People are always asking me if I know Tyler Durden…*

Last week I wrote about my two week hike through Swedish wilderness.

Turns out, two weeks of carrying a heavy pack through a sunlight-drenched silent congregation of pine trees is a good way to do a few things:

It’s a good way to sweat (I came back 5 kilos lighter).

It’s a good way to reset your body clock (I started going to sleep and waking up with the sun).

And it’s a good way to think.

One of the things I kept thinking about was a passage I’d read just before leaving Edinburgh, concerning how little we need as human beings.

“Do you know what limits the law of nature ordains for us? Merely to avoid hunger, thirst, and cold.” – Seneca

It played over and over in my mind because it was how I was living. I was carrying the bare minimum of food, finding water as I went, and sleeping each night under the roof of a wilderness cabin.

And, far from finding myself wanting, in many ways I felt happier and freer than I had in a long while.

It’s such a simple idea. That all we need is: a place to keep us warm, a little water to drink, and a little food to eat. Simple, but powerful.

Did you ever see the movie: ‘Book Of Eli‘?

Denzel Washington plays a man travelling through a post-apocalyptic landscape on a Mysterious Quest. Resources are at a premium (including water, plastic bottles, and all kinds of commonplace items). When the plucky young sidekick (played by Mila Kunis) asks the main character what life was like ‘before the flash’ he replies:

“People had more than they needed. We had no idea what was precious and what wasn’t. We threw away things people kill each other for now.”

I’m no scientist, but it seems obvious (even to a non-scientist musician) that our current rate of consumption, coupled with current levels of population growth, will soon reach levels that are unsustainable.

Which would seem to be an issue.

So what are you saying dude?  That we shouldn’t have the nice things? That we should be, like, in a cult where we renounce the iPad and live like animals in the forest?

Not really. 

Because the problem isn’t the having of the nice things (you’re talking with someone who has a music studio in their apartment). The problem is that we seem to find it hard to to stop wanting… just a little more.

And those Buddhist guys have been telling us since the jump that, not only are the consequences of that Not Good, wanting itself is making us unhappy.  Wanting is an endless void, a hungry ghost. It never ends. It’s never satisfied. And today, regrettably, there are some who wish to stoke those fires and condition us to want more than ever before.

“Advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate so we can buy shit we don’t need.” Tyler Durden (famous Buddhist)

Maybe it’s time to try something different.

*People don’t really ask me this.


If you liked that, you may also like: my article on fear, risk, and the Scottish mountains; my thoughts on how to build an audience; or this meditation on the beauty to be found in brokenness.


What Did You Think?

What did you think of this post?  Did you love it?  Hate it?  All genuine thoughts and views are welcome  – the comments box is just below.

85 thoughts on “ Buddhism, Seneca, and Tyler Durden ”

  1. I loved reading this. I would like my life to be simpler too but I am an artist and I need to be able to practice some kind of creativity in order to function productively in other areas of my life.

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      1. The reason I crave simplicity at the moment is because I’m involved in a business that takes up virtually all my time and there is so little room for creativity. I need the time to feed my soul. I’m sure if I were doing something which fed my passion it wouldn’t matter if my life was simple. Does that even make sense?

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        1. That totally makes sense.
          I’ve found that, when I feel overwhelmed, carving out little chunks of time that are my own, for creativity, treating them as inviolable, and then slowly expanding them has worked for me.
          You are where you are, and it is what it is right now.
          If I can be of any help, write me.
          Be well,
          – J

          Like

  2. I stumbled on your blog because you liked one of my posts, and I’m so happy you did. Very true post here… not only is it not sustainable, but as you said, it’s not even healthy for us.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. It would be a good idea to check out evolutionary psychology, through books such as The Moral Animal and other such books. It’s good to see where our evolutionary strings are attached. Or, if you like a bit of drama and sci-fi the new Westworld TV series explores those ideas in a fantastic way.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. Hi James,
    Just finished ‘Deep Work’ by Cal Newport ? Recommended by you. As you said ‘life changing’. Managed also four months without Facebook , not missed it & also life changing 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

  5. I built a fire in the fireplace the other day and sat for a bit watching it. It occurred to me that we just as dependent on such things as fire, water, and earth as we ever were, but, because we no longer have to work hard for these in their most basic form, we no longer respect them.

    Liked by 3 people

  6. I like this post. And I myself claim to have one WANT. That is beauty. This resource is unlimited; and just glimpses of it makes philosophers (and I claim to be one) more lively. What is beauty: that Swedish wilderness is something beautiful; and something in which I would WANT to be enveloped. I like to say that we do not need the Buddhist cessation of WANTING but rather the fulfillment of WANTING (beauty).

    Liked by 3 people

    1. This is an interesting point of view. I can agree wholeheartedly that being enveloped by Swedish wilderness is a beautiful place to be. I would also say that, when one begins to want less, paradoxically, things that seemed mundane become more beautiful.
      What do you think?
      Have a good one, and thanks for reading this post,
      – J

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Why do we WANT things? Perhaps because we think they’ll make us happy. So do we need to remember that looking for happiness is a contradiction in terms – happiness comes as a consequence of doing something else.

        Liked by 2 people

          1. I tried to explain, briefly, in my blog last week why I think this, and how I contrast happiness and contentment, but if you still disagree, that’s fine. For me, it’s part of why desire can be so destructive.

            (This is written as a very recently bereaved European, wondering if enough of my ancestors were Scottish / Shetlanders to qualify me for a Scottish EU passport in due course, which would make me happy …)

            Liked by 1 person

  7. Advertising signs they con you into thinking you’re the one that can win what’s never been won, that can do what’s never been done; meanwhile life outside goes on all around you. (Bob Dylan)

    Liked by 5 people

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