Here it is, the hardest thing: Do what is necessary. Do not do what is not necessary.
This is a hard sell in a culture where the answer to every problem is more. But consider: Our basic biological needs are few, modest and easily met. If we have more than we need, we have too much. Craving sensory stimulation, we chase more and better experiences—more of what we don’t need. Craving is slaving. Every form of wanting, every anticipation, alienates us from the beauty and power of the inexhaustible now. Jesus to the cultivated rich kid: “Sell everything, give it to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven.” Which is nowhere other than now.
Gurdjieff: “Sin? Sin is what is unnecessary.” Nisargadatta: “Only the necessary is good. There is peace only in the essential.”
What we possess, we are possessed by.
There are 300,000 items in the average American home, which itself is three times bigger than it was 50 years ago. We’re drunk on non-essentials, on what matters least, oblivious to what’s necessary.
One by one our interests run their course and we abandon them. This relinquishment is both natural and necessary. What man on his deathbed says, “Bring me my coin collection”?