Or, The wisdom of small things…
One of the great joys of childhood is to have a small, cozy, safe place – a club house, a tree house, a loft, a fort. Children are also quick to repurpose things they find lying around, and with a little imagination they become whomever they desire – the whole world opens to them. The world of children, and children themselves, teach us the wisdom of small things.
Reclaiming this wisdom of small things is one of the impulses that prompts people to explore Tiny House living. Many religious and spiritual traditions point to children in particular, and small things more generally, as sources and examples of wisdom. “Faith like a child.” “Faith like a mustard seed.” “A little child will lead them.” “There are four things that are little upon the earth, but that are exceedingly wise…” In Taoism, “te” may be understood as “the virute of the small.”
Tiny House living gives individuals an opportunity to free themselves from the encumberance of stuff and the burden of excess. A smaller house costs less to own, operate and maintain. This means less time is spent earning the money required to meet these obligations. It also requires less time to manage, clean and keep, freeing additional time. The self-imposed discipline of simplicity means limiting one’s possessions, though not necessarily living a spare or plain existence. A tiny house may have very fine finishes and furnishings, though they will be fewer and smaller. It may be a choice of “quality over quantity”.
Altering our relationship with the built environment,and with the other people who inhabit it, are two additional dynamics of tiny house living. Because of the unique nature of tiny house living (because it is out of the norm) those who choose such an adventure often find themselves in community with one another, learning from and supporting each other. This echoes the cameraderie of any group of people who share a common interest, along with the mutual values of postmodern pioneers who see the inherent worth in sharing resources as an act of creation care and human flourishing.
A tiny house is often on wheels, and even if not, its relationship to the land is distinctly different from a traditional single family dwelling that is “permanently rooted” to a particular spot. The presumption of traditional single family homes is that “this is my house, and this is my yard” (A man’s [sic] home is his castle!). From a tiny house one gets both a freedom to venture out into the world, and a freedom from the notion that we can actually own the land upon which we stand or sleep. Tiny houses remind us both that the whole world is available to us, and that none of it actually belongs to us as a posession, but rather that we are intwined as fellow travelers on this earth with all of the other creatures. Tiny Houses are themselves entering into the mainstream consciousness by way of HTGV and other networks. And yet they are far from the norm, more a curiosity. Many viewers may be no more serious about living in a tiny house than they are about traveling to the places they see on Extreme Vacations. And yet any of us might listen to, learn from, and enact the wisdom of small things that we see in this movement.
The Missional Wisdom Foundation exists to practice and teach alternative expressions of community. This means that we find ourselves following a variety of paths into nontraditional (non-mainstream) ways of gathering and living. It means not so much that we reject the majority opinion, as that we want to experience and discover the wisdom found in other approaches. “Living Simply” is one such path, contrasting with so much that is dominant in our consumer oriented cultures and economies, both around and even within the church. Enter “The Tiny House.” For several years we have been experimenting with tiny houses as a way of imagining a deeply spiritual and communal way of living in harmony with oneself and the world. Whether we are building a house, imagining a community, or hosting houses alongside our other initiatives, we are seeking the wisdom in small things.
You can download a pdf version here – Why Tiny Houses – The wisdom of small things
Thanks to Beth Ann (BA) Norrgard – A Bed Over My Head – for consulting on this piece.
Treehouse photo unidentified – found on Pinterest.
Photo of three tiny houses credit BA Norrgard.