He gets along with very little – just the basics. At a time when the need for things seems to drive the rest of us, he is content with only what he really needs. He is the latest super-hero, “The Minimalist.”
No masks or capes or flashy cars. No beautiful girls or terrorist plots or derring-do. Our superhero has no exotic weapons, subterranean hideouts, or fanciful gadgets. He faces life’s challenges alone, equipped only with what he needs to survive.
He has no internet connection or cell phone. He thinks being connected means knowing a politician. He thinks only birds tweet and Facebook is a photo album. He found it hard to adjust to the ballpoint pen and only recently purchased a television (naturally with only basic service). He reads a lot and gets his books from the library.
His home, while sturdy, is sparsely furnished. He has no air conditioning or garbage disposal. He buys his furniture from Building 19 and his clothes from the L.L. Bean catalogue.
He eats a lot of spaghetti and for a treat goes out to Applebee’s. He can’t understand why others are always accumulating stuff. Before he purchases anything, he first determines whether or not it is something he needs and is impervious to attempts by advertisers to expand what is necessary.
As a consumer, he chooses to purchase only what he decides is necessary and is often appalled at what he views as galloping consumption – the implanting of a desire for more. He worries about an economy that is based on the sale and purchase of more this and more that, some of which is actually harmful.
Is there no end to the point when we have enough? he asks himself. When we stop buying, production stops, folks are laid off, and we enter a recession, he is told. He often wonders if that is the best way to assure a healthy and stable society.
As “The Minimalist,” he stands athwart the road to perdition, a modern Quixote facing down the forces of consumerism. Armed only with cash and checkbook – he refuses to get a credit card – he dares the trend setters, pitchmen, and carnival barkers to engage him.
They cajole and tempt him with offers of diversion, enduring youth, pleasure comfort, power, and convenience; if only he will succumb to their enticements. “Everybody else has, why not you?” they ask. “Why be so 1950s?”
But “The Minimalist” refuses to yield. He shakes his head, turns his back, and walks to his 1956 Ford (standard shift), and starts the engine. As he drives off, he turns down his window, leans out and says: “You fellas just don’t get it. There is a difference between what we need and what we want. You try to convince folks that what they want is what they need. I’m going to try to help them understand the difference.”
As our hero drives into the sunset on his retread tires with his dog – a mutt – beside him, he smiles and says, “Rascal, I feel good, let’s celebrate. On the way home I’m going to stop and buy both of us an ice cream cone. Small, of course.”
James W. Dolan is a retired Dorchester District Court judge who now practices law.