How Little Can You Own and Be Happy?

How to live a happy life? This question has been pondered by the billions of people that came before us and very likely will be the root of human existential concern going forward. If you live in a Western society, like America, you might think that happiness is defined by the objects around you. It can be your house, your Xbox, your iPhone, your car, or the millions of products you can buy in a local supermarket for your eating pleasures. All around us are things we want or at least we are told we should want them, courtesy of the ubiquitous advertising that blankets our every waking step.

But what if you just stopped wanting things? You might find yourself living a life that's much richer in experiences and closer to happiness.

How to get there? Try minimalism.

Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus found the minimalist lifestyle after giving up their six-figure jobs as corporate executives. They moved to Montana and lived for a while in a cabin in the woods like Henry David Thoreau.

It's not that they are completely against ownership of things - rather they feel the issue is the meaning we give to these things. Often in our society, things occupy too important a place. After giving up 90% of what he owned, Joshua felt like “Everything in my life became my favorite thing,"as he stated in this interview to Boston Globe.

Eventually, Millburn and Nicodemus came back out to the world to advocate for minimalism. With 100,000 monthly readers for their blog, it's safe to assume there's an audience for what they have to say. Their elevator pitch for how they live is:

"Minimalism is a lifestyle that helps people question what things add value to their lives. By clearing the clutter from life’s path, we can all make room for the most important aspects of life: health, relationships, passion, growth, and contribution."

Joshua and Ryan are featured in new documentary about people living the minimalist lifestyle that is coming out this year...more

Dan Brown Is Paying a Lot of Money to Digitize a Library Devoted to Mysticism

Dan Brown, who gave us tomes like The Da Vinci Code and Angels & Demons, and words like "symbologist," is donating €300,000, or around $337,500, to a Dutch library with a vast collection of books and other materials about ancient mysticism,according to the Guardian.

Brown says Amsterdam's Ritman Library was a big inspiration for him, especially when he was writing 2009's The Lost Symbol and 2013's Inferno. Both novels continue the story of Robert Langdon, a professor who discovers clues in symbols and cracks dangerous international mysteries; Indiana Jones, in other words, but less active. 

All of those symbols and conspiracies, though, had some real-life inspiration, and Brown says that a large part of it came from the texts at the Ritman Library, which has around 25,000 manuscripts and books, nearly 5,000 of which are dated before 1900. 

Brown said he has spent a lot of time in the library over the years doing research, and he announced the donation in a YouTube video last week....more

Don’t look now but you’re shedding plastic

Fleece-wearers beware.

Researchers at the University of California Santa Barbara found that a single fleece jacket can lose as many as 250,000 synthetic fibers, or 1.7 grams of plastic, in the laundry — which adds up. All those fibers travel from your washing machine into your local wastewater treatment plant, where 40 percent end up in rivers, lakes, and oceans. Researchers found these microfibers all over the planet, from the bottom of the Indian Ocean to Midwestern farmland.

The study, which was funded by Patagonia, estimates that the amount of fibers that are released into waterways each year could be equivalent of nearly 12,000 plastic grocery bags. And like plastic bags, microfibers break down and eventually wind up in the gastrointestinal tracts of fish — and the humans that eat them. These plastics absorb pollutants like polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), a neurotoxin and hormone disrupter....more

"There is a human need to get f**ked up": Wild Beasts Unravel the British Night Out

The furtive years at the tail end of a state education and whatever-comes-next are ripe for musical definition – and I was lucky enough to have mine defined by Wild Beasts. Limbo Panto, released in 2008 when I was 16, was the unruly soundtrack to my first cracked tins of lager in parks, drives around low-lying suburbia, and virgin attempts at squeezing into checked shirts and palatial city nightclubs. Back then Wild Beats made music that a lot of people found a little less than palatable; coming off like Percy Shelley in Pryzm, they conjured operatic scenes from the pissy-puddles of the very ordinary romance of the British at night. You only need to listen to a track like “Please Sir” to get a feeling for just how romantic cheesy chips can sound.

Back then it was all lust and alcopops, but we grow up; and as we grow up, the night time stops being an adventure playground and brings with it new dangers. The puffed-up bravado you feel as a teenager isn’t as charming when you reach your mid-twenties. Bed by 4am becomes somebody’s flat until 10am, pints start stretching t-shirts, and the hangovers grow in scale immeasurably. Put simply, nights spent talking about everything you’re going to do when you’re older makes a lot less dewy-eyed sense when you are, well, older.

It’s here that Wild Beast's fifth record, Boy King, picks up: capturing the bruised egos of blokes after-dark. For a band best known for tender falsetto and literary references, their fifth record is remarkably, well, uncomplicated. It’s got guitar solos, tracks called “Tough Guy” and “Big Cat”, and what can only be described as a ‘dance routine’ in the lead single’s video. Yet, despite sounding like a stark shift from what’s come before, they are still dealing with the same boozy breath they always have done.

This may all sound like I'm drawing overbearing conclusions from the act of getting pissed, but it’s just this sort of cosmic significance that Wild Beasts have always afforded their subjects. Basement flats become castles, love songs become calls-to-arms, and now the childish impulses of pissed-up, insecure men are getting a full deconstruction....more 

Greenpeace holds a historic performance with pianist Ludovico Einaudi on the Arctic Ocean

The Arctic Ocean may not be a typical venue for a piano performance, but it’s a prime setting for making a point about climate change. Ludovico Einaudi, an Italian composer-pianist, performed an original piece while stranded on an “artificial iceberg” (or rather, a floating platform made of white, wooden triangles) as Norway’s Wahlenbergbreen glacier collapsed in the background.

Greenpeace shipped the baby grand piano from Germany to the Arctic for the stunt, which was meant draw attention to a proposal to create a sanctuary in 10 percent of the Arctic Ocean, protecting it from oil drilling, fishing trawlers, and other exploitation...more

MUSIC: O Mer - Overflown

MUSIC: The Boxer Rebellion - Weapon

MUSIC: White Kite - Swans