Minimalism, spirituality, and punk are three important influences on my life. They are linked, inextricably linked, through a common attitude. Let me explain.
I was a boy when I heard my first punk record way back in the late 1970s. I cannot describe the feelings I felt when I first listened to ‘God save the Queen’ by the Sex Pistols and ‘White Riot’ by the Clash. There was an energy, an anger, a “fuck you” in that music. It was rebellious, it was different, it was noisy, it was raw and it was accessible.
I have mixed emotions about those days. School was a nightmare place full of bullies, but when punk arrived on the scene it transformed the way I looked at the world. I soaked it up. I remember being in town with my mum and seeing the punks on the street and thinking I want to be like them. The punk movement inspired me.
A few years later I was one of them. Punk was still going with bands like the UK Subs and Crass. Voices for a generation of disaffected youth. Punk challenged everything, it made you think.
Here a few lines taken from what is still one of my favourite songs from the period ‘Big A, Little A’ by Crass, which sum it up:
“Big A, little A, bouncing B, the system might have got you but it won’t get me. External control are you gonna let them get you? Do you wanna be a prisoner in the boundaries they set you?”
“If you don’t like the rules they make, refuse to play their game. If you don’t want to be a number, don’t give them your name. If you don’t want to be caught out, refuse to hear their question. Silence is a virtue, use it for your own protection. They’ll try to make you play their game, refuse to show your face. If you don’t want to be beaten down, refuse to join their race.”
“Be exactly who you want to be, do what you want to do. I am he and she is she but you’re the only you.”
So what was it about punk that inspired me so? Here are some thoughts:
1. Energy – punk was filled with endless energy, it was exciting.
2. Being yourself – punk gave a generation the permission to be themselves.
3. Do anything – punk said do what you want.
4. Fuck the system – punk was all about challenging the status quo and rejecting the ‘rules’ of society.
The attitude of punk transformed my life way back then and still does today, although I’m a little older now. And those attitudes are present today in other more current movements/ways of living – maybe that’s why I’m attracted to them.
Minimalism is a relative newcomer. It’s all about rejecting consumerism, and becoming free through owning less. It’s also about freeing the mind from clutter – about creating space. I’m still not 100% sure that I would describe myself as a minimalist. I am about simplicity, about living a simple life and I have learned much from the minimalist movement.
Like punk, minimalism is an attitude. Like punk, minimalism inspired me. So what is it about minimalism that inspires me? Let’s see.
1. Energy – minimalism is full of energy, from its chief proponents selling their ‘stuff’ and creating new exciting lives, to the energy created in one’s own life when one eliminates all the unnecessary ‘things’ that suck our energy on a daily basis.
2. Being yourself – minimalism says “be yourself” – get rid of the crap, create space in your life, fulfil your potential, and be you.
3. Do anything – minimalism says that by freeing yourself from your stuff, and your 9-5 (if that’s what you want), and anything else that’s holding you back – that you can do anything you want. Travel the world? Do it. Live in Chile? Do it. Run your own business? Do it.
4. Fuck the system – minimalism challenges the status quo, the corporations and the society that says that consuming is good, that more is better, that you need to work for ‘the man’ if you want to get ahead in life, that you need a mortgage. Minimalism rejects the ‘rules’ of society and says “go your own way”.
So punk and minimalism are linked, linked by attitudes. What about spirituality?
I grew up in a very religious house. It wasn’t spiritual – it was religious. My father was a Baptist Minister and those days were filled with church on Sundays, learning bible verses, and a regime of right and wrong that was very black and white. My understanding of God way back then was that he loved me but that he ruled with an iron fist – if you did right you were loved, if you did wrong you were still loved but you would be punished. Crazy right?
As I got older I rejected this, and in doing so rejected God. I got on with my life. In recent years though I have discovered my spirituality, I have re-discovered God (nothing like the one from my childhood), and today the spiritual side of my life is very very important to me. I wake up every morning and say to myself “today I will live a simple, spiritual, life”. Spirituality means so much to me. I’m not going to go into my beliefs in this post but you’ll pick up from reading other posts on ‘the spartan penguin’ where I come from.
Spirituality, and the journey, really inspires me. So what is it about (guess where this is going..!) spirituality that inspires me?
1. Energy – the journey that I am on is filled with energy, the Universe is made up of energy, we are energy. My spiritual life fills me with hope, with love, with purpose and a life filled with these, is filled with energy.
2. Being yourself – I believe in a God of my understanding. This changes sometimes but its my understanding. I follow my own spiritual path – I am me, I am authentic. Spirituality is all about that – it’s not about ‘one size fits all’. There are as many paths to God as there are human beings on this planet (minimum)!
3. Do anything – I had an awakening the day I discovered that I could do what I want, that God doesn’t create rules that must be obeyed, and that I wasn’t going to burn in hell. I am here with the sole (read soul!) purpose of being me. I am here to experience life. What I do is up to me – I have choice – there is no right or wrong. The key thing to remember though is that choices have consequences – as long as I am willing to accept those consequences then I can make that choice. I am free to create anything I wish – how powerful and freeing is that!
4. Fuck the system – I love this one. Spirituality is about rejecting society’s rules that say you must belong to a religion, and about rejecting the rules of the world religions. It’s about tearing the whole lot up and starting again taking what you want, rejecting the rest. Forging your own path, on a journey to discover who you truly are. Spirituality has no rules.
So there we have it. Punk, minimalism, and spirituality are all linked, linked by common attitudes.
A warning from history really. When punk started it was raw and energetic, it was all about the attitude and about upsetting the status quo, challenging society. As it grew in popularity it changed (for some, though not for all), becoming more about a look (big boots, leather jacket, red mohawk etc.) than an attitude.
I remember seeing this spray painted in an underpass in the early 1980s, it read:
‘Punk is an attitude, not a fashion’
Says it all really.