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The Minimalists

Joshua Fields Millburn & Ryan Nicodemus write about living a meaningful life with less stuff for 4 million readers. As featured on: ABC, CBS, NBC, BBC, TODAY, NPR, TIME, Forbes, The Atlantic, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and National Post. They live in Missoula, Montana.

How We Woke Up

Car aflame

Every moth is drawn to light, even when that light is a flame, hot and burning, flickering, the fire tantalizing the drab creature with its blueish-white illumination. But when the moth flies too close to the flame, we all know what happens: it gets burned, incinerated by the very thing that drew it near.

For decades now, we consumers have been moths, lured by the blue flame of consumerism, pop culture’s beautiful conflagration, a firestorm of lust and greed and wanting, a solipsistic desire to consume that which cannot be consumed, to be fulfilled by that which can never be fulfilling, a vacant proposition, leaving us empty inside, further fueling the blaze of lust and greed and wanting. It’s a vicious cycle.

From our close vantage points, within reach of the flame’s scorching edges, the fire seems impossible to extinguish. Unlike the moth, though, we have a choice. It’s not an easy choice; the flame has turned ever more intriguing. Advertisers make sure of this; it is their job to find new ways to make the blaze eternally more appealing.

Some of us recognize this need for change, though. Others know change is necessary but refuse to stop circling the mesmerizing flame, can’t remove their eyes from the spill of electric light illuminating their homes. Other still don’t even realize it’s a flame at all. After all, how could something so beautiful be so dangerous? And so they encircle the inferno, practically asleep, unconscious of its dangers.

We must, however, accept the flame for what it is: necessary and beautiful and, most of all, dangerous. When we do this, when we step back to understand the nature of the fire, we have a chance to survive. This kind of thinking is not easy, though; it takes deliberate thought, repeated questioning of the way we live, a thorough understanding of why we feel comforted by the flame. It’s difficult to do, but this is how we wake up.

Essay inspired by the song “How We Woke Up” by The Moth & the Flame.