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The Bare Necessities

In our house, we watch kids movies. It comes with the territory. And I suffer in silence through most of them (they are really insipid, and usually the characters just shout all the time).

One film my daughter loves is the Jungle Book. Yes, the old Disney version with Louis Prima as the Monkey King, and Baloo the Bear and all that jazz. Her favourite part is the elephants. Anyway, I don’t have a problem with this one so much except that Bagheera is a real quitter (it’s all he ever does is give up. And while I’m talking about that cat, why didn’t he just enlist the help of the wolves to get the baby to the man village straight away? And if not then, why wait ten frickin’ years to attempt the trip?). Also, the ending with that little girl wooing Mowgli into the village with the come-get-me eyes – what is she, ten? Anyway. Far better that than reading them the actual Kipling. It ends very, very differently.

But this is not a review of the movie.

So. Music is the point of this blog and here’s my thing: The Bare Necessities. Everyone loves that song. It’s a fun, seemingly mindless little ditty about letting things come to you in life. But if, like me, you’re a grown-up and thinking a little more critically about things than you average toddler does, you could equate the song with the philosophy of Zen. Notice I didn’t call Zen a religion, because it isn’t. But that’s another discussion for another time.

Mostly, the song just says to lay back and let things come to you. Well, think of laying back as sitting calmly, meditating. ‘Forget about your worries and your strife.’ Let them go. The whole point of meditation is objectively looking at your thoughts and then letting them go. Sound too easy? Try it some time. Sound scary? Aha, there’s the rub. Most people wouldn’t know how to sit quietly, without distractions, for more than about a minute. And therein lies the work of it. Anyway.

The real cincher, for me:

“When you find out you can live without it
and go along not thinking about it
I’ll tell you something true
the bare necessities of life will come to you.”

It’s a call for simplicity. Let go. Look at your life objectively and realize that 90% of what’s bothering you, what’s taking up your time, are things you’ve done to yourself, accumulated for yourself. Yes, life throws you curveballs, like health issues or the idiocies of other people. But if your job sucks, you chose it. Go find a different one. You relationship is hell? Get out. Trouble getting enough money for essentials? Well, maybe stop spending your money on things you don’t really need and then see how much you have. See? It’s all solveable. It means sacrifices, yes. But what other lifetime are you waiting for in which you’ll make the changes that have been lingering in the back of your mind, hm? This is the only life you’ve got. So GIVE ‘ER!

The inherent danger people in our achievement-based capitalist western society would perceive in this song’s message is that it’s just about the dumbest thing you can do to sit back and let others do for you, or just hope that life will provide for you. Of course you have to put effort into your living. But I’d wager that, for many people, a lot of scaling back would be possible. And we could all do with a bit more balance in our days. We might even profess as much without ever really taking any steps towards it. One small change at a time adds up to living a life you’d prefer. Sounds mighty fine to me.

Myself, I’m torn. I love the simplicity philosophy. There’s half of me that finds it very, very enticing. The other half of me, though, curates What Owns Me and posts constantly to this blog too, and that half is generally the one in the driver’s seat.

Baloo makes it all sound so easy. Just let go and life will come to you. Yes, it will. Sure it would. Now, it’d probably not be the life you want, and that’s where you would have to apply yourself just enough to shape that life. But it’s still an interesting message that we probably missed as kids, or dismissed as just a silly song. But I figure there’s more philosophical meat on that bone than first glance would indicate.

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