Buddhism, Seneca, and Tyler Durden

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.

39 Replies to “Buddhism, Seneca, and Tyler Durden”

  1. 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 1 person

  2. 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 1 person

    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

      Like

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