Musings of a Mediocre Modest Modern Minimalist Monk

I’ve always wanted to be a monk. But I’m too much of a wimp to live a life of seclusion in some monastery. I might be happy there for a month then I’d get bored quickly. However, I think I can still practice the basic principles of a monk, which is to be a content and a well-meaning minimalist.

Being a minimalist is hard. It’s a challenge to live in a country that glorifies materialism, where the ultimate goal is to achieve the American Dream. I’ve long realized the pursuit of that dream is a nightmare. That realization has made me different from most people.

I don’t own too many things and at the same time I don’t have 100 things. To me, being a minimalist is my feelings toward my belongings and how attached I am to these things. If my feeling is too strong for a certain possession then it’s the possession that has possessed me. Without the worry about my belongings, I’m more free to let things go and live healthier in a transient world.

Although things are not what I try to collect consciously, what I seek are experiences. Maybe that’s why I like photography. And it’s cheap to capture memories these days. A digital camera is the paint brush of the 21st century. Anyone can take an image in a fraction of a second. It’s an art form that I’m mastering. To me, the pursuit of perfecting a skill is so much better than collecting things that collect dust. This is also one of the reasons why I can’t be a traditional monk since I enjoy technology.

One important idea that I learned over the past few years is to develop a growth mindset. A growth-mindset is the realization that the mind is constant changing and one ought to strive for continual growth. This is the opposite of a fixed mindset, where the person stops learning and advancing as time goes on. I used to view formal education to be the hardest part of one’s life, but what counts is learning in the real world. Having a constant curiosity should be an essential trait in any human being.

Lastly, I strive to show integrity and modesty. Never boast about how much I know because there’s so much to be learned! No one is the master unless it’s you who invented the thing. Being mediocre is not great. The idea here is to surpass the mediocre stage and still considering yourself mediocre so that you’re humble enough to continue learning. That is the best way to become good at something.

Being a monk doesn’t mean I have to dress in a robe and walk around with a shaved head. To me, it’s all about the essence. Become integrated in a society in order to do good is better than living in seclusion. Then again, who knows? Maybe an experience in a monastery is something I will pursue in the future.

Also published on Medium.

Author: Hiatt Zhao

Open your eyes and see what you can before they close forever.

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