The Bare Necessities

This post is the last of a 3-part series. Endeavor to be Simple, Try Not to Suck and focus on The Bare Necessities is a three-legged stool to support an uncomplicated life.

When I hear the phrase ‘bare necessities,’ I immediately see Baloo the bear, from the animated 1967 Disney film The Jungle Book. Our VHS tape of that movie had more than its fair share of play time when my kids were growing up. I thought at first, Baloo was singing about the B-E-A-R necessities. Baloo’s life philosophy is encapsulated in the song, “The Bare Necessities” – “Look for the bare necessities; The simple bare necessities; Forget about your worries and your strife; I mean the bare necessities; Old Mother Nature’s recipes; That brings the bare necessities of life.” To me Baloo guiding Mowgli to just look for the bare necessities, is similar to Timon and Pumbaa presenting “Hakuna Matata” to Simba in “The Lion King.”

A necessity is the quality or state of being necessary, unavoidable, or absolutely essential. The traditional list of “basic needs” has been food, water, shelter, and clothing. As the world has evolved, we also include sanitation, education, and healthcare among the minimal needs required for a society to function. More recently I have seen listed, ‘access to information’ or the ability to freely find and use information to make independent decisions.

A few years ago, at his 80th birthday celebration, the Dalai Lama stated, “love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them humanity cannot survive.” He believes compassion can conquer almost anything. All the turmoil taking place in the world and problems can be solved if there were more people wanting to help others who suffer. If you look at the Latin roots of the word compassion, they are com, which means with, and pati, which means suffer. So, the word compassion literally means to suffer with.

Napoleon Hill, an American author widely considered to be one of the great writers on success, said, “Tolerance, and an open mind are practical necessities of the dreamer of today.” Tolerance and it being an essential necessity, is a hot subject these days, but it is noteworthy that Hill wrote these words in his most famous work, Think and Grow Rich, written in 1937.

Through my blogs I have championed a couple of key points that are part of my bare necessities:

  • Always being present with authenticity
  • Empathetic listening
  • Freedom to make mistakes (mistakes are essential learning tools)
  • Love others

I read about the concept of carrying a ‘Life BAG’ many years ago. We should always have our Life BAG with us. Sort of like the handbag concept where we have all of life’s necessities at our disposal when we may need them. In the Life BAG we have a different set of necessities: Blessings, Accomplishments, and Goals that we figuratively carry with us. In life’s emergencies or when bad times strike, we can be aware of our blessings and all that we are thankful for; know our own accomplishments; and have our goals we are working towards in front of us. These items can accelerate a rebound from hard times. I keep a file folder in my Outlook labeled ‘attaboys.’ I save emails that contain compliments or recognition of an impact I made. On occasions where I need a boost, they are there to re-read.

“The wisdom of life consists in the elimination of non-essentials.” This is a quote from Chinese author, Lin Yutang from his book ‘The Importance of Living’ written in the 1930s, 90 years ago. Clutter, back then as now, keeps us from concentrating on what counts. All the ‘stuff’ we obtain creates a heavy load and drag on our ability to accomplish things. Just staying on top of our to-do list can feel like an exercise in perpetual motion. We have been bombarded by the free-market messaging stream showing us how to live the ‘American life’ for decades. Much to their chagrin, not everything advertised is essential to do or own. But saying no to non-essentials to focus on the essentials, only comes when we are first clear on what the essentials are. What is essential and what’s not, requires clarity. Sometimes this clarity is required with long term planning and setting a direction in life, but often it is needed in the moment.

In Matthew 6:25–34, Jesus does not deny the reality of human needs, but forbids making them the object of anxious care and, in effect, becoming their slave, “Don’t be anxious about your life, what you will eat; and don’t be anxious about your body, what clothes you put on. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. Your Father knows that you need these things. Seek His kingdom, and these things will be granted to you.” This is how Jesus thought about “the bare necessities.”

God created a world that has enough resources to support all 7.9 billion of us with the bare necessities and more. The problem is that we choose to live as though there might not be enough. We hoard as much as possible for ourselves and endeavor to obtain more in competition with our neighbors. God can provide for those who trustingly seek his provision. Furthermore, we are God’s means of provision to others. We should act as if there really is enough and sharing of our own abundance with those in need – to love our neighbors as ourselves.

Baloo sees the world as Jesus did in that the necessities of life will be provided; that anxiety and worry are useless stresses in our lives. However, Baloo’s assumes that the world itself will somehow provide, with no responsibility on his part, while we can model Jesus and look to the Father who is in Heaven for this provision.  The absolutely essentials for society to flourish are respect, compassion, and love.

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