Runs In Transit

Month: November, 2014

Minimalism and the French Wardrobe

Minimalism is the discarding of all but the essential. This can be material possessions, such as furniture, or non-material, such as apps on your phone. The point of minimalism is that by removing the unessential and leaving only the essential, you give yourself more room to focus on the things that matter, e.g. relationships, career, travel, etc. In short, it’s a way to free the mind.

This concept can be especially effective in the wardrobe. Today, fast-fashion and cheap consumerism reign king. As a result, many people have closets and drawers filled with clothes that will never be worn again. This might allow more choices in an outfit, but having too many choices can also be overwhelming and waste time. On the other hand, people like Mark Zuckerberg, who wears the same gray t-shirt and jeans every day, eliminates the amount of decisions he makes in a day and has more energy for the decisions that count. Although most people are not making decisions on his level, the practice can be just as useful in our lives.

This brings up the french wardrobe. It’s a practice as much as it is a philosophy. The key is that you are only allowed to have five pieces in your wardrobe a season. By doing this, you grow your wardrobe and transform your style in a way that forces you to emphasize quality, flexibility, and aesthetics. If you are someone who wants to go backpacking or just enjoys the freedom to do things with less things bringing you down, a french wardrobe may be a beneficial challenge to try. Although the rules are a little mucky, here is a simple set of rules to approach it:

  1. You are allowed five tops (shirts, sweaters, jackets) and five bottoms (shorts, pants, and shoes)
  2. Things like socks, underwear, and accessories don’t count.
  3. Everything else counts.
  4. You cannot change your wardrobe until next season

Easy enough? Maybe not. Most people would have massive trouble attempting this challenge, which I think makes it all the more worthwhile. Although it’s difficult, the effects of doing it can and will spread into other areas of your life. Maybe upon seeing that you can be fine with five tops and five bottoms, you will realize that many other things in your life are unnecessary as well. Maybe you will even feel compelled to pack up your tiny wardrobe and take a plane-ride anywhere. You get the idea. And if the thought of spontaneity doesn’t get you excited (it sure does for me!), then maybe minimalism is not for you.

So give it shot, I’m certainly going to. Curious about what a french wardrobe might look like? Here’s what mine might look like:

Tops: Black t-shirt, long-sleeve henley, flannel shirt, grey sweater, and mountain parka

Bottoms: Raw denim jeans, khaki chinos, brown boots, running shoes, and basketball shorts

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Ah, the easy life.

 

Depression and Loneliness in Lost in Translation

Lost In Translation is one of my favorite movies, not just for its aesthetics, acting, and dialogue, but its ability to act as a sort of medicine. Let me explain.

The film portrays two characters who don’t belong in their world and feel a disconnect with those around them. They are alone, both through interactions with strangers where things are literally lost in translation, and more dismally, through relationships in their lives that have become distant. Not only alone, the main characters are also lost. Perfectly set, the backdrop of Tokyo is a perfect metaphor for this because it depicts a vibrant culture that is energetic and joyous, yet alienates the two American characters. On top of this, their happiness is declining. The few relationships in their lives are falling apart, and they left questioning if they are leading the wrong life. All of this is worsened by their inability to communicate with the people around them.

Alone, lost, unhappy, these are all common feelings, no matter what stage in life you’re in. I strongly believe this movie helps with these negative feelings, whether its loneliness, depression, or just being stuck in general. It’s one of the few movies I’ve come across that have accomplished this feat. I can only speak personally, but I think being depressed is a sort of mismatch between you and the world. It makes you self-reference all the problems in your life to yourself, believing they are your fault. Loneliness only compounds this-not having people around you cuts off emotional support, and you feel the reason you are alone is because of your actions. You begin to downward spiral, believing all the negative thoughts in your head. It’s like a pit where you are too overwhelmed to crawl out.

Lost In Translation helps first by reminding you how beautiful real human connection is. The main characters, lost in their lives and surroundings, are lonely and desperate for interaction. They find each other in a blissful moment so quick and fleeting it seems improbable. In a sea of people who they cannot connect with, they find someone who they actually bond with, building rapport and creating a blossoming relationship. This duality of being lost yet finding someone is a truly powerful message. Even when you are lonely or depressed, you are not alone, and it’s important to be reminded of this. Do not give up. These feelings will not last forever and there are people out there who you can connect with.

In an easily overlooked scene in the movie, Scarlett Johansson’s character asks, “I’m stuck. Does it get easier?” Bill Murray’s response is immediate, “No”, which is sardonic but realistic to someone who feels stuck. With no hesitation he corrects himself, “Yes, it gets easier,” adding, “The more you know who you are, and what you want, the less you let things upset you.” This exchange is crucial. Murray, a man in his sunset years, relays to a recent college grad that the future is not bleak. It does get easier. Hope is the message here, and it’s important in real life as well as the movie. Things do get better, time does heal everything. Just hold on. “You’re not hopeless”

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If you haven’t, do yourself a favor and watch this movie. When you do, please tell me what you think Bill Murray says in the ending, I’d love to hear it.

Self-Destruction and Living in the Present

“Anything which is just born, which has just come into existence, has no past behind it. Birth, in other words, is the condition of having no past. And likewise, anything which now dies has no future in front of it. Death is the condition of having no future. But the present moment has both no past and no future simultaneously. That is, birth and death are one in this present moment.” – Ken Wilber

This is a powerful quote and got me thinking about what it really means to live in the present and take full advantage of it.

Pondering this question, I immediately thought of self-destruction. Because the present is where the past and the future meet, the present represents the simultaneous destruction of the past and the introduction of the future. While this may seem sad because every moment is fading as you experiencing it, it is also optimistic because it brings the potential for a better future.

Many movies, especially in the late 90’s, espouse this concept, two of my favorites being Fight Club and American Beauty. Both have a protagonist who, upon realizing their unhappiness with life, adopt the fixation of destroying aspects of their life, such as career, relationships, and self, in order to rebuild their lives into something better. The two movies approach this concept differently. Fight Club’s protagonist embraces physical destruction of the body through fighting and the destruction of society through subversive violence. On the other hand, American Beauty’s protagonist favors the destruction of all responsibility in order to return to an earlier time (teenage years), where life is simple and free.

Regardless of which approach is taken, the general idea is the same: destroy the past in order to build a stronger future. Relating this idea to our daily lives is extremely rewarding. If you are anything like me, you spend the majority of your day dwelling on the past and thinking about the future. This is fine to an extent because we can learn a lot about the past and become prepared for the future by planning for it. But I suspect the majority of our time is spent regretting the past and worrying about the future. This concept suggests that instead, we should ignore the past and the future and act on self-destruction in order to improve.

I am personally not as extreme as Brad Pitt in Fight Club, but I believe this concept can be divided practically for the average person into three categories, physical, emotional, and social. Physically, destroy your body by pushing it to the limit through exercise. Emotionally, destroy comfortable emotions and replace them with extreme emotions. Socially, push yourself outside of your comfort zone and force yourself to adapt. Some may view this as extreme, but I think it’s essential to live a fulfilling life. If you want to improve yourself and live in the present, try self-destruction.fight-club2

Philosophical questions are always best tackled in conversation. What do you think?