Principle 2: Detachment

Principle 2: Detachment

Ask “why am I attached to (fill in the blank)?” Let it go.

The first principle of simplicity is Needs vs. Wants – making the distinction between what is essential, what is desirable, and what is completely unnecessary. The second principle is Detachment, but as I write this is occurs to me that these first two principles are intertwined:

Inordinate attachments complicate things because they prevent you from making a disinterested appraisal of all your “stuff.” You become unable to distinguish wants from needs.

Detachment means owning “stuff,” but not being owned by your stuff.

What do I mean by “stuff?”

Stuff includes:

…your material possessions

Think about all the physical things you own. If you had to, could you get rid of them at any time? Susan K. Rowland, in her book Make Room for God,devised a quick test called “The Evacuation Game.”[1] I’ll post a bit more about that at a later date, but for now I’m sure it’s fairly self-explanatory: what would you grab if you had to leave your home quickly? Thinking this through will help you separate the wheat from the chaff.

…your opinions and preferences

Are you so enamoured of your own opinions and preferences that you become difficult or bad-tempered when someone disagrees with you or when you don’t get your way?

…your desire for perfection and for certain outcomes

Do you hold yourself and others to impossibly high standards? Accepting imperfection in yourself and others is practicing detachment.

Detachment is not the same as apathy. Apathy may actually be a form of despair and hopelessness—a sullen “I don’t care”—and in that sense is not based in reality. Detachment is a stark appraisal of reality, being able to see clearly what things really mean and what they’re really worth, and applying the appropriate amount of “care.”

Healthy detachment leads to:

  • virtuous frugality and prudent spending and acquiring habits
  • interior freedom
  • trust

Trust in what, you may ask?

“That the universe will unfold as it should.”[2]

“Simplicity reveals the master.”[3]

Questions for reflection:

  1. Material possessions, opinions and preferences, and the desire for perfection or certain outcomes are examples of things we can become attached to. Can you think of any others?
  2. What else does healthy detachment lead to besides virtuous frugality, prudent spending and acquiring habits, interior freedom, and trust?

[1] Rowland, Susan K. Make Room for God. St. Anthony Messenger Press, 2007.

[2] Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. Paramount Pictures, 1991.

[3] Elgin, Duane. Voluntary Simplicity. William Morrow and Company, 1993.

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