THE BARE MINIMUM

I watched a few videos on YouTube about people who live alone in the wilderness. They live hours, and dozens (hundreds) of miles away from civilization. Those videos are riveting. They show how these people survive in tough conditions and how they fend for themselves. I am talking about people who must hunt, fish, build houses, make fires and so much more. They usually have little to no supplies. Some of them occasionally have starved for weeks to the point they lost a considerable amount of weight. Yet, despite those isolated incidents, they survive. They show the viewers how to skin animals and make blankets and clothing, how to cook, how to cut wood, they show us what to do so we do not become prey to other predators such as bears and wolves. They show us how to stay clean and avoid illnesses, how to live and ration the supplies during winter and so much more.

I am somewhat of an outdoors guy so I enjoy watching those videos, but I don’t think I would ever enjoy that lifestyle long term. It would be awesome for a few weeks as I would get to learn new valuable skills, basic survival skills. I would swim in a lake and enjoy the quiet, and probably get inspired as a writer. Yet, I know I wouldn’t be able to live like that forever.

Watching these people made me admire them more and more by the minute. They are self-sufficient, calm, independent, and immensely resourceful. They have a go getter attitude because if you don’t hunt, you won’t eat. They cannot be lazy for too long, otherwise they won’t make it. Their lifestyle is something to behold. Think about it; if you were to drop me or anyone else in the Canadian wilderness, none of us would last a damn day. It is admirable to see human beings live the way our ancestors lived hundreds of years ago, before the creation of supermarkets, modern farming, extensive supply chains that bring us anything, from food to drones so we could amuse ourselves.

As I kept watching, I realized these people live with the bare minimum. I believe that is even more admirable than the impressive skills they have acquired. Please understand, when I say, “bare minimum”, I am not talking about starving or being homeless or being without health insurance or not having enough money to survive. I am not trivializing how hundreds of millions of people live in inhumane conditions on this planet. I am not even sure how to define “the bare minimum” in 21st century terms. I guess if we have enough food to eat but not to stuff our faces, if we have shelter, clothes, if we are mentally and physically healthy, if we are lucky to have emotional, psychological connection and support, that could be defined as the bare minimum, in my book. Somehow, I believe you understand what I mean.

I must admit I didn’t like this need for isolation these people had. I do not believe it is good for the soul, the mind, and the body. I need the comforts of modern civilization. I don’t want to hunt for my food, I want to buy it. I don’t want to be isolated for months and have no one to interact with. It is a hard life to live and somewhat weird to my 21st century, modern, hyper-connected mind. Yet, some of them chose that life, for their own reasons. I am no psychiatrist, so I won’t even dare psychoanalyzing them. Others were simply born into that lifestyle and they don’t know anything else.

Life in the wilderness certainly has a few negative points. However, there is a lot of positive things, to be sure. One could easily see these people didn’t care much about material things. They don’t need a closet full of clothes, shoes, hats, and other accessories. They don’t have many cars, TVs, and they don’t throw their food out. They don’t care about things and stuff. They don’t have “amazon fever”; which is the sickness of ordering stuff. They don’t do anything to impress others. They somehow don’t care what others think of them, mainly because there is no one around them. They have developed this skill of doing what is necessary for them, instead of doing frivolous things. Once again, their social skills might not be as sharp as regular people, but they seem to be grounded and quite fond of people and nature. They have this deep attachment and respect for the earth and their surroundings. They are the true environmentalists.

It would seem the bare minimum recalibrates our priorities. Slowly but surely, we go back to the essentials, the basic things that we really need instead of what we think we want. We start questioning what really matters, what we really need. The bare minimum might bring us to the point of asking deep philosophical questions about life, needs, wants, our goals, our fears, and our whole existence. It is weird to hear those people talk. There is a simplicity to their whole demeanor and to their worldview. Simple things aren’t bad. Working 40 hours a week in an office, for 35 years, accumulating debt, buying a bunch of things that have no value and that ultimately don’t matter because they are mostly a way of filling an emotional need that hasn’t been met…All that to end up getting a pension and especially ending in a retirement home, is that better? I might jump into deep philosophical questions; that’s another subject for another day.  

Yes, the bare minimum recalibrates our priorities, in a substantial way. I strongly believe the bare minimum clears our brains of the silly and unnecessary stuff. Let’s be honest, let’s be real; the 21st century and our current way of living has filled our lives with things that distract us instead of helping us focus. The people living in the wilderness say their senses have been sharpened because of the quiet surrounding them. When they go back to a big city, they are bothered by all the incessant noise. Our brains aren’t made to take all that input of information. We still cannot filter out the unnecessary noise so we could keep the necessary and essential stuff.

I believe people, society and the world have somehow dictated what we supposedly want and need. Sadly, we rarely sit down to think about what we genuinely want. We go with what others have told us. Yet, we are all different, hence, we might want different things.

Since the pandemic started, I have been living with the bare minimum. I have enough money to cover my basic expenses. I haven’t shopped for stuff in ages and I haven’t spent money needlessly. Well, I can’t really afford much and frankly, I don’t want to buy anything. Even before the pandemic started, I had embraced minimalism and frankly, it suits me, I must admit. With the pandemic and the confinement that followed, I spend most of my time writing, working on my behavior and the flaws I have. I spent most of my time reconnecting with people in a meaningful way. I have recalibrated so many things. I have put aside things I thought I needed. Now, I focus on what I want and that bare minimum. Surely, I don’t want to be poor, nobody wants that, but I don’t want to have too much either. The bare minimum has shown me what really matters in my life: my people, my relationships, and my own mental state. The material things can always be bought or found. Inner peace, however, not so much.

The world we live in has its pros and cons. That’s the way of the world. I cannot blame society and other people for everything that is wrong with me or my life. Yet, I believe I have a moral obligation to question my life and to recalibrate my needs and my goals. The bare minimum helped me tremendously. I went back to basics much to my joy and it has brought me a peace I cannot describe.

Just one man’s opinion.

Now smile and go on with your day!

Freeman. B

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