Diogenes was the guy who started the philosophical movement of Cynicism in ancient Greece. Emily Watson, in Seneca – A Life says that he lived like a dog – actually literally like a dog (cynicism means “dog-like”). He had no possessions, lived in a barrel and went number 1s and 2s in the street. Well, he did at least own one thing –a food bowl. But one day when he saw a boy in the street drinking water with cupped hands he thought screw it, and he chucked the bowl too.
How little can we live with?
One of my favourite people on planet Earth, real or made-up is this guy:
This wide-eyed, pointy-hatted dude is Nuuskamuikkunen –or Snufkin in English– from Tove Jansson’s The Moomins. Even though he’s a cartoon character, he can teach us a lot about how to live a simple and good life. He’s content with his own company and his own thoughts, but embraces company when he has it. He revels in the highs of life, is sympathetic through the lows, but remains stoic through both, realizing neither the former nor the latter last. Everyone loves him, wants to be around him, be like him and misses him when he goes:
He’s basically a mellow, non-annoying and non-creepy version of Peter Pan.
He also owns very little –he has a roll up mattress, a sack full of not really sure what, the clothes you see, and a harmonica. In the cartoon, his character says the memory of something is equally as powerful as the actual tangible thing. So, say you lose or give away something sentimental… Keeping it in your mind is just as special as keeping it in your possession. And if you lose it or give it away, you’ve also now given someone else the chance to connect with it too.
I have a lot of possessions, that I cling to for either practical or sentimental reasons. Replica soccer jerseys I don’t wear, old phones and electrical powerboards I don’t use, books I may never read again, and DVDs I’ll probably never watch again. I don’t get rid of any of these things because of one of, or more than one of the following reasons:
1. ‘Someone gave this to me’
2. ‘It’s looks nice’
3. I may need it someday’
These reasons may be true but they also mean I own a lot more stuff than I need. So starting today, I’m going to give away one possession every day. I haven’t thought of how long for yet, but I’ll try it for a month and then hopefully keep going. I won’t get close to living in a barrel without even a bowl, but one less thing I don’t use can be one more thing that someone else wants (or maybe needs).
*Sidenote: I just fell into a mini Youtube spiral and discovered this cool little video by Molly Up North, about how powerful and beautiful Tove Jansson’s writing was and how she connects to who Tove Jansson was as writer, artist and dancer.