Or declutterer, or however you want to say it.
Walden may not be my favorite book, but it’s close, and it definitely affected me more than any other. Karl Marx wrote:
The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways. The point, however, is to change it.
So here’s what’s great about Thoreau, especially compared with other philosophers: read him and not only will you want to change your life, you’ll have a good idea of how you’re going to do it. There are lots of bestsellers on Amazon promising the same thing, but they didn’t influence Tolstoy, or Gandhi, or Martin Luther King. Get it from the source.
As a kid, I didn’t have anything Apple until the iPod came out, so I was late to the party. By then Apple was the king of minimalism, and their aesthetic has changed the way the world designs electronics. But it didn’t start with Steve Jobs.
The Unix philosophy, the closest thing programmers have to a canon, is all about minimalism.
So is The Zen of Python, a sort of coding poem/ten commandments, including this one:
There should be one– and preferably only one –obvious way to do it.
A friend that’s getting into coding asked me for some general advice. I tried to think of rules of thumb that have served me well, and I realized there was none more important to me than DRY (don’t repeat yourself). In other words, minimize your code.
Why do I like footy, and why do I abhor golf? Minimalism is part of it. If you make minimalism your top criteria, you’ll be compelled to disqualify lots of things, many of which are probably unhealthy:
- American Football
- Word Processors
- Processed Food
- Processed Bands
It’s not like Thoreau invented minimalism. Tim Peters’ name for his poem, The Zen of Python, suggests this aesthetic has as much to do with Buddhism as it does with anything else. But Thoreau is different, because he wasn’t a fanatic or an ascetic. Reading him, you get the sense that he was into minimalism because it’s practical, which is the same role minimalism plays in code.