Do We Really Need a Bonfire of the Vanities?
Lately, I have been reading the book “The Simple Life: Plain Living and High Thinking in American Culture” by David Shi. I’ll have a review later, but I ran across a reference in another book about the Bonfire of the Vanities, and event in Florence in 1497 that got me thinking about simplicity and how people encounter it.
The event that lent its name to the 1987 book by Tom Wolfe, occurred during the Italian Renaissance, when a priest, Girolamo Savonarola, organized the burning of objects associated with sin. The fire was fed by books, musical instruments, cosmetics and works art. According to some, a few Botticelli paintings were burned on that fire.
Apparently, the movement behind this event felt that it was necessary to strongly encourage people to adopt a simpler life without these “vanities”, or objects that incite us to sin.
A similar vein of thought seemed to run through the founders of America. Many of them felt that all people should live their life without material wealth, as simple pious citizens, close to the land and God. A few felt that the inhabitants of this new country should be compelled to live this way, with simple clothes, food and homes. Many of these leaders would fit nicely into the category of minimalist, and they felt that this was the correct lifestyle for everyone.
Now, I came to simplify my own life to focus on the activities and people who are important to me. Simplifying my life made room for me to choose what I want in my life. It seems strange to try to tell others to how to live their life, since I associate my own changes with increasing my options, not diminishing them.
What do you think?
Can objects make us behave badly?
Should everyone live this way?
What would the world look like if they did?
Please leave a comment below!