Is minimalism a dead unicorn?

By Ev Bogue - August 1st 2015

Over the past few days I've been mulling over a return minimalism. JFM seems to have dropped the torch I discarded to him all of those many years ago in 2011 when I my writing went off its' rocker into bullshit Singularitan "THE FUTURE WILL BE BETTER" territory.

But four years later I still find myself self-identifying as a minimalist. All of my stuff still fits into a bag in the overhead compartment.

The big issue for me is whether or not anyone cares anymore. When I'm writing about programming and Node.js I get feedback. People care. There's some sense that if you get Node.js down then you can build things on the web that the baby boomer and gen-Z screenthumbers cannot.

Does minimalism have any teeth, or is it a dead unicorn? If I hit minimalism again in a series of posts, am I just kicking a dead unicorn? Did minimalism die when I said 'fuck minimalism' in 2011 and never quite get back on it's feet no matter what anyone said?

Will Tyler Durden have to continue to be the most famous minimalist with his line about your stuff owning you? After rewatching Fight Club a few months ago, I wonder if he's an aspirational guy to look up to in the modern era.

I'm not sure. I want to believe, but I know believing isn't necessarily jiving with the reality of the cultural situation right now. Perhaps minimalism was a fad sandwiched between the plentiful office jobs of the 90s and the unemployable rate of the post-2008s.

Or perhaps minimalism is fundamentally unimplementable. People don't want to change, they want to remain the same. That's why people cling to their mortgage payments telling themselves that the house belongs to them until the repo man shows up to tell them to get out of the bank's house. At that moment minimalism is foisted upon them, and all of their things have to fit into a shopping cart and a storage locker. And then the storage locker gets repoed, all of their stuff comes on the market for a dollar, and Good Will gets to have it whether minimalhoarder.com wants them to have their stuff or not.

But my stack is pretty much where I want it to be right now. I have this goal in the back of my mind that I should learn how to clone any modern web application using Node.js and Koa, but nothing seems to incentivize me to prioritize that goal other than my own selfish interest in becoming a rockstar programmer someday.

Arch Linux advertises itself as a minimalist Linux distribution. Having used Arch Linux on my local machine since 2013, I have to agree with that. If Arch Linux is the backpack, and the base and base-devel packages are everything you need to have in your backpack to live, then that's a pretty minimal way to live in the digital world. It might be an interesting experiment to try to use Arch Linux without installing anything above and beyond base and base-devel. But I'd miss Vim and Node.js.

Or perhaps minimalism just lacks decent leadership. Minimalism run by the collective seems to get co-opted by hoarders who don't want anyone to know the true meaning of simplicity. If minimalism had decent leadership, perhaps the unicorn would rise again. A pheonixacorn.

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