old. That places their birth sometime around 200 B.C. – right in the spiritual sweet spot that spawned three of the world’s four largest religions. Buddha was born around 550 B.C., Jesus around 4 B.C., and Muhammed around 570 A.D.

(Hinduism, the world’s third-largest religion, doesn’t really have a founder.)

Often, we nature-loving folks are lumped in with atheists or agnostics or stamped with’s ridiculous spiritual not religious designation. That is unless we live in an aboriginal culture, in which case we’re dumped into the folk religion category.

I propose that nature-lovers are given our own category. Ralph Waldo Emerson, John Muir, and the Hudson River School painters will be our apostles. The Redwoods will be our prophets.

Redwoods are bigger than hoodies.

Redwoods are bigger than hoodies.

Got a question about my trip? I’m compiling a mailbag to commemorate one month on the road. Leave your question in the comments!