Jared White Photo of Jared

Expressively publishing on the open web since 1996.
Entranced by Portland, Oregon since 2017.

Ice Cream, War Movies, Monochromatism, and Reclaiming My Identity

This year I want to make a bold statement with what I do and how I live—only this time not as a desperate attempt to appease a deity, but as a way of expressing the core values that make me Me.

Essay

#minimalism #mindfulness #spirituality

OK, I know the title of this essay is a tad bizarre, so please bear with me. I’m going to ramble a bit at the beginning, but then it will all start to make sense. I promise!

Back in the mid 2000s when I got sucked into a high-demand, fundamentalist form of Christian religion, my pastor at the time would, during his sermons, routinely throw in this bit about how much he enjoyed slouching in his couch with a big bucket of ice cream on hand and watching his favorite World War II movies. It was his “happy place”. But he would then feel compelled to fight back against such debauchery—and instead pray, study the bible, and engage in more “spiritual” pursuits in order to obtain more “power in the spirit”—thus allowing him to heal people and do good works in the Name of Jesus.

Sure it was played for laughs, but this kind of teaching constantly reinforced the notion that my life wasn’t meant to be lived in the pursuit of what I liked to do or what brought me pleasure, but rather that I should live in service of God and what He asks of me. It was entirely performative and transactional. My “power” to usher positive change into the world—supernaturally—was directly inverse to how often I indulged my own desires. “Less of me and more of you Lord!” was a constant refrain of the worship songs we sang.

Eventually I came to realize how toxic that thinking was and how much it was destroying my mental health, and I walked away from such faulty, dualistic teachings. I now laugh when I think back on how earnestly I believed God would only bless me for my overtly religious activities.

Out of the Frying Pan, Into the Fire

Unfortunately, sort of overlapping with my exit from religious fundamentalism was a reentry into a different sort of fundamentalism: an unquestioning loyalty to the tenets of minimalism. Most notably, I lapped up the teachings of “The Minimalists” themselves: Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus.

Truth be told, I don’t have any major bone to pick with The Minimalists. They’re probably swell guys. But some time in the past year or two I ended up unsubscribing from all their content and not really giving minimalism any more appreciable thought. Why?

I’ll give you the goofy answer first: because monochromatism is simply not my aesthetic! (If you go to The Minimalist’s website, you’ll notice they generally wear only basic black clothes, and all their photography and color schemes are black & white.)

I love color, and I love bright and radiant settings. A lot of what passes for chic in certain designer-y millennial-y circles is very muted (think Fixer Upper/Magnolia style, or this kitchen I found while searching monochromatism). That’s simply not who I am! While I do like a certain minimalist vibe from time to time—for example I appreciate Japanese Zen architecture and the works of Ansel Adams—I also gravitate towards the flamboyant. I’ve been eating up sense8 during a recent rewatch because of all the dramatic colors and environments. Similarly, there’s a lot more color and intense light in the recent Matrix film which threw some people off but I fully embrace.

Beyond mere aesthetic concerns, I realized I couldn’t keep identifying as a minimalist because I don’t want my life to be defined by what I don’t do. That’s the same kind of thinking I was trapped in before. Does that mean I want to live in a cluttered house? Certainly not! Do I want to overload my schedule with a variety of non-essential tasks and appointments? Gosh no! But merely standing for an essentialist bent on time management and organizing my closet doesn’t get me out of bed in the morning.

Reclaiming My Identity

More than any other year in recent memory, I have a sense as 2022 begins that I want to live life voraciously, on my terms. If I decide to walk down the street in a pink dress or wear Captain Jack-ish eyeliner, go for it! If I want to scale the peaks of Mt. Hood or go white-water rafting on the Columbia, let’s do this! If I wish to blow an absurd amount of money on a garish sculpture and stick it in the middle of my damn living room, nobody’s gonna stop me!

To a certain degree I exaggerate, but my push this year to expand my field of artistic view and lean into a more outlandish creative vision on a variety of levels is intimately tied with my efforts to reclaim my identity. In actuality, I’m not an austere person. Yet much of my life I’ve lived that way. Mr. Steady, that’s me. Mr. Reasonable. Mr. Practical. Mr.…well, Boring!

No more. “Jared was a Very Nice Guy and didn’t ruffle any feathers” isn’t the epitaph I wish to read on my tombstone. That doesn’t mean I want to suddenly pick fights on Twitter and argue with trolls over inanities. Quite the opposite in fact: I would rather spend my time deep in concentrated effort to craft Art that is in and of itself pointed, provocative. I want to make a bold statement with what I do and how I live—only this time not as a desperate attempt to appease a deity, but as a way of expressing the core values that make me Me.

Some people are going to like it, love it even. Others may not. And that’s fine. Even though I feel miserable at the slightest inclination anyone is appreciably upset with me over anything at all, I simply can’t keep holding back and pretending.

The older I get, the more I come to understand I’m not here to get along with everyone. I’m here to be the change I wish to see in the world. Hopefully it’s a future you wish to see too. Here we go!


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